Richard Linihan: Kentucky Derby preps show potential for surprises
BY RICHARD LINIHAN Horse Racing
Saturday, February 23, 2013
2/23/13 at 5:34 AM
EVEN THOUGH some of the snow remains on the ground here, the bloom on the rose awaits over a short horizon to the 139th Kentucky Derby, and Saturday's races should give us a glimpse of who might be counted on come that first Saturday in May.
Two of the first major prep races are on tap Saturday in Florida and Louisiana. Both of the races are Grade 2 $400,000 events with 50 Derby qualifying points on the line.
Violence will be the heavy favorite in the Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale, Fla., but appears beatable.
In the Risen Star Stakes in New Orleans at Fair Grounds, two horses have top credentials in that race - Normandy Invasion and Palace Malice.
But there are major reasons that Violence, trained by Todd Pletcher, might not be as good as his 3-for-3 record indicates.
Number one, he won all three races as a 2-year-old, and nothing changes more for race horses than maturing from the age of 2 to 3.
This 3-year-old colt by Medaglia d'Oro won some nice races in the Grade 2 Nashua Stakes at Aqueduct in New York and the Cash Call Futurity at Hollywood Park over a synthetic surface, and is the second favorite in the winter book odds at The Wynn hotel in Las Vegas, but that was then and this is now.
If you take a closer look at those races, you will see that Violence had everything his way with the easiest of trips in the Cash Call Futurity. And if you go back to the Nashua, it could be argued that he should have been disqualified for interfering with horses in the stretch or he might not have won that race.
So let's look at who might be the upsetters in the Fountain of Youth.
Falling Sky and He's Had Enough look like prime candidates to win. Falling Sky is coming off a nice win in the Sam Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs. He's Had Enough, from the same stable that gave you last year's Kentucky Derby winner, I'll Have Another, has a second-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile under his belt and could move up if he has matured.
The two longshots I really like in this race are Cerro, if he is at least 6-1 in odds, and Speak Logistics, if he is at 12-1 or higher.
A horse on the rail named Orb is getting a lot of the wise-guy talk his way because he has had some troubled trips in his races. But if you like him, how can you not like Cerro? Cerro and Orb each won split divisions of a 1 1/8 mile optional claiming race on Jan. 26; Cerro ran about a full second faster than Orb did.
As for Speak Logistics, he finished fourth in the Sam Davis race after taking up sharply in that event. He could be sitting on a big race today.
In the Risen Star, Normandy Invasion has been made the 5-2 favorite, and then there are a bunch of horses from the 6-1 to 12-1 odds, including Palace Malice.
This is a big field, as 15 horses were entered to race. It won't be that big, but it will be full. So, to land on the favorite might be your own undoing.
Normandy Invasion looks the best on paper, but don't sleep on Palace Malice (8-1). He was upset in his last start at Gulfstream on a sloppy track, but was all the talk in New York at Saratoga last summer. His last race also was after a 5-month layoff.
Palace Malice had a bullet workout last Sunday (fastest of the day) and appears on the muscle for this.
Original Print Headline: Derby preps may offer surprises
Richard Linihan is marketing director for Fair Meadows of Tulsa