Weekend Review: Verrazano steals Saturday spotlight// Revolutionary gets up late in Withers, Flashback has it easy in Robert Lewis// Fallen Sky holds on in Sam Davis

Saturday Derby Points Races:

Withers (G3)
Winner (pts): Revolutionary (10)
2nd, 3rd, 4th (pts): Escapefromreality (4), Siete de Oros (2), Amerigo Vespucci (1)
Chart: Equibase
Beyer/BRIS: 86/96
Replay: YouTube
Recaps: Bloodhorse / DRF / Brisnet
CTD Analysis: The one thing you can count on in the Kentucky Derby every year is that a good number of horses will have rough trips. It is somewhere in the laws of physics and logic that when twenty 3-year-old thoroughbreds spring from a gate and then have to negotiate two turns of a track together, some will get bumped, blocked, and alter course. Most of those contestants falter, slow down, or completely check out of the race.

On Saturday, Revolutionary experienced these obstacles in an eight-horse field in the Withers, but overcame the adversity to win by a neck. I won’t go through his whole trip, because it’s virtually impossible to keep track of the entire series of events. All you need to know is that the Equibase footnotes of his ride include the terms “angled” “climbing” “spun” “forced to idle” “eased” “shuffled”, and some of those more than once. Revolutionary will undoubtedly be a better horse from the experience, and could draw on it come May, but against a better group of horses he might not be able to bail himself out again. Of course, with more forward placement in the early stages and a good trip, he could show his true potential. It’s worth noting, some think he’s incapable of exiting the gate quickly and also shows tendencies of stubbornness that could hinder any advancement. 

It looked as if Escapefromreality was primed to win the Withers until Revolutionary somehow found room for his late charge. Jockey Jose Ortiz appeared to slow his urging of Escapefromreality and clearly did not see the winner breathing down his neck. It was still a good showing for the gelding, who only had restricted maiden and allowances sprint wins on his résumé. Siete de Oros finished in the money (3rd) for the second consecutive time in graded company, and stamped himself a useful stakes player, albeit second tier.     

Sam F. Davis (G3)
Winner (pts): Falling Sky (10)
2nd, 3rd, 4th (pts): Dynamic Sky (4), My Name Is Michael (2), Speak Logistics (1)
Chart: Equibase
Beyer/BRIS: 92/92
Replay: YouTube
Recaps: Bloodhorse / DRF / Brisnet
CTD Analysis: Although jockey Jose Espinoza said the trip was not perfect, Falling Sky had it pretty easy in the Sam Davis at Tampa Bay Downs. After an excellent break from the 8 post, Falling Sky dictated moderate fractions that allowed him to conserve enough energy in the stretch to hold off a charging Dynamic Sky. It’s usually tough to get excited about the winner of the Sam Davis, and this year is no exception. The speed figures from both BRIS and Beyer came back 92. Not terrible, but combined with a visually unimpressive race, doesn’t offer enough incentive to run to Wynn Las Vegas and place a future wager on any of the runners. I have a feeling if the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) on March 9 attracts a decent shipper, that horse could easily upset the current apple cart at Tampa.

Robert Lewis S. (G2)
Winner (pts): Flashback (10)
2nd, 3rd, 4th (pts): Den’s Legacy (4), He’s Had Enough (2), Little Jerry (1)
Chart: Equibase
Beyer/BRIS: 92/95
Recaps: Bloodhorse / DRF / Brisnet
CTD Analysis: The Robert Lewis unfolded as boring as expected. With no one challenging the favorite Flashback in the early stages, the son of Tapit was allowed to set slow fractions and leave more than enough in the tank to finish out front easily. The 6 1/4 winning margin was impressive and the competition was not laughable considering a Breeders’ Cup Juvenile runner-up and graded stakes winner made-up half the field, but you can’t take much away from any four horse contest where the winner appears to be merely working out. However, we do know Flashback is not one dimensional, seeing as his debut win was a result of stalking just off the pace.  He just needs a signature victory before being considering one the Derby favorites, and the Robert Lewis was not that.

Many are claiming Flashback is now the undisputed leader of the Western division, but until he faces Goldencents in either the San Felipe March 9 or Santa Ania Derby (G1) in April, I’ll reserve judgment on either colt. Both earned low-90 Beyer speed figures in their latest stakes wins, which puts them below the stars of the Florida circuit.

If Flashback is really the freak some believe, you can’t take much away from his stablemate and 2nd place finisher Den’s Legacy. With a quicker pace he could have ran a better race and I’m expecting more from him further down the trail.

Saturday Non-Derby point races:

Hutcheson (G2)
Winner: Honorable Dillon 
Chart: Equibase
Beyer/BRIS: NA/97
Recaps: Gulfstream Park / DRF

Gulfstream Park Race 5: Allowance Optional Claiming
Winner Verrazano
Chart: Equibase
Beyer/BRIS: 105/104
Replay: YouTube
Recaps: Bloodhorse / DRF

96 Rocks Stakes
Winner: Mac the Man
Charts: Equibase
Beyer/BRIS: 87/98
Recaps: Bloodhorse / DRF /

Weekend News Summary:
If the prospect of three Derby point races, the always-intriguing Grade 2 Hutcheson, and a prep for the Spiral Stakes (G3) at Turfway failed to spike Derby fever for you, perhaps the somewhat unexpected 16 1/4 length by Todd Pletcher’s Verrazano at Gulfstream Park Saturday made you wish you took that flu shot after all. Granted, Verrazano was expected to win in his second start, but not many thought it would be in such dominating fashion against promising allowance company. Todd Pletcher was obviously pleased and said he needed to time to figure out next race plans. The Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream February 23 doesn’t allow enough spacing, and the Florida Derby (G1) in April is too far away and also reserved for stablemate Shanghai Bobby, so Verrazano’s next race could very well be away from the track he loves// Eddie Kenneally said a stretch-out could be next for Hutcheson (G2) winner Honorable Dillon, although the 7-furlong Swale (G3) remains a possibility as well// Mac the Man is getting some attention for his wire-to-wire win in the 96 Rocks Stakes at Turfway Saturday. He could be the favorite heading into the Spiral (G3) March 23 as long as a big-name contender like Uncaptured doesn’t ship in// Trainer Al Stall had two allowance winners Friday night at the Fair Grounds. Sunbean and Departing both won going two turns for the first time, and Stall will most likely enter both in the Risen Star (G2) on the same track February 23// Gary Stevens, fresh off retirement, rode maiden Tiz the Truth, for Bob Baffert Saturday at Santa Anita. The Hall of Famer guided the colt to an eye-opening 7 3/4 length win in his two-turn debut. The Beyer speed figure came back 94, which already puts him above most Derby prospects- if you’re a believer of those kinds of numbers// Big Lute was another maiden breaker I’ll be keeping tabs on. He won his debut at Oaklawn by 4 3/4 lengths Friday// Early Triple Crown nominations were announced Saturday. A full list with links to PPs can be found below// Purple Egg finally registered an official workout Saturday since being on the sidelines with flu symptoms, while Todd Pletcher ordered breezes for a slew of sophomores Sunday, including Violence and Overanalyze// more…

Tiz the Truth breaks maiden under Gary Stevens (Triple Crown Countdown Blog)
Titletown Five returns to work tab (Triple Crown Countdown Blog)
Triple Crown Nominees- List / PPs (Brisnet)

Purple Egg- TB- 4F- 51:40- B- 21/23
Integrity- PMM- 5F- 1.01:30- B- 4/25
Carried Interest- PMM- 4F- 48:90- B- 19/73
Texas Bling- OP- 5F- 1.00:80- B- 2/75
Clawback- AQU- 4F- 50:67- B- 11/14
Majestic Hussar- 5F- 1.00:13- B- 1/28

Violence- PMM- 5F- 1.02:29- B- 15/24
Normandy Invasion- PMM- 5F- 1.01:23- B- 5/24
Capo Bastone- PMM- 5F- 1.02:90- B- 21/24
Overanalyze- PMM- 5F- 1.02:29- B- 15/24
Palace Malice- PMM- 4F- 48:19- B- 6/28
Delhomme- PMM- 4F- 49:09- B- 17/28