Sunday, January 23, 2011

Kentucky Derby Starters No More

A look at Gulfstream's Sunday feature - non-winners of two allowance at a mile - is quite instructive to what may happen to those pointed toward Derby 137. Instructive for the horse's failures at meeting an owner's and/trainer's Derby quest.

What makes the run up toward the Derby so interesting, so entertaining is the timing and progression of three-year-old horses up against deadlines to make necessary graded stakes earnings, stay healthy and in training and catch some much-needed luck. Race nine at Gulfstream on Sunday had three contenders that pursued last year's Run for the Roses - horses that are now prepping for something, anything else. Two made the starting gate on the first Saturday in May, one was hurt along the way and all have been away from the track a long time since.

William's Kitten made a mild attempt at the Derby following a  runner up finish to Super Saver during Churchill's signature fall race for aspiring two-year-olds - Kentucky Jockey Cup. With that finish and just under the projected graded earnings necessary for a Derby run, William's Kitten started in his only race of 2010 - a third place finish in the Holy Bull Stakes before being put on the shelf for a exactly one racing year.

Homeboykris was the winner of what was a weak rendition of the Champagne Stakes during Belmont's 2009 fall meet.  A grade one winner with enough graded stakes earned during his two-year-old season gave trainer Rick Dutrow the option of taking this son of Roman Ruler to Churchill Downs during his three-year-old season. Homeboykris started his three-year-old season with a pair of uninspiring preps - fifth in the same Holy Bull race William's Kitten finished third and a well-beaten second in an allowance field of six. But holding true to his "smoke 'em, if you  got 'em" training mentality, Dutrow took Homeboykris to a 16th place Derby finish where he was clearly overmatched.

Mission Impaziable burst on the Derby trail in winning the Lousiana Derby, the Fair Grounds premiere Derby prep. It was a decent field that included stakes winner A Little Warm and eventual Belmont winner, Drosselmeyer. Still it was a slow running in which much of the field either backed up or didn't fire. Mission Impaziable may have just inherited the best trip, but still he was onto the Derby - finishing a respectable 9th after getting caught in the expected Derby traffic. It was his sixth career start.

None of these one-time promising three-year-olds won today. William's Kitten stepped awkwardly out of the gate and didn't really get running, finishing seventh of nine. Homeboykris only menaced for a bit during mid-stretch before flattening out and the 3-5 favorite, who I singled in my 50-cent Pick 5, Mission Impazible ran a respectable second. All were beaten by hard-knocking, six-year and 11-time winner Caixa Eletronica, while not flashy or remarkable in his past performances, he beat a bunch of "Derby contenders."

I wonder where this crop of Derby-horses will land this year and into next - especially if May 7, 2011 doesn't work out so well.....

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