Handicapping Insights

FEBRUARY 26, 2010

There were many Kentucky Derby (G1) prospects on display last weekend around the country but none more impressive than FLY DOWN (Mineshaft), who won a entry-level allowance race at Gulfstream going 1 1/8 miles on Sunday.

A rallying third in his career debut going seven furlongs in a fast time at Belmont in late October, Fly Down came back to break his maiden in his two-turn debut at Churchill Downs. In that race, the two horses that finished right behind him came back to win their next start so the Nick Zito trainee went into the off-season full of hope and promise.

Not many juveniles sired by Mineshaft (A.P. Indy) break their maidens at two so it could be expected that Fly Down will get better as he matures and as the races get longer. Sunday's 3RD race at Gulfstream came up very strong as it attracted Colizeo (Distorted Humor), the 7-10 favorite off a 5 1/2-length maiden score there going nine furlongs in 1:49 3/5 and earning a BRIS Speed rating of 101. Trained by Todd Pletcher, who had quite a weekend with his Derby hopefuls, Colizeo had all the signs of a developing star.

Three horses went off around 9-2 odds -- Fly Down, First Dude (Stephen Got Even) off a maiden win at Gulfstream going a mile, and Thunder Perfect (Pleasantly Perfect), a one-dimensional closer that was making his dirt debut for Ken McPeek.

At the start, Colizeo stumbled badly and John Velazquez had to rush him up going into the first turn. He probably got keyed up and went the first half in :46.92 while being pressured on the outside by First Dude. Jose Lezcano, coming off a bad day on Saturday when he had 9-5 favorite Buddy's Saint (Saint Liam) in all sorts of trouble on the first turn of the Fountain of Youth (G2), was content to let Fly Down sit behind the field of five.

Colizeo and First Dude continued to duel around the far turn through six furlongs in 1:11.37 and Lezcano asked Fly Down for run. He closed the gap on the outside and reached contention three wide turning for home. Every day we see horses make the same move at Gulfstream and then spin their wheels, but Fly Down was making up ground with every stride and got up to win by a head over First Dude.

Fly Down's final time was 1:49.88 and he earned a BRIS Speed rating of 96. He's going to have to run even better next time out as he has no graded stakes earnings and will have two Derby prep races at the most to qualify for the Run for the Roses. But, he showed that he can sit off the pace, move when his rider wants him to, pass horses willingly and finish his races strongly. In other words, he's a legitimate Derby contender that will bear watching next time he runs.

Even though he's by Mineshaft, Fly Down is in-bred to the great Mr. Prospector (Raise a Native) 3 X 3, but his dosage index of 4.00 has enough stamina from Mineshaft's sire -- A.P. Indy (Seattle Slew) -- to qualify for Derby success. Going right to the Florida Derby (G1) in four weeks will be a lot to ask, but Zito did it with Noble Causeway (Giant's Causeway) a few years ago when he ran second and had enough graded stakes earnings to make it to the Derby.

As for the other Derby prep races from last weekend, Todd Pletcher won the Fountain of Youth with ESKENDEREYA (Giant's Causeway), the Risen Star (G3) at Fair Grounds with DISCREETLY MINE (Mineshaft) and the El Camino Real Derby (G3) with CONNEMARA (Giant's Causeway). And these might not even be his best Derby prospects with SUPER SAVER (Maria's Mon) waiting to make his seasonal debut and RULE (Roman Ruler) winning the prior week at Tampa Bay and earning a BRIS Speed rating of 104.

All of Pletcher's winners from last weekend are nice horses and will win a lot of money this year. Bob Baffert won the Southwest S. (G3) at Oaklawn Park with CONVEYANCE (Indian Charlie) in good time going a mile, and the colt is now four-for-four lifetime. But I was more impressed with Wayne Lukas' Dublin (Afleet Alex), who rallied nicely to get second after being rank early.

With a win in last year's Hopeful S. (G1) and a second last Saturday, Dublin should have more than enough graded stakes earnings so Lukas can pick his spots judiciously to have him at his best. His BRIS Pace figures for the Southwest were 82-99-100, and that was with a stumbling start, a four-wide trip and fighting Terry Thompson's efforts to get him to settle. He'll be tough as can be with a race under his belt this year

by Dick Powell
from brisnet.com


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