If it's mid-March and you're the favorite to win the Kentucky Derby, you need to look good every time you race. Regardless of the competition running against him, Uncle Mo looked good winning the Timely Writer Stakes at Gulfstream Park on Saturday afternoon. Some of the other Derby hopefuls can't say the same thing this morning.
(UPDATED: The preliminary Beyers are out for all three of yesterday's races involving Derby hopefuls from the Formulator Interactive Charts:
96: Premier Pegasus
89: Uncle Mo
83: Watch Me Go
The Bris figures are usually out a few days later.
-Uncle Mo got a bit of a rough start coming out of the gate as he traded paint with 2-Gallant Dreams, but once he righted himself and moved to the front of the pack it was all over but the picture taking. The two-year-old champion rolled through opening fractions of 25.53 and 49.58, and finished the mile journey in an in-hand 1:36.56. To put that mile time in perspective as compared to the other contenders this spring and last fall, the only horses to run faster winning races were:
1:34.4: Uncle Mo (Champagne)
1:35.0: Awesome Patriot (N1X)
1:35.8: To Honor and Serve (Nashua)
1:36.0: Dialed In (Holy Bull)
1:36.2: Major Gain (Arlington-Washington Futurity)
1:36.2: Uncle Mo (Timely Writer)
Uncle Mo has two of the top 6 times by Derby contenders at a mile and he was essentially asked for nothing in the Timely Writer. Pretty impressive. (FYI: the Beyer came back an 89 for the race.)
It's tough to know how much a horse like Uncle Mo got out of a race like the Timely Writer as he was the clear standout on paper and in the flesh, and he won like a 1/9 shot should win. On the other hand, the Kentucky Derby is one of the hardest races to win, and it remains to be seen whether two preps (one of which is a cakewalk) is enough preparation. For Uncle Mo's part, he looked as good yesterday as his juvenile year and some of his rivals around the country looked less than impressive.
-Does Tampa Bay Downs kick out some huge priced horses, or what? Yesterday's Tampa Bay Derby finished with 43/1 Watch Me Go edging out 86/1 Crimson Knight under the wire, keying a $2,194.20 Exacta to all those lucky enough to pick that finish.
Heavy favorite Brethren got keyed up on the backside where he moved to the lead through a half-mile in 48.20, a pace that proved to be too quick for the Pletcher trainee. He was in loads of trouble on the far turn when the two huge long shots moved to him with relative ease after a third quarter internal split of 24.40; he faded to an easily-beaten third at the wire.
It's tough to come up with an excuse for Brethren's performance other than the fact that he just wasn't good in the Tampa Bay Derby. It's possible that he didn't care for the track but it looked more likely that he wasn't able to settle in enough in the early stages to leave anything left for the stretch. Either way, he's got a lot of questions to answer if he wants to win in Louisville on the first Saturday in May.
-The West Coast Derby hopefuls continue to beat up on each other, with no horse establishing itself as the "top dog" although yesterday's San Felipe shined a bright light on one particular colt.
The pace of the San Felipe, like pretty much every race at Santa Anita this spring, was ridiculous. Check out the fractions at each call:
The only good thing about those spits yesterday? A horse was able to take advantage of the insanity of the pace by rallying from off-the-pace to win. No way should a horse be able to set fractions like that and win if they're running on a "fair" race track.
The performance by Premier Pegasus will stamp him the favorite for the Santa Anita Derby in April.
San Felipe favorite Jaycito finished well to grab second, but he was never a threat to the winner.
-Pluck, the winner of last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf, finished a disappointing third in undercard at Tampa Bay Downs. Reports from several weeks ago indicated that Graham Motion was thinking of sending Pluck to the Irish 2,000 Guineas at the Curragh after prep in the Transylvania at Keeneland. Now it appears that the plans are a run in the Transylvania and then a possible trip to Paris for the French 2,000 Guineas at Longchamp (according to the Daily Racing Form). I would think he's going to need to get a lot better if he wants any realistic shot to win in France.