This is actually a crucial weekend coming up for some of the top Kentucky Derby contenders. Uncle Mo will make his highly anticipated return to the racetrack in the Timely Writer at Gulfstream Park, facing five rivals. Brethren, the winner of the Sam F. Davis, tries to complete the Tampa Bay Double with a win in the Tampa Bay Derby. It promises to be a position-altering Saturday, March 12 for the Super Six Derby Pix.
#1-Uncle Mo- OK, now we get to finally see what we have got here. Do we still have the phenomenon that crushed the field in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs in November or do we have a horse that peaked too early and now must make up ground on the Road To The Derby? While I think going one mile for the return is a smart enough idea, the one-turn mile might not help his limited experience dealing with two-turn races.
#2-Dialed In- Yes, I know he lost to his Zito stablemate on Sunday at Gulfstream Park in his tune-up for the Florida Derby. However, several things worked against Dialed In that day. There was absolutely zero pace in that pace, which stunted his ability to make that one big run he made to win the Holy Bull. He also had to be much closer to the lead as a result of that first problem, which became problem number two. I think that Sunday race at Gulfstream was just a glorified workout for Dialed In and I think confidence should still be high in his camp.
#3-Brethren- The full-brother to 2010 Derby winner, Super Saver, gets another chance to impress in the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby this Saturday, where he will be the overwhelming favorite. Uncle Mo was entered, but we all know he is going in the Timely Writer a little further south in Florida. Too Experience, who was the runner-up at 31-1 in the Davis, is back for another try with Brethren. The one flaw in that earlier performance was the lack of decent competition for him. That might be turning into a trend after Saturday.
#4-Santiva- I will compare this horse to another member of the 2011 Derby fraternity, Gourmet Dinner. Both always seem to be there at the finish and both always seem to give you a completely gut-wrenching effort, making sure they do all they can to win. They are both very reminiscent of Hard Spun, runner-up to Street Sense in the 2007 Derby, who always had more fortitude than anyone else on the racetrack. Can Santiva or Gourmet Dinner win the Derby? I am not sure about that yet, but I can feel certain that one or both will be underneath in the exotics.
#5-Soldat- Still earns his position in the Pix based on his impressive win in the Fountain Of Youth at Gulfstream Park, turning the long-awaited return of To Honor And Serve into The Soldat Show. I still think his future lies on the greenery, but while the connections are currently nursing a case of Derby Fever, why not go for it full throttle? He has never been worse than second in seven starts and I like that experience factor for him as well. Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin has a Belmont win on his resume' with Jazil in 2006, but no Derby win yet.
#6-Stay Thirsty- His win in the Gotham last week was not the most impressive thing ever, but it certainly gets him in the discussion. His connections are the same as Uncle Mo's with owner Mike Repole and trainer Todd Pletcher. Is he another in the long line of "second-stringers" that come into the Derby under the radar of a more fancied stablemate that ends up winning the Roses? Cannonade won while Judger did not in 1974, Thunder Gulch won while Timber Country and Serena's Song did not in 2995, and Real Quiet won while Indian Charlie did not in 1998.
Tune in again for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!