We were somewhat surprised when Babaro’s brother Nicanor, making only his sixth lifetime start and his third on the turf, was made the morning-line favorite at 7-2 for Saturday’s $750,000 Virginia Derby.
Now, we aren’t looking to step on the toes of Barbaros’s zillions of fans, and we were there when he broke down and we followed his saga closely, so were all on board the FOB’s Nicanor Express. But does making him the morning-line favorite make sense?
First off, we aren’t questioning Michael Matz or the Jacksons. They know what they are doing and they know the horse better than anybody else. They've found their way to the winner's circle follwoing a Colonial Turf Cup and a Kentucky Derby so we'll defer to thier judgement. We’re questioning the odds makers.
The race includes the winner of the Colonial Turf Cup over the same turf course – Battle of Hastings (GB). The field also includes the runner-up, Straight Story, who was closing like a house on fire and the third place finisher Lime Rickey. Add to the mix Florentino (JPN) who won his last start as well – the Grade II Jefferson Cup at Churchill Downs.
All the while, Nicanor has run but five times. In his turf debut, he was very impressive winning by 15.25 lengths and earning a 97 speed rating. In his final prep, he won ging wire-to-wire by 1.75 with a speed rating of 102.
However, if you watch the race, it is very clear that he is leg weary at the end of this 9 furlong race and simply put, he didn’t really beat anybody the caliber of what he’ll face in New Kent on Saturday.
So the question remains is Nicanor ready to go 10 furlongs against a group of graded stakes winners? He may well be, but we’d wager if he wasn’t the full brother to Barbaro, his morning line odds would be 10 to 1 at best.
Finally, we surmise Nicanor’s connections have him in this race to see if he’s a great horse or potentially a great horse. They know he’s a good horse, so there is no reason not to give him a shot in a race against some of the best turf three-year-olds. Matter of fact, there are 750,000 reasons to find out exactly how good he is.
We will know for sure at about 6:05 pm on Saturday.
Here’s his last start at Delaware Park. Take a look and you’ll see why we aren’t quite ready to declare him as good or better than Battle of Hastings (GB), Straight Story, Lime Rickey or Florentino (JPN).