Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, August 4, 2017 at 5:11 PM
Volume 16…Number 7
SCRAMBLED 3-YEAR OLD PICTURE MEANS PLENTY OF UPSETS MOVING FORWARD…NEXT STOP WEST VIRGINIA DERBY
Early on in the 2017 three-year old stalks racing campaign there were a few analysts who were out in front with contention that there didn’t seem to be any standout 3-year olds on the Triple Crown Trail.
In the Kentucky Derby, Always Dreaming was among the few untroubled trip runners and captured a rare Run For the Roses victory for trainer Todd Pletcher as the generous 4.7-1 favorite, odds which reflected the indecisiveness of a public perhaps knowing there were no standouts in the 3-year old colony.
Indeed, longshots Lookin At Lee and Battle Of Midway ran second and third, which were further hints of what was to follow.
In the Preakness Stakes, Always Dreaming was sent off at 6-5 to capture leg two of the Triple Crown and troubled-trip-fourth Classic Empire was sent off as the second favorite. For his part, Classic Empire ran a good second while Always Dreaming was up the track, both behind Chad Brown trained newcomer Cloud Computing, who won and paid $28.80.
Next was the Belmont Stakes and by the time that rolled around, neither Always Dreaming (slight injury?) nor Cloud Computing (the connections considered 3 weeks too quick a turnaround) were declared form the race.
That left the Belmont Stakes there for the taking as no less than 5 colts who ran in the Kentucky Derby and skipped the Preakness lined up in the 11 horse field.
The returning contingent included the 6th, 9th, 10th, 14th and 15th place finishers in the Kentucky Derby as well as Lookin At Lee (2nd in the Derby and 4th in the Preakness) who was the only 3-year old to run in all 3 legs.
The Belmont Stakes was won by Tapwrit (6th in the Derby) while the other returnees ran 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 9th with Lookin At Lee 7th.
(POST TRIPLE CROWN PRESENTS ALL MANNER OF NEW FACES AND REGROUP RUNNERS)
The recently run Jim dandy Stakes (Sat. 7/29 Saratoga) and Haskell Invitational Stakes (7/30 Monmouth) further display the wide-open field of top of the heap 3-year olds.
In the Jim Dandy, billed as the matchup of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winners (Always Dreaming and Cloud Computing) turned out to be a coming out party for Good Samaritan, who was switched from the turf to dirt and won off at $19.20. Second place in the 5 colt field went to 14.3-1 longshot Giuseppe The Great, who was last seen finishing 4th in the Dwyer Stakes at Belmont behind Kentucky Derby runner Practical Joke and Wood Memorial runner-up Battalion Runner.
Always Dreaming was a beaten 3rd and Cloud Computing saw them all.
The next day at Monmouth, the Haskell was supposed to be another opportunity for a different 3-year old to head to the head of the class. But as the race finished it was re-emerging Girvin, who was a solid 2nd in the Ohio Derby in his prior (that his first since the Kentucky Derby) who rallied to return $20.40.
Another Kentucky derby émigré, McCraken, who went into the derby in good form and well-regarded but had a rough trip and came away injured, ran a bang up 2nd following his earlier prep in the Matt Winn Stakes at Churchill.
The 9-5 favorite Timeline, who was touted by more than one expert as a sharp late-developing newcomer was 5th while in-and-out Irish War Cry off a horrible Derby and sterling Belmont (finished second in Leg 3) was out again and finished 4th as the 2.3-1 second choice.
In the meantime here are a few angles on 3-year olds who “just might” emerge in the second half.
GIRVIN – He went into the Derby following a solid prep run in Louisiana and might be ready to make up for the short side-track.
TAPWRIT – The Belmont winner had shown enough to indicate his tough trip in the Kentucky Derby could be over-looked.
IRAP – He got roughed up in the Kentucky derby and never got to use his speed to get position but his Ohio derby and three weeks later Indiana Derby have put him back on the stage, not to mention the added confidence it has added.
GOOD SAMARITAN – Since the Jim dandy victory was his first on dirt, who knows how far forward the well-bred Bill Mott trained son of Harlan’s Holiday can move?
To Pay Big Returns In West Virginia Derby
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(ON SATURDAY WE MIGHT EVEN HAVE A FEW NEW PLAYERS FROM THE WEST VIRGINIA DERBY)
One thing this wide-open 3-year old roster does for the public is create a second half of full, intriguing and competitive fields and the 10 colts and 1 gelding signed on.
GAME OVER – Lightly raced colt made a move to the lead, loomed in second and weakened late in Ohio Derby in only 3rd career start and first around two turns.
PHAT MAN – Last two races, a starter allowance win and win in the Long Branch Stakes have been his best by far and speed numbers are competitive for savvy trainer Joe Sharp.
PATCH – No one spots them better than Todd Pletcher. This one ran a bang-up 3rd from post 10 in the Belmont despite gate issue and running 4 wide on both turns.
B SQUARED – Doug O’Neill trained colt ships east after getting lead and holding close up third in Los Alamitos Derby behind Baffert’s West Coast and Klimt, either of whom would be bet if in here and are also on the still to develop late in the year list.
IMPRESSIVE EDGE – Was in the hunt in the Florida Derby, Peter Pan and Iowa Derby in his last 3 and seems to fit with these.
WATCH ME WHIP – This guy has struggled vs this kind with a late run 4th in the Indiana Derby last out his claim to try here.
COLONEL’SDARKTEMPER – Second behind McCracken in the Matt Win and second behind Irap in the Indiana Derby. Shows how deep this field is.
LOOKIN AT LEE – The only runner to meet the starter in all 3 Triple Crown races he returns after a short break. If you are “lookin” for a historical parallel…in 2013 Will take Charge ran in all 3 Triple Crown Races without impacting yet finished second in the Jim dandy after a break, and then went on to upset the Travers and have a great fall campaign, that included a follow up win in the Pennsylvania Derby and second in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
SILVER DUST – The Tapit colt has shown flashes with 3rd in allowance and 4th in Iowa Derby behind McCormick and Impressive Edge, each of whom he’ll meet again in here.
HEARTWOOD – Lone runner who would be a complete surprise to factor as he came off a slow MSW win two back to be up the track in first try vs winners in last.
MCCORMICK – Has improved significantly since trainer Ian Wilkes moved him off turf. Was sharp press-the-pace second in the Iowa derby in last and an easy allowance winner at Churchill two back.
In this Grade III 750K West Virginia Derby is there another newcomer looking to move to the head of the 3-year old division? Perhaps. In any case, I’ll have the Winner and the Exacta-Trifecta-Superfecta Combo, which will pay solid returns.