The first of two strong weekends of Kentucky Derby prep races is now in the books and quite a bit occurred. First, the bad news about The Pamplemousse. He is going to miss six months with an tendon injury. It's a shame we didn't get to see him go against Pioneerof The Nile in the Santa Anita Derby, it could have been a redux of Silver Charm and Free House from a dozen years ago. Of course, Pioneerof The Nile is part of the good news from the weekend with his win in the Derby to make him one of the favorites for four weeks from now.
How about the race that I Want Revenge turned in The Wood Memorial? He completely missed the break, got caught in heavy traffic, had to shift outside in the stretch and STILL won by open daylight. He didn't even need to win the race, really, to get in, but sometimes you just cannot deny the heart of a champion. Also, Musket Man's win in the Illinois Derby over the more highly regarded Giant Oak was worthy of note as well. So, without further ado, here are this week's Super Six Derby Pix:
#1 Quality Road- His wins in the Fountain Of Youth and Florida Derby at Gulfstream this season have been impressive. The Fountain Of Youth was a front-running score and the Florida Derby showed his guts by turning away the solid Dunkirk after he made a massive move on the turn. In years past, the Florida Derby winner has always been a strong play in the Kentucky Derby (ex. Monarchos, Barbaro).
#2 Friesan Fire-The Louisiana Derby winner might have a style more suited to winning the Kentucky Derby, laying just of the pace, instead of contesting the pace and getting caught up in a speed war. The only qualm I have is the seven-week layoff between the Fair Grounds win and the Derby at Churchill Downs. Needles in 1956 went six weeks between his last race and his Derby win and trainer Larry Jones has had the runners-up in the last two Kentucky Derbies, so he obviously knows what he is doing.
#3 I Want Revenge- How much did that supreme effort in the Wood Memorial take out of him? It would be a shame if he spent his reserve winning what shapes up to be a unnecessary race for his Churchill chances. Keep in mind that Bellamy Road established himself as the Derby favorite with a devastating 19-length win in the Wood only to flop on the first Saturday in May, which, of course, resulted in the 2nd greatest longshot ever winning the race (Giacomo at 50-1).
#4 Regal Ransom- You know, one of these years, Godolphin is going to get it right and claim the prize they covet the most in the Kentucky Derby. This year, they have two bona fide contenders with this one and Desert Party. Regal Ransom held off his stablemate to win the UAE Derby on Dubai World Cup day at Nad Al Sheba. I honestly think one of the two will be there at the end and since Regal Ransom has topped Desert Party twice, he gets the nod.
#5 Musket Man- OK, he might be the livest longshot on the board in four weeks, but he still deserves a mention now. He has two wins around two turns in his last two starts (Tampa Bay Derby and Illinois Derby). The Sire, Yonaguska, is probably the biggest argument against since he was a seven-furlong specialist, but if all the horse does is win, he makes it tough to count him out. Don't forget War Emblem won the Illinois Derby in 2002 and took the Roses later on.
#6 Old Fashioned- Lost of a lot of the luster on his star with the mystifying loss in the Rebel at Oaklawn Park to Win Willy. They will match up again this Saturday in the Arkansas Derby, which will also feature Louisiana Derby runner-up, Papa Clem. He was the most highly regarded entering the season, but needs to put up or shut up now.
Elsewhere, I would be remiss if I didn't mention that this past weekend was opening weekend at Canada's jewel, Woodbine. That means the return to the microphone of Dan Loiselle, one of the best race callers in North America and one certainly great guy. Good luck to Dan and everyone in the Great White North this season. Tune in again tomorrow for a look at a fading element from the racing scene these days. For right now, I am Gone...GOODBYE!