What a weekend of racing! I guess I need to start off with Hansen. I, like most others, have at times underestimated not only this horse’s ability, but also his versatility. On Saturday, he rated professionally, made a decisive move coming to the top of the stretch, and did not let My Adonis gain an inch on him through the final furlong as they pulled well clear of the rest of the field. In hindsight, this was not a race of great quality, but Hansen did everything he was supposed to do and more and I have to begin considering him a legitimate Derby threat. It’s funny that only a few weeks ago people were starting to write off the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile as a negative key race. Instead, now it’s March and the two top two-year-olds coming out of that race are still the two leading Derby contenders. Could I be dreaming?
I also need to make mention of the Tom Fool Handicap. Could anyone have imagined a better horse race than that? All three of the major contenders showed up with close to their best efforts and put on quite a show. You have to give Calibrachoa his due. Since being claimed by Mike Repole in the fall of 2010, he has shown up with a top effort on almost every occasion whether he’s racing on the inner track at Aqueduct or at Saratoga. Emcee, making only his third career start, also ran a gallant race and he should be a force down the line. But the real story coming out of the Tom Fool is the brilliant return of Caleb’s Posse. Rewatch the race, pay attention to the fractions, and then take in Caleb’s Posse’s stretch run. The leaders were not slowing down a bit. Calibrachoa came home his final quarter in 24 1/5 seconds, which means Caleb’s Posse, still six lengths back at the quarter pole, came home his last quarter in close to 23 seconds flat. You just don’t see that in dirt races. I can’t wait to see this horse run back in the Carter, and even a bit later in the Met Mile if his connections decide to go there.
My Saturday picks did reasonably well, but it just was not a day for picking against the favorites. Also, my Horses to Watch, Idle American and Cap The Moment, failed to get it done, but at least we had another in the money finish with the former. Now, from 4 horses that have run back, two have finished second and one has finished third. I think I’m about due for a win. But really, who can complain after having enjoyed the stakes races mentioned above?
Let’s take a look at this week’s new horses on the list:
- Unrivaled Score made a good impression in his debut in the third race on Wednesday, February 29th. He didn’t have a bad trip, but I just think he’s going to turn out to be a nice horse. Over a wet track, he settled in fourth position early, gained some momentum around the turn, and made a nice late run through the stretch to gain second while never changing leads. What I like most of all about him, though, is his pedigree. He is a full brother to graded stakes winner and sire Even the Score.
- Elusive Rumour got a very under-aggressive ride from Junior Alvarado in the seventh race on the same day. This horse took the lead out of the gate through slow early fractions until Alvarado at some point on the backstretch decided he wanted to take back and subsequently let three horses pass him. Now having to regain momentum and swing wide for the stretch drive, Elusive Rumor was still able to get up for third. She may have been best in this spot with a more decisive ride.
- Hook It Up finished third in the first race on Thursday, March 1st after having to go four to five wide all the way around the turn. She was at least second best in this spot and may be starting to regain some of her better two-year-old form.
- Naughty Or Nice had the most obvious bad trip of the week in the following race, Thursday’s second. She was completely left at the gate, but then dragged her rider up into the race, eventually making it into a stalking position by the time the field hit the far turn. She took over near the top of the stretch and was able to just hold sway in the late stages. This is certainly a nice filly, but she does seem to be a bit one-dimensional and also has shown some bad habits in her races (breaking slowly, difficult to restrain). She’ll probably be bet hard off this effort, but I’ll cautiously put her on the list.