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Prep School

Posted by Brian Mulligan on 3/2/2010 9:05:47 AM

With the Kentucky Derby merely weeks away, the stepping-stone races coming to the big event become much more important but one thing players must remember is that these are preps and not the real deal.
Think of it like the National Basketball Association season. Everybody knows, players, coaches, even fans, that nothing matters until the playoff match-ups are solidified and the real season begins.
The preps have to be looked at not only in immediacy but also with an eye to the future and how much each horse got out of each prep.
This past weekend there are were only three real preps, the Sham at Santa Anita, the Battaglia at Turfway and the Borderland Derby at Sunland.
Those looking for lightning to strike twice should not be holding their collective breaths.
Last year Mine That Bird had a coming out party in the Borderland when pushed hard on the lead every step of the way to get beat a neck with a 81 Beyer in 1:43. 96. Calvin Borel changed his running style in the Derby coming from dead last to blow away the field by almost 7 with a 105 figure but the field in this year’s Borderland doesn’t appear to have anywhere near the same credentials.
Only 9 entered the mile and sixteenth Borderland, the leading earner Churchuluco looked like a sprint only type as he tried to build on his near $200,000 bankroll but it turned out to be the Henry Dominquez show.
His students Raise the Bridle and Storming Saint completed the race one/two after hooking up at the top of lane and fighting to the wire.
Bridle was on the bit from the get go and was exchanging bumps with his stablemate Storming Saint, who refused to change leads down the lane. Saint had every chance to go by, but hung.
After a review of the film, the stewards reversed the outcome and put up Storming Saint, in what many may see as a very controversial call. The finale time was 1:45.27.
Beaten a nose in his debut, Bridle was coming back in 10 days after flashing :44 and big change speed. Cut out to run some, Bridle cost $120,000 and is out of an unraced dam that is kin to multiple stakes winner and near $350,000 earner Shag.
His only sibling to race won twice in the minor leagues.
Storming Saint, a bargain buy at 12 grand, has some pedigree power on the bottom side, as the unraced dam is kin to Grade 1 Wood winner and near $500,000 earner Irgun.
Would still be surprised if this pair makes it to Kentucky.
The Battaglia at Turfway brought together 8 looking to take down the majority of the $100,000 purse but there were only 3 multiple races winners in the cast and the race probably will have little affect on the spring Classics. Last year Proceed Bee added blinkers and beat a half dozen with a 83 Beyer but was then third in his next race and never made it to the Derby.
Last Saturday Kera’s Kitten was bet like a cinch at 6-5 but was bumped around and spit out the bit before the real racing began.
That left it to the second choice Codoy to pounce and before the refs got involved, he got the job done but the best laid plans sometimes go awry.
The race was roughly run from the get go with a half dozen of the 8 runners vying from the sound of the bell. Codoy got a break when third-choice Lucky Chuck took half the field toward the grandstand and Codoy slipped through a huge hole.
The eventual winner Vow to Wager had a horrible trip but kept coming in spite of trouble and was awarded the win.
Things don’t always unfold like they look on paper as Wager’s rider said after the race. John McKee: “ Dale (Romans) told me to put this horse in the race but I found myself squeezed back .. so I had to go to plan B. Turning for home, I had a lot of horse.”
The 74 Beyer pales in comparison to last year’s winner and Wager will have to prove he can handle the conventional strip if he makes it to Churchill. As far as Codoy is concerned, his trainer is already on record as saying he doesn’t think his charge can handle the conventional dirt.
The action heats up a bit next week with the Gotham in Aqueduct, the Palm Beach at Gulfstream and the re-scheduled Sham showcased.
Tune in mid-week for a glance on how those races are coming together.

One of the nation's most active and foremost experts in horse racing, Betonline is proud to offer the analysis and insights of Brian Mulligan.

The main West Coast linemaker for The Daily Racing Form from 1980 to 2000, he has been a regular contributor to the horse industry's 'bible' since 1977. Writing under the handle Sweep, he will celebrate his 33rd anniversary with The Form this fall.

He led the other public selectors in the city of Los Angeles at every main Southern California meet at one time during that span of time and continues in the Daily Racing Form with 'A Closer Look' every day.

Brian brings a true horseman's knowledge to the task. He served as an assistant trainer on a thoroughbred horse farm in New Jersey as a young man.
He has also conducted seminars everywhere from California to Mexico and to Las Vegas and is usually dead-on in his analysis of which horses will run well.

Mulligan has also been a TV analyst at Santa Anita, has contributed racing articles to the mainstream Arizona Republic and Maxim magazine and has spoken on radio programs throughout the country. His role of educator/handicapper has crossed over to the classroom, where Bran was a featured instructor for the Picking Winners 101' course at Turf Paradise.



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