I'm pretty excited about the Hutcheson and Holy Bull this weekend. I really think we're going to see a few Derby caliber horses in action. Maybe not the winner specifically but certainly some horses who are going to win their fair share of preps.
At this stage of the year I think it's important not to get too judgmental about a less than stellar performance. The March and April preps have always been and will always be more important than the January and February preps.
It may be that you ought to be more wary of massive performances than of poor ones. The Triple Crown Trail is a process, a journey, and it is certainly more of a marathon than a sprint. Right now we're still in the first few miles of the marathon. Those who have forged to the front at this point rarely have the fortitude to stay on all the way to the finish.
It is interesting to note that from 1996 to the present there have been 40 Derby starters who earned their season best Beyer Speed Figure in January or February. They've compiled a 1-2-2 record. That's a worse in the money percentage than all the other 194 starters achieved. Giacomo was the only exception if you're wondering. You definitely need to keep getting better as the year progresses.
I don't usually like to focus on static numbers because there is no "right" or "wrong" Beyer figure to earn there is only fast enough or not fast enough. It's all relative but if one were to draw a line in the sand and look at horses who earned a triple digit Beyer figure in a stakes route race in January or February the results are pretty shocking. 29 horses ran a 100 Beyer or more in a route stakes race in January or February and they went 29-0-1-1 in the Derby. No winners and only two (Captain Bodgit, Prince of Thieves) hit the frame. When you think of all the stakes races that are considered to be fairly important that are run during that time period like the Fountain of Youth, Holy Bull, San Rafael and Risen Star it's quite surprising to know that no horse who has performed impressively in those races and earned a triple digit Beyer has gone on to hit the frame in the Derby since 1997.
It was definitely an eye opener for me. Running well is never a bad thing but sometimes horses can get too sharp too soon and it's difficult to hold their form for three or four months.