The Brock Talk

Monday, September 12, 2011

Super Slow Derby Might Still Have Stars

Super Derby 32 was very slow. Miraculously, it was not as slow as last year's race when Apart overcame Manhattan like traffic to result in the slow time of 1:52.31. This year Prayer for Relief led the Super Derby from gate to wire, but at just over a galloping pace.

Prayer for Relief has now consecutively won the Iowa Derby (gr. III), West Virginia Derby (gr. II) and the Super Derby as part of a four-race win streak. A stalker in previous races, jockey Rafael Bejarano took Prayer for Relief directly to the lead at Louisiana Downs Saturday before slowing the pace of the 1-1/8 race to a crawl with a first quarter in :50:31, the first six furlongs in 1:15.49 and a mile in 1:40.08. The final time of 1:52.29 was not even as slow as last year’s Super Derby, but if Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh (left) had been in either race, he probably would have been on the early lead. If you're not an NFL fan, Mr. Suh is listed at 307 lbs.

The pace seemed to severely handicap the two closers, Awesome Bet and Populist Politics, who finished second and third respectively. Peter Pan (gr. II) winner Alternation never seemed to find his best stride and finished fourth.

This Super Derby may or may not be able to produce winners at the grade 1 level in a normal year. However, there are no dominant runners in the older horse ranks or the now graduating sophomore class. Trainer Bob Baffert (photo above right) could, of course, keep Prayer for Relief with 3-year-olds one more time should he travel to Indiana for their grade 2 Derby Oct. 1. The Indiana Derby does offer another $500,000 that may be ripe for the pickin’ and it would be the same path taken by last year’s champion 3-year-old Lookin at Lucky, also under Baffert’s guidence. Prayer for Relief may not be another Lookin at Lucky, but he would likely be the favorite in Indiana. Another win there and the son of Jump Start strides into Churchill Downs with a significantly large heart.

A trip to New York for the Jockey Club Gold Cup is unlikely for Prayer for Relief. If Baffert wanted to challenge older horses with Prayer for Relief before a possible Breeders’ Cup Classic, he would likely stay in Southern California for the Oct. 1 Goodwood (gr. 1), a race run at his base at Santa Anita. But there he would face Pacific Classic (gr. 1) winner Acclamation and Santa Anita Handicap (gr. 1) winner and stable mate Game On Dude.

Steve Asmussen trains Awesome Bet so geography is no challenge running out of the expansive stable that reaches as far north as Canada’s Woodbine and as far south as the family operation in Laredo, Texas. He could also be headed to the Indiana Derby next, but it is often difficult to predict an Asmussen move.

Trainer Tom Amoss is based in Kentucky, so a trip across the river for the Indiana Derby may make sense for Populist Politics. Regardless of their next destination, both Awesome Bet and Populist Politics will be hoping for a more honest pace to target.

Fourth-place finisher Alternation still looks like he could take similar paths as the top three with little hesitation. Trainer Donnie Von Hemel is based at Remington Park where he could keep Alternation for the $400,000 Oklahoma Derby Oct. 16. But that 1-1/8 race is not graded and one has to think Alternation has the potential for improvement and at least stay in graded company.

The slow time will insure that the 2011 Super Derby not look that good on paper, but this group also belongs to a pretty mediocre group of grade I colts and horses running in this year’s major races around the country this year. There are remaining derbies in Indiana and Oklahoma, but at some point, I expect at least one of these Super Derby graduates to be heard from on a higher level.

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