I was remiss in not welcoming back Brian to Brooklyn Backstretch when I posted his Lecomte analysis last week, so here’s a belated but no less hearty welcome to the man who’s been checking out the Derby preps for Brooklyn Backstretch since 2009.
Brian handicaps regularly at Horseplayer Now and appears on Capital OTB TV in upstate New York. I’m thrilled that he’s back, and he’ll take us through the preps and Triple Crown, right up to the Belmont Stakes.
Oaklawn Park: The $150,000 Smarty Jones at 1-mile, by Brian Nadeau
#1 D’cajun Cat: Fair Grounds invader flashed some speed before tiring in the 6F Sugar Bowl when third in his seasonal debut and first start since June, and he’s eligible for a big move forward off that tightener. Son of D’wildcat isn’t really bred for this, but it’s just a mile, he drew well, and he figures to be in front as far as he can take them, not to mention that he only has to run to the short finish line today. It’s also worth nothing that Albano, who beat him in the Sugar Bowl, was a fine second in the GIII Lecomte at FG Saturday, so there are definitely some positives in this corner; dangerous speedster.
#2 Whyruawesome: Deep closer didn’t fire in his dirt debut in the GIII Delta Jackpot when last seen in November, but the winner that day, Rise Up, is an extremely talented prospect who would be odds-on here, so you’re allowed to be a bit forgiving. There are some issues here, though, most notably his lack of speed and the short stretch today, which means he might simply run out of room late, no matter how fast they go up front. Versatile sort seems to have some talent, but might need softer and/or a surface switch to show his best stuff; siding against.
#3 Fire Starter: Son of Tapit looms as the “now” horse after a rousing 10 ¾-length MSW win at Laurel in his last start, when he finally put things together after hinting at major ability in two starts at Churchill Downs to kick off his career. Stalker drew perfectly and should enjoy a trip just off the speed, which will allow him first run off the turn at what is expected to be a decent price to boot. Got a feel for the local strip with a solid drill last Monday and gives the impression that he’s going to fire another biggie; call to post the mild surprise.
#4 Son Of A Preacher: Tactical sort stretched out to two turns on the main in his last and was a fine second behind Gold Hawk, who was third as the favorite in the Lecomte, in a FG optional claimer and has the look of a talented up-and-comer. Son of Pulpit has plenty of upside with just three lifetime starts and takes the next logical progression for Calhoun, who is loaded with 3yo prospects this year, so the fact he chose this spot says a lot about his confidence level. Mid-priced contender has done nothing wrong in his two starts on the main track and has the look of a major contender in his stakes debut; won’t fault anyone looking this way.
#5 A Step Ahead: Hawthorne invader couldn’t handle Illinois-bred stakes foes last time, so it’s a little presumptuous to think he’ll be able to make a dent against this talented group of open sophomores. On the plus side, he did close nicely and has some two-turn experience, and dad Giant’s Causeway was certainly a runner, so there’s some pedigree appeal here too, but on the face of it, he’s just a bit outclassed today; not seeing it.
#6 Walt: Intriguing newcomer did some good things in three starts at Remington Park and was a decent fourth in his last in a very fast renewal of the Springboard Mile, which was his first start around two turns. That run also came 11 days after a huge sprint win, so don’t be too discouraged by that effort, as it was certainly asking a lot. Under-the-radar sort looked awesome drawing off in that aforementioned sprint win, and even though he’s by sprinter Run Away and Hide, gives the impression that he’ll be able to handle this short mile run, so with a nice price in the offing he’s worth a long look; don’t sell him short.
#7 Denali Rahy Ruler: Deserved longshot was beaten a pole in the Springboard by Walt, who isn’t one of the favorites here, so you know right off the bat this son of Roman Ruler is in deep. If you’re looking for positives, he is the only horse in the field to own two, two-turn wins, but that’s about where it ends, as neither of them would be fast enough to split this field today; easy toss.
#8 Tanzanite Cat: The wildcard ran off with a FG MSW last time going 6Fs off an August layoff and gets the acid test today for Autrey, who is off to a white-hot start at the meet. Don’t be too quick to dismiss him, though, as that FG run was his first dirt run after his debut at Del Mar and only second lifetime start, so there’s a ton of upside here, and dad Graeme Hall won the local Arkansas Derby back in the day for Pletcher. His speed should be able to negate this outside draw, and if D’cajun Cat doesn’t want the lead, then this is the guy they’ll have to run down; mighty dangerous if he clears these.
#9 Unstoppable Colby: Lukas maiden is obviously in a tough spot as he’s yet to win a race and now faces some talented foes, though the Coach isn’t in the Hall of Fame because he always takes the easiest path. Son of Pulpit is bred in the purple for this initial two-turn assignment, and when last seen he was second to Gold Hawk in a CD maiden, which was also his first start on a fast main track, so there is something to work with here. The post is a worry, as he figures wide every step of the way, and it’s just tough to get past the fact he’s yet to win a race; tabbing for down the road.
#10 Coastline: ML favorite makes his first start since bombing when eighth in the Jackpot at 8-5 in his two-turn debut, so from a wide draw in a race he might need, taking a short price doesn’t seem too prudent. Son of champion sprinter Speightstown sure looked good winning a minor stakes going a flat mile at CD in November, but he beat only five rivals that day and sat off a tepid pace before drawing off, so there are still some questions to be answered now that he’s back going two turns. There’s talent here to be sure, but at an underlaid price, from the far outside in his first start since November, he’ll have to prove it to us; trying to beat on top.
#3 Fire Starter