Triple Crown Trail: The Story So Far, and a Gotham Stakes preview

Union Rags and Hansen

Ramon Dominguez riding Hansen (r.) passes Javier Castellano riding Union Rags to win the Juvenile race at the Breeders' Cup in November. PHOTO: DAVID J. PHILLIP/AP

I’m Jonathan Holloway, and I’ve been asked to provide some horse racing coverage here on The Sports Dump.  I’ll be breaking down the Triple Crown contenders, following the road to the Breeders’ Cup, and maybe providing some live correspondence later in the year.  Let’s get started with a look at what’s happened to date with 2012’s three-year-old contenders.

It’s that time of year where we try to sort out what twenty horses will be blindly bet on by 150,000 people blotto on mint juleps at the Kentucky Derby, and we entered last weekend with two top contenders: Union Rags and Algorithms, who were set to settle the matter of the Kentucky Derby favorite by facing one another in Sunday’s Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park.  On Sunday we were down to one, but not for the reason anyone was expecting.  Algorithms, who was to be making his first start since putting up a blistering 105 Beyer speed figure over a sloppy track in the Grade 3 Holy Bull Stakes (watch it here) on January 29, where he beat out last year’s champion two-year-old, Hansen (more on him later), was scratched on Sunday morning with a right front leg injury that will keep him out until at least this summer.

Union Rags, now facing very little competition, breezed to an easy four-length victory (watch it here) which ultimately proved nothing except that the Michael Matz trainee remains the top contender basically by default.

Some other horses to watch:

Alpha:  Though much improved since the addition since the addition of Lasix, we won’t really know anything about this Godolphin Stables horse until either the Florida Derby or the Wood Memorial, depending on which race trainer Kiaran McLaughlin runs the colt in.

Fed Biz:  Won going away in an allowance race at Santa Anita last time out, but one always wonders about West Coast horses at Churchill Downs.

El Padrino:  This Todd Pletcher-trained colt may have won the Risen Star Stakes on February 28, but it wasn’t as easy for him as it should have been.

Secret Circle:  Owner Mike Pegram and trainer Bob Baffert have a really fast colt, but can he handle 1⅟4 miles?

On to this weekend’s action:

Gotham Stakes (Grade 3, Aqueduct, 3 year olds, 1⅟16 miles , Saturday 5:02 PM)

Hansen, the winner of last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and 6-5 on the morning line, is clearly the class of this race (no other entry is better than 5-1).  Many racing fans were relieved to hear that the racing authorities in New York put the kibosh on his owner’s harebrained plan to paint the striking gray colt’s mane and tail yellow and blue to match his racing silks, but in slightly more important equipment news, Hansen will be racing with blinkers off for the first time in his short career on Saturday.  In the Holy Bull on January 29, Hansen shot way out in front, eventually fading as winner Algorithms ran him down, so perhaps trainer Michael Maker is hoping for a slightly slower start by removing the blinkers for this race.  That strategy could backfire, however, due to Hansen drawing the 12th post position.  The horse, whose ability to cover distance has been questioned, has never started further out than the 8th position in his career, so watch to see if jockey Ramon Dominguez can get a ground saving trip on Aqueduct’s inner track.

The only other possible contender in this one is My Adonis, starting on the rail in post position 1.  He had an awful trip last time out in the Holy Bull, getting bumped at the start, swinging wide, and then spending much of the race in last place, as many as 20 lengths behind the leader, but ended up finishing a close third to Hansen after a fast stretch run.  The weather forecast suggests a sloppy track, much like the one at Gulfstream Park for the Holy Bull, so with a better trip My Adonis, with his tactical speed, may stand a chance in this.

Notes:

1. Secretariat was the last winner of the Gotham Stakes to go on to win the Kentucky Derby, so maybe don’t bet on the winner of this one on the first Saturday in May.

2. You’ll be able to watch this race live at the Daily Racing Form.

Prediction:  My Adonis may challenge him early, but the favorite is just too good.  Hansen by two lengths.

A Non-Triple Crown Race of Note:

Santa Anita Handicap (Grade 1, Santa Anita, 4 year olds and up, 1⅟4 miles, Saturday 5:35 PM Pacific):  Defending winner Game On Dude is skipping this outing for a shot at the Dubai World Cup, leaving Ultimate Eagle as the morning line favorite.  I actually like the seemingly perpetual second-place finisher Setsuko in this.  He looked like the winner coming down the stretch last year, until, in a somewhat bizarre decision by the track stewards, Game On Dude and jockey Chantal Sutherland proved that “rubbin’ is racin'” sometimes applies to the Sport of Kings.

One more thing:  Holy hell this is a bad crash.  Amazingly, only one horse had to be euthanized.

I’ll be back next week with a review of the Gotham results and a look forward to a busy March 10 that features three key races: the Swale, the San Felipe, and the Tampa Bay Derby.

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3 thoughts on “Triple Crown Trail: The Story So Far, and a Gotham Stakes preview

  1. Awesome read Jonathan. I am now looking forward to the Triple Crown season. Thanks for contributing to our site.

  2. Yeah Jonny… that’s really good stuff. We’re gonna have to have some horse racing parties this year

  3. Pingback: Triple Crown Trail: Hansen makes a statement, and a look ahead to Saturday’s prep races | THE SPORTS DUMP

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