Derby Day Wrap-Up; Who’s Baltimore bound?

The 137th Kentucky Derby is in the books and there were a lot of “firsts” in this particular running.  It was the first win for Barry Irwin’s Team Valor, the first win for trainer H. Graham Motion, and the first win for jockey John Velazquez.  The particularly interesting element of the win is that both the trainer and jockey lost what were widely considered to be their best chances earlier in the week.  Wood Memorial winner Toby’s Corner was declared on Tuesday while Uncle Mo, the reigning 2YO champion was scratched Friday morning.  Perhaps Motion still knew what he had lurking in a beautiful chestnut colt by Leroidesanimaux.  Here are some general observations from Derby weekend and a peek at my Baltimore Bound series leading up to the Preakness in just 13 days.

1.) I have been as critical of Kent Desormeaux as any person out there.  He had a phenomenal weekend.  His rides on Victoria’s Wildcat and Diva Ash on Friday were perfect.  His ride on Aviate in Saturday’s Distaff Turf Mile was even better.  When on his game, Desormeaux is still as good as any rider out there.

2.) It took a couple of months but it seems like Bob Baffert has First Dude figured out.  He is now a handy pace stalker who has grit and determination.  What if Baffert had him in his barn last year?

3.) Of all the Kittens that Ken Ramsey held on to, do you think he wishes he could still have Banned?  He sold this colt at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky sale in 2009 and he’s now a G2 winner.

4.) Plum Pretty is a good example of what a trainer can accomplish when he alters course and gives his charge a bit of confidence.  She went to Sunland, scored a tremendous win, then showed up at Churchill a horse ready to explode.  Her Kentucky Oaks win was very strong and she’s now the division leader among 3YO fillies.

5.) With most of the racing world watching, jockey Rosie Napravnik gave St. John’s River a perfect ride in the Oaks.  Continuing to ride like that on the big stage will ensure Rosie is draped in roses in the future.

6.) With all due respect to Rosie, the connections of Bind need to change a few things up.  Either he needs to be cut back to sprints or he needs to be given a free rein early traveling two turns.  Twice in a row he’s fought with his rider and come up empty going a route of ground.

7.) Look out for Tom Proctor’s Snow Top Mountain when she returns to graded stakes company.  She was GI placed last year and has run two very strong races against allowance company to kick off her 2011 campaign.

8.) There’s a new leader in the Turf Sprint division (if there even is such a thing).  It’s Regally Ready.  Who knows how he’ll hold up to the rigors of a lengthy campaign, but at this point it’s him then everyone else.

9.) Bill Mott had a tremendous 2010 with Proviso and Aviate could be headed down a similar path.  She has a long way to go but tipped her hand as a serious turf distaffer yesterday.

10.) It was not a good weekend for Calvin Borel.  In fact, it was horrible.  His ride on Capt. Candyman Can was terrible.  Who knows whether it was a decision made by trainer Ian Wilkes or by Borel himself, but there was no reason to move Capt. Candyman Can at the 3/8ths pole of a fast-paced race where the frontrunners were retreating.  Anyone who doesn’t think Capt. Candyman Can was miles the best in that race must re-acquaint themselves with race watching/trip handicapping.

11.) I still don’t know why Little Mike was scratched from the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic but it certainly helped Get Stormy.  Ramon Dominguez made all the right decisions and sent him straight to the lead early before backing the pace down.  There aren’t many times where Get Stormy will get 9 furlongs, but isolated on an easy lead is one of them.

12.) A friend of mine has always said to me, “One of these days a synthetic horse is going to win the Derby.”  Little did we know it would be 2011 as the first “synthetic” horse got the job done.  How could you have known Animal Kingdom was capable of jumping up and winning the Derby?  His workout a week prior showed that he could handle dirt quite easily.  If you’re not watching programs like HRTV’s Pursuit of the Crown or reading Mike Welsch’s DRF workout reports before the Derby and Breeders’ Cup then start doing so, it’s extraordinarily helpful.

13.) Is Nehro the 2011 version of First Dude?  He has now run 2nd in Derbies in Louisiana, Arkansas, and Kentucky.  Still eligible for a N2L, he is sure to stay on the Derby trail but I hope his next stop is in Elmont, not Baltimore.

14.) Trainer Kathy Ritvo should be awfully proud of Mucho Macho Man.  Clearly an immature colt, he is steadily improving and I say with complete confidence that there’s a graded stakes race out there with his name on it.

15.) Shackleford has developed into a nice horse.  He set a comfortable pace in the Derby but showed the courage that we’ve now grown accustomed to seeing from him.

16.) Master of Hounds ran a race that surprised me.  I figured him to be a complete non-factor but he made a nice late move to finish fifth and is reportedly a possibility for the Belmont in five weeks.

17.) Pants on Fire was the 2nd choice in the Derby.  Further proof that a good story can prompt people to bet.

18.) I hope that your Derby day was all you hoped for and have good news for you.  At this particular moment we’re only 13 days, six hours and about ten minutes from Preakness 136.

As a part of the lead-up to the Preakness I’ll be writing an entry each of the next 13 days in my Baltimore Bound series.  For those of you that will be in attendance at the Preakness, let me know, and I’ll see you there.  Good racing luck!

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