In order of Kentucky Derby points: by (sire) Trainer, Jockey

Tiz the Law (Constitution) Barclay Tagg, Manny Franco

Pros: By leading sire Constitution, undefeated as a 3yo, significantly highest consistent speed numbers in field, trainer Tagg won 2003 Derby with Funny Cide, should handle distance-(won 10f Travers with highest speed number of career) six wins is most in Derby field, has won by open lengths in all starts as a 3yo

Cons: only off-track experience (at Churchill as 2yo in G2 stake) was only defeat of career, last New York-bred to win KY Derby (2003 Funny Cide) is only NY-bred to win

Derby winner he hopes to be: California Chrome

Authentic (Into Mischief) Bob Baffert, John Velazquez

Pros: By leading sire Into Mischief, five time Kentucky Derby winning trainer Baffert, two time KY Derby winning jockey John Velazquez, could be pace setter in race and controlling speed, only career loss (2nd) came to Honor A.P. in Santa Anita Derby

Cons: Pedigree suggests distance concerns. Set somewhat soft fractions in Haskell and almost got caught on wire, prior to Justify (Scat Daddy) in 2018, no Derby winner came from the Storm Cat sire line, no off-track experience, jockey Mike Smith opted for Honor A.P. for Derby, not known for late kick: sets the pace and hopes to hang on, has not faced a field larger than seven runners

Derby winner he hopes to be: Always Dreaming

Honor A.P. (Honor Code) John Shirreffs, Mike Smith

Pros: $850,000 Saratoga selected yearling, Trainer Shirreffs won 2005 KY Derby with Giacomo, decent 2nd place to Thousand Words in last start at Del Mar, recent Santa Anita Derby winners who have won Ky Derby include Justify, California Chrome, I’ll Have Another, defeated Authentic in SA Derby, jockey Mike Smith and trainer Shirreffs teamed together to win 2005 Derby with Giacomo

Cons: Shared Belief loss was a headscratcher, was it a step back from SA Derby, or a decent effort? Has not raced on an off-track, or outside of California.

Derby winner he hopes to be: Sunday Silence

Ny Traffic (Cross Traffic) Saffie Joseph, Jr., Paco Lopez

Pros: Awesome late move in the Haskell, seems to be improving as a 3yo, especially in Graded Stakes company and since transfer to trainer Joseph, 10 of the last 20 Derby winners come from Mr. Prospector sire line

Cons: hard to gauge the Haskell effort, as it was clearly his best race to date: bounce possible? Last (and only) NY-bred to win KY Derby was Funny Cide 2003, pedigree suggests distance may be an issue, will need to be faster earlier if there is a quick pace. Hasn’t beaten any of the top Derby candidates

Derby winner he hopes to be: Funny Cide

Thousand Words (Pioneerof the Nile) Bob Baffert, Florent Geroux

Pros: Baffert, sire Pioneerofthe Nile sired 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, did he re-gain 2yo form (and then some) in the Shared Belief? $1 million auction yearling, 10 of last 20 Derby winners from Mr. Prospector sire line, jockey Geroux having a great 2020 (26% in graded stakes this year)

Cons: In only start outside of California, faded to 11th in Oaklawn Stakes (on off-track, against a 13 horse field), Shared Belief win was easily best of his career, bounce possibility?

Derby winner he hopes to be: Real Quiet

Max Player (Honor Code) Steve Asmussen, Ricardo Santana, Jr.

Pros: Hall of Fame trainer Asmussen, dam sire Not for Love also dam sire of 2014 Kentucky Derby winner California Chrome, has shown good late kick in last two starts against top competition, has won over an off-track

Cons: passed tiring horses in Travers? In last two races, has left a lot of work for himself in last quarter, 3/8 of a mile, Asmussen 0-20 in Ky Derby

Derby winner he hopes to be: Grindstone

Enforceable (Tapit) Mark Casse, Adam Beschizza

Pros: Outstanding pedigree, by leading sire Tapit, out of mare who has produced 4 SW from 5 starters, including champion 2yo New Year’s Day, decent Blue Grass effort: was wide and gained in the stretch, trainer Casse trained 2019 Preakness and Belmont winners

Cons: hasn’t won since LeComte in January, hasn’t hit the board since Risen Star in February, highest lifetime speed number one of the lowest in the field

Derby winner he hopes to be: Giacomo

Major Fed (Ghostzapper) Greg Foley, James Graham

Pros: By leading sire Ghostzapper, Pedigree suggests he should handle 10f, beat Ny Traffic in Risen Star, Necker Island in Indiana Derby

Cons: one win from six career starts, Indiana Derby 2nd place result not flattered by Shared Sense in Ellis Park Derby

Derby winner he hopes to be: Proud Clarion

Storm the Court (Court Vision) Peter Eurton, Julien Leparoux

Pros: Eclipse Champion 2yo colt, 10 of last 20 Derby winners from Mr. Prospector sire line

Cons: hasn’t won since November (BC Juvenile), not sure he wants the distance, runner-up  in G2 La Jolla on turf in last start was decent but not overly promising

Derby winner he hopes to be: Gato del Sol

Attachment Rate (Hard Spun) Dale Romans, Joe Talamo

Pros: Pedigree suggests he should handle 10f, showed nice late kick in Ellis Derby defeating Necker Island

Cons: Only 1 win from eight starts, waits too long to make his run, has faced top rivals but can’t seem to beat them, low speed numbers, hasn’t hit the board in 2 starts at Churchill Downs

Derby winner he hopes to be: Dust Commander

Sole Volante (Karakontie) Patrick Biancone, Luca Panici

Pros: dam has 2SW from 4 starters and should get distance, if you excuse the Belmont he has shown great late kick and is 2 wins and 1 2nd in last 3

Cons: Last start was a flat 6th in Belmont Stakes in June, was in excellent form in January and February and hasn’t continued

Derby winner he hopes to be: Animal Kingdom

Finnick the Fierce (Dialed In) Rey Hernandez, Martin Garcia

Pros: Good 2nd place, with late run in G2 Ky Jockey Club at Churchill as 2yo, June allowance at Churchill was a good effort: 3rd behind Art Collector, Shared Sense. Has solid efforts at Churchill, and on off-track surfaces

Cons: has only crossed the wire first once: promoted to first via DQ in April allowance at Oaklawn. Pedigree, and recent races, suggest 10f is too far

Derby winner he hopes to be: Mine that Bird

Winning Impression (Paynter) Dallas Stewart, Joe Rocco, Jr.

Pros: Has won on off-track, trainer Stewart has been 2nd twice in Ky Derby at big odds (2014, 2013)

Cons: only win was in Maiden race in December at Fair Grounds, (Dq’d in Oaklawn Allowance in April), has not hit the board in Derby preps, ran 6th in only start at Churchill Downs

Derby winner he hopes to be: Charismatic

Necker Island (Hard Spun) Chris Hartman, Miguel Mena

Pros: pedigree suggests should get 10f, 2-4 at Churchill Downs, 1-1 on off track, has shown some improvement since claim and transfer to trainer Hartman

Cons: has not won as 3yo, low speed numbers, has only shown strong late kick once (June allowance at Churchill behind Art Collector, Shared Sense, Finnick the Fierce)

Derby winner he hopes to be: Exterminator

South Bend, (Algorithms) Bill Mott, Tyler Gaffalione

Pros: 2-3 at Churchill Downs, pretty solid 4th in the Travers, his first start under Hall of Fame trainer Mott, good Ohio Derby 2nd place where he made up lots of ground in the stretch, jockey Gaffalione won 2019 Preakness and trainer Mott won 2019 Derby

Cons: pedigree suggests 10f may be too far, hasn’t won since October of 2yo year, has run much of his 3yo year on turf

Derby winner he hopes to be: Country House

Mr. Big News (Giant’s Causeway) Bret Calhoun, Gabriel Saez

Pros: Incredible pedigree: by leading sire Giant’s Causeway, out of Galileo mare, distance should not be a problem, won Oaklawn Stakes in April defeating Thousand Words, showed some heart in a tough trip in Blue Grass Stakes, seems to like off-track

Cons: low speed figures, the Oaklawn Stakes may have been a one-time shot, has only once shown late turn of foot

Derby winner he hopes to be: Gallahadion

Money Moves (Candy Ride) Todd Pletcher, Javier Castellano

Pros: two-time Derby winning trainer Pletcher, Hall of Fame rider Castellano, by leading sire Candy Ride, should be able to get 10f, $975k 2yo purchase, good speed figures, has experience in large fields

Cons: only three career starts, has yet to run in stakes competition, may have to show more early speed to be involved

Derby winner he hopes to be: War Emblem

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Probably the place to start would be Kentucky Derby Day, Saturday, May 6, 2000. I had spent the night at my friend Jeff’s parents’ house on Glenmeade Road in southeastern Louisville. We had just finished our first years at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, bonding over bourbon (his family was in the business and we both were, uh, learning about the spirit), music (Grateful Dead, Luscious Jackson, Smashing Pumpkins and Snoop Dogg, among others) and Kentucky basketball (the Golden Years prior, to be sure, and yeah, the 1999-2000 team who were knocked out of the NCAA Tournament in the second round. We sure did have fun at that home game vs Arkansas). Jeff was a gracious host, taking me to Moby Dick, a Louisville landmark where they make “a whale of a sandwich,” and even pulling out a little of the family’s bourbon stash for a tiny nip before bedtime.

In 1999, I was a freshman at UK. I was majoring in Animal Science and living the college life as an eighteen-year-old in the dorms. I was a Hoosier in the Bluegrass State, but was acclimating nicely. I worked at Ted Bates Farm and Sales Agency in Lexington, foaling out mares in the winter and spring and hand-walking sales yearlings in the summer. I slept in Mr. Bates’ office in the main barn for two summers, when school was out of session. It was a  pretty great gig; easy commute to work, learning from one of the masters, and he let me use his membership at the Lexington Country Club across the street to take a shower and eat meals. I once pushed my luck and kicked back on their plush couches after a long day of walking yearlings, watching ESPN on the huge lounge TV after dinner. Word got back to Ted and he just told me “no TV at the country club.” Understood. I did…OK academically that first year. I helped a mare foal during halftime of the Titans-Rams Super Bowl. I was bitten by a yearling who would go on to sell for six figures that September (still have the scar on my left forearm) The spring semester wrapped up, I sold my textbooks and a group of us hopped on 64 West to Louisville to get ready for the first Saturday in May. I’d gone to a couple of Kentucky Derbys before with my family, but this one was different. I was now an adopted Kentuckian, I had Kentucky friends who knew the routine, and we were ready for the 2000 Run for the Roses.

We’ll come back to Louisville in a bit. So now, it’s July, 1998. One of the best stallions in the history of Thoroughbred breeding and racing, Mr. Prospector, is 28 and like a quarterback who’s done everything but win the Super Bowl, Mr. P has done everything but sire a Kentucky Derby winner. His resume at the time: a Preakness winner, a Belmont winner, two Breeders’ Cup Sprint winners, a BC Juvenile winner, a Horse of the Year, four two-year-old Eclipse Champions, a three-year-old Eclipse winner, three champion sprinters, and an older mare Eclipse winner, and that’s not counting his European Group 1 winners like Miswaki, Machiavellian, Kingmambo and Distant View. While his lack of a Derby winner was merely a blip on his record, it still was a bit of a head scratcher.

About twenty-five miles from Mr. Prospector’s home at Claiborne Farm in Paris, Kentucky, across some of the most prized soil on Earth, with limestone deposits that give growing Thoroughbreds the bone needed to compete for Kentucky Derbys, Travers Stakes and Breeders’ Cups, is Keeneland Racecourse. Keeneland was home to the July Selected Yearling Sale from 1943-2002. The July sale was known for the cream of the crop yearlings, the blue-bloods, and the intense and legendary bidding wars between the biggest players in Thoroughbred racing for them. In 1985, a brother to Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew sold for $13,100,000 there. Since 1983, twenty-one yearlings by Mr. Prospector had brought $1 million or more at the sale, with Woodman fetching $3 million in 1984, and with yearlings by Mr. Prospector topping the sale in 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995 and 1997.

So now, let’s head to central Indiana in the late 80’s. No big Thoroughbred farms where we are, and Hoosier Park was still a few years away. My initiation to racing came when my family would visit Kentucky during spring breaks and summers. Often, those trips involved visits to Claiborne Farm, where living history was presented to me, a wide-eyed kid, thinking “this is Disneyland.” Secretariat got the ball rolling. Soon after, I was subscribing to The Blood-Horse, sinking into the numbers of the business, and making connections of pedigrees to high class runners. When Unbridled won the 1990 Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup Classic that fall, I thought, oh, he’s a grandson of Mr. Prospector, that stallion we saw at Claiborne, he must be good.

After a few years of visiting farms and tracks, and reading The Blood-Horse, and watching Chris Lincoln on ESPN, my family started breeding Thoroughbreds on our own. We had no idea what we were doing, but we had Joe Taylor’s Complete Guide to Breeding and Raising Racehorses. We literally had the book in the stall with us when our first mare was foaling. Sweet Lady Jo’s first foal entered the world without a hitch, thanks to Mr. Taylor. We sold the foal that November at Keeneland, and Johnny Jones of Walmac Farm bought her. We would have seven more foals from our two mares, five of those foals winners. We learned by doing, and there were great moments and not so great moments, but the memories still remain. While all of this was going on, I was learning pedigrees, and by then, Mr. Prospector was Kentucky basketball or the Dallas Cowboys, an institution. In 1997, Overbrook Farm retired a son of Mr. Prospector to their roster, a blue-blooded prospect if there ever was one. A half-brother to Storm Cat, he wasn’t much of a racehorse, only a maiden win at Keeneland and an allowance win at Hollywood to his credit, but Pioneering fit the bill for Sweet Lady Jo, and in 1998, we were the proud owners of a beautiful chestnut Indiana-bred, whose grandsire was Mr. Prospector.

My Dad and I had been going to the July Select sale at Keeneland for a few years. Our first trip was 1992, when Mr. Prospector’s son Numerous topped the sale, going for $1.7 million. We had fun checking out some of the most exclusive horseflesh in the world for a few days and then we would go home, re-energized about our small operation. We would set up camp at the back walking ring, evaluating conformation and pedigrees, guessing sales prices, and doing it all over again. By 1998, I was starting to feel like I knew what to look for in a yearling. I remember on the Tuesday night of the auction reading an Indian Charlie while we ate dinner at our hotel. Now,  if you know Indian Charlie, you know it’s not exactly a just the facts publication, but there was a quote about hip 228 that seemed pretty reliable. “He’s Superman.” Ok, noted. I went to our room after dinner and pulled out my catalogue. Hey, he’s by Mr. Prospector, interesting. Out of a nice Danzig mare, good family, I’ll keep an eye out. So Wednesday’s selling begins, and it’s solid trading, but nothing crazy. A Storm Cat colt for $950,000, a Seeking the Gold filly for $1.2 million, and this was really interesting, a Japanese-bred Sunday Silence filly from a fantastic American family that went for $1 million. So, a lot of good stuff. But, I’d made a note for hip 228, and didn’t want to miss him. Often sales companies will place what they deem as a top prospect toward the end of the sale, and such was the case here, as 228 was the next to last horse through the ring of the entire sale. Well, I’m here to tell you, twenty-two years later, I can still see in my mind’s eye that colt coming into the walking ring. It was unbelievable. Have you seen the clips of Lebron James in high school? That’s what this was like. This Mr. Prospector colt was a man among boys, and that’s not even close to doing him, or that moment, justice. There were jaws on the floor. He was so much the superior yearling in the sale that even I, a teenaged gawker in the back, knew this was the goods. A few minutes, and $4 million later, I knew I had my 2000 Derby horse. If any horse was ever born to win the Kentucky Derby, it was that one.

A few years go by. I graduate from high school, we sell our gorgeous chestnut grandson of Mr. Prospector, the Rams win the Super Bowl over the Titans as I’m cleaning off a brand new foal, I sell my class textbooks, and we head to Louisville.

It’s Derby morning and this group of friends is a barnful of yearling colts demanding to be turned out. We hop on 264 and park in Raho’s friend’s yard. A bit of pre-gaming goes down. We walk to Central Avenue, pay our $50 for general admission. Now, we’re in the tunnel, heading out to the Churchill infield. On 364 days of the year, the infield is pretty quiet, but on the first Saturday in May, the Churchill Downs infield is a tornado, a spinning overload of people, sights and sounds. About twenty of our closest friends, and a few thousand we’ll get to know before the days done. I have some experience at the racetrack, and knew, especially on Derby Day, to get your bets in early, so I head to the infield betting window, and ask the teller for “Race 8, $100 to win on 12.” Look, I really tried. I told everyone I went with, and everyone that asked me, that Fusaichi Pegasus was the pick. But, you know how those things go, and that’s why we run the races. The Derby field heads to the track, I get my first My Old Kentucky Home as a Kentuckian, I see one jockey’s helmet during the running of the race, but a little over two minutes later, I’m up $330, and the colt that my Dad and I saw as a can’t miss yearling is now the winner of the Kentucky Derby.

The spring in Kentucky turned into summer in Kentucky. Fusaichi Pegasus had a troubled 2nd in the Preakness, I got somewhat better at backing the tractor into barns, I made efficient trips to the Lexington Country Club and we went to the July sale again. Fusaichi Pegasus would win once more, on September 23 at Belmont in the Jerome Handicap. He called it a career after a sixth-place finish in the 2000 Breeders’ Cup Classic, which I watched from Lexington with many of the same friends who were there in May. Check out the chart from the 2000 BC Classic , that was quite a field. For going seven wide that day, pretty good effort from the Derby winner.

Fusaichi Pegasus was sold for stud duty for between $60-$70 million, and his introductory fee in 2001 was $150,000. While certainly a solid stallion in his own right, siring Grade 1 winners like Roman Ruler, Champ Pegasus and Bandini, and getting twelve graded winners overall, he wasn’t able to carry on Mr. Prospector’s legacy, something that seemed like a foregone conclusion when he retired.

I know it’s not exactly rooting for the underdog. He sold for $4 million, he was by one of the best Thoroughbred sires ever. He was raised on a farm that had already raised two Kentucky Derby winners. But what my Dad and I  saw that July night at Keeneland was the culmination of ten years of learning about the Thoroughbred business. The pedigree, the physical. He was THE specimen. It felt like we had bought him. And then he wins the Derby, and I’m there with friends that I still see? Friends who go to each other’s weddings, and text each other ridiculous photos from twenty years ago, and bust each other about silly things from WAY back in the day. I was there on the two biggest days of his life, with people I love, and that’s pretty cool.

Happy anniversary Fu Peg, hope you get a treat this Saturday.

 

 

 

 

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I had the pleasure, honor and privilege of being part of the University of Arizona Equine Sciences consignment to the Arizona Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association sale this past Thursday. It’s one of those rites of passage for U of A Equine and Racetrack Program students. The three days we spent at the Horseshoe Park and Equestrian Center made me think about Thoroughbred sales, racing in general, and my role in it. So, a few thoughts…

  1. It takes a team to buy a horse. You don’t want a dozen people weighing in, but making that decision on your own is risky, to say the least. Find people you like and trust, personally and professionally, and go from there. Besides, the wins will be sweeter when you can celebrate with your team.
  2. You can be at Newmarket, Deauville, the Northern Horse Park in Hokkaido, Saratoga Springs, Lexington, Ocala or Queen Creek, Arizona, it doesn’t matter: if the horse doesn’t tick ALL the boxes, it’s going to fall through the cracks. The auction ring is judge, jury and executioner, and it is ruthless and unforgiving. Sure, as a buyer, you can a find a bargain here and there, and yeah, there’s been a horse or two go through who’ve brought more than they were really worth, but the message is clear whether the particular sale’s average is $5,000 or $250,000: you had better have the goods, there is NO margin for error.
  3. For me, sales evaluation starts with pedigree, but it doesn’t tell the entire story. If you’re the Dosage Profile type, you may be surprised to know that the yearling from the U of A consignment who brought the most money had by far the lowest number. Having said that, there was a filly I really liked, with a page FOR DAYS from another consignment, and she was the sales topper. Pedigree gives you a road map, but then you have to navigate the course.
  4. There is nothing like a yearling by a hot young stallion in the auction ring. It’s the ultimate in buying and selling with anticipation of the future, whether it’s the sales price for the seller, or the racetrack possibilities for the buyer. With older stallions, we have a pretty good idea what to expect, but if his first crop is only two-year-olds, and they’re white hot on the racetrack, both buyer and seller are leaving the ring with Cheshire cat grins. After all, it’s a game where we buy and sell futures.
  5. Finally, a little personal note. I bonded with one of the U of A mares in the weeks before the sale, and then when we were at the sale grounds. She was a big girl, 16.2, 16.3 hands, four-years-old, expecting her first foal next spring. I led her to the sales ring, as another incredibly gorgeous Arizona sunset went on over the horizon behind us. The sale was coming to an end, and there was a peaceful, content feeling to the moment and I almost welled up, to be honest. I was just really happy and proud. Proud of the group of students for what we had accomplished that week,  getting horses ready for the sale; of myself, for deciding to come back to school after ten years to pursue a career in an industry I love, and of the spirit of horse racing. Because the dream is still alive. The dream is alive whether you’re at the Saratoga Select yearling sale or the Best Little Sale in the West. I was doing some quick math in my head while leading my mare to the ring, and while I could probably afford her sale price, her monthly board may not work for me right now, more like next summer after graduating. So, I kept my hand down while she was in the ring. The hammer dropped, I led her back to our barn, and then her new owners came to pick her up a little while later. And wouldn’t you know it? They were the current version of my Dad and I from 25 years ago. They’ll have fun picking out her next dating partner, they’ll have to wake up before the sun comes out to take care of her and her baby, but the dream of being in the game continues. Good luck Tizadorabelle, it was fun getting to know you, maybe I’ll see you a little further down the road.

 

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This Saturday is the 150th Travers Stakes, the “Midsummer Derby.”  It’s actually older than all of the other big three-year-old races on the calendar; Kentucky won the first Travers in 1864, eleven years before Churchill Downs ran the first Kentucky Derby. Being as how I grew up in Indiana, and spent a lot of time in Kentucky, I’m more familiar with the Run for the Roses on the first Saturday in May, and a bit of a tourist when it comes to Saratoga and the Travers, so I asked fellow Arizona RTIP’er and son of New York, Matthew O’Connor, to tell me about his favorite Travers. This Saturday’s race will be Matt’s 21st Travers.

Matt wanted to talk about the 2004 edition of the Travers, won by Birdstone. Give it a watch if it’s been a while (Birdstone’s Travers.) I watched the race on ESPN that day, and the upstate New York sky just got progressively darker as the horses approached the starting gate, until it was pouring after the race. It added another layer of drama to a race that already lots from its long and storied history.  When I asked what Matt enjoyed most about that Travers, he said “the complete downpour and how dark it got. It looked like nighttime and there’s something exciting about those finish line lights coming on.” I’m sure it was pretty surreal being there that day, it certainly seemed like it from TV.  Have fun on Saturday Matt.

My Travers pick? Oh, you know, you’ve got the favorites like Tacitus, Tax, Mucho Gusto, Owendale, who are all looking pretty good,  and coming into the race well, but Saratoga’s known as the House of Upsets, so why not Chess Chief, with 2016 Travers winning jockey Mike Smith? Or Everfast, with Dale Romans, who beat American Pharoah in 2015. It’s always a fun race, and they’ll paint the canoe a new set of colors that night. It’s a HUGE day of racing Saturday at Saratoga, as you probably know if you’re reading. A recap to come next week.

Chad Brown won Grade 1’s in New York and California last weekend, with Cambier Parc in the Del Mark Oaks and Dunbar Road in the Alabama. Not really much to say on that, Chad has won three consecutive Eclipse Trainer awards, and is looking pretty good for a 4th straight. But Cambier Parc winning did make me think about…

Medaglia D’ Oro, Cambier Parc’s sire. He’s a world-class leading sire, 120 graded-stakes wins and career progeny earnings over $100 million. He’s had some of the most successful racing fillies and mares of the last 25 years: Rachel Alexandra, Songbird, Marketing Mix, Plum Pretty, Elate, just to name a few. Fairly or not, he’s been “typed” as a filly sire, which is understandable when you look at that list. I bring this up because Medaglia D’ Oro also sired Higher Power, the winner of the 29th Pacific Classic at Del Mar. MDO has had good males in the past, like Grade 1 2yo winners Violence and Bolt D’ Oro, Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Talismanic, two-time grade 1 winner Mshawish, and many others. But, is it going too far to say that Higher Power’s Pacific Classic win was Medaglia D’ Oro’s biggest win by a male on dirt? I don’t think it is.

Another stallion who had a good weekend was 2011 Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom. Animal Kingdom had three winners on the card Saturday at Saratoga, and what was interesting to me about those winners was that they were from a 3yo filly, 4yo gelding and 5yo mare, going five and a half furlongs, a mile and a sixteenth and a mile and three-eighths. It’s been a bit of a slow launch for Animal Kingdom at stud, but his runners have shown versatility and this 3yo crop looks like his best yet. What’s also interesting about Animal Kingdom is the type of mares he seems to cross well with, from families like More than Ready, Danzig and Dixieland Band, and not the traditional American dirt pedigree lines we’re familiar with. 

I mentioned on Twitter how I thought there was a lot of similarity between New Year’s Day, sire of Maximum Security, and Can the Man. Both were good 2yos (New Year’s Day was really good, winning the BC Juvenile, but anyway), both are by prominent stallions, and both come from successful female families. New Year’s Day never really caught on, in the auction ring or with breeders, but had reasonable success on the track, ranking tenth as a first-crop stallion, and now ninth in his third-crop. He’s since been sold to stand stud in Japan (where I think he’ll be pretty interesting). Can the Man has moved up to #13 for this years 2nd-crop stallions, and last week ran 1-2 in a maiden special weight at Saratoga and got his first stakes winner. I don’t know whether any of these 2yo’s will be a Florida Derby or Haskell winner, but you can see Can the Man’s stock rising some.

That’s about it for this week, have a great Travers Saturday, and see you next week. Oh, and happy retirement to Warrior’s Club, he took a lot of people on an amazing ride and helped earn a good amount of money for Thoroughbred aftercare.

 

 

 

 

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Are colts who are good runners at 2 better stallions? I’m going to get into this a bit more later, but just looking at the current top ten sires list, there’s Into Mischief (won the Gr. 1 CashCall Futurity), Tapit (Gr. 3 Laurel Futurity), Hard Spun (two-time stakes winner at 2), Street Sense (champion 2yo and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner), and even though they weren’t stakes winners, Quality Road and Kitten’s Joy were both winners at 2. Both sires of recent Triple Crown winners, Pioneerof the Nile and Scat Daddy, were Grade 1 winners at 2. Something? Nothing? And how does that predict how stallions like American Pharoah, Justify, Arrogate, Mendelssohn, Good Magic, Nyquist, Frosted will fare?

Chad Brown came to win on Arlington Millon day, taking all four graded stakes on the card. Bricks and Mortar wins the Million, (I thought the top 3 in the Million all ran a solid race), Sistercharlie in the Beverly D. Those two have to be the leaders in their divisions right now. Valid Point won the Secretariat in only his third start, and looks like he has plenty of potential. I was there for the homestretch of Charlie Whittingham’s career, and got to see Bobby Frankel from you know, mid 90-s on, but what Chad’s doing is really impressive. I’ll leave it to others for superlatives, and historical rankings, but days like the Million, and sweeping the graded stakes, wow.

Got Stormy winning the Gr.1 Fourstardave on 7 days rest. (She did get weight from the runner-up and third place, but they weren’t catching her) She looked great winning the De La Rose the week prior, and has had a nice 2019, going 3 for 5, and hitting the board in the Gr. 1 Jenny Wiley  and the Gr. 2 Churchill Distaff Turf Mile. For a deep dive on Get Stormy, the sire of Got Stormy (and 2yo winner, though he did most of his damage later), check out Got Stormy?

Fasig-Tipton concluded four days of auctions at Saratoga, with sons of Curlin leading the top end of the market. He’s probably the best dirt sire in the U.S. right now, right? Into Mischief is having an incredible year, but with those three at Saratoga (and an average of $835,000 at that sale), plus the $3 million plus 2yo at Gulfstream now with Bob Baffert, (and another seven-figure 2yo at the same sale) the money shows up for Curlin at auction. The average and median were up at the Saratoga Select sale, and it seems safe to say the high end of yearling auctions is healthy. The New York-bred portion of the auction saw dips in both average and median from 2018, but did have a slightly better RNA number from the previous year. So, that’s the environment as we get ready for Keeneland in September.

It was probably just an anomaly, but I subscribed to it, as did many others. Before Justify, the Kentucky Derby remained an elusive prize for sons of the Storm Cat sire line. Does Justify winning the Derby open the door for more Storm Cat line stallions? I first think of Into Mischief, and how the types of mares he’s now getting could earn a Derby win. Maybe Justify himself, or his crop-mate (and half-brother to Into Mischief) Mendelssohn. For most of this century, the Derby has been the domain of sons of the Mr. Prospector line, and that will probably continue. The general notion was Storm Cat runners were distance-challenged, and a mile and a quarter was too much. Is that still the case? That’s why we run the races.

It’s Pacific Classic weekend at Del Mar. Seeking the Soul, last out winner of the Stephen Foster, and runner-up in the Dubai World Cup, heads west for Dallas Stewart and John Velazquez, and is a lukewarm favorite. Pavel, 2nd in the 2018 Pacific Classic to Accelerate, and Quip, winner of the Oaklawn Handicap and a good 2nd to Seeking the Soul in the Foster are probably the main threats to the favorite, but you could make an argument for many. With a win by For the Top, Bob Baffert would tie Bobby Frankel for the most wins in Del Mar’s signature race, each having won six times.

Also at Del Mar this weekend is the Gr. 1 Del Mar Oaks, with 3yo fillies going nine furlongs on the turf. Cambier Parc (Chad Brown, Medaglia D’ Oro) headlines, but Brown has another filly in the race in Dogtag (War Front) and with 14 runners entered, you have a lot of options. The Del Mar Oaks has been won by East Coast based trainers five of the last nine runnings (including Vicki Oliver, who has Wildlife in this year).

Saratoga has the Alabama Saturday, for 3yo fillies going a mile and a quarter. Talk about a race with history. Recent winners include names like Songbird, Questing, Royal Delta, Blind Luck and Proud Spell, and then when you go back aways, Silverbulletday, Heavenly Prize, Go for Wand, Open Mind, Our Mims. The 2019 edition has a talented field, and no clear cut favorite.

That’s about it for this week, thanks for reading everyone. I’ll leave with a photo I took of Enable, heading out to train last year at Churchill before the Breeders’ Cup. It’s not the best photo ever… I was 75% asleep, nursing some coffee on a golf cart, and then like the Beatles in 1964, comes a throng of people, and there she was. I got a picture from the perspective many horses have seen recently. Enable runs next Thursday in the Yorkshire Oaks, her (probable) last race before the Arc in October. See you next week! Travers week!

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Tacitus, Tapit, Bill Mott

Pros: Good speed numbers in last two races (especially in Wood Memorial); has beaten Tax, Haikal and Win Win Win this year; by leading sire Tapit; trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott; three-race win streak; ridden by Eclipse winning jockey Jose Ortiz

Cons: No Wood Memorial winner has won the Ky Derby since Fusaichi Pegasus in 2000; trainer Mott 0-8 in Derby; fields in the Wood and Tampa Bay Derby may be suspect

Past Derby winner he hopes to be: Fusaichi Pegasus

 

Omaha Beach, War Front, Richard Mandella

Pros: by leading sire War Front; has won over off-track twice; ridden by 2-time Derby winning jockey Mike Smith; trained by Hall of Famer Mandella; has beaten Game Winner, Improbable, Country House; GAME wins in Rebel and Arkansas Derby (would NOT let other horses by); Arkansas Derby has been one of the most productive KY Derby preps of the last ten years

Cons: Consistently good speed numbers, but not any of the highest in the field; Mandella 0-6 in Derby; can he get similar trip in Derby as he did in Arkansas races?

Past Derby winner he hopes to be: American Pharoah

 

Vekoma, Candy Ride, George Weaver

Pros: Big win in Blue Grass, with big speed number defeating Win Win Win; by leading sire Candy Ride; jockey Castellano a four-time Eclipse Award winner; posted big speed number in Nashua win as 2yo

Cons: last Blue Grass winner to win Derby was Strike the Gold, 1991; 3rd in Fountain of Youth was a head scratcher, with no real excuse

Past Derby winner he hopes to be: Strike the Gold

 

Plus Que Parfait, Point of Entry, Brendan Walsh

Pros: won last out UAE Derby (9.5 furlongs) over Gray Magician; career best speed number in good runner-up finish in KY Jockey Club at Churchill as 2yo (over sloppy track)

Cons: 13th in Risen Star, 5th in Lecomte; has 2nd lowest career-best speed number in body of Derby field, UAE Derby has not been a key Derby prep

Past Derby winner he hopes to be: Charismatic

 

Roadster, Quality Road, Bob Baffert

Pros: won Santa Anita Derby over Game Winner; trained by five-time Derby winner Baffert; by leading sire Quality Road, Santa Anita Derby one of the most productive preps for KY Derby in last ten years

Cons: Consistently good speed numbers, but not any of the highest in the field; has not shipped outside of California; other than Game Winner, questions about who he’s faced; jockey Smith opted for Omaha Beach

Past Derby winner he hopes to be: Justify

 

By My Standards, Goldencents, Bret Calhoun

Pros: Excellent Louisiana Derby win, with big speed number, beating Spinoff; experience over a sloppy track (2nd on debut at Churchill)

Cons: Pedigree doesn’t really lean toward him getting a mile and a quarter; last Louisiana Derby winner to win KY Derby was Grindstone, 1996; LA Derby was monster performance, hadn’t run a race remotely close to that prior

Past Derby winner he hopes to be: Grindstone

 

Maximum Security, New Year’s Day, Jason Servis

Pros: Undefeated in four races; big speed numbers in Florida Derby and 18 length Allowance win in February; Florida Derby one of the most successful KY Derby preps in last ten years; beat Code of Honor in FL Derby; has muddy track experience

Cons: Hasn’t run outside of Gulfstream; is a mile and a quarter his distance? How will he handle being pressed on the lead? If he doesn’t get the lead, then what?

 Past Derby winner he hopes to be: Big Brown

 

Game Winner, Candy Ride, Bob Baffert

Pros: Baffert; has won at Churchill (BC Juvenile); beaten a nose by Omaha Beach and half-length by Roadster; by leading sire Candy Ride; Santa Anita Derby one of the most productive Derby preps of the last ten years

Cons: Hasn’t won as a 3yo; has he progressed since the Breeders’ Cup? had a bad trip in a field of six in the Santa Anita Derby, what does he do in a field of 20?

 Past Derby winner he hopes to be: Street Sense

 

Code of Honor, Noble Honor, Shug McGaughey

Pros: Trainer McGaughey won ’13 Derby with Orb; good Fountain of Youth win, defeating BG winner Vekoma; Florida Derby one of the most productive KY Derby preps of last ten years; jockey Velazquez two-time KY Derby winning jockey (’11 Animal Kingdom, ’17 Always Dreaming)

Cons: Speed numbers are consistent, but not very high; decent Florida Derby effort, but never really gained on Maximum Security or 2nd-place; are we sure he wants a mile and a quarter? Only three times since 1995 has KY Derby winner run 3rd or worse in prep before Derby

 Past Derby winner he hopes to be: Thunder Gulch

 

Haikal, Daaher, Kiaran McLaughlin

Pros: Monster Gotham performance, off of a hot pace, of which there will almost assuredly be in KY Derby; solid Wood Memorial run, even for 3rd place 

Cons: distance questions; trainer McLaughlin 0-8 in KY Derby; Only three times since 1995 has KY Derby winner run 3rd or worse in prep before Derby

Past Derby winner he hopes to be: Monarchos

 

Improbable, City Zip, Bob Baffert

Pros: Consistently fast against top competition; 2nd by a neck to Long Range Toddy, 2nd by a length to Omaha Beach; trained by five-time Derby winner Baffert; beat Country House in Arkansas Derby; has sloppy track experience; Arkansas Derby a recent key Derby prep

Cons: Hasn’t won as a 3yo; third jockey in as many races; does he want a mile and a quarter?

Past Derby winner he hopes to be: Real Quiet

 

War of Will, War Front, Mark Casse

Pros: By leading sire War Front; has won over sloppy track (msw at Churchill); was top 3yo on Derby trail in January and February, including good speed number wins in LeComte and Risen Star; Hall of Fame trainer Casse

Cons: no big speed number efforts; has been working well since Louisiana Derby, but what did that race take out of him? trainer Casse 0-6 in Derby; Only three times since 1995 has KY Derby winner run 3rd or worse in prep before Derby

Past Derby winner he hopes to be: Assault

 

Long Range Toddy, Take Charge Indy, Steve Asmussen

Pros: Very good Rebel win, over Improbable; good 3rd in Southwest in February; Hall of Fame trainer Asmussen

Cons: 6th in Arkansas Derby, with no real excuse; trainer Asmussen 0-19 in KY Derby; Only three times since 1995 has KY Derby winner run 3rd or worse in prep before Derby

Past Derby winner he hopes to be: Giacomo

 

Tax, Arch, Danny Gargan

Pros: Huge efforts in the Withers and Wood Memorial; very high speed numbers in both starts as a 3yo

Cons: runs big efforts and doesn’t win (Wood and Remsen); Wood hasn’t been a key Derby prep recently

Past Derby winner he hopes to be: Super Saver

 

Cutting Humor, First Samurai, Todd Pletcher

Pros: Very good effort winning Sunland Derby; two-time Derby winning trainer Pletcher; has sloppy track experience (2nd place debut at Belmont)

Cons: 7th in Southwest Stakes; how good was the field for the Sunland Derby? can he get a mile and a quarter? Jockey Velazquez opted for Code of Honor

 Past Derby winner he hopes to be: Go For Gin

 

Win Win Win, Hat Trick, Michael Trombetta

Pros: consistently high speed numbers against good competition; very good runner-up finish in Blue Grass

Cons: Blue Grass not a consistent Derby prep over the last ten years; Tampa Bay Derby effort was a head scratcher

Past Derby winner he hopes to be: Unbridled

 

Country House, Lookin at Lucky, Bill Mott

Pros: Hall of Fame trainer Mott; sloppy track experience (3rd in Arkansas Derby); good runner-up finish to War of Will in Risen Star

Cons: Only three times since 1995 has KY Derby winner run 3rd or worse in prep before Derby; only one win in six starts; Arkansas Derby run was a step back from Louisiana Derby;

Past Derby winner he hopes to be: Ferdinand

 

Gray Magician, Graydar, Peter Miller

Pros: Good runner-up effort in Miracle Wood in February; good 2nd to Plus Que Parfait in UAE Derby

Cons: lowest career high speed number in the Derby field; can he get a mile and a quarter? UAE Derby hasn’t been a key race for KY Derby; one win from eight career starts

Past Derby winner he hopes to be: Mine That Bird

 

Spinoff, Hard Spun, Todd Pletcher

Pros: Huge effort in Louisiana Derby; two-time Derby winning training Pletcher

Cons: Does he bounce off of the Louisiana Derby effort? How good was the field for Louisiana Derby behind him?

Past Derby winner he hopes to be: Lil E. Tee

 

Master Fencer, Just a Way, Koichi Tsunoda

Pros: Has already run a mile and a quarter twice (as a 2yo!); finished 2nd in Fukuryu Stakes last out to the very good Der Flug; great-great grandsire Sunday Silence won 1989 Derby

Cons: best finish of Japan-based horse in KY Derby was Lani, 9th in 2016;

Past Derby winner he hopes to be: Halma

 

AE-Bodexpress, Bodemeister, Gustavo Delgado

Pros: Sire Bodemeister sired ‘17 Derby winner Always Dreaming; last two starts have been solid, with good speed numbers; beat Code of Honor in Florida Derby

Cons: maiden (last maiden to win KY Derby-1933), other than Florida Derby, who’s he run against?

 Past Derby winner he hopes to be: Broker’s Tip

 

AE-Signalman, General Quarters, Ken McPeek

Pros: won the Ky Jockey Club over a sloppy track at Churchill; big effort in BC Juvenile; solid run in Blue Grass

 Cons: hasn’t won as a 3yo; 7th in Fountain of Youth;

 Past Derby winner he hopes to be: Sea Hero

 

 

 

 

 

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Arranged in order of Road to the Kentucky Derby points. By horse name, sire, and trainer, here goes….

Magnum Moon, Malibu Moon, Todd Pletcher

Pros: Undefeated in four starts, including Rebel and Arkansas Derby, which American Pharoah used as preps to win KY Derby in 2015. Bred on the same pedigree cross and by the same sire as ’13 Derby winner Orb. Trainer Pletcher has won two KY Derbys previously, and seven trainer Eclipse Awards.

Cons: Had great trips in both Arkansas wins and was green in both races. The Apollo curse (only Apollo, in 1882, has won the Kentucky Derby after not racing as a 2yo). Speed numbers are ok, but not in the top tier.

Good Magic, Curlin, Chad Brown

Pros: Two year-old champ. Has already beaten several of the top contenders in BC Juvenile, Blue Grass, Champagne. Brown is the two-time defending Eclipse Champion trainer, Jose Ortiz the defending Eclipse jockey. By leading sire Curlin (3rd in 07 Derby).

Cons: Did he peak in the Breeders’ Cup as a 2yo? Speed numbers indicate maybe so. Only one BC Juvenile winner has won the Kentucky Derby (1-33). Blue Grass win was good, but didn’t totally answer questions from his 3rd place in Fountain of Youth. Last Blue Grass winner to win KY Derby Strike the Gold, 1991.

Audible, Into Mischief, Todd Pletcher

Pros: Big speed figures, especially in last two starts. Three of the last five Kentucky Derby winners won the Florida Derby. Pletcher. Jockey Castellano is 4x Eclipse winner.

Cons: Storm Cat line stallions have yet to sire a Kentucky Derby winner. Sire Into Mischief average winning distance 6.7 furlongs. Gilded Time as a broodmare sire has an average winning distance of just short of 6.5 furlongs. Didn’t have much of a gallop-out in Florida Derby win. How deep was the Florida Derby field?

Noble Indy, Take Charge Indy, Todd Pletcher

Pros: Pletcher. Gutsy, grinding winning effort in Louisiana Derby.

Cons: Speed figures are ok, but not in the top group. Last KY Derby winner from Louisiana Derby was Grindstone, 1996. Pedigree suggests ten furlongs could be tough to get.

Vino Rosso, Curlin, Todd Pletcher

Pros: Pletcher.  Leading sire Curlin. Jockey Velazquez has won two KY Derbys. Solid Wood Memorial win. Street Cry broodmare sire adds class and distance.

Cons: Speed figures are average. 4th place finish in the Tampa Derby was a head scratcher. Last KY Derby winner from Wood Memorial was Fusaichi Pegasus in 2000.

Bolt D’ Oro, Medaglia D’ Oro, Mick Ruis

Pros: Consistent and shows no quit. Excellent speed figures. Sire Medaglia D’ Oro has been red hot over the last year, A.P. Indy dam sire. Victor Espinoza 3x Derby winning jockey.

Cons: Ran a great race in SA Derby, but wasn’t gaining on Justify. What does he have left in the tank after the last two demanding races? Hasn’t crossed the wire first since the Frontrunner at Santa Anita in September.

Enticed, Medaglia D’ Oro, Kiaran McLaughlin

Pros: Medgalia D’ Oro. Ran a good 2nd in the Wood Memorial, won Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill as 2yo. Has won over muddy track.

Cons: 4th in the Holy Bull with no excuse. Speed figures toward the middle of the pack.

Mendelssohn, Scat Daddy, Aiden O’ Brien

Pros: Won UAE Derby by 18 lengths in his first dirt start, setting a track record. Half brother to four-time Eclipse champ Beholder. Won last three starts, all on different surfaces. Beat three fellow Derby starters in the BC Juvenile Turf. $3 Million auction yearling.

Cons:  Storm Cat sire line. Dubai to Louisville hasn’t yet been a successful route to the Derby winners circle. The Breeders’ Cup win was solid, otherwise, who’s he beaten? Broodmare sire Tricky Creek’s average winning distance barely 6.5 furlongs.

Justify, Scat Daddy, Bob Baffert

Pros: Four-time Derby winning trainer. Speed figures through the roof. Versatile running style, can set the pace, or come from off pace. Beat a really nice colt in Bolt D’ Oro without much effort in SA Derby. Jockey Smith won 2005 Derby on Giacomo. Has won over muddy track.

Cons: Storm Cat sire line. Has had really easy trips in all three starts. The Curse of Apollo. Baffert has yet to have a Santa Anita Derby winner win the KY Derby (0-7). Does he bounce off of what has been three incredible starts? Hasn’t run outside of Santa Anita.

Flameaway, Scat Daddy, Mark Casse

Pros: Seems to be improving as a 3yo, good recent speed numbers. Broodmare sire Fusaichi Pegasus won 2000 Derby. Versatile running style, may be close to the lead in a race that may not have much early speed. Beat Vino Rosso in February in Sam F. Davis. His five career wins leads the Derby field.

Cons: Storm Cat sire line. Middle of the pack overall speed numbers. Only two Canadian-breds have won KY Derby, last in 1983 (Sunny’s Halo).

Solomini, Curlin, Bob Baffert

Pros: Consistent, never off the board in six starts. 4x Derby winning trainer Baffert. By Curlin. Has been mixing it up with the top contenders since last Breeders’ Cup.

Cons: Gets into racing trouble, usually by his own making. Starts awkwardly, runs green, stays on left lead through stretch. Only win was 2yo maiden at Del Mar in September (DQ’d in Los Al Futurity).

Bravazo, Awesome Again, D. Wayne Lukas

Pros: Trainer Lukas has four Derbys. Beat Noble Indy in the Risen Star. Bred on the same pedigree cross as Preakness winner Oxbow. Broke maiden at Churchill Downs.

Cons: Poor speed figures. Really inconsistent, melted down in the Louisiana Derby. Broodmare sire Cee’s Tizzy doesn’t encourage for 10 furlongs.

My Boy Jack, Creative Cause, Keith Desormeaux

Pros: Good win in Lexington at Keeneland. Jockey Kent Desormeaux has won three KY Derbys. Improving speed numbers as a 3yo. Won Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn over muddy track.

Cons: Storm Cat sire line.  Middle of the pack overall speed figures. Running style may leave him left behind by faster early-types, or passed by good closers.

Promises Fulfilled, Shackleford, Dale Romans

Pros: Fountain of Youth win was really impressive. Solid 3rd as 2yo in the Kentucky Jockey Club. Running style may allow for him to set pace in a race with not much early speed.

Cons: Storm Cat sire line. 9th place finish in Florida Derby, didn’t seem comfortable at all in the race. Marquetry broodmare sire isn’t encouraging for ten furlongs.

Free Drop Billy, Union Rags, Dale Romans

Pros: Pedigree suggests ten furlongs should be right up his alley. Has been competing against the top contenders since Breeders’ Cup as 2yo. Really unlucky in Blue Grass, could have finished much higher.

Cons: Hasn’t won since Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland in October. Average speed numbers. Hasn’t finished ahead of any of the major contenders.

Lone Sailor, Majestic Warrior, Tom Amoss

Pros: Excellent 2nd place effort in Louisiana Derby. Broke maiden by 11 lengths over sloppy track.

Cons: One career victory. Mr. Greeley dam sire’s average winning distance is 6.9 furlongs. Speed figures are well below top contenders.

Hofburg, Tapit, Bill Mott

Pros: By leading sire Tapit, half-brother to four-time Grade 1 winner and millionaire Emollient. Ran excellent runner-up effort in the Florida Derby. Trained by Hall of Famer Mott. Broodmare sire Touch Gold won 1997 Belmont Stakes.

Cons: Florida Derby field behind him was questionable. Three lifetime starts, one career win. Touch Gold as dam sire’s average winning distance is 6.9 furlongs.

Firenze Fire, Poseidon’s Warrior, Jason Servis

Pros: Four career wins. Won Jerome Stakes at Aqueduct over muddy track. Beat Good Magic, Free Drop Billy, Enticed as 2yo.

Cons: Speed figures well below top contenders. May have peaked as a 2yo. Sire Poseidon’s Warrior average winning distance 6.4 furlongs.

Combatant, Scat Daddy, Steve Asmussen

Pros: Hall of Fame trainer Asmussen has four in the money Derby finishes. Ran good 2nd in Southwest Stakes over muddy track. Broodmare sire Boundary sired 2008 KY Derby, Preakness winner Big Brown.

Cons: One career win, as 2yo. Storm Cat sire line. Speed figures well below top contenders.

Instilled Regard, Arch, Jerry Hollendorfer

Pros: Won Lecomte Stakes at Fair Grounds in January. Broodmare sire Forestry also dam sire of 2016 Derby winner Nyquist. SA Derby 4th place finish better than it looked. Excellent Los Al Futurity effort vs Solomini and McKinzie. Hall of Fame trainer Hollendorfer 3rd in 2017 Derby with Battle of Midway.

Cons: Forestry average winning distance 6.4 furlongs. Two straight fourth-place finishes. Running style may not suit a field with good early speed ahead of him and good late speed behind him.

 

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West Coast won the 148th Travers, and Bob Baffert repeats as winning trainer in the Mid-Summer Derby. West Coast certainly seems like the real deal, he’s been first or second in seven career starts, and won the Travers pretty convincingly. You’d have to say he’s the leader of the three-year-old division right now, as he defeated the winners of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, Belmont, Haskell, Jim Dandy,  and Indiana Derby on Saturday, and right now it doesn’t look like there’s anyone out there to challenge him. In light of these most recent two Travers winners, it will be interesting to see how next year’s three-year-old crop will be managed. It just doesn’t seem like many three-year-olds can sustain campaigns that begin in the summer or fall of their two-year-old years, run in Grade 1’s and ship around the country, and keep up a level of performance and health that allows them to be competitive once late August of their three-year-old year comes around. West Coast and Arrogate were both later developing colts, and their trainer had the luxury of having patient owners who are able to wait for races like the Travers, and who also has a deep bench of fellow three-year-olds who did go after the Triple Crown races. Most trainers don’t have that sort of roster. If they have a good three-year-old, they’re trying for the Triple Crown. Maybe West Coast and Arrogate are just exceptions, as Keen Ice, Will Take Charge, Alpha, Stay Thirsty and Summer Bird are all recent Travers winners who ran in, or even won, a Triple Crown race. But, it is looking more like it will take a special runner to compete in the classics, and then have enough left in the tank to be competitive for the second half of the year.

Lady Eli won her eighth graded stakes race, and third straight graded event, taking the Ballston Spa at Saratoga. In a day filled with awesome performances at Saratoga, hers was maybe the best. The crowd cheered her after the winner’s circle presentation Saturday. She’s going up for sale in the fall, and probably won’t be back at the Spa, but she left quite an impression. This photo with jockey Irad Ortiz sums it up. Lady Eli and Irad Ortiz  She will be missed in Saratoga Springs.

So, one three-year-old who has gone through the grind of the Triple Crown this year, and come out pretty successful on the other end is Allen Jerkens winner Practical Joke. He was a two-time Grade 1 winner at two, and has hit the board in the Fountain of Youth, Blue Grass and Haskell and won the Dwyer and the Allen Jerkens. And his Kentucky Derby was OK, he ran an even fifth (which is still a check in that race!) The argument against Practical Joke is that he hasn’t won going two turns, and I understand that, but I also consider his consistency in a year when no else has been able to string together several good races. He’s probably best at seven furlongs, true, but if he wins say, the Pennsylvania Derby, or even the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile taking on older horses? It would depend on what other horses do in the fall but you’d have to make the case for Practical Joke as three-year-old of the year. And, could we interest Chad Brown and the team in a run in the Malibu on Dec. 26?

The Personal Ensign was a thrilling race. Replay here  Jockey Joel Rosario on Forever Unbridled kept his mare wide in the stretch so that Songbird and Mike Smith wouldn’t see him until it was too late. Great race riding, and it worked. With the win, Forever Unbridled will meet up with Stellar Wind, Vale Dori, Abel Tasman and others in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff. That was Songbird’s second career loss and on Thursday, owner Rick Porter decided to retire her (AND OFFER HER AT FASIG TIPTON IN NOVEMBER, SO LET’S START THE KICKSTARTER CAMPAIGN NOW) Songbird retires as the one of the best fillies of this generation. A NINE time Grade 1 winner, she was champion two-year-old and three-year-old filly, and her only losses came to eventual Hall of Famer Beholder by a nose, and three time grade one winner (and possible Breeders’ Cup champ?) Forever Unbridled. She was a special talent. Her 2016 Alabama win, here, was maybe my favorite of her wins

This Drefong is some horse. (OK, we knew that already, right, look at his King’s Bishop and BC Sprint from last year.) But in his first race in nine months, he loses the jockey, then comes back a month later (in a grade 1 at Saratoga) and says “we’re all good here.” There are a few other sprinters that maybe could make a case against Drefong, but his cruising speed is just so much faster than other horses, and Mike Smith rides him so confidently, it’s hard to see how he doesn’t go into the BC Sprint this year as the heavy favorite.

It’s closing weekend at both Saratoga and Del Mar. Yep, just like that, summer’s over. It always goes by too fast, right? There’s still some great racing over the holiday weekend, and Gun Runner looks to win his third straight grade 1 in the Woodward. He’s in great form right now, and should win, though Rally Cry for Todd Pletcher may make him work for it a bit. Labor Day Monday has two of my favorite races on the year, the Hopeful at Saratoga and the Del Mar Futurity, both for two-year-old colts. Dreams of Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May often begin in the winner’s circle of those races. (It’s then the racing and training in the months that follow that’s the tough part.)

Thanks for reading, and if you have subscribed via e-mail,  thank you VERY much, that’s really appreciated. I’m going to be taking a little break from the newsletter over the next couple of weeks as the racing calendar takes a bit of a break also, and as the Keeneland September yearling sale kicks off. I’ll have a recap of the sale, and a preview of some big racing weekends as we get ready for the Breeders’ Cup, on Friday, September 22. See you then, and thanks again. Enjoy the holiday weekend, and don’t labor too much.

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Saturday is Travers Day at Saratoga. The day is a FEAST for racing fans. Six Grade 1’s, equine and human stars everywhere, an excellent betting race in the Travers, and if you’re able to get to the Spa, good for you, have fun. If you’re taking in the action at home like me, there’s still a ton of great races to watch and bet on. You’ll see Songbird in the Personal Ensign, this year’s Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont winners in the Travers, last year’s Eclipse Sprinter Drefong in the Forego. It’s a really fun way to end the summer, before we have to close up shop at the Spa and Del Mar, go back to school, get ready for yearling sales, and the days get shorter. (For what it’s worth, I like Cloud Computing and West Coast in the 148th running of the  Mid-Summer Derby.)

Collected won the Pacific Classic at Del Mar last Saturday Replay here. It wasn’t, or at least shouldn’t have been, a huge shock (he was 3-1 when the gate opened, so it wasn’t a HUGE surprise). He set a pretty comfortable pace, shook off a nice horse in Accelerate, and held off his all-world stablemate to score his first Grade 1 win. Collected’s now four for four in 2017, and in good form heading into the fall. Where does that leave runner-up Arrogate? This was better than the San Diego, that’s for sure. Still, there has to be some uncertainty about where he is right now. Does he have a Dubai hangover that’s been hard to shake? He really dislikes Del Mar? Lost a step? It appears he’ll be incognito until the Breeders’ Cup, as Baffert is electing to train him up to the Classic with no prep, so we’ll just have to see what those works look like in October, and go from there. You can’t count Arrogate out, but, it’s also a leap of faith with him at the moment. To be continued.

Elate won the Alabama.Replay here (it’s worth the watch) She gave Abel Tasman everything she could handle last out in the Coaching Club Oaks, and put in a powerful run this time. That’s the third Alabama win for trainer Bill Mott, who had champion three-year-old filly Royal Delta in 2011, and Sweet Symphony in 2005. It’s also the second year in a row a daughter of Travers winner Medaglia D’ Oro won the Alabama. Medagalia D’ Oro is an INCREDIBLE sire of fillies and mares. Here are just a few of those: Rachel Alexandra, Plum Pretty, Elate, New Money Honey, Marketing Mix, Dickinson, and 2016’s Alabama winner and champion three-year-old filly, Songbird. Medaglia D’ Oro gets good colts; Violence, Mshawish, Vancouver, Warrior’s Reward and Fast Anna were solid on the track and are showing signs at stud. But, there’s a reason that a Medaglia D’ Oro filly went for $1 million at Fasig Tipton in July, when the next price in the sale was $310k.

Mendelssohn, the $3 million September sale-topping son of Scat Daddy, half-brother to Beholder, is a maiden no more. He won going a mile at the Curragh, in Ireland. Another high profile two-year-old, American Pharoah’s full brother St. Patrick’s Day, ran a good second at Del Mar, and may run in the Del Mar Futurity in September. More to come from both.

If you primarily follow American racing like I do, you may not be familiar with Australian Hall of Famer Winx. No problem. Winx is a daughter of Street Cry, like Zenyatta, and also like Zenyatta, has thrived as an older runner. She’s won over $13 million Australian in her career, and is currently ranked as the second-best horse in the world, behind Arrogate. Check out her race from Sunday, doing a pretty good Arrogate impression.

I like that it’s almost Labor Day, and the Horse of the Year, champion three-year-old and other Eclipse races are wide open. It’s more fun this way, like NFL Playoffs that come down to the Super Bowl, or in our case, the Breeders’ Cup. The most recent NTRA poll has Gun Runner first, followed by Arrogate, Songbird, Collected, Stellar Wind, and others. That’s reasonable. The Eclipse Trainer award is up for grabs (Jerry Hollendorfer? He’s gotta have a good Breeders’ Cup weekend but throwing his name out there.) The Travers will help with champion three-year-old, or could just leave us scratching our heads. It’s incredible to watch once in a generation talents like American Pharaoh, but they don’t inspire much competition, whereas with tomorrow’s Travers, I could make a case for just about every colt.

Finally, thank you to everyone who works with, volunteers for, donates to, or is even loosely connected to Thoroughbred aftercare organizations. The TAA, CARMA in California, Old Friends in Kentucky (shout out to Danthebluegrassman), Go here to see all of the accredited organizations. We’re really lucky to be involved in this sport, and we owe it to the athletes (and our friends) to make sure they’re cared for.

Christmas in August on Saturday! Win some money! If you’re going to the Spa, or your local track, take a friend who’s never been. If you’re at home, make fake bets (or real ones, that’s your call), do Travers bingo (a popular one may be how often broadcasters compare West Coast to Arrogate), and maybe mix up a few Saratoga Sunrises. Fox Sports will have the Personal Ensign, the Ballerina and the Forego from 2-4:30 Saturday, NBC will have the Sword Dancer and Travers, starting at 4:30.

See you next time!

 

 

 

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Saturday is the 27th running of the Pacific Classic at Del Mar. It’s one of my favorite races on the calendar every year, and the highlight of the Del Mar summer season. The Pacific Classic elevated Del Mar’s presence in the early 90s from great Western summer racing venue by the Pacific Ocean, to today, an internationally known landmark, and home of the 2017 Breeders’ Cup. The race has been a showcase for top older horses, like recent winners California Chrome, Beholder, Shared Belief and Game on Dude, and has been the site of some huge upsets, like when Dare and Go paid $81 and beat two-time Horse of the Year Cigar in 1996, or in 1992, when Missionary Ridge went off as the longest price on the board and scored Bobby Frankel’s first of six wins. This year, it’s Arrogate’s race to win or lose. He is the best horse in the race, but cue the recording, “the best horse doesn’t always win.” He can redeem himself after his no-show in the San Diego, and set up a fall schedule that could culminate with another Breeders’ Cup win, at Del Mar, or someone else could be another Dare and Go, another Missionary Ridge, and shock the world. That’s why they run the races, right? Saturday at Del Mar, on NBCSN, or your favorite online wagering/viewing service.

I really enjoyed an essay on 2006 Pacific Classic winner, the amazing Lava Man, a horse who was once claimed for $50k, ran 47 times, won 17 of those events, including three Hollywood Gold Cups, two Santa Anita Handicaps, a Pacific Classic, and was a 2015 National Racing Hall of Fame inductee. Lava Man now is a stable pony for trainer Doug O’ Neill, acting as an assistant coach to young Thoroughbreds trying to catch a little bit of what Lava Man had. Enjoy. The Legend of Lava Man

Meanwhile, in upstate New York, the 136th Alabama Stakes is Saturday at Saratoga. The Alabama is one of the oldest stakes races in the country, run over a mile and a quarter for three-year-old fillies. William Cottrell was a prominent Thoroughbred owner and breeder in the 1870’s, but didn’t want a stakes race named after him personally, so it was decided that the race would be named after his home state. Past winners of the Alabama include some of the best fillies ever to race, like Songbird, Royal Delta, Blind Luck, Silverbulletday, Go For Wand, Open Mind, Life’s Magic, Our Mims, the list goes on. This year’s field is loaded, and I’m expecting a great race. Saturday, at the Spa.

The Travers is next Saturday. It looks like a very competitive, wide-open race, and you should be able to get a good betting price on just about every horse. The winners of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont will all run, (that’s Always Dreaming, Cloud Computing, Tapwrit, respectively, as review) and then add in impressive last out winners Good Samaritan, West Coast, Gunnevera, Irap, Girvin, that’s a lot of quality runners. The Travers should add clarity to what’s been a pretty evenly matched three-year-old division so far, so the Travers winner will head into the fall as the clubhouse leader for three-year-old of the year (Unless….since it’s Saratoga and all……a horse from out of nowhere wins, and then three-year-old of the year will be decided…TBD) The Travers is one of six grade 1 stakes at Saratoga next Saturday. To say I’m excited about Travers Day would be a small understatement. It’s Christmas in August.

Chad Brown trained the winner of both the Beverly D (Dacita) and the Arlington Million (Beach Patrol) last weekend. He’s on quite a roll. He has New Money Honey in the Alabama. She’s 6/1…..just saying.

He’s currently 16th on the general sire list, so I’m not hitting the panic button, but have we overrated Uncle Mo a bit? Maybe this is just a slight regression to the mean after that blazing start last year? Beholder is expecting a foal by Uncle Mo next spring; that alone helps his cause. He has Mopotism in the Alabama, he’ll have Rally Cry in the Woodward at the end of the Saratoga meet, so he has live runners. His yearlings at Keeneland in September will give a pretty good idea of where he’s heading.

Shout out to Mineshaft, the 2003 Horse of the Year. He’s a stallion who is just really solid, and is emerging as a sire of sires. He’s 24th on the general sire list currently, and is the grandsire of Gunnevera, a very interesting Travers runner. Mineshaft also has Effinex, a grade one winner, earner of over $3 million and a stallion prospect New York breeders should love. He’ll be 19 next year, so we won’t be getting many more from Mineshaft, but it looks like he’ll have a few very good sons to carry on.

American Pharoah’s younger full-brother, named St. Patrick’s Day, debuts Sunday at Del Mar. Bob Baffert trains, Flavien Prat rides. He’s 2/1, has been working well, and certainly could win. Pharoah, if you remember, ran fifth on debut. Racing is fun like that. They’re all individual animals, even if their big brother won the Triple Crown. Sky-high expectations have to be balanced with what that horse’s actual ability is. We’ll see Sunday, where the surf meets the turf.

Unsolicited plug: check out this podcast: Switching Leads radio show  Call in, talk horses with industry leaders, really cool stuff. Thursday nights, check it out.

Thanks as always for reading! Good luck this weekend, enjoy the races!

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