Without actually doing an actual scientific survey, i'm going to make the assumption that true fans of horse racing feel about the Kentucky Derby the way real football fans have come to feel about the Super Bowl. The actual event itself has become a distracting circus sideshow, ripe for the most novice of fans to show off their new flat screens', and to try out new recipes they learned over the holiday season. Leaving the more ardent fans left to wilt from the onset of nasea, and fallback on the appreciation of the hard-fought battles it took to get there. Or as a wiser sage had once said, "it's the journey, stupid," or something like that.
So lets take a look at some notable horses and races that will help determine some early contenders for this prep season.
Jerome Handicap - With Cornelio Velazquez aboard, Vyjack kept his undefeated record in tact with a hard fought victory in the Jerome Handicap. As he was hounded by 41-1 Siete De Oros down the stretch, the tenacious colt, battled on gamely as the even money favorite. Vyjack is out of the sire Into Mischief, who comes out of the Harlans Holiday line (see Shanghai Bobby). Vyjack also has a wealth of turf breeding on his Damm side with Life Happened, who is out of turf sprinter Stravinsky. Trainer Rudy Rodriquez is pointing the colt to the Gotham Stakes, which will be run on March 2, at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Gulfstream Park Derby- It'smyluckyday, won impressively, drawing off to a six length win. After the scratch of the undefeated, Little Egg, the Derby' was a wide open race. The poly-turf invader from Canada, Star Performer went off as the favorite, but as he broke out of the gate, soon realized he wasn't running on a plastic surface and retreated altogether. Meanwhile It'smyluckyday, sat chilly off a contentious pace up front, made a seasoned move as they hit the turn for home, and drew off, to win decisively earning a solid 95 Beyer Speed Figure in the process.
As for the top prospect and probable two year old champion, Shanghai Bobby is being pointed to the Holly Bull Stakes which will be run on on February 9th at Gulfstream Park. Run at a mile and a sixteenth, the Holy Bull will be the champs first race as a three-year-old, and an opportunity to see where the early favorite for the Kentucky Derby stands. Other possible key starters include Bern Identity, The Bradster, and Purple Egg.
Bern Identity is coming off a very solid, consistent two year old season. As the winner of three races, including the GII Sanford Stakes run at Saratoga, Bern Identity is a very good horse, but may be a step behind the top of the three-year-old class. The Bradster may be an interesting, 'wise guy' play, as the recent winner of a MSW and an allowance race. And finally, the eagerly awaited start of undefeated colt Purple Egg. Trained by Jane Cibelli, Purple Egg has been, scratched from two stakes races so far this year the Pasco Stakes, and the Gulfstream Park Derby due to a fever.
And finally, keep an eye out for horses coming out of the Remsen, particularly the top three finishers; Overanalyze, Normandy Invasion, and Delhomme. All ran top notch races on that day. Normandy Invasion made an startlingly impressive move, beginning down the backstretch, Normandy Invasion was picking off horses and looked like he was going to win by one and a half lengths, when Overanalyzed after getting hooked down the stretch, refused to let him go by, and mounted a tenacious fight to get up at the wire for the win.