As we expounded on in our piece on Cutting Humor, Todd Pletcher trainees are often squeezed to the bone headed into the Kentucky Derby, and expectedly tail off throughout the rest of the year. This is not the case with his main Derby contender, Spinoff. In four career starts, with a six month break between his juvenile and sophomore seasons, Spinoff still has unlimited potential. Slowly, Pletcher has begun to alter his Derby program, allowing his horses to progress naturally rather than judiciously training them to peak in the dawn of their three year old years. He has seen success with this regimen with Always Dreaming (who won the 2017 KY Derby) and Tapwrit (who won the Belmont Stakes in the same year).
With five lifetime starts, Always Dreaming had a very similar profile to Spinoff coming into the Derby. He also went the Tampa allowance route before a breakthrough performance in the Florida Derby. The difference between the two was that even with a beneficial setup in the Florida Derby, Always Dreaming ran extremely well, and fast.
In Spinoff’s case, his second place finish in the Louisiana Derby was ho-hum in a race that was decidedly weakened after the heavy favored War or Will injured himself at the start. Spinoff had everything his own way in the Louisiana Derby but was still rundown by a longshot in By My Standards, another KY Derby starter. The Louisiana Derby came up up a fast race on different speed figures, but even if so, it’s one we’d take with a grain of salt considering both the one-two finishers (By My Standards and Spinoff) both ran significantly faster than ever before. The six week break between the Louisiana Derby and the KY Derby is another concern.
Spinoff, given time to grow into himself after a long break as a two year old–whether due to an injury or plain caution (oy vey)–gives the appearance of a very talented animal. With an amazing pedigree, by Hard Spun, out of the mega-talented Zaftig, and a beautifully sound stride, we are firm believers in his talent. Spinoff has every reason to mature into a leader of this division, but probably not this soon, on Saturday.
From a post 19, Spinoff is going to be have to be sent on a hard chase from the gate in the Derby. His tactical speed is in doubt when compared to a group like this, which could result in Spinoff getting caught extremely wide on the first turn while in the second or third tier. He cannot win with a trip like this. We’re interested to see if Spinoff can validate that Louisiana Derby speed fig. If so, Spinoff may be well suited in the Preakness (although Pletcher rarely runs there) but he’s one that we’re inclined to watch, and not bet on in the KY Derby.
Here are our trip notes of Spinoff:
4th career start: March 23th, Fair Grounds, G2 Louisiana Derby, one mile and an eighth
Spinoff is #10
Not the best of beginnings, outside first turn, in second tier to the outside of eventual winner By My Standards behind contested pace, forged to the lead over a tiring track early in stretch, got a bit clearer when Country House to the outside did not go on, not much of a match for the oncoming By My Standards on the inside late. We thought that Spinoff was the horse to beat in the stretch, on the lead, after Country House exited the fray. Despite the winner’s advantageous trip, Spinoff was simply bested by longshot By My Standards in his first stakes try.
3rd career start: February 22nd, Tampa, optional claimer 75k/non-winners of one, one mile and forty yards
Brushed at the start to no consequence, settled on inside of pacesetter, taken back and switched over to that one’s outside very easily entering the far turn, opened up rounding into the stretch, ridden out to a big score. Spinoff was visually impressive over a small group of inferior foes but considering that he was ridden thoroughly to the wire, the 84 beyer speed fig he earned for this was distressing.
2nd career start: August 12th, Saratoga, G2 Saratoga Special, six and a half furlongs
Good speed in between Call Paul and Tight Ten (who finished 1st and 2nd respectively), dropped out of that group into the turn, still close just in behind in tight pack, lost ground into the stretch, outside, got a bit closer with momentum, flattened out. Not the best effort from Spinoff here as we thought he was supposed to do more in the stretch with so much late momentum. Still, he never got close to making a real bid.
1st career start: June 23rd, Gulfstream, maiden special weight, five furlongs, track listed as good
Broke well, eventually rated off loose on the lead pacesetter who eventually finished second, marched up to that one mid-turn, took over rounding into the stretch, ridden out. A professional debut.