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Apr 13, 2012

I'll Have Another - The Rodney Dangerfield of Racing

By: By Jeff Frank, Contributing Editor


Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - When will the public start embracing one of the top 3-year-olds of the year?

I'll Have Another began 2012 by winning the Robert B. Lewis Stakes at 43-1 odds. No respect there despite losing to Creative Cause by less than two lengths as a 2-year-old. All the bettors seemed to concern themselves with was a sixth-place finish (beaten 19 lengths) in the Hopeful forgetting the race came over a sloppy racecourse.

I'll Have Another came into this past Saturday's Santa Anita Derby off a string of long-distance works to compensate for the two-month layoff after the 2 3/4-length score in the Lewis. Even though there were only two other graded stakes winners in the field (and one of them, Liaison, had not hit the board this year), the public still sent him off at odds of 4-1. Once again, no respect for I'll Have Another.

All the son of Flower Alley did was exact revenge on Creative Cause by picking up a nose victory over his rival. The final time for the 1 1/8-mile was 1:47 4/5 seconds, the fastest Santa Anita Derby since Point Given won the race in 2001 en route to victories in the Preakness and Belmont Stakes.

It's true the track was playing fast, as evidenced by Fiddler's Afleet (a $40,000 claimer) racing one mile in 1:34 4/5 the following race. Still, I'll Have Another failed to get respect from the Beyer boys despite the quick final time as his 94 speed figure was even lower than the 96 he received in the Robert B. Lewis!

The race itself was somewhat similar to the Lewis except for a few minor points. The Doug O'Neill-trained colt bobbled slightly leaving the gate and then went a bit wide as the field scooted into the clubhouse turn. The colt then settled nicely 2 1/2-lengths off the early pace set by Blueskiesnrainbows.

Once Creative Cause rallied up the rail around the far turn, jockey Mario Gutierrez pushed his horse to keep up with the 4-5 favorite. I'll Have Another went a tad wide entering the stretch but Gutierrez straightened him out in time to match strides with Creative Cause and Blueskiesnrainbows. The chestnut colt was then pushed even wider by Creative Cause as that colt bore out under left-handed whipping from Joel Rosario. I'll Have Another looked like he was going to open up a clear lead approaching the wire but his chief nemesis fought back and almost caught him.

Creative Cause had the much easier trip and still wasn't able to defeat the two-time graded stakes winner. He was also unable to keep a straight path through the stretch, just as he did in the San Felipe. The removal of blinkers did not help as much as his connections would have hoped and it appears they will keep them off the gray colt in the Kentucky Derby.

Still, the story of the race was I'll Have Another. After running his first three-quarters in 23 3/5, 24, and 23 4/5 seconds, respectively, he came home in a solid 36 2/5. When Point Given won the SA Derby 12 years ago, he ran his final three furlongs in 36 4/5. The main difference was Point Given received a Beyer number of 110. The colt nobody thinks can win the Kentucky Derby was given a figure 16 points lower. Pay no attention to Beyer numbers. I'll Have Another is a beast.

GEMOLOGIST SCORES IN WOOD MEMORIAL

Speaking of Beyer figures, Gemologist recorded a 98 for his Wood Memorial victory, another slap in the face to I'll Have Another. The Aqueduct surface was not particularly quick on Saturday so one can understand how the first mile (of the 1 1/8) was raced in 1:37 3/5. Gemologist then ran his final furlong in 13 1/5 seconds for a final time of 1:50 4/5. It was the third slowest Wood Memorial since 1984.

Earlier on the card, the 3-year-old Le Bernardin, who had just broken his maiden on March 10, won a one-mile event in 1:36 4/5, which included a 25 1/5 final quarter. For argument sake, say it took him an extremely slow 14 seconds to run one more furlong. That means he would have clocked in at the same time for 1 1/8 miles as the unbeaten two-time stakes-winning Gemologist.

Alpha ran a bang-up second, missing the win by a mere neck. He had the tougher of the two trips after getting checked by Casual Trick around the first turn. Nevertheless, he had every chance of overtaking Gemologist inside the final furlong and failed to do so.

Gemologist and Alpha now have enough earnings to be in the Kentucky Derby starting gate but both will have to improve to bring home the roses.

DONE TALKING TAKES ILLINOIS DERBY

The Illinois Derby drew a full field of 14 and for good reason. Only one horse (Currency Swap) had ever won a graded stakes, and that victory came over a sloppy track over seven-furlongs last September.

Since $500,000 of graded earnings was up for grabs, the winner would gain entrance into the Kentucky Derby. Done Talking did just that with his three- quarter length come-from-behind victory over Morgan's Guerrilla.

Nonetheless, he accomplished that feat by traveling the nine furlongs in 1:53 4/5 seconds. It was the slowest Illinois Derby since the race was resumed in 1963 after a 25-year hiatus. Saturday's track wasn't that slow since Taptowne won the 1 1/16-mile Cryptoclearance Stakes in 1:45 2/5. It took that gray gelding approximately seven seconds to run his final sixteenth so even if he needed eight seconds for another sixteenth, he still would have finished faster than Done Talking.

ONE SUPER SATURDAY REMAINS

This coming Saturday will feature the $1 million Arkansas Derby and the $750,000 Blue Grass Stakes.

Bob Baffert's Bodemeister needs a win at Oaklawn Park to solidify a spot in the Kentucky Derby. A second-place finish would put him on the bubble. Secret Circle, Baffert's other expected entry, already has a spot lined up, while Isn't He Clever just needs to hit the board to qualify.

In the Blue Grass, Howe Great can only make it to the Derby with a victory. Unfortunately for his connections, Keeneland's signature race has come up very tough with the addition of Hansen. The other top 3-year-old to keep an eye on is Dullahan, especially after blazing five-furlongs in 57 2/5 early Sunday morning.

THE JEFF FRANK "DIRTY DOZEN"

1) I'll Have Another - His connections hope they get "another" one on May 5

2) Union Rags - Still might wind up favored despite Florida Derby loss

3) Creative Cause - Must learn to run a straight course in only a few weeks

4) Bodemeister - A win at Oaklawn gets him into the Derby

5) Gemologist - Must step it up against the big boys

6) Hansen - Still wonder if he can win going 10-furlongs

7) Dullahan - Blew out five in 57 2/5 for Blue Grass

8) Alpha - Ran great in Wood, but SA Derby was the more impressive race

9) El Padrino - Don't forget about him if he makes it to Churchill

10) Howe Great - Needs a Blue Grass victory to stay in Kentucky

11) Take Charge Indy - Won't get a clear lead in Derby

12) Daddy Nose Best - The best of the rest



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