JC / Railbird


Where Mo Goes

Jerry Bossert hinted on Monday that early Derby fave Uncle Mo might start at Gulfstream on March 12, instead of at Tampa in its eponymous Derby on the same day, if a suitable race were written. Such has happened:

Gulfstream Park racing secretary Dan Bork has written a one-mile overnight handicap for 3-year-olds to be run here March 12. The race, called the Timely Writer, will offer a $100,000 purse and will carry no conditions, which makes it open to all 3-year-olds, including reigning division leader and Eclipse Award champion Uncle Mo.

Trainer Todd Pletcher and owner Mike Repole are very interested; the camp will commit to a race next week. “We’ll talk it over after he works and we’ll let people know on Monday or Tuesday,” Repole told the Blood-Horse.

Making the Timely Writer more likely: “Elliott Walden says WinStar looking at March 12 Tampa Bay Derby (gr II) next for Brethren,” tweeted Janet Patton.

As prepping goes, if Uncle Mo were to start in the Gulfstream special, then the Wood Memorial (which has been mentioned as a target), his schedule would look much like Big Brown’s in 2008. Before winning the Kentucky Derby, he started in a one-mile allowance on March 5 and then the Florida Derby on March 29. The sequence worked for Big Brown, the first horse in more than 30 years to win off one two-turn start as a 3-year-old, but he was exceptional in a weak crop — Uncle Mo’s contemporaries seem like a more promising bunch.

Elsewhere: This week’s Paulick Derby Index. Brethren moves from #7 to #4, but doesn’t make anyone’s list as #1 following the Sam F. Davis.

2/18/11 Addendum: John Pricci sees payback in Mo’s Timely Writer.

So-So Prospects

A couple of years ago, I was listening to one of the Road to the Roses teleconferences hosted by the NTRA each spring. Trainer Todd Pletcher was taking questions. In February, a well-bred 3-year-old from his barn had won a grass race impressively at Gulfstream, briefly sparking Kentucky Derby talk. A reporter asked about the colt. Pletcher replied, “Who?”

It was funny, but as I listened to the trainer smoothly make up for his startled first response, I realized he had said everything about how he perceived the colt’s potential, and it wasn’t anything to look forward to on the Derby Trail.

I was reminded of that call yesterday after Brethren won the Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs by four lengths as the 4-5 favorite. The final time was 1:45.07, for which Brethren was given a Beyer speed figure of 83. DRF Formulator gives his fractions as a steady :24+ per split. His final sixteenth was :6.87, and the way he drew off in the stretch was visually impressive.

For Pletcher, it was his fourth Davis win in five years, a Tampa record, but the trainer wasn’t in the winner’s circle. He watched the race from Gulftream, where he had two horses entered on Saturday afternoon, both in claiming races. “Obviously we have some things to work on at the gate but all in all I thought it was a great effort,” Pletcher told Mike Welsch.

A great effort isn’t Who?, and the trainer may not have been at Tampa for several reasons. Yet I’m getting a sense that, as a Kentucky Derby prospect, Brethren isn’t one to get too excited* about this season.

Mike Watchmaker has a less subjective reason to question Brethren’s Derby potential: “Brethren’s profoundly pedestrian preliminary Beyer of 83 in the Davis didn’t even match the pair of 84’s he earned last year.” The handicapper wasn’t any more impressed with the other two preps on Saturday, and Brad Free reports pessimism at Santa Anita after Tapizar’s dismal run.

Beyer speed figures of 93 and 90 for Silver Medallion in the El Camino Real at Golden Gate and Anthony’s Cross in the Robert B. Lewis at Santa Anita. Charts and replays via the updated Kentucky Derby prep schedule.

First-round Triple Crown nominations are out. Search the 364 nominees.

*The one everyone is excited about worked this morning. Uncle Mo breezed four furlongs in :47.45 in company with Stay Thirsty at Palm Meadows. “It was a tad quicker than we expected. We wanted him to go in :48 and change, but he did it effortlessly,” said Pletcher of the move.

Fabulous Frankel

Well, that was impressive. With seeming ease, Frankel drew off to win the seven-furlong Group 1 Dewhurst Stakes by 2 1/4 lengths over ground rated good to soft. His final time of 1:25.73 was three-tenths of a second faster than older horses going the same distance in the Group 2 Challenge Stakes.

What’s more, he did it without Tom Queally going to the whip. “I didn’t have to resort to the stick,” said the jockey, “and if you don’t punish young horses like this at this stage of their career then it is a bonus.”

Post-race reaction quotes on the Sporting Life liveblog give a sense of how pleased trainer Henry Cecil was with Frankel’s performance:

1452: More from Cecil — and this is the headline-stuff. He says: “It’s lovely to have a horse like this. At home he works unbelievably well, I’ve never had a horse work like him as a two-year-old. He’s in second gear and doesn’t run away with you but goes into a sixth gear. If he was a formula one car he’d win everything, as long as I didn’t drive him” …

1448: As Frankel returned, Cecil lent over to Lord Grimthorpe and said: “We need to find him a pacemaker” …

William Hill responded to the win by making the 2-year-old Galileo colt, now 4-for-4, the 4-5 favorite for the 2000 Guineas, “although whether he will remain odds-on through the winter is open to some doubt as other firms were not quite so impressed.” Bookmakers also cut their prices on runner-up Roderic O’Connor, while raising odds on the previously undefeated Dream Ahead and Saamidd, who finished fifth and sixth. Of the two, Saamidd’s effort was considerably more disappointing. The colt balked at entering the starting gate (ultimately requiring a blindfold), and never looked comfortable racing. Dream Ahead, at least, briefly gave chase to Frankel before fading.

ZenyattaYou know who else is fabulous? Zenyatta. The big mare graces a full page in the November issue of W magazine, flattering text by Steve Haskin (“She … transcends the Thoroughbred as we know it”) accompanying a stylish head shot (love the forelock tousled just so — she’s a fashion magazine natural). A W photo shoot, a billboard, a country song — I can’t think of any living racehorse in recent years who has crossed over into mainstream culture as much as she has (except, perhaps, for poor Barbaro). Trainer John Shirreffs, talking to media at Keeneland on Friday, was absolutely right about one thing — Zenyatta has done a lot for the game, generating good will and positive coverage with her accomplishments.

Added to the watch list today, Brethren, a debut winner at Belmont Park and half-brother to Super Saver, just in case he turns out to be fabulous someday.