We are all aware of the big names in the 3-year-old division who won or competed in one or more of the Triple Crown races - names like Lookin At Lucky, Super Saver, Drosselmeyer, Ice Box, Fly Down, First Dude, Uptowncharlybrown, Paddy O'Prado, Jackson Bend, Make Music For Me, Dublin, Stately Victor, Game On Dude, and Mission Impazible.
But could it be that many of those horses are about to get swept away by what looks to be a tsunami-like second wave about to hit the 3-year-old division?
You have to go back pretty far to recall a more exciting group of late developers than what we've seen so far this year.
Concord Point - This Bob Baffert-trained speedball ran his opponents dizzy in the Iowa Derby (gr. III), winning by 8 ½ lengths under a hand ride in a sizzling 1:40 1/5 for the 1 1/16 miles, earning a lofty 107 Beyer speed figure. With Lookin At Lucky having missed a week of training due to a fever, it will be interesting to see what Baffert does in regard to the Haskell Invitational (gr. I) Aug. 1. Baffert could run both, but at this point, Lookin At Lucky would barely make the race after his setback. If Concord Point, a son of Tapit, has one little issue it is changing leads. Although he's fine in the morning, it's a different story in the afternoon. Jockey Martin Garcia tried several times to get him to change on Saturday, but sometimes horses are simply running too fast to change leads. He did change briefly going by the stands the first time, but once he began to pour it on he just kept rolling on that left lead. The way he galloped out past the wire, he might have won by 20 lengths had this race been longer. His pedigree is a good mixture of speed and stamina, with most of the stamina coming from his tail-female line, which is where you want it.
Baffert also unleashed a monster first-timer by Closing Argument on June 26, sending out Capital Account to a 7 ¾-length victory in 1:15 1/5 for the 6 ½ furlongs.
Afleet Express - This colt needed time to build up his constitution and he's now all man. He's also had problems breaking from the gate, which will get better with maturity. After winning a seven-furlong allowance race at Belmont by 7 ¾ lengths in 1:21 3/5, earning a 105 Beyer, he got his first two-turn test against a small, but classy field in the grade III Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth, in which the other five starters all had won or placed in graded stakes, including Jackson Bend, second in the Wood Memorial (gr. I) and Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. III) and third in the Preakness (gr. I), and Afleet Again, winner of the Withers Stakes (gr. III). The track was extremely slow that day, which presented a further test for him. After bobbling at the break, he tracked the leaders in third before drawing off under a hand ride to win by 1 ¾ lengths, showing a second gear in the final furlong. The son of Afleet Alex made a grand appearance in the paddock and post parade and appears to have a limitless future.
Afleet Again and Soaring Empire - the second- and third-place finishers in the Pegasus both were compromised by the slow track and slow pace and a very stiff headwind in the stretch. Both colts are strong stretch runners who want more distance and should relish the 10 furlongs of the Travers. Afleet Again, also by Afleet Alex, has a tendency to drift out in the stretch, but does finally get his act together in the final furlong. He is a long-striding colt who is much better with a fast pace. Soaring Empire, a son of Empire Maker, is still a work in progress and is steadily improving with every race. He was coming off a fourth in the Dwyer Stakes (gr. II) to the eventual one-two finishers in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I), in which he was way too close to the pace over a dead track. In the Pegasus, he dropped back to last, made a big run on the far outside to challenge for the lead, but ran evenly in the final furlong after being bumped by Afleet Again.
Golden Itiz - This improving son of Tiznow has made only four career starts, but has won his last three, including a hard-earned victory in the Affirmed Handicap (gr. III) June 19, defeating the far more experienced Skipshot and Alphie's Bet, both of whom also have to be included on a list of second-season 3-year-olds. After breaking his maiden by two lengths in a sharp 1:15 flat for the 6 ½ furlongs, Golden Itiz romped by 11 ¼ lengths in a 1 1/16-mile allowance race, winning wire-to-wire. But in the Affirmed, he rated back in fourth and was relentless in the stretch, running down Skipshot to win by a half-length. He is trained by Ron Ellis and owned by Jay Em Ess Stable, who also have the top-class 4-year-old Rail Trip. This is another colt who should love stretching out in distance, and being by Tiznow, should only keep improving.
Our Dark Knight, Miner's Reserve, Gallant Fields, Morning Line - These are all Nick Zito-trained 3-year-olds who have shown a great deal of brilliance and could all be major players by the end of the year. Our Dark Knight, a son of Medaglia d'Oro, has won three of his last four starts, including a strong second to graded-stakes-placed Ibboyee in the Spend a Buck Stakes at Monmouth, followed by a dominating score in a 1 1/16-mile allowance race at Monmouth, in which he ran the same time as the grade III Pegasus Stakes later on the card. Miner's Reserve was being touted as perhaps Zito's most talented 3-year-old until he was rushed into the Florida Derby (gr. I) off a rousing maiden victory. He finally got back on track in a 1 1/16-mile allowance race at Belmont May 31, in which he drew off to a 5 ¾-length victory in a snappy 1:41 flat. Gallant Fields, a son of Smarty Jones, broke his maiden by 8 ¼- lengths at Belmont in his second career start June 20. Morning Line, a son of Tiznow, out of the A.P. Indy mare Indian Snow, a daughter of Alabama (gr. I) winner November Snow, broke his maiden by eight lengths at Monmouth June 27 going 1 1/16 miles.
Trappe Shot - No one who saw this son of Tapit capture a seven-furlong allowance race by four lengths on Belmont Stakes day will argue that he could be one of racing's next major stars. His brilliant, but professional performance, in which he went in 1:22 flat over a dead track, followed a 12 ¾-length allowance win at Gulfstream and a 10 ¼-length maiden score, also at Gulfstream. In his Belmont race, he ran a like a seasoned pro, and once he got in gear, he dominated a strong field of allowance horses. Trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, he seems to have all the tools.
Friend or Foe - Forget the fact that this undefeated son of Friends Lake is a New York-bred, which means nothing these days anyway. The John Kimmel-trained colt broke his maiden by two lengths in his career debut at Gulfstream in open company before winning a state-bred allowance race at Belmont in 1:08 4/5 for the six furlongs, earning a 93 Beyer. In his last start, the seven-furlong Mike Lee Stakes for state-breds June 20, he was up against the Spend a Buck winner Ibboyee, who also placed in the grade II Swale and Hutcheson Stakes and grade III Withers Stakes. Also in the field was the highly regarded General Maximus, a winner of three of his four career starts, including a state-bred stakes at Belmont. Friend or Foe tracked blazing fractions of :45 flat and 1:08 4/5 before drawing off in the final furlong to win by 2 ¾ lengths in a sharp 1:21 3/5.
Shrewd One - Another New York-bred, this son of Smarty Jones romped by 12 ½ lengths in a one-mile allowance race for state-breds at Belmont, earning a whopping 96 Beyer. He then ventured into open company for the first time, finishing a strong second to the dual grade I-placed Aikenite, who had also finished second in the Derby Trial Stakes (gr. III) and third in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II) this year. The time for the one-mile allowance race was a solid 1:35 1/5.
Exhi -- Adding him despite his apparent need for synthetic surfaces, giving him limited opportunities in the major fall races. But he has won four consecutve stakes, all on Polytrack, at three different tracks, so one would think Todd Plether will keep him on that surface for as long as he can. It is possible he's just getting better, as his margins of victory increase. He didn't beat too much in the Victoria Park Sunday and was 1-5, but he did win like a good horse.