Plenty Of Time

by Ed Meyer

posted on March 15, 2011 in General Discussion, Handicapping, Kentucky Derby | 1 Comment >>

The Derby will be here soon enough. That is a fact, and no matter if it rains 5 inches or snows a foot, it is a beautiful day. But, before you get all gussied up with hat and mint julep in hand, know that there is still plenty of great action coming your way.

The remainder of the month should be decisive, and when the inner track in New York switches over, the signs of the real running will start taking place. But here are a few ideas to keep in mind as we draw closer to that first Saturday in May.

Be sure to watch the conclusion of Fair Grounds. There will be some horses prepping at this historic oval, and the deep oval will leg up some talented late bloomers. Historically, the “Big Easy” has produced some nice horse flesh. I am always on the lookout for Florida shippers, and some that may come from California as they are making their way across the country and will be acclimating to the climate changes.

New York is always strong. The Wood has been a machine that turns out great runners, and this is a prep that needs to be watched this year. The distance and competition will help clear the picture hopefully.

Oaklawn Park has fallen off of my radar screen. I guess it was because of the cancellations. I will begin to focus on the marquee races and allowance events, where impressive maiden winners wheel back (especially the ones that have impressive work patterns). Hot Springs is a spa, and everyone enjoys the scenic settings. This is where your sneaker runners will crop up.

I like to look for runners that have run on the turf and have worked on the weeds. Even if they they are making a first time start on the dirt, I love it that much better. For every trainer I have ever spoke to tells me that runners don’t get the pounding on the turf, that dirt can apply to precious joints of these multimillion dollar runners. The poly track is also a good prep. I may have some reservations about the top runners being poly specialists. But, the surface allows runners to get safe work without the pounding. They get sound in body and mind, and the good trainers bring them along slow. This leads me to Keeneland. Look for runners that prep, work, and stable at the historic track. It is relaxed, and the horses all seem to let down their hair. You will see many trainers ship into Keeneland to stable as the drive to Louisville is much easier, and the hustle and bustle of Derby doings are not in your way. Pletcher will be there, and will have horses at Churchill. He will have the transition ready, and you can’t squabble with his tactics.

I have a question for you. Are you satisfied with California this year? The souped up track is running fast, and can show bias at many times. I think the left coast will be a player, but in time. They have always produced quality, and again they will. But, this handicapper is not about to buy all of the stock I can in California. I am going to give it time, and pass this year. I will pay attention to those who leave and come towards New York and Kentucky. It is not my love or hate speaking, but just a handicapping observation. If you see there are no horses mentioned, I still believe it is too early, and if you think you can see a month and a half into the future, well, best of luck….. I am looking for works, where they are shipping, and who will be making final decisions. A gent from the Bloodhorse told me that he makes his mind up 30 minutes before the race. I laughed at first, but now it makes sense. Be as informed as you can, and read daily. The preps take place on the weekends, and be sure and go back to watch the replays (you can watch them on our Kentucky Derby Prep Race page). This should give you plenty of foundation, and don’t make your decision too quick. I will leave with a final note on that.

I have plenty of friends who write for the notes team, and take photos in the morning. They have access to the backside, and can be up and personal with the horses. It was Derby day when a writer called me and asked who I liked. I told him it was some lukewarm runner, and he then grabbed me. He told me my runner was being examined by the vet, and that there was a little runner looking good. In 2006, when a brown colt by the name of Barbaro won easily by 6 1/2, it was info worth waiting for. Patience pays off, and be sure not to get yourself committed just yet. It is OK to start making a punch list of runners to watch, but keep an open mind. The real running is getting set to begin.