It's been a wild ride for this colt this spring. He seemed irrelevant in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland, but somehow he won it. And then he was just awful in the Derby. But now he's back for more. Will he again recapture that magic that seemed to come from nowhere in that Derby prep race? He'll have to do that to be relevant in this race, because if he runs like he did before or after that win then he doesn't stand even a small chance of being a factor here. So, is he a one-hit wonder or a late bloomer who isn't always consistent? We'll find out, I guess - though I feel like I already know the answer.
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Last race: Here's a nice thing I can say about this horse's race in the Derby - he pretty much exactly met my expectations. That would be more flattering, of course, if he hadn't finished 18th, only beating a horse that basically didn't even start the race and one that was on the verge of collapse after an insane decision to set the early pace. It was a garbage race for the colt, and he had no real excuse. He encountered a little contact out of the gate but recovered fine. He found his space, and was as high as seventh. When it came time to show some heart and fight, though, he just quit. He was completely disinterested and ineffective down the stretch, and horses were passing him at will. He was so bad in the stretch that I honestly expected the reports to be that he had had a medical issue. That he is back in this race makes it clear that wasn't the case.
Prior experience: This colt broke his maiden by winning the Blue Grass Stakes, one of the oddest and least-comprehensible prep races I have ever witnessed. He won basically because every other decent horse in the field seemed determined not to win. Before that he had been a distant fourth in the Sunland Derby behind Hence and Conquest Mo Money, third once and fourth twice in maiden races, and second in a couple of stakes races. There was no reason to bet him to win the Blue Grass, and no reason to think he could replicate that effort.
Trainer: I get tired of writing about how little I respect Doug O'Neill, so you must be tired of reading it, too. He's a drug cheat and a very sketchy trainer, but we don't need to go into that. He was 18th in the Derby this year and dead last in the Preakness, but talking about that would just be rubbing salt in open wounds. I'll just mention that he has won the Derby twice and the Preakness once, and though he didn't manage to get either of those winners to the Belmont that surely doesn't reflect on his horse management choices. See, I can be nice about him if I have to.
Jockey: Mario Gutierrez is the regular first-call rider for O'Neill in California, and he rides many of his top horses. He has won three Triple Crown races - the Derby and Preakness with I'll Have Another, and the Derby last year with Nyquist. So, he can ride in these races. He isn't the most consistent or tactical rider, though, and is more dependent than many top riders on both the quality of his horse and the trip he gets.
Breeding: Irap is a son of Tiznow, the only horse to win the Breeders' Cup Classic twice. Tiznow has done a good job of passing on his stamina to his offspring, including surprise long shot Belmont winner Da'Tara and Dubai World Cup winner Well Armed. Irap's damsire is Storm Cat, a grandson of the legendary Northern Dancer. Storm Cat's damsire is Triple Crown winner Secretariat, the greatest Belmont performer of all time. Among Storm Cat's many successful offspring is Preakness and Belmont winner Tabasco Cat. Storm Cat is also the damsire of Bodemeister, who sired 2017 Derby winner Always Dreaming. This breeding is easily the best thing about this horse.
Odds: MyBookie definitely likes this horse more than I do . They have installed him at +1000 to win the race, which seems far too generous for what I see in him - or don't see. Oddsmakers have him ahead of seven other horses who are likely starters. If I owned one of those horses I would be insulted.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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