Vinery LTD presents the Paulick Derby Index: Some Fast and Furious Action - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

Vinery LTD presents the Paulick Derby Index: Some Fast and Furious Action

Finally, some fast and furious action on the road to Churchill Downs and the 2011 Kentucky Derby. Sunday's Florida Derby helped answer some questions, and this weekend's bi-coastal duo of prep races, the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct in New York and Santa Anita Derby in Southern California, will sharpen the picture that much more.

Newly minted PDI #2 Dialed In drew mixed reviews in winning the Florida Derby as the second betting choice, getting up in the final strides to beat front-running longshot Shackleford by a head. Ridden by Julien Leparoux, Dialed In was allowed to settle well off the pace and trail the field, about 10 1/2 lengths behind the leader after the opening half mile. The Nick Zito-trained son of Mineshaft began to pick off the back markers going into the final turn and moved to within 3 1/2 lengths of Shackleford at the furlong pole. Shackleford was game to the wire, though the Forestry colt appeared to be struggling from his early efforts. Dialed In closed in the final furlong to get the win, getting his last eighth of a mile in about 13 seconds flat. That's not the kind of final eighth you like to see from a closer in his final prep before the Kentucky Derby, but let's remember this: no horse racing on the Gulfstream Park main track on Sunday afternoon closed anything near that kind of ground. Dialed In thus overcame a pretty strong speed bias to win.

The Florida Derby was a huge step forward for Shackleford who premiered on our list this week at #10. In his most recent effort, Shackleford was drubbed in the Fountain of Youth, losing by more than 23 lengths to PDI #8 Soldat. The latter was a big disappointment, as was Stay Thirsty, the winner of the Gotham Stakes who dropped from #7 to #15. Third-place finisher PDI #6 To Honor and Serve, racing for the second time this year, ran somewhat better than he did in the Fountain of Youth, but I'm no longer thinking the son of Bernardini will give Bill Mott his long-overdue and elusive Kentucky Derby triumph. Fourth was the sprinter Flashpoint, who stayed on well enough after failing to get the lead and dropped out of our rankings altogether. His performance was puzzling, though not a terrible effort in his first try beyond seven furlongs.

Looking ahead to Saturday's Wood Memorial, we'll have a chance to see how much #1 Uncle Mo has progressed since easily winning his 2011 debut in the ungraded Timely Writer Stakes going a one-turn mile at Gulfstream Park. The Indian Charlie colt has worked twice since that March 12 race, going a half-mile each time at the Palm Meadows training center in Florida. Will that have him fit enough for the nine furlongs of the Wood? I'm not going to second-guess Pletcher, who tore up the weekend card at Gulfstream Park.

Uncle Mo won't have much to beat in the Wood, so I anticipate his performance will be measured against the clock and evaluated in-depth by the speed figure proponents.

Speaking of the figs and sheets boys, I imagine they'll be wondering if #3 Premier Pegasus will “bounce” in Saturday's Santa Anita Derby after his overpowering performance on March 12 in the San Felipe Stakes, which he won by 7 3/4 lengths. Bred, owned and trained by Myung Kwon Cho, this son of Fusaichi Pegasus looks like the real thing, and his overall record is pretty darned good, his only loss coming when third to The Factor in the seven-furlong San Vicente. Cho has been to the big dance at Churchill Downs twice before, as the owner of Video Ranger (4th in 1990) and as owner-trainer of Nationalore (9th in 1998).

#5 Jaycito, a distant second in the San Felipe in his first start for Bob Baffert, should be tighter this time around, though I'm not sure he's got enough in him to make up the nearly eighth lengths that separated him from Premier Pegasus last time out. This son of Victory Gallop might be the kind of horse who won't show his very best until stretched out to the Kentucky Derby distance of a mile and a quarter.

#14 Anthony's Cross and #11 Silver Medallion also make the Santa Anita Derby an interesting race to watch. Anthony's Cross comes off a narrow Santa Anita victory in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes and Silver Medallion won the El Camino Real Derby on the Tapeta synthetic track at Golden Gate Fields. Neither horse beat top-class fields, and this will be their strongest tests.

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