Major Preps Are Off To A Wild Start

Take Charge Indy Wires Florida, Hero of Order Stuns Louisiana 

We learned a lot on the first weekend of major Kentucky Derby preps. The highlights being that the trail is always ready for a shocker and a horse’s last win only goes so far. More importantly we were educated once again that veterans aren’t riding just for fun. No sir, these Louisiana boys’ are here to race and when given the chance you better bet that they are going to make you pay. When the purses are raised into the Millions is when an experienced hand is always a trustworthy source to guide the game plan home for the win no matter how improbable it may seem. There’s no joke, Cajun Countries Calvin Borel and Eddie Martin Jr are now your 2012 Florida Derby and Louisiana Derby champions. 

Calvin Borel, from St. Martin Parish, LA is back on the derby trail. At 45 yrs old he is now in serious contention to make a bid for a 4th Kentucky Derby win after he and Take Charge Indy wired the field in the Grade 1 Florida Derby. The win was an impressive return to the winner’s circle, his first since scoring in his debut MSW at Arlington Park last July.

Take Charge Indy (KY) AP Indy – Take Charge Lady | Owner: Chuck and Maribeth Sandford – Trainer: Patrick Byrne | 6 Lifetime Starts: 2-2-0 — 2 Starts in 2012: 1-1-0

Click Here for a Full Race Chart and Pay Offs – Click Here to Watch Replay

A good trainer has to enjoy answering questions with a horse’s performance on the track and Patrick Byrne just did. Since withdrawing Take Charge Indy from the Tampa Bay Derby in March the questions about the decision never stopped. After entering and drawing poorly with the outside post 10 Byrne had to think quick; move your colt from South Florida to Tampa or wait for the Florida Derby. That is not an envious position to choose from but the right one was made – pretty impressive. Byrne seemed confident with the way that his colt was training at Palm Meadows and Take Charge Indy proved it. His form was strong and his comfort levels were absolutely on point from end to end in a race with very little speed – :23.60, :47.71, 1:12.09, and 1:35.95. Better yet, at the eighth pole Take Charge Indy was still clear by a length and all set to ride the rail all the way home. As we’ve seen throughout Calvin Borel’s career, when that formula is in place you had better make your move fast before it’s likely that your bid will end too little, too late.

Unfortunately for Union Rags that’s exactly where the Florida Derby ended. Besides the fact that a late shoe repair sent him out to the post parade a bit behind schedule, it was the race riding that seemed to lock Union Rags up in the rear along the backstretch and affect his chances of winning the most. Coming out of the first turn it appeared that Julien Leparoux had him in a good spot until Javier Castellano and El Padrino beat him into the backstretch and boxed him in from the outside with Neck N’ Neck on the rail in front. By the time they had reached the final turn Union Rags had fallen from 5th to 6th which left Leparoux with a big decision to make. Keeping him inside was a great move to avoid going 4 wide but when Reveron closed down towards the rail in front of Union Rags Leparoux had to angle out for his final bid. It was valiant effort but just not enough as Reveron held on for 2nd and Take Charge Indy triumphed by just over 1 length.

Derby Implications

Take Charge Indy punched his ticket for the 138th Kentucky Derby and by all indications it’s highly unlikely that Calvin Borel will ride any other horse. The Florida Derby win vaulted him from outside of the top 20 into #5 on the Graded Stakes earnings and a total of $698,400. Trainer Patrick Byrne has commented that he thinks his colt performs best when he gets at least 5 weeks of rest and that is the amount of time it will be before we see him again on Derby Day. Because I expect the Kentucky Derby pace to be faster, Take Charge Indy will need to continue to progress if he’s going to either wire the field again or fire to the front from just off the pace.

Union Rags showed enough to keep his title of Kentucky Derby Future Favorite. After taking all of the factors into account I can agree with him keeping that title for the time being. Union Rags is still the horse that appears to be best suited for the Kentucky Derby distance of 1 ¼ Mile but he will need to steer clear of getting hung up in the pack in order to get the best shot at making a run for it. I think Julien Leparoux learned a lot in the Florida Derby and will be back strong in 5 weeks.

El Padrino and Reveron are now on the Kentucky Derby qualification bubble. El Padrino represents the horse that has fallen onto the bubble while Reveron has moved into the top 20 for the first time. The 4th place finish and $50,000 prize drops El Padrino down to 18th ($250k) from 14th before the Florida Derby. For Reveron the $200,000 2nd place prize gives his derby hopes a huge lift and elevates him to #19 and a total of $220,000. It’s too early to tell which direction the connections will choose to lead their colts so for the time being it’s safe to consider them as Kentucky Derby entries if they aren’t forced out of the top 20. El Padrino had a disappointing race in the Florida Derby but if he’s still derby eligible I expect Todd Pletcher to have him back on track.

Onto to Louisiana where another native Cajun ended the Winter Meet at the Fair Grounds with an improbable 109-1 score in the Louisiana Derby. Eddie Martin Jr. added a monumental accomplishment to his racing career by achieving his first ever Louisiana Derby in his home city of New Orleans. Proving that it’s never too late to do something big at 48 Eddie Martin Jr. pulled off the most shocking win so far on the Kentucky Derby trail by guiding Hero of Order to the big stage. The win is the first ever graded stakes win for Hero of Order and only his 2nd career win in 13 career lifetime starts.

Click Here for a Full Race Chart and Pay Offs via Equibase – Click Here to Watch Replay

Prior to the race Hero of Order entered with only a single win his career, a MSW on January 7. After a shaky start in 2-yr-old season, zero wins in 8 starts, Hero of Order used the win to move on to a 4th place finish in the G2 Risen Star also at the Fair Grounds. But Hero of Order was not the Risen Star / Louisiana Derby horse that everyone was talking about. That horse was the favorite Mark Valeski.

Under the guidance of the meet leading rider in Rosie Napravnik, Mark Valeski had a dream trip coming out of the final turn. As they reached mid-stretch Hero of Order was within striking distance at just over 1 length and Rosie was urging her colt to dig deep down the stretch. However, pulling even proved to be too tough as Hero of Order hung on and stunned the Fair Grounds. Mark Valeski would hold for 2nd place and thus keeping the derby hopes alive for the colt trained by Larry Jones.

Derby Implications

It is very unlikely that Hero of Order will move on to the Kentucky Derby because he is not nominated. The Kentucky Derby was never the target for this colt so if his connections were to change their mind this late it would cost over $200,000 to nominate him. As for Mark Valeski the 2nd place prize of $200,000 was still a welcome and much-needed addition to his graded stakes earnings. With his total increasing to $260,000 Mark Valeski has officially entered the top 20 for the very first time – #17. If he holds on I expect Larry Jones to make the call in favor of the Kentucky Derby so unless his bubble bursts look for him to be at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May.

Rousing Sermon got back into what he’s most familiar doing so far in his career: Hitting the board. The 3rd place finish in the Louisiana Derby makes it his third top 3 finish in 4 Graded Stakes attempts and adds another $100k to his GS Earnings – #16 $270,000. This race was his first since the San Felipe where he finished 5th and will probably be his last race before the Kentucky Derby if his trainer Jerry Hollendorfer elects to send him there. Although he has yet to win a Graded Stakes race he has raced against some top derby contenders and finished well enough to still be considered a likely Kentucky Derby starter if he remains in the top 20.

Mr. Bowling, Shared Property and Z Dager were three horses with an outside chance of qualifying for the big one but needed a very big performance in Louisiana to make it happen. Unfortunately the Louisiana Derby is where their derby hopes were dashed. All 3 finished outside the top 4 and are too far back to make the jump.

Finally, on a side note it is entertaining for me to see these jockeys score in the Florida and Louisiana Derby on the same weekend. They are two jockeys that enjoyed their time and success at the racetrack that I was at as much as possible growing up. Ellis Park is very small and lesser known meet on the Kentucky racing circuit but it’s still racing in the Blue Grass State and it’s where I really began learning the most about the sport. Between the two Calvin Borel went on from Henderson, KY to achieve much more in his racing career but Eddie Martin Jr. is a journey man who deserved the big win in Louisiana. You never forget the jockeys you first started handicapping with and against so here’s a tip of the cap to a pair of familiar names; congratulations on the big wins, thanks for showing us that you ain’t done yet. Cheers.

Written by: Little Brink


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