BIG ACTION AT LOUISIANA DOWNS
The little 'ol program linemaker at Louisiana Downs makes Soul Warrior the morning line favorite for Saturday's $750,000 Super Derby, but he is badly mistaken.
Regal Ransom no doubt will be the post-time favorite for the nine-furlong headliner for 3-year-olds, possibly at odds-on.
Although the Super Derby is not the race it once was when it carried a $1 million purse, and attracted the likes of Alysheba and Sunday Silence, and the national media, including this writer.
But even being not so super this year, the race still is the biggest thing going this weekend on racing's national landscape.
Speaking of Sunday Silence, he is one of several all-time greats I regretfully omitted from my Top 25 list on this venue earlier in the week. Smarty Jones, Azeri, Sir Gaylord, Cicada and Easy Goer also didn't make the cut, and for that I apologize.
Next time I'll make it a Top 30.
I've received some flack for rating Kelso over Secretariat, and for Ruffian over Rachel Alexandra, but, hey, this is one man's opinion. If the reader has different opinions, fine. Let's hear from you.
Back to the Super Derby.
Regal Ransom has been in limbo since his eighth to Mine That Bird in the Kentucky Derby on the first Saturday of May.
That's one reason for not playing him in the Super Derby.
But the pros far outweigh the cons.
A $675,000 son of Distorted Humor, Regal Ransom is owned by Godolphin, which won a half-dozen graded stakes at Saratoga. He is the class of the race, the speed of the race on a speed-favoring strip; he has been working lights-out in New York, and a hungry Rich Migliore makes the long flight from Long Island, including two layovers, for the call.
As for Soul Warrior, he demonstrated that he was a nice horse in winning the West Virginia Derby in his last start, on Aug. 1 at Mountaineer, but he was very lucky to do so.
SW won that race because Big Drama backed up badly through a tedious :14 2/5 final furlong, and Mine That Bird tossed a clinker. Whether you want to blame jockey Smith is open to discussion.
But what jumps off the page is the fact that Soul Warrior packed 111 pounds that day, a concession of 11 pounds from Mine That Bird. For the Super Derby, SW will tote 124 pounds. Whether you consider weight a significant handicapping issue or not, it remains a fact that a 13-pound pickup is staggering.
Recall that trainer Asmussen thought so little of Soul Warrior's chances in the West Virginia Derby that he didn't bother to make the trip. He watched the race on TV at Saratoga, and a half-hour later capped a lucrative stakes double when Kensei won the Jim Dandy.
And, incidentally, Big Drama came back to toss a lemon in the King's Bishop.
Johnny Velazquez will join buddy Migliore on the flight down to northern Louisiana for the ride on Soul Warrior. He replaces Dale Beckner, who was seriously injured in a spill a week after the West Virginia Derby.
I would expect that Migliore and Johnny V some day will be elected to the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame.
As will Garrett Gomez, who will pilot Massone for Ron McAnally, who already is enshrined in the Hall.
McAnally, one of the classiest individuals in the game, is going through tough times. His owners have deserted him, and he's saddled only three winners from a mere 62 starters this year.
The fact that Gomez takes the return call on Massone is significant because he 's not that crazy about flying. In fact, just last week, he backed out on a trip from California to New York to ride Miss World in the Garden City at Belmont...and Miss World won the race.
Massone has only two victories -- a maiden-special and a one-other than -- to show for 14 starts, he has placed in five stakes. As a closer, he is at the mercy of the pace, and it says here that Regal Ransom will be unchallenged on the front end through modest fractions.
Of course, it would have been a different ballgame if Belmont/Travers winner Summer Bird, who was based much of the year at Louisiana Downs, had made the race. SB was nominated to the Derby by trainer Ice, but he'll remain in New York to prepare for the Jockey Club Gold Cup on Oct. 10.
One would think that Ice would want to show loyalty to Louisiana Downs, but 1) he's not happy that LAD didn't bother to reach out to him, and 2) the race is too close to the Travers.
The other interesting story line is Shane Sellers, another potential Hall of Famer.
Sellers this year returned to riding after a three-year retirement -- with good results. Riding mostly at the bush tracks in his native Louisiana, Sellers has ridden 47 winners from 183 mounts, or 26 per cent. At LAD, he is 5-2-5 from 23 mounts.
Sellers will ride Uno Mas for Asmussen, and a victory would put Shane back in the national spotlight. Uno Mas comes off a career-best performance in winning the Prelude Stakes over the track...and this wouldn't be the first time Asmussen struck paydirt with the "wrong" half of an uncoupled entry.
The field for the Super Derby, which will highlight a stakes-filled 12-horse card, is completed by: Electric Alphabet (Simington); Blame (Theriot), and Red Lead (Torres).
The lightly-raced Blame was flattered recently when Gone Astray, whom Blame beat in the Curlin Stakes at Saratoga, came back to win the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby by nine lengths at Philadelphia Park.
The Curlin was the stakes debut for Blame, who flies the blue-gray silks carried years back by multiple stakes-winner Clem.
Torres, an LAD regular, played the role of Braulio Baeza in the recent TV movie "Ruffian."
Switching gears, they will be running two major stakes for 2-year-olds -- the Futurity and the Matron -- on Saturday at Belmont Park.
D'Funnybone, from the Big Brown connections of Paul Pompa and Rick Dutrow, will be a short price under Edgar Prado in the eight-horse Futurity, and the unbeaten Worstcasescenario, to be ridden by Alan Garcia for Rick Violette, will be favored from the outside post in the nine-filly Matron.
In making conversation with Prado in the jockeys' lounge at Saratoga, I asked Prado about his Breeders' Cup prospects.
"Not that much at this point," he replied. "My best chance is with Dutrow's 2-year-old."
That of course would be D'Funnybone, who, a week earlier, won the Saratoga Special by 10 lengths with Prado aboard. Like Big Brown, D'Funnybone was bred to be a miler so the seven furlongs of the Futurity no doubt will be well within his scope.
Note that Prado takes off likely second choice Discreetly Mine to ride D'Funnybone.
For what it's worth, Discreetly Mine, a son of Horse of the Year Mineshaft trained by Stan Hough, won his 6 1/2-maiden-special at the Spa three ticks faster than D'Funnybone did in winning the Saratoga Special.
Discreetly Mine won that race from the one-hole...and he's drawn the lethal one-hole again for the Futurity.
Worstcasescenario got away at 14-1 for her four-length blowout in the Adirondack, and three of the fillies who chased her home that afternoon will try her again in the seven-furlong Matron, which forever has been the filly companion race to the Futurity.
Don't know if Garcia had the option of riding Regal Ransom in Bossier City, but it is interesting that he stays home to Worstcasescenario in the Matron.
Prado has a shot in the Matron with Touching Beauty, who won first pop for trainer Jimmy Jerkens as the favorite at Saratoga.
The co-owner of Touching Beauty is Joe Cornacchio, a two-time Kentucky Derby winner with Strike the Gold and Go for Gin. TB adds Lasix for the Matron.
Management will run the Noble Damsel Handicap, a mile for fillies and mares on the grass, as the fourth race...keeping the race out of the Pick Six and Pick Four because of the odds-on presence of Rutherienne.
But there's no sure thing with the ladies as we saw last Saturday with Seventh Street and Gozzip Girl.
Thanks for checking in. Good luck this weekend, and see you back here Tuesday.
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