Vinery LTD presents the Paulick Derby Index: Risen Star Coming Up Strong
Trainer Kathy Ritvo decided to send Mucho Macho Man to New Orleans for last Saturday’s Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes to see where the son of Macho Uno stood as a legitimate Triple Crown contender. He was coming off a disappointing fourth-place finish as the favorite, beaten by the new hotshot Dialed In on Jan. 30 in the G3 Holy Bull Stakes, and Ritvo felt he deserved another chance.
Racing without blinkers for the first time in his seven-race career and with the addition of a shadow roll, Mucho Macho Man relaxed beautifully, sitting just off the early pace, moving to the lead in midstretch under Rajiv Maragh, and drawing off to a length and a half victory over a good field. Ritvo got the answer she was hoping for.
But so did Eddie Keneallly, trainer of runner-up Santiva, a Giant’s Causeway colt making his first start since Nov. 27 (when he won the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs), and finishing a very solid second. Rogue Romance may have disappointed bettors with his third-place finish as the narrow favorite in the Risen Star, but he finished well enough in his first start since Nov. 6, when the son of Smarty Jones ran a distant third to Uncle Mo in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Machen, the fourth-place finisher in his stakes debut, was beaten just over lengths by Mucho Macho Man, and his connections have good reason to believe he can improve off that effort.
I think the Risen Star will come up as a strong head.
The other weekend race of interest to Derby watchers, but one that was too late to help players participating in the first round of Kentucky Derby Future Wager, was the Grade 2 San Vicente Stakes at Santa Anita. Bob Baffert-trained The Factor solidified his standing as one of the fastest 3-year-olds in the country, winning that seven-furlong race y three-quarters of a length over fast-closing Sway Away. The Factor’s time on the quick Santa Anita dirt track was 1:20.34 for seven furlongs. Whether or not The Factor can get a distance of ground remains to be seen, and Baffert didn’t indicate where and when The Factor might race next.
However, we now know where Uncle Mo, the 2010 2-year-old champion and No. 1 Paulick Derby Index horse, will be starting his 2011 campaign. Earlier today, Todd Pletcher said the son of Indian Charlie will be pointed toward the March 12 Timely Writer at Gulfstream Park, with the same afternoon’s Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby being the backup race. Either way, the plan would be for Uncle Mo to then head to New York and contest the Grade 1 Wood Memorial April 9 as his final prep for the Kentucky Derby.
Meanwhile, this weekend’s Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes — which lost Dialed In because his connections want to give the Mineshaft colt a little more time – will be the principal race of interest. PDI No. 2 To Honor and Serve will be making his 2011 debut in that mile and one-eighth contest.
A quick look at my top 10:
1. Uncle Mo. Continues to work toward his 2011 debut at Palm Meadows.
2. To Honor and Serve. Probably the best Kentucky Derby prospect Hall of Famer Bill Mott’s ever had.
3. Dialed In. Getting a little extra time by skipping this weekend’s Fountain of Youth. Nick Zito always dangerous with a good 3-year-old.
4. Jaycito. Working very solidly for Bob Baffert with an eye toward the March 12 San Felipe at Santa Anita. That’s going to be a big day, with Uncle Mo racing earlier in the afternoon.
5. Santiva. Came from the layoff to run a sharp second in the Risen Star.
6. Mucho Macho Man. Was ready to give up on this one after he burned up too much energy early in the Holy Bull. Removing blinkers helped him relax.
7. Brethren. Yet to work since his easy win at Tampa Bay in the Sam F. Davis.
8. Rogue Romance. Needed last start in the Risen Star. Figures to improve next out.
9. Anthony’s Cross. One of the top prospects from what looks like a weak group right now in California.
10. King Congie. Sentimental pick. Colt has talent, and an angel looking down from heaven rooting for a miracle.