Trip Notes with Robert Criscola: Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Trip Notes 5/9/17

Another Kentucky Derby has come and gone, and with it came a slew of big races all over the country. We’ll discuss a trio of trips from last week in this column, highlighted by the big race itself.
Belmont Race 2: #4 DREAM MAN
This had to be a frustrating loss for Jose Ortiz, who was almost certainly on the best horse in the race but had to settle for third.
DREAM MAN came away in good order and was allowed to settle into stride near the rear of the field. Riding the rail into the far turn, DREAM MAN began to feel the crunch as #6 MATADOR and #5 SLIM SHADEY allowed him no room to maneuver beside and ahead. Ortiz began to come up from the saddle noticeably as DREAM MAN steadied slightly in traffic before the top of the stretch.
Sensing an opportunity, Ortiz followed #10 INDEBTED, the eventual winner, and began to find racing room.  However, Manny Franco and INDEBTED never made it easy for DREAM MAN, allowing barely enough leeway for DREAM MAN throughout the stretch run. There were two instances in the lane, including right before the wire, where DREAM MAN was sandwiched between horses. It can be very uncomfortable for horses to race between foes, especially one of DREAM MAN’s size (watch the replays, he’s overtly larger than his competition). If DREAM MAN gets a clean trip next time, he’ll be hard to hold off.
Churchill Race 2: #6 UNDERPRESSURE
UNDERPRESSURE was not up against an evidently-gold rail like the one from Friday at Churchill, but he did have an impossibly-wide trip here.
UNDERPRESSURE went three-wide into the first turn, and Corey Lanerie never had a chance to tuck in before the backstretch. Moving into the far turn, Lanerie was a little passive, allowing #2 DONWELL to come off the inside and challenge the leaders three-wide. DONWELL would prove to be a thorn in the side of UNDERPRESSURE, as the latter was carried from the four-path to the six-path coming off the turn by DONWELL then exchanged bumps with that foe in the stretch.
UNDERPRESSURE was understandably short in the stretch, settling for third beaten just over a length. Look for him to potentially break through in a spot like this next time out.
Churchill Race 12: #14 CLASSIC EMPIRE
#5 ALWAYS DREAMING was clearly best in this year’s Kentucky Derby, but CLASSIC EMPIRE had a rough journey that may have cost him a couple of spots.
CLASSIC EMPIRE was away well enough but despite the big gap between stalls 14 and 15, CLASSIC EMPIRE was the victim of a very hard bump from #15 MCCRAKEN, who was pushed sideways by an erratic #17 IRISH WAR CRY.
CLASSIC EMPIRE traveled in the two-path around the first turn in 13th place and began to gradually make up ground approaching the far turn. He went three-wide most of the way on the turn before tipping out widest of all, nearly six paths off the rail. A tiring GORMLEY would start a chain reaction of bumping that led to CLASSIC EMPIRE and MCCRAKEN colliding again, stymieing CLASSIC EMPIRE’s momentum.
Despite the trouble, CLASSIC EMPIRE churned on and got into the superfecta in the closing strides. Trakus estimates that CLASSIC EMPIRE covered 75 feet more than the winner, or about 7 1/2 lengths, the second-highest total in the field (only SONNETEER covered more ground, 77 feet more than ALWAYS DREAMING, but placed 16th). The margin of defeat was 8 3/4 lengths. 
A swollen eye might keep CLASSIC EMPIRE out of the Preakness, but you’ll definitely want to hold onto your stock in him going forward.

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