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Road to Kentucky Derby 136 - vol. 5

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LOUISVILLE, KY - MAY 02: A race fan wears an elaborate hat before the 135th running of the Kentucky Derby on May 2, 2009 at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KY - MAY 02: A race fan wears an elaborate hat before the 135th running of the Kentucky Derby on May 2, 2009 at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

A big, big weekend for Derby preps and, in particular, for one horse that stamped himself as a legitimate contender with the top performance of the season.

This week's Road to the Derby is rolling out a day early due to the face that I am going to be spending the next several days getting in some nice R&R in Hawai'i, so posting will be a little less frequent until I return early next week. 

By the way...the guy in the picture to the right - now that's a Derby hat.  If you're going to go all out, go all out.  No reason to subject yourself to any type of modesty or self-awareness.  Another thought: what do you think is in that "water" bottle he's holding?

Let's take a look at where things currently stand on the path to Louisville.

Last Week

G2-Hutcheson: D'Funnybone and A Little Warm were the clear class of the race finishing one-two in this seven furlong sprint event.  D'Funnybone stalked the early pace while A Little Warm was content to rate near the back of the pack early on and both horses made nice moves on the turn and had plenty left in the tank once they reached the top of the stretch.  The key question with each of these horses is how far they want to run?  D'Funnybone tried going two turns in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and faltered badly after pressing the pace for 7 furlongs or so.  Was it the synthetic track at Santa Anita or was it the distance?  We'll find out in a few weeks as trainer Rick Dutrow plans to point D'Funnybone to the Florida Derby. 

G2-Fountain of Youth: From both a visual and speed figure perspective, the performance of the weekend was Eskendereya running away from the field at Gulfstream Park.  Buddy's Saint certainly has an excuse for his poor performance as he got bumped and pinched pretty badly as the field went into the first turn.  Without that trouble would he have won?  Seems unlikely considering how good Eskendereya looked during his stretch drive, but he probably would have finished better than 9th. Runner-up Jackson Bend ran another solid race, although he never threatened the winner for the top spot.

G3-Southwest Stakes: Of the two wire to wire efforts last weekend, I'd have to rate the performance of Conveyance better than that of Discreetly Mine.  While the short stretch run certainly is an advantage in mile races at Oaklawn, Conveyance not only set the pace but he also was the only early leader to survive it.  Horses running 2nd and 3rd at the six furlong mark (Cool Bullet and Dryfly) finished 8th and 9th, respectively.  Conveyance, on the other hand, went three quarters of a mile in 1:10.67 and had enough left in the tank to hold off a closing Dublin.  I thought Dublin ran an excellent race considering this was his first race since November.  Had he been able to break better and position himself a little more forward early on he may have been able to run down the leader in deep stretch.  He certainly looks like a major player going forward.

G2-Risen Star: Distreetly Mine set the pace and then held off all comers for the win at the Fair Grounds in a race that saw the top four horses at the 6f mark finish in that same order.  Ron the Greek and Stay Put were able to rally from the back of the field to grab 5th and 6th place, but they never posed a serious threat to win this race at any time.  Not sure where to rank the performances in this race given the Merry-Go-Round nature of the pace given the fact that some of the early races of the day saw some scorching fractions on the board but the Risen Star featured anything but that.  The leaders hit six furlongs in 1:13.44 and the mile in 1:38.17.  For comparisons sake, three year old fillies went 1:11.75 for six and 1:38.54 for the mile in the Grade 3 Silverbulletday.  The come home time in the Risen Star wasn't bad but the early pace was pedestrian.  Perhaps the Louisiana Derby will tell us more.

G3-El Camino Real: Todd Pletcher's Connemara closed from dead last to pass a tiring pace setter, Ranger Heartly, in mid-stretch.  Connemara made his big move from the half mile mark to the ¾ mile mark, clicking of an internal fraction of 22.86, and then came home in average splits to take the prize.  Haimish Hy ran the final eighth of a mile fastest of the field and nabbed 2nd at odds of 25/1.  Connemara will likely move forward from this race (although the race came up pretty slow in terms of a speed figure) but as for the rest of the field, it's difficult to see any as serious contenders for the Derby.

This Week

One traditional Derby prep on the roll for this Saturday, and one not so traditional.  First is the Grade 3 - Sham Stakes at 1 1/8 miles at Santa Anita, and the second is the ungraded Borderland Derby at Sunland Park.  With the Boarderland an ungraded race it's generous to call it a true Derby prep race; winning it could provide fitness and/or experience but it won't help a horse make it into the starting gate in Louisville.

Other stakes races for three year olds across the country (all of which are ungraded) are the Mountain Valley Stakes (6f, Oaklawn), the Sportsman's Paradise (1 mile, Delta Downs), the Miracle Wood (7f, Laurel), and the John Battaglia Memorial (1 1/16 miles, Turfway).

Top 10 Contenders

Rank

Last

Horse

Notes

1

8

Eskendereya

Tough to argue against him on top after a powerful Fountain of Youth.

2

2

D'Funnybone

Holds onto #2 but the stretch-out in the Fla. Derby will tell much.

3

4

Jackson Bend

This colt just keeps running solid races.

4

5

Lookin At Lucky

Next start likely the San Felipe on March 13th.

5

1

Buddy's Saint

Still think he's pretty good but needs to rebound after awful FOY.

6

6

Noble's Promise

Connections pointing towards the Rebel at Oaklawn.

7

--

Conveyance

He ran them off their feet in the Southwest.

8

--

Dublin

Like to see what he would have done with a better break from the gate.

9

9

Uh Oh Bango

Likely pointed towards Rebel for first start of 2010.

10

10

Rule

Set quicky pace and dispatched foes at TAM.

 

This Week's Beyer Figures

G2-Hutcheson
99: D'Funnybone
97: A Little Warm
95: Ibboyee
92: Hear Ye Hear Ye
85: City Trooper
75: Wildcat Frankie
59: Sum Champ

G2-Fountain of Youth
106: Eskendereya
92: Jackson Bend
91: Aikenite
89: Pleasant Prince
86: Ice Box
86: Pulsion
84: Positive Spirit
77: Prince Will I Am
69: Buddy's Saint
30: Lost Aptitude

G3-Southwest Stakes
97: Conveyance
96: Dublin
93: Cardiff Giant
89: Mission Impazible
87: Crider
87: Domonation
82: Pleasant Storm
77: Cool Bullet
71: Dryfly
68: Kitty's Turn

G2-Risen Star
94: Distreetly Mine
91: Tempted to Tapit
91: Northern Giant
91: Drosselmeyer
89: Stay Put
87: Ron the Greek
84: Worldly
81: Letsgetitonmon
81: Mountain Justice
76: Hotep
74: Random Move
70: Bravo Whiskey

G3-El Camino Real
83: Connemara
81: Haimish Hy
79: Posse Power
77: Fog Alert
77: Ranger Heartly
76: Thomas Baines
73: Very Fair
69: Bert'N The Group
57: Our Minesweeper