Quite a rollicking edition of the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn on Saturday. Hopefully, the stretch run of the Kentucky Derby will be half as much fun. Should that turn out to be the case, my guess is that it would involve different horses. These are nice competitive individuals, but none of them have yet run fast enough as a three-year old to warrant top billing.
Having said that, Hoppertunity ($14.20), in earning a career-best TFUS speed figure of 103 (as compared to, say, the 114 earned by Social Inclusion at Gulfstream last week, the 111 by California Chrome in the San Felipe, and the 110s earned by Samraat and Uncle Sigh in the Withers), surely showed some admirable qualities. He’s on the improve, easily took the worst of the four top finishers in terms of ground loss, and he responded to the physical challenge of Tapiture, who bulled out into him in search of a clear path, by bearing down and putting him away (and responding in kind with a solid bump of his own). I thought the stewards were correct in letting the result stand; the top two gave as good as they got.
Here’s the result chart.
One thing that stands out is how slow the early pace was; pace figures not even reaching the 90 mark. Accordingly, the four top finishers, who were all either on or in close attendance to the front, had their raw final time figures downgraded slightly.
With the changing track conditions as the rain came down, along with the presence of some tractors doing maintenance prior to the race, we have some differences of opinions amongst figure makers. Stay tuned to this blog for more on that coming up in the next day or so.
Hoppertunity is by Any Given Saturday, out of an Unaccounted For mare who has also produced the Grade 1 winning filly Executiveprivilege. His third dam is the great filly Davona Dale who, alas, was not able to nearly replicate her on-track success in the broodmare shed.
The winner earned 50 points in Churchill’s Derby points system, assuring him of a spot in the big race. So, I don’t really understand when I read, as in an article on BRIS via ESPN.com, about how he can add to the 50 points he earned Saturday if he runs in the Arkansas Derby. What difference does that make? What incentive does his trainer, Bob Baffert, even have to run, other than to keep the horse sharp and the chance of taking down another fat purse. While those may indeed be incentive enough, seems to me that this all could be made very interesting if the top points earners earned an advantage in the Derby post position draw. That would surely be a reason for a horse who’s already in to run in another prep instead of training up to Derby day. But I guess that makes too much sense. I also don’t understand why the value of the races jump to 100-40-20 for the final round of preps. 50 points, or 100 points; the difference is absolutely meaningless, as either is more than enough to clinch a spot. In fact, even 20 points is likely sufficient, and why would they want to award a spot to some horse who might come clunking up for third?
Golden Lad ($12) earned the top speed figure of the weekend; a 118 for his romp in the Razorback, also at Oaklawn. This was the 4th straight win for this four-year old son of Medaglia d’Oro, easily a career-best number, and a continuation of a wonderful pattern of improvement since he graduated last summer at Monmouth.
As opposed to the Rebel, this race had a hot pace. For stalking it and going on to win, Golden Lad had his raw final time figure upgraded by a point.
So, as if Pletcher doesn’t have enough big horses in his stable, here’s one who could conceivably make the jump to the top echelon of his division should he continue to move forward as he has. Golden Lad is out of a Seeking the Gold mare (a half-sister to the Florida Derby winner and awful Derby favorite Dialed In), and he’s a half-brother to the stakes winners Broadway’s Alibi and R Gypsy Gold.
Also at Oaklawn, Close Hatches ($3.20) scored a handy wire-to-wire win in the Azeri, earning a TFUS speed figure of 111, and making a successful return as a four-year old after having last run in the Breeders’ Cup. Another BC returnee was not quite as successful, as Emollient, 4th in the F&M Turf, finished in that position as the 4-5 favorite in Sunday’s Santa Ana at Santa Anita. Stormy Lucy ($11) earned a TFUS speed figure of 105. The 1 1/16 – 1 1/8 distances on grass are obviously a sweet spot for this five-year old daughter of Stormy Atlantic; she’s 3-1-2 in six such races, all stakes, and 15-2-1-1 otherwise. Benefiting from an inside trip, Stormy Lucy closed stoutly to win in a slow-paced race, and her raw final time figure of 100 was upgraded accordingly.