By Gene Kershner
The Post Time Derby Dozen was shaken up after a couple of weekends wherein some of the top horses faltered during their initial 2011 prep races. Uncle Mo retakes the top spot from To Honor and Serve, who finished third in this weekend's Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream in the first effort of his 3-year-old campaign.
In Post Time's Friday blog we were not keen on To Honor and Serve and had anchored our Pick Three ticket with the winner, Soldat ($4.80), and place horse, Gourmet Dinner. But don't count out the Bernardini colt just yet as Bill Mott may have needed this race and the prize is on the first Saturday in May, not the last Saturday in February. To Honor and Serve slipped to the No. 11 spot in the Post Time Dozen.
Here's a look at the ballot I will submit to the Wireplayers.com for this week's poll (trainer, probable jockey, graded earnings and place):
1 -- Uncle Mo (Pletcher, Velazquez, $1,260,000, No. 1). The Breeders' Cup Juvenile champ has yet to make his 2011 debut and looks to be pointing to the ungraded $100,000 Timely Writer, a one turn mile to be run at Gulfstream Park on March 12. It appears Pletcher will run him only twice before the Derby. He is looking more and more like the heavy favorite. His Derby Futures Pool odds closed as the second choice behind "all others" at 7-2.
2 -- Mucho Macho Man (Ritvo, Maragh, $270,000, No. 9). Winner of last weekend's Rebel Stakes at the Fair Grounds, he is most likely headed to the Louisiana Derby next before setting his sights on Louisville. The Macho Uno colt came out of the very competitive Holy Bull, which is looking to be a key race, one in which No. 6 Gourmet Dinner finished third.
3 -- Soldat (McLaughlin, Garcia, $510,000, No. 5). A solid performance in the Fountain of Youth put away doubts that he can't run on dirt after three turf starts and a win on a sloppy Gulfstream track. Having Kiaran McLaughlin involved in the Triple Crown trail will make things much more interesting. His 18-1 odds in Future Pool 1 look juicy now. Can he handle the 10 furlong Derby?
4 -- Santiva (Kenneally, Smith, $240,254, No. 11). Do you think Post Time has this one ranked a bit high? Take another look at the Rebel last weekend and the strong finish by Santiva. Keep an eye on Astrology's next performance. That could validate Santiva's win last November in the Kentucky Jockey Cup.
5 -- Brethren (Pletcher, Dominguez, $120,000, No. 22). He is on the outside looking in with respect to graded earnings at No. 22 (only top 20 earners qualify for a gate). He'll try and add to those earnings March 12 at the Tampa Bay Derby to qualify. I love how easily he won from the 10 hole in the Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa earlier in the month.
6 -- Gourmet Dinner (Standridge, Dominguez, $780,000, No. 2). The Delta Jackpot winner has had two decent outings at Gulfstream Park and finished strong Saturday behind Soldat. A lot of pundits thought he was a fluke winning the Jackpot, but his form has held up.
7 -- Stay Thirsty (Pletcher, Castellano, $110,000, No. 24). He worked on Sunday in company with stable mate Uncle Mo, breezing 1:00.60 for five furlongs, and fastest time of 27 horses. We'll see his 3-year-old debut at Aqueduct on Saturday in the Grade 3 Gotham Stakes, where he will need to hit the board to add to his graded earnings total.
8 -- Dialed In (Zito, Leparoux, $240,000, No. 12). Winner of the Holy Bull in January, he most likely will have a date with Uncle Mo in the Timely Writer. He had a dream trip in the Holy Bull, but the ompetition will start to get a lot tougher. Another Triple Crown trail veteran trainer, Nick Zito, will be fun to follow in the coming weeks.
9 -- The Factor (Baffert, Garcia, $90,000, No. 28). Winner of last weekend's San Vicente, he heads to Sunland Park to see if he can stretch out over two turns for the first time. He's horse racing's best chance to get some major national exposure with Fox News' Bill O'Reilly rooting him along the Derby trail. He wouldn't be the first Derby horse to come out of New Mexico's Sunland Derby (see Mine That Bird).
10 -- Rogue Romance (McPeek, Leparoux, No. 8). The Smarty Jones colt finished behind Mucho Macho Man and Santiva last weekend in the Rebel. Jockey Leparoux may face a difficult decision on who to ride come Derby day with the call on Dialed In also. Has a trip over the Churchill strip finishing third in last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile behind Uncle Mo.
11 -- To Honor and Serve (Mott, Velazquez, $250,000, No. 10). Let's give him one more shot, his next start will most likely be in the Grade 1 Florida Derby in April. Mott's just too good of a trainer to not have him ready to roll next month. Keep an eye on his work tab during March.
12 -- Runflatout (Sadler, Gomez, $0, NR). Here's the Post Time longshot horse. He'll need to pick up some serious graded earnings to make the gate, but he'll have the opportunity on the west coast in the Grade 2 San Felipe and Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby. He posted a 96 Beyer in a maiden win for West Point Thoroughbreds. Someone has to emerge from the West Coast; I'm going with this one.
Honorable Mention: Astrology, Machen, Comma to the Top, Jaycito and Anthony's Cross.
Next week's race of the week will be the Grade 3 Gotham at Aqueduct; check back on Saturday for the Post Time race analysis.
Gene Kershner is a Buffalo-based turf writer, handicapper and member of the Thoroughbred Bloggers Alliance who blogs at equispace.blogspot.com and tweets @EquiSpace.
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