Derby Stars Super Saver, Ice Box - And Calvin Borel Point Toward Preakness

Derby Stars Super Saver, Ice Box - And Calvin Borel Point Toward Preakness
By Noel Michaels

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Noel is chief handicapper for The Race Palace, Long Island's premier OTB wagering facility, and director of Personnel for Nassau OTB. He was a long time racetrack correspondent and online Editor for the Daily Racing Form. He's also the best-selling author of many best-selling handicapping books, including , The Players Angle Almanac, Winning Angles A to Z,SARATOGA SEMINAR, The Handicapping Contest Handbook (DRF Press) and PROFITING FROM DISTANCE CHANGES.

 

One of the strangest Kentucky Derbies in recent memory is now behind us and it is time to start taking what we've learned from the Derby and applying it to the second jewel of racing's Triple Crown - the Preakness Stakes, scheduled at Pimlico on Saturday, May 15.

The road to the 2010 Kentucky Derby was a roller coaster ride from start to finish, with different horses winning almost every different prep race all spring, with the exception of Eskendereya in the East and Sidney's Candy out West, who dominated their respective competition leading up to the first Saturday in May.

The twists and turns on the way to Louisville started last season, when the 2009 Breeders' Cup Juvenile was won by a European artificial surface ace. Vale of York, who had no intention whatsoever at any point of returning to the States for the Kentucky Derby or any of its preps. That made the de facto division leader the Breeders' Cup Juvenile runner-up Lookin At Lucky, trained by multiple Derby-winning trainer Bob Baffert. Lookin At Lucky, however, couldn't get lucky all spring, first with a troubled trip life-or-death win in the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn and then a near-disastrous trip when nearly wiped out in the turn in the Santa Anita Derby.  Lookin At Lucky then drew the "death rail," post 1 in the Kentucky Derby and last all chance in the race as soon as the gates opened. The rail, by the way, has won only once in the last 32 Derbies - back in 1986 with Ferdinand.

With Lookin At Lucky struggling this spring, the division belonged to the aforementioned Sidney's Candy, who ran rampant on the front-end in Southern California's preps, and Eskandereya, who trampled his competition for trainer Todd Pletcher back East with big, easy, impressive wins in the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream and the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct.  However, the Roses were not to be for either of that duo, either, with Eskendereya bowing out with an injury a week before the Derby, and Sidney's Candy drawing dead at the post draw when he drew the 20 post and had no choice but to send to the front and cook himself on the fast early Kentucky Derby pace.

What we were left with in the Derby was an uncommon 6-1 favorite who might be the best horse but had no chance from the word go from his poor post.  The second favorite, at 8-1 odds, was Super Saver, and he did what he had to do against a questionable group to earn the hard-fought victory. Nevertheless, it's hard to say definitively if Super Saver is really the best 3-year-old out there. It may just be a case that he was the right horse at the right time, and lost importantly, with the right jockey - Calvin Borel.

While Super Saver did not stand out from the crowd pre-race, perhaps he should have, thanks in part to Borel, who has mastered riding at Churchill Downs with his patented "Calvin Bo-Rail" style that has now led him to three wins in the last four runnings of the Run For the Roses.

Super Saver was also one of the race's best plays based on the rules in my book "9 Steps to Picking the Derby Winner." In a year when no horse ran the table by qualifying for all or most of the nine steps, Super Saver qualified on several of the nine rules, including Step #1 - not having run in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, and on Step #2 - having steadily improving form with his speed figure moving forward in two 2010 races since returning from a layoff, and on Step #3 - for not drawing posts 1-3, and on Step #4 - for having the correct stalking or closing running style as opposed to being a stone-cold speed horse.

Super Saver also entered the Kentucky Derby with one of the field's top route Beyer speed figures (99 in the Arkansas Derby) to qualify under Step #5, plus he didn't win his last prep race (finishing a narrow second in the Arkansas Derby) qualifying him for Step #6. Super Saver did not qualify for steps #7-9, however, as a horse that was trained by a headline trainer, and as a horse that fit the Dosage profile and was a "Dual Qualifier." These factors, along with Borel in the saddle, all contributed to Super Saver being sent off as the second choice in the Derby at 8-1 odds.

Not to be lost in all of the hub-bub over Calvin Borel, Todd Pletcher, and Super Saver is Ice Box, the eventual runner-up finisher in the Kentucky Derby who finished a fast-closing second after rallying from 19th place in the 20-horse field to lose by 2 1/2 lengths.  Ice Box, trained by two-time Derby-winning trainer Nick Zito, might have been the best horse in the race, but couldn't catch Super Saver, who benefited from a perfect ride/trip.

The Daily Racing Form official chart comment on Ice Box from the Kentucky Derby reads, as follows:

"ICE BOX steadied early in traffic, was outrun for six furlongs, made a bold inside run leaving the three furlong marker, steadied when blocked leaving the stretch, angled out, steadied for a sixteenth of a mile once in the stretch, swung out near the furlong marker for a clear path then closed a late gap to be steadily getting to the winner."

Based on his trip in the Derby, it's easy to see why some people could make the case that Ice Box might have been the best horse in the race. Either way, he'll certainly be a horse to watch as the rest of the Triple Crown and 3-year-old season progresses, because Ice Box continually is moving in the forward direction and clearly has no limitations from a distance or talent standpoint.

For now, Ice Box is questionable for the Preakness due to a riff between his connections. Trainer Nick Zito would prefer to bypass the Preakness in order to point for the Belmont Stakes (Zito has won recent Belmont runnings with Birdstone and Da'Tara), while owner Robert LaPenta is keen on taking revenge on Super Saver immediately in the Preakness.  Both parties have a valid issue, however, one would probably have to side with Zito and favor Ice Box waiting until the Belmont Stakes, due primarily to his late closing running style that is not a particularly good fit for Pimlico Racecourse and specifically the Preakness.

As of May 5, here is a list of the possible and probable starters for the Preakness Stakes on May 15, along with my personal ratings for their chances of wearing the blanket of Black-Eyed Susans, on a scale from 1-10 with 10 being the best chance and 1 being the worst chance. . .

Preakness Contender

Last Race /  Finish

Noel's Rating

Aikenite

Derby Trail, 2nd

3

Bushwhacked

Lexington, 2nd

8

Caracortado

SA Derby, 4th

9

Conveyance

Ky. Derby, 15th

4

Dublin

Ky. Derby, 7th

3

First Dude

Blue Grass, 3rd

2

Hurricane Ike

Derby Trial, Won

5

Ice Box

Ky. Derby, 2nd

8

Jackson Bend

Ky. Derby, 12th

8

Lookin At Lucky

Ky. Derby, 6th

10

Noble's Promise

Ky. Derby, 5th

7

Northern Giant

Arkansas Derby, 9th

1

Paddy O'Prado

Ky. Derby, 3rd

7

Pleasant Prince

Derby Trial, 3rd

6

Schoolyard Dreams

Wood Memorial, 4th

7

Super Saver

Ky. Derby, Won

10

Turf Melody

Illinois Derby, 4th

1

Some other notes from the Kentucky Derby, as they pertain to the Preakness Stakes . . .

So much has been made of the bad trips suffered by Lookin At Lucky and Ice Box, one horse with an excuse that has not been mentioned very often is Nick Zito's other Derby horse, Jackson Bend.

Coming into the Derby, Jackson Bend had never run a bad race - finishing first or second in all nine of his prior races including the Fountain of Youth Stakes and the Wood Memorial. His trip in the Kentucky Derby was far from ideal. Here is the DRF chart comment:

"JACKSON BEND reserved early, made a good middle move, steadied and altered course out approaching the stretch when Paddy O'Prado swerved out and in and then gave way."

Incidentally, when it comes to Ice Box, he didn't draw the rail, but the post draw sure didn't do him any favors, either.  Post 2 has not won the Kentucky Derby in the last 32+ years, and even the mighty Curlin lost from post 2 a few years ago (possibly because of post 2).

Preakness post positions will be drawn on Wednesday, May 12, and with a full field of 14 horses expected, the Preakness post draw will also carry much significance just as it did for the Derby.  While there is very little advantage or disadvantage to be gained or lost from drawing any post from 2 to 13 in the Preakness, the other posts - posts 1 and 14 - are, in fact, severe disadvantages, especially in the case of the rail.

How bad is the rail in the Preakness?  Well, there has been only one single Preakness winner in the last 50 years to break from the rail (Tabasco Cat in 1994).  That's a 1-for-50 record for the Preakness rail horse dating back to 1960. Ouch!

Everyone always tries to avoid the outside posts in the Preakness, but with the exception of those aforementioned posts 13-14, the outside posts are actually better than the inside posts. The outside (except, perhaps post 14) is the place you want to be!

Remember that last year, Rachel Alexandra won the Preakness from post 13!  Other recent Preakness winners who've broke from the outside half of the gate include Bernardini in 2006 (post 8), Afleet Alex in 2005 (post 12), Funny Cide in 2003 (post 9), War Emblem in 2002 (post 8), Point Given in 2001 (post 11), and Silver Charm in 1998 (post 10).

Of the horses coming out of the Derby, the horses with bad trips - Ice Box, Jackson Bend, and Lookin At Lucky - all stand the best chance of a rebound in the Preakness.  Of the new shooters pointing to the Preakness, the quartet of Bushwhacked, Caracortado, Pleasant Prince, and Schoolyard Dreams seem to have the best chances.

Bushwhacked, trained by Jonathan Sheppard, seems perfectly suited for the Preakness and for Pimlico, hails from mid-Atlantic connections, and proved his quality with his second-place finish in the Lexington. Caracortado got wiped out in the Santa Anita Derby in the same incident that took Lookin At Lucky out of the race, but has received far less publicity from the bad trip he got in that defeat. Pleasant Prince was only a nose behind Ice Box in the Florida Derby. And Schoolyard Dreams was part of a three-horse photo for second in the Wood Memorial along with Jackson Bend and Awesome Act.

Some familiar faced from the Kentucky Derby who will not be making the trip to Baltimore for the Preakness include fourth-place finisher Make Music For Me, who will remain in Kentucky at Keeneland and possibly be pointed back to the grass, eighth-place finisher Stately Victor, who may be pointed for the Belmont Stakes, 11th-place finisher American Lion, who will get a brief rest at Keeneland, and 14th-place finisher Dean's Kitten, who will return to his career as a grass horse. Sidney's Candy, who finished 17th, is returning to California.

The experiment versus males will be a short one for Derby tenth-place finisher Devil May Care. She will return to competition against fillies after bypassing what probably would have been a win in the Kentucky Oaks for her try at the Derby. Her next race is yet to be determined.

 

23
Nov

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