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Derby Preps

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Yesterday was another important day on the Kentucky Derby trail. Locally, COBALT BLUE stretched out after only one comeback sprint win to wire the San Felipe field, stopping the clock in 1:42.46 after getting away with comfortable early splits. Owned by Merv Griffin, the son of Golden Missile acts like he will run all day and now gives trainer Doug O’Neill four live shooters at this stage of the game. AIR COMMANDER ran second but was under a hard drive on the far turn and never looked like catching the winner through the final 1/4-mile. He’s a one-paced grinder with no acceleration–not my kind of Derby hopeful.

In the Tampa Bay Derby, juvenile champion STREET SENSE and ANY GIVEN SATURDAY put on a show, with ‘SENSE winning the head bob in a track record time of 1:43.11. Super comeback win by ‘SENSE, who rode the rail the way he did on Breeders’ Cup day, and super try in defeat by ‘SATURDAY. These two are very legitmate Derby horses.

At Oaklawn, CURLIN showed that he’s the real deal, winning the Rebel easily while making only his second lifetime start. Purchased for a reported $3 million after his romping maiden win, CURLIN handled the added distance and stronger competition with aplomb for new trainer Steve Asmussen. He’s playing catch up but is a major talent. The flop in the race (not too surprisingly) was Wayne Lukas trained FLYING FIRST CLASS. Like the winner, he was stretching out for the first time but came up emtpy in the lane. The Cal-bred son of Perfect Mandate (who, to my knowledge, has never produced a route winner of note–please correct me if I’m wrong), wants no part of 1 1/4 miles but expect Lukas to push full speed ahead along the Derby trail. I haven’t read any post-race quotes yet but I’m guessing Lukas, despite proclaiming how great the horse was coming into the race, said something like this: He came up short…I didn’t have him cranked up enough…he will improve a ton out of the race…we’ll go ahead and look at the Arkansas Derby (or pick any other prep).

RIVER’S PRAYER ran them off their feet in winning the Irish O’Brien, Santa Anita’s traditional St. Patrick’s Day feature. She almost always fires fresh and is now two-for-two coming down the hill. Give her some time to recover, however, because she was one tired filly coming back to the winner’s circle.

My March Madness hoops selection got home yesterday (given out on the Thoroughbred Los Angeles radio show (weekends at 9:00 a.m. Pacific on KLAA 830 AM) when Virginia Commonwealth covered the spread (vs. Pittsburgh) in an overtime loss. Disclaimer: Basketball selections are made for entertainment purposes only…illegal sports gambling is strongly discouraged. Wink, wink.

I scratched into 10th race winner JUSTINPLAY ($47.40) yesterday. I was just guessing but he had trained as well as anything after OH I TRIPPED came out.

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