HALLANDALE, FL - MARCH 31: Take Charge Indy, riden by Calvin Borel, races down the final streatch during the Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park on March 31, 2012 in Hallandale, Florida. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Not a bad weekend of racing, huh? And certainly a long one if you were waking up early to watch the festivities from Dubai. We're in the home stretch for 2012 Kentucky Derby prep races; the next two weeks will feature the Wood, Santa Anita Derby, Illinois Derby, Arkansas Derby and the Blue Grass Stakes as the final events for Derby contenders to pick-up those oh-so-valuable graded stakes earnings.
Below are my thoughts on last weekend's races, in majestic bullet point form:
- How about those Staff Picks guys this week? TFTribe had Florida Derby winner Take Charge Indy as his win bet, and Jared and JP had Reveron as among their long-shot plays. Put them together and you got a $17.40 winner and a $121.10 $1 Exacta. Not too bad at all.
Nice work, guys.
Hero of Order wasn't the only huge price from this past weekend. Dubai spit out three $20+ winners, including a $73.60 score in the World Cup with Moneterosso (GB). Back home, the Santa Anita Oaks saw Willa B Awesome pay $29.20 for her upset, while Fort Larned paid a handsome $26.20 in the G3-Skipaway.
Speaking of Beyers from the Fair Grounds on Sunday, New Orleans Handicap winner Nates Mineshaft scored a 113 after setting a track record during his 7 1/4 length victory. Given the excellent form of late, Nates Mineshaft vaults up toward the top of the rankings for older horses.
I went back and watched the replay of the New Orleans Handicap a couple of times and it's hard not to be incredibly impressed by the race of Nates Mineshaft. His early splits were legitimate (xx and xx), but he just kept on going and going and going. I don't put a whole lot of stock on gallop outs but, after winning the New Orleans Handicap in record time, Nates Mineshaft didn't look like a horses that is going to be limited to nine furlongs. I think a mile and a quarter is well within his ability, even as a frontrunner.
Another point regarding Nates Mineshaft: how good of a training job has Austin Smith done with this horse? This is a five-year-old with just 13 lifetime starts, a light racing record probably the result of some nagging injuries and, possibly, immaturity. Smith takes over as the trainer at the end of last year, gives him a start on the Polytrack at Turfway, and then brings him to the Fair Grounds where he rips off four straight victories, the last two against graded company and each one more impressive than the previous.
- Take Charge Indy earned a 95 Beyer for his win in the Florida Derby. Solid compared to the rest of the crop but a little lacking when we look back on the past few years. Where have all the big figure horses gone? Is it a product of the state of the breed, or are the figures themselves a little off?
So, has it settled in yet that the winner of the Louisiana Derby was 109/1 shot Hero of Order? The preliminary Beyer figure for the race is a 90, which is better than the Lecomte, but not nearly as good as the Risen Star.
It should be noted that give of Nates Mineshaft’s six victories have come at the Fair Grounds, suggesting that he could just be a horse for course. I hope he’s able to carry this form away from New Orleans because he’d add a nice element to the Classic division.
I thought Awesome Maria's win in the Rampart was good, but it was far from her best effort. Velazquez never really got after her and was content to give her a hand ride all the way to the wire.
Flat season is underway in Europe with the first start of Frankel (GB) expected to occur in late May in the Lockinge Stakes at Newbury. Sadly, trainer Henry Cecil's plans for the super-colt in 2012 are unlikely to involve a trip to the U.S. for the Breeders' Cup. That's an unfortunately development as it would be fantastic is North American racing fans had the opportunity to watch this fabulous horses compete on this continent. As it stands, Cecil is targeting British Champions Day as the final start for the unbeaten colt.