|Danza—(Street Boss—Champagne Royale, by
French Deputy) has sprint speed over miler speed in his pedigree. His sire was a Grade 1 winning sprinter and
Danza’s dam won up to 1 1/16 miles. This Pletcher colt was beaten by over
seven lengths by optional claimers last time out while sprinting. Who’s the boss? Not him.
Danza—“The Other Pletcher” has never
been asked to race past 7 furlongs and is being thrown the wolves as his
first route race is also an important Grade 1 Kentucky Derby prep.
Half-brother Majestic Harbor just won the 1 ½ half G3 Tokyo City Cup, so the
ability to get the classic distances is clearly there. If this were an easier
spot, I’d be on board with Danza, but I think his lack of experience at this
level is going to come back to bite him in the flank. Pass.
by Broken Vow) is a late-developing sort who should enjoy the extra distance.
His dam is a half-sister to the tenacious stakes veteran Tar Heel Mom (by
Flatter) and to the infamous Scrappy T. who sent Afleet Alex to his knees in
the Preakness. Do you remember the
last time a last out maiden winner won the Arkansas Derby? Me ‘neither. He’s an improving sort and
might be there to fill out the exotics if somebody stubs a hoof.
|Knock Em Flat—A change
in running style and an increase in distance appears to have done this colt a
world of good, but I’m still not knocked flat otherwise. This will be his
first start against winners and a big class hike. Like Laurie pointed out,
this colt’s dam has some classy siblings, but will that class be passed on to
Knock Em Flat? As the first starter for his dam, it’s unclear which aspect of
his pedigree will dominate, but based on his PPs, it looks as though he may
want a bit of ground. I like that Knock Em Flat has a win at Oaklawn, but I’m
not crazy about the 2 ½ week turnaround. Like Danza, I really want to like
this one, but I have to pass here.
|Tapiture—(Tapit—Free Spin, by Olympio) has
never finished out of the money and is a legitimate graded stakes horse. He
bulled his way through in the Rebel Stakes and slammed into Hoppertunity.
That one beat Tapiture by only ½ length.
Tapiture has a second to last breeze and gets a jockey upgrade to
Tapiture—Got the worst end of the deal in
the final stages of the roughly run stretch drive in the G2 Rebel. First
jockey Santana was schooled in race riding tactics by Mike Smith, who aboard
Hoppertunity, kept Santana and Tapiture trapped on the rail. Once he made a
hole, he bumped and got bumped around as Ride On Curlin and Strong Mandate
drifted out while Hoppertunity held his ground. It was a good lesson, and the
fact that he didn’t quit bodes well for the full field in the Kentucky Derby.
This is a colt that I have liked since his maiden race, and I still like him
Ride, by Storm Cat) has been defeated by Tapiture three times. He fought
gamely in the Rebel Stakes and was beaten just a length. He also gets a
jockey switch to the always proficient Jon Court, who won the Arkansas Derby
in 2010 – 2011. Still, I’m not totally
convinced this son of Curlin wants to run 1 1/8 miles. His dam never won past
five furlongs and Ride On Curlin’s only victories were sprinting. His second dam Victory Ride was a sharp
sprinter/miler who beat Champion Xtra Heat in the Test Stakes (G-1). I’m going to take a pass.
|Ride On Curlin—Doesn’t
run a bad race, but I’m still waiting on him to have his breakthrough
performance and win a graded stake. In running the same preps as Tapiture and
Strong Mandate, he keeps running into the same tough rivals, which has made
the Oaklawn preps quite fun to watch. The rivalry continues here, but Ride On
Curlin will have to dig deep and run the race of his life if he wants to
cross the wire first. Play for exotics as he has consistently filled out the
bottom half of tickets.
|Thundergram—(Graeme Hall—Parental Uproar, by
Future Storm) is a full brother to the gam war horse Hurricane Ike. That one
was best up to 1 1/16 miles. He set a
very slow pace in the Super Derby going 1 1/8 miles, but couldn’t handle the
distance. Another half-brother, the gallant Drums of Thunder, was also a
miler type. Thundergram has steadily improved in his last three starts. He
was beaten a head in his previous start and adds blinkers. He worked a last breeze bullet. He also has
a quick late pace speed figure, so maybe he can grab a piece of it. Exotics.
Thundergram—Has some distance challenged
siblings, but sire Graeme Hall won this event in 2000 en route to a DNF in
that year’s Kentucky Derby and a victory in the Jim Dandy later in the year. He gets blinkers for the first time and has
been training and racing well over this surface. Trainer Mark Casse wins at a 14% clip with
first time blinkers starters. All in all, this is another one that though
nice, I’ll have to pass over.
Commissioner—(A.P. Indy—Flaming Heart, by Touch
Gold) gets his third and final shot to show what he can do. The pros:
He’s won twice at 1 1/8 miles and is by a Belmont Stakes winner out of
a stakes winning dam who is by a Belmont Stakes winner. He’s also a half-brother
to Laugh Track, runner up in last year’s BC Sprint. The Pletcher trainee shouldn’t have an
issue with distance. The cons: The late-running colt didn’t impress in his
first two starts this year. He had no
excuse in the Fountain of Youth and was beaten seven lengths on the second
turn in the Sunland Park Derby. A jock switch to Mike Smith may help. May not, either. Exotics.
|Commissioner—All in all, I’m not sure what to
make of this regally bred son of A.P. Indy. He ran superbly well in his first
three starts but then digressed in the Fountain of Youth. He posted a good
speed figure while finishing 3rd last out in the Sunland Derby,
but if he couldn’t beat that group, then I’m not sure he can beat this
stronger group. In my mind, I only see him getting a piece of the pie if the
pace ends up being super quick and then melts. Mike Smith jumps aboard for
the first time, which will be good enough reason to bet Commissioner for
many…but not for me. I’ll limit his use to underneath in exotics.
Secret, by Mineshaft) has the lung power to run all day. He put forth a good
effort in the Holy Bull, circling the field and conquering second place. He
disappointed in the Tampa Bay Derby, but missed third place by a length with
his typical late run. The extra distance should suit and he’s one of two
stalkers in a race filled with speed. If he can stay within shouting distance
of the field. I’m willing to give him another shot. Contender.
good but far from consistent or great. He ran very well in the Holy Bull to
get up for 2nd after circling the field but then followed up that
performance with a very even effort to finish 4th in the Tampa Bay
Derby. Like with Commissioner, I tend to believe that if he couldn’t beat
that group at Tampa, then he likely won’t beat this group. I could see him
running late to grab a minor placing, but that’s it. Consider for exotics,
Bayern—(Offlee Wild—Alittlebitearly, by
Thunder Gulch) has won his two races by a combined 17 ¼ lengths. Baffert won
this race in 2012 with that front running freakishly fast Bodemeister. Is
Bayern another Bodie? He has the pedigree to handle the distance and owns the
highest late pace speed figure in the field, but he’s raced only twice, is
shipping adding an extra furlong. Pass
|Bayern—I must be missing something
because I just don’t know what all the fuss is about with this colt. So he’s
undefeated. So he won his last race by 15 lengths. He also was alone on the
lead and basically allowed to waltz through 12 clips. Second dam Aquilegia
was a classic distance winner on the turf, and sire Offlee Wild was also a
classic distance winner, albeit on the dirt. All in all, he has a nice
pedigree, but Bayern hasn’t proven anything on the track yet. For me, he’s a
bit of an unknown entity, granted an unknown that has been training well.
It’s hard to play against Baffert shippers, though, so ignore at your own
risk if you’re like me and aren’t yet convinced.
Mandate, by Deputy Minister) has been right there in just about every
race. Right there on the lead, early,
where he doesn’t belong. In the
Southwest, he came from off of the pace and got up for second place after a
five wide move from an outside post. You couldn’t ask for a better pedigree
for the Classics. By two-time HOY
Tiznow out of multiple G-1 winner Clear Mandate (whose G-1 victories were at
1 1/8 miles and 1 ¼ miles), Strong Mandate is a half to stakes winner Full Mandate
(winner at 1 1/8 miles), multiple graded stakes winner Newfoundland, and
stakes placed The Mighty Tiger. I
really think this horse has potential. Unlocking it is the key. Contender.
Mandate—A Grade 1
winner at 2, Strong Mandate hasn’t quite lived up to the potential at 3 that
he showed at age 2. That’s not to say that he has run poorly, because he
hasn’t. He just hasn’t had an answer for Tapiture or Hoppertunity. He could
improve 3rd off the layoff, but I didn’t like how he backed out of
it when things got tough in the final stages of the Rebel, especially since
the opening fractions were fairly soft. I have to disagree with Laurie here.
I’ve never been on this one’s bandwagon, nor do I intend to start now. I like
him best to fill out the exotics, and that’s it.