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Nearly There

The best story to come out of last weekend’s Derby preps is certainly that of General Quarters; the Blue Grass victor’s tale has all the elements of a perfect script: former claimer, slow to mature, and single-horse owner-trainer (although, as the Blood-Horse pointed out, he’s had a little help here and there, which is no bad thing). It will be interesting to see if his good recent form in Florida translates back to Kentucky; in any case, it’s probably unlikely that many other Derby starters started their careers in a 14K claimer at Churchill Downs. It’s worth reflecting that his eleven lifetime starts give him nearly four times as much racing experience as, say, Dunkirk.

Hold Me Back and Massone both finished the race well too – Massone will head to more synthetic surfaces in California, while Hold Me Back is on track for a Derby berth.

Also likely to make the field now is the aforementioned Dunkirk – largely because Arkansas Derby runner-up Old Fashioned has a date with Rood & Riddle, rather than Churchill Downs. They grey colt fractured his knee (although it was not apparent at any point during the race) and we’ve very likely seen the last of him on the track (given his value at stud), so Coolmore’s Dunkirk is left to carry the Unbridled’s Song banner in the Derby (and make of that what you will – this is owner Rick Porter’s third prominent Unbridled’s Song offspring to meet with a serious injury on the Derby trail, after Rockport Harbor and, of course, Eight Belles).

But it was a very interesting race; I was glad to see Papa Clem finally get a big win (pictured), since I felt he’d been flying under the radar for far too long (and his win vaulted me to the top of the Brooklyn Backstretch Road to the Roses league). He’s been steadily improving (and getting some bad luck along the way) and while his 99 Beyer for the Arkansas Derby wasn’t earth-shattering, I think he’s going to be a lot of fun to watch.

It’s still not clear whether Mafaaz’s deeply uninspiring effort in the Blue Grass will put him on a plane back to England; Patena’s non-firing in the same race means that the horse will be ‘regrouping.’ (Given that IEAH purchased the horse with the sole intent of running him in the Derby, one wonders if he’ll quietly slip away in a claiming race – after all, they have I Want Revenge now). Larry Jones must be glad he has Friesan Fire to fall back on; despite the seven-week layoff, he’s still one of my top Derby picks (this week):

1) I Want Revenge
2) Friesan Fire
Chocolate Candy
General Quarters
Papa Clem
Quality Road
Pioneerof the Nile
Regal Ransom
Musket Man
10) Hold Me Back

So, we’re nearly done with Derby prep season; yes, there’s still the Coolmore Lexington next weekend, and once upon a time the Derby Trial mattered to the Derby field, but in reality we’re nearly there. Check back later in the week for more on how the field is shaping up.

2 comments to Nearly There

  • Anonymous

    General Quarters over Dunkirk? Regal Ransom over Dunkirk? Why all the Coolmore hating?

  • Superfecta

    Nothing Coolmore-specific, I’m afraid – just don’t like Pletcher’s Derby record and really don’t like a horse (especially an Unbridled’s Song one) with only three starts.

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