Monday, May 2, 2011

Toby's Corner's Derby Outlook

The Whirlaway Stakes, a mile and a sixteenth around two turns on the inner track at Aqueduct. (Muddy Track)

Pace: 23.53, 48.80, 1:14.03, 1:39.31, 1:45.66

Video of the race can be seen here.

Toby's Corner (Post Position 1, Eddie Castro) takes back to last early and rides the rail along the clubhouse turn behind a solid first quarter. He draws closer on the final turn and begins his move after swinging out, six to seven wide, outside of Arthur's Tale and Preachintothedevil. He draws alongside J J's Lucky Train, whom had a perfect trip racing loose on the lead, mid-stretch with his head cocked to right (curious to check out out the grandstand construction I suppose) still racing on his left lead. He unimpressively allows J J's Lucky Train back in it but finally pulls away, once he straightens his head and switches to his right lead, to a two length win.

Had J J's Lucky Train turned out to be a respectable route runner I'd have been most intrigued with Toby's Corner's win here, but alas J J's Lucky Train has turned out to be a sprinter. Not to say J J's Lucky Train is a complete dog while racing loose on the lead setting slow fractions going a mile and a sixteenth, but it's not his A game. Nevertheless, Toby's Corner winning the race, despite his immaturity in the stretch, was encouraging.

The Grade Three Gotham stakes, a mile and a sixteenth around turn turns on the inner track at Aqueduct.

Pace: 24.79, 49.18, 1:13.47, 1:38.37, 1:44.78

Toby's Corner (Post Position 4, Eddie Castro) tussles with the bit early and rounds the first turn three to four wide. He gets a fine spot in sixth on the backside then slightly advances on the turn having been put to a drive heading into the stretch. Despite Castro's efforts Toby again kicks his head out to the right and appears to have some difficulty switching to his appropriate right lead. Eventually he does straighten out but is unable to find another gear, finishing a flat third.

A disappointing performance since Toby showed regression having performed the same antics he showed in the Whirlaway, as well as fighting the bit. The pace was slow enough that expecting a win would have been asking too much, but you would have liked to have seen some maturation.

Full chart
The Grade One Wood Memorial, a mile and an eight around two turns on the main track at Aqueduct.

Toby's Corner - Blinkers ON

Pace:  23.49, 47.98, 1:12.28, 1:37.26, 1:49.93

Toby's Corner (Post Position 2, Eddie Castro) comes out to his left at the break, bumping Starship Caesar. He then settles and finds a great spot along the rail into and around the turn. He slightly advances down the backstretch run but finds himself in a tough spot on the rail, mid-way on the final turn. Fortunately he does not ever have to steady as he Castro sweeps him out into the three path at the top of the stretch. His lane there is closed once Norman Asbjornson slides over in his path. Toby's Corner is steadied while taken out in between Norman and Arthur's Tale on the outside. He takes a few strides to retain his momentum, with his head slightly arched to the right, and straightens out to rally past Arthur's Tale from his inside. He wins by a neck.

Toby's Corner, highlight in white, steadying behind Norman Asbjornson in the stretch.

This colossal upset took magnificent growth from Toby's Corner, most of which I'm guessing had to do with the added blinkers. Although he did have a minor hiccup in the stretch, his improved efficiency was much to like, as there's never been a question that he is quite talented. While he did save every inch of ground, he also overcame a significant obstacle from a pace perspective. 47.98 and 1:12.28 aren't fractions that aide closers. Throw in his mid-stretch skirmish with Norman Asbjornson and this was obviously a tremendous performance.

Full chart

Final thoughts - Up until the Wood, Toby's Corner has reminded me of a three year old Eddington in 2004. His regular jockey, Jerry Bailey, would speak to his talent and inability to run a full race at peak performance - instead he would do his running in 'spots'. But now with those blinkers on, Toby's Corner has taken a distinct step in the right direction and is most likely on the upswing. 

What I find most interesting about Toby's Corner is that, of all the top choice closers in the Derby (Dialed In, Nehro, Archarcharch, Animal Kingdom) he's the only colt to have not benefited from a scolding, white-hot early pace which may just present itself in the Derby.

My knock on Toby's Corner is that I'm torn over what I think of this year's rendition of the Wood Memorial, after all, Arthur's Tale was second by a neck. I'm not saying Arthur's Tale isn't of quality, but I'm suspect of his true abilities at this point in time. And as we all know, Uncle Mo was not himself in the Wood. Toby's Corner also might not relish the tenth furlong according to his pedigree.

I'll certainly be using Toby's Corner on Saturday, but probably more so on the bottom of my exacta's and trifecta's.

Toby's PP's

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