The seven horses in Monday's Manitoba Derby make up a competitive field that should provide both a fast pace and a closing kick, which makes for a wonderful show! All of the competitors have strengths that make them interesting, but also have weaknesses that could be their undoing.
1. Master Lightning
The morning line favorite boasts a huge class advantage. He has run against the top 3-year-olds on the east coast all winter and spring. The names Cairo Prince, Samraat, Uncle Sigh and Honor Code all appear amongst many other top class individuals. Master Lightning appears to be versatile as well hard knocking. Those against Master Lightning will point to his recent layoff of almost 2 months followed by the lackluster performance in a July 9 optional claimer at Belmont. Former trainer Todd Pletcher is one of the leaders in the industry and he allowed this horse to be dropped in for a claiming price. He may be the best horse in the race however, and he will most certainly get the distance.
2. Wilko Rum
The 6-1 fourth choice comes into the Derby off some races in West Virginia where he has run well. Last time out he ran third behind a nice older allowance horse named Shaler. His closing style should be well suited to the long stretch here at ASD. He ran against top notch competition in Puerto Rico, including the very nice 3-year-old Tonito M, who was second in the Laz Barrera and third in the Los Alamitos Derby. Wilko Rum should also get the best setup, as he will be rallying from behind what looks like a hot pace. The negatives are that he had a long way to ship, and it is difficult to tell how his recent form will travel to ASD. This is also tougher competition than he has seen in a while.
3. On Andy’s Advice
The longshot in the field, Andy's Advice will be a part of the early pace scenario. He comes off a length victory at Northlands Park and is a late born 3-year-old who has every right to improve. Improvement is needed however, as he has been beaten by stablemate Wilko Rum in the past, and he now jumps into the deep end coming off only an allowance win. On Andy's Advice ran sixth in a weak running of the Ky Alta Handicap and he very well could be compromised by the fast early pace.
4. Northern Contract
The 8-1 choice for trainer Don Schnell is a lightly raced gelding that has excelled sprinting. He will now try to improve off a well beaten third in a route last out. Northern Contract should improve in his second route try and he will be forwardly placed. High percentage jockey Adolfo Morales has the mount and he rode this flashy chestnut to a nice victory in the Golden Boy Stakes back in May. Northern Contract should work out a good trip, but the main question will be can he get the nine furlong distance?
5. Jet Again
The third choice and main local hopeful goes for high percentage trainer Jim Meyaard. Jet Again has blossomed into a thick good-looking 3-year-old and has handled every test along the way. He made a huge jump up in class last time and was only beaten by the classy and more seasoned shipper Edison in the last 70 yards. Jockey Chris Husbands can place Jet Again anywhere in the field and he should be able to save some ground as well. This is also a redemption of sorts for Husbands and Meyaard. They had a great shot last year in the Derby with It’s All Here, but Chris got hurt and It’s All Here moved a little too soon to hold off the late runners. This Manitoba bred is probably approaching the end of his distance limitations and that last sixteenth of a mile could prove to be a long way for Jet Again. But it is his second trip around two turns this year and he has every reason to move forward again. That would place him right in the thick of things.
6. Storm Chance.
This speedy longshot ran a great race last time to put away Sacredspirit before finishing second in an older horse allowance race. That was his first route race, and he looked like he did not mind the distance. He will be forwardly placed, and veteran rider Quincy Hamilton is in from Canterbury to ride. I anticipate Storm Chance will have to work for the lead and that could be his undoing. I think this is a really honest race horse that is only getting better and better. The negative is that he has yet to beat the top local horses and he now tries much tougher with the invaders. Storm Chance will have to run the race of his life, but stranger things have happened.
7. Street Prancer
The outside horse for Steve Asmussen also has early speed and comes off an impressive allowance win at Indiana Downs. That was a NW2L condition allowance, and it looks like all of Street Prancer’s best races have come at Indiana Downs. If this son of Street Sense takes to the local surface he will be a major factor. He displays a high amount of cruising speed and the ability to run a distance of ground like he did last time quite easily. His breeding on the sire side is all stamina as well. This is a step up in class for Street Prancer, but this is a barn that wins races all over North America and he has to be one of the main contenders on Monday.
That's a quick glance at the Manitoba Derby field. Take a look at it and watch some replays. This is a diverse race and the handicapping should be fun. I didn't pick a horse in the above analysis, but a case could be made for and against each horse. So the question becomes, who do you like?
I'll wait until I see the horses in the paddock. Good luck!