Weekend Overview: Stardom Bound's three year old debut was the most widely anticipated race of the weekend and although she won in comfortable fashion I think the feeling was that she must get a lot better in order to retain a stranglehold on this division. Stardom Bound now heads for the Santa Anita Derby against males. It'll draw a ton of fan interest but it leaves the Santa Anita Oaks to Haka. Haka ran just as about as well as Stardom Bound and she's got to have a great chance of establishing herself as one of the heavyweights in the three year old female division. Friesan Fire and Pioneerof the Nile took the next step towards in Derby. Both horses looked good enough at this point but not terribly brilliant. Some horses continued to ride a hot early season hand. Cowboy Cal, Haynesfield, Awesome I Am, Victorina, Diamond Tycoon and Unspoken Word all captured their second wins of 2009. Most of these horses are more listed stakes quality but every so often a few horses get hot early in the year and carry that form well into the summer. Cowboy Cal will likely vie for favoritism in the Big Cap after another workmanlike effort in the Strub. I don't think I've ever been impressed with him after a win but he's too solid to ignore. Nice to see a few old professionals like Magnum, Well Armed and Tiago run well in the San Antonio. These guys all have some nice back class and inject some much needed quality into the older horse division. Matto Mondo is one of the hottest commodities in racing after a smashing synthetic debut in the Thunder Road. It'll be interesting to see the path Mandella takes with him now.
Thoroughbred Championship Rankings: Cowboy Cal jumps to the head of the class for the fourth week in this young season. He is certainly the most accomplished horse to date and has been #1 in four of the first six weeks. Magnum, Stardom Bound and Friesan Fire all moved into the top 10 overall thanks to their stakes wins. The Three Year Old Female division is taking shape after a pair of Graded stakes in the division. Prior to this weekend there had been just grades stakes route for three year fillies. No surprise to see Stardom Bound and Haka at the head of affairs.
Power Rankings: Despite the win by Cowboy Cal this weekend the Power Rankings still say that Albertus Maximus is the best horse to have run this year. Cowboy Cal will have many more chances to enhance his reputation though before Albertus Maximus runs in the Dubai World Cup. Pioneerof the Nile debuts as the nation's top ranked Three Year Old Male outstripping the more accomplished Friesan Fire. Diamond Tycoon continues to be quite hot on the Gentilly Turf course and has rode those results all the way to a #3 Turf Male ranking.
Performance of the Week: The performance that really caught my eye this weekend was the powerful stretch run by War Echo. Just Jenda and Four Gifts were expected to dominate the race but War Echo seems to have come a long way physically since she was a two year old. It seemed as though Four Gifts had wrested control of the race but War Echo just kept on coming and overpowered her stablemate. The time was more than decent as well being just .09 seconds slower than the boys in the Risen Star. Fantastic effort by War Echo, she looks as though she'll relish all the ground they can give her which could make her not only a contender for the Kentucky Oaks but also longer races like the CCOA and Alabama.
Race of the Week: Perhaps it's because I was riding on a 17/1 shot who was leading in deep stretch but I thought the Robert Lewis was the best contest of the weekend. Pioneerof the Nile had every reason to lose the race after encountering some traffic problems but he came roaring down the lane with giant strides to defeat Papa Clem. Papa Clem put in a good shift himself as I Want Revenge looked to have more momentum coming into the lane. But Papa Clem out-dueled that rival only to be cruelly defeated by the heavy favorite. A definite must watch.
Flop of the Week: I think it's time to put Champs Elysees back on the grass. I know he finished third in the Big Cap last year but all his subsequent attempts on synthetics have been disasters. Champs Elysees went to back of the San Antonio field and nearly failed to improve his position at all. He managed to avoid a last place finish by a paltry half length. Get him back on the grass where he can be competitive.
Tip o'the Cap: Fantasy games are the wave of the future in sports but they're something racing has taken quite some time to embrace. One of the oldest and best fantasy games returns this week with the Road to the Roses fantasy challenge. If you've never played it before you need to start. The prizes are great, the format is fun and it really does enhance your enjoyment of the triple crown trail. I should also give a nod to the TVG Fantasy game which has been a great innovation and helps you follow all of racing not just the Derby chasing three year olds.
KC Handicapping: We nearly turned the trick with Papa Clem unfortunately Pioneerof the Nile just had too much for him in the final furlong. The Risen Star was a complete debacle for my selections and Becrux was scratched from the San Antonio. So a tough beat on a 17/1 shot was the highlight of my weekend. It's a shame to think that I would have been better off just selecting Stardom Bound as my only play of the weekend but I can't get faint hearted now. Some days those longshots will come in.
Weekly Record: 3(2)-0-1-0 (-$6.00 -100.00% ROI)
Overall Record: 700(373)-120-111-93 (-$131.10 -9.36% ROI)