Mike Repole was somewhere other than Hot Springs, Arkansas. Todd Pletcher was in Lexington, Ky., watching via simulcast under the grandstand at Keeneland Race Course with an NBC camera and Donna Brothers’ microphone in his mug.
Overanalyze, a colt owned by Repole and trained by Pletcher, was in Hot Springs and in the winner’s circle after a powerful victory in the $1-million Arkansas Derby to solidify his status for the Kentucky Derby and give his trainer a fourth entrant in America’s great race.
The victory by Overanalyze took some of the sting out of Pletcher finishing second and third behind Java’s War about an hour earlier in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland. The winner of the Blue Grass is trained by Ken McPeek, who also trains Frac Daddy, the colt who was the runner-up to Overanalyze.
The win also validated Overanalyze’s juvenile form, which included victories in a pair of Grade 2 stakes in New York, and was an improvement on a fifth-place finish in the March 2 Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct.
Pletcher took the blame for that loss, saying he “didn’t do enough” with the Dixie Union colt before shipping him from Palm Meadows to New York for the Gotham on the Big A’s inner track.
Pletcher doesn’t win as many major stakes as he does by making the same mistakes over and over again, so once Overanalyze returned to Florida the nation’s leading conditioner went to work. Overanalyze, a $380,000 yearling, responded like most good horses can and the Arkansas Derby was the payment for his efforts. He now joins Verrazano, Revolutionary, and Blue Grass runner-up Palace Malice on the path to Churchill Downs.
Frac Daddy also benefited from the change of scenery and rewarded McPeek for his decision to change tactics a bit with the Scat Daddy colt. A disappointment in his first two races this season down in Florida, Frac Daddy raced closer to the pace in the Arkansas Derby and battled on throughout to be second best.
McPeek isn’t sure who is best or second best between Java’s War and Frac Daddy, frequent workmates and now Derby-bound colts.
“He’s a real immature horse mentally,” McPeek said of Frac Daddy. “He’s had a hard time adapting to new circumstances. Going to the gate in the Holy Bull [when he finished sixth] he was completely out of control. He wasn’t paying attention, gawking at everything, was unfocussed. He is immature, but maybe he needs the racing.”
Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Fort Larned kept the rider on this time but was no match for the “house horse,” Cyber Secret, who won the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap for Oaklawn owner Charles Cella on the Arkansas Derby undercard.
Trainer Lynn Whiting, no stranger to the Kentucky Derby with a victory in the 1992 edition with Lil E. Tee, saddled the Broken Vow colt to his fourth victory in as many tries this season in Hot Springs.
Fort Larned, who stumbled and pitched Brian Hernandez Jr. last time in the Gulfstream Park Handicap, chased a fairly hot pace early but offered not much of an answer in the stretch as Cyber Secret drew off with authority. …
Zayat Stables’ Justin Phillip continued to show he loves Oaklawn with a victory in the Grade 3 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap, his first win in graded company since the 2011 Woody Stephens Stakes at Belmont Park. …
Get Happy Mister, a former stakes winner at Arapahoe Park in Colorado making his second start for Kelly Von Hemel, bounced back from a loss in his local debut to take the Northern Spur Stakes.