Weekend Overview: The last of the major Derby preps is done and although both the Arkansas Derby and Blue Grass featured upsets the whole affair did have a feeling of business as usual. It was no great shock to see Papa Clem and Old Fashioned deciding the Ark Derby between them. Nor was it all that unforeseen to see General Quarters bounce back off a tough trip with Hold Me Back and Terrain closing but having no real impact. Much of this Derby season has been dominated by repeat winners. An amazing 8 horses will enter the Derby with multiple stakes wins. Last year there were just 4. I was surprised to see Ventura's proud one turn record take a hit. Up until the loss to Informed Decision, Ventura had only lost one start around one turn and that was in the Woodbine Mile. Informed Decision has to be a super sprinter to beat her like that. I was sad to see the gallant old Thorn Song struggling even to finish the Maker's Mark Mile. With Twilight Meteor scratching and Thorn Song failing to fire it makes me question the quality of Mr. Sidney. It's perhaps not fair to him but I feel he is probably more a G-2 or 3 type horse. Battle of Hastings is now 2 for 2 on American turf as he once again swooped from the back to beat his rivals in the La Puente. He still has a long way to come but he is an interesting horse.
Thoroughbred Championship Rankings: Mr. Sidney is the new top turf horse in America. Hard to believe that we haven't seen more quality than this. There are usually several top turf horses that have distinguished themselves by this point but this year the whole group looks below par. It's no surprise that no turf horses have made it into the top 10 overall. Three Year Old Males on the other hand do look pretty strong and they now have 5 top 10 representatives.
Power Rankings: Forever Together made her return to the races and immediately made a splash in a division that has lacked leadership. It's hard to see where a legitimate challenge will come from. She might be the best North American turf horse of either gender. Informed Decision made a big impact in the Female Sprint division in her first start of the year but the performance was not enough to usurp Ventura. The Male Sprinters continue to look like an ordinary bunch as Commonwealth winner Eternal Star failed to crack the top 5.
Performance of the Week: I really thought Ventura had won the Madison Stakes. It took her a little bit to get going but once her sweeping move had taken it's full effect and she got in front by about half a length I thought it was curtains for the rest of the field. Informed Decision almost came out of nowhere despite right with the leaders all through the stretch. She seemed to be floundering but the instant Ventura swept past she responded with some unbelievable acceleration. You almost never see a horse get passed at a late stage like that then seemingly re-break and take back all the momentum. And remember folks the horse she came back on was Ventura, nobody beats Ventura in races like this. Hats off to Informed Decision, that was a G-1 performance if I ever saw one.
Race of the Week: Despite the pall cast by Old Fashioned's injury I thought the Arkansas Derby was easily the race of the week. When I first saw the race I was also unaware that the Jones horse was injured at all. I'm glad I simply got to enjoy the race for what it was, a real first class stretch duel. Old Fashioned seemed to lose his head in the early stages of this race but his heart made up for it as he kept on responding to the onrushing Papa Clem. Papa Clem is a very tough horse in his own right. He doesn't like to let horses in front of him and that tenacity was on display again as Old Fashioned tried to get back on even terms with him. It's always a shame to see any horse lose a race like this.
Flop of the Week: I think I have to pick on Evita Argentina's performance in the Beaumont. Perhaps Gomez misread the pace but she never came with any kind of meaningful run. Unfortunately the inconsistency that plagued her as a two year old may be returning.
Tip o'the Cap: Has anyone noticed that John Sheppard all of the sudden has more top class horses than ever? He did a fantastic job with Forever Together last year but Informed Decision and Just as Well who ran third in the Maker's Mark Mile give him a full compliment of stars in his stable. He's hardy had a nice horse since With Anticipation and the gallant old Rochester. I can't help but feel good for one of the good guys in racing.
KC Handicapping: The advantage of taking a shot against the most obvious horses is that sometimes they come through and cover a multitude of mistakes. To be honest I wasn't really going against too much of the established wisdom in the Blue Grass because I still included the favorite but General Quarters was my main play and it worked out. It covered over all my other terrible wagers. Thorn Song was a bust. Ravalo got a ton more pace pressure than I imagined and Backseat Rhythm was truly horrible on ground that ought to have suited her.
After a great first week at Keeneland I really dropped the ball this week. I'm still showing a overall win bet profit for the meet thanks to General Quarters but all my numbers were down in week 2. I had 8 winners from 4 days of racing after having tabbed 9 winners in 3 days to start things off. It just wasn't a very smooth week but I'm glad to be out of it still positive and still with a chance to better my previous performances during the Polytrack era.
Weekly Record: 5(4)-1-1-0 ($20.60 +206.00% ROI)
Overall Record: 727(395)-126-117-95 (-$105.30 -7.24% ROI)