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, $400,000 Fountain of Youth at 1 1/16 miles (Kentucky Derby qualifying points: 50-20-10-5)
#1 Huracan Americo (50-1): The definition of a true wildcard won a GI going 1 1/2 miles (yes, you read that correctly) to break his maiden and end his 2-year-old campaign when last seen in November in Peru and now ventures stateside for a shot at the big boys. Son of Drosselmeyer adds Lasix and it is worth noting that trainer Zanelli did win a race (from three starters) in the US last year, but aside from a good draw, off only two lifetime starts, a layoff and just three local works, this is one tough ask; can’t see it.
#2 Gunnevera (7-2): Major player really answered the bell last time, when he had all sorts of trouble on the far turn while making a menacing move yet re-rallied nicely for second in last month’s local prep, the GII Holy Bull, while giving game chase to easy winner and today’s heavy favorite Irish War Cry, in an effort that backed up the romp in the GIII Delta Jackpot to end his 2yo campaign in November. And don’t overlook the fact that he was a lot closer early last time, as opposed to the one-run closing style he employed as a juvenile, which is key over this often-speedy strip. Sano has done a nice job campaigning this son of Dialed In, and he would have likely been right there on the line with ‘Cry last time if he didn’t get stopped, and that was when that rival was free-wheeling on the lead, which seemingly is anything but the case today, which all adds up to a big run from this underrated colt; call to post the mild surprise.
#3 Quinientos (50-1): The expected longest shot in the field has done nothing to suggest he can compete here, as he was just a meek fourth in a restricted stake last month while tackling winners for the first time, which came after he needed seven tries to break his maiden. Sky Mesa gelding goes for a low-percentage Sanchez barn and has the look of a “get home safely” type; no chance.
#4 Talk Logistics (20-1): Multiple stakes-placed son of High Cotton stretched out to two turns last time and was closest to ‘Cry early before being swatted away entering the far turn and ultimately checking home fourth, some 14 lengths behind the winner, so he needs a form reversal in a hurry today. If nothing else, it’s good to see Plesa forge on, but aside from again posing a potential pace roadblock, especially since he’s drawn inside, it’s tough to think he can do much more than that; know him early.
#5 Beasley (6-1): Lightly raced and improving son of Shackleford dueled early and succumbed late to a hotshot Pletcher hoss in Battalion Runner in a local optional-claimer last month for Hennig in his two-turn debut and now steps way up in an attempt to see where he shakes out on the local landscape. Obviously there’s talent here, but there are some big hurdles too, especially since the pace looks hot and he seemingly wants to mix it up early, so while he may be a name to remember down the road, it’s a bit premature to think you need to worry about him today; stop and pop time.
#6 Practical Joke (3-1): Highly accomplished 2yo makes his first start at 3 after doing some big things as a juvenile, most notably winning Saratoga’s GI Hopeful and Belmont Park’s GI Champagne before running a distant third to champion Classic Empire in a very fast renewal of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita when last seen in November. But dig a bit deeper and you’ll see the big wins were at one-turn, while the BC run, at two turns, had a “someone had to be third” label to it, so even though it’s Brown, Klarman and Lawrence and Jose Ortiz, there’s definitely some trepidation in this corner. And that’s before we even mention the price, which will likely be on the short side for a son of Into Mischief, who, up to this point, hasn’t shown this is his true calling; limiting his use to underneath only.
#7 Three Rules (12-1): Potential pace player impressed when a game second in his return last month in the local GII Swale, when he chased some hot splits, made first run, took the lead in midstretch and refused to yield late to a sharp Brown returnee. And that effort was a nice form reversal from his distant sixth in the Juvenile, when he didn’t run a lick in what was this son of Gone Astray’s first start against graded stakes foes. But that’s about where the positives end, as he’s done all his best work beating up on the locals for Pinchin, and he’s another who figures to be rolling early, so basically, you’re asking him to put away ‘Cry and the rest after about 6 furlongs, kick clear entering the stretch and then hold off the charge of Gunnevera and possibly ‘Joke late, which doesn’t seem all that enticing at an underlaid price; underneath, if at all.
#8 Irish War Cry (5-2): The “now” horse made it 3-for-3 with a thoroughly comprehensive win in the Holy Bull, when he broke running, set an honest enough pace and simply streaked through the lane in what was a coming-out party in his two-turn and graded stakes debut after a pair of sprint wins at Laurel. Well, there’s no rest for the weary or time to give himself a golf clap today, as Motion comes right back with a son of Curlin who has passed horses before (in his debut) but made his name wiring the Holy Bull, which puts him in a tricky spot, as there’s little doubt he’s going to have to work hard to drive the train in here. Apparently he did work several lengths behind a mate in his only drill since the Holy Bull, but there’s also no telling how that may play out in the afternoon, especially when we already know he’s aired while hearing his feet rattle early, so while he’s definitely the most talented horse in the race, the old saying goes that if you didn’t go to the wedding at 4-1, you don’t want to attend the funeral at about 7-5; thinking he wins the battle but loses the war.
#9 Made You Luck (10-1): If the rail was Wildcard #1, then this turf stud is Wildcard #2, as he’s never been on dirt and enters off a very troubled though thoroughly disappointing third in the local Kitten’s Joy last month, especially after his comeback win in GP’s GIII Dania Beach in January was simply awesome. On the plus side, it is Pletcher, and as a son of More Than Ready (a very overlooked fourth in the 2000 Kentucky Derby) out of an Unbridled’s Song mare, it’s not like he’s not bred for the dirt, though when you’re trying to beat a potential star, not to mention two others who are logical usurpers to his throne, you’re not exactly getting all the best of it, especially since the main track never dawned on his connections through his first six starts; can’t see him making a dent against these.
#10 Takaful (12-1): Odd entry was simply stunning winning his sprint debut at Belmont in October then gave it up badly when third in Aqueduct’s GII Remsen going two turns in November and didn’t run an inch when sesventh in their GIII Jerome in the mud in January, so it’s definitely an eye-opener to see McLaughlin wheel back here when distance is obviously a big issue for this colt. It’s also a big issue for ‘Cry too, as this son of Bernardini has proven to be a bit of a runaway early, and from this wide draw he basically has to be sent, which only ensures that much more pace in a race where the engine already looks like a crowded car; no reason to endorse at this point.
#11 Lookin for Eight (20-1): The most inexperienced member of the field, along with ‘Americo, has started just twice, though he’s displayed some talent in both starts, running a (distant) second to Battalion Runner in his debut here in December before drilling local maidens last month for Tomlinson, and it’s good to see Barber and Oxley and company jump in, purchase him privately and send him to Casse as well. But there’s a ginormous elephant in the room here, folks, as his trainer is an unfathomable 0-for-33 in 3yo graded stakes races on the dirt since April 2014—a stat that claimed Classic Empire at 1-2 in the Holy Bull—plus this son of Lookin At Lucky drew terribly and was pressing fast paces in his two sprint runs, so you know he’s being sent and raring to go in this two-turn debut, and none of those things are a ringing endorsement for his chances; needs softer to threaten.
#8 Irish War Cry
#6 Practical Joke
#7 Three Rules