Updated: February 27, 2013, 10:07 AM ET


Saturday marks return of Pletcher's Overanalyze

By Bob Ehalt | Special to ESPN.com

After Overanalyze dug down and gamely hung on to win the Remsen Stakes last November, it didn't take long for trainer Todd Pletcher and owner Mike Repole to decide on their colt's next race.

"I'd say about four minutes after the Remsen we decided to give him off until the Gotham," Repole said. "It was a logical choice."

The decision to give Overanalyze more than three months of rest and begin his 3-year-old campaign in March was largely based on what had been a busy and successful juvenile season. Though he bypassed the Breeders' Cup, Overanalyze won two Grade 2 stakes, the Belmont Futurity and Remsen, in his five juvenile starts, giving him a solid foundation for the future and -- thanks to the Remsen -- a win at a 9-furlong distance that most Triple Crown prospects have not even attempted.

"Overanalyze had a good winter at Palm Meadows. He did some light jogging and Todd's given him four or five workouts to get ready for the Gotham," the 44-year-old Repole said. "It's an exciting time because you never know what happens when a horse turns from 2 to 3. Three months ago seems like a very long time ago and I can't wait for that day to arrive when he runs again."

The long wait after the quick decision finally comes to an end Saturday, when Overanalyze returns to the races in the $400,000 Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct.

The only horse in the initial ESPN.com Kentucky Derby Contenders Poll yet to race at 3, Overanalyze (ranked 10th) rates as the headliner in a field that is also expected to attract Vyjack, Hutcheson winner Honorable Dillon, Withers runner-up Escapefromreality, Siete de Oros and Ore Pass, among others.

Vyjack is 3-for-3 and won the Jerome at Aqueduct in his last start, but most eyes will be focused on Overanalyze, who displayed an inordinate amount of grit as a juvenile -- a quality that could come in quite handy when faced with a 20-horse field in a mile-and-a-quarter race at Churchill Downs.

The son of Dixie Union's most recent performance, in the Remsen, is the one that stands out most in Repole's mind. In that $150,000, two-turn stakes at Aqueduct, Overanalyze prompted the pace of Delhomme, another talented runner from Pletcher's seemingly endless barn. For the first mile in the mile-and-an-eighth test, Overanalyze could not get past his stablemate. Then, when they reached the eighth pole, Normandy Invasion charged up outside the two Pletcher runners and seemed poised to blow past them.

Instead, when the field hit the wire it was Overanalyze who never slowed down while racing between horses and prevailed by a hard-fought nose over Normandy Invasion, with Delhomme another three-quarters of a length back in third.

"If you could pause the Remsen at the 16th pole, it looked like Overanalyze would finish third, about three or four lengths behind the winner, but he kept fighting," said Repole, who sold his Glaceau beverage company to Coca-Cola for $4.1 billion in 2007 and is now involved in a variety of businesses that include BodyArmor sport drink and Pirate Brands health snacks. "This horse is not short on guts, heart and courage. He's a fighter and you can't place a premium on that in a young horse. In a race like the Kentucky Derby you know a horse is going to be challenged, and Overanalyze will not shy away from a fight."

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• Bob Ehalt grew up a few furlongs from Belmont Park and has followed horse racing as a fan, turf writer or owner since 1971.
• Has won three Associated Press Sports Editors awards and was the recipient of the '09 Breeders' Cup media award for outstanding social media.

Going in search of dawn of Derby's mystique

By Paul Moran | Special to ESPN.com

Kentucky Derby
Jonathan Palmer/Lexington Herald-Leader/GettyThe commotion on Derby Day isn't confined to the grandstand. The paddock represents a chance for spectators to get (kind of) close to the competitors.
By late afternoon, the shadows lengthened, 20 horses appear at the gap above the first turn on the Churchill Downs backstretch, gleaming, face to face at last with the moment in their young lives that will either define them forever in history or leave them little more than footnotes among thousands in the Kentucky Derby's ether.

The ritual begins with the walkover, the procession every owner of a thoroughbred aspires to experience. For the moment, the playing field is level and the attention of an assemblage of humanity in all its forms that spans at least three time zones becomes fixed upon the combatants. At the track, cheers of encouragement ebb and flow, a reflection of status in the betting pools and success in races that began in January and, furlong upon furlong, are now at their backs on the "Road to the Derby," a thoroughfare with far more egress than access.

By then, Churchill Downs quivers in electric anticipation, a communal, even tribal preparation for what will follow. The field, accompanied with solemn humans aware of the magnitude of what will come within the hour, is led into the tight saddling enclosure, packed with the connected and those in the entourage, encircled by those who that morning had claimed a vantage point from which to view the Derby horses and exercised the timeless right of squatters. Once led through the tunnel and onto the racetrack, jockeys astride, they are gone from sight to most without very expensive seating accommodations -- into the noise. Even for those so privileged, watching the unfolding scene unencumbered is a stretch of concentration.

Whether the epidemic, well-documented weeping that underscores the chorus of "My Old Kentucky Home" that accompanies the parade to the post is the product of nostalgia, bourbon, beer or random emotion is a matter of speculation, but it happens as anticipation gathers momentum, spreads through the crowd and ripples over an infield packed cheek to jowl with besotted revelers who arrived at first light, have not seen a horse race all day and will have no view of the Derby. Who cares? We're here!

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• Paul Moran is a two-time winner of the Media Eclipse Award among several other industry honors. He also has been given the Red Smith Award for his coverage of the Kentucky Derby.
• You can email him at pmoran1686@aol.com