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HEAT CHECK

Posted by Brian Mulligan on 3/10/2010 3:23:59 PM

                Things heat up this weekend with three 8 and a half furlongs preps, the Rebel at Oaklawn, the San Felipe at Santa Anita and the Tampa Bay Derby.
In the last few years, the Rebel has been the most potent of the three as far as the Derby is concerned as the sensational Smarty Jones and one of the best ever, Curlin, won the Oaklawn fixture.
Tampa Bay got some respect 3 years ago when Street Sense used it as a prep for Kentucky Derby success and while the San Felipe has had an impact on the Derby, it was generally years ago.
A decade ago Fusaichi Pegasus used the Felipe as a prelude to Derby glory but before that you had to go back to Sunday Silence’s success in 1989 and than another over decade leap back to the future before finding Affirmed that posted the San Felipe/Kentucky Derby double.
To get a perspective on what to expect this year know that in the 2009 Tampa Bay Derby Musket Man parlayed a third in the Sam Davis to a 5-1 upset even though the trip was troubled. He went on to complete the trifecta in Mine That Bird’s Kentucky Derby score.
Last year in the San Felipe Pioneerof the Nile beat 5 horses as the prohibitive chalk, and eventually ran a game second in May to Mine That Bird.
The Rebel without a cause last year was Win Willy, who took the stepping-stone at Oaklawn at a shocking 56-1 to post a 102 Beyer figure when he came from dead last and 16 back.
As we move on to California, the king and one to beat in the San Felipe is Caracortado, the unbeaten gelding fresh from a Grade 2 win who has trained great for this event. The reformed claimer is already a Cinderella story and will take some beating.
Dave in Dixie and American Lion, who were second and third behind Caracortado in the Robert Lewis Stakes, will likely fight it out for minor prizes again.
Sidney's Candy, the winner of the seven-furlong San Vicente Stakes, is bred to run all day long and will be on his high horse early.
Tiz Chrome was a recent fourth while Stephen's Got Hope, who was scratched from a maiden race at Santa Anita recently, is not so polished, primed to run hard but he does appear overmatched.
Johnny Yuma was a rebel and Bob Baffert hopes to follow in his footsteps. The trainer had options with champion Lookin at Lucky but the colt will make his conventional track debut at Oaklawn with first-time blinkers. Baffert the last 5 years is 15% with first-time blinkers performers.
Only one beat for this guy and he was left with just too much to do in the BC Juvenile. His connections have always been high on him and he will be tough to beat but two questions are evident, the surface and the fact he will be undervalued.
Dublin, trained by D. Wayne Lukas, will be looking for revenge in the Rebel. Lukas, of course, the former basketball coach, trained 4 Kentucky Derby winners, 5 Preakness heroes and 4 Belmont winners.
Dublin, a son of Afleet Alex out of a Storm Bird mare, has the style that screams Classics. He posted a career best 96 Beyer when getting to the winner of the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes recently and has a right to mature with grace.
Dublin’s dam not only won multiple Graded races and over $700,000, she is kin to another Grade 1 winner and near $800,000 earner Missy’s Mirage.
Throat surgery has helped this guy and if he can stay healthy those pearly whites of D. Wayne could be smiling in May.
Noble’s Promise has the revenge motive as he will try to even the score with Lucky after losing his 2009 finale. Consistent and improving, he has trained well at Gulfstream for his Oaklawn debut and should be a handful.
Cardiff Giant got nailed for second in his last race and should improve while Up Oh Bango has run well in all 5 starts as he makes the Oaklawn debut.
The forecast for Pleasant Storm is turbulent going after a dull try last out.
The forgotten child in Florida racing is Tampa Bay Downs but they hit the limelight this weekend. Elementary my dear Watson and that could be the crying call for Schoolyard Dreams in the Tampa Bay Derby. He exited a double live debut, ran very well in the Sam Davis last month considering he needed the race. He has trained fast for this race and has every right to adore the Classic distance.
Comic strip fans will be all over Uptowncharlybrown, who was getting to the winner late in his first try going long. Brilliant is his first two starts, the runner will be getting the acid test and is dependent on clear sailing and a hot pace.
Tuvia’s Force will be coming late. He only has the one score but we have not yet seen the best of this guy while Super Saver carries the hopes of Todd Pletcher and the speedball will be a player. He proved his class winning a Grade 2 to end his juvenile season and will be on the muscle every step of the way.
Try to watch these preps with an eye toward which runners still have room to grow and ones which we can still project an upside to in May.

 

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