The first major piece of co-marketing to come from this agreement will be on display this afternoon in the $150,000 added Mystic Lake Derby. If all eight entries make it to the starting gate the purse will swell to over $160,000, making it the richest race since the track reopened under current management in 1995.
Here is a closer look at the contenders:
Why Frank (Oliver/Butler) – This lightly raced local broke his maiden over the slop here at the beginning of the meet but has been unable to touch the winner’s circle in two consecutive tries, deadheating for third last out in a $25,000 conditioned claimer in his first turf try. Certainly will be a long shot against these.
Hammers Terror (Stidham/Keith) - This son of Artie Schiller was last seen only two weeks ago in the $150,000 Toronto Cup at Woodbine. While he finished 4th as the favorite, the connections felt that the race didn’t take much out him and also showed that he may be a bit distance challenged. A mile may be right in his wheelhouse and this could be a great spot for him.
Delegation (Casse/Bridgmohan) – It’s tough to know what to make of Delegation. The son of Speightstown was bred for the turf and is an undefeated two for two at Woodbine. He broke his maiden easily over the turf and followed that up with an impressive allowance score. It wouldn’t surprise me if he won by 5 or settled for third in his first real test.
Gung Ho (Maker/Franklin) – The third place finisher in the Grade 1 Blue Grass stakes, Gung Ho was last seen as the beaten favorite in the Grade 2 American Turf on Derby Day. He comes back to the races here in good shape and has been working well in preparation for his return. He’s the 5/2 morning line favorite but will have his hands full with the two on his inside.
Tequila Factor (Wilson/Riggs) – Winner of the Tempe Handicap back in March by daylight, Tequila Factor has not been a factor in his subsequent 4 races. A tough spot to try and regain his winning ways.
Corporate Chapel (Mankin/Stevens) – Two tries over the Canterbury turf this season have yielded a third and a fourth. It is probably a bit much to think he’ll get his 1st here, though his allowance victory over the dirt two back was a nice front running effort, albeit over a front-running track.
North of Never (Granitz/Martinez) – A lot of wise guy rumbling about this one. A very impressive allowance win last out at Arlington. He was a beaten by the great Silver Max two starts back in the Arlington Classic, only missing the second spot by a length and a half after flattening out a bit. If the cut back in distance is what was needed, he could surprise as the invader that should have the best post time odds.
Take Heart (Robertson/Bell) – Never count out the Hall of Fame duo, especially coming off of two consecutive wins here over the turf. He’ll be coming hard when the real running begins but he may be a cut below the top flight in here.
There is definitely some speed in this race. Delegation certainly springs to mind and Hammers Terror won’t be that far off an early pace, if at all. Even Gung Ho has pace battled in the past. All of this certainly flatters North of Never’s attempt here. He should be sitting well enough of the early pace to give him a clear run at the leaders if he’s classy enough to get past them. The rail is back to 10 feet so there should be some ability to close in the race and it looks like things may shape up nicely for the Granitz trainee.
However, while I don’t think that Delegation is going to be able to wire the field, I also don’t feel that the early pace is going to be suicidal either. The mile distance may allow for some quicker fractions than in a race that goes a mile and a sixteenth or an eighth and while Delegation is bred to get the distance it remains to be seen if he can while the distance seems to be right in Hammers Terror’s wheelhouse coming from a trainer that’s not known for bringing back horses so quickly. If Stidham is bringing him back in two weeks it’s because the colt has it in him to win it. I also like the cut back to mile over the stretch out.
I think the invaders take the first four spots with Hammers Terror taking home the laurels, a hard charging North of Never picking up second over a stalking Gung Ho and tiring Delgation.
1. Hammers Terror
2. North of Never
3. Gung Ho