Week of April 11, 2011
By Dana Byerly, Hello Race Fans Co-founder
Not since mid-February have we seen so many upsets in one weekend! The Kentucky Derby trail has been turned on its head between upsets and injuries, the usually more formful Kentucky Oaks trail finally saw some upsets and the turf and handicap divisions alike saw notable upsets.
Regardless of your interpretation of the Wood Memorial outcome (either the truth about Uncle Mo’s chances have been exposed or that he just got his clunker out of the way), we can probably all agree that the Derby picture now looks a bit more murky. Through all the inscrutable prep races and mounting injuries, one thing remained constant: most people felt that Uncle Mo was a deserving favorite and that’s not necessarily the case now. The reigning champ will be shipping to the scene of his biggest win, Churchill Downs, on April 18 in hopes of replicating his Breeders’ Cup Juvenile performance on the first Saturday in May. How he handles his two scheduled works will dictate whether he starts or not.
Readers of the Derby Prep Alert should not have been surprised by the outcome of Santa Anita Derby:
he (Midnight Interlude) romped by 8 1/2 lengths last out (replay) and is by red-hot sire War Chant. At 20-1 he might be one of those rapidly improving types that’s at least worth a look in your exotics.
He (Comma to the Top) has yet to win as a 3-year-old but he could easily put it all together here.
Coming out of a maiden win to upset the Santa Anita Derby, Midnight Interlude bursts on to the Derby scene as one of the more lightly raced contenders, and that’s saying something this year! Unraced as 2-year-old, this rapidly improving son of War Chant (The Factor, Soldat) impressively stalked a solid pace and overcame a bit traffic trouble to run down a game Comma to the Top in the final strides. While a Derby win might be a stretch, one thing is clear, Midnight Interlude is one to keep an eye on. And given his performance, Comma to the Top is back in consideration for Derby.
Premier Pegasus, who was to be the morning line favorite in the Santa Anita Derby, is off the trail with an injury as is To Honor and Serve. This year’s Derby trail has seen many injuries including Boys at Tosconova, Tapizar, Riveting Reason and Rogue Romance. Jaycito scratched out of the Santa Anita Derby with a foot bruise and is pointing towards the Lexington on April 23.
Hot Summer didn’t do much last out in the Davona Dale (replay), but put it all together in the Comely on the Wood Memorial undercard. Her connections don’t seem to be pointing to the Oaks, but her improvement does flatter R Heat Lightning winner of the Davona Dale, who romped last week in the Gulfstream Oaks (replay).
Lilacs and Lace sprung a huge upset in the Ashland at Keeneland while Kathmanblu, considered by many to be the favorite of Kentucky Oaks, ran a dull third. The connections of Kathmanblu didn’t seem too concerned about the performance and will likely send her to the Oaks. Lilacs and Lace is now pointing to the Oaks while second place finisher Wyomia is undecided.
Joyful Victory was one of the only favorites to win this weekend and she did it with style in the Fantasy at Oaklawn park. She ran down the green but talented Arienza, daughter of 2002 Horse of the Year Azeri, to win by seven lengths under a hand ride. To quote HRF Contributing Editor and unabashed Kentucky Oaks fan Valerie Grash, “Joyful Victory, R Heat Lightning, Summer Soiree, Zazu, Plum Pretty, Daisy Devine, Wyomia, Kathmanblu, Lilacs and Lace…now that’s a field.”
Fabulous Strike made his debut out of retirement a winning one at Penn National. The 8-year-old sprinting sensation is back on the track thanks to stem-cell therapy. Oaklawn horse for the course Win Willy upset California shipper Misremembered in the Oaklawn Handicap (replay). According to his connections he’ll take a break and gear up for a fall campaign.
And making her seasonal debut after a horrendous and unfortunate incident in the Breeders’ Cup, Life at Ten got back to the track. She ran second in an allowance at Gulfstream Park and there is no current plan for her.
This week at the site we’ll take a look at the Arkansas Derby in Ten Things You Should Know About. We’ll also get back to basics in the first of three introductory posts on handicapping. This week we’ll take a look at class followed up by speed and then pace.
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See you at the track!