by Angela Hermann
We’ve finally reached a distance test for our state-bred three year olds. The favorites look formidable, but let’s see what each entrant has to offer:
$60,000 Minnesota Derby:
1. Samendra – Bernell Rhone brings in another two-headed attack to our state-bred stakes. While the girls have both thrived around two turns, neither of his colts have even seen a yard past six furlongs. They’ve spent a good part of their careers running against each other, with the series split at a win apiece. Samendra, however, has a seasoning edge this year on Black Tie Benny and is making start number four of 2011. In the Victor S. Myers Jr. Stakes, he displayed a new dimension in coming from father off the pace than ever before. Though he was no match for Victory Sled down the lane, Samendra still seemed to learn quite a bit from this race and keeps the barn’s go-to rider in the irons. Your morning line favorite makes all the sense in the world but still must turn the tables on Victory Sled.
2. Victory Sled – Surprisingly, this streaking son of Victory Gallop and Victor S. Myers Champion is a square 4-1 morning line. I’d be shocked to see those odds stick all the way to the gate, but if they do expect to see a dashing handicapper near the windows. Though the year started off a bit bumpy for the Riecken trainee, he seems to have come into his own in his past three efforts. A neck shy of three in a row, this gelding has adopted a more patient style of running that’s benefited him in a couple of speed-laden fields. No shortage of speed in here, look out….
3. Black Tie Benny – Speed sandwiches Victory Sled, and that brings us to the other Rhone entrant. Barbara Rehbein’s Black Tie Benny enters this race off a campaign that got off to a late start. Entered in a race earlier in the summer with Samendra, Black Tie Benny scratched that day and was further delayed in starting 2011 by the government shutdown. Though he did get a race in the Victor S. Myers, he is still a bit behind and as a result we’ll let him go for this round. A very talented and gutsy animal, a mile & 70 may just be a bit too much at this point. Keep an eye out for this horse in our Festival of Champions, as the older sprinters will have a quick youngster on their hands.
4. Dancingwithbigron – After a string of hard luck and close calls, Dancingwithbigron was finally able to put all the pieces together on July 22nd. After four tries at a win this year, he finally pulled through against 11 allowance foes. The Schenian homebred has learned to relax this year and appears a different animal in blinkers. He does, however, have a few bold names in his running lines including Samendra, Desert Alley, and Black Tie Benny. Can he improve off his last start?
5. Limo – The “Hope” horse takes a giant step from maidens to stakes animals. Limo dons the hood for this event, and does so off a forty length improvement from start one to start two. However, he remains a maiden in a group of talented animals. The blinkers appear to have added some pep to his morning workouts, but it’d be a stretch to find Limo in the winner’s circle Saturday.
6. Desert Alley – We find more speed in the form of Tony Rengstorf’s son of Desert Alley. Although it appears on the surface that the chestnut will not relish the added ground, the blood certainly says he has a chance. Juan Rivera has guided him to a win and a third in stakes company in their last two efforts together. With one endurance-building workout since that time, Blue Heaven’s homebred will either need to learn to relax in a hurry. Dangerous at a juicy price.
7. Mondovi – This year, Mondovi has been a tale of two horses. When given more ground to work with, he’s become a very game runaway winner. However, sprinting this year has not been Mondovi’s game as it was last year. Off an impressive maiden win, this Biehler trainee went through a bit of a drought until June 19th of this year. Though that win was a dead-heat with Nice to Meet Me, he showed a new dimension in the Victor S. Myers stakes in closing significant ground from near last. He compromised his chances at the start that day as well, and could get a small piece of the action if everything goes according to plan.
8. Nice to Meet Me – Two rivals from earlier in the year line up next to each other in the starting gate, this being the other co-victor of the aforementioned June 19th Allowance. Nice to Meet Me, however, made a bold run up the rail at a game Mondovi, and appeared to be going slightly better at the end of that heat. Gary Scherer decided the Blair’s Cove was worth a try last time, but older foes proved a bit too much. Both of these entrants (Mondovi and Nice to Meet Me) come in off lackluster performances, but we have the feeling that both will be around at the end with this route experience on their side.
9. Distinctive Saint – The other maiden rounds out the Derby field for Vic Hanson. Though there’s some money in the bank at a distance of ground, much of this horse’s best work has been done on the front end. There’s no lack of speed to his inside, and today could prove a test of tractability. ‘Saint has proven some closing ability in the past, but will almost certainly have to show it today from the outside post. Blinkers get removed today, but the order remains tall for a maiden against several multiple winners.