“Madness” of the Equine Variety

March 13, 2009 | Gary Quill

With apologizes to the roundball enthusiasts, this weekend the horse racing world has their own version of Bracket-Buster Saturday. Sure, Dr. James Naismith invented basketball in 1891, but that was 16 years AFTER Aristides won the 1st running of the Kentucky Derby in 1875. So this madness in March that revolves around basketball was actually originated with the sport of horse racing.  


There are four (4) Kentucky Derby prep races on tap that will determine who will remain on the Road to Louisville and who will come up short, having their dreams shattered. The South region features the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby, in the Midwest region the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes, the East region boasts the Grade 3 Tampa Bay Derby and rounding out the brackets in the West region is the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes. Each race is contested at 1 1/16 miles. Here’s how they will shake out…


East Region: At Tampa Downs for the $300,000 Tampa Bay Derby, an 11 horse field is filled with speed. There’s only one in here (#5 Warrior’s Reward, 10-1 M/L) who likes to lay well off the pace and will be poised for a big stretch run. Expect Hello Broadway (#4; 3-1), Top Seed (#11; 20-1) and General Quarters (#8; 4-1) to be the leg-weary survivors for smaller purse money.      


Midwest Region: At Oaklawn Park near Hot Springs, AR the $300,000 Rebel Stakes attracted nine starters but the reality is it’s a two horse race, between Old Fashioned (#1; 7-5 M/L) and Silver City (#8; 4-1). These two ran 1-2 in their previous battle in the Southwest Stakes here, and the seven other rivals are all running for third place money. The best of the rest is Michael Trombetta trained, Wise Kid (#5; 9-2).


Southwest Region: In the “Big Easy” at the Fair Grounds for the 96th running of the Louisiana Derby, this field of 10 represents the most wide open event of the four Derby prep races. Patena (#3; 7-2) makes his first start for Richard Dutrow and should like the added distance after a fast closing runner-up finish to today’s favorite Friesan Fire (#9; 5-2) who will be tough again. Terrain (#4; 10-1) makes his 2009 debut with new jock Julien Leparoux and shed blinkers which when added in last start proved to be a bad move, faltering as favorite in the Delta Downs Jackpot, finishing fifth. Flying Pegasus (#5; 8-1) has always been a threat in all four career starts and today should be no exception.      


West Region: At Santa Anita in the $200,000 San Felipe Stakes should be a walk over. But so was the 2008 Belmont Stakes supposed to be for Big Brown. On paper, Pioneerof The Nile (#2; 2-5 M/L) is a standout, but he along with five of his six rivals all are void of early speed. If one horse can upset here, it’s Feisty Suances (#3; 10-1) who might be able to steal this race on the front end. Kelly Leak (#6; 6-1) and Shafted (#4; 8-1) both having run in graded stakes are capable of getting a piece of the purse.  


Complimentary Past Performances for the Louisiana Derby, San Felipe Stakes and the Rebel Stakes are available at www.kentuckyderby.com/2009/. Good Luck.