We have our first big buzz workout of the week, and it was by Intense Holiday, one of the Pletcher Derby quartet. On Sunday, with Johnny V. aboard, the son of Harlan’s Holiday earned accolades all around for his half mile blowout in 48.65 seconds, and for the smooth gallop-out that followed. You can see how easily he did it here, via the HRTV.com site. Mike Welsch, the DRF clocker, called it the top workout of the morning “by many, many lengths.” Welsch got him coming home in 23 3/5, and reported that he was the only horse he caught in under 13 seconds for the furlong past the finish line.
Both jockey and trainer noted that Intense Holiday changed leads smoothly. This had been a concern. I’d read Haskin going on about his having “crossfired” in the Louisiana Derby; and while I don’t know what that means, I do know that the esteemed correspondent for Bloodhorse, after so many months of spending far too much time following these horses, becomes increasingly incoherent in the final weeks and days leading up to the race.
Now, what does this mean, exactly? I very much liked this horse’s win in the Risen Star back in February. Intense Holiday encountered early traffic, was 3-5 wide on the turn home, and closed with grim determination to overcome a seemingly insurmountable late gap. He closed the final five-sixteenths in an impressive 30 4/5 seconds. He then disappointed somewhat with a second place finish in the Louisiana Derby as the 9-5 favorite. But he was closer to the pace than usual, which I took as an attempt at some schooling on the part of jockey Mike Smith. So I’m not really deterred by that race; in fact, I was hoping it would cause him to be overlooked in the wagering. The thing is that he’s never run particularly fast. His top TFUS speed figure is the 100 he got for the Risen Star – not even the highest in that race, which was earned by pacesetting Albano. That number is far down on our list of top 3yo figures, led by Wicked Strong at 117. (If you go to our partner site Horseracingnation.com and scroll down, you can see all the top 3yo figures in the lower right corner.) Beyer gave Intense Holiday a 97 for the Risen Star, as opposed to California Chrome’s 108 in the San Felipe. (I’m excluding Social Inclusion for this purpose until and unless he sneaks into the Derby field.)
As we know, these horses can improve, and quickly, so I wouldn’t be bothered by his figures, as long as I was getting 15- or 20-1 on the chance that he has indeed progressed sufficiently to win on Saturday. Now, he has the buzz-y workout, maybe he follows that up with an impressive gallop later on this week, everyone is talking about it and you’re talking maybe half those odds. Then he’s far less interesting and, at a certain odds level, becomes a horse to flat-out oppose. After all, he’s won once since graduating, and that was against a field that I don’t think that highly of.
We Miss Artie was the hapless horse on the inside of Intense Holiday, and the Toddster was particularly frank in saying: “I’m not sure at all if he should be running in the Derby.” Wow. Those are words that an owner certainly does not want to hear. Especially, I suppose, an owner as ambitious and as fond of smiling in the winner’s circle as Ken Ramsey. I dunno, one might think that an owner, in the best interest of the horse, would immediately declare his/her horse out after comments like that from the trainer. However, no word as of this writing, so I guess he’s still in. Because it’s the Derby.
Danza also worked a half-mile for Pletcher, in 49.07, earning generally good reviews. I’m not buying this horse, at all. Got a competitive speed figure of 110 in winning the Arkansas Derby, but got the trip up the rail and beat a slow group that did not show much improvement as the preps moved along. And I’m thinking he’ll be overbet.
Negative workout reports on Wildcat Red and Vicar’s In Trouble, two horses that I’d prefer to see well-reviewed so that they will get bet. Don’t think either of them has a chance. Ride on Curlin worked seven furlongs in 1:29; Welsch got the last three furlongs in 37 flat, and termed it in “an OK work.” He was encouraged by the rider as they came down to the finish line. You can see it here. (In fact, you can see every Derby workout at Churchill on the HRTV.com site. It has an efficient search function to find them by horse name too, so this is a fantastic tool for those of you into evaluating works for yourself.) Ride on Curlin is a horse I’m thinking can maybe hit the board.
Bad weather at Churchill today, but Baffert got a workout in with Hoppertunity – a half in 48.40 seconds – and said that Martin Garcia had “a tough time pulling him up.” Steve Asmussen didn’t wait for the rain to stop, as Tapiture got a half in 50 second in a driving thunderstorm. Hopefully, that does not qualify as animal abuse. Yeah, I’m not particularly excited by either of those horses, either.
In fact, I’m not trembling with joy over most of these. I could not even begin to tell you who or how I’m going to bet. Post position and odds will be the main factors, and I see myself scrambling to get my bets in with just a few minutes to post.