By Jude “Pontiff of the Pick Four” Feld
The 2012 Resorts World Casino New York Wood Memorial (G1) and Santa Anita Derby (G1) were run within 15 minutes of one another. The results of both were far from the shocker provided by 99-1 shot Hero of Order in the Louisiana Derby (G2) the week before.
With races for a tag, long, short, dirt, turf and synthetic, Hero of Honor is a walking experiment. There seems no rhyme or reason to his schedule and if he is ambulatory and there is a race available, trainer Gennadi Dorochenko enters him. My theory is underlined by the announcement this week that he will contest the Toyota Blue Grass (G1) at Keeneland, a mere 13 days after his Louisiana Derby (G2) score.
Even at his $220.80 mutuel, he was certainly an underlay at Fair Grounds, as on paper, his chances of winning were about the same as Zenyatta being bred to a zebra.
In contrast, Gemologist broke his maiden easily, going six furlongs in a maiden special weight race at Turfway Park in his September debut. Trainer Todd Pletcher stretched him out 36 days later at Churchill Downs and he won by two. The Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) was 26 days hence and he emerged victorious once again, defeating the highly regarded Ever So Lucky in the process.
Put away for the winter, Gemologist returned to the races on March 16 in an allowance race at Gulfstream Park, cruising to an easy score and setting him up for his Wood Memorial (G1) run.
With four starts and four victories, the fact he won the Wood is not surprising, especially when you see that by his Beyer speed figures, 75-81-85-95, he has gotten faster in every start.
It is obvious that Gemologist is a talented colt but it is also evident that Todd Pletcher holds him in high regard and that he has planned for his success.
I’ll Have Another won at first asking at Hollywood Park last July. Trainer Doug O’Neill entered him back 35 days later in the Best Pal (G2) at Del Mar, where he was beaten a length and three-quarters by Creative Cause, the colt that would be favored against him in the Santa Anita Derby (G1).
Looking to avoid that rival in the Del Mar Futurity (G1), I’ll Have Another was shipped to Saratoga for the Hopeful (G1). A sloppy track and a horrid trip contributed to his defeat and he exited the race with a sore shin to boot.
O’Neill took him home, nursed him back to health and convinced he had a legit Kentucky Derby (G1) contender on his hands, chose the Robert B. Lewis (G2) at Santa Anita for his comeback. The trainer hoped for just a solid showing in the Lewis but I’ll Have Another crushed the field and ran a 96 Beyer speed figure – 12 points higher than he had ever run before.
The Lewis victory caused a dilemma for the conditioner, as O’Neill had planned another start before the Santa Anita Derby (G1) – to run or not to run – that was the question.
“We knew that when a horse runs that big off a layoff, he is liable to bounce off the race,” O’Neill said. “We thought it was best to pass the San Felipe (G2) and run in the Santa Anita Derby (G1) fresh.”
Off a string of long fitness works and 63 days to recover from the Lewis, I’ll Have Another beat his old nemesis Creative Cause and stamped himself a legitimate Kentucky Derby (G1) contender.
Dorochenko had no plan and won the Louisiana Derby (G2). Pletcher had a plan that has gone off without a hitch and he won the Wood Memorial (G1). O’Neill had plan that he has had to adjust and he won the Santa Anita Derby (G1).
The roads to Kentucky are numerous but Derby success usually comes to a man with a plan.
Comments are closed.