Catching My Eye: Fair Grounds Feb. 2-4

February 7th, 2023

Yes, 11 of the 38 in Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool 3 are trained by Brad Cox, but don’t think for a second that’s all he’s got. The Brad Cox barn is not done unveiling stakes-caliber three-year-olds, and we saw three of them debut this past week at Fair Grounds.

On Friday, it was Wonderful Justice. The Justify colt out of the Giant’s Causeway dam I’m Wonderful debuted going 1 1/16 miles on the turf. Florent Geroux guided him from the far outside post into stalking position, three-wide and just a few lengths off the leader. Waiting until the top of the stretch to make his move, Wonderful Justice took over and led the rest of the way. He earned a 73 Brisnet Speed figure.

The Blue Diamond Stud Farm homebred had been impressive in his morning drills, and he backed it up on Friday afternoon.

Against a field of highly touted first-time starters in Sunday’s feature sprint, including Silver State’s half-sibling Dreamboat, Demolition Duke overcame a slow start, which put him last of eight, to chase down stablemate Charging. He went four-wide in the turn and galloped out like a monster.

Watch out when this Good Magic colt stretches out — is it too late for Demolition Duke to aim for the Kentucky Derby (G1)?

State-bred sprinters

Swot Analysis ran back to his top Brisnet Speed figure on Thursday, earning a 96. The five-year-old Louisiana-bred in Mark Casse’s barn set right to work as the commanding speed and never looked back, winning the conditional allowance over a decent field of state-bred foes.

Swot Analysis ran well in the Gary Palmisano, but his formful stablemate Bron and Brow took over in the final stages (and then proceeded to win again in Saturday’s $100,000 Premier Sprint S. at Delta Downs). In that race, Swot Analysis had to deal with the next-out winner Mike J, a speedster who pressured Swot throughout. I’d likely back Swot over Bron and Brow if they face each other again this meet.

Having run in open company at Woodbine last year and even the Ontario Derby (G3) the year before, it’s likely he’ll do so again, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him win at the stakes level.

Speaking of Mike J, this LA-bred can cook. After running well but being unable to finish the job in three straight state-bred stakes races, the Lee Thomas trainee took it to a field of open company sprinters on Saturday.

In two of his previous races at Fair Grounds, Mike J endured sub-45-second half-mile fractions and just couldn’t sustain it. With a smaller field and no other need-the-lead types, he dominated from go-to-wo, earning a 90 Brisnet Speed figure on Saturday.

Thomas has not been afraid of entering his LA-bred runners against open stakes company (Charlie T finished second to Oeuvre in the Menard this meet), and if Mike J holds form, he could continue to make things interesting for all those Kentucky-bred sprinters around Fair Grounds.

Kyle Beauty debuted winning by nearly 12 lengths for trainer Ron Faucheux at the beginning of January. Saturday was her first race against winners, and even though she made only a minor step forward in terms of speed figures — earning a 72 Brisnet Speed figure breaking her maiden and a 73 in Saturday’s first-level allowance — the three-year-old California Chrome filly wowed me.

Facing pressure in the backstretch, jockey Jareth Loveberry let out the reins an inch and in four strides his runner had two lengths separation from foes who were previously at her throat latch.

Given a hand ride to the finish line, there is no doubt much more in Kyle Beauty’s tanks, so if she faces fillies who have run 80-plus speed figures, know that Faucheux’s runner has more to show us, and this will only help our price. Push-button speed is hard to come by, and I could see this filly trying the turf in the future.

Geaux Sugar’s Thanksgiving day debut was a thing of beauty. The two-year-old at the time ran off from the field and never looked back, earning an 85 Brisnet Speed figure. After a minor setback, the gelded son of Half Ours returned to the races on Sunday and sizzled out to a seven-length lead. But Geaux Sugar began to tire in the homestretch and was caught by El Deal Me Aces and Calicoco, two strong sophomore runners.

Geaux Sugar regressed in his second start, earning a 74. There’s a chance he loves the slop he encountered when breaking his maiden. Maybe he went too fast on Sunday and just needs to conserve more run for the end. All that aside, watching him race twice now, there’s no doubt in my mind that this Keith Hernandez, Earl Hernandez, and John Duvieilh homebred can run. He has such a rapid and beautiful stride. I’m looking forward to backing him next out.