As we inch closer and closer to the 140th 2014 KentuckyDerby, we now have two more preps behind us as Vicar’s in Trouble took them gate to wire in the Louisiana Derby, and Constitution snuck through the rail to fight on gamely for the win in the Florida Derby. The favorites came up short in both events as Intense Holiday and Cairo Prince failed to come through for their backers and put into question whether they are worthy to wear the roses come May 3rd. I know it was only one race, but Kentucky Derby top ten lists around the country are being rearranged as we speak I imagine. Here are some thoughts on this past weekend’s three year old action.
The Louisiana Derby
Heading into this race I was against your eventual winner Vicar’s in Trouble as I thought he would want no part of the distance and would also face pace pressure up front. Well, he proved this tout wrong as he made every pole a winning one going gate to wire for the score. Here is my take on his performance as well as the other major players, and what to expect down the line.
Vicar’s in Trouble – This Michael Maker trainee broke sharply and went straight to the front while two wide into the first turn. He set the pace through a somewhat quick opening quarter while facing pressure from a rival from the inside. He got some breathing room down the backstretch through a decent half mile split, but entering the stretch he appeared to be in trouble. He proved to have enough left though as he kicked clear and nobody came and got him. While he did win there are some concerns. He did drift in the stretch a bit and also swapped leads while coming home slow. As far as the Kentucky Derby is concerned, I am not too high on his chances on the win end. I still worry about him getting the distance and the fact he may need the lead or a perfect pressing trip to shine.
Intense Holiday – I am not sure what to make of his performance. He broke fine from the rail and enjoyed a nice inside trip two-three lengths off the pace down the backstretch. Rounding the far turn it looked as though he checked a little bit, and according to the chart he was bumped by a rival. That possibly affected his rally because as he entered the stretch he loomed a major threat, but once they straightened out in the lane he was very erratic and stayed on the wrong lead most of the stretch. This is a tricky performance to evaluate. On one hand it looked as though he wanted no part of the extra distance, but on the other hand maybe that bump he took around the turn threw him off his game a bit. I am not super confident about him going forward, but he may deserve another shot as he did have trouble. I think I will be considering using him underneath on Derby day.
Commanding Curve – This colt took a pretty good bump at the start from Rise Up who bore in at the break, but I am not so sure how much it affected him as he is a late runner who was going to tuck over to the rail anyway. The bump may have made him tuck in even faster actually. His entire trip he raced inside at the rear until he made his move around the turn. He closed well enough for the show and may appreciate even more ground to cover. I think if he makes the Derby he may be an interesting one to throw underneath or possibly an interesting long shot to win.
In Trouble – He broke sharp from the outside and raced three wide into the first turn and he went on to press the pace down the backstretch. Entering the far turn, as Rise up went around him making his move, he dropped back a touch and wound up bumping another rival, Albano. Entering the lane he made his bid and never looked like a winner while finishing fourth (he was DQ’d to fifth for hampering Albano). I do not think I will be backing him in anyway if he ends up making the field come May 3rd.
Albano – While breaking widest of all, he ended up getting caught four wide into the first turn. He went on to stalk the pace while two-three lengths back, while three paths wide. Exiting the backstretch he was hampered by In Trouble who bumped into him a little bit it appeared. Entering the stretch four wide he made his bid and never looked like a winner. If he ends up in the Derby field I would not be backing him due to distance concerns.
As we move on from the Louisiana Derby I am not too high on any of their chances on Derby day. Vicar’s in Trouble is a nice horse who I am a fan of, but I do not think he will handle the Derby distance. Intense Holiday is a little bit tougher to evaluate. Did the trouble he encountered hinder his performance, or was it not that bad at all? It is a tough call in my opinion, but as of right now I am leaning towards it wasn’t that bad at all. I am inclined to think maybe he is best used underneath on Derby day. Same goes for Commanding Curve, although he finished nicely, I think I would limit his use underneath as well. I do not think the Kentucky Derby winner was seen in Louisiana on Saturday.
Cairo Prince came into this race on top of a lot of people’s Derby lists and he exits possibly not making the Derby at all. Wild stuff. The winner, Constitution, showed some grit in his first soiree into stakes company as he fought gamely for the win. Here’s my take on that pair and the rest of the key charges moving forward…
Constitution – After breaking well, Castellano had to ask him to get into position towards the front of the pack. Going into the first turn he was rank, and continued to be rank, until he finally entered the backstretch where he settled in nicely. From there he enjoyed an ideal trip, two-three lengths off of an average pace, while racing on the inside. As the field turned for home, Wildcat Red left the rail open, possibly to engage a rival towards his outside, and this colt snuck through the inside and fought on gamely for the win. It was a fine win where he showed grit to prevail, but as for the Derby, I am not so sure he is the chosen one to break the curse of Apollo.
Wildcat Red – Although this colt did hang on gamely for the place, he did get everything his own way. After breaking sharp he went on to set a very reasonable pace with no pressure early. He enjoyed a lone lead most of his trip, but did face some pressure exiting the backstretch. In the process of engaging that rival to his outside applying the pressure around the far turn, he left the rail open entering the stretch for the eventual winner to slip through. He did fight on gamely in the lane, but he could not match the winner. My overall thought on this colt is that he is very game. I am definitely a fan, but as far as the Derby is concerned I do still worry he will not be able to get the distance. He had everything his own way today, and he came up short. I do not think added distance will help his cause.
General a Rod – I feel as though he is in the same camp as Wildcat Red. I do not think added distance is going to help his cause. As for this race, he broke well and was three-four wide into the first turn and then went on to a perfect pressing trip a length off the leader down the backstretch. If he was good enough, and appreciated the distance, I feel he would have gone by that foe in the stretch. As it was though, he was held at bay and ended up finishing third. So while I do appreciate his talents I do not believe he will enjoy the 1 ¼ trip of the Kentucky Derby.
Cairo Prince – This was a major let down. Maybe it was the distance, maybe it was the layoff? Whatever it was I imagine the connections are really worried this colt will even make the gate now in Louisville. I am leaning towards he wants no part of a route of ground. I could not find an excuse for his performance on Saturday as I thought he broke well, was inside on the first turn, and enjoyed a decent trip down the backstretch about four off the leader while racing two-three wide. Rounding the far turn it looked as though he may pose a threat, but that did not last long. He entered the stretch four wide and his move flattened out pretty quickly as he ended up finishing fourth. If he does indeed make the Derby cut, which I do not think he will, I would be against. Not just for his performance here, which did bolster my case against him, but for distance concerns, I have had all along.
My overall impression from this race is that I want no part of any of them in Kentucky on the first Saturday in May. While the winner Constitution is very talented, he got an ideal trip with a soft pace and I do not think he is the one to reverse the curse of Apollo. And While Wildcat Red and General a Rod are very cool and game horses I do not think they want 1 ¼ miles. With that said, Wildcat Red just keeps proving me wrong. I would maybe include him underneath just for the fact he is tough as nails. I am a huge fan if his, just not for the Derby. And as for Cairo Prince, if he does make the gate, I would be siding against because of distance concerns. The search for the 140th Kentucky Derby winner continues in my opinion, as we did not see him this past weekend.