The first "official" weekend of Kentucky Derby prep races just passed us by and it is time to take a look at what we liked and didn't like from the weekend that was.
First, we accentuate the positive by discussing Winslow Homer and Jackson Bend from the Holy Bull at Gulfstream and Ron The Greek from the Lecomte at Fair Grounds. Winslow Homer and Jackson Bend already are pointing toward a rematch on February 20 in the Grade 2 Fountain Of Youth at Gulfstream, which would also lead one to believe they will face off against each other (as well as some other top contenders) in the Grade 1 Florida Derby one month after that. While Winslow Homer was the winner, it should be remembered that Jackson Bend had won five in a row before entering that start on Saturday. Also, Ron The Greek came from well off the pace to register a slight upset at 7-1 in New Orleans on a weekend where the Saints win in the NFC Championship overshadowed everything else in the Big Easy. He finished quite impressively and might be a threat to contend at the longer distances he will be facing as the spring rolls toward the First Saturday In May.
Now, for the negative. Two horses that failed to show much in the Holy Bull were Aikenite and Piscitelli. Aikenite, trained by Todd Pletcher who said the horse never settled down, finished sixth. Piscitelli, who was the top pick in this blog, ran last and never appeared to be a factor in the Holy Bull. In New Orleans, the big negative was Maximus Ruler, who got caught up in what proved to be a taxing speed duel with a 40-1 longshot and still had enough to hold on for second. The only question seems to be whether he will be able to handle to longer distances moving forward, especially if he receives similar pressure to what he did on Saturday with a front-running style.
Tune in again tomorrow for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!