With just 20 spots open for the Derby (14 for the Preakness and 14 more for the Belmont) there'll be lots of siphoning of the Thoroughbred talent pool before May rolls around. So just around 10% of those nominated will actually start a Triple Crown race.
You may think, why are so many owners willing to nominate a horse that is more likely ready for an bottom level allowance race than Derby or Triple Crown greatness? Well, it's only $600 to enter early and the price goes up 10 times to $6,000, if you wait another month. Even millionaire owners can do that kind of math.
So of the 401 horses awaiting their chance at history, quite a few received some much needed seasoning by racing this past weekend. The three major (OK two major and one minor) contests for colts were run in New York, California and Louisiana and here were the results:
- Haynesfield - won in what turned into a public workout over five overmatched opponents at Aqueduct's Whirlway Stakes. He paid $2.90 to win. A minor award in a minor stakes.
- Pioneerof the Nile (that is not a typo) - took the Bob Lewis Stakes with an emphatic late run after having some traffic trouble entering the stretch. He paid $5.40. He galloped out like he'd want to race the Derby's 1 1/4 mile distance.
- Friesan Fire - encountered similar traffic trouble in the Risen Star but made it two-for-two at the Fair Grounds. He provided a $7.60 return. I like him, don't love him.
While the boys were duking it out, a filly stole some of their thunder and headlines. Following her fourth consecutive Grade I victory in the Las Virgenes on Saturday, Stardom Bound's connections announced that their recently purchased two-year-old champion filly will race against the boys in the Santa Anita Derby on April 4. Of course Stardom Bound's new owners, IEAH Stables, know something about purchasing Kentucky Derby Champions - Big Brown anyone? A filly taking on the boys is big news, especially after Eight Belles' fatal attempt last year. Let's hope for a better ending to Stardom Bound's date with destiny.
While the winners are setting their pre-Derby plates with much needed earnings, some of last weekend's losers will have something to say down the road:
- Giant Oak - My Risen Star pick had to put on the brakes in extremely tight quarters, swung five and then seven wide to make a run at Friesan Fire, finishing a game fifth.
- Flying Pegasus - Another Risen Star starter I liked a lot finished a game second in going two turns for the first time after a five-month layoff.
Later this week...my thoughts on Churchill Down's fantasy game Road to the Roses.