Brian’s back with a look at tomorrow’s Derby prep, and over the weekend he’ll provide insights on Sunday’s and Monday’s races as well. We’ll launch the Brooklyn Backstretch charity league next week, after this weekend’s preps. The first scoring race is February 26th, and I’m waiting until the last possible moment to put my (inevitably doomed) stable together.
Fair Grounds: The Grade II, $300,000 Risen Star at 1 1/16 miles
#1 Rogue Romance (3-1 ML): Graded stakes winner on turf ran well in his main track debut when finishing third to champion Uncle Mo in the BC Juvenile at today’s distance. and it’s worth noting how live he was on the board that day as well (bet down to 8-1 off a 30-1 ML). Loves to come from the clouds and FG’s long stretch should play to that running style, though you have to remember that this is his first start of the year and that there are much bigger goals down the road. Respect this colt’s talent, but he’s going to be an underlay in a race brimming with some classy foes who have a recency edge on him; willing to make him beat me today.
#2 Liondrive (50-1): Longshot owns just a modest optional claiming win against Louisiana-breds and steps way up after essentially being eased against state-bred foes in his last; let’s hope he gets home safely.
#3 Decisive Moment (9-2): Rose to prominence with a second in the GIII Delta Jackpot last fall and looked good winning his seasonal debut there in a pricey stakes in January. Talented colt owns a two-turn win and has a lot of speed to burn, so expect him to be on or just off the early pace, though not sold on his chances to last; minor award might be his ceiling.
#4 Pants On Fire (6-1): Game as can be on the lead in the local GIII Lecomte, but that was an extremely weak renewal and he had just four rivals against him, so the verdict is still out on that one. Drew well here and has a classic Overbrook pedigree that says he should run all day, but this is a big jump up from his last; making him prove it before backing.
#5 Mucho Macho Man (4-1): Looked good finishing behind To Honor And Serve in a pair of graded stakes at Aqueduct last fall, but he was headstrong in his 3yo debut in Gulfstream’s GIII Holy Bull and paid the price late, when tiring to finish fourth. The blinkers come off today and while that seems like a good idea in lieu of his last, it just kind of screams of desperation for a colt who ran so well with the hood on last year. Plus, more often than not, a major equipment move leading up to a big race never seems to work (see Justin Phillip below). Eligible to move forward off that first start of the year and he should like the switch back to two turns, but let’s watch one first before jumping back aboard his bandwagon; playing against today.
#6 Machen (6-1): Undefeated colt has been nothing short of brilliant in two career starts, winning a maiden sprint in a laugher and then blowing by winners late in his two-turn debut and now he gets the proverbial acid test. While the Beyer boys were pooh-poohing his N1X route, do yourself a favor and watch the replay; he was restrained early with the purpose of rating behind horses, and though he was rank and fighting Theriot, the professionalism he showed in the lane when splitting rivals late and running off was impressive. Steps up today, but there’s no reason to think he won’t be up to the task over a track and distance he has shown he likes; becomes a household name after annexing this GII.
#7 Santiva (6-1): Broke his maiden in Churchill’s GII Kentucky Jockey Club in November and now makes his 3yo debut in a tough spot. You’re doing something right if you win your first start in a GII, but let’s be fair and mention how weak (and slow) that CD race was. Still, he was GI stakes placed before that and he’s got a right to be a bigger, stronger 3yo, so there’s plenty of reason for optimism today. His versatile running style should have him right off what shapes up as an honest pace, and from there it’s simply a matter of whether or not he’s good enough; won’t fault anyone that thinks he is.
#8 Action Ready (12-1): Tired in the lane to finish third in the Lecomte and now has to deal with the pair who beat him plus several more talented new shooters. Hails from a solid barn and does own a two-turn win on the main track, but can’t envision him adding to that resume today; passing.
#9 Justin Phillip (8-1): The blinkers come off after a dismal run in the Lecomte but prior to that he did win a sloppy optional claimer going two turns over this strip. While he hails from potent connections, he’s been much more pomp than circumstance up to this point, and though he’s clearly not as bad as his last, he’s also never been good enough to win anything like this salty spot today; taking a strong stance against.
#10 Sorgho (30-1): Invades after breaking his maiden going two turns at Hawthorne, but they timed that one with a sundial and he meets horses who probably would have lapped the field that day. Son of Storm Cat (when’s the last time you saw one of those at HAW?) just doesn’t stack up with these at this point in time; longshot in every sense of the word.
#1 Rogue Romance