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TrackNotes: Prep Walk

Our runt mayor, not the current runt, the runt who was mayor before him, the son of that old round runt, always, passive aggressively, said "stupid" things. One was "Really! No really. It really is. It is! No, REALLY."

Tangent: Do we vote Vallas or Preckwinkle simply because they're not runts? Who wins the contract to build taller lecterns?

But, no, really, the real Thoroughbred horse racing season has started, at least for TrackNotes, as our pinky toe was dipped into the wagering waters and Grind Phase I to the May 4 Kentucky Derby has begun. This weekend, it was the Risen Star Stakes (Grade II, 8.5 furlongs, dirt, $400,000) from Fair Grounds Race Course, New Orleans. It's a prep for the Louisiana Derby, March 23, Same Bat Track.

War of Will, son of War Front, out of the Sadler's Wells mare Visions of Clarity (Ireland, and read distance pedigree) won the race from the far outside 14 post by a nice 2.25 lengths, after eavesdropping on a moderate, not killer pace that nonetheless killed also eligible Gun It, who gunned it, and Dunph and Manny Wah.

But it's way early, it really is, and the Risen Star is no launching pad to Derby, or Triple Crown, success. Gun Runner, Champion Older Dirt Male and overall Horse of the Year for 2017 won this three years ago and Bravazo parlayed his win last year into invitations to the hottest cocktail parties throughout 2018.

But we're also in for a continuation by touts or others who should know better, of the annual trend of exalting a horse to the top of the Derby contender list based merely on yesterday's race.

I now have a new angle for the Road to the Roses, and that's keeping an eye on Steve Haskin, author of the Hangin' with Haskin blog on, and his weekly "Derby Dozen" ranking of his top Derby hopefuls.

You choose to either knock your head against the wall, or take it with humor and for the research value. Haskin does a good job.

But I guffawed and then chuckled for quite a while after TVG's always annoying race host Todd Schrupp was tossed like a thrown shoe when soon after the race he sought to promote War of Will, whose Beyer Speed Figure flattened out Saturday, to the top of the Derby contenders list.

"With such an impressive win, you have to put War of Will right on top!" Todd said with classic Schruppster hype. Deafening silence from analyst Dave Weaver.

Weaver, curtly, "NO." Schrupp reaches like Rubber Man, "Top three?"

"No. The pace wasn't that hot. Maybe top ten, but we'll even see about that," Weaver said.

It's a syndrome I don't understand. There's just so much going against a horse.

No runner is going to maintain the same form into Kentucky in May as War of Will sort of had Saturday. In fact, a horse might need a slight dip and maybe a loss to collect the hard knocks.

It's somewhat impossible, especially this early in the year, to compare horses. They rarely run against each other anymore, and it's more like the top contenders take turns running each week in separate preps. So it becomes "Who on Earth did he beat?" to get close enough to sniff the roses.

Schrupp, like many others, seeks out the scoop, looking to say May 5th, "I had him all the way." Unlike the entire rest of the time when the great majority of the TVG crew, especially old TS, never discuss the betting losses.

That's not to say War of Will can't or won't win the Derby. He's a big, fast strider with all of the distance pedigree he will ever need. With a cleanish trip, he could be a locomotive down the Churchill Downs stretch. But he does indeed need to get better.

But you can't jump on a bandwagon that doesn't leave the station for another 76 days. Tee-hee.


Tom Chambers is our man on the rail. He welcomes your comments.

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