Derby Deeds Done Dirt Cheap

Say what you will about how the pace unfolded in yesterday’s Super Derby, but one thing you cannot deny is that the winner is a horse on a roll … and a Derby roll at that.
 
Undefeated now in four starts in 2011, Prayer For Relief first jumped on the Derby train with a win in Prairie Meadows’ Iowa Derby on June 25. Next, the Bob Baffert trainee accounted for Mountaineer Park’s West Virginia Derby on August 6.  And then yesterday, the son of Jump Start made every pole a winning one as he was allowed to control a slow pace, and then had no trouble whatsoever in holding off Awesome Bet and Populist Politics in the stretch to win the Grade 2, $500,000 affair by 2 ½ lengths. Sent off as the 6-5 favorite, Prayer For Relief finished the 1 1/8 miles in 1:52.29 under a crafty and confident ride by Rafael Bejarano.

With his dominating wire-to-wire in the premier event at Louisiana Downs, Prayer For Relief will soon look to join such standouts as Sunday Silence, Unbridled, Concern, Tiznow who were able to use the Super Derby as a prep before winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic less than two months later. While I am not ready to place him in the class of that crew, considering his Derby run, I think you may be able to compare him more closely to another pair of really nice horses from year’s past who also went on a big Derby run in the summers of their three-year-old seasons.

Back in 1979 it was a bay colt by Cyane, named Smarten, who was the first horse I saw rack up the Derbies. Trainer Woody Stephens wisely kept him away from Spectacular Bid that summer and was rewarded with six graded stakes wins.  Under regular rider Sam Maple, Smarten ran in five different Derbies in 1979 and came very close to winning them all. After just missing in the Arkansas Derby, losing by a head to Golden Act, he was able to rattle off wins in the Illinois Derby, Pennsylvania Derby, Ohio Derby, and American Derby among his stakes scores.

Eight years later came a wonder horse from of all places, Alabama. While Alysheba and Bet Twice were going at it in each leg of the Triple Crown, a bay son of Codex, named Lost Code, began racking up stakes wins at an alarming rate. After a track record performance in winning the Hoop, Jr. Stakes, Lost Code followed with a win in the Alabama Derby. He then prepped for an Illinois Derby win with a victory in the Thomas D. Nash Memorial Handicap. After that it was the Ohio Derby, St. Paul Derby, and Arlington Classic that would be taken in front running fashion. His seven race stakes streak of 1987 ended in a fabulous edition of the Haskell in which Bet Twice narrowly defeated both him and Alysheba.

 
So if you are keeping score, that’s Smarten and Lost Code – 4, and Prayer For Relief – 3 on the Derby win scorecard. Lost Code and Smarten are two excellent horses to be compared with, and certainly have greater career achievements than Prayer For Relief does yet, but a streak like this deserves some accolades.
 
I’m not sure if another Derby attempt is in the cards for Prayer For Relief, but maybe it should be. The Breeders’ Cup Classic will probably prove too tempting for his connections, but wouldn’t it be fun to see him get one more chance to join Smarten and Lost Code with 4 Derby wins?
 



Meet Brian Zipse

Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Taken to the races at a very young age, he has been lucky enough to see all the greats in person from Secretariat, Forego, and Ruffian through Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta, American Pharoah and Justify. Before coming to the Nation, Brian displayed his love for the sport through the development of his horse racing website, which quickly became one of the most popular blogs in the game. His new racing partnership venture, Derby Day Racing, invites more fans to experience the thrill of racehorse ownership.

The Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, Brian authored a daily column as Zipse at the Track, created the popular racing show, HorseCenter and added his editorial flare to the overall content of the website. Now a Senior Writer for HRN, Brian continues to contribute his thoughts on racing, as well as hosting HorseCenter. A big supporter of thoroughbred aftercare, he serves as the President of The Exceller Fund.

Brian's work has also been published on several leading industry sites. He has consulted for leading contest site Derby Wars, is both a Hall of Fame and NTRA poll voter, and is a Vox Populi committee member. 

A horse owner and graduate of DePaul University, Brian lives just outside of Louisville with his wife Candice and daughter Kendra.

 
ZATT's Star of the Week
Vekoma

Top Stories

The Blue Grass (G1) on Keeneland’s opening weekend...
This week on HorseCenter , your co-hosts Brian Zip...
The Saratoga summer meeting opens July 16 with six...
In this biweekly series, racing analyst Keeler Joh...
Like everyone else, Hall of Fame trainer Ron McAna...