Monday, February 27, 2012

Drought Report 2012 - Catch-Up

Since the last report, the whole picture has changed in the search for the Drought Breaker. A fresh face stunned in the Lewis. The clubhouse leader came back from his layoff to suffer a loss to stubborn rival. Some horses fell off the trail. All that and Bob Baffert won everything in sight. Let's get to a bullet-point style recap of what has happen since the last report...

(Please forgive the time since the last post. I have been dealing with some personal issues that has made hard to blog at all.)

  • I'll Have Another came off a five month layoff to spurt away from the field in the Grade 2 Robert B Lewis S. back on Feb. 4th. He tracked the pacesetter, made his move turning for home and drew off. His pedigree says that ten furlongs shouldn't be a problem, but the fact that his next race will be the Santa Anita Derby is off-putting. Two non-consecutive preps leading up to the Kentucky Derby is serious uncharted territory . He came back to work on 2/23, going four furlongs in 48.60 over at Hollywood Park.
  • The runner-up in the Lewis was Empire Way. This full brother to champion 3yo filly Royal Delta closed from last to get second, picking off the rest of the field without being a threat to the winner. Another horse without distance limitations, he should only get better as the year continues (based on his sister's campaign). He has worked twice since the last race, most recently on 2/25 at Hollywood Park, going six furlongs in 1:14. He is pointing to the San Felipe Stakes.
  • As for the other runners from the Lewis, Sky Kingdom was subsequently hurt and is off the Derby trail.  Liaison bounced off his subpar effort (he was going nowhere when he fell in the stretch) with two works since the race, the latest being on 2/22 at one mile in 1:43 at Santa Anita. His rival Rousing Sermon came back from his 4th-place finish (moved up to 3rd via DQ) with three works, the latest on 2/27 going six furlongs in 1:13.20 at Hollywood Park. Groovin' Solo, who was placed last via DQ after originally finishing third, came back from the race to post on 2/26 a bullet five furlong work in 58.80 at Santa Anita.
  • The Grade 2 San Vicente on President's Day weekend marked the 2012 debut of Creative Cause. The winner of the G1 Norfolk and 3rd in the BC Juvenile, he was the heavy favorite in what turned out to be a four-horse field. He was a little flat and ended up third in the race. His trainer Mike Harrington (who also trains Empire Way) said that he will be headed to Oaklawn Park for the Rebel Stakes for his next start. His nemesis Drill was looking to right the ship after a disastrous last few races, and today was his day, as he ground his way past the pacesetter American Act in the stretch. Drill's trainer Bob Baffert said that he will be kept around one turn for foreseeable future. Maybe a possible start in the Met Mile?
  • In other races at Santa Anita, Bodemeister dusted a maiden special weight on 2/11. Named for Baffert's son Bode, his stylish win has his trainer putting him into stakes competition next time out. He worked on 2/26 going six furlongs in 1:14 at Santa Anita. Fed Biz (another Baffert trainee) won a first-level allowance race on 2/9. He is headed for the G2 San Felipe in his next start. He worked on 2/22 six furlongs in 1:16 at Santa Anita.
  • On President's Day at Oaklawn Park, the Bob Baffert show continued, as he won both divisions of the Southwest Stakes. In the first division, Castaway attended a soft pace and kicked away to win. In the second division. Secret Circle sat right on the pace and ground his way to a win. Their trainer said he would be back with a runner for the Rebel Stakes, but no guarantee it would be either of his entrants.
  • Other workers of note are Sabercat, Delta Jackpot winner, who worked on 2/26 five furlongs in 1:00.80 at Santa Anita; Midnight Transfer, San Pedro Stakes winner, who worked on 2/26 seven furlongs in 1:24.80 at Santa Anita. Both of them are being pointed to the San Felipe Stakes
There is a brief recap of most of the possible contenders for the Drought Breaker. With the San Felipe in two weeks, the picture will hopefully become clearer. Good luck folks.


  1. Writing on 3/8, it's been a tough week for the "Cali Drought Breakers".

    Gone is Out of Bounds, the awesome physical specimen who made giant strides from his maiden to the Sham. His Sham received a 99 Beyer and was validated when Secret Circle won the Southwest w/ a 102. After the injury, Harty talked as if Out of Bounds had the chance to be the best horse he has trained and one of the best he's ever been around(he was a Baffert assistant). Out of Bounds might still yet fulfill that promise, but just not in the Triple Crown.

    Out of Bounds was being pointed for the San Felipe and had been kept out of the Lewis by Harty. This, even though the horse came out of the Sham bucking and full of energy. Harty chose to play it conservative, and give the horse an "easier" schedule, substituting works for the rigors of a race in the Lewis. The best laid plans...

    I'm not implying that Harty should have done differently. Personally, I'm of the opinion that if you have a horse that's going good, you might as well run. This applies to claimers, allowance runners, and most stakes horses. The possible exception is for Triple Crown preps. The Triple Crown, and the Derby specifically, are just so big and so important, that I totally understand the philosophy of getting to Churchill with a razor sharp and relatively fresh horse. If Out of Bounds were any other age, I would have implored Harty to run, run, and run some more. Don't mortgage the present, especially if the present is a horse peaking, for an uncertain future; even if you go the "easy" route, there's no way to completely prevent injuries, as was illustrated yet again with Out of Bounds.

    However, running in the Lewis would have meant running in Janurary and February. Do you then skip the San Felipe? I guess my plan would have been to listen to the horse; don't dictate a schedule to the horse, let the horse dictate the schedule. So, if the horse didn't bounce out of the Lewis as well, skip the San Felipe. If he came out of the Lewis well, then go on to the San Felipe. The problem is that if you run in the Sham, Lewis, AND San Felipe, don't you go ahead and have to then go on to the SA Derby? Those other races are nice, but the SA Derby is the grade 1, and offers more than 2x the purse of any of the other 3. Running in the SA Derby would mean 4 races on the year, with the Kentucky Derby still to come. That's asking alot.

    Thus, as much as I might want to blame Harty, I really can't. The fate of Out of Bounds was no one's fault.

  2. Writing as of 3/8, the other disappointing news was Fed Biz tying up and being forced to miss the San Felipe. Having not been able to make it to the track for either his maiden or allowance scores, I was REALLY looking forward to seeing him in person in the San Felipe. Now, he's likely to ship out of town for races the remainder of the spring.

    Out of Bounds and Fed Biz would likely have been the top 2 choices for the San Felipe, or at the very least 2 of the top 3 with Creative Cause. So, the San Felipe certainly lost some luster.

    However, it's possible had both run in the San Felipe that we wouldn't be seeing Creative Cause in the race. And, since Fed Biz is a Baffert, he was able to find a promising substitute starter in Bodemiester. Bodemeister might be every bit as talented as Fed Biz, but he's not quite as far along, entering the San Felipe directly from the maiden ranks while Fed Biz has an allowance score under his belt.

    Another possible San Felipe horse that will not be running is Sabercat. His absence is totally by choice, however, as Asmussen does not believe he's quite ready for such a tough race. He's expected back next week for the Rebel(maybe the Sunland Derby in 2 weeks). Asmussen did the same thing last year with Astrology, skipping the San Felipe(and then even the Rebel) before going to Sunland and then the Withers(I believe) before running 3rd in the Preakness.

    It's too bad that the only legit Derby contender Asmussen has out here in California won't be making a local start.