So much has transpired since we put Louisville and Churchill Downs in the rear view mirror.
Analyzing and re-analyzing the two-minute and three second trip around the Churchill oval by American Pharoah shows us he had a dream trip and prevailed despite his outside post and traveling 29 and 69 feet more than the second and third-place finishers, respectively.
Here’s a chart of feet traveled provided by Trakus racing:
— ChestRockwell (@ChestRockwell31) May 4, 2015
So can he repeat the performance in Baltimore next weekend at Old Hilltop?
That’s an answer we’ll need more time to ponder. However, it doesn’t mean we can’t raise questions about the factors that will be apparent in the son of Pioneerof the Nile’s quest for the second jewel of racing’s Triple Crown.
How much does his tight schedule work for or against him? He’s now raced three times in seven weeks and the Preakness will make four times in nine weeks for the Derby winner. That’s some hefty work for a sophomore colt with a potential Triple Crown try in the wings that would be his fifth race in 12 weeks. That’s why the Triple Crown trail is described more than not as grueling.
On the contrary, he wasn’t fully exerted in his two prep races in Arkansas and he didn’t really face much adversity, other than Victor Espinoza’s whip in the Derby. I’m leaning towards that he has at least one more left in him, but could be a huge bet-against in New York.
What to make of Dortmund? Trainer Bob Baffert revealed on the morning after the Derby that Dortmund had suffered a bout of colic on April 25 after workout at Santa Anita, a week before the race. Could this have affected his performance? Colic in horses is defined mainly as abdominal pain and could be as little as a mild stomach ache and as severe as abdominal discomfort characterized by pawing, rolling, and sometimes the inability to defecate.
So did it affect him? If so, he ran a heroic race to finish third and I’m still on the bandwagon. He looked fine on Thursday when I saw him up close and personal at the Baffert barn and after he galloped over the track. We’ll probably never know how severe or what impact it had on him, but the fact that Baffert was so quick to point him towards Baltimore is a good sign that the colic didn’t play a major role in the race.
Here’s a look at the fractions of the top three horses at each quarter mile mark:
— Railbird (@railbird) May 3, 2015
The only one of my top four selections that did not finish in the top four was Mubtaahij. He failed to make the late run that he did in Dubai, the travel and feed schedule obviously catching up with him in Louisville. Bravo to the connections, however, for running him and keeping here in the States and sticking around to try the Belmont in four weeks. By then he’ll be more acclimated and the son of Dubawi should relish the added distance at Big Sandy.
Frosted, too, will skip the Preakness and point towards the Belmont Stakes and then to the two 3-year-old stakes races at Saratoga, the Jim Dandy and the Travers. He made a nice, late closing run to finish fourth, but the opening fractions were just too moderate for him to close into.
No word yet from trainer Mark Casse on whether fifth-place finisher Danzig Moon, an Ontario-bred, will go to Baltimore or start focusing on the $1 million Queen’s Plate at Woodbine. It would be sporting of him to try Pimlico, but he seems to be a late runner and that hasn’t been the style that’s won the Preakness, of late. To boot, the Queen’s Plate is a restricted race for big dollars, and Danzig Moon can obviously handle the Polytrack and the distance. Casse will be seeking back-to-back victories in the Plate on July 5.
Materiality, still undeclared by Todd Pletcher, drew an inside post for the Derby, missed the break and was shuffled back to 17th(!) at the mile marker before making a late surging run to finish sixth. The son of Afleet Alex ran the fastest final quarter of the 18 Derby horses, finishing in 25.61, more that a half second faster than Keen Ice who finished in seventh.
The lightly raced colt received an education at Churchill and reminds me of Curlin in the early stages of his career, wins big prep race, finishes well in Derby and went on to win the Preakness. It’s not like Pletcher to wheel back in two weeks, especially with this one, but his daddy Afleet Alex did win both the Preakness and Belmont, so look out!
The Buffalo market finished 11th in television ratings for the Derby after finishing fourth last year. It could have been the great weather we had back here in Western New York, something that has been lacking for six months or so that contributed to the drop in ratings.
A small field of five will run in tomorrow’s Peter Pan at Belmont Park, traditionally a prep for the Belmont Stakes. Tonalist won last year’s edition of the Peter Pan before spoiling California Chrome’s Triple Crown bid in the Belmont.
Some familiar names from the Derby trail are running in Madefromlucky for Pletcher and Tiz Shea D for Bill Mott, who ran in both the Gotham and Wood Memorial. Mark Casse will race Conquest Curlinate, another Ontario-bred, that could be Plate-bound later this summer.
The NYRA announced that it will cap Belmont Stakes day attendance at 90,000 this year in a brilliant marketing move. It will cause some racing fans some pause to consider buying tickets before the Preakness to make sure they are locked into a ticket should a Triple Crown possibility emerge. In addition, it will help regulate the number of people in the physical plant after the issues encountered last year with transportation, food and beverage and general chaos that over 100,000 folks create at that venue.
Fort Erie announced yesterday a new track announcer for its 2015 season. Shannon “Sugar” Doyle will assume the role of track announcer on Tuesday, June 2. Doyle, who is the regular caller at London’s Western Fair, will take over from Mike Dimoff, who called the races from 2011 until 2014.
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.