So, last year I threw out all the Derby horses coming into the race out of synthetic preps, and I was mostly right. I was keyed to Papa Clem and Musket Man with All in the one hole in exactas, trifectas, and superfectas (so, it could have been a life-changing day if Pioneer of the Nile had been taken down, as I think he would have been in any other race)...my question to my esteemed colleagues on this board: have trainers gotten to a point where they have figured out how to use synthetic tracks to prep for dirt races? I mean, I used to key the Bluegrass winner just about automatically, but since Keeneland's switch, that race's winner has become an automatic throw-out for me.
Lookin' At Lucky is in the mix, even with the SA Derby as his last out, because he has demonstrated ability on dirt. But I have serious doubts about Sidney's Candy (no dirt starts), Stately Victor (two dirt starts - 5th beaten 6, and 7th beaten 9), Dean's Kitten (no wins on dirt), Interactif (only dirt win was a 5 furlong dirt sprint, other wins have been on turf), Make Music For Me (only win was on turf and no dirt starts), Setsuko (no dirt starts), Caracortado (only dirt start was a four-furlong maiden), and Connemara (no dirt starts). With the exception of Lucky, I am inclined to say that the Derby winner will not come from this list.
As I peruse the DRF's list of contenders' PP's, it strikes me that a few trainers seem to have moved horses from synthetic to dirt one or two races out from the Derby, and with success. American Lion's win in the Illinois Derby after five starts on synthetics is high on my list for Eion Harty. And he has Flores aboard. Noble's Promise has had his last two starts on dirt after a career on plastic, but it doesn't look like he will make the Derby field due to possible injury. Line of David for Sadler also fits this mold, but I don't think any of us think a frontrunner such as he can win this race, do we?
A horse that might provide intrigue is Pleasant Prince. Bred for the distance and coming off of a poor effort in the Blue Grass, he is sure to be overlooked. Since I am a handicapper that pays some attention to trainer intentions, I am confused by Wesley Ward's decision to run Pleasant Prince in the Bluegrass, when all but one of his prior races were on dirt. I have to believe there might have been method to that madness.
Thoughts? Because I think I still think I feel like I did last year, which leads me to....Endorsement. I know. I didn't mention him above. More on that later.