Ring Weekend preps for Kentucky Derby in Calder Derby

Ring Weekend preps for Kentucky Derby in Calder Derby
Photo: SV Photography
In what is perhaps the most unorthodox decision regarding a final Kentucky Derby prep in years, trainer Graham Motion decided to send Ring Weekend to the Calder Derby for his final prep before the Big Dance in Kentucky in four weeks. Though Triple Crown nominated from the start, most had not heard of or paid much attention to the Tapit gelding until last month. Dismissed by bettors, the 14-1 long shot made every pole a winning one as he crossed the wire in the G2 Tampa Bay Derby 3 lengths in front of the second place finisher. Because of the quick turnaround ahead of the Florida Derby, many trainers in Motion’s position would have opted to ship to New York, Arkansas, California, or Kentucky for a final prep in one of the prestigious, traditional races; but instead of shipping now, Motion decided the Calder Derby was a good route to take despite its lack of points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby.
Installed as the 122 lb co-high weight, Ring Weekend will face 9 other colts and geldings. Included in the field are a couple of familiar faces, making this spot a slightly more legitimate placing for a gelding bound for the 2014 Kentucky Derby in his next start. From the rail out, the field for the 2014 Calder Derby is:
Russian Humor—(Distorted Humor—Philly’s Philly, by A.P. Indy) [Gennadi Dorochenko/Orlando Bocachica] It’s nbo joke that I have no idea what this colt is doing in this spot. In 9 career starts, Russian Humor has yet to break his maiden, though he came within ¾-length of doing so in his last race. The longest he has been asked to go is 1 mile, and in four starts at Calder, he’s posted a record of 4: 0-1-0. I see nothing to like here.
Ring Weekend—(Tapit—Free the Magic, by Cryptoclearance) [Graham Motion/Alan Garcia] Previously unheard of, Ring Weekend has been steadily improving throughout his career. Though he made his first start at the end of August, he didn’t break his maiden until February. He then followed that up with a smart score in the Tampa Bay Derby. He’s had just one published work since that victory, posting a 5 furlong bullet in 1:00.47 over Calder’s main track. I didn’t like him going into his last race, but I sure like him here.
Racetrack Romance—(Bellamy Road—Major’s Girl, by Purge) [Gennadi Dorochenko/Oscar Delgado] Looking through the PPs for this colt, two things stood out in a major way. First of all, in 5 career starts, Racetrack Romance has managed to find trouble in three of those races. Secondly, he has raced exclusively on turf. Neither fact bodes well for the colt, though the switch in surface may be just the ticket since the colt has the breeding to well on dirt. His dam is a half to Grade 1 winner Siphonic, and his second dam is a half to multiple graded stakes winner and grade 1 placed Dixie Dot Com, so there’s some class in the female family. Despite the potential I see in his pedigree, I don’t like his works, and he takes a fairly big step up in class. Pass.
Our Caravan—(Daaher—Alwaan, by Elusive Quality) [Michael Dilger/Manoel Cruz] I didn’t like Our Caravan in his last two, but off the step down in class, I think he stands a good shot here. After facing the big guns in the G2 Holy Bull and the G2 Fountain of Youth, this field should be no problem so long as this colt shows up and runs a good race. His works at Palm Meadows haven’t been particularly fast, but then again, most of the other contenders haven’t posted fast works either. I’m still not sure how far he’ll want to go based off his pedigree, but that may not matter here. Consider for exotics.
General Sham’mah—(Kodiak Kowboy—Clamorosa, by Seattle Dancer) [Howard Love/Luca Panici] Sire Kodiak Kowboy was a Grade 1 winning sprinter/miler, and dam Clamorosa was a stakes winner at middle distances on turf and dirt. To date, Clamorosa’s progeny have been sprinter/miler types. Damsire Seattle Dancer was a group 2 winner at classic distances in Ireland, but second sire Posse was also a sprinter. I doubt General Sham’mah will want any part of this 9 furlong distance, especially since he hasn’t raced past 7 furlongs yet. Pass.
Charlie the Boss—(Street Boss—Starboard Tack, by Seattle Slew) [Daniel Pita/Gabriel Saez] Another turf runner, Charlie the Boss ships in from neighboring Gulfstream Park. In 5 career starts, the colt has two wins, both at a mile on the lawn. He takes a step up in class and switches surfaces, something that bothers me as much with him as it does with Racetrack Romance. Half-brother Patience Game competed in the last two legs of the 1999 Triple Crown, but the mile distance of the his G3 Derby Trial win was his limit. Half sister Star Queen was a stakes winner at 9 furlongs on the turf, but sire Street Boss was a Grade 1 winning sprinter on the dirt. “Charlie” has speed and likes to run on the lead, so I can see him doing one of two things. He can either A) go straight to the front and go as fast as he can for as long as he can or B) get out on the lead and try to walk the dog as the lone speed in the race. With only Ring Weekend likely to challenge for the lead, I think option B will be the best bet. Charlie may be the boss in my house, but I’m not sure that will be the case here, so I’ll pass.
Copa Del Rey—(With Distinction—Madama Butterfly, by Grand Slam) [Sal Santoro/Alex Gonzalez] With a whopping 14 starts under his belt, Copa Del Rey is the most experienced in the field. But for all that race day experience, the gelded son of With Distinction has just one win, a 2 ¾ length score going 8.5 furlongs. He has not had a published work since February 22, but he most recently finished 3rd in a 7 furlong event on March 21. Pass.
Cleburne—(Dixie Union—Joyful, by Distorted Humor) [Dale Romans/Abdiel Jaen] Grade 3 Iroquois winner Cleburne drops into this spot off a nearly 7 month layoff. His work pattern has been consistent, and I really liked the bullet 6 furlong work he had on March 22. What I don’t like is that he is being asked to go 9 furlongs for the first time off that extended layoff. Fitness may be an issue, but Romans wins at a 13% clip with horses coming in off a 180+ day layoff. Another strike against him is the co-high weight of 122 lbs., spotting the rest of the field, except Ring Weekend, 7 lbs. As for this race...Class may prevail, and I do see him as a contender.
Tapicero—(Tapit—Love U Fran, by Phone Trick) [Mario Morales/Diego Gomez] If the name Tapicero sounds familiar, it’s because he exits the same December Gulfstream maiden race as Harpoon. It would take him another 3 tries after that to break his maiden, but Tapicero finally got the job done last out, running off to a 7 ½ length victory going a mile over this same track. He gets just a 15 day turnaround off his last race, and this will be his third race in less than 4 weeks. That sounds like a bit much to ask, but the quick turnarounds appear to be working. One to consider.
Gaining Ground—(Saint Anddan—Fair Lee Quiet, by Real Quiet) [Michael Wilson/Antioco Murgia] Going in the race immediately prior to the maiden race Tapicero won on March 21, Gaining Ground enters this spot off the same quick turnaround. He also exited the same December Gulfstream maiden as Tapicero and Harpoon, so he’s in familiar company. He enters the Calder Derby on a 2 race win streak, breaking his maiden two back in February and winning a NW1X last month. Training at Payson Park, Gaining Ground has put in a series of bullet works to accompany his recent race day success. Content to sit off the pace, this colt will be “gaining ground” late and is one to consider.
Graded stakes winners Ring Weekend and Cleburne really stick out here class wise. Our Caravan looks good off the drop in class, and local runner Tapicero and Donald Ogden-owned Gaining Ground look like they could get a piece of the action. Charlie the Boss will be the likely pace setter with Ring Weekend right up there with him. Gaining Ground will sit just off the pace with Tapicero and Cleburne further back. Our Caravan gets blinkers for the first time, and trainer Dilger has an 80% success rate with first time blinkers. If the move is to get Our Caravan involved earlier, then he’ll be up on the front end with Charlie the Boss and Ring Weekend. I like the Tampa Bay Derby winner best of all, with Cleburne, Our Caravan, and Gaining Ground filling out the exotics. 

Meet Ashley Tamulonis

Despite growing up in a non-horse racing state, Ashley has been a fan of the sport since a young age. Her love for horse racing was fostered through the kids’ book series Thoroughbred by Joanna Campbell, which led her to educate herself on the ins and outs of the sport. Since becoming actively involved in the industry just a few years ago, Ashley has had the opportunity to meet many important players in the industry, attend the Eclipse Awards, see personal favorite Mucho Macho Man race twice in person, and befriend many of the fantastic fans and horsemen involved in the sport.

Ashley began her time with Horse Racing Nation covering racing in South Florida but also blogged about nationwide racing, industry issues and, from time to time, offered her opinion on how various changes could be beneficial to the industry. A move North to New Hampshire began both a new chapter in both Ashley's personal life and professional life. She currently pens the From Coast to Coast blog for HRN. Ashley also participates as a voter in the NTRA Top Thoroughbred Polls.

An alumni of Macon State College, Ashley is from Central Georgia but is currently living in New Hampshire with her husband, Chris, and their two sons Charlie and Michael. A stay-at-home mom, Ashley juggles parenting with blogging and her other passions. Aside from horse racing, Ashley is a fervent football fan, enjoys reading and studying history, and hopes to someday author a historical work covering the Tudor period as well as biographies of horse racing’s stars, equine and human alike.

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