Mucciolo’s Sophomore Spotlight Recap: Spiral & Sunland Derby
Trainer Mike Maker’s less ballyhooed entrymate in an 11-horse field, FAST AND ACCURATE tracked behind the top pair to the head of the stretch and closed best to pull off the 24-1 upset by three-parts of a length. The vastly improved colt has rolled home to a trio of wins in succession since getting Lasix and stamped his Kentucky Derby ticket earning 50 points in the Spiral, though the final time and 14-second final furlong leave something to be desired as far as being a major player on the three-year-old scene. I credit the colt for digging in late to secure the tally and his progression is noted, as well, but he will need to get faster to be a serious threat.
Runner-up BLUERIDGE TRAVELER made a good run from off the pace to earn place honors for conditioner Ken McPeek. The son of To Honor and Serve has been a consistent late runner in his past few races but is still yards behind the better ones in his crop at this stage of his development. KITTEN’S CAT, the 5-2 favorite, had a less than ideal voyage in this lucrative race but did well to be fourth. The colt remains, in my opinion, to be the most talented runner in the contest and his turf future still appears to be bright.
The fact that the top six finishers in this field were separated by 2 ¾ lengths tells me that this field was mostly average and not a single horse left a great impression on me.
Sunland Derby (G3):
The Steve Asmussen-trained HENCE broke slowest and was near the back of the field for the opening half-mile of the $800,000 race, but the colt picked off horses thereafter and rolled home an impressive 3 ¾-length victor in a lifetime-best performance. Chestnut son of Street Boss is the hardest read of any sophomore exiting these prep races for me as he registered a whopping 103 BRIS Speed figure, 17 points greater than his previous best. Kentucky-bred colt is cut out to run long being out of an A. P. Indy mare but it’s impossible to know what to make out of this figure until the Calumet homebred runs back. I have seen plenty of horses make a big leap forward at this time of year in the past, but he will have to validate this showing in a final prep race before I start drinking the Kool-Aid.
CONQUEST MO MONEY suffered a first lifetime setback but was easily second best while more than four lengths clear of his nearest pursuer. The son of Uncle Mo continues to improve and I liked how he stayed on late in a first try at nine furlongs. Miguel Hernandez trainee has never raced away from Sunland Park and connections bypassed the chance to make him a late nominee for the Triple Crown (which would have cost $6,000) despite earnings of more than $130,000 this year. New York-bred appears unlikely to proceed to Churchill Downs.
Third-place finisher HEDGE FUND went way too fast early in leading to the top of the lane but gets props for hanging on to get a piece of the pie when the top duo blew past him in early stretch. The Todd Pletcher trainee was exiting a Gulfstream maiden win and has a high ceiling with just a trio of career runs under his belt. Chestnut colt could evolve into a high-class miler type with more seasoning.