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Saturday Thoughts...and a John Henry Documentary

It's really the calm before the storm this weekend with Derby right around the corner.  And while there is some good racing occurring around the country my focus, like most others, is on next weekend's Derby.  Sure, it's only one race and the money paid isn't any more read than what you win at any track in the country.  But the Derby is still the premier racing day for many in this country and it's hard not to have Derby Fever when we're only a week away from the greatest two minutes in sports.

Churchill Downs opens their spring meet today and will feature the Grade 3 Derby Trial as the tenth race on the card.  Entries and ML odds are below.

The Cliff's Edge Derby Trial S. (G3)
1 Mile
Purse: $200,000
Post time: 5:17 Eastern







Game On Dude

Albarado R J

Baffert Bob



Soaring Empire

Castro E

Gambolati Cam




Maragh R

Sadler John W



Pleasant Prince

Leparoux J R

Ward Wesley A



Hurricane Ike

Borel C H

Sadler John W



Miner's Reserve

Lezcano J

Zito Nicholas P



Wow Wow Wow

Thompson T J

Lukas D Wayne



Hear Ye Hear Ye

Nakatani C S

Romans Dale




Gomez G K

Pletcher Todd A




Dominguez R A

Contessa Gary C



I'm not going to talk a whole lot about the Derby Trial from a handicapping perspective because I don't think there's a whole lot to say. There are only two horses in this race that are trying to make it into the Derby field and that's Eightyfiveinafifty and Pleasant Prince.  Other commentators have suggested that this year's Derby Trial actually means something, and I suppose it does in terms of which fringe horses could make the starting gate.  Eightyfiveinafifty is pure speed, so a win by this colt and a subsequent start in the Kentucky Derby will serve to add one more sprinter that probably has no chance to win.  Pleasant Prince, on the other hand, is a little bit of a different prospect given his off-the-pace running style.

I can sit here and write about the potential impact on these two on the Derby, but I .  Horses don't run two races within a week (with one of them being the most difficult in the country to win) and perform well.  I realize that the situation tends to depend heavily on the individual horse and how it responds to increased work, but a one week turnaround pretty much flies in the face of everything we're told about horses these days: that they aren't as.  Perhaps that's all bull so the owners and trainers have an excuse to barely race their top horses in order to protect any value that they've earned (see Any Top Horse in the Country).  Or perhaps it's not.

I suppose I find it strange that the trainers of Eightyfiveinafifty and Pleasant Prince have no problem racing their horses on back-to-back weekends while some of the top class horses in this country will barely start five times in the next year.

Regardless of the truth of the situation, when I watch the Derby trial today, I won't be watching with the expectation that I could be seeing next weekend's winner.

In other news...

  • Day 1 of the Churchill spring meet will see a sloppy track and races taken off the turf course.  Looks like Keeneland really lucked out with their weather.
  • Aqueduct will feature the Grade 3 Withers Stakes today (with heavy favorite D'Funnybone), while Lone Star will run the Grade 3 Texas Mile.  The only other graded stake on the day is the Grade 2 San Francisco Mile at Golden Gate.

    On Sunday, Calder will run the Grade 3 Miami Mile and Hollywood will feature the Grade 3 Inglewood Handicap.
  • Eskendereya had his scheduled work over the Churchill Downs surface pushed back due to the sloppy track conditions yesterday.  Todd Pletcher told the DRF that he could push back those works to Monday or Tuesday.
  • Last day of the Gulfstream meet where they've deemed it "What the hell, let's rip the hell out of the turf course!"  There are eight races on the lawn today, (2-5, and 9-12), with the last four races comprising the all-turf late Pick 4. 

    Calder starts tomorrow.
  • Last, but certainly not least: If you're a John Henry fan (and if you're not, you should be), and you live somewhere near the Kentucky Horse Park, you might want to make plans to be at the park May 2nd when they will debut the new documentary film John Henry: A Steel Driving Racehorse.  The showing will be limited to two viewings that day.

    You can watch the trailer for the documentary here.

    It's almost impossible not to smile when you hear people tell their stories of John Henry, or when you watch the clip of him trying to take off Chris McCarron's head.  He's certainly one of the more unique racehorses to have ever graced this great game and one of my all-time favorite racehorses.

    If you can't make it to the Horse Pack, there will be DVDs available for purchase on-line.  Go to the film's official website ( to receive all the pertinent information.