Don't overlook this 3-year-old crop
At the point where winter grudgingly gives way to spring there is often a tendency to dismiss the season's new 3-year-olds who have to some degree shown sufficient promise to merit consideration as Kentucky Derby prospects.
Disparagement is a handicapper's most useful tool since it is generally rewarded in a game that crushes seven of 10 favorites.Orb made a huge favorable impression when he rallied to victory in the Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park last month, a victory that vaulted him to the top of many polls. He is a big, rangy colt blessed with a long stride and substantial raw ability brought along steadily after he was beaten in his first three races last year and revealed as the distance of his races suited to a late-running style that will serve him well as he matures. He is in the hands of trainer Shug McGaughey and owned in partnership by Stuart Janney and the Phipps family, bulwarks of racing in the East, who bred this colt to compete, not sell. Orb's connections are immune from the scourge of Derby fever and his participation is probably entirely dependent upon his next effort as he progresses to 9 furlongs in the Florida Derby or Wood Memorial. Though he trained in anonymity last year while stablemate Shanghai Bobby earned an Eclipse Award, Verrazano's hat is now squarely in the frame after his victory last weekend in the Tampa Bay Derby. He is a physically imposing animal with great efficiency of stride who did not appear until Jan. 1 at Gulfstream Park and is now 3-for-3. Some will consider his lack of experience at age two to be a detriment, but his performance at three is flawless, suggests that there is more to reveal and impossible to overlook. "He definitely showed us that he can overcome an early stumble and deal with a little dirt in his face," trainer Todd Pletcher said of Verrazano after his first stakes win at Tampa. "We found out that he could travel well and handle two turns. All the things we were worried about, he overcame them pretty well." Vyjack is perhaps the most intriguing of the now-prominent 3-year-olds who were absent from major competition last year, rocketing into contention in the Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct with a jaw-dropping rally that carried him to a clear victory despite a speed-favoring surface in New York. What impressed most was the unexpected display of versatility from a colt who began his career with a pair of frontrunning wins. Most impressively, his was the only closing victory on the Aqueduct card that day. "He doesn't know what he's doing yet," trainer Rudy Rodriguez said. "I think he's still got more." This spring will be fun. Stay tuned. Paul Moran is a two-time winner of the Media Eclipse Award and has received various honors from the National Association of Newspaper Editors, Society of Silurians, Long Island Press Club and Long Island Veterinary Medical Association. He also has been given the Red Smith Award for his coverage of the Kentucky Derby. Paul can be contacted at email@example.com.NYRA/Adam CoglianeseCould Vyjack be the horse to end the Triple Crown drought.
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