Pletcher Derby Prospects Work Well

“To me it’s always really key who handles the Churchill surface,” Pletcher said

Florida Derby (G1) and Holy Bull (G2) winner Audible continued preparation for the May 5 Kentucky Derby Friday morning (April 13) when he worked a half-mile in :48.74 at Palm Beach Downs.

Owned by China Horse Club, Starlight Racing, Head of Plains Partners and WinStar Farm and trained by Todd Pletcher, Audible galloped out in 1:02.22 while working alongside the 4-year-old stakes winner You’re To Blame. It was Audible’s first work since winning the $1 million Xpressbet.com Florida Derby March 31.

Churchill winner's circle“For him I thought it was outstanding,” Pletcher said. “He’s not always an overzealous work horse, but today he seemed on his game and focused. I thought he did very well. He’s coming back in five weeks off a 1 1/8 mile race so I think we’re just trying to have him peak on the day and keep him fit without overdoing it. I thought this morning was an important step in that direction. I know sometimes he doesn’t work as well as others but leading up to this race you’d like all three of his works to be good and the first one was excellent.”

Approximately 30 minutes before Audible hit the track Pletcher watched his Louisiana Derby (G2) winner Noble Indy work five furlongs in 1:01.19 with blinkers. Noble Indy, owned by WinStar Farm and Repole Stable, broke his maiden at Gulfstream Dec. 3 before winning an optional allowance over the track on Jan. 11.

“It was a good, solid five-eighths,” Pletcher said. “He’s never been a horse that’s a fantastic gallop-out horse, but I think today was solid.”

Pletcher added the blinkers to “keep him a little more in tune, a little more focused.”

Pletcher has four horses preparing for the Kentucky Derby. Along with Audible and Noble Indy, Pletcher has Vino Rosso, who won the Wood Memorial (G2) last weekend, and undefeated Rebel (G2) winner Magnum Moon, who won Saturday in the Arkansas Derby (G1).

Pletcher said his current plan is to work Audible, Noble Indy and Vino Rosso next weekend before shipping to Kentucky on April 23.

“To me it’s always really key who handles the Churchill surface,” Pletcher said “It can be pretty quirky, so I think that final breeze at Churchill will give us a big clue as to who likes it. Hopefully they all do. That’s always one of my concerns because you see some horses who get there and don’t get a grip of that track. So I think the final work there will be something we’re looking forward to seeing.

“The good thing about the group of horses we have going is they have run over all kinds of dirt surfaces….none of them appear to be horses that need a certain surface in order to be successful.”

Source: Press Release

Recap of the Big Derby-prep Stakes Action

“and if you refer back to his juvenile form cycle, his third start [off the layoff] was his best.”

by Justin Dew

As a fan of Good Magic, I was happy to see him win and win nicely. He was wide around both turns and outran two horses (Flameaway and Sporting Chance) who I feel had better trips. And while it didn’t appear that Good Magic was getting stronger as the race went on, keep in mind that this was just his second start off a layoff, and if you refer back to his juvenile form cycle, his third start was his best. From a Beyer Speed Figure standpoint, the 95 he earned in the Blue Grass was six points better than he earned in the corresponding race from his juvenile campaign, the Champagne. Additionally, if you compare his career debut and his 2018 debut, he ran seven points better as a three-year-old. So, he ran 82-89-100 to start his career, and 89-95 this year. Might another 11-point Beyer jump be in the cards for his third start of the form cycle? It’s something to think about.

Nyquist KY Derby 2016I also happen to think Jose Ortiz may have moved a few seconds too soon, and perhaps could have given Good Magic a chance to finish a little stronger with better timing. It’s not going to surprise me at all if we ultimately see Good Magic make a nice life for himself at a mile, but for now, we can still give him the benefit of the doubt based on what he’s done in his five-race career.

Flameaway is just a hard-knocking fighter and he’ll get nothing but respect from me. I don’t think 10 furlongs is in his wheelhouse, but if More Than Ready can run 4th in the Kentucky Derby, so can this guy. As for Free Drop Billy, let’s see how he trains at Churchill Downs. I suppose one can make a case that he could clunk up in the Derby.

It looks like Justify is headed for something around 3-1 in the Kentucky Derby. Maybe even lower. I don’t really have anything meaningful to add about the Santa Anita Derby. Justify is good. If you want to take low odds on a son of Scat Daddy going 10 furlongs, be my guest. I may even join you to some degree.

Without going back and looking at the charts for every New York Derby prep to be run over the last decade, my general sense is that winter/spring racing in New York attracts the horses that aren’t good enough to compete elsewhere. Enticed lost at Gulfstream, then won at Aqueduct and was favored in the Wood. Vino Rosso lost twice in Florida, and then came to New York and won. And a maiden winner from California, Restoring Hope, came to the Wood and ran 3rd. So, I’m just not impressed by anything out of the Wood. I highly doubt I’ll use any of them in the Kentucky Derby.

With the Arkansas Derby still to be run, I’m feeling like the list of horses who can be labeled as prime Kentucky Derby win candidates is taking a more firm shape. Same for the longshots to watch:

Prime Win Candidates: Justify, Bolt d’Oro, Audible, Good Magic

Top Longshots: Hofburg, Runaway Ghost

Logical horses that I don’t particularly like: Mendelssohn, Magnum Moon, Enticed, Vino Rosso

The Case for Good Magic According to Dew

by Justin Dew

Trying to apply the Transitive Property of Equality (or Inequality) to horse racing is amateurish, simple-minded, and a recipe for a lot of losing tickets. That said, I am going to use such methods now as a partial basis for my argument that Good Magic is the best horse in this crop of Derby contenders.

First, let’s forget about his win in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Forget all the speed figures. Go back and watch his runner-up effort in the Champagne Stakes in his second career start (#6, yellow silks). Good Magic sat close to a pretty quick pace, experienced some minor traffic trouble, swung wide, took the lead, and drew off from everyone except for the winner, Firenze Fire, who would bounce back from his poor Breeders’ Cup showing to win the Jerome and run 2nd in the Withers. In my opinion, Good Magic’s Champagne was every bit as impressive as his subsequent win in the Breeders’ Cup. To do it in his second career start was quite a feat.

In the Breeders’ Cup, Good Magic soundly defeated Solomini on the level. If you want to argue that Bolt d’Oro had a tough trip, fine. But I’d in turn argue that Bolt d’Oro was on the best part of the racetrack and wasn’t going to get to Good Magic that day. And even if Bolt d’Oro HAD caught and beaten Good Magic in what was Good Magic’s third career start and first around two turns, I would STILL prefer Good Magic moving forward off what would have been back-to-back impressive losing efforts, including (what would have been) a losing effort to the more-seasoned Bolt d’Oro on that one’s home track after shipping from the East Coast.

Triple Crown trophy

Will someone win the Triple Crown this year?

Now for the Horsey Algebra. Coming out of the Breeders’ Cup, I don’t see how anyone can argue that Good Magic IS NOT better than Solomini. Good Magic blew Solomini’s doors off at Del Mar on the level. From there, Solomini crossed the wire first at Los Al, beating McKinzie and Instilled Regard before being disqualified. And then in his 2018 debut, he had a bit of trouble before running 2nd to Magnum Moon in a very honest effort.

Yes, McKinzie was giving experience to Solomini at Los Al. And yes, Magnum Moon was also lightly raced at Oaklawn. I’ll concede both points. But Instilled Regard came back to win at Fair Grounds. And McKinzie came back to win the Sham and out-gamed Bolt d’Oro in the San Felipe. So my long-winded, somewhat-amateurish point is this: There is ample evidence to support the argument that Solomini is, depending on the day, on the same level as McKinzie, Instilled Regard, and Magnum Moon if we give Solomini some extra credit for needing the race and running into traffic. And since Bolt d’Oro and McKinzie were nearly inseparable in the San Felipe, it’s not totally absurd to put Solomini and Bolt d’Oro in the same sentence. Solomini beat him in the Breeders’ Cup, right? So, if Solomini arguably, and on the right day, equals (or almost equals) McKinzie, Bolt d’Oro, and Magnum Moon, and if Good Magic is better than Solomini, then you can logically make the case that Good Magic has demonstrated on the racetrack that he is, to this point, the leader of the pack.

Look, I get it. I’ve been following this sport for a long time. I understand that I am grossly over-simplifying the comparison of performances and talent and I’m not considering several other widely-accepted handicapping factors. But my argument is not totally baseless in an annoying college-Philosophy-professor sort of way.

Now for Good Magic’s 2018 debut. It was not anywhere near as poor as many observers said it was. Forget the alleged missed workouts due to the foot issue. He was wide all the way around, he tried to close into a slowish pace, made a move, and flattened out. But he didn’t stop. Word is by some speed figure measures, he ran better than the winner. So it did not darken his Kentucky Derby chances at all in my opinion. That said, he needs to show forward progress on Saturday in the Blue Grass against a tough bunch. I am not concerned about the Florida Derby efforts of the two horses who beat Good Magic in the Fountain of Youth. That pace was blazing and they had to finish at the back.

The horses that Good Magic beat in the Breeders’ Cup have since come back to do impressive things. Even Givemeaminit, a horse that Good Magic defeated by nearly 14 lengths in the Breeders’ Cup, came back to run within nine lengths of Derby contenders Noble Indy, Lone Sailor, and My Boy Jack in the Louisiana Derby. So I am choosing to look at Good Magic’s Fountain of Youth as exactly what is was: a prep for bigger things. And if I am right, we may just be looking at a defending champion who is primed for a big Spring. And depending on how things go on Saturday, he may be a big price in Louisville.

handicappers Dew Justin Rich Nilsen

 

— Editor’s Note: I got to know Justin Dew (left) when he was the official blogger for the very official Kentucky Derby website.  He’s an amazing father and fantastic gambler.  Just ask him.  He’ll tell you.  Welcome aboard, Justin!