This weekend presents racing with one of the hottest, most contentious day in racing since January. The question is not how many are looking forward to Saturday, it's who isn't. The Tampa Bay Derby, the San Felipe and Rebel all being on the same day would've been enough, especially when you consider that we will be seeing the return of last year's Juvenile champion Lookin at Lucky, Grade one winners Noble's Promise and Dublin all set to lock horns in the Rebel. Then on the left coast you have the highly anticipated rematch between the ultra-talented American Lion against the undefeated Caracortado. However, no matter how great these races look on paper, they don't even hold a candle to the return of Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra.
Rachel Alexandra will face just four rivals in her comeback, the New Orleans Ladies, carrying 123 lbs. Her connections say that she is not cranked up for her best effort, but even when taking that into account one must remember Rachel is Rachel. In her early three year old races, I doubt Rachel was trained for her best effort, yet she won all while being hand ridden to a trio of ridiculously easy victories. In my opinion this race will be no different.
Zenyatta enters the Santa Margarita after a bullet 1.11.8 work for six furlongs. The big mare seems to be on top of her game. Zenyatta will shoulder 127lbs to post, conceding up to sixteen pounds. Despite the heavy impost, I am not at all worried, since Zenyatta carried two pounds more in the Vanity, last year, while facing a group of similar stature. In short I expect both of the champions to come back and win easily.
Now we move onto the Derby preps, starting with the San Felipe. As mentioned above the top two picks for the race will probably end up being Caracortado, as the favorite, and American Lion as your second choice. These two met for the first time in the Robert B. Lewis, where Caracortado pulled the upset, leaving American Lion eating rubber. One could easily throw out the talented son of Tiznow after disappointing that weekend, but others like me would like to give the colt one more chance. The Robert B. Lewis was his first try at two turns and during the race he was normally only half a length off some solid fractions. Again, many would look at his race and frown, but anyone who knows anything about synthetics know that the lead or close to it, is not the place you want to be. You will also notice that American Lion was not pushed extremely hard to run down Caracortado, implying that the race may have merely been a tightener.
The Rebel is easily the most contentious Derby prep this year, and features the dirt debut and return of Lookin at Lucky. Also trying dirt for the first time and returning is Lookin at Lucky's pesky little rival Noble's Promise. On synthetics he is always right behind the Baffert trainee, could the dirt give him that extra little push he needs to fly past his rival? Speaking of flying, don't forget about Dublin, who was soaring in the Southwest, and nearly caught Conveyance, another Baffert colt. He gets another sixteenth to run down his opponents and this time around the grey speedster is AWOL. The son of Afleet Alex may just return to the winners circle in this race, that is if he can get past the synthetic pair first.
So, is that blood boiling yet? If it's not, you might want to see a doctor, because this here, is the hottest weekend in racing.