Monthly Archives: May 2013

2013 Derby: Goldencents and Pletcher

Check out this video from a Derby week gallop at CD to see why I like Goldencents:

Since December he’s worked 6F ELEVEN times! At first these were bullets that perhaps made him a little headstrong; but lately the times have slowed and he’s learned to relax quite well under jock Kevin Krigger.

From roughly time 0:31 to 0:43 in the above clip you can see him pass two furlong poles on the backside. Remember that trainer Doug O’Neill also let I’ll Have Another finish his gallops just as strongly last year – and that worked out quite well. These ‘off’ day gallops are often miles in 1:54. Perfect Anaerobic Threshold training for animals of this caliber will allow them to carry their speed on raceday, perhaps further than pedigree would dictate.

Much has been made this week about strong gallop outs after the pre-Derby works at Churchill, with nearly every contender nailing an additional 2F in 12.5sec/f pace after the wire, data that fails to show up on the official worktab. I think we can assume that at least half of his 6F works were a mile in length out West.

Recall Goldencents San Felipe prior to the Santa Anita Derby triumph. He got caught up in a duel with Baffert’s Flashback through a half in :45.4 and faded to fourth. That scenario has fried many colts every Spring and thrown them off the Derby trail 90%+ of the time. Not only did he survive, but he came back stronger and posted the top speed figures of the Derby field in his next win. Could he have done so off a steady diet of 4-5F works? I doubt it.

Longer works, learning to relax, and slow day gallops a tick faster than 2min lick pace, he’s my pick.

On to Mr. Pletcher, who has continued to pleasantly surprise me for a number of reasons:

  1. He’s now taking his graded stakes horses away from the lead pony and warming them up at a strong gallop pace.
  2. He brought most of his string to CD a few weeks early, recognizing the need to get accustomed to the unique surface.
  3. His gallop outs are much longer/stronger than in past years.

Best of all, when confronted with the data that shows Pletcher entries are a much chronicled 1-31 in the Derby, and a less conspicuous 1-18 in the Preakness and Belmont, the conditioner offered the following quote:

“Hopefully we’ve learned some things over the years and have included some things that we can do differently.” Read more here:

I lose count of how many lightly raced 2yo superstars and/or undefeated youngsters Todd brings up to this point every year – but Verrazano surely fits the tab this go-round as my selection to fill out the exacta. If I recall, at this stage of the game Pletcher posts official 4F works for his charges a vast majority of the time, and that has seemed to migrate up to 5F this year a bit more often than in the past. Add the extra-aggressive gallop outs; and I see this year’s race to bend more in his favor. With 5 entries it better!

I can’t go with his Charming Kitten or Palace Malice coming off last runs at KEE over the polytrack. Overanalyze seems to have his best days behind him. Revolutionary’s works seem to be a panel shorter than Verrazano most of the time.

So that’s two tepid favorites I have picked, next I must go to one with double digit morning line odds to fill out the trifecta and it will be…hell, I can’t find one. It would be a crapshoot anyway to try. So I’ll just leave with a few spare comments: (EDIT: Gimme Itsmyluckyday at a price)

OXBOW – can lightning strike twice? Last year my dad was in attendance with the breeders of winner I’ll Have Another and got this pic after his stirring win:


This year he attends the race with the connections behind Oxbow, and will find himself in the winner’s circle picture should this colt defy the odds. Speaking of defying the odds, did you know that D. Wayne Lukas has 5 wins in his last 160 stakes starts (3%)?

LINES OF BATTLE – I want an Aidan O’Brien horse to win this race before I die, but until he comes over earlier and gets a few solid works over the dirt, I can never make him my pick.

ITSMYLUCKYDAY – If any horse can uncork an unexpected bigtime effort, this is the one. A couple of good mile works in his prep: either a sign of panic or an effort to have him less than 100% for his Florida Derby in hopes this already-qualified colt can save his next triple digit speed figure race for The Big One.

ORB – I want to like this one too, as I imagine Shug McGaughey as an old school trainer, I also know one of his old gallop boys (a girl), but from what I have seen Shug has adopted the current mode of ‘less is more’ conditioning that is so fashionable. Pity.

WILL TAKE CHARGE – Bouncy, bouncy, bouncy. Will never repeat his career best effort last time out at Oaklawn. All backside signs this week point to trouble.

Best of betting luck to everyone!

P.S. Dammit – Beyer picks Goldencents too, the kiss of death. Very illuminating analysis here, where he shows how the new Derby point system has kept out many sprinters from this year’s running:

P.P.S. – On the weather: typical Kentucky, here is a picture from my back deck taken this week – notice how green and bright the golf course is – and remember this if you tune into NBC Saturday afternoon and it’s a grey, wet mess as currently forecasted:


Yes, that’s an Etrakka HR/GPS blanket being configured, good eye. And here is a chart from a 2yo getting his first 2F breeze in :25 and recovering exceptionally well – maybe he’ll be my pick in the 2014 Kentucky Derby:

Indy, 25 Apr 13, Time graph

EDIT: Not even close. Rainy day and unexpectedly fast pace. Pletcher dominates Oaks, but only a 3rd in the Derby. Note to future self: NEVER pick a west coast front runner again after Comma to the Top and Goldencents. Bodemeister aside (running a game 2nd); the Derby these days is always won by a deep closer. Congrats to ORB!