Friday, May 1, 2009

Haskin's Derby Report: 48 Hours and Counting

Haskin's Derby Report:  48 Hours and Counting
Hold Me Back gallops at Churchill Downs on April 30.

The big day is almost here. No, not the Derby; having to make selections, which will be in Friday’s column. These selections are based primarily on observations over the past eight days, and it’s going to be particularly difficult this year. In the meantime, he are a few late odds and ends.

Papa Clem, who had his seven-furlong work last week compromised in the final furlong when the exercise rider misjudged the finish line, made up for that miscue by turning in a razor-sharp three-furlong blowout in :34 breezing Thursday morning, out a half in :47 1/5. I particularly loved the way he rolled around the clubhouse turn and well down the backstretch, reaching out with great authority as if he wanted to keep going.

It’s difficult to know what to make of him on Saturday, as he will be the inside speed from post 7, if Rafael Bejarano decides to have him return to his old style of running. He surprised his connections in the Arkansas Derby (gr. II) by taking back to fifth and then rallying in the stretch to out-battle Old Fashioned. There is no one in the field more tenacious than the son of Smart Strike and you can bet none of the connections of the favorites will want to take him on too early. His coat is blossoming and he appears sharp, even to the point of nipping at anyone who comes near his stall.

Not far outside Papa Clem, in posts 9 and 10, respectively, will be Join in the Dance and Regal Ransom, the two horses expected to be on or close to the lead. Todd Pletcher would love to see Join in the Dance be contentious early to provide a decent pace for the late-running Dunkirk. Both these colts also have proven their mettle under fire, so we could have quite a battle going on up front.