Monday Morning Message with Jason Beem Feb. 5, 2024
A good Monday morning to you all! What a busy Saturday that was; felt like our first super Saturday on the way to the Kentucky Derby (G1) with points races for both the Derby and Oaks going on from all across the land. I liked that all the big races seemed to go off in a relatively short window between the Southwest (G3), the Withers (G3), the Robert B. Lewis (G3), and the Holy Bull (G3). Made for an exciting few hours. I really thought going into the day we’d have a lot more answers than questions as far as the Kentucky Derby trail but alas, with horse racing, that’s rarely the case. And that’s a good thing I might add.
Clearly the best performance of the weekend was Nysos out at Santa Anita. He’s been basically untouchable in his three races so far and even though he won’t be in the Kentucky Derby, I think the case that he’s the best three-year-old in the country right now is pretty strong given how good he was in California on the weekend. I’m sure he has one more start until running in the spring classics, but he’d certainly make the Preakness (G1) more interesting as a waiting challenger for the Derby winner.
Fierceness was probably the biggest story of the weekend just because the expectations were so high going into the Holy Bull, and his supporters, I’m sure, are left with more questions. He looked poised and ready to take off going into the far turn but just never could shake eventual winner Hades until that one shook him off at the top of the stretch. His lack of fight was surely not what his backers wanted to see.
I feel like there are two ways for him going forward. One, maybe he’s just kind of an all-or-nothing type horse. He’s run brilliantly in his two wins and not so great in his two defeats. I don’t want to beat him up too bad for Saturday’s effort because it was clearly better than his dud he threw back in the Champagne (G1). But that effort wouldn’t put him anywhere near a Kentucky Derby winner’s circle. Perhaps his inconsistency, though, might lend to him being bigger prices going forward and actually being playable at the windows.
I talk often on my show how every year we see these big two-year-olds come back at three and they just aren’t as dominant. Yet, they’re always hammered at the windows. It’s come to the point for me where they’re almost automatic “play-against” types. It’s just impossible to justify taking 2-5 on these horses who so regularly get beat. Sure, you’re going to have horses like Forte last year who come back and win, but at those super-short prices, it doesn’t take being right against them all that often for it to really pay off.
Mystik Dan’s win in the Southwest might get overshadowed a touch because of Nysos' big win and Fierceness’ big loss, but he was sensational. I’m sure we’ll debate whether or not the off track moved him up, but there was no denying the turn of foot he showed when he got some clearance in that race.
Part of what makes the run-up to the Kentucky Derby so fun, at least for me as a fan, is the constant up and down of it. One set of preps you feel like you have a good feel for the class, the next set utter confusion. That said, I think forgiveness is important on this road. We had that big stretch of runners from Animal Kingdom to Justify where every horse who won the Kentucky Derby in that period did so with no losses during their three-year-old prep campaign. I think we got used to the idea that these horses need to sweep these series to win on the first Saturday in May. Luckily, these last few Derby editions have reminded us that you can have losses and missteps on the way to Louisville.