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Gouverneur Morris’ Projected Two Race Journey To Louisville…Plus, What We Take Out Of The Risen Star Divisions.

Monday, 2/17

IS GOUVERNEUR MORRIS THE NEXT LIGHTLY RACED 3-YEAR OLD TO TRY THE DERBY?

With the two divisions of the Derby Prep Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds to be run the next day and the influential Southwest Stakes on President’s Day (today) at Oaklawn Park, the public can be forgiven if they overlooked an entry level allowance/optional claiming race at Tampa Bay Downs on Valentine’s Day.

In the race, a field of 5, each a Triple Crown nominee went a mile and 40 yards, with the most visible of the quintet, Gouverneur Morris living up to his 1-2 odds with a workmanlike victory in his 2020 debut and only third career start.

9/2/19 – Saratoga R6…MSW 5 ½ Furlongs…WIN
10/5/19 – Keeneland R9…G1 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity Stakes…2nd to Maxfield…Enforceable 3rd
2/14/20 – Tampa Bay R6…Entry Level Allowance/Optional Claimer 1 Mile 40 Yards…WIN in 1:38 4/5 which in actual time was .02 seconds off the track record

You’ll notice the company he kept in his second career start when he ran second in the Grade 1 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity Stakes in his second career start. In that race he split Maxfield, who is still considered one of the top Kentucky Derby contenders (recovering from November surgery to remove ankle chips) and Enforceable, who just ran a sensational second (see comments below) in what was arguably the tougher of the two Risen Star Divisions after winning the Lecomte Stakes prior to that.

Although his prep campaign was different, in the sense that all three of his career starts prior to embarking on his 2018 Triple Crown run were as a 3-year old, Justify was just the latest in a trend that has more or less thrown foundation out the window as a precursor for Kentucky Derby success.

Gone are the days of x number of races as a 2-year old and at least 3 starts as a 3-year old prior to the Kentucky Derby and at least x number of starts combined. Which brings us to the comments of Barry Irwin, head of Team Valor, the owners of the Todd Pletcher trained son of perhaps the hottest young sire in the game, Constitution.

Following the successful return win in the Tampa Bay allowance, Irwin was quoted as saying, “He’s kind of a quirky horse. In the morning, he’ll get halfway down the stretch and kind of lose interest or something, then he’ll just refocus and take off. That’s kind of what he did today on the turn. It looked like he was floundering for a second, then when Johnny got after him he put (Untitled) away.

“Each of his last three workouts, he has improved so much.”

From the start to his 2020 training Pletcher’s plan for Gouverneur Morris has been for just two races before the May 2 Kentucky Derby. The next, of qualifying necessity, would have to be one of the 100 point races (100 for first or even 40 for second has traditionally been enough) “If he runs first or second next time and we feel good, then we’ll go to the Derby. If not, there are plenty of other races,” Irwin said. The race that Irwin has floated has been the March 28 Grade 1 Florida Derby.

Whatever the future holds, the 600K yearling purchase price colt has shown he warrants attention. And recent history says the old prep rules are just that, old prep rules, so 4 starts notwithstanding, if he gets to Louisville, he belongs.

DESPITE NOT WINNING, WAS ENFORCEABLE THE BEST OF THE TWENTY TWO RUNNERS IN THE SPLIT DIVISION RISEN STAR?

After his dramatic and dominant rally to win the mile and a sixteenth Lecomte Stakes at Fair Grounds on January 18, Enforceable looked ready to take yet another step towards the Kentucky Derby. As they lined up for the first division (Race 12) of the Grade 1 Risen Star, the son of Tapit figured to appreciate the added sixteenth of a mile of the Risen Star which for the first time was moved to 9 from the traditional 8 ½ furlongs of past editions.

While Enforceable did unleash the furious late run he showed in the Lecomte he was not able to reach the wire-to-wire winner Mr. Monomoy ($17.00) and settle for runner-up honors.

That being said, given the way the dirt surface played in the 4 two turn stakes races on the day, I would argue that Enforceable’s effort stands out.

FIRST – Each of the 4 winners of the Mineshaft (1 1/16th miles), Rachel Alexandra (1 1/16th miles), and the two divisions of the Risen Star were ½. ½, a head and on the lead 6 furlongs into each race.

SECOND – In the Mineshaft, Rachel Alexandra and division two of the Risen Star (Race 13) the eventual runners-up were 2 ½, 2 and 3 lengths of the front runner 6 furlongs into their respective races.

THIRD – In his division of the Risen Star (race 12) Enforceable was 5 lengths back of the Mr. Monomoy 6 furlongs into the race and despite chasing Mr. Monomoy’s slightly slower 6 furlongs (that one went 1:12 4/5 compared to 1:12 3/5 for division 2 winner Modernist), Enforceable managed to run his final 3 furlongs in :37 1/5. Compared to :37 3/5 for Mr. Monomoy and :38 3/5 for Modernist. And Enforceable had a slightly faster overall time than Modernist.

Of course the time of any individual race is determined by many factors, but given the way the surface played in the 4 two turn stakes races and the seemingly “outlier” performance by Enforceable, his connections (owner John Oxley and trainer Mark Casse) have to be very encouraged as they move forward.

(Check back Wednesday as I show you just why Oaklawn Park is quite different from other Winter Race Meets and how that benefits bettors.)