Brian Nadeau is back this year to offer insight and analysis on this year’s road to the Kentucky Derby. A handicapper at Horseplayer Now and Capital OTB, he’ll analyze every official Derby points race and the three Triple Crown races, back at Brooklyn Backstretch for the sixth year.
Gulfstream Park: The Grade II, $350,000 Holy Bull at 1 1/16 miles (Kentucky Derby qualifying points: 10-4-2-1)
by Brian Nadeau
#1 Gunnevera (9-2): Stretch-runner entered November’s GIII Delta Jackpot with perceived distance limitations, then looked nothing short of stunning looping the field and winning for fun by 5 3/4 lengths with plenty left in the tank and immediately stamped himself as a 3-year-old to watch this year. Of course, the Delta oval can be a quirky strip and it’s not like there was much behind this son of Dialed In, but there’s no doubt Sano has a nice one here, and he sure has been working up a storm for this return assignment. They sure aren’t ducking a fight, either, though aside from the reigning 2-year-old champion Classic Empire, who thumped him pretty good in the GI Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland in October, the rest of these are unproven and looking to make their mark, which is something this dude has already done a few times; obviously the main danger.
#2 Perro Rojo (30-1): Huge longshot for Zito has never made a dent in any of his four stakes starts, and, aside from a painfully slow maiden win at Delaware Park, he’s never really shown much of anything in the afternoon. It’s nice to see that this Hall of Fame barn is having a solid meet, but this son of Birdstone won’t be padding the stats any time soon; needs much, much softer.
#3 Classic Empire (3-5): Aforementioned champ has never lost a race that he’s finished, and his Breeders’ Cup Juvenile score at Santa Anita was a real breakthrough, as it was extremely fast and at the expense of a very nice (though since retired) colt in Not This Time. Versatile son of Pioneerof the Nile can be placed anywhere and gives Casse his best Derby prospect to date, though it is worth mentioning that the barn was loaded at this time last year and suffered disappointment after disappointment early in the season. It’s also worth noting that the worktab is very sparse, with just four published drills, not to mention that there are obviously a lot bigger goals down the line, so he could be a short horse today, though even so, it’s tough to see him falling to a group like this; comes back a winner.
#4 Talk Logistics (12-1): Son of High Cotton has flashed some talent in his three career starts for Plesa and will test two turns for the first time after an even 3rd to a talented Pletcher colt Sonic Mule (who is entered earlier on the card in the GII Swale) in the local prep, the Mucho Macho Man, last month. Stalker has some versatility in his corner and is bred for this middle distance, so while a win seems highly unlikely, he’s one of several in here who have the credentials and upside to hit the board; exotics appeal.
#5 Irish War Cry (15-1): The most intriguing of the newcomers has flashed a world of potential in his two Laurel wins, yet has been green in both and is clearly still figuring this game out for Motion. Well, the acid test certainly arrives today for this son of Curlin, but he has impressed and run fast in both sprint wins, which is nothing close to what he’s bred to do, so the sky is obviously the limit, even though he faces a tall test in here. On the face of it, it’s a bit too tall a mountain to climb to beat ‘Empire, but Lasix goes on and if the champ is a short horse, then stranger things have happened, though regardless of the score at the end of the day, this is a name you better remember down the road; if not today, very soon.
#6 Fact Finding (6-1): Undefeated colt from Pletcher will reportedly scratch and run in the GIII Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs next weekend, but if he’s in here, then he’s a threat to get a piece from on or just off the early lead. Son of The Factor has yet to try two turns but has answered the bell every time, including a wire-to-wire romp in the local 1-mile Smooth Air in December, though the barn doesn’t seem enamored of the idea of him handling two turns, which isn’t a great sign; willing to make him prove it, wherever he surfaces.
#7 Shamsaan (20-1): The first of two for McLaughlin caught a sea of slop and won by a pole to break his maiden over the track in December and now steps up, while having a lot to prove over a fast track, too. Son of Bernardini is bred to run all day and has a running style to pick up some pieces, too, but the pace won’t be suicidal and the short stretch today won’t do him any favors, either; midpack finish seems likely.
#8 Cavil (15-1): So just who are we getting today: the horse who looked like a future star wiring an off-the-turfer at Aqueduct in fast time two back, or the one who bombed as the chalk in the Mucho Macho Man when 6th? If nothing else, it’s a good sign to see McLaughlin forge on with this son of Elusive Quality, as there’s clearly some talent here, but the way he caved in in the lane last time is plenty worrisome. On paper, you would think he’ll be involved early, but this wide draw won’t help, and off that last he’s just tough to trust; taking a wait and see approach.
#9 Fire for Effect (20-1): Lightly raced runner stretched out to two turns and was up in time for Romans to break his maiden over the track and distance last time but is another who got no favors from the draw. Stretch-running son of Smart Strike has plenty of upside off just two starts and gives every indication he’ll be a useful 3yo, but this is a tall order, even if he drew perfectly, let alone the parking lot; tough to tout.
#3 Classic Empire
#5 Irish War Cry
#4 Talk Logistics