The Brock Talk

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Kentucky Derby Musings With My Friend Captain Obvious

I ran into Captain Obvious the other day at the track and as happens between many horse racing enthusiasts this time of year, 2-year-olds became the topic of discussion – specifically as they relate to the 2012 Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands.

As is the case most of the time with Obvious, I was not surprised which horses he was going to follow this winter, through the spring Derby prep races and into the Run for the Roses.

“Hansen is my Derby horse,” the Captain proclaimed as if bestowing knowledge and insight into the conversation. “He’s had three races and not only has he won all three, but he’s been in front from the first jump to the wire in every one of ‘em. Never even been headed yet. He won the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvey at a mile and a-sixteenth, so he’s the Derby horse to watch, that’s for sure.”

Why was I then surprised to hear him say Union Rags was also on his Derby radar. Radar? I thought. You don’t need radar to find Union Rags on a list of Derby contenders. You need glasses and maybe even a new hearing aid if you hadn’t heard of Union Rags. He was a head off of being the undefeated champion of the class when the favorite in the Juvenile, he just missed catching Hansen to finish second. It was on TV and everything.

I won’t continue to bore you like Captain Obvious can me with his plebian prognostications, only to say that he list Juvenile third and fourth-place finishers Creative Cause and Dullahan respectively as the others he is watching along with the winners of the Delta Jackpot this Saturday and the CashCall Futurity at Hollywood Park December 17.

“Really?” I asked. And just before I had a chance to get too agitated, Captain Obvious turned and trotted toward the betting windows, disappearing into the simulcasting crowd on his way to betting another 6-to-5 shot to show.

Two of the horses that Captain Obvious may be looking at are Liaison and Arousing Sermon, the first two finishers I the $100,000 Real Quiet Stakes at Hollywood Park Saturday. The Real Quiet is the local prep race for the CashCall Futurity.

His other Derby horse runs Saturday, when the $1 million Delta Jackpot features by far the most accomplished field in the eight times the race has been run during its nine year history. The Delta Jackpot did not run in 2006 due to hurricane Rita. Because of the large purse and graded status, the winner of the Delta Jackpot will have plenty of graded earnings to qualify for the Kentucky Derby. Entry eligibility for the Derby is based on earnings in graded races. No preference is given to grade 1 races over grade 2 or 3. Management at Delta Downs in tiny Vinton, Louisiana have taken advantage of the clause and are now bringing top 2-year-olds to Cajun country each December.

Run as a grade 3 since 2006, the Delta Jackpot has attracted its first grade 1 winner in Del Mar Futurity winner Drill. Since Del Mar, Drill was second to Creative Cause in the Norfolk and a disappointing 10th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

Although listed as the 2-to-1 favorite in the Delta Jackpot, the Bob Baffert trainee will have plenty of competition in Vinton. Norfolk fourth-place finisher Basmatie and the Jerry Hollendorfer-trained Longview Drive are also heading to Louisiana from California. From Churchill Downs comes Seven Lively Sins off a second in the grade 3 Iroquios Stakes and allowance winners Jake Mo and Laurie’s Rocket.

There are others 2-year-olds to keep an eye on so far, outside of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, CashCall Futurityand Delta Jackpot.

For those not in the Captain Obvious camp, Sheihk Mohammed al Maktoum’s Darley Stables and trainer Kiarin McLaughlin unleashed a good looking son of Bernardini on a field of maidens at Aqueduct over the weekend. A bit of a surprise winning at 13-to-1 odds, Consortium stalked the leaders after breaking well before jockey Alan Garcia let him roll 3-wide around the field and win confidently by nearly five lengths.

After the race, McLaughlin told the Aqueduct public relations staff, “[Consortium] broke sharply and was able to sit and wait. It’s another nice win for Bernardini, he is a great sire.” The stallion fee for second crop sire Bernardini, who stands at Darley Stud, has been doubled to $150,000 for the 2012 breeding season due to his great success in the breeding shed. Consortium is also the first foal out of the Machiavellian mare Marietta, a grade 3 winner of both the Iowa and Arlington Oaks during her racing career. McLaughlin also said they were undecided as to his next start or as to whether he will stay at Aqueduct or move to Gulfstream Park for the winter.

On the west coast, the Empire Maker colt Empire Way has garnered some attention after winning a maiden race at Hollywood Park Sunday. Empire Way is out of the A.P. Indy mare Delta Princess, making him a full brother to Alabama Stakes (gr. 1) and Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic (gr. 1) winner Royal Delta. Empire Way is trained by Mike Harrington and was ridden by Joel Rosario.

Who knows. Maybe for the first time since Street Since in 2006-’07 Hansen will win the Kentucky Derby after taking the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Then Captain Obvious and probably a whole bunch more can say on the first Sunday of May next year, they picked the Derby winner six months earlier. No matter how you look at it, it would be impressive.

It would just be a little more impressive if we can find the Derby winner coming out of a rather anonymous maiden race. But that won’t change my friend Captain Obvious. He’ll still be betting show tickets on favorites.

A few others of Note:
Hierro - A winner in his third try at Churchill Downs Nov. 9 against maidens he his by Hard Spun, second in the Derby himself and currently the second leading first-crop sire.
Common Bond - A half brother to To Honor and Serve who had some trouble while finishing sixth to Consortium in the bump and run seventh race on Saturday, Nov. 13.
Motor City - A son of Street Sense who won the Iroquois Stakes at Churchill Downs on opening day Oct. 30. Motor City is trained by Ian Wilkes and is ridden by three-time Kentucky Derby winning jockey Calvin Borel.

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