EPICENTER CLEARLY THE BEST
By Dick Jerardi
Epicenter was the most consistent 3-year-old in the winter and
spring. Now, in late summer, it can be said definitively that Epicenter is
simply the best of his generation.
With a bit more racing luck, Epicenter could be 7-for-7 in 2022.
There was no good fortune needed in the Travers Stakes last Saturday at
Saratoga. That was pure domination.
Always in a great spot under Joel Rosario, Epicenter tore after
leader Cyberknife on the far turn and ran away from the field in the
stretch to win by 5 1/4 lengths while earning a career-best 112 Beyer
figure. One could make a case that only Arrogate’s track record 2016
tour de force was a better Travers performance in the 21st Century.
The winners of the Arkansas Derby and Haskell (Cyberknife),
Blue Grass Stakes (Zandon), Kentucky Derby (Rich Strike) and
Preakness (Early Voting) were no match for Epicenter in the Travers.
Cyberknife, Zandon and Rich Strike were in a terrific race for second.
Early Voting was eased late.
Epicenter was still in the developmental stage when second in the
Lecomte before convincing wins in the Risen Star and Louisiana Derby.
Epicenter certainly ran a winning race in the Derby when Rich Strike
emerged from nowhere to catch him in the final yards. A bad start likely
cost him first in the Preakness.
That Epicenter won the Travers was no surprise. How he won was
really the story. The colt keeps getting better as we head into the fall.
The subplot was how well Rich Strike ran to be fourth. The Derby
winner just as easily could have been second. Whatever, Rich Strike
confirmed that his Derby win was no fluke. By the numbers, he actually
ran faster in the Travers on the last Saturday in August than he did in the
Derby on the first Saturday of May.
All of which leads us to the final major race for 3-year-olds – the
$1 million Bet Parx Pennsylvania Derby at Parx on Sept. 24.
Looks like Epicenter will just train up to the Breeders’ Cup
Classic at Keeneland on Nov. 5 where he could face 4-year-old stars
Life is Good and Flightline.
Seems like trainer Chad Brown plans to run Zandon in the PA
Derby. Bob Baffert said a few weeks ago he is going to send Santa Anita
Derby winner Taiba to Parx, but he could also opt to keep the horse in
California to get ready for the Classic.
As to Rich Strike, it sounds like the connections may wait until
later in the year to run him. That is not definite and there is the matter of
the $50,000 trainer and owner bonus if the Derby winner runs in the PA
Derby. It is unclear if Cyberknife will run in the Pa. Derby. There is
bonus money for the connections there too as the Haskell winner.
Nominations are due for the Pa. Derby and $1 million Cotillion by
Sept. 7. Kentucky Oaks winner Secret Oath is scheduled to run in the
Cotillion. Impressive Cathryn Sophia winner Green Up has her owner
and trainer in line for $50,000 bonuses if she can come back and win the
Regardless of what horses eventually run, Pennsylvania Derby Day
is going to be a fabulous afternoon of racing with ten stakes, five of them
graded, a 2-hour live TV show(PHL-17, 4-6 p.m.), with enough action
for anybody that loves fast horses running for big money.