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| TRIPLE CROWN PICTURE STILL IFFY
By Brian Mulligan
Elvis has left the Keeneland building but not the Triple Crownpicture. Elvis is the nickname for Sun King and he will need arebound race to cash in the Derby. Really, all the Blue Grassand the Arkansas Derby have done is tell us that there are a coupleof more major players who have designs on Churchill the firstSaturday in May.
Afleet Alex may not be the second coming of Smarty Jones but heis taking the same route as that star and he posted an eye catching8-length score at Oaklawn in the Arkansas Derby. It was the biggestwinning margin in the near 70-year history of the stakes.
His time of 1:48 4/5 was 3 ticks faster than Smarty and almost2 full seconds faster than what Bandini needed to win the BlueGrass.
Bandini took his final prep in clever fashion getting pretty mucha perfect trip to cash by 6 lengths. He came out of the race fineand it’s all systems go toward Churchill.
The race didn’t scare anybody off as several colts stillhave hopes of glory. Runner up High Limit, who didn’t figureto be fully cranked, got a nice tightener under his belt and hewill be better off in the long run.
Closing Argument, 3rd, is on the fence but Consolidator, who didn’tget the best of trips, and Sun King, will be back to fight anotherday.
Afleet Alex contended with faster splits and he showed a nicestalking style, which could bode well when he sees the Twin Spires.He has not punished by his rider Jeremy Rose, who hit him at least5 times in the lane. Don’t be shocked if connections tryto get a more experienced pilot, and somebody like Gary Stevensjust may be available.
Bandini was a bit wide in his win but he appeared to be all outdown the lane. Trainer Todd Pletcher has been concerned aboutthis colt’s focus, so he obviously has some growing up todo. The musical jockey chairs will be a factor if Edgar Pradosticks with Sun King. That would leave open another Zito runnerin Noble Causeway.
Zito reportedly was not all that pleased with Javier Castellano’scelebration before reaching the wire with Bellamy Road, but thekid will live to fight another day. Zito in the New York Post:“If you were my sister, and you went out with Mike Tyson,and you came back alive, I’m just glad you’re alive,OK? I don’t think he’ll have the opportunity to dothat again, I don’t think he’ll be 17 in front, notin the Derby.”
Before you get all hot and bothered and oversold on the awesomeWood win by Bellamy Road, consider the quotes to the NTRA by BobbyFrankel. He can read horses, as his world class training attests,and he had some interesting things to say about getting on theRoad again. He was speaking about having a tough race to get ahorse fighting fit for the Derby and the quotes came before High
“ I don’t know if a romp necessarily means it’san easy race. I mean like Bellamy Road had a romp. But I don’tknow if that wasn’t a tough race on him. Your eyes are deceivingwhen you watch horse racing, you’re thinking a horse runsvery–is winning very easily, but he might be doing the best hecan even though he’s not being driven. So it’s a hardthing to say: do you want a tough race? I think a horse like minesort of needs a tough race because he’s only had one race,you know? And I think he needs it tougher. I remember Sunday Silencehaving that tough race before, but it was 4 weeks out in the SantaAnita Derby where Patrick hit him about 10 times in the stretchwhen Easy Goer had the easy race going in there, where he neverput him into a drive.”
I’ve seen this happen in the Press Box a ton of times. Tenguys can see a race, and you can get 9 different opinions aboutwhat really happened in the race. As the Derby gets closer, payattention to trainer quotes and work patterns. Don’t beso concerned about speed in the works, but the way the works wereaccomplished and try to read into the trainer’s thoughtsat the same time.
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