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HRN Original Blog:
The Kentucky Derby Post

Hey Pal, Let's Go Racing

It’s never too early to start dreaming. On Sunday afternoon at Del Mar seven juveniles and their connections will begin their graded stakes journey towards what they hope will lead to a Breeders’ Cup Juvenile or Kentucky Derby win. However, the road that begins with the G2 Best Pal Stakes is not only long but generally not the best place to start.


In 1972 the Balboa Stakes formally became the race that it is today, a Juvenile stakes and sprint at Del Mar that is raced annually. Since then it is very rare that an entry in what is now known as the Best Pal Stakes ever moves on to capture one of the most illustrious prizes for either the Juvenile division or 3-yr-old season. But, that’s not to say it has not been done.


When looking back there are three entries that got started early yet still delivered later when it mattered most. The first, and most recent, is your 2012 Kentucky Derby winner I’ll Have Another. He wasn’t ready to get the best of Creative Cause in the 2011 Best Pal Stakes but a duel to the wire and 2nd place finish got him on his way. What happened later is history but he wasn’t the only Kentucky Derby winner that got his hooves wet early at Del Mar.


In 1981 Gato Del Sol became the very first Balboa Stakes horse to later go on and win the Kentucky Derby. Since his rare feat was accomplished it wasn’t until the race was renamed in 1995 in honor of Best Pal, a California-bred who won the Balboa Stakes in 1990 and later went on to finish 2nd to Strike the Gold in the Kentucky Derby, that I’ll Have Another did it again. So, Best Pal to the roses is only 2 for 41, not the best odds.


Okay, so what about the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile? Unfortunately it is not that much better because it’s only happened once. Sure, the Breeders’ Cup began later in 1984 but 1 for 29 doesn’t sound good either. So then, who’s the one that did it? This name you should easily remember. In 1994 Timber Country stormed home to win the Balboa Stakes by a neck before firing back later in the fall to claim the G1 Champagne at Belmont and the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs. 1995 wasn’t his year until he and Pat Day spoiled the Triple Crown party and reappeared with their first win of the 3-yr-old season in the Preakness Stakes.


Now that’s three solid horses that got things moving in the right direction in this race here at Del Mar. Counting Best Pal and other notable non Kentucky Derby or Juvenile winners like Lookin’ at Lucky or Dixie Union, this race isn’t anything short of a good place to start. So, which of these 7 is likely to graduate from early Juvenile success and move on to greater things down the road? That’s hard to answer but what I can tell you is who I like today.


First we got to ask who you like better between the 1-2 finishers in the Hollywood Juvenile Championship, Alpine Luck or Ontology? Alpine Luck was superior that day but the morning line favors Ontology; 5-2 vs. 3-1. Agree or disagree? 


Trained by Mike Harrington and ridden by Gary Stevens, Alpine Luck was strong enough to score his 2nd straight victory in his 4th career start when he held on to his lead in the 6F duel versus Ontology last time out. Ontology on the other hand is still searching for his first. Trained by Simon Callaghan and led by Rafael Bejarano, Ontology was sent to the Hollywood Juvenile Championship right after finishing 2nd in his career debut, a 5f MSW at BHP that was won by a horse that we’ve already mentioned. Yes that is correct, Ontology has finished second best to Alpine Luck back to back.


Will the third time be the charm? Maybe, at least the odds maker thinks so but as for me I’m going to go out on a strong limb and say that neither of these two will win the 2013 Best Pal Stakes. Now that may be a bold prediction because I do feel that Ontology and Alpine Luck have the best potential to move on to better things later this fall or next spring but I’ll take my chances.


Instead, I can’t take my eye of Skydreamin. Trained by Jeff Bonde, with Russell Baze in the saddle, the Kentucky bred colt and son of Sky Mesa comes in hot, a perfect 2 for 2. Although he made the move from Northern California and Golden Gate Fields down to Del Mar, I like his chances to get the best of the heralded boys from southern California.


As for the rest of the field, there’s no reason I may have misjudged any of them and that and they are ready to make an early splash. Your field for the 2013 Best Pal Stakes


6 1/2 Furlongs | 2 Year Olds |  Purse: $150,000  |  Post: 5:40 PDT 


1 Easy Solution  P. Valenzuela  P. Miller 15-1
2 Ontology  R. Bejarano  S. Callaghan 5-2
3 Skydreamin  M. Smith  J. Bonde 3-1
4 Alpine Luck  G. Stevens  M. Harrington 3-1
5 Alberts Hope  A. Quinonez  M. Puype 9-2
6 Guns Loaded  J. Talamo  C. Autrey 9-2
7 Celtic Moon  E. Maldonado  P. Miller 12-1



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About Me

Meet Bryan Brinkmeyer – Chicago, IL


Growing up across the river from the Bluegrass State I was able to spend a lot of summer days at Ellis Park, Henderson, KY. 


Likewise, the first Saturday in May was always a celebrated family event. In 2000, I made my inaugural Kentucky Derby appearance and since, I have made it an annual tradition because there’s no other city, or weekend, in the racing world like Louisville, KY on Derby Day. 


Although the story of a Kentucky Derby winner is legendary, a champions trail is what The Kentucky Derby Post is all about. The coverage begins when Juvenile season starts and continues until the field is set, the picks are in and the roses are earned. But the road does not stop there. The elusive quest for the next Triple Crown is ongoing so I invite my readers to remain in the saddle through all three jewels as we wait for the next Champion of Champions to arrive. Cheers.





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