I recapped (to the best of my ability) the happenings from the past weekend in Thoroughbred racing yesterday. Today, it is time for another edition of the Super Six Derby Pix. Here are my top six contenders for the Run For The Roses:
#1 Lookin At Lucky- Maintains the top spot after that impressive victory in the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park. He encountered all sorts of difficulty during the race and still had the wherewithal to run down his rival, Noble's Promise, and win in the shadow of the wire. He also proved that he is more than capable on a normal dirt surface. Trainer Bob Baffert's next step is just to have the 2009 Juvenile Champion ready to go on Derby Day. He will probably sneak one more prep in before May 1, though.
#2 Eskendereya- His next prep effort will come in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct. His owner feels that the Wood being closer to the Derby than the Florida Derby, where most of us expected him to go will benefit him more on the First Saturday in May. He will likely be meeting up with Awesome Act, winner of the Gotham, in the Wood and we get to him a little bit later in the Super Six Derby Pix.
#3 Radiohead- This IEAH runner that won an Allowance race the week following the Fountain Of Youth and now will likely be the solid favorite in the Florida Derby with the defection of the #2 pick on this list. The connections obviously know how to win a Derby, having had Big Brown two years ago. The Sire is 2001 Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner, Johannesburg.
#4 Rule- He has so many possible options of where his final tune-up will come before the Derby. It has been rumored he could go at Gulfstream this weekend, or wait for the Wood Memorial in New York, or even go the Mine That Bird route and try the Sunland Derby in New Mexico (graded for the first time this year). Whatever decision trainer Todd Pletcher makes, this stands to be one of the most potent bullets he will have to fire from the gun on Derby Day.
#5 Noble's Promise- He didn't do anything wrong in the Rebel, except get caught at the wire and lose again to Lookin At Lucky. He is almost turning into the Alydar to Lookin At Lucky's Affirmed, if you wanted to compare rivalries. While Alydar never did get past Affirmed in the Triple Crown, don't put it past this horse to be wearing the Roses come Derby Day. After all, he only has to win once to be remembered forever.
#6 Awesome Act- This has turned into an early version of what we see every year at Churchill Downs before the Derby, the "wiseguy" horse. He really didn't beat all that much in the Gotham at Aqueduct, but he still registered an eye-catching win just in the style he accomplished it in. His next test will be in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 3. Julien Leparoux made his case for greatness at the Breeders' Cup last fall and it stands to reason he could continue to advance that case with a Derby win this year.
I do want to post a link here for a story done by frequent They Are Off contributor, Martha Claussen. She now has the Claussen Corner on the Paulick Report (which is linked to on the side of this page). Her story was on the man she and I used to work for in Texas, Bob Bork, who has been an omnipresent name in racetrack management for over 40 years. The link is: http://www.paulickreport.com/blog/the-claussen-corner-catching-up-with-bork/.
Tune in tomorrow for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!