In my brief absence, the Woodbine News and SnowBirds tabs have continued to update daily.
One piece I finished for Down The Stretch included an interview with Sam-Son Farm President and GM Rick Balaz who is very much looking forward to Hotep's start in Saturday's G2 Louisiana Derby.
"We’re very excited about Hotep," said Balaz over the phone earlier this week. "He didn’t do too well in his last race (Risen Star) but I don’t know if that was a fair test of his ability as there was a very slow pace. We’ll see how he does this weekend in the Louisiana Derby. He’ll be a longshot in there but that will give us a good idea of what the horse is made of."
Hotep on post parade before breaking his maiden at Woodbine
Balaz was not alone in recognizing the slow pace of the Risen Star Stakes.
Pace won't be the only addition that might help Hotep rebound on Saturday.
"There’s a couple of changes," stated Balaz. "Patrick Husbands is going to be on him and sometimes changing riders is a good thing. It’ll be a bit of a mystery for us this weekend but it won’t be long until we know what he’s made of and see where we go with him from there."
A win would put Hotep very much into the Kentucky Derby picture. A loss sends Hotep on his way to the Canadian Triple Crown with some valuable experience under his belt. It's a win-win situation.
A second Sam-Son Farm's colt - Giant's Tomb - took a giant leap towards the Queen's Plate with a nice allowance win at Fair Grounds earlier this week.
The pair of colts represents just two of the potential stars from a stable currently racing horses in Louisiana under the care of trainers Mark Frostad, Malcolm Pierce and Neil Howard.
“Hotep’s got the credentials and we just love what we see in that horse so far,” said Rick Balaz. “Last year, Tom Zwiesler, (Sam-Son’s Ocala-based farm manager) would have groups of horses out there training in the morning and he said ‘Hotep just seems to do everything a little bit better than everybody else’.”
Balaz believes his other colt has plenty of room to grow.
“Giant’s Tomb has great potential,” stated Balaz earnestly. “We’ve got a lot of opportunity and it’s going to be an exciting year for Sam-Son.”
It was about as far as Balaz got before checking himself.
“I’m pretty superstitious,” laughed Balaz. “I’m always touching wood when I say we’re going to have a good year but we certainly have a lot of bullets in our gun.”
Punters looking to fill out their selections in Woodbine’s annual Queen’s Plate fantasy contest would do well to jot down the following names in addition to Hotep and Giant's Tomb - - Cognashene, Dark Cloud Dancer, Forest Run, Arrow's Conquest and Red Strike.
There was a time when Sam-Son entries regularly filled Queen's Plate fields
“It’s probably the nicest group of three year-olds we’ve had in a long time,” admitted Balaz. “I have to say that Mark Frostad has gone a good job and we’ve got a few horses with Malcolm Pierce this year and he’s a very good trainer. It will be interesting to see how things go with him.”
Hotep will have to overcome a difficult inside post position and odds of 30-1 to make an impact on Saturday. Woodbine punters accustomed to odds-on favourites in silks of red and gold will no doubt look to cash some green in the Louisiana Derby.
$750,000 Louisiana Derby, 3YO, 1 1/8 Miles (Dirt), 122 pounds
PP, Horse, Jockey, Trainer, Morning Line Odds
1—Hotep, Patrick Husbands, Mark Frostad, 30-1
2—Mission Impazible, Rajiv Maragh, Todd Pletcher, 8-1
3—Fly Down, Jose Lezcano, Nick Zito, 8-1
4—The Program, Martin Garcia, Bob Baffert, 10-1
5—A Little Warm, David Cohen, Tony Dutrow, 4-1
6—Ron the Greek, James Graham, Tom Amoss, 6-1
7—Discreetly Mine, Javier Castellano, Todd Pletcher, 7-2
8—Island Soul, Robby Albarabo, Steve Asmussen, 20-1
9—Stay Put, Jamie Theriot, Steve Margolis, 10-1
10—Wow Wow Wow, John Jacinto, D. Wayne Lukas, 30-1
11—Mister Marti Gras, Shaun Bridgmohan, Neil Pessin, 30-1
12--Backtrack, Shane Sellers, Gary Scherer, 30-1
13—Drosselmeyer, Kent Desormeaux, Bill Mott, 5-1
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The following are recent workouts from potential 2010 Queen's Plate Contenders
* Who's Big Daddy breezed 4F in 47.80 on the Woodbine polytrack on March 26, 2010. Rank 1/50
* Cognashene breezed 4F in 48.60 on the Fair Grounds dirt on March 26, 2010. Rank 8/25
* Grittani breezed 4F in 49.20 on the Payson Park dirt on March 26, 2010. Rank 3/23
* Doctor Jack breezed 4F in 52 on the Payson Park dirt on March 26, 2010. Rank 19/23
* Mobil Unit breezed 3F in 38.80 on the AIKEN dirt on March 26, 2010. Rank 1/2
* Kevin Rawks breezed 3F in 37.60 on the Woodbine polytrack on March 26, 2010. Rank 23/36
* Hollinger breezed 3F in 37.40 on the Payson Park dirt on March 25, 2010. Rank 24/38
* It's Time Bear breezed 4F in 48.40 on the Woodbine dirt training track on March 25, 2010. Rank 2/24
* Dashing Tom breezed 4F in 50.40 on the Woodbine polytrack on March 25, 2010. Rank 15/24
* Race for Gold breezed 4F in 46.60 on the Woodbine polytrack on March 25, 2010. Rank 2/70
* Atlantic Key breezed 3F in 37.40 on the Woodbine polytrack on March 25, 2010. Rank 24/38
* Essence Hit Man breezed 5F in 1:01.80 on the Woodbine polytrack on March 24, 2010. Rank 12/29
* Abruptly breezed 4F in 50flat on the Woodbine polytrack on March 24, 2010. Rank 50/81
* Joey's Best breezed 5F in 1:02 on the Woodbine polytrack on March 24, 2010. Rank 14/29
* General Staff breezed 5F in 1:02.20 on the Ocala polytrack on March 24, 2010. Rank 7/10
* PowerMouse breezed 5F in 1:01.80 on the Ocala polytrack on March 24, 2010. Rank 5/10
* Captain Canuck breezed 6F in 1:14.60 on the Palm Meadows dirt on March 24, 2010. Rank 1/2
For more information on the first jewel of the Canadian Triple Crown, please click on my Queen's Plate Contenders tab.
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Saturday's post will handicap the Sunland Derby and there will also be a little bit of extra insight into one of the Queen's Plate Contenders.
Don't forget - for those of you about to turn the page and put pen to paper figuring out the Dubai World Cup - you can watch and wager via your HorseplayerInteractive account. First post is the Al Quoz Sprint at 9:20AM EST on Saturday morning.
I recommend readers check out the blog of Thoroughbred Times editor Ed DeRosa for live on-site updates from Dubai.