Originally written on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 9/22/14
A few more changes in this week’s 2013 Horse Racing Countdown to the Triple Crown as the 2013 Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park, which was won by Black Onyx, and the 2013 Sunland Park Derby at Sunland Park in New Mexico, won by Governor Charlie were run this past weekend. Both horses registered upsets, which further scrambles the 2013 Kentucky Derby picture, in their respective races as Black Onyx went off at 15-1 and Govenor Charlie went off at 16-1 Both horses become the latest to jump into the Triple Crown picture as well. In the Sunland Park Derby, Govenor Charlie was sitting in third position early on the outside as Saint Prado set the pace with Abraham close behind. Govenor Charlie went three wide on the turn for home and began to pull away down the stretch. He led by two at the mid-stretch marker and continued to draw away in the end as he won by five conclusive lengths and set a track record running 1 1/8 miles in 1:47.2. “(Trainer) Bob (Baffert) told me to ride with confidence,” winning jockey Martin Garcia said. “We were on the front and I felt like I had a lot of horse. He can wait on company sometimes, but at the top of the stretch he just took off and exploded.” “I feel he is a special horse,” Garcia added. “In only his second race going a distance, he beat good ones. Just look at how he did it.” Shakin It Up, another from the Baffert barn and amongst the betting favorites, was not a factor; he trailed early and could do no better than fourth. Show Some Magic, who went off at 26-1, was in second and finished 3 1/4 lengths in front of Abraham. In the Spiral, Black Onyx took command at the top of the stretch and battled the previously once beaten Uncaptured down the lane to win by 1 ½ lengths Black Onyx was positioned fifth early behind Mac the Man, who went a quarter in :23.3 and the half in :48.1 before losing the lead to Taken by the Storm after three-quarters in 1:13 flat. Uncaptured and Black Onyx moved in tandem with the latter getting the better of it late. Giant Finish was third, 2 1/2 lengths behind the winner. “The plan was, if he (Black Onyx)  won, we wouldn’t have to run again until the Derby,” trainer Kelly Breen said from Aqueduct Racetrack, where he saddled 2011 Belmont Stakes winner Ruler On Ice to a fifth-place finish in the Excelsior Stakes. “The gates opened and he was sluggish,” winning jockey Joe Bravo said. “I was saying, ‘Don’t tell me he’s not taking to the track.’ After an eighth of a mile he took hold of the bit and started pulling me along.” “I was watching Miguel Mena (on Uncaptured) because I respect that horse, but it didn’t look like that horse was handling as well as mine,” Bravo added. “After that, my horse settled down and it was all over.” Trainer Mark Casse said he was not disappointed with Uncaptured for a runner-up finish in his first start since last November and neither was I. “It’s been a really long road getting there,” Casse said. “For him to run farther than he ever has in his first start in four months, he performed very well. Yes, the Kentucky Derby is still in mind. If all goes well, we’ll go from here to the Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I), then into the Derby… judging by the way he ran and by the way he rated, I don’t see how distance would be an issue.” Trainer Jeff Greenhill reported no serious injury to Mac the Man, who was eased and walked off the track, and also reported he “scoped clean”. The 2013 Kentucky Derby prep races are in full flight this upcoming weekend with the $1 million Florida Derby and the $1 million Louisiana Derbies   2013 KentuckyDerby   1) Shanghai Bobby- I’ve had this colt on top of my list since as far back as September or October of last year and I’ll tell you, if this were a beauty contest, I’d probably keep him there through out the Triple Crown races. Big, long bodied and almost black colt is quite a specimen to look at. But since it’s not, trust me, I have no issue whatsoever taking out of this spot should he not perform well come this Saturday when he goes in the Florida Derby. He breezed five furlongs at Palm Meadows Training Center this past Sunday (in company with stablemate Palace Malice) in 1:00.4. “I thought he worked well, consistent with what he normally does. He’s not an overzealous work horse, but I think we got a good tightener and everything has gone according to plan,” trainer Todd Pletcher said. To me, and I don’t mean to overstate this, but the Florida Derby is a do or die kind of race for him. To remain on top of this list, he needs to win or run very big because going into the Derby with just two prep races (including just one in the last 3+ months) is very brazen from where I sit.   Shanghai Bobby   2) Verrazano- remarkably opened as the  7-2 morning line favorite in the final of three Kentucky Derby Future Wager pools March 22 and is being pointed towards the April 6 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct where it looks like he’ll face the undefeated Vyjack in the process. He’ll be at Palm Meadows Training Center in Florida until April 3rd when he is scheduled to fly to New York. Verrazano is unbeaten and untested thru three starts, most recently winning the Tampa Bay Derby in his stakes debut by three lengths under a hand ride three weeks ago. “Looking at his schedule, we felt Tampa put him in a position that opened up a lot of options, with the Wood always being our first choice,” trainer Todd Pletcher said. “Assuming he trains accordingly, we’ll stick with that plan. We’ll have four weeks’ spacing between the Tampa Bay Derby and the Wood and the Kentucky Derby.” “It’s a demanding surface and provides a good foundation,” said Pletcher of the Tampa Bay Downs main track (and he would be 100% correct about that). “The fact he was able to go there and win first time over it gives us encouragement that we can ship him just about anywhere and that he’ll run well.” Lastly, Verrazano worked a half mile in  :49.3 while in company with Stakes winner Discreet Dancer this past Sunday. “You could say ‘maintenance’ except that the gallop-out was pretty awesome. It was pretty impressive,” Pletcher said.   3) Revolutionary- worked in a half-mile in :48.1 and galloped out 5 furlongs in 1:00.3 in company with stable-mate Overanalyze this past week.. “I thought he went super. He was well in hand,” trainer Todd Pletcher said. “He’s coming up to the race in good order.” The stretch runner should be favored in Saturdays Louisiana Derby and I’m looking for a good performance from him.   4) Itsmyluckyday- worked a half-mile in :49 2/5 last Saturday morning at Calder Race Course for trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. in final preparation for the upcoming Florida Derby where he’ll meet up with Shanghai Bobby and Orb. “It couldn’t have gone any better,” said Plesa. “He galloped out strong. Everything in his training since the Holy Bull has gone on schedule. Now the next thing to be concerned with will be the draw (Wednesday).” He needs to run big for two reasons Saturday. One, he needs to completely convince me that he is the real deal and two, a third place finish or worse puts him serious jeopardy to even get into the Derby based on the new points system. The Florida Derby is just as big for him as it is for Shanghai Bobby from what I can see.   5) Orb- he’ll need, and probably get, a fast early pace in Saturday’s Florida Derby. I won’t be shocked if he goes off as either the favorite or the second choice in that race. I’ve always liked trainer Shug McGaughey and he, and his horse, look to be sitting pretty right now. He is already in the Kentucky Derby (he should have a sufficient amount of points at this point) so should he be beaten Saturday, it’s not the end of the world.   6) Vyjack- was visually impressive when breezing five furlongs in :59 flat seconds over Aqueduct’s inner track last Friday. He worked in company (with stable-mate Head Heart Hoof) and was taken two lengths back of that horse before he drew even at the five-sixteenth pole and was a half-length in front at the wire and was reportedly a “handful” to pull up after the work, which in turn, signals readiness to me. “Last time was easy (four furlongs in :51.1 March 15),” said Gustavo Rodriguez, who was aboard for the workout. “It was time for him to do something. I wanted him to do something, but not crazy. He was chasing the other one. Turning for home, I asked him a little bit, and he responded nice. He galloped out nice. Beautiful. Strong. He’s worked with other horses, and nobody can keep up with him.” No-one can keep up with him huh Mr. Rodriguez?….hmmm…seriously starting to wonder if the #6 position is too low? Next Race; the Wood Memorial April 6.     7) Will Take Charge- debuts at #7 based off come from behind win in the Rebel this past weekend. I said (in my Rebel preview) he might bounce back off a poor (sloppy track) performance in the Southwest Stakes and he sure did. He is another who looks like he has enough points to make it to the Kentucky Derby, so now all trainer D. Wayne Lukas needs to do is get him peaking on the first Saturday in May…..which he has done juuuuuust a few times before. Next race: The BlueGrass April 13.   Will Take Charge…whats up with the pink left foreleg? 8) Flashback- was the victim of a horrendous ride in the San Felipe from where I sit. This is a good horse and I won’t be the least bit surprised if he bounces back in his next race (Santa Anita Derby April 9). Huge work this past Monday as he ripped 6 F in 1:11.4.   9) Departing- this horse is very intriguing to me. He’s undefeated and, albeit against inferior competition, he’s won his last two starts under hand rides while showing devastating late runs. I love his stride, its like poetry in motion, especially the way he lowers his head and levels out down the lane. Now add to the fact that he worked a half mile in :47.1 this past Monday and the intrigue deepens. Next race: LouisianaDerby, this Saturday.         10) Normandy Invasion- was disappointing 5th place in the Risen Star Stakes and I have to drop him in position. He is, however, starting to get back on my good side by showing two strong (back to back) works lately. (5F- :59.3 last week and 5F- 1:00.3 on Monday). Next start: the Wood Memorial April 9 where he will have to show me more….and he very well might.       11) Uncaptured- yes, he moves up the list from last week even though he was beaten in the Spiral Stakes last weekend. I’m not sure what anybody else saw, but I saw a horse who was put in a bad position by his connections and still battle hard to finish second in that race. I mean, I know he lost precious training time with not one, but two feet issues, but still, you pick the Spiral ( a graded stakes race), at 9 furlongs as his first race in about 4 ½ months?….hello?…I thought he did very well just to be second. Now, if he improves off that race (and he definitely should) and add in the fact he loves the Churchill Downs surface (He is 2 for 2 over it) and you have yourself a Kentucky Derby threat. Next race: the BlueGrass April 13     12) Palace Malice: had a wild trip in the Risen Star Stake in his last yet was barely beaten for all the money. As I stated earlier, he worked in company with Shanghai Bobby last week and held his own. “I thought Palace Malice worked super, finished up great and galloped out strong. It seems like he’s been doing really well since the Risen Star,” said trainer Todd Pletcher, “I’d say he’s improving, but he’s always trained really well and we’ve had really high hopes for him and he has performed.”…Next race: Louisiana Derby March 30   13) Oxbow: ok, I surrender….I can’t seem to figure this guy out. He runs hard, he runs fast and yet he is just 2 for 8 in his career. Perhaps maybe the April 13 Arkansas Derby can shed more light on what we have here.         14) Rydilluc- worked 7 furlongs in 1:30 flat on the turf last week. If he somehow gets enough points to make it into the Derby and he converts his turf form to dirt….look out! Next race: The BlueGrass April 13   On the Radar Screen:   Hear The Ghost: was the beneficiary of a wicked speed dual and came from behind to win the San Felipe last weekend. I’m not really sold on him as the 2013 Kentucky Derby winner but he needs to be mentioned based off that win as he could be getting good at the right time. This son of the wickedly fast Ghostzapper worked six furlongs this past Saturday at Betfair Hollywood Park in 1:13.3. “Very nice,” veteran trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said afterwards. “He galloped out strong as usual. He’ll have a little blowout (next week) and we’ll be all set for the Santa Anita Derby.”   Tiz the True: has an enormous stretch kick and he could easily leap into the top 6 or 7 after his next race if he continues the way he is going. I saw he came home the last quarter in :23.3 in his maiden race, which is far superior to (#12 ranked) Departing. He is scheduled to run next in the April 6 Wood Memorial but there is a wicked rumor floating around that he is off the Derby trail due to an “issue”…(injury?)   Tiz A Minister also needs to be mentioned. The more I watch that San Felipe the more I’m impressed with his performance. He came from last, some 18-19 lengths out of it, to finish third, beaten a length. His race before that (Cal Breeders Cup Championship) he did something similar. He closed a huge gap (17 lengths?) back to win going away. Next race: the Santa Anita Derby April 6.   Code West: came out of obscurity to get beat a nose in the Risen Star Stakes on Saturday. He ran a huge race as he battled for the early lead for the first half mile of that race, dropped back to fourth as they turned for home but came on again to finish a “just miss” second. He is a must add to this list off that race. Next race: LouisianaDerby March 30   Speak Logistics: this horse might be laying in the weeds in the Ed Plesa’s stable with most of the attention going to Itsmyluckyday.  But I’m not so sure we should write this guy off so quickly. Remember he was third in the Fountain of Youth (behind highly regarded Orb) and worked a half-mile in a bullet :47 1/5 last week.   “He worked super. He missed a work last week but bounced back to work great this morning,” said Plesa. “We were planning on the Wood Memorial, but now we’ve changed course and looking at the Blue Grass in Kentucky.”     Power Broker: continues to coming along well but it looks as though he’ll have only one start before the Derby…is that going to be enough? I doubt it…too bad, because I think this horse has a tremendous upside…we just may not see it for a while, that’s all.    West Hills Giant is another who came from relative obscurity to almost take the Gotham field wire to wire at 34-1….guess we’ll need to see where he goes from there. Next race April 9 Wood Memorial     Govenor Charlie- thoroughly dominated the Sunland Park Derby last Saturday, as he won by 5. Is he getting good at the right time for trainer Bob Baffert?   Black Onyx- the same can be said for this horse as Govenor Charlie (Is he geting good at the right time?). Even though Uncaptured was up against in the Sprial, this colt still must be given credit for holding off that rival down the entire length of the stretch.    On The Bubble: Super Ninety Nine- beaten favorite with a disappointing effort in the Rebel this past weekend….has he reached his distance limitation?   Goldencents- I obviously still like this colt a lot, truth be told, even while being cooked in that speed duel, he was soundly beaten by both Flashback and Hear The Ghost and was out of the race as early as the quarter pole in the San Felipe. Next race: Santa Anita Derby April 9. He’ll need a good performance in that race to gain back some respect.   Capo Bastone- was an enormous disappointment in the Spiral Stakes last weekend while finishing a remote ninth. That race was too bad to be true….right???   To receive an email each time a new Horse Racing article is published, fill out the Email Notification Form Thanks for reading….

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