It took nine races, but we finally had a nice score with Black Onyx winning the Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park at odds of 15-1. A $33 horse will always give a nice boost to one’s ROI. Hopefully this is the beginning of a nice handicapping run. As for the two Kentucky Derby preps this weekend…
I think you’d be hard pressed to find anyone that thinks the Spiral Stakes is going to prove to be a key Kentucky Derby prep. Black Onyx sat comfortably about three to four lengths off of pacesetter Mac the Man through the first six furlongs. At this point, Joe Bravo proceeded to make a move on Black Onyx and began a sustained rally which lasted the final 3/8 of the race, taking the Spiral over Uncaptured by a length and a half. It’s hard for me to get real excited about a race in which all but one of the favorites were complete no-shows (Balance the Books, My Name is Michael, Capo Bastone, Mac the Man). Black Onyx ran a respectable race, but by no means was this a performance that is going to vault him to the top of people’s Derby contenders. Uncaptured ran a very nice second in his first start as a three-year old, and I think he has a decent amount of talent. If you’re going to take anyone out of this race, I think it has to be Uncaptured. He’s going to need some more qualifying points if Mark Casse and Co. plan on running him in the Kentucky Derby, and it appears they’ll point him toward the Bluegrass Stakes at Keeneland in a few weeks in search of said points. As for the race winner, I think he’s clearly a turf horse, but his owners supplemented him to the Kentucky Derby Saturday night – which means Black Onyx’s next race will be on the dirt in Louisville in six weeks. I don’t view him as a serious Derby contender, but perhaps he could pick up the pieces of a ten furlong race and round out your exotic wagers.
This afternoon, Bob Baffert brought his show to Sunland Park and didn’t disappoint. Governor Charlie won the Sunland Derby in a track record-setting performance, defeating his rivals by more than five lengths on the wire. As is the case with the preps from Turfway Park, I’m always hesitant to give significant credence to any of the performances from Sunland Park – this race is no different. Governor Charlie did indeed break a track record…on a day when two other track records also fell and all speed figures will almost surely be inflated. Factor into account the questions regarding what he actually beat as far as competition is concerned, and you’ve got a prep race that is very shaky in my opinion. There is no question that Governor Charlie was impressive winning the Sunland Derby this afternoon, but I think if the connections thought he could be a major player in the Derby picture, they probably wouldn’t have sent him to Sunland Park. He displayed nice tactical speed in this race, but I’m not ready to take Governor Charlie seriously just yet.
I realize Mine That Bird and Animal Kingdom have come out of these same prep races over the past ten years and gone on to win the Kentucky Derby, but I have a really hard time taking these preps very seriously. Until they prove me wrong more frequently, I’ll continue to believe that these are preps for connections that are just content “getting into the dance” and participating in the Derby experience.