Weekend Overview: So who was more impressive, The Pamplemousse or Quality Road? I'm sure that debate will rage on for the rest of the week as racing fans try to digest both races and figure out what they mean for the Kentucky Derby. In non Derby news we saw some decent races from Barrier Reef and Medzendeekron at Aqueduct and Santa Anita. They may not be prime time quality but this is the time of year connections need them to earn their keep and they're both doing a fine job of it. Twilight Meteor was once thought of as a Derby horse but he might just find a niche as a Turf miler. His performance in the Canadian Turf H was solid for a horse who had lost his last 11 starts, hopefully Pletcher has found a key with him. Although Justwhistledixie hasn't lost a race since Saratoga last summer it seems like she's suddenly become quite good without many people noticing. The Davona Dale was her 4th win and 3rd stakes win in a row. I wasn't sure if she could handle a horse like Frolic's Dream but after having seen the race I'd flip flop that opinion and postulate that she ought not lose to a horse like Frolic's Dream again. She may not look ready for Stardom Bound just yet but McLaughlin and West Point should get some nice production out of her this year.
Thoroughbred Championship Rankings: Barrier Reef made a surprising move into 5th spot overall and third in the Main Track Older Male division. He loves Aqueduct's inner track having compiled a record of 5 wins from 6 starts over the surface. We'll likely see a regression in his form and his place in the standings once winter racing concludes. The Three Year Old Male division is super tight with the top 5 separated by less than 6 points. The crop looks contentious as well as being of good quality. Justwhistledixie was the only other major mover in the standings thanks to her win in the Davona Dale. She only ranks third in the Three Year Old Female division. She would be closer to second but the points earned in the Ruthless Stakes don't count in this division because the race was a sprint.
Power Rankings: The top 10 remains unchanged this week as none of the horses in action this past week did enough to crack into the upper echelon. Barrier Reef, The Pamplemousse and Quality Road scored the biggest wins of the weekend and managed to improve their standing within their divisions but they'll have to do better if they want to break into the top 10 overall. Capt. Candyman Can dropped out of the top 5 Male Sprinters with his disappointing effort in the Fountain of Youth.
Performance of the Week: Just after his debut it seemed like the sky was the limit for the aptly named Quality Road. It just seemed like he was one of those horses of true quality who would find every task early in his career an easy one. That perception was shaken a bit when he got cooked in a speed duel next time out but the Fountain of Youth was a massive performance for a horse with only two prior starts. Quality Road was right on the fast pace but he was still rating well. He wasn't head strong like in his last. When Theregoesjojo looked to make another sweeping move past him he simply found another gear and put the field away with ease. It was a huge performance and definitely highlights Quality Road as one of those special horses. He may not win the Derby because of stamina issues but he could be one of those Formal Gold types that routinely run very fast races in middle distance contests. I look forward to following this horse the rest of the year.
Race of the Week: No race stuck out from a close contest point of view but I found myself on the edge of my seat watching The Pamplemousse streak through those early fractions. This horse has quickly found a soft spot in my heart and I was rooting hard for him. With my concerns over his stamina I wondered if he was going too fast. Then all at once he re-broke and I took a deep breath wondering why I had ever doubted him. He ran the fastest synthetic prep race of all time according to the Beyer Speed Figures but you didn't need a number to see that it was a special race. Horses that can go fast early and late are a rare breed.
Flop of the Week: I'm not sure if I'm more disappointed in Capt. Candyman Can or Researcher. Perhaps I'll give them both the dubious distinction of flop of the week. Capt. Candyman sat a perfect trip in the Fountain of Youth and was simply empty in the final quarter of a mile. A mile is likely the limit of his effective range. Researcher was dreadful in the Stymie, I'm not sure how you can reconcile that performance with his past performances. It was easily the worst race of his life over a track he had mastered in the past. What looked like easy money turned into a major head-scratcher.
Tip o'the Cap: The price of success is that many people can't wait to see your downfall. Todd Pletcher had what most consider to be an off year last term and there was much rejoicing in some quarters. But the boo-birds had little to heckle this week as Pletcher won 5 races from 11 starters and another four finished in the frame. He had only two horses run poorly this weekend and another pair of starters only lost because they were facing their stablemates. Pletcher is red hot right now and almost out of nowhere it looks like he has three possible Derby horses: Dunkirk, Take The Points and Affirmatif, an Unbridled's Song colt who won his career debut on grass by 9 lengths.
KC Handicapping: Not a great week at the windows. No winners from 4 selections in 3 races. My post on Friday talked about a method of calculating average speed figures that has proven to be fairly accurate. The race I highlighted (The Stymie) finished completely upside down while the other two races I had the numbers for (Fountain of Youth and Sham) worked out well. In the Fountain of Youth my numbers suggested that 4 horses were fast enough. They filled the top 4 places at the finish, I simply picked the wrong two. The Pamplemousse was simply too good for everyone he faced including the longshot Unbridled Roman. Even when you narrow things down with helpful tools you're not guaranteed to come out on top.
Weekly Record: 4(3)-0-1-0 (-$8.00 -100.00% ROI)
Overall Record: 711(382)-122-115-93 (-$132.30 -9.30% ROI)