JC / Railbird


Back in the Picture

Received Watch Mail yesterday that Music Note had worked four furlongs in :48.24 at Belmont, a move that seemed much improved from her lackluster six furlong breeze the week before. Reporting in DRF, David Grening confirms my impression and writes that the filly is once again likely for the June 13 Ogden Phipps Handicap, which will be her first start since finishing third in the Breeders’ Cup. The Phipps may come up a short field, as only three other starters are confirmed: Apple Blossom winner Seventh Street, going for her second consecutive G1 win, Shuvee winner Seattle Smooth, and Color Me Up. [6/10/09 Update: Entries in, seven to start. Music Note highweight at 122, in post six. Seattle Smooth gets 121, post two.]

Almost There

I’m resolved to avoid over-handicapping the Derby this year (unlike every other year), so it was in a blithe spirit that I composed my final top 10 list, rearranged after Quality Road defected to reflect the horses I consider to have some combination of prepping and talent satisfactory enough to, if not win the roses, then finish in the money. No real surprises; both Desert Party and Regal Ransom move up on the strength of how they’re training at Churchill, Friesan Fire drops a spot due to the layoff. Doubts have crept in already about a couple on the list, though, and I do wonder about who I’ve overlooked, so a re-shuffling of top picks is certain after post positions are drawn Wednesday at noon, followed by a thorough study of the past performances.

Top 10 for 4/27/09 PDI: 1. Pioneerof the Nile 2. Desert Party 3. Regal Ransom 4. I Want Revenge 5. Friesan Fire 6. Papa Clem 7. Dunkirk 8.  Musket Man 9. General Quarters 10. Chocolate Candy (really, a tie with West Side Bernie)

The major workouts wrapped up Tuesday, with I Want Revenge breezing four furlongs in :47.20 at Churchill. Said Steve Haskin of the work:

He immediately broke off into his long, flowing stride, cornered beautifully, and cruised down the stretch with Talamo never moving his hands. Despite the ease of the work, he still came home his final eighth in :11 4/5, and again cut the corner sharply galloping out.

The colt is the picture of health and appears, like a number of contenders, to be coming up to the Derby in excellent shape.

Gary West, watching the same horse, had a more prosaic reaction: “It was a good work, no doubt about that, but it wasn’t the kind of move that grabs you by the lapels and says, ‘I’m going to win.'” Which matches up pretty well with Mike Welsch’s assessment: “Nothing, perhaps, that would separate him from the other top contenders in the Derby field, but solid enough to keep him at or near the top of that list.” Nice, then, nothing special, and a reminder to watch the training videos Churchill posts and not get too hung up on any one opinion while handicapping a race like the Derby.

Notes for 2009-04-13

– Few changes to the top 10 this week, with all adjustments in the second tier. Arkansas Derby winner Papa Clem, who’s been bumping around the lower third since February, moves to #6, replacing runner-up Old Fashioned, now off the Derby trail and likely done with racing due to a slab fracture of the knee. General Quarters appears at #8 following his win in the Blue Grass, making him the second to come out of the Tampa Bay Derby and take a stakes. I had trouble coming up with a tenth prospect, narrowing the possibles down to Chocolate Candy, Musket Man, and West Side Bernie, all on the cusp. Although Twitterverse sentiment was 4-to-1 for ‘Candy, I settled on Musket Man, who followed up on his Tampa win with another in last week’s Illinois Derby.

Top 10 for 4/14/09 PDI: 1. I Want Revenge 2. Quality Road 3. Pioneerof the Nile 4. Desert Party 5. Friesan Fire 6. Papa Clem 7. Dunkirk 8. General Quarters 9. Regal Ransom 10. Musket Man

– Chocolate Candy worked yesterday morning with new rider Mike Smith up, going five furlongs handily in :59.20 at Santa Anita. “I was happy with the work, said trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. Of course he was. Trainers are almost never quoted as anything but thrilled with their charges, especially three weeks before the biggest 3-year-old race of the year. The colt does look pretty good in this video of his Sunday move, though.

Dunkirk and Quality Road also worked over the weekend, with Dunkirk breezing four furlongs in :49.06 at Palm Meadows, and Quality Road doing the same in :48 at Belmont Park. He then galloped out five furlongs in 1:01.85 (according to DRF; Belmont clockers credited Quality’ with a five furlong breeze in 1:02.19). NYRA posted a short video of the work, showing the Jimmy Jerkens-trained colt going fine, apparently untroubled by the quarter crack found earlier in the week.

On the distaff side, watch mail brought notice that Music Note, third in her final 2008 start, the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Classic, is back in training. The 4-year-old filly breezed three furlongs in :37.40 at Keeneland on Saturday. No news yet on where she might debut this year. Possibly Belmont, in a race such as the June 13 G1 Ogden Phipps Handicap?

– It might be too early to start speculating on possible Derby pace scenarios, but with Old Fashioned and The Pamplemousse out, who goes to the front? There’s not a lot of early speed among the remaining probables.

– BSFs: 99 101 (upgraded) for Papa Clem, 95 for General Quarters.

California Works

The Pamplemousse and Pioneerof the Nile worked for the Santa Anita Derby on Wednesday morning, and Horseplayerpro.com clocker Toby Turrell was there to catch both. First up, ‘Grapefruit, going six furlongs handily in 1:13:

“The Pamplemousse had regular pilot Alex Solis aboard for a key six-panel drill this morning at Santa Anita, and the signals were mixed for the big grey. On the plus side, Solis never really put him into gear most of the way. However, he still wanted to get a bit too aggressive early going (:47.20 to the top of the lane) en route to a 1:13-flat clocking — with an even more pedestrian gallop out time of 127.60.

“This drill was a bit backwards on the watch, and when Solis ‘clucked’ to the horse inside the eighth-pole, The Pamplemousse did not give much response visually over a pretty deep surface. The Pro-Ride was renovated on Monday afternoon as part of the track’s normal maintenance.

“It certainly appears at this stage that the connections are just going to have to let The Pamplemousse sail on the lead and hope for the best.”

That fits with how the Pamplemousse won the Sham and San Rafael; he won’t get away so easily in the Santa Anita Derby. The lack of response Turrell observed can be seen in this video posted by Larry Zap Eye, who also followed the tired-seeming and hard-blowing Pamplemousse back to the barn after his work. The same video has a few seconds of Pioneerof the Nile, moving smoothly over the Pro-Ride. According to Turrell:

“With just over a week to go until the Santa Anita Derby, trainer Bob Baffert wanted a stiff drill out of his charge and he got it with Joe Steiner piloting Pioneer Of The Nile to a co-bullet of 1:11.40 for six panels. The splits of this drill were :35.60 and 59-flat, then a final furlong of :12.40 past the wire, working down to the clubhouse turn. Baffert told me that he was extremely happy with the colt and it went according to schedule. There is no doubt he will get a lot out of this drill, fitness-wise, over a deeply renovated surface that played a bit on the heavy side this morning.

“Anytime a 3-year-old can go the last three-eighths in :35.40 with a real swift final clocking, you have to deem him on course to go the ultimate distance of a mile and a quarter on the first Saturday in May. I personally believe that this colt’s most impressive drills are when he shows his class in team drills, where he usually blows by his stablemate with ease through the last quarter-mile. Today, working solo, Pioneerof The Nile was professional, indeed, responding to the urging from his regular exercise rider from top of the lane to the clubhouse turn without having a target in front of him to keep him aggressive.”

Baffert likes bullets, so it’s no news that Pioneerof the Nile earned one for his stellar final time, but doing the last three-eighths in :35.40 is attention grabbing coming out of any barn.

After →