Racing Roundtable: Gerrymander, Tawny Port, and Stephen Foster Day

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June 28th, 2022

In this week's Racing Roundtable, James Scully, Vance Hanson, and Ashley Anderson look back on the Mother Goose (G2) and Ohio Derby (G3), and then look ahead to the upcoming Stephen Foster Day card at Churchill Downs.

Did Gerrymander join Secret Oath and Nest as a leading prospect for the three-year-old filly title?

James Scully: Not yet, I need to see more before putting her in the same company as the top two in the division. Gerrymander bounced back nicely in the Mother Goose, registering a career-best 104 Brisnet Speed rating for the three-length decision, but the competition paled in comparison to Secret Oath and Nest. Sixth when opening the season in the May 6 Eight Belles (G2), Gerrymander regained some lost luster on Saturday, confirming herself a promising prospect for Chad Brown, but both of her stakes wins have come at one turn.

Vance Hanson: Although she hasn't yet run around two turns, trainer Chad Brown is convinced of Gerrymander's quality and potential ability over a distance of ground. Thus, the 1 1/4-mile Alabama (G1) at Saratoga is her summertime target. Secret Oath and Nest are expected to be there, and it could prove one of the outstanding showdowns of that meet. While Gerrymander's current resume is thin compared to the other two fillies', this division race remains open.

Ashley Anderson: Secret Oath and Nest boast better resumes, but Gerrymander took a step forward Saturday with her three-length victory in the Mother Goose, albeit against a four-horse field, after Midnight Stroll scratched. With the Alabama on her radar, the Chad Brown pupil could overtake Kentucky Oaks champ Secret Oath and Belmont second-placer Nest with a win at Saratoga, but Gerrymander still has work to do to catch up to her rivals, who both hit the board in Triple Crown races and own at least one Grade 1 win this season.

Can you envision Ohio Derby winner Tawny Port being competitive at a higher level later this year?

JS: I can envision it — champion three-year-old male Will Take Charge improved significantly in the second half of the 2013 season after finishing up the track in the Kentucky Derby (G1), Preakness (G1), and Belmont (G1) — but Tawny Port's Brisnet Speed ratings will need to increase. His 97 Speed figure for the Ohio Derby came back light. On the plus side, Tawny Port is moving in the right direction for Brad Cox, sandwiching a seventh in the Kentucky Derby between convincing wins in the Lexington (G3) and Ohio Derby, and it wouldn't surprise me to see his Speed ratings catch up to his blossoming talent.

VH: Not yet, but I wouldn't rule out anything. Among the Brad Cox-trained three-year-olds, Cyberknife is currently higher in the pecking order and will take a step up to Grade 1 company next in the Haskell. Meanwhile, there are plenty of lower-level options elsewhere for Tawny Port to pick up a lot of cash while sticking closer to home. He's now won two graded stakes and outran expectations in a good Kentucky Derby performance, so aiming higher might well be justified by this fall.

AA: Tawny Port proved himself a worthy favorite in Saturday’s Ohio Derby with three-time Eclipse Award-winning jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. picking up the mount in a race featuring two other Kentucky Derby also-rans. The Brad Cox trainee rebounded from his seventh-place finish in the Derby to get his second career win on dirt and flashed a 94 late pace figure to finish with a 97 Brisnet Speed rating, the second-best rating of his career, behind his 99 on Turfway Park’s Tapeta. I think the Pioneerof the Nile son can continue to progress forward and confirm himself as one of the tougher three-year-olds in the division.

What are you looking forward to seeing on Saturday's Stephen Foster Day card at Churchill Downs?

JS: Perfect from four starts this season, including three consecutive graded stakes, Olympiad will be the horse to beat in the Stephen Foster (G2), and it may prove to be a good matchup against Mandaloun and others. I'm also intrigued by the Fleur de Lis (G2), which will feature a number of the same distaffers from the La Troienne (G1) and Shawnee S. at Churchill Downs this meet. Super Quick will be an exciting new face in the crowd for Norm Casse. A maiden winner under the Twin Spires last fall, the four-year-old filly dead-heated for third when making her stakes debut in the Doubledogdare (G3) at Keeneland two back, and Super Quick exits an eye-catching 14 1/4-length romp in the Allaire duPont Distaff (G3) at Pimlico.

VH: We obviously didn't see Americanrevolution at his best in the June 4 Blame S., so it will be interesting to see if the Todd Pletcher trainee can turn it around in the Stephen Foster. A Grade 1 performer around one turn, he's yet to demonstrate the same effectiveness against top company around two. It's worth giving him another shot as he probably needed his latest after six months on the shelf. The problem is that there are no easy spots going forward. That's especially true with stablemate Life Is Good, Speaker's Corner, and the incredible Flightline menacing threats wherever he might go.

AA: I also have circled the potential La Troienne rematch, with winner Pauline’s Pearl, who spoiled Shedaresthedevil’s defense in the Grade 1 stakes race on the Kentucky Oaks undercard, along with She’s All Wolfe and Ava’s Grace, who placed first and second, respectively, in the Shawnee at Churchill last out. She’s All Wolfe was a 20-1 upset winner in the 1 1/16-mile Shawnee, while Pauline’s Pearl disappointed as the odds-on favorite and came home fourth of five runners in the June 4 event. I’m also interested to see how Super Quick, out of Norm Casse’s barn, fares against tougher competition after she romped to a 14 1/4-length win in the Allaire DuPont Distaff at Pimlico on May 20.