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Plenty On Tap

It’s true, the Derby preps seem to have begun in earnest, but this weekend belongs just as much to the veterans. Perennial Casa Superfecta favorite Brass Hat is coming back in the Dust Commander at Turfway. Now 8, no one’s quite sure what sort of form he’ll be in after an extended vacation, but here’s hoping he can show Officer Rocket he’s still got it. El Gato Malo and Autism Awareness have yet to reach Brass Hat’s august age, but both are looking for comebacks this weekend as well.

6-year-old Leah’s Secret has skillfully avoided retirement for the time being, thanks to her Sunshine Millions Distaff victory, and she will be taking on a nice lineup of mares in the Santa Maria Handicap at Santa Anita. While I like Leah’s Secret a lot, I’m curious to see how Visit, normally a turf runner, takes to the synthetic track. I’ve always admired her pedigree and hope she continues to do well in the US. Bsharpsonata and Santa Teresita are also entered.

Finally, of course, there are the 3-year-olds. It seem a bit ironic that while the Sam F. Davis is finally a G3 and this year’s crop seems promising, it’s something of a shallow field this time around. It’s true there are a few so-far-undefeated entrants (Free Country, Musket Man and Top Seed), but I suspect this group is a notch below some we’ve seen already. I’d say the same for the El Camino Real Derby, which features Chocolate Candy and Axel Foley – although I could be convinced by strong performances. (I admit that I would be concerned about Axel Foley becoming a strong feature on the Triple Crown trail, since we’d have to hear his namesake music all the time). We shall see.

The Derby trail headliner actually takes place on Presidents’ Day (something I’ve only ever had as an official day off as a government employee) down in Arkansas. Old Fashioned’s long-awaited 3-year-old debut in the Southwest seems to be all systems go – and it’s hard not to like a horse (pictured) with a sense of priorities. According to trainer Larry Jones:

“When it is work time, he’s ready, but after that it’s naptime,” the horseman said. “Naptime is leave me alone time for Old Fashioned.

“Old Fashioned is a neat horse. It’s hard not to love him. Bringing him up here from Fair Grounds it was just me and him, it was bonding time. It was like I will focus on you, and you will focus on me.”

Poltergeist and Silver City seem to be Old Fashioned’s main competition – but I hope Loch Dubh makes the field as well; I’m eyeing him as the dark horse I forgot to add to my Road to the Roses stable. There’s always one (or two, or three).

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