Photo: Hodges Photography/Alexander Barkoff
This past weekend, the 2014 Kentucky Derby Trail really started to heat up with the Lecomte at Fair Grounds and the Smarty Jones over at Oaklawn. Going into both races, I wasn’t to sure how much talent was there, as they both seemed a little light in that department. I thought there were a lot of “ifs” going in, but after all was said and done, I think we saw a pair of talented horses take down each events. Here are a few key takeaways I thought were important from this weekend’s Derby Trail action…
Going into The Lecomte, I was very high on Gold Hawk. Going out of The Lecomte, I am not so sure. Here is my opinion on he major players…
Vicar’s In Trouble – I thought this was a pretty decent win for a pretty talented colt. He broke sharp and sat right off the pace setter behind average fractions. He sat a perfect pressing trip, took over around the turn, and then absolutely took off in the lane. He was a bit green in the stretch swapping leads, but the talent is there for sure. When this guy is asked for his run, he explodes. He is a running fool, and as he matures, he may turn into a real nice horse. My main concern with him is will he be able to handle longer distances. I am not so sure he will. But, I do think he is very talented nonetheless.
Albano – I was shocked to see that this guy was 11/1 at post time. Everyone I talked to seemed to like him. As for the race itself, I thought it was a decent run for his first time routing. He was three to four wide around the first turn and sat third right behind the eventual winner. He never threatened that foe, but he was able to hold off another rival in Gold Hawk for the place. Maybe racing wide into the first turn hurt his chances, or the fact it was his first try routing. Moving forward, I am unsure what to make of him. I wasn’t that impressed, but I wouldn’t write him off yet either. He has a right to improve.
Gold Hawk – I was very disappointed in his run here and I saw no excuse for it either. He sat a stalking fourth, angled out in the stretch, and never threatened the winner. He also lost the place battle as well to Albano. Some people are saying he was brought back too soon on short rest, who knows. Regardless, I wanted to see more out of this guy and was disappointed.
Smarty’s Echo – I thought this guy had a sneaky shot to win going in. That idea blew up real quick as he broke really slow and then never got involved. I am not giving up on him just yet though, he had a few nice performances last year and after this debacle he will be an even better price next out.
Overall, I thought The LeComte was a pretty decent race. I do worry about Vicar’s In Trouble moving forward as the distances increase, but I also think he has some real talent and he very well could prove me wrong. Albano also has a right to improve in his second route. And as for Gold Hawk, I think I may have been too high on him going in. I was really let down by his run and I would not take a short price on him next time.
The Smarty Jones
When I began handicapping The Smarty Jones I had a feeling it was wide open, but I had no strong opinion. Well, I had the right idea, but I picked the wrong horse (Unstoppable Colby). Tanzanite Cat ended up taking it down at a juicy 9/1 for the red hot Cody Autrey. Here are my thoughts on the winner and a few other takeaways from the race…
Tanzanite Cat – The winner grabbed the lead through a quick first quarter, relented the lead and pressed through a quick 2nd quarter, and then made his bid at the top of the stretch and wore down his rival in the lane for a hard fought score. I did not like him going into this race, but I thought this was a fine win. He was doing the dirty work up front and still had enough for the stretch. I am not sure what to make of him going forward. It was a fine win, but I wasn’t wowed by any means. As the competition gets tougher, and the distances longer, I don’t think I will be on his bandwagon. He may prove me wrong, but that’s where I stand with him at this time.
Walt – I thought he ran a fine second. He was up front, doing the dirty work with the winner while setting a quick pace. He pressed from the inside through the first quarter, took over the lead through the half, and put up a fight in the stretch while second best. I was surprised by his performance as I did not like him in here at all. I guess we have to keep an eye on him moving forward, but I am not too high on him.
Coastline – This colt was coming in off of a layoff to make his first start of the year. He raced about four wide into the first turn after breaking from the ten hole, but had a nice trip pressing the pace after that. He put himself into striking position at the top of the stretch, but never threatened the winner. I guess you could say it was a decent comeback race and he may improve off of it. But, I wasn’t that impressed. He could prove me wrong though, he does have some excuses. He had a wide post, was wide into the first turn, and it was his first race off of a vacation. I look forward to seeing his next start to form a better opinion.
Son of a Preacher – After Gold Hawk finished a lackluster third in The LeComte, it kind of dulled his chances in here for me. It reflected on the tote as well, he ended up going off at 8/1, when I think most people thought he would be at least be second or third choice. I was not impressed with his run. He stalked the pace while being bunched in with a few other horses and finished fourth while never threatening to win. I will pass on him going forward at this time.
Fire Starter – This guy had some trouble. He took the first turn very poorly and ended up going wide around it. He may have been a bit rank. From there he raced towards the rear of the field while in between a bunch of horses. He did show some late interest, but he never looked like a winner. We may be able to give him a little bit of a break, though. This was his first start verses winners and as you can see he did have a troubled trip. Overall, I was not that impressed, but he does have a right to improve.
Unstoppable Colby – I took a stab with him in here and it did not work out so well. He was rank into the first turn and had a wide journey throughout. I think if they drop him in class he may be a nice bet next out.
I found this to be a tricky race moving forward. I thought it was a pretty nice win by Tanzanite Cat, but I am just not that high on him for the future. And as for Walt, I don’t know what to make of him. I think I need to see one more from both of them before I can form a solid opinion. As for Fire Starter and Coastline, I am not that high on them either. I will say this about them both though, they do have some legitimate reasons for their effort today and may very well improve next out.