Notable Performances & Week In Review: 5/23- 5/29

Stark Ravin Mad
5/29/11 Arlington Park Maiden Winner: chart / video / Beyer: 73 / BRIS: 108
Trainer: Larry Rivelli
Jockey: E. T. Baird

It is with a dose of restraint that we tout Stark Ravin Mad’s performance from Sunday, as well as project his ability to stretch out in distance.  As far as the race is concerned, it ended up being the final running of the day at Arlington Park when the jockeys refused to ride the remainder of the card due to weather and track condition.  Race #2, a maiden special weight, was delayed an hour, but when the gates finally swung open it was no contest.  Stark Ravin Mad got the jump and never looked back as he cruised to a 6-length win under jockey E. T. Baird.  As DRF’s Inside Post Blog suggests, the Arlington polytrack may have been speed favoring due to heavy rain.  Nevertheless, Stark Ravin Mad’s romp and subsequent speed figures make him this week’s lone notable performer. Larry Rivelli, the current leader in trainer standings at Arlington Park, trains and co-owns the colt.

As for his breeding, Stark Ravin Mad is a full brother to Madman Diaries, who won last year’s six furlong Sapling (G3) and ran off the board in the Hutcheson (G2) and Breeders Cup Juvenile Turf (G2), all races technically counting towards Derby earnings.  Their sire, dam, and even damsire were unheralded on the racetrack (or didn’t race at all in the dam’s case), yet have had surprising success from the breeding shed.  The sire, Bring The Heat, has been responsible for a number of precocious young sprinters, including 4 stakes winners.  The damsire, Outflanker, suggests a little more stamina as he has sired several mile and up winners, including Bayou’s Lassie who won a stakes at 1 1/8 miles, although her best distance seemed to be at a mile.  Stark Ravin Mad’s dosage index is 2.43, which puts him in the sub 4.00 category, a Kentucky Derby distance indicator that seems to lose more support from handicappers and turf writers each passing year.

To emphasize the disparity between Beyer and BRIS speed ratings, Stark Ravin Mad only registered a 73 Beyer, which was 13 points lower than last week’s top performer Majestic City.  However, his BRIS number of 108 is 4 points higher. 

Winning 2yo Beyers last week*: Stark Ravin Mad - 73; Hot Speed - 70; Respuesta Solida - 55; Tio Vic – 42

Top winning 2yo BRIS figs last week*: Stark Ravin Mad - 108; Hot Speed - 95; Respuesta Solida - 88; Tio Vic - 85.

*Source: DerbyContenders Twitter

Notable performances of the week: 5/16- 5/22

As the Triple Crown focus switches to the Belmont Stakes and the probable matchup between the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winners, CTD will look further ahead to the 2012 Run For The Roses.  It’s very early, yes, but as we outlined in the previous post, several Derby starters began their race careers in May of 2010.  We won’t cover everything (for that DerbyContenders on Twitter and the Bloodhorse Maiden Watch Blog and Twitter feed are recommended), but we will highlight impressive maiden, allowance, and stakes winners.  Here is this past week’s notable performances:

Majestic City
5/21/11 Hollywood Park Maiden Winner: chart / video / Beyer: 86 / BRIS: 104

Peter Miller, trainer of recent Derby starter Comma To The Top, appears to have another good early season juvenile. Majestic City responded well first time out to break his maiden by one-and-half lengths at Hollywood Park.  The colt was a $180,000 purchase at the recent OBS March sale.  His sire, City Zip, made some noise on the Derby trail in 2000 and 2001 by winning the Hopeful (G1) and finishing third in the Florida Derby (G1), but proved best at non-route distances.  His broodmare sire, Meadowlake, was responsible for several stakes winners at a mile and sixteenth, including Breeders Cup Juvenile (G1) runner-up Henny Hughes.

Article: Majestic City Notes [midway down article] (DRF)
Note: late charge by Scorpion Warrior

Tarpy’s Goal
5/19/11 Churchill Downs Maiden Winner: chart / video / Beyer: 63 / BRIS: 84

Recent attention towards trainer Dale Romans has centered on his Preakness win with Shackleford, but he was also responsible for freshman sire High Cotton’s first winner, Tarpy’s Goal.  He broke his maiden at first asking at Churchill Downs Thursday in what turned out to be a small but quality field.  He very well could be pointed towards the Bashford Manor Stakes (G3) on July 2nd, which is the first graded race to count towards earnings for the 2012 Derby.  His sire, well bred High Cotton, participated on the Derby Trail but did not pick up any wins during that time.  His most notable win came just after the Derby in the mile and sixteenth Northern Dancer (G3) at Churchill.  Tarpy’s Goal’s broodmare sire, Exbourne, was a successful turf miler.

Article: High Cotton sires first winner (Bloodhorse)

Top 2yo winning Beyers last week: Majestic City - 86; Mister Tristan - 58; Mighty Monsoon - 56; Sold Short - 60; Tarpy's Goal – 63
Top 2yo winning BRIS figs last week: Majestic City - 104; Mister Tristan - 96; Mighty Monsoon - 95; Sold Short - 94; Tarpy's Goal - 84.
Source: Derby Contenders Twitter

Looking forward: future plans for Chasing The Derby

With the hangover of the Kentucky Derby finally subsiding, I’ve been thinking of this site and where to go next.  First and foremost, I’ve decided to focus only on the Derby, a decision based more on sanity and time than anything else.  After studying the landscape of this past Derby trail I’ve laid out some rough ideas.

Seeing as three Derby starters began their careers as early as May 2010 and another six in June and July, I’ve decided it’s worth keeping an eye on things year-round.

Updates will be more sporadic, but I plan on monitoring promising two-year-old maiden breakers, notable allowance wins, and of course the all important graded stakes races, which begin in just seven weeks at the track it all ended.

I also plan on adding historical Derby data (with video) and will of course stay up-to-date on any changes to the trail schedule or Derby itself.  There is already talk of allowing an “also-eligible” list which would help avoid future Uncle Mo/Sway Away controversies.

The updates will become much more frequent around the Breeders Cup Juvenile and eventually return to daily once the trail heats up in January 2012.

So, be sure to check back often and thanks for visiting,

Chasing The Derby  

The chase ends: Wildcard Animal Kingdom takes the roses, Preakness next

We shouldn’t have been surprised.  If you’ve been following the Derby Trail at all this year, the fact an overlooked long shot with a thin resume emphatically wins America’s greatest horse race was only fitting.  Animal Kingdom was a wildcard going in.  He had never raced on dirt, yet backside onlookers had sung praises of how he was training and coming into the race.  His dirt pedigree was questionable.  Sired by turf champion Leroidesanimaux, a majority of his offspring race and win on turf or synthetic surfaces.  Trainer Graham Motion insisted afterwards if horses are of a certain caliber, "they can handle the switchover”.  While that was true for the winner of the 2011 Kentucky Derby and somewhat supported further with Master of Hounds close fifth place finish, it is not the norm.  It happens in horse racing. It does not happen often, and that is why handicappers will continue to take pedigree into account.

The results of the Kentucky Derby seem to always provide multi-layered storylines of firsts, opportunity, redemption, and missed chances, and this year was no different.  It was the first Derby win for both jockey John Velazquez and trainer Graham Motion. It looked as though Velazquez would be watching the Derby on television from the Jock’s room when two-year-old champion Uncle Mo was scratched Friday.  Opportunity rang later when Animal Kingdom’s owner, Barry Irwin, decided to use his services instead of recently injured Robby Albarado.  Albarado insisted he was ready, but Irwin did not want to take the chance, and the decision ultimately took the jockey off the winner.  After 12 failed attempts and 3 late defections Velazquez finally got to smell the roses. Trainer Graham Motion also persevered through losing his leading challenger Toby’s Corner to an injury sustained last Sunday.

Second and third place finishers Nehro and Mucho Macho Man should be commended for running well, but aside from the winner, fourth place Shackleford ran most impressive.  Considering the track was not speed favoring and the fact frontrunners usually don’t fare well in the Derby, his effort was truly gutsy. Some will say the fractions were slow, which they were in comparison to recent Derbies, but the pace was still fair for a mile and a quarter race. Pants On Fire*, Soldat, Decisive Moment, and Comma To The Top* also gave close chase in the beginning but faded to 9th, 11th, 14th, and 19th respectively.

As for CTD’s picks, they were nowhere close.  Unfortunately top pick Archarcharch sustained a condylar fracture and was retired, but it appears he will recover.

What will the future bring? It looks as though Animal Kingdom is headed to Baltimore for the Preakness.  Who knows, we could have a superstar on our hands considering the way he took to dirt in his first try, his running style, and long distance pedigree. Here’s hoping for the first Triple Crown winner since 1978…

Stats from the Kentucky Derby:

·       Beyer Speed Figures: Animal Kingdom 103; Nehro 99; Mucho Macho Man 99; Shackleford 97; Master of Hounds 95; Santiva 95

·       Animal Kingdom (courtesy of Churchill Downs)
o   First horse since Needles in 1956 to win the Kentucky Derby off a six-week layoff
o   Fifth horse since 1900 to win Derby off 4 or fewer starts
o   First winner to break its maiden at Keeneland since Forward Pass in 1968.
o   Fifth consecutive winner with only two starts as a 3-year-old prior

·       Graham Motion: “Yesterday was surreal” (Bloodhorse)
·       Fate makes a comeback for Animal Kingdome trainer (Courier Journal)
·       Victory in Kentucky Derby meant to be for jockey (Courier Journal)
·       Albarado unhappy to be taken off winner (Courier Journal)
·       Kentucky bred winner has an international lineage (Courier Journal)
·       Kentucky Derby losing jockey and trainer quotes (Churchill Downs)
·       Rosie Napravnik yearns for a return trip (Courier Journal)
·       Arlington trainer comes close with Nehro (Star-Telegram)

*It was reported that Comma To The Top sustained an ankle injury and Pants On Fire bled following the race

Animal Kingdom wins Kentucky Derby 137


Kentucky Derby Winner: Animal Kingdom chart / video

·       Animal Kingdom wins Kentucky Derby (NY Times) (Wall Street Journal) (Bloodhorse)

Derby Day: The Picks

The Pick: Archarcharch
Still sticking with this guy even in the #1 spot.  He’ll need a lucky break (the opposite of the Lookin At Lucky pinball machine), but if he gets it he  should be able to settle mid-pack or further back and change gears heading into the final turn.

2nd, 3r, 4th: Midnight Interlude, Dialed In, Twinspired
A lot has been said about Midnight Interlude’s negatives: namely that he never raced at two and was visually unimpressive in the Santa Anita Derby.  I disagree with both theories.  The Santa Anita Derby in particular was a stellar effort, in my opinion, in which he steadied and swung to the outside.  Those are the types of obstacles and moves needed today.

Dialed In could very well be the best horse in here.  I’m guessing there will not be quite enough daylight to get to the wire first.

I’ve been impressed with Twinspired’s gallops on the track and have a hunch he will take to dirt.  He also has the stalking ability conducive to finishing in the exotics.

I have left out a few of my personal favorites, most notably Shackleford. The feeling is there is just too much speed for him to get comfortable and sustain.

Good Luck everyone and Happy Derby Day!

Master Of Hounds makes first training appearance, all eyes and ears on Friday Mo decision

Master Of Hounds finally took his first steps on the Churchill track Thursday.  It was a very light effort that did not impress onlookers, however his appearance cannot be ignored.  Not only is he big, but he also has a compact yet powerful stride.  Uncle Mo put in a strong gallop, although the chances of him entering the Derby gate seem to diminish by the minute. A decision will be announced most likely early Friday.  Other horses that impressed Thursday morning were Mucho Macho Man (looking better each day), Shackleford (as always), Archx3 (I’m’ still not over the #1 draw), Animal Kingdom (another improver), and Twinspired (not a typo).  The recent reports on Soldat have been glowing, but I saw a horse that was fighting the bit and did not look comfortable// Robby Albarado, who suffered facial injuries from a Wednesday spill, will still be aboard Animal Kingdom in the Derby as expected// DRF does a rundown of where future wagers currently stand.  Decisive Moment leads the way with the best value at 186-1 from pool 1.  Dialed In, the favorite in the Derby, closed at 11-1 in one future pool, and Archarcharch was as high 50-1.  Don’t think futures are a smart bet, however, only 3 out of 110 horses from the Wynn Future Book in September actually made the Derby field// As we have seen during Derby week, the number of articles grows by the day.  Friday and Saturday CTD blog posts will be shorter due to the fact we’ll be at the races.  Be sure to still check out the site for our final Derby picks and wagers along with a unique new handicapping formula// more…

Kentucky Derby draw: Archarcharch gets dreaded #1, favorite Dialed In #8

Kentucky Derby (gr. I)
Post Horse Jockey Trainer Odds
1 Archarcharch Jon Court Jinks Fires 10-1
2 Brilliant Speed Joel Rosario Tom Albertrani 30-1
3 Twice the Appeal Calvin Borel Jeff Bonde 20-1
4 Stay Thirsty Ramon Dominguez Todd Pletcher 20-1
5 Decisive Moment Kerwin Clark Juan Arias 30-1
6 Comma to the Top Patrick Valenzuela Peter Miller 30-1
7 Pants On Fire Rosie Napravnik Kelly Breen 20-1
8 Dialed In Julien Leparoux Nick Zito 4-1
9 Derby Kitten Javier Castellano Mike Maker 30-1
10 Twinspired Mike Smith Mike Maker 30-1
11 Master of Hounds Garrett Gomez Aidan O'Brien 30-1
12 Santiva Shaun Bridgmohan Eddie Kenneally 30-1
13 Mucho Macho Man Rajiv Maragh Kathy Ritvo 12-1
14 Shackleford Jesus Castanon Dale Romans 12-1
15 Midnight Interlude Victor Espinoza Bob Baffert 10-1
16 Animal Kingdom Robby Albarado H. Graham Motion 30-1
17 Soldat Alan Garcia Kiaran McLaughlin 12-1
18 Uncle Mo John Velazquez Todd Pletcher 9-2
19 Nehro Corey Nakatani Steve Asmussen 6-1
20 Watch Me Go Rafael Bejarano Kathleen O' Connell 50-1

The all-important Derby draw offered the usual mix of restrained and unrestrained reactions from owners and trainers. Comma To The Top’s connections could not hide their relief when they avoided the dreaded #1 position.  That fell to serious contender Archarcharch, whose odds were raised to 10-1 from 8-1 based on the misfortune. Dialed In was installed as the 4-1 favorite and will start from position #8.  Handicappers will analyze all of the postpositions compared to each horse’s running style, but we’ve learned there is nothing close to certainty at any point in a 20-deep horse race. The complete list of entries, post positions, pps, video, and more can be found on the contender page here// Animal Kingdom’s rider Robby Albarado took a spill before a race at Churchill Wednesday and was rushed to the hospital.  His facial injuries will most likely not keep him out of the Derby Saturday// Almost all Derby entries were on the track today.  Most attention is centered on Uncle Mo as his appearance and activity are closely scrutinized.  Mike Welsch believes he was lighter in weight from last week, and owner Mike Repole is still uncertain of his running status.  A team of vets will closely examine Uncle Mo on Thursday and a decision should be announced by Friday// Of the other contenders on the track, Welsch commented Soldat, Archarcharch, Shackleford,, Mucho Macho Man, and Twinspired were on the muscle galloping over the dry track// more…

Toby’s Corner out, Derby Kitten in// Archarcharch gets unintentional official work// Kentucky Derby draw nears

Toby’s Corner marks the 69th promising horse off the Derby Trail, according to the respected and mysterious @DerbyContenders account on Twitter. He came up lame in his left hind leg after Sunday’s work in Maryland.  Derby Kitten takes spot #20 with Sway Away waiting in the wings. Javier Castellano gets the mount// No serious workouts were scheduled today, but the clocker decided to record Archarcharch’s gallop as an official move.  Everyone was surprised, including his trainer “Jinks” Fires. The half mile time was a slow 52 flat, but considering he was just coming off a bullet move from Friday and not really supposed to work in the first place, the gallop (or whatever it was) should help him stay fit for the upcoming mile and a quarter test// Recent reports on Uncle Mo seemed to suggest the probability of a defection from the Derby was fading with each day, but Tuesday brought more uncertainty as owner Mike Repole indicated he could still scratch as late as Saturday afternoon// Among today’s gallopers, Mike Welch highlights Mucho Macho Man, Soldat, and Shackleford who all continue to thrive// Tomorrow is the big draw which will be televised on Versus starting at 4pm// more... 

Final day of key Kentucky Derby workouts, media spotlight intensifies

Derby week can be hectic and nerve-racking for thoroughbred enthusiasts and handicappers, mostly due to an overabundance of information and opinion.  The Churchill Downs backside is crammed with reporters, horseman, bettors, and fans all looking for angles and stones unturned, which often leads to widely varying conclusions.  Case-in-point is Monday’s workout of Santa Anita Derby winner Midnight Interlude, who ran a bullet over a sloppy track.  Highly regarded analysts such as Steve Haskin and Mike Welsch viewed the move as a major improvement from his last work, but the buzz faded quickly afterwards based on trainer Bob Baffert’s demeanor and honest comments on the colt’s greenness.  I’ll take the quotes at face value and move on: the work was good, the horse is just still growing up and needs something to run at// Brilliant Speed turned in what seemed to be the consensus best work.  Many knock this horse for his awful dirt performance (including me), but all indications are to take him seriously if the track ends up sloppy// Welsch thought Nehro’s workout was not as impressive as his previous based on how he switched leads several times and galloped out poorly. Trainer Steve Asmussen said they weren’t asking for much// Santiva, perhaps the least visually pleasing mover of the past week, turned in a better performance during Monday's official work// Watch Me Go had what Welsch called an “unusual” work but also the best gallop out of all timed workers// Among Monday’s gallopers and joggers, many view Soldat and Archarcharch as horses coming into the Derby better than any// Something to keep in mind with all of these training reports over the last two days is that all impressions are questionable if the track is dry Derby day// I realize the list of daily articles is longer each day, but be sure to check out Joe Drape’s New York Times piece on picking a winner, Gary West’s first morning at Churchill in 2011, and Kentucky Confidential's piece on emotional conformation profiles for Derby contenders.  There are also some good handicapping angles in the Pony Bologna and Zipse at the Derby blogs// more…

5 major Kentucky Derby workouts// Bejarano gets last remaining mount

Uncle Mo before his workout 5-1-11 CTD
Of the five key Kentucky Derby workouts Sunday, the obvious headline was Uncle Mo, who worked in company with stablemate Stay Thirsty.  Reports were a mixed bag.  The connections were very pleased and Mike Welsch from the Daily Racing Form commented both horses seem to be doing “extremely well” based on how they completed their efforts without much urging, especially Stay Thirsty.  Other analysts and onlookers were not too impressed and noted Mo failed to pass his rival at any point.  For what it’s worth, I was able to see both exit the track and they seemed hardly winded// Pants On Fire, with Rosie Napravnik up, worked a half-mile in a quick 47:80.  Welsch says the move was a big improvement from his prior move, although the gallop out was not as good as the Pletcher duo// Comma To The Top worked in California in what was described by rider Patrick Valenzuela as “perfect”// Toby’s Corner put in his final work before the Derby in Maryland and trainer Graham Motion couldn’t be happier with how he’s coming into the Derby with both of his charges, the other being Animal Kingdom// Rafael Bejarano was fortunate enough to get a late Derby mount on Watch Me Go, who was moving quite well in the mud Sunday// Bubble horses Anthony’s Cross and Mr. Commons have been officially ruled out of entering the Derby, which leaves Lexington Stakes winner Derby Kitten as next in line// Monday’s scheduled works include Watch Me Go, Nehro, Midnight Interlude, and possibly Santiva// I’ve built a Kentucky Derby contender page with links to pps, video, breeding info, and comments.  I’ll be updating the information as the week moves along// Happy Derby week! You can tell it has arrived by the number of article links below...