ITM analysis of the top 3-year-olds to watch from: March 29 – April 3
(* denotes a previous ITM Horse to Watch)
*Revolutionary (colt, War Pass – Runup the Colors by A.P. Indy) – The outcome of the Louisiana Derby depended on where you were located in the stretch drive. Jockey Javier Castellano orchestrated the best tactical ride of the 14-horse field in the 1 1/8-mile journey on this Todd Pletcher trainee. He came from far off the pace and took the colt wide prior to the traffic jam that developed inside, which hampered many other runners.
That doesn’t take away from Revolutionary’s accomplishment. It wasn’t an easy task to come off a layoff, ship to a new track – with no works over the surface – and win against some top peers. Plus, he was challenged in the stretch by the experienced, blinkers-free Mylute, the Tom Amoss trainee who also took a wide route under Shaun Bridgmohan but caught more traffic than Revolutionary.
Revolutionary’s final time of 1:50.28 is decent, but his final split of 12:58 is solid and better than that of the Florida Derby (13:08). Revolutionary looked very strong on the gallop out compared to Mylute, who appeared more taxed.
Castellano: “I don’t think the Derby distance will matter. He’s a well-bred horse who proved himself at the 1 1/16 mile distance twice already, beating really nice horses on two different surfaces at Aqueduct and Louisiana. I think the farther the better.”
If Normandy Invasion wins the Wood on Saturday, Castellano will need to make a Derby mount decision.
Mylute, who is already on the grounds at Churchill, is likely to make the Derby field with 42 points.
Amoss: “We changed his style from being aggressive with blinkers on to taking the blinkers off and letting him relax and letting him make one run. It worked well. . . He’ll get a good amount of training on the Churchill Downs surface.”
Palace Malice and Sunbean are other horses to watch out of the race who were affected by traffic issues. Golden Soul made an impressive seven-wide rally from last to gain fourth.
*Unlimited Budget (filly, Street Sense – Unlimited Pleasure by Valid Appeal) – The Todd Pletcher and Repole Stable runner will take her undefeated record to the Kentucky Oaks after a game win in the Fair Grounds Oaks. She’s proven at this 1 1/16-mile distance, and it’s doubtful another sixteenth would be an issue. Javier Castellano kept her closer to the pace this time, and she responded by keeping Flashy Gray at bay to win by 1 3/4-lengths. A big improvement in her final time over the Rachel Alexandra win; 1:43.22 compared to 1:45.38, and a better final split of 6:52. Although Dreaming of Julia is in the spotlight, this filly is a legitimate threat at Churchill Downs. Five of the last eight winners of the Fair Grounds Oaks have won the Kentucky Oaks.
Runner-up Flashy Gray is very talented, but she’s performed better in sprints and was clearly outmatched by Unlimited Budget. Flashy Gray’s pedigree leans heavily to sprint and her dosage is a very high 8.33.
*Sittin At the Bar (filly, Into Mischief – Fast Laner by Mutakddim) – A return to her Fair Grounds home and the addition of blinkers made her the easy play in the Crescent City Oaks, and the public was on top of it as she won as the heavy favorite. Other than her fifth-place finish in the Honeybee, this talented Louisiana-bred hasn’t been off the board in eight starts.
*Johnny Handsome (gelding, Zanjero – Go Girlfriend Go by Demidoff) – He enjoyed his time at the Fair Grounds meet, collecting all three of his career wins on the track’s dirt surface. In his most recent victory in the Crescent City Derby, he covered substantially more ground than most rivals after breaking last in the field of nine. C.J. McMahon maneuvered him to the rail, where he made a closing rally in the stretch to win the 1 1/16-miles test in 1:45.68. His best performances have come on dirt.
*Orb (colt, Malibu Moon – Lady Liberty by Unbridled) – Shug McGaughey’s rare Derby hopeful has put it all together at the right time, winning his fourth straight race in the Florida Derby. His trip under John Velazquez was very similar to that of the Fountain of Youth, but the fractions were much slower. In the Fountain of Youth, Orb tracked splits of :23.11, :45.45, 1:08.85, 1:35.37 and crossed the wire in a swift 1:42.24. The Florida Derby, paced by Merit Man, was a contrast with fractions of :24.74, 48.56, 1:12.89, 1:37.79, crossing the wire in 1:50.87. Slow time, but what does it prove? Orb’s versatility. He can adjust to various pace scenarios, and the Derby can be quite unpredictable in regards to that factor.
A key to Orb’s future is Velazquez’s pending decision on whether he will ride Orb or Todd Pletcher’s Verrazano, expected to be announced after Verrazano runs in the Wood Saturday. Bryan Sullivan of Let’s Go Racing Stables said in a national conference call that, if all goes well in the Wood, he expects Velazquez to remain with Verrazano.
Florida Derby favorite Itsmyluckyday tracked Merit Man and Narvaez and grabbed the lead in the stretch before being caught by Orb. This is a talented runner for Eddie Plesa, but he’ll face a tough task in the Derby. He’s a Florida speed horse who found his match in a long-distance router, Orb. Itsmyluckyday will go to the Derby with 10 starts, a much higher tally than what In the Money’s Derby Gauge deems ideal.
Merit Man, third, will not continue on the Derby trail and will target another race. Shanghai Bobby, fifth, was declared off the Derby trail by his connections Monday. Pletcher said last year’s 2-year-old champion is not injured, but was not exhibiting the energy needed to proceed on the Derby trail and will rest.
Out of this race, the only viable Derby contender is Orb – and he’s a top one.
*Dreaming of Julia (filly, A.P. Indy – Dream Rush by Wild Rush) – Even Todd Pletcher was floored by this filly’s amazing, head-turning 21 3/4-length romp in the Gulfstream Oaks.
“We felt she was training as well as ever and she was coming up to it in good order, but honestly, I can’t say I was expecting that kind of victory,” he said.
She reeled in Live Lively and drew off with ease in the 1 1/8-mile test. The field featured some accomplished other fillies as well, including Emollient. Her final time was swift even in cruise mode: 1.48.97. Basically, her performance embarrassed the colts and geldings, and she’s established herself as the Kentucky Oaks favorite in a very appealing group of 3-year-old fillies.
Santa Anita Park
*Rosengold (turf) (colt, Stormello – Lit’l Rose by Mr. Prospector) – This chestnut is one to fear at Santa Anita, as he won his third straight race – and second straight stakes – with a victory in the Pasadena for trainer Julio Canani.
Doinghardtimeagain (filly, Ministers Wild Cat – Silver Hawk Lady by Conquistador Cielo) – This California-bred, prolific at Hollywood Park, tallied her first win at Santa Anita in dominating fashion in the Evening Jewel Stakes. She pulled away from the field for a 3.5-length victory, her third win overall.
So Far (filly, A.P. Indy – Stellar Jayne by Wild Rush) – The muddy track might have hampered her debut as she delivered a much improved performance over a fast track going 6.5 furlongs for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. She’s out of the dandy mare Stellar Jayne, whose accomplishments include the Mother Goose, the Gazelle and the Ruffian.
*Reaching Out (colt, Big Brown – Touch too Much by Holy Bull) – The New York-bred appeared doomed when Bigger is Bettor pulled up to match strides with him in the early stretch, but this son of Big Brown wouldn’t succumb. After dueling down the lane, he pulled ahead again determinedly to win by a length. He’s three of four.
*Maracuya (filly, Big Brown – Jealous and Jaded by Jade Hunter) – Now two for two, this Ralph Nicks runner stretched out to a mile and won in front-running fashion, finishing in 1:36.75. Versatile pedigree is turf-friendly as well.
Santa Anita Park
Colburn (turf) (colt, Heatseeker – Go Ask Daisy by Mutakddim) – This Doug O’Neill runner took to the grass on the downhill turf, breaking his maiden on what appears to be his preferred surface. He was no match for Govenor Charlie on dirt last out and found a class break here against mostly newcomers.
Bond Vigilante (colt, Salute the Sarge – L C Mystery by Elusive Quality) – After disappointing as the favorite in his debut over the inner track, this Chad Brown runner bounced back with a determined win on the Aqueduct main. He appeared beaten in the stretch when Seventy Six caught him, but he refused to concede and battled back to win by a neck in the mile test.
Interest Free (filly, Exchange Rate – Seafree by Chief Seattle) – Determined, focused debut win at 25-1 for this Neil Howard trainee, who won the sprint despite a bumpy start from off the pace.
Think Sunshine (filly, Broken Vow – Beautiful Stranger by Foxhound) – Eye-catching debut by this Tim McCanna-trained Virginia-bred, who won by more than five lengths at 5.5 furlongs.
Lotosblume (filly, Mr. Sekiguchi – Waltz by Pleasant Tap) – Connections are likely breathing a sigh of relief this Maryland-bred wasn’t claimed for $25,000 first-time out. She rebounded in her second start with an impressive late-closing rally to win at 27-1 in a $38,000 maiden special weight.
Jennie Says So (filly, Notional – Footsie by Touch Gold) – This Pennsylvania-bred is now two for two and has shown versatility in both wins for trainer Benjamin Perkins.
Let’s Run (colt, Harlan’s Holiday – Hardly Fair by Wolf Power) – A drop down to allowance from sixth in the John Battaglia Memorial keyed this Mike Maker runner’s return to the winner’s circle – a solid 4.5-length victory at a mile. He’s two for two on synthetic. Also interesting to note a horse he beat in his debut, A Certain Saturday, also won on the same card.