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Brisnet Handicappers Edge Kentucky Derby and Oaks Notes 4/16/10

KENTUCKY DERBY REPORT

APRIL 15, 2010

by James Scully

Saturday was a day for upsets, with a 17-1 wire-to-wire winner in the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) and a 40-1 shocker in the $750,000 Blue Grass S. (G1), and the graded earnings threshold for the Kentucky Derby (G1) continues to rise, with the first two finishers in each race moving into the top 20.

It's a drastically different landscape from 2009, when Nowhere to Hide (Vindication) made the field with a graded bankroll of $55,500 and the connections of Mine That Bird (Birdstone) vanned from New Mexico with $138,705, earned exclusively in the Grey S. (Can-G3) at two. Churchill Downs racing secretary Ben Huffman doesn't need to reach out for horses like Mine That Bird in 2010; the present graded-earnings cutoff of $250,500 is a complement to the depth of this year's three-year-old crop.

Some nice prospects are potentially in trouble, most notably JACKSON BEND (Hear No Evil) ($230,000 in graded earnings) and SETSUKO (Pleasantly Perfect) ($180,000), whose connections were hurt on Saturday. They were counting on short-priced runners like NOBLE'S PROMISE (Cuvee) DUBLIN (Afleet Alex) and INTERACTIF (Broken Vow), horses already inside the top 20, recording top-two finishes in their respective races. It didn't happen.

Instead, upsetters LINE OF DAVID (Lion Heart) and STATELY VICTOR (Ghostzapper) came out of nowhere to join the Derby party; PADDY O'PRADO (El Prado [Ire]), who was exiting a sharp maiden score in the grassy Palm Beach S. (G3), put himself inside the bubble with a runner-up effort over Keeneland's Polytrack; and Kentucky Jockey Club S. (G2) romper SUPER SAVER (Maria's Mon), who possessed only $163,832 prior to Saturday, secured his participation with a narrow second at Oaklawn Park.

Saturday's Lexington S. (G2) could provide more Derby drama. El Camino Real Derby (G3) winner and Lane's End S. (G2) third-placer CONNEMARA (Giant's Causeway) will catapult into the top 20 with a victory, and UPTOWNCHARLYBROWN (Limehouse), who will bring $29,000 in graded earnings into the race, will be in position to make it in with a few defections if he picks up the $180,000 winner's share.

Arkansas Derby

As opposed to the Blue Grass winner, Line of David made sense in hindsight. Trainer John Sadler moved the colt from synthetic to turf two starts previously, adding blinkers and altering run styles, and the chestnut colt responded with a pair of sharp wire-to-wire victories on the sod, breaking his maiden by 1 1/2 lengths prior to a 4 1/2-length romp over allowance rivals. With an excellent pedigree for dirt, Line of David carried that form forward at Oaklawn Park.

He sprinted clear of front runner Super Saver early, reaching the quarter-mile mark in a quick :22 3/5 with a 2 1/2-length advantage, and continued to motor along loose on the lead, completing a half-mile in :46 1/5 with a 3 1/2-length cushion. Super Saver began to close the deficit nearing conclusion of the far turn, but Line of David entered the stretch still a length in front. When Super Saver and Dublin drew on even terms in midstretch, many expected to see Line of David fold. But he displayed plenty of tenacity to fend off his challengers all the way to wire, prevailing by a neck beneath Jon Court. The son of 2004 Derby runner-up Lion Heart registered a career-best 99 BRIS Speed rating.

Line of David and stablemate Sidney's Candy (Candy Ride [Arg]), a wire-to-wire winner of the Santa Anita Derby (G1), San Felipe S. (G2) and San Vicente S. (G2), possess the same run style, but there's little doubt as to their tactics in the Derby. Line of David will be rolling once the gates open, seeking to steal it as the speed of speeds. Jockey Joe Talamo will look to settle Sidney's Candy into a stalking trip.

Super Saver, who wound up a neck better than Dublin, will enter the Derby on an encouraging note for Todd Pletcher. An impressive five-length victor in the Kentucky Jockey Club under the Twin Spires, Super Saver recorded a disappointing third when making his seasonal debut in the Tampa Bay Derby (G3), but he showed much more on Saturday, gaining valuable fitness in his second start back. He's eligible to keep improving at Churchill Downs and we can count on Calvin Borel getting the most out of the colt.

Dublin was rank during the early stages in his first two starts this year, but he relaxed nicely in the Arkansas Derby and offered a good run from just off the pace to reach contention leaving the far turn. The D. Wayne Lukas colt didn't pass the two horses in front of him in the stretch drive, but he battled gamely all the way to the wire and looms as a dangerous closer in a speed-laden Derby field.

Blue Grass

After proving no match for entry-level allowance rivals on turf and dirt at Gulfstream, Stately Victor found the surface he needed in Keeneland's Polytrack. He showed some affinity for the synthetic oval last fall, recording a better-than-looked sixth in the Breeders' Futurity (G1) at Keeneland following an extremely wide trip, and posted a convincing 4 1/4-length win in the Blue Grass.

Any way one analyzes it, the result was a complete shocker. Stately Victor's margin of victory was the biggest gap between any of the finishers, with about five lengths separating the next six runners under the wire. And the Mike Maker-trained colt was easily the longest shot on the board at 40-1.

With little aptness for dirt or turf, Stately Victor is a candidate to run well over Arlington Park's Polytrack this summer. He won't be a factor on Derby Day.

Paddy O'Prado delivered a commendable runner-up effort and is poised to be a major player in the three-year-old turf ranks later this year. He showed speed from the start but relinquished the lead entering the first turn to Odysseus (Malibu Moon), closely tracking the pacesetter through solid opening fractions in :23 4/5 and :47 4/5. The gray colt surged to the lead nearing the completion of the final turn and entered the stretch run with a clear advantage.

The Dale Romans runner had no answer for the surprising winner but determinedly held second, one-length clear of third-placer FIRST DUDE (Stephen Got Even). Paddy O'Prado netted a career-best 98 BRIS Speed rating when posting his lone career victory in the aforementioned Palm Beach and had no trouble making a seamless transition from turf to Polytrack. However, he ran poorly in his only previous dirt attempt and it would be a huge surprise to see him run well in the Derby.

Upcoming

CONNEMARA is the horse to beat in Saturday's Lexington, but don't overlook Sadler. He'll send out DISTORTED DAVE (Distorted Humor), who will make his stakes debut off a 4 1/2-length victory over allowance/optional claiming rivals at Santa Anita.

We'll start take a closer look at the prospective Derby field next week.

KENTUCKY OAKS REPORT

APRIL 16, 2010

by Jennifer Caldwell

There's not much to recap this week and, considering only two weeks remain until the Kentucky Oaks (G1), there are no upcoming races that will have an impact on the 1 1/8-mile test. Therefore, this will be my last Oaks Report until I give my top three selections in two weeks.

Instant Racing S.: Only one race from the previous week could have any kind of influence on the Oaks field, and that came on the Arkansas Derby (G1) undercard at Oaklawn Park. A field of seven fillies took part in the Instant Racing S., with Grade 3 victress DECELERATOR (Dehere) securing the win. Sent off the 3-5 favorite, the D. Wayne Lukas trainee used her rail post to move up and take command rounding the first turn. Best Reward (Grand Reward) maintained close contact just to her outside, and Bell's Shoes (Mineshaft) was saving ground down on the rail.

As the field entered the stretch, Best Reward backed up, but Vertical Vision (Pollard's Vision) was more than happy to continue pressing the winner. That one began a furious rally down the center of the track and just missed by a neck on the line, but galloped out well past the winning Decelerator. Bell's Shoes was another length back in third.

Lukas commented following the Instant Racing that he'll point Decelerator to the May 14 Black-Eyed Susan S. (G2) at Pimlico instead of the Oaks, which might be wise considering she only earned a 90 BRIS Speed rating for her effort in the one-mile event. Decelerator is a nice filly, but is deserving of a slight break and could be firing on all cylinders in the Black-Eyed Susan with a rest.

The filly I wish would come out of the Instant Racing and head to the Kentucky Oaks is Vertical Vision. Shaun Bridgmohan had a tight hold on the dark bay miss to keep her from running up on the heels of horses on the backstretch, then let her loose rounding the turn. Circling four wide, the Steve Asmussen charge just ran out of room late and would appear to want more distance. She also only earned a 90 BRIS Speed number but her Late Pace rating shot to 105 for her game late rally.

Vertical Vision is no stranger to Churchill Downs, having run in last November's Pocahontas S. (G3). The lass was sixth by only 4 1/2 lengths in that eight-furlong test after suffering traffic problems and being steadied.

Vertical Vision looks to be rounding into form at just the right time. Unfortunately, the problem is that, even if Asmussen wanted to go in the Oaks with the filly, she only has $1,159 in graded earnings. The past two years saw less than full fields line up for the Kentucky Oaks, but this season's 136 edition looks to be drawing a capacity 14-filly field.

Bell's Shoes is in the same boat as Vertical Vision in terms of graded earnings, though her connections indicated they were considering the Oaks. Trainer Jinks Fires said the chestnut miss is nominated to the race, but she only has $625 in graded earnings.

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