The Brock Talk

Friday, April 9, 2010

Arkansas Derby and Blue Grass are Open Affairs

After watching Eskendereya's magnificent Wood Memorial (gr. 1) performance last week, one may wonder about the significance of this weekend's two grade 1 Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands prep races. Of the 18 3-year-olds entered in the $1 million Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park and $750,000 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland, only Uh Oh Bango has a race with a triple digit Beyer Speed Figure. And that was a 102 Beyer last September in the $53,000 Prairie Meadows Juvenile.

Eskendereya has done so in his last two races with a 106 Beyer in the Wood and a 102 in the Fountain of Youth. Not since Point Given in 2001 has a 3-year-old come into the Kentucky Derby looking so dominant. In fact, Point Given is the only horse during the last decade to go to the post with less than 2-1 odds.

Point Given finished fifth in the Kentucky Derby. Ironically, that is the average finish of the last ten Kentucky Derby favorites. Only Fusaichi Pegasus in 2000, Street Sense in 2007 and Big Brown the following year have won the Run for the Roses as the most popular betting choice.

The Arkansas Derby has produced two Derby winners during that time and seems to have the stronger cast on Saturday.

Todd Pletcher continues to unleash his 2010 armament on Derby contenders by bringing Super Saver to Arkansas and has been tabbed the 9-5 morning line favorite. Owned by WinStar Farm, Super Saver was third behind Odysseus and Schoolyard dreams as the favorite in the Tampa Bay Derby March 13 in his first start of the year.

But Noble's Promise may wind up as the fan's betting choice in Arkansas as well as the winner of the race if he can continue to improve off of his only start of the year. Trained by Kenneth McPeek, Nobel's Promise just missed hanging on against the highly regarded Lookin' at Lucky in the grade 2 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn, also March 13. Although Lookin' at Lucky was rattled with trouble that day, Noble's Promise was forced three-wide on the turn in the Rebel and still produced a field best 98 Beyer.

Four-time Kentucky Derby winning trainer D. Wayne Lukas still has Dublin on the Derby trail after his third place finish in the Rebel. He also was plagued by bad luck as he was forced four and five wide on both turns and appeared to bump Lookin at Lucky down the backstretch as well. Oaklawn Park veteran Terry Thompson gets the return mount on the son of Afleet Alex and may be looking for a slow and relaxing early trip Saturday.

In Lexington, Kentucky Florida Derby runner-up Pleasant Prince has been installed as the 3-1 morning line favorite, just ahead of Tampa Bay Derby winner Odysseus at 7-2. Just behind them are the Pletcher duo of Aikenite and Interactif at 4-1.

Again, we have a wide open race in which I'm most interested to see Odysseus run again. His victory in the Tampa Bay Derby, while not overly impressive on paper, was about as much as one would want to see in terms of determination and late acceleration.

After appearing as if finished coming out of the far turn (even track announcer Richard Gunter called Odysseus as done for the day), jockey Rajiv Maragh suddenly found more inside the final eighth of a mile. By that time, they were behind a wall of horses and as if suddenly being recharged, began to run again and somehow got for the win. That made it 3 consecutive for the Tom Albertrani trainee and with any improvement in maturity, should be the one to beat at Keeneland.

Personal Ensign Dies

Personal Ensign, the Zenyatta of the late 1980s passed away at her home at Claiborne Farmin Paris, Kentucky. She was 26.

Ranked among the greatest racing mares of all time with an undefeated record in 13 career starts. Her two most memorable races included the 1988 Whitney Stakes (gr. 1) when she defeated Gulch and King's Swan as the odds-on favorite and the thrilling Breeders' Cup Distaff later that year. In her final race, Personal Ensign appeared to be defeated by Kentucky Derby winning filly Winning Colors only to get up to win a nose to cap her perfect career.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm very eager to see how Noble's Promise performs today, her deserves to win this one and I think he will.

Go Odysseus!

It's ironic how things pan out with timing sometimes in this sport. Personal Ensign dies the day before Zenyatta makes it 16 for 16.