We're a little less than 11 weeks out from the 2011 Kentucky Derby, and things are starting to pick up steam. While we are still awaiting the first starts for several of this year's contenders (Uncle Mo, To Honor and Serve, Astrology), there is plenty of news to keep us busy. Below are a few thoughts on some of the recent news concerning contenders for the 2011 Kentucky Derby.
-Yesterday the connections of Uncle Mo confirmed that the colt's first start of 2011 would be in the $100,000 Timely Writer, a one-turn mile/listed stakes race at Gulfstream Park on March 12th.
I don't know if there's been a more underwhelming start to a three-year-old campaign by the winter Derby favorite in a long time. And while time will tell as to whether this provides Uncle Mo with the best chance to win the Derby, I find it difficult to imagine that this colt will have the foundation to win the hardest race in America off of two preps, one of which will be a glorified workout. Of course, stranger things have happened.
Uncle Mo opting for the Timely Writer instead of the Tampa Bay Derby is a direct result of the graded earnings requirements for the Derby and the huge purse of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. Since graded earnings as a two-year-old are equal to those earned as a three-year-old, there is almost no incentive for a horse that wins at the Breeders' Cup to go after anything significant in the spring.
I believe another factor at play with this decision is the ever present breeding dollars. Uncle Mo's breeding value shot up like a cannon following his Breeders' Cup win, and it's generally the case that the higher a colt's breeding value, the softer his racing schedule. Connections are so scared of an injury that would cost money that the horse is treated like a piece of porcelain. Why run him at Tampa where he'll face a tough field and could (gasp!) possibly lose?
About the only thing that interests me with the Timely Writer is what N1Y horses Gulfstream will be able to scrounge up to fill out the field.
-Nick Zito was contemplating sending Holy Bull winner Dialed In to the Timely Writer but it appears that will no longer be the case after the race was shortened from a two-turn 9 furlongs to a one-turn mile, according to a piece at DRF.com the other day. With the Fountain of Youth out of the question it would seem that Dialed In is either destined for some kind of glorified allowance race or, possibly, shipping to somewhere like Aqueduct for the Gotham. Zito wants Dialed In to run in a two-turn race.
-Bob Bafffert announced that The Factor, the impressive winner of the San Vicente last Sunday, will go to the Sunland Derby for his next start. He might be able to get the 9 panels at Sunland but I've got serious reservations that this colt will be as good going two-turns as he is going one. Baffert was quoted after the San Vicente as saying that you can't really try and rate this colt, you just have to let him run. That's a great attribute in a sprinter but not so much in a horse trying to get a route of ground.
-In what may be the oddest bit of news on the road to the 2011 Kentucky Derby, French-trained Mont Pleato is being pointed towards the first Saturday in May by his trainer Christophe Ferland.
Mont Pelato is a son of Forest Danger out of an Unbridled's Song mare (Zada Rae), a pedigree that doesn't really scream "Classic distance". However, he began his career with back-to-back wins over Deauville's Fibersand track at a mile and three-sixteenths, so it would appear that he can get a route of ground, if the conditions are right. And that's the big "if" in this scenario since races in America are run much differently than those in Europe. Furthermore, if his trainer's plans continue as they desire, Mont Pelato would be making his first every start on dirt in the Derby.