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Breeders' Cup 2017

Pasco Stakes: No Points, No Problem

There are no Kentucky Derby qualifiers on the stakes calendar this weekend. However, in case you were thinking that it was going to remain quiet for hopefuls then think again, the road to the Kentucky Derby never sleeps. 

The journey to the first Saturday in May is sometimes longer than we give it credit. Even when we do recognize how extensive it may be we can still sometimes forget to notice a few contenders. With the new points system in place it is now even easier to skim over some dark horses that appear stationary because they have yet to earn a single point. But, that’s what’s great about having zero points in January; it doesn’t really matter. As long as there is a chance to stay on track towards the Kentucky Derby Championship Series where a win will earn you 50 points in the first leg and 100 points in the second, a derby hopeful is still alive and well. 
Last weekend the Sham Stakes at Santa Anita clearly outshined the Jerome Stakes at Aqueduct. The main reason is because the Jerome was not included as a stakes race on the new road to the Kentucky Derby and no qualifying points were awarded. Secondly, the winner in the Sham, Goldencents, has now earned more points than any other derby contender and is our points leader. He’s riding hot and is in the hands of last year’s Kentucky Derby winning trainer so he deserves the attention. But, let’s not leave another colt by Into Mischief out of the contender conversation. 
Vyjack with Ramon Dominguez aboard made statement in the G2 Jerome Stakes. It may not have been enough for him to become the next big name contender but enough for us to watch him closer than we did before. And we will because although he has 0 points that might change after we see in the Gotham Stakes. 
Now, let’s fast forward to the race this weekend that will serve as another stakes race just like the Jerome. The Pasco Stakes is not graded but it still has a pair of thriving contenders that hope to make some noise. It’s never too late to increase your chances and these two may find a way to do just that. 
Highlighting the field is Purple Egg, ranked #33 on the HRN Kentucky Derby 2013 Contenders. The 3-yr-old gelding by Lion Heart and Luminous Prize and owned by Goodwood Racing is ready to return to racing for the first time since his Juvenile campaign. 
The amount of reasons for a late start in the 2-yr-old season can be endless. Each can also be very unique. As for Purple Egg his late start was the result of his unwillingness to race. In the first two attempts Purple Egg wasn’t having any of it and was scratched either just before entering the starting gate or just after loading. It was then that the decision was made and Purple Egg became a gelding.
Ever since he has made noticeable strides towards the Derby trail and has also become much better friends with his trainer Jane Cibelli. Entering the Pasco Stakes Purple Egg is a perfect 3 for 3 and training strong. He has looked much the best against the fields he has faced so it’s no surprise to find him as the 2-1 favorite on the Morning Line. All signs point to Purple Egg returning to form but the biggest Kentucky Derby qualifier question is still out there; can he go the distance? 
There’s a couple of ways to look at this query. The first is by gauging whether or not he has what takes to endure the rigorous prep season. It’s too early to tell but if things go well in the Pasco we will soon find out because that’s where my question of “distance” really comes into play. The Pasco Stakes will be his longest race to date but even a good trip at 7 Furlongs won’t answer if he has the potential to race against the best through two turns. Here is where I can only speculate but I’m guessing that he’s got a pretty shot at competing. I also think it’s likely that his journey will continue after the Pasco. Regardless if he wins, I believe his derby hopes are still alive as he moves on to the real Kentucky Derby preps. If so, look for his attempt at scoring points to begin in the Sam F. Davis, Fountain of Youth or Tampa Bay Derby. 
Suggesting that he may lose in the Pasco means there is one other potential derby contender that deserves to be included in the dark horse conversation. Mark Casse is better known as the trainer for Uncaptured, a talented and convincing 3-yr-old on the Kentucky Derby trail. But, let’s not forget about Dynamic Sky.
Ranked at #35 on the HRN Kentucky Derby 2013 Contenders, Dynamic Sky will be using the Pasco Stakes to get back on track in a hurry. Owned by John Oxley, Dynamic Sky got off to a very fine start in his Juvenile campaign and that is the biggest difference between him and Purple Egg. Dynamic Sky began healthy and made an impression when he scored a few Kentucky Derby points. But, he's been quiet for awhile now and he may be overlooked. So, the Pasco is a great place for him to get back on the scene. 
Following a 3rd place finish in the Vandal Stakes (his career debut) with a win in the Simcoe Stakes, also at Woodbine, the colt by Sky Mesa – Murani made the move to Keeneland. Although he didn’t get the win in the G1 Breeders’ Futurity a very game effort led to a hard fought 2nd place finish and 4 Kentucky Derby points. When you looked at those three races he looked ready to improve again in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita his next time out. However, a troubled trip was too much to overcome and Dynamic Sky finished out of the money for the very first time – 6th. 
After the Juvenile, Dymanic Sky also battled a bit of illness. It took some time for him to rebound but he’s now back to racing condition and ready to begin again. What seems to be most important for Casse right now is that Dynamic Sky is racing. He’s not sure if 7 Furlongs is a distance that his young colt would prefer but at this point all that the Pasco needs to be for Dynamic Sky is a place to start. My overall opinion on him is that I liked what I saw in the Breeders’ Futurity. It wasn’t enough for me to rank him too high but still enough to call him a contender or potential starter. So, I’m going to stick with that for now. Likewise to Purple Egg I see the Pasco as a good prep for the true prep season. Win or lose, if Dynamic Sky returns healthy the road will continue and we will see him next in the Sam F. Davis or Tampa Bay Derby.
Good luck to our dark horses beginning their run to the first Saturday in May from a race that is not on the New Road to the Kentucky Derby. We look forward to a solid performance and find you racing for points next time out.


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Older Comments about Pasco Stakes: No Points, No Problem...

We won't find out today. Purple Egg has been scratched.
Dynamic Sky (who had plenty of trouble in the BC Juvenile) should offer the Egg a good class test ... one that I think he will pass.
I'm on board with The Egg. He should be 4 for 4 by the end of the day.

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