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(Left) Super Saver - Kentucky Derby 2010 (Photo : CTV)
(Right) Makfi - StanJames.com 2000 Guineas (Photo : Telegraph)
(Footage : YouTube)
“ANOTHER WILD WEEKEND”
By Bill Oppenheim
Bill Oppenheim TDNWe have to start with the G1 Kentucky Derby, of course, as it’s “America’s greatest race,” a claim not made for the G1 English 2000 Guineas. There were some really satisfying aspects to Super Saver’s win: WinStar has been a big contributor to the business the last 10 years; Todd Pletcher, arguably the leading trainer in America and certainly one of the best-dressed and coolest, got a Kentucky Derby win; and what else is there to say about Calvin Bo-Rail’s third Derby win in the last four years? He owns that racetrack, or at least the rail. Plenty of commentators thought his ride made the difference between defeat and victory. The colt has a pedigree, too. So that’s all good.
But let’s not kid ourselves: it wasn’t the greatest Derby ever run. The winner returned a Beyer figure of 104, only Giacomo (100 in the 2005 Derby) has run a lower number to win the race since Andy Beyer and his team started publishing their numbers in the Daily Racing Form nearly 20 years ago. After Conveyance (Indian Charlie) led through the first three-quarters in a shade under 1:10:3/5, Super Saver (Maria’s Mon) was in fourth, 6 1/2 lengths back; so he had run 1:11.4/5 for the first six furlongs. The final time of 2:04.2/5 tells us that Super Saver ran the last half mile in 0:52.3/5 seconds, with a final quarter in 0:26.2/5. Those are slow times, that’s all there is to it. It looked like a moderate field going into the race, which as everybody could see was contested in appalling slop, and it looks like a moderate field coming out of it, though, as I say, no one begrudges WinStar and Todd Pletcher their Derby wins.
Plenty of horses couldn’t handle the conditions: seven horses were beaten between 30-60 lengths, though three of those (Conveyance, Sidney’s Candy, and Line of David), were the first three after the first half-mile.
British hope Awesome Act may have worked great in the mud earlier in the week, but he eventually struggled home, beating one, eased up and covered in mud. Don’t think he fancied it, and came out of the race lame according to connections.
There were plenty more hard-luck stories, but the sorriest sight of all was seeing Lookin at Lucky (Smart Strike) herded into the fence by Stately Victor (Ghostzapper) before they’d gone a quarter mile. He was completely out of the race from that moment, and I reckon ran almost a winning race to finish sixth, as did G1 Florida Derby hero Ice Box (Pulpit), who rallied from next to last to run an eye-catching second. Paddy O’Prado ran on well to be third, and Make Music for Me came from dead last to finish fourth. Noble’s Promise, in fifth, and Dublin, in seventh, also ran good races, though all but the winner ran Beyers in the ‘nineties’. I can see why Zito reckons he might wait on the G1 Belmont Stakes with Ice Box, but the next five, at least, have every right to have another go at Super Saver in the G1 Preakness Stakes. He may have Borel back, but that may or may not be quite the same as having Borel at Churchill.
Of course, if you were thinking Calvin Borel at Churchill Downs, you might have been thinking Dubawi for Europe.
There was a Dubawi in the English 2000 and guess what, he won! This was Makfi, who had been bought off Sheikh Hamdan for 26,000gns at last October’s Horses in Training Sale in Newmarket, won a race at Fontainebleau for new trainer Mikel Delzangles in November, and came back to win the G3 Prix Djebel in April. He is now three-for-three lifetime after working his way through the pack for a 1 1/4-length victory over the Richard Hannon-trained one-two from the G3 Greenham Stakes, Dick Turpin (Arakan) and Canford Cliffs (Tagula). The first nine finished within four lengths of each other, and the winner posted a respectable Racing Post Rating (RPR) of 123. Being that he’s undefeated, we don’t know how much better Makfi might be, but one thing for sure, Dubawi is for real. That’s his second Guineas win this spring, after Worthadd’s win in the G3 Premio Paroli (Italian 2000 Guineas), and he has a very live contender for the G1 Poule d’Essai des Pouliches in 10 days’ time in Anna Salai, winner of the G3 Prix de la Grotte. Makfi may next appear in Royal Ascot’s G1 St James’s Palace Stakes in June.
The weekend’s final Classic was Sunday’s G1 English 1000 Guineas at Newmarket, and this, too, had a weird result, for three reasons. First, the winner, lukewarm favorite Special Duty (Hennessy), was awarded the race in the stewards’ room after losing by a nose to the 66-1 shot Jacqueline Quest (Rock of Gibraltar). Special Duty’s trainer, Criquette Head, had already congratulated Jacqueline Quest’s trainer, Henry Cecil, when Henry said to her, hold on, you might get the race. Sure enough, when you saw the head on, Jacqueline Quest had carried the winner halfway across the racetrack, bumped her, and definitely intimidated her. The stewards decided the second had lost more ground than she’d been beaten by through the interference, and rightly reversed the placings. The second odd thing about the English 1000 was that there appeared to be a definite track bias, in that the first five horses home had raced on the stands’ side, and it looked about three lengths faster than the far side. It had rained Saturday night into Sunday, and it seemed there was an unused strip on the stands’ rail that was much faster. Connections of the first two home on the far side, G3 Nell Gwyn winner Music Show and Newmarket Stakes winner Rumoush, were entitled to feel aggrieved, since, if the field had all raced together they might conceivably have finished one-two. And the third unsatisfactory aspect to the race was that the first two clocked a slow RPR rating, just 111.
Special Duty had run 117 when she won last season’s six-furlong G1 Cheveley Park Stakes, so it looks as though some combination of the mile trip and the softer ground resulted in her running a good way below her best, even though she ultimately won. What was not impressive about the weekend results was that three of the four Classics came back with pretty slow speed figures for the winners: Beyers of 94 for the Kentucky Oaks and 104 for the Kentucky Derby, and an RPR of 111 for the 1000 Guineas. Only Makfi’s RPR of 123 for the 2000 Guineas would qualify as even within the average range for Classic winners. The message from the speed boys would be crystal clear for the connections of anything aspiring to Classic standard this year: go for it.
They’re nice horses, no doubt about it; you’d be happy to have them in your barn. But no worldbeaters have shown their hands as yet after the first round of this year’s three-year-old Classics.
Extract from Thoroughbred Daily News