As the sun rose over the fabled twin spires of Churchill Downs on Wednesday the Kentucky Derby challengers made their appearance on the track.
Like a prize fighter preparing for the bout of a life time Gemologist was a picture of poise and class impressing all who laid eyes on him.
A prize fighter in the Kentucky Derby you might ask? Well, he is the son of one of the greatest equine fighters of all time, Tiznow. Tiznow is no stranger to the lure of Churchill Downs, those very twin spires witnessed the heavy weight battle between Giant’s Causeway and Tiznow in the 2000 Breeders’ Cup Classic. The two went blow for blow, stride for the stride in an incredible stretch duel that Rocky Balboa and Ivan Drago would be envious of. Tiznow, of course threw the final blow out lasting Giant’s Causeway by a measured nose.
Gemologist is coming into the Kentucky Derby unbeaten, but, not untested. Conditioner Todd Pletcher has to be thrilled with the education his colt was given in the grade I Wood Memorial. Gemologist was 3 wide entering the first turn while getting bumped slightly and jostled a bit, which didn’t seem to have any effect on his focused trainee. The polished colt relaxed on the back stretch, sitting a few lengths off the pace setter, he would take the lead at the top of the stretch, looking all but gone, until Alpha made a ferocious run at him. As soon as it looked as if Gemologist was ready to pack it in and concede the race to Alpha, that Tiznow heart kicked in as Gemologist battled back and re-rallied to fight off Alpha by a ¼ length in a stretch duel reminiscent of his father's.
Like any young colt entering the biggest race of his career there are questions. What did Gemologist beat in the Wood other than Kentucky Derby contender Alpha? Wood Memorial 5th place finisher the Lumber Guy came back to crush his competition in the grade II Jerome Stakes at Aqueduct!
How will Gemologist handle Churchill Downs? Well, Churchill Downs is home for the Tiznow Colt. As a two year old he scored two impressive victories under the twin spires, both of them in route races, one of those wins coming in the grade II Kentucky Jockey Club stakes, the same race 2010 Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver won as a year old for the same connections.
How will Gemologist handle the 10 furlong distance of the Kentucky Derby? His pedigree suggest that distance will be a non-issue. As I previously stated, Tiznow won the Breeders’ Cup Classic at 10 furlongs at Churchill Downs he also raced 4 other times at the 10 furlong distance with 3 wins and 1 second place finish. Tiznow boast a record of 4 wins (2 Breeder’s Cup Classics) and 1 second at the Kentucky Derby distance of 10 furlongs, not too shabby. Gemologist’s Damsire is Mr. Prospector. Mr. Prospector was one of the most influential sires in the history of the sport. His off spring have had no problems handling a route of ground.
Post position is always key when handicapping the Kentucky Derby. Gemologist drew the 16 post which will favor him. He has enough tactical speed to stay close and he’s outside of horses so he won’t be cut off early. Gemologist has speed balls Hansen and Trinniberg to his inside which should aid his ability to rate. To his outside are relatively slow horses in his stable mate El Padrino, Illinois Derby winner Done Talking, Arkansas Derby third place finisher Sabercat, and furthest out is Santa Anita Derby winner I’ll have Another who has tactical speed, but, shouldn’t effect Gemologist’s chances in getting a good early position.
Gemologist will be making his 3rd start of the year in the Kentucky Derby. The Winstar Farm owned colt had a relatively easy 3 year old debut, burying an allowance field by 7 lengths at Gulf Stream Park. After the strong test he received in the Wood Memorial, Gemologist should be peaking at the perfect time. I really do believe we could see an outstanding performance by this undefeated colt.
What will Hoosier State of Mind be looking for come Saturday? A Gemologist with a blanket of roses around his neck!
In Honor of Tim (Tiznow) Reynolds, you changed all of are lives for the better and you'll be with us always. Donations can be made to the Timothy (Tiznow) Reynolds Memorial Fund. A memorial fund for his daughter, Lauren Reynolds.