It’s all about the girls this weekend at Aqueduct, with the Busanda on Saturday and last week’s Ruthless being brought back on Sunday; both races are for three-year-olds, with the former at a mile of 70 yards and the latter at six furlongs. This site is in the middle of its third winter, so the namesakes of these races have already been explored (click on their names for those posts); intriguing is the return of Fuzzy Britches in the Busanda after her win on Aqueduct on Wednesday.
Yet, somehow, with the local emphasis on fillies and mares, my mind is drifting towards colts, towards the west, towards May.
Me? Thinking about the Derby? In January? Perish the thought.
I have mainly been interested in the Derby when a two-year-old has captured my imagination at Saratoga, and really, that last happened in 2005 with Afleet Alex (I liked Cribnote a lot in 2008, but when was the last time he saw a starting gate?). Though Spa 2009 offered a couple of promising two-year-old winners, none of them intrigued me enough to make me feel like he was “my” horse.
But I am finding myself intrigued, now, by Lost Aptitude, an intrigue born, perhaps, mostly from proximity. There I was, in South Florida for a few days; there he was, the favorite in the Tropical Park Derby, run on the grass at a mile and an eighth. Before the race, his trainer, Dale Romans told Mike Welsch of the Daily Racing Form, “…if he runs a good race here, it will be time to give him a shot on the dirt, and so we’ll try him in the Fountain of Youth.”
Lost Aptitude lost the Tropical Park Derby by a head, in heavy rain and a bizarrely run race in which he ran the stretch out in the middle of the racetrack. Reached recently in New Orleans, Romans affirmed his earlier consideration of his colt’s next start, indicating that he was happy with Lost Aptitude’s performance: he’s pointing the son of Aptitude to the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream on February 20th.
“I ran him on turf because I wanted to see if he’d go long,” Romans said. “He’s got no turf in his pedigree, but this was the first race around two turns.”
And indeed, with both dirt and stamina on both sides of his pedigrees—Aptitude is a son of A.P. Indy, and Lost Aptitude’s dam, Mystery Code, descends from Codex and Arts and Letters—Lost Aptitude seems well pointed towards the Derby trail.
He would not be the first to use the Tropical Park Derby as a path to Louisville; most famously, Barbaro won this race in 2006 before going on to win the Derby, and in 2008, Cowboy Cal won it before finishing 9th in the Derby.
Despite racing wide in the stretch, Lost Aptitude finished full of run, re-breaking after the wire, and now we wait to see whether this colt, whose record from six starts is three wins, a second, and a third, can transfer his form to dirt. Regardless of what his pedigree says, Romans has started Lost Aptitude exclusively on turf, and his performance in the Fountain of Youth will undoubtedly chart his course for the rest of the year.
And in a shift in form far more startling than a move from grass to dirt, this avowed Derby disdainer is contributing to the Hello Race Fans! Derby Prep mailing list—you can get previews and recaps of all the Oaks and Derby preps as we head towards Louisville 2010. Weekly e-mails will feature contributions by a variety of internet racing writers, including Dana Byerly of Green but Game and Valerie Grash of Foolish Pleasure and Fillies First. Sign up for e-mails that will begin next week.
A good weekend, winning tickets, and safe trips to all–