Perhaps owing to the fact that I spent most of last week focusing on Oaks and Derby day races, I only have two new additions to the Horses To Watch list:
Hear the Word makes the list because he was compromised by a slow pace in last Wednesday’s first race, a starter allowance at 1 1/16 miles on the turf. King Ting was allowed to set leisurely fractions while Hear the Word was restrained near the back of the pack for much of the race. Despite being the outsider in the race, he actually managed to rally past a few shorter priced horses in the stretch to finish fourth. Although Hear the Word appeared to be placed over his head in this sport, I actually thought he put in a nice performance. He may be a horse that is on the improve since he has really turned around his form since being switched to the turf. He’s certainly bred to like the stuff, being out of Finery, a two-time G3 winner on grass. But best of all, Hear the Word’s connections are very low-profile, which usually guarantees a generous price on him. I’m not sure where I’d like to see him show up next, but horses like this are usually worth a shot.
Chasing Piper was making her debut in the fifth race on Sunday, a maiden claiming $20,000 at six furlongs. Coming into the race with slow workouts for a trainer, Bruce Levine, who is not known for winning first time out, Chasing Piper was dismissed at 54-1. At the break, she broke a half step slowly and then was slammed from both sides as horses to her outside made left hand turns out of the gate, causing a collision. Chasing Piper was forced to steady back to last, losing four to five lengths. It appeared that her race was pretty much over, but when she was asked for run near the quarter pole, she actually put in a mild late bid to wind up fourth at the finish. This was a race where there was little to no passing going on in the stretch and Chasing Piper was the only horse to make up any legitimate ground despite her poor start. This is a barn that improves its runners over time, so she should be better prepared for her next start–although I doubt the price will be as big.
Kentucky Derby Recap
There’s not too much more to say about this race that hasn’t already been said. Obviously, Bodemeister ran an unbelievable race and I do think I’ll Have Another will be hard pressed to beat him again–especially without Trinniberg in the lineup. Still, I’ll Have Another was solid in victory and, more personally, it’s nice to see a horse that I picked out back in February to win the Robert Lewis at 43-1 become the Derby winner. Perhaps I should have re-read my article Who Will Get the Distance?, because I gave out the winning exacta and 4 of the top 6 finishers. Unfortunately I ended up focusing most of my wagers around Union Rags and Alpha, but that just goes to show how difficult a race the Derby is to handicap.
As for Union Rags, you really just have to throw the race out. Much like with Lookin at Lucky back in 2010, everything went wrong for this horse. Squeezed back at the start, caught in traffic on the clubhouse turn, last of twenty horses on the backstretch, taken up sharply on the far turn, and he still managed to finish seventh. I think that once Leparoux found himself so far back early he sort of panicked and tried to go through a few holes that just weren’t there. He also overcommitted himself to the rail, and only Calvin Borel can pull off a ride like that in the Derby. But aside from those minor criticisms, you have to blame the trip more on circumstances than the ride. It sounds like he’ll skip the Preakness, but I hope we get to see him in the Belmont. (And I’m so tempted to place him on the Horses to Watch list…)
The other really notable performance was that of the fourth place finisher, Went the Day Well. He was back in the pack alongside Union Rags early in the race, but he was able to make his move before that rival since John Velazquez got him to the outside around the far turn. But when he got into the stretch, he was really flying. Between the quarter pole and the wire he passed 10 horses and actually blew by Dullahan and Bodemeister right after the finish. John Velazquez had to really grab a hold of him about 100 yard past the line to kind of say, “Hey, the race is over!” I’ve written on this blog before that I think this horse has an excellent pedigree for longer distances, and I think he could be a major player in the Preakness and especially the Belmont Stakes.
I think this is a better group of horses than that winning 101 Beyer speed figure suggests and I hope they stay sound enough to all fight it out a few more times.