I had a random thought driving in to work this morning. In a year that has been considered a very strong year of Derby preps…
…I keep going back to the second one – the Sham at Santa Anita, where Gormley nosed out American Anthem as the one that I would rate as the “best” one run so far. Basically that was a two-horse race, and neither horse has run back yet, but it’s noteworthy in that we’ll see Gormley this week (in the San Felipe) and American Anthem next week (in the Rebel).
Getting those two horses back on the Derby Trail – they skipped the last round of preps after a very taxing race – is quite exciting to look at over the next two weekends.
Below the fold, a quick note on each of the prep races run in calendar year 2017 and my race rankings so far.
|3||Fountain of Youth||Gulfstream||Gunnevera|
|4||Sam F Davis||Tampa Bay||McCraken|
|5||Gotham||Aqueduct||J Boys Echo|
|6||Holy Bull||Gulfstream||Irish War Cry|
|9||Risen Star||Fair Grounds||Girvin|
|10||Lewis||Santa Anita||Royal Mo|
|11||Lecomte||Fair Grounds||Guest Suite|
Sham Stakes – Gormley and American Anthem threw it down and while it “only” came back with a 94 Beyer, which by the way would rank ahead of only four others on this list, it came in January, early on in the process, and the top two horses both really ran. American Anthem had the inside and ran out to set a very fast pace with Gormley chasing him the whole way and just out-finishing him at the wire. As we noted in the review of that race, I think if you flipped the post-positions, the result would be flipped too. Gormley is back this week in the San Felipe and American Anthem is off to Oaklawn for the Rebel next week, two very exciting Derby prospects.
Southwest – This has been the fastest race of the year. One Liner won with a 102 Beyer. Both he and the runner-up, Petrov, ran huge races in there, with Petrov getting stuck doing the dirty work chasing Uncontested in both this race and the Smarty Jones. Petrov is going to the Rebel and One Liner will apparently wait another week or two for a final round prep race.
Fountain Of Youth – This was run on Saturday at Gulfstream with Gunnevera, second in the Holy Bull, besting Breeders Cup Juvenile third place finisher Practical Joke. Both horses were aided by a fast pace, and pace-setter Three Rules ran very well to hold third. Practical Joke was off the Breeders Cup layoff and moved first. Gunnevera made the big last to first sweep, though both were aided by the fast pace.
Sam F Davis – I was a bit torn on this one. McCraken is hurt and will await the Blue Grass in April, skipping this weekend’s Tampa Bay Derby. I’m not sold on Tapwrit and State of Honor who ran second and third, so we could have moved this race a bit farther down.
Gotham – Like the Fountain of Youth, this weekend’s Gotham was noteworthy for the fast pace that fell apart, setting the stage for J Boys Echo, who ran a 102 Beyer. As noted, we’re fans of the runner-up, Cloud Computing, who was close to the pace, and would definitely take him long term over the non-McCraken’s from Tampa Bay, but is he a 10 furlong horse? Plus the Derby would be just the fourth start for the NY-bred that debuted in February. That seems like a stretch as far as the Derby goes (but only the Derby).
Holy Bull – Gunnevera came out of this race to win the Fountain of Youth but something went wrong for Irish War Cry in that race after he set a very slow pace in wiring the field in this race .
Withers – J Boys Echo came out of this to win the Gotham after a wide trip. El Areeb ran a big race here and though he disappointed in the Gotham, he was part of a fast pace.
Smarty Jones – This race at Oaklawn came back fast, but Uncontested did really run well today and we liked Petrov’s runner-up finish after chasing.
Risen Star – Girvin jumped onto the scene with a big win but it didn’t earn that fast of a figure for a penultimate prep race (94) and he had a perfect inside/out trip. Plus the horses behind him have a lot of improving to do moving forward.
Lewis – Royal Mo wired the field but did so setting a slow pace and the field looked weak on paper going in. We’ll see what happens going out. Royal Mo is off to the Rebel next weekend.
Lecomte – Guest Suite capitalized on a fast pace to run down several that didn’t inspire in the Risen Star.
Jerome – El Areeb crushed the field on a muddy track with little behind him except perhaps Takaful, who faded after chasing in the Fountain of Youth and looks like a sprinter.
There’s still a long way to go in time (eight weeks) but a lot of horses will have only one more prep race. As you can tell, we’re very skeptical of the Louisiana horses at this point and we’re really looking forward to seeing American Anthem and Gormley come back in the next two weeks. It’s a fun time of the year!