Newgate and Frankie Dettori in the winner’s circle following the Robert B. Lewis (Ernie Belmonte/Past The Wire)
By Ross Blacker
Derby Prep Look
Let’s first discuss the Robert B. Lewis. Much was made of the field size and fact that all four runners were trained by Bob Baffert. Newgate, under Frankie Dettori won for the second time in his six-race career, earning a 100 Beyer in the process, a career-best. While he is definitely behind Arabian Knight, in my mind, along with Forte an early bonafide Derby favorite, this guy may be the final piece to the puzzle for Dettori who came to America to not only find a Derby mount but a Derby winner.
The horse that disappointed the most was Arabian Lion, who for the second time in a row, failed to live up to the lofty expectations of pundits and bettors alike. Sent off at 2/1. This was the fourth race in a row this one failed to have his picture taken. You’ve got to think at this point, Baffert and the connections take this son of Triple Crown victor Justify off the Derby trail and focus on one-turn races.
This one set the pace early yet was pressed and just had nothing left in the stretch leading me to believe that despite the bloodlines, distance may be a limitation. While he is best known for classic-distance-type of horses, the filly Gamine, champion sprinter Midnight Lute and many, many others have flourished under his care.
Heading east to Hallandale Beach and Gulfstream Park for the Holy Bull, nice to see one of the game’s long-time owners Frank Fletcher have a good one as son of Into Mischief, Rocket Can, got the job done as the post-time second choice. True, the Beyer came back light (82) and the competition wasn’t the strongest but a win is a win.
Have to think that the waters will get deeper in both the Fountain of Youth and Florida Derby if trainer Bill Mott elects to stay in Florida.
Post-time favorite Cyclone Mischief, another Into Mischief, showed absolutely nothing, finishing 7th beaten almost 12 lengths. The Dale Romans trainee finished 7th in the Kentucky Jockey Club as a two-year-old against a field of monsters including Instant Coffee and Curly Jack and may just not be the goods.
Can definitely see Romans and the connections give this guy another shot in another Derby Prep though. Second-place finisher Shadow Dragon, who at 34/1 closed out an all-Mott exacta ran big, turning in an 81 Beyer some 22 north of his career high. The horse was gained steadily in the end and could be somewhat of a factor going forward with another step forward. Another bomb West Coast Cowboy skimmed the rail at odds of 58/1 to finish third.
This race lacked some star power and it’s my feeling that we didn’t see any Derby contenders run in it. Definitely expect a host of new and talented shooters to run in the Fountain of Youth.
Other Graded Stakes Thoughts
Staying in South Florida, General Jim overcame a less-than-ideal start and wide trip to win the 7-furlong Swale with a 90 Beyer. Can see this Shug McGaughey trainee possibly jump into the Derby prep conversation off of that effort, especially considering no monsters emerged from the Holy Bull.
Major Dude could be a player on the grass for Todd Pletcher. The short-priced victor of the Kitten’s Joy earned a career-best 90 Beyer. Cairo Consort, another one in Pletcher’s won her second race in a row, running a career-high 81 and was the only horse who covered the final 2.5 furlongs in under 29 seconds, according to DRF’s incremental pace figures, running a 28.55.
In Arcadia, Baffert’s Fun to Dream is now 6-for-7 lifetime, recording a 92 Beyer while winning the 7-furlong Santa Monica. This is a four-year old that is going to win a lot of graded stakes in California going one turn. Interested to see if the connections decide to come East, especially this summer in Saratoga to take their shot against East Coast speed. Juan Hernandez continues to be a be rider, no matter who is on, that bettors must toss at their own risk.
In the Santa Anita nightcap, I can’t see many riders except Flavien Prat, who hasn’t been sizzling, win given the circumstances and trip he was presented with aboard Earl’s Rock (IRE). Prat gave an extremely patient ride and although he was almost nailed by Baffert’s DuJuor won the bob at the wire. Despite his stats, Prat is a rider who always finds a way through and never panics, especially on the turf.
I am interested to see given his decision to go back to California this winter, if he picks up where he left off with the Chad Brown barn come Keeneland and then Belmont and Saratoga.
One graded event on the Saturday card at Oaklawn with A Mo Reay nabbing a horse I really liked Lovely Ride in the Grade III Bayakoa. While Cristian Torres is an outstanding rider and is doing great things in Hot Springs, Florent Geroux was the different in the closing strides of that race basically refusing to lose and willing his mount to victory.
It was a bitter pill to swallow for those, present company included, who backed Lovely Ride, but as the race was developing the scenario was somewhat predictable: the team of Cox and Geroux finding a way to get the money.
Emptying the Notebook
Read a stat by NYRA morning linemaker David Aragona that of 62 90-plus Beyer speed figures recorded by current three-year-olds, 25 or 40% of them have been turned in by horses conditioned by Baffert. Moreover, of the eight 100 of greater Beyers, six have been turned in by Baffert horses, the other two by Todd Pletcher trainees.
This should not come as a surprise to many in the game as Baffert is known for having an embarrassment of riches and this year figures to be no exception. It will be interesting to see where some of these future stars land if the white-haired legend is unable to run horses under his name in Kentucky.
Impressive comeback race Sunday in the 8th at Gulfstream by Charge It, last seen dusting the field by 23 in the Dwyer. The Pletcher trainee and son of Tapit out of I’ll Take Charge (Indian Charlie), recorded a 102 Beyer in beating the field of allowance optional claimers going 8.5 furlongs by a length and a half.
The field he beat was pretty impressive with Vittorio, a Simon Callaghan trainee running a 100 Beyer in his longest trip to date and the third-place finisher Clapton, last seen finishing a distant 8th in the Harlan’s Holiday earning a career-best 98 for trainer Juan Alvarado.
Have to believe that Pletcher the connections liked what they saw out of Charge It in this spot and bigger and brighter, graded-stakes opportunities are on the horizon.
I had to marvel at the ride given by jockey Kylee Jordan in the third at Oaklawn on Friday. Riding for her dad Todd, the rider who rose to fame as the regular jockey of Tyler’s Tribe broke slow aboard Alex’s Strike and was seemingly out of the race, trailing the field by some 12 and one-quarter lengths at the half-mile mark. Jordan never gave up and the horse rallied gamely down the stretch, making up 8 and one-quarter lengths at the top of the lane to finish second.
It’s a shame that the signal from Sam Houston is still not available to those within the US and races can only bet watched and wagered on from inside the Lone Star State and Canada. This is due to Texas not wanting to abide by HISA standards which precludes them from being able to transmit the signal nationwide.
This impasse appeared to be nearing an end but late last week is was announced that it would continue. I read somewhere that handle on SHRP was down some 91%. Needless to say, racing in Texas is not sustainable going forward should this continue. At the present time this has not had an impact on purses but I seriously question how long this can continue.