By Greg “The Commish” Johnson
The Downey Profile
Posted Feb. 2, 2012
It seems like yesterday when this race starting taking shape, and right from the get-go, it looked like a two-horse race. But hold on, partner. There’s plenty of talented prospects in the wild, wild, west these days.
At first glance, we need to consider the impact of inside/outside speedsters Isn't He Clever and Chips All In.
It looks like the lack of early speed to his inside is telling us “All In” is the right play for ol’ Mr. Chips. This Jeff Mullins-trained charge is a respectable four-for-five lifetime, and he exits his last race -- the same race that put Silver Medallion on the Derby trail last year -- a winner. He looks to settle into a good position down the backstretch, but I’m going to have to see one at two turns on the dirt before pulling the win-bet trigger on this one.
Some of you may know that I am as big a fan of Smarty Jones as, well, his mother is. He has a good looking son in Isn’t He Clever, who tied a track record at 5 1/2 furlongs at first asking, and that’s a good thing to say the least. His Beyer Speed Figures were nothing to write home about through his first three races, but that was before his New Year’s Eve breakout when he scored by 11 3/4 lengths, timed in 1:15.10 at 6 1/2 furlongs and a 97 Beyer Speed Figure (BSF).
A formula that I have stuck with for years must be considered here for sure.
An increase of 25 or more on the BSF numbers from your last few races is often a sign that a bounce is in store on the stretch-out. Or, he’s a monster on the rise ready to make a tidal wave-type splash, gate to wire, and they won’t even know what hit ‘em. Oh so tempting.
I have mixed feelings about the highly regarded Bob Baffert trainee, Sky Kingdom. His “paid workout” at Santa Anita at this distance on Jan. 12 was actually just OK, 73 BSF and all. His connections are obviously not dodging anyone in their quest to get to the big Cinco de Mayo party at Churchill Downs, and he comes to this dance with a nice :58.40, fastest-of-68 workout. He certainly looks locked, loaded and ready to rumble. I can’t see him not being a factor when the going gets going.
Rousing Sermon demonstrated in his last race exactly the kind of turn of foot I am constantly in search of when looking to answer my, “GOT YOUR WINNER YET” thing at the end of all my pieces. His works are solid in prep for this, the bandwagon out West is building rapidly, and he can certainly get a better position at the top of the lane then he had six to seven wide in the Cash Call. Watch for him late, and try not to blink.
Liaison has done everything right in his brief four-race career, including a gutty Grade I score in the CashCall Futurity that stamped his ticket to Churchill this May. This writer should also let out a secret about the turf writing “team” here at The Downey Profile.... The Commish’ boss loves this pony. He loved him in October, and this may just be his answer right now to that closing question. Thought you’d like to know.
Empire Way is a steadily improving sort that has climbed that class ladder rather effectively the past few months, including a good closing effort in the CashCall, coming up just 2 3/4 lengths short of all the marbles. This will be his first try on the Santa Anita dirt, and with all his latest posted workouts coming across town at Holly park on the synthetic, I’m not sure how he will figure into the mix with these good ones.
Groovin' Solo enters this fray off a maiden score at a mile at Santa Anita, and he has a nice :58.40 bullet workout in prep for this. He lacks the experience for an endorsement, and ditto for I'll Have Another, which is probably what his connections will be saying if he runs like he did in the Hopeful last September.
PICKS FROM THE COMMISH:
1. ROUSING SERMON
2. ISN'T HE CLEVER
4. SKY KINGDOM
Good luck today on all your Kentucky Derby prep race plays! GOT YOUR WINNER YET?