Half the year has passed, but only half the battle is over for this generation of three year old colts. With the category wide open for any one of these horses to claim, the division heats up for the fall. Despite the absence of the Kentucky Derby winner, Animal Kingdom, the return of Uncle Mo and The Factor may sharpen the blurred picture that is the three year old male category. Is it possible that the improving turf horse, Mr. Commons, will show up at the Breeders’ Cup as the leading three year old? How about the pacesetting Shackelford fronting this division or will the previously heralded Uncle Mo return with a vengeance? Perhaps the most obvious question would be: Who will survive until November? After watching my “Derby Darlings” disintegrate before my eyes, I’m somewhat reluctant to curse my Breeders’ Cup favorites with the same fate. I’ve already lost one of my Dudes!
The bay son of outstanding sire, Dynaformer; is targeting the Jim Dandy Stakes this weekend as his next start following his third place to longshot Ruler on Ice, and Repole Stable’s Stay Thirsty in the Belmont Stakes. After the Belmont Stakes run at 1 ½ miles, Brilliant Speed continued to appear on the work tab consistently.
Representing West-coast three year olds, the John Shirreffs trainee has come back strongly from his eighth place in the Preakness Stakes by returning to his roots in the Oceanside Stakes on Del Mar's turf track during opening weekend. Mr. Commons' first win came on a turf track, before he was switched to conventional dirt for a third in the Santa Anita Derby, and the Preakness. Winless on dirt, this colt appears to take a better liking to the turf, being 2-2 on that surface.
This big blazed chestnut symbolizes the Forestry progeny as he gallops into the Haskell Invitational with his pre-race Rebel Yell. Arriving at the New Jersey racecourse on July 26, Shackelford is the likely winner of the nine furlong race against Belmont Stakes winner, Ruler on Ice, and his stablemate, Pants on Fire. Shackelford has posted two consecutive bullets at five furlongs on the Churchill Downs dirt oval, showing that he hasn’t lost his spark since the Belmont.
Bob Baffert’s The Factor resumed training on July 26 by posting an easy four furlongs in :49 flat. Though he had a trouble-free recovery from his hairline fracture located in his hind ankle, he was given some extra time off. The grey or roan colt by hot, young sire, War Front, has been under light training for the past month, and is pointing towards the King’s Bishop at Saratoga Race Course, where he may face Uncle Mo. Bob Baffert said of his leading Derby contender: “We’re trying to get him out there, but it’s going to be tight. He’ll let us know if he’s ready. It (the King’s Bishop) would be a very exciting race.” If The Factor squares off with Uncle Mo, the King’s Bishop could bring one of the biggest races of the year leading up to the Breeders’ Cup.
Aiming for the King’s Bishop on the Travers Stakes undercard, last year’s top juvenile is back breezing at Saratoga. The son of Indian Charlie who was sidelined by a liver disorder seemed to be back to his normal self, with a comfortable, powerful stride. He stopped the clock at :38.4 for three furlongs in his first breeze on July 22. The anticipation of seeing Uncle Mo come back strong and healthy leaves me optimistic for the continuation of an already impressive career.
The third placer in last year’s installment of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf is continuing his talent on the green stuff by having two consecutive wins on the surface against large fields. His most recent victory came in the American Derby at Arlington Park with a four length winning margin. The real test for this colt will be when he faces the older Turf monsters this fall.