Originally written on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 11/5/14
Just a few changes in this week’s 2013 Horse Racing Countdown to the Triple Crown as only the Gotham Stakes was run as a major three year old prep race for the 2013 Kentucky Derby. I must be losing it in my old age as I completely missed the Texas Heritage Stakes at Sam Houston where the up and coming Departing started in the race and won impressively. Then again, who looks at Sam Houston Racetrack to find a top notch three year olds running in Kentucky Derby prep races?   2013 KentuckyDerby 1) Shanghai Bobby- Yep, he’s still number one, albeit barely, on my list for now. It is very possible he can’t get the classical distances but the fact still remains that he hasn’t proven he can’t yet either. Posted a five furlong work in 1:00.4 Sunday morning and his next race (March 9 FloridaDerby) will or should tell the tale where he stands.   2) Revolutionary- The stretch run in the Withers a couple of weeks ago still stands out in my mind. Worked a half mile in: 48.4 this past Saturday and is being pointed to the Louisiana Derby on March 30.     3) Verrazano- So, I was at Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens, NY to watch my filly run on Sunday and I spoke to several horseman on the backstretch and they all say the same thing as I’m saying or thinking. Exactly how good is this colt? No-one knows…I mean, so far it appears we are looking at something very special here after 2 blow out wins (beat maidens won by 7 getting at 6 ½ furlongs in 1:16.2 and then annihilates $75,000 optional claimers by 16+ lengths getting a mile in 1:34.4 and scoring an eye popping 105 Beyer Speed Figure.) His next start is the March 9 Tampa Bay Derby where he will be trying better competition and two turns for the first time…and I, for one, can’t wait to see how he fairs. All reports are that he continues to train forwardly.       4) Goldencents- is 3 for 4 lifetime and versatile too. He can win from on or off the pace and has won on the east coast tracks and the vastly different west coast tracks as well. This weekend will be an acid test for him as he will face the highly touted Flashback in the San Felipe March 9 but he certainly signaled readiness after scorching 6 furlongs in 1:11.3 last week.   5) 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 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. The only reason I put him this low is I can’t quite tell if this colt is just finding himself or peaking out (too soon?). Like the rest of the horses in here….time will tell. Next race: the Florida Derby March 30     6) Orb- stays at #6 position based on the fact he displayed yet another powerful stretch run while overtaking highly regarded (and now injured) Violence in the stretch to win the Fountain of Youth Stakes this past weekend. He won his 2 previous starts in the same fashion and now must be consider a top Derby prospect. The Malibu Moon colt came out of the race in good order and he will be entered in the March 30 Florida Derby along with Shanghai Bobby and Itsmyluckyday. (Which incidentally that race is coming together really well). Lastly, I’m sorry but any horse who has the great Ruffian in his lineage will always grab my attention and this guy does.     7) Flashback- is unbeaten and clearly talented as he came from behind to cruise in his maiden win (by 3), then jumped right into a Grade: 2 race (The Robert B. Lewis) and wire the (albeit short) field. Kind of hard to get a gauge on that Robert Lewis with such a short field, but regardless he’s won his career starts easily and I hate to put him at #8… but I need to see a little more. He is facing #4 ranked Goldencents this weekend in the San Felipe March 9. That race should help us as to where he stands as well.       8) Vyjack- I had him at #12 last week, but he definitely need to move up after a powerhouse performance in the Gotham this past weekend. He was seventh at the top of the stretch but 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. I’ll tell you, I will absolutely listen to arguments that this horse belongs in the top 5. Here is the Gotham again….watch him closely from a little above the eighth pole to the wire.       8) Super Ninety Nine- you know, I originally thought this colt by Pulpit was purely a sprinter. I could not have been any more wrong. On Jan 31, he cruised to a 3 length win in a (one mile) $80,000 optional claimer race at Santa Anita, then shipped to Oaklawn this past weekend and walloped the field in the Southwest Stakes by 11 ¼ lengths in the slop. At the end of last year, I had him ranked (in my mind) at like #20 or 22….not anymore. He ripped off a half mile work yesterday (Monday) in :46.2 and is being pointed towards the March 16 Rebel at OaklawnPark.       9) Capo Bastone- is another who owns a big late run as demonstrated in the BC Juvenile. Take a look at that race again, notice he was ninth early but finished third beaten a little over 2 lengths. Albeit barely, He won his 2013 three year old debut signaling he’s come back fine. From what I gather there was a little change in his plans as he is now being pointed towards the Rebel March 16 at OaklawnPark. (I originally read he was going to train up to the Derby but had a feeling that wasn’t right).     10) Normandy Invasion- broke his maiden by 9 and then closed like the proverbial freight train in the Remsen to get beat a nose in the Remsen last November. I like horses that possess that big, late kick… it’s what wins most Kentucky Derby’s. I’m definitely not enamored with his so-so showing (5th place) finish in the Risen Star Stakes and I have to drop him from last week’s position (#7). Next start: the Wood Memorial April 9 where he will have to show me more….and he very well might.   11) Rydilluc- makes his debut at #11 off last weekends Palm Beach (on the turf) at Gulfstream. Now, I realize 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.   12) 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.       13) 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” badly down the stretch, 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….he could catapult up this list quick. Next race: LouisianaDerby March 30   14) Falling Sky- well named colt by Lion Heart is 3 for 4 in his career and is another who has won from on and off the pace. Showed a lot of courage in his last (The Sam F. Davis) at Tampa Bay Downs as he was dead game in holding on to win by a neck. He’ll try Verrazano in the March 9 Tampa Bay Derby next.   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 had been put on hold for while, so he is kind of playing catch up.  Next race: the Tampa Bay Derby March 9    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.   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 novemebr, 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.   Dynamic Sky: ran the best race of his life while getting nipped at the wire by Falling Sky in the Sam F Davis last time out. If he continues to improve (and mature…he has lead change issues and shied from the whip in that race) he could make a little noise in this division. However his next race is the March 9 Tampa Bay Derby, where he will be facing Verrazano….good luck with that.     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 trainer Bob Baffert said he needed some time off to “put a little weight on” and evidently, that plan worked….but the question is, is he too late? He is coming along (4F work in :47.3, out 6F in 1:12.3) well but it looks as though he’ll have only one start before the Derby…would that be enough? I doubt it…next race: the Wood Memorial April 6 or 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.   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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