Originally written on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 11/20/14
Just a few changes in this week’s 2013 Horse Racing Countdown to the Triple Crown as only the 2013 San Felipe Stakes, won by Hear The Ghosts,  and 2013 Tampa Bay Derby, won by Verrazano, were run as a major three year old prep race for the 2013 Kentucky Derby.   2013 Kentucky Derby   1) Shanghai Bobby- will remain in the top spot until I see his next race (The Florida Derby March 30).   2) Verrazano- I had to bump him up one spot with all due respects to Revolutionary, but did you see his Tampa Bay Derby win? The three lengths he won by might as well have been 30 as there was no way they were beating this animal last Saturday. Other than stumbling at the break, grabbing a quarter on his right front leg and opening a small cut….He absolutely was toying with the competition last weekend. Jockey Willie Martinez, who rode runner up finisher Java’s War for the first time, said: “There is no telling at this point what kind of horse Verrazano is, Before the race, I said he would either win by a mile or get beat by a mile, because you never know about a horse coming to run on this surface for the first time. He showed his true talent and it looks like he is the best 3-year-old in the country right now”. In case you missed the TB Derby, here it is again. Keep in mind, he recorded a Triple Digit Beyer Speed Figure (101) while running over a notoriously slow, sometimes quirky surface. Also, when watching the replay pay close attention to a few things. One, watch just after they pass the quarter pole how jockey John Velasquez really just throws a cross (maybe two) at him and then just hand rides him to the wire while the second and third place riders were whipping and driving their mounts. Second, there is an excellent close up of this horse at the 2:03 mark to the 2:15 mark in the video…..in that 12 seconds, notice the enormous hind end, the fluid motion (stride) and the overall effortlessness of the chore at hand. This colt by More Than Ready is obviously scary good….my one main concern is he’ll be going into the Derby with only four lifetime starts and, like I mentioned in my Tampa Bay Derby preview, he’s still not battled tested…he’s still never been challenged or looked in the eye sort of speak. Of course, so far, he hasn’t allowed anyone to do that. Next start: Wood Memorial, April 9.   3) Revolutionary- I hate to drop him a notch even though he never left the barn Saturday. If the Kentucky Derby were to be run tomorrow, he’d be in my 3 horse exacta box without question. I’m looking forward to him showing off that big late kick he has again in his next start, which is the Louisiana Derby on March 30.     4) Itsmyluckyday- I saw the great Steve Haskin moved this colt by the talented but ill fated Lawyer Ron to the #1 slot on his list and I definitely understand the concept as he’s been he’s been nothing short of spectacular in his last two races including an almost 7 length trouncing of his competition in the Gulfstream Park Derby and followed that up by knocking off Shanghai Bobby in the Holy Bull Stakes last month. I’m not completely sold on him yet and that may be a mistake but his next race, like Shanghai Bobby’s, should tell us where we stand with him. Next race: the Florida Derby March 30     5) Orb- He gets moved up a spot based on the recent defeats of Flashback and Goldencents last weekend. No matter though, he probably needed to be moved up anyway. He’s now won his last three in a row and showed a good closing kick in all three wins….he appears to be developing and coming together nicely for trainer Shug McGaughey. Really only one concern and it’s a minor one. I’m wondering if  he just likes the Gulfstream Park surface (He’s really blossomed on it) or is he just getting good overall? When I looked further back in his past performances, I saw a win on the Aqueduct surface, so he should be fine on different types of surfaces…..other than that..…Shug looks like he has a tiger on his hands. Next start: FloridaDerby March 30.     6) Vyjack- I had him at #12 two weeks ago, but he definitely need to move up after a powerhouse performance in the Gotham two weeks ago and again after the aforementioned defeats of Goldencentss and Flashback In the Gotham, he was seventh at the top of the stretch but put his head down, leveled out and exploded at the eighth pole to win going away. I thought he was very impressive and indeed, I owe this gelding an apology as I said in my Gotham preview that I was “unsure if he is Kentucky Derby material”…after the Gotham, he most certainly is. Next start: Wood Memorial April 9   7) Flashback- was the victim of a horrendous ride in the San Felipe from where I sit. I mean, you are most likely sitting on the best horse in the race, you break well and have excellent early positioning towards the inside, yet you steer you horse to the outside and engage in knockdown, drag out battle for the early lead? Why? So what happens? This colt expectedly tires in the final sixteenth and gets passed by (6-1) outsider Hear The Ghost yet still held on gamely for second. I have to drop him but it may not be entirely his fault. Next start: Santa Anita Derby April 9     8) Super Ninety Nine- this guy continues to surprise me and a lot of other people too I thin including trainer Bob Baffert I truly thought he was a sprinter but he keeps strtecing out and stretching out, so how far can he go? We’ll see if he can get 1 1/16ths miles this weekend in the March 16 Rebel at OaklawnPark.         9) Goldencents- ditto Flashback, and he was the one who was battling early with Flashback. He, too, tired and backed up down the stretch. I obviously still like this colt a lot, truth be told, even while being cooked in that speed duel, he was soundly beaten by both Flashback and Hear The Ghost and was out of the race as early as the quarter pole in the San Felipe. Next race: Santa Anita Derby April 9?         10) Capo Bastone- was a good late running third in BC Juvenile last year and, albeit barely, he won his 2013 three year old debut signaling he’s come back fine. He could climb the ladder quickly depending on his performance in the Spiral Stakes Keeneland next month.     11) Normandy Invasion- was disappointing (5th place) in the Risen Star Stakes and I have to drop him in position Next start: the Wood Memorial April 9 where he will have to show me more….and he very well might.     12) Rydilluc- he got beat a country mile (over 22 lengths) in his one and only dirt appearance and that does make me hesitate a little. But then you look at the next three (all turf) races and he has pulverized his competition. He’s won by a combined (almost) 14 lengths and has a usually long stride. Let’s face it folks, regardless of the surface, a three year old with a long stride, going a distance of ground (Derby), is always dangerous. If he does carry his turf form back over to dirt, I’m going to catapult him up the scale here.      13) Departing- Closed strongly to break his maiden, and then won an allowance race in a laugher (he won by almost 5 while being geared down). After that he was entered in the Risen Star Stakes and scratched because of the poor post position draw. From there, they ship him (from the Fair Ground) to Texas and win the Texas Heritage Stakes by three. Those three lengths just doesn’t do the win any justice. Departing ran his final quarter-mile in 24.2 seconds while under a hand ride (again), he completed the mile distance in 1:37.4, and received a career-best 97 Beyer Speed Figure. (His last race was an 85). “He’s a good horse and has everything put together,” trainer Al Stall said after the Texas Heritage. “We know he has talent and will just see how far he can go.”…and to me, at this point, he looks like he could go real far.       14) Palace Malice: has evidently come back ok from his shin issue injury last year. He was 3 wide on both turns in the Risen Star Stakes and was “weaving” down the stretch like a drunk driver down a street on a Saturday night in that race , yet still was beaten just a half length for all the money. He needs even more experience (than that of which he gained in the Risen Star), and if he gets it anytime soon…. Next race: LouisianaDerby March 30   15) Uncaptured- is 6 for 7 in his career, but more importantly he obviously loves the Churchill Downs surface as he is 2 for 2 over it. That’s huge….I give major credit to horses that like the CD track, it usually goes a long way. The reason why he is #14 is because he suffered a foot injury and his training has been put on hold for while. Next race: Spiral Stakes March 23   On the Radar Screen:   Tiz the True: has an enormous stretch kick and he could easily leap into the top 6 or 7 after his next race if he continues the way he is going. I saw he came home the last quarter in :23.3 in his maiden race, which is far superior to (#12 ranked) Departing. He’s been struggling with a foot issue of late and if he is healthy for his next race (Rebel Stakes March 16), he could make a splash.     Oxbow: came out of nowhere to blow away the Lecomte Field at Louisiana Downs in his last. But the D. Wayne Lukas trainee was allowed to lope along on an easy lead before opening up to win by 11+ lengths.   Every time I watch the Risen Star Stakes, the more I realize I might be underestimating this horse. I mean, he ran a close up fourth after a questionable ride. Next start: LouisianaDerby March 30.   Tiz A Minister also needs to be mentioned. The more I watch that San Felipe the more I’m impressed with his performance. He came from last, some 18-19 lengths out of it, to finish third, beaten a length. His race before that (Cal Breeders Cup Championship) he did something similar. He closed a huge gap (17 lengths?) back to win going away. As I said in Revolutionary’s paragragh, its running styles like that that win Kentucky Derbys.     Overanalyze- broke his maiden in fine fashion, then ran in four straight graded races where he won two of them but finished up the track in the other two. Nice colt, but his inconsistencies continue to plague him. I understand it was his first race since November, but I was expecting a better effort in the Gotham (he finished 5th), he needs to get more consistent. One more bad showing and I drop him off the list completely.   Delhomme:not much of a quarterback but a nice little racehorse. Speedy colt by Union Rags was dead game while giving Overanalyze and stretch running Normandy Invasion all they could handle in the aforementioned Withers at 1 1/8th miles. He certainly looks like he can get another furlong. Next race: the Rebel Stakes March 16     Code West: came out of obscurity to get beat a nose in the Risen Star Stakes on Saturday. He ran a huge race as he battled for the early lead for the first half mile of that race, dropped back to fourth as they turned for home but came on again to finish a “just miss” second. He is a must add to this list off that race.   Speak Logistics: closed ground late to get third in the FOY and even though he was beaten soundly by the top two, he at least needs to be added to the list because if he continues to improve, if only by a few lengths, he would still be on the cusp of the upper echelon three year olds.   Power Broker: continues to coming along well but it looks as though he’ll have only one start before the Derby…is that going to be enough? I doubt it…next race: the Sunland Park Derby March 24.   West Hills Giant is another who came from relative obscurity to almost take the Gotham field wire to wire at 34-1….guess we’ll need to see where he goes from there. Next race April 9 Wood Memorial     Hear The Ghost: was the beneficiary of a wicked speed dual and came from behind to win the San Felipe last weekend. I’m not even remotely close to being sold on him as the 2013 Kentucky Derby winner but he needs to be mentioned based off that win. Next race:  Santa Anita Derby April 9   To receive an email each time a new Horse Racing article is published, fill out the Email Notification Form Thanks for reading….
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