Submitted by Jim Hurley on Tuesday, April 3, 2018 at 4:37 PM
TWO DOMINANT PERFORMANCES LAST SATURDAY ADD TO KENTUCKY DERBY DEPTH
Even if we only had the “eye-test” to go by in order to determine which horses are on a direct bullet train to the first Saturday in May, the UAE Derby and Florida Derby provided us with as close to twenty-twenty vision as we could ask for regarding Mendelssohn and Audible.
However, there are many angle reasons as well which point players in the direction of these two important Derby Prep winners from this past Saturday.
(THE ANGLE THAT WILL NEVER WIN…UNTIL IT DOES)
As we approach the Kentucky Derby another weekend of Prep Racing is in the books and Audible arguably moved to the top of the Derby Poll in the minds of many prognosticators with his absolutely dominant win in the Grade 1 Florida Derby on Saturday.
The Florida Derby winner is trained by Todd Pletcher, who has now won three straight key Derby Preps, adding Audible to Grade 2 Rebel Stakes winner Magnum Moon and Grade 2 Louisiana Derby winner Noble Indy.
It is possible that all three will line up in the gate at Louisville on the first Saturday in May and notwithstanding another possible start by Magnum Moon in the Arkansas Derby all three will be on the top contender short list.
Last year, Pletcher also ran three colts in the Kentucky Derby, Always Dreaming, Tapwrit and Patch. And as universally successful as Pletcher has been in every major stakes race, as the buzz began a few weeks before the 2017 edition, the drone went on and on. “Sure Pletcher is an eventual Hall of Fame trainer, but he doesn’t win the Derby.”
Well, Pletcher did win the 2017 Kentucky derby with Always Dreaming, so we won’t be listening to that this year.
However, there was another big performance on the Derby Prep trail on Saturday and that performance equaled or bested the Florida Derby dominance of Audible. And given the record breaking performance in the UAE Derby by Mendelssohn, I will make this prediction. A 2018 buzz and drone will emerge.
“Sure Mendelssohn was incredible in winning the UAE Derby…but no horse has ever gone ‘Desert to the Derby’ and won.”
That lack of success going Dubai to Louisville will be an absolute conflict for serious horseplayers.
On the negative side of the equation, since the UAE Derby was extended from 9 furlongs to a mile and 3/16ths in 2010, three UAE Derby winners have run in the Kentucky Derby.
Last year Thunder Snow made a spectacle of himself as he came out of the gate and immediately began hopping and dancing sideways and never finished the race. In 2015 Mubtaahij was at the back early and ran 8th, beaten 9 ½ lengths and in 2012 Daddy Long Legs did not finish the Kentucky Derby.
On the positive side is the following. Since 2010 seven of the eight UAE derbies have won the race in a time of between 1:57 4/5 and 1:58 4/5, a remarkably consistent figure. The other winner finished in 2:02 flat in 2013.
Measured against those representative times, Mendelssohn just won the race in 1:55 1/5, which is 13 to 18 lengths faster than any of those 7 of 8 winners.
It is also noteworthy that Mendelssohn has already shipped to the United States. He was the decisive winner of last year’s BC Juvenile Turf at Del Mar. This year he won his 2018 debut by eclipsing the Patton Stakes on the All-Weather Track at Dundalk and has now proved he can ship again and also win on conventional dirt as he did in Dubai.
And if blood tells the tale then his breeding is a story for the ages.
He is a son of the late-great Scat Daddy and is a half-brother to multiple champion female Beholder and Grade 1 winner and successful sire Into Mischief , and his dam, Leslie's Lady, was honored as Broodmare of the Year of 2016.
Despite everything that lines up on his behalf, however, many players will dismiss him because he is part of, “The Angle That Never Wins”…Until It Does!
(AUDIBLE MAKES CLEAR STATEMENT IN FLORIDA DERBY)
Prior to the Grade 1 Florida Derby there were a number of back side watchers who wound up influencing a number of pundits when they opined that Audible’s last workout prior to the race left something to be desired.
The colt’s trainer, Todd Pletcher was quick to add a disclaimer, conveying that his colt was never one of those brilliant head-turning morning workout horses that pundits look for in Kentucky Derby contenders, but was, as the conditioner insisted, working as consistently as he had prior to his dominating Hold Bull Stakes win in February.
As it turned out, and as should not be surprising, Pletcher was spot on.
When Audible blitzed rivals in the Holy Bull Stakes by 5 1/2 lengths in his 3-year old debut, it marked a third straight win since closing for third in his debut in a 6 ½ furlong MSW test at Belmont last September.
What also adds to Audible’s high level of promise is that he has shown versatility in his ensuing races. He has settled in the first flight off the pace, has competed forwardly between rivals, and in the Florida Derby showed a willingness to rally if a crazy speed duel developed up front.
In the Florida Derby Promises Fulfilled and Strike Power, the 1-2 finishers in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes, dueled for the lead yards out of the gate with Promises Fulfilled working hard to get the opening quarter-mile in an eventually taxing :21.95. Those two battled each other frantically to open up 5 lengths on Mississippi as that trio careened down the backstretch. Heady jockey John Velazquez allowed Audible to drop back to eighth while keeping him outside as the half-mile continued through a further taxing :46.37.
As Promises Fulfilled began to negotiate the far turn, the toll of his early fractions had to be paid and he backed out as Mississippi made his move to the front while Audible loomed to the outside. The winner easily took command at the head of the lane and put distance between himself and Mississippi, who finished third and the late running Hofburg who rallied for the place.
Now there will be few if any questions as to how Audible performs in the morning.
In summary, it was a good Saturday for both trainer Aiden O’Brien and Mendelssohn as well as Todd Pletcher and Audible. And as we await the results of the Wood memorial, Blue Grass Stakes and Santa Anita Derby, we can look quite positively on these two Saturday Derby Prep winners.