Once the beginning of April comes around many are thinking of baseball, breaking out the fishing rods and losing the last ten pounds for swim pool season. For me, the start of April is a sprint to the wire for the first Saturday in May. – There is the boutique meet of Keeneland, the Belterra meet is weeks from opening day and the Kentucky Derby is in full sight. – This past weekend offered up two important preps and still the picture is not in focus. That only means one thing to this handicapper. – Start looking for a price.
There were 10 three-year-olds lining up to battle for coveted Derby points and the $1 million purse. Gunnevera was the morning line favorite and sent off the odds-on chalk. The 11 post wasn’t too attractive but from what we watched of the “Gun” everything still looked good. All had made their last start in Florida and only one was at Tampa Bay Downs. – The 1 1/8th of grueling distance was supposed to give us a clear picture of the contenders from the pretenders. After a 1:47.47 was in the books there were many things that came into focus.
Always Dreaming gave us something to look forward to seeing. This son of Bodemeister is a perfect 3/3 in 2017 and has shown a great level of maturity. He looked good in 2016 and is 2 lengths from being a perfect 4/4 but whose counting ? – Johnny V looked chilly in the irons and pushed the “go-button” at the 5/16th’s pole. I really liked what I saw with this guy and look forward to seeing what’s next. – Gunnevera broke from the #10 post and had a good deal to take on. But this far down the road, runners should be able to overcome obstacles. He broke at the rear and dove right to the rail saving ground. Never a bad choice when facing added ground. He was pretty far back and the track was geared up not playing to the “Silky-Sullivan” type runners. He will be back and with a good work or two he’ll bring the heat. – The runner that showed good action was #1 – State of Honor. He was the colt who last prepped at TBD. He had two nice races running second to McCracken and Tapwrit. Julien Leparoux fought him into the run down the backstretch and got him in order. He tried to squeeze through the rail but had to gently tap on the brakes at the 3/16th’s pole and Always Dreaming had all the momentum. This was a much better race than the paper will show. Keep your eyes peeled.
A field of nine went to post featuring the favorite Girvin. This lightly raced son of Tale of Ekati has yet to toss a clunker. With his 3rd race under his belt and 3/4 lengths from being a perfect 3/3 coming in. That race was on the turf and you can toss that for now as trainer Joe Sharp has plenty in mind for this guy. Sharp along with his wife/ stable hand/ assistant and workout rider Rosie Napravnik are starting to get excited about the next few weeks.
Girvin drilled them just to plan. The public wasn’t disappointed and Brian Hernandez is in the catbird seat deciding if he’ll ride McCracken or Girvin. I guess there are worse places to be if you are a young and talented rider. – I liked the race and the best horse won in my opinion. But there was just one other who caught my eye as a gambler. #1 – Patch with Tyler Gafflione in the irons. He was in tight a couple of times and the rider patiently waited. He wanted that rail but was forced to wait until he was inside the 1/8th pole. Once he found a gap turned up the heat and came with a very nice charge. This guy would have to overcome the “Apollo-Curse” as he had not raced as a two-year-old and with only a maiden win and a hard closing second in the L.A. Derby. I am looking down the road. But who knows ??