Ky. Derby Trail: Talking Points

The Factor spoke loudly and made his point perfectly, as he ran off with the Rebel Stakes (gr. II) in his two-turn debut, winning by 6 1/4 lengths and coming home his final sixteenth in :06 1/5. When a frontrunner setting testing fractions of :46 3/5 and 1:10 4/5 can come home that fast, there aren’t many horses who are going to be able to beat him.

The son of War Front has one main weapon, and that is speed and more speed. And he’s now proven he can carry it two turns, thanks in part to a long, efficient stride that wastes little energy. When he can control a race, like he did in the Rebel, stretching out his neck and flicking his ears back and forth, while stringing out his field, he is going to be tough no matter who he’s running against. The main question is whether he can carry that speed 1 1/4 miles in a 20-horse field with a contentious pace. He still has to show he can carry it 1 1/8 miles. But you had to love how strongly he galloped out an extra furlong after the Rebel. Jockey Martin Garcia said the colt just took a huge breath around the three-eighths pole, as if realizing he’s going to be out there longer than usual.

The Factor allowed several horses to close in right behind him, but once he turned for home and switched leads, he kicked it into another gear and was gone, as Garcia hit him a couple of times right-handed just to pretty much keep him on a straight course, which he did. Garcia said what impressed him the most was how The Factor was actually getting stronger in the last 100 yards.

The Factor scoped clean after the race and ate all his dinner, and was scheduled to fly home on Monday. The question now is whether to send him back for the Arkansas Derby (gr. II) or run him a week earlier in the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I).

If there is any other question left for The Factor to answer, other than the usual distance and heart questions, it is whether he can handle faster two-turn horses than the locally based group he faced at Oaklawn. But for now, he went from a King’s Bishop (gr. I) type of horse to a Kentucky Derby (gr. I) contender, and will keep taking gradual steps up the ladder to see just how far his speed will carry him. Many times, sprinters will air first time around two turns, but it is the second time that is the real test, so we’ll know a lot more about The Factor after his next start. His 103 Beyer actually is the only triple-digit Beyer run in a two-turn stakes race for 3-year-olds this year and gives him three straight 100-plus Beyers.

As for the others in the Rebel, which suffered from the defection of Elite Alex and the late scratch of Alternation after a scary incident at the gate, Caleb’s Posse ran a good race after his horrible trip in the Southwest Stakes (gr. III), circling widest of all and just beating out Archarcharch for second. The latter probably was closer to the pace than he wanted to be and lacked the turn of foot he exhibited in the Southwest. He certainly deserves another chance with different tactics. The D. Wayne Lukas-trained Saratoga Red, a neck winner of his only career start, ran a big race to finish fourth, beaten 1 1/2 lengths for second, after chasing The Factor through those stiff fractions. That was an excellent performance for a horse making only his second career start.

J P’s Gusto, Sway Away, and Picko’s Pride were the big disappointments.

Splendor in the grass

Are you getting tired of looking at the same names on the various Derby rankings week after week, with only a handful of horses stepping up and looking like top contenders?

Well, here’s an idea on how to bring new intriguing names and faces to the Derby scene: look to the grass, which just may be hiding a few contenders.

Three in particular who look talented and versatile enough to step up on the dirt are Crimson China and King Congie, who are pointing for the Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes (gr. II) March 26, and Data Link, who is heading for the Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I).

Of these, only Data Link, a winner of three straight on the grass for Shug McGaughey, has shown some ability on dirt, finishing a fast-closing fourth in a Saratoga maiden sprint behind eventual graded stakes winners Astrology, To Honor and Serve, and Anthony’s Cross. Data Link is by War Front, who has sired top-class dirt horses Soldat and The Factor and Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) hopefuls Summer Soiree and Snow Fall, both impressive two-turn winners on dirt in their last start.

“He's trained decent on the dirt, but I don’t know about the Derby; I'll have to answer that question after he runs in the Blue Grass,” McGaughey said of Data Link. “As of right now I'm not thinking Derby, but you can never discount it. The War Fronts will run on anything. He’s a nice horse and he’s getting better., When he won his first race here this winter (Alex) Solis, whose knowledge I respect, said there's a lot more in the tank. After his last race, he said he felt a lot stronger. In his second career start, on dirt, he was fourth and I felt if he had broken better that day he would have been competitive with those horses. And I he’d be competitive if we ran him on the dirt now.”

Crimson China broke his maiden easily on a synthetic surface at Wolverhampton in England and was extremely impressive winning a 1 1/8-mile allowance race on grass at Gulfstream in a sharp 1:46 4/5. He runs a lot like his sire, Giant’s Causeway, who was a champion grass horse in Europe and was beaten a neck by Tiznow in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) in his dirt debut. His maternal great-grandsire, Dayjur, also was a champion in Europe who just missed in his dirt debut in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (gr. I) after jumping a shadow right before the wire costing him the race. His fourth generation tail-female sire is Native Charger, who won the Flamingo and Florida Derby and was fourth in the Kentucky Derby. And his fifth generation tail-female sire is Dr. Fager, who won championships on dirt and grass in the same year. So, there is a lot of versatility in his pedigree when it comes to grass and dirt.

“I really want to run him in the Spiral,” trainer Graham Motion said. “But I'm afraid he might not get in. He’s only won a ham sandwich at Wolverhampton and a nonwinners of one other than here so he’s way down the earnings list. We’re going to ship him anyway, and I want to run Animal Kingdom in the Rushaway. That’s always been our plan for him. They’re both really nice horses. Animal Kingdom looks more like a grass horse, but we've definitely thought about the dirt with Crimson China, and that will be an option if we don’t get in the Spiral; perhaps the Illinois or Arkansas Derby. If he ran in the Spiral then Barry (Irwin) and I would have to talk about whether to run him back on the dirt before the Derby. We breezed him on the dirt I thought he handled it fine. H’s not a flashy work horse on either surface. He’s a real neat horse, probably a little further along than Animal kingdom at this point as far as seasoning.”

Finally, King Congie, winner of the Tropical Park Derby on grass and disqualified from first in the  Hallandale Beach Stakes, has a ton of dirt breeding on both sides of his pedigree. In his tail-female family, his third generation sire is Wise Times, winner of the grade I Travers and Monmouth Invitational (Haskell) and is fourth generation sire is Bold Lad, one of the most brilliant 2-year-olds of all time and winner of the Metropolitan Handicap under 132 pounds.

Another to keep an eye on is Willcox Inn, who is already stakes-placed in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf and Dixiana Breeders' Futurity (gr. I) on Keeneland's Polytrack and who recently finished a fast-closing second in the Grindstone Stakes at Fair Grounds on grass. By Harlan's Holiday, out of a Gone West mare, he likely is heading back to Polytrack and there is no reason to think he can't make the transition to dirt, although his tail-female family is all European grass.

So, watch out for the top three to possibly pop onto the Derby scene next month, as well as Willcox Inn. We wrote extensively about Crimson China several weeks ago after his allowance win, a race that really caught our attention.

Ready or not

This is not your typical Derby trail. It may be the trail of the future, but right now there are a number of horses who are going against the grain or plan to go against the grain and are attempting to pave new trails on the trail.

First off, we are well aware that one historical trend that has fallen by the wayside is having only two starts before the Derby. Four of the last five Derby winners have had only two starts, and before Street Sense did it in 2007 you had to go back to Sunny’s Halo in 1983 to find the last horse to accomplish it, and Sunny’s Halo made 11 starts as a 2-year-old. So Street Sense managed to do something that hadn’t been done in 24 years.

This year, an unprecedented number of top Derby contenders are trying that approach – Uncle Mo, To Honor and Serve, Jaycito, Stay Thirsty, and Santiva, along with several others.

Here is the kicker: of the four horses who have won the Derby off only two starts, three of them – Street Sense, Mine That Bird, and Super Saver – had at least one gut check, where they engaged in a head-to-head stretch battle. The only one who didn’t was Big Brown, who was, well, Big Brown, and who faced relatively weak fields in the Florida Derby and Kentucky Derby.

None of the above mentioned horses had their gut check in their first race, so if they are going to be tested it will have to be in their final prep. Santiva was briefly tested in the upper stretch of the Risen Star before giving way to the winner in the final furlong.

As of now, Uncle Mo is not expected to face a tough field in the Wood Memorial, so he’s going to have to find a way to get enough out of the race to have him battle-tested for the first Saturday in May. And remember, only one horse (Big Brown) in the past 31 years has won the Derby off only one-turn race at 3.

There are several other horses who are taking an unorthodox approach to the Derby. Astrolology, by making his first start in the Sunland Park Derby (gr. III), will have to come back in three weeks, likely the Arkansas Derby, in order to get even two preps in. If he doesn’t, he has no shot in the Kentucky Derby off one race. Elite Alex, by skipping the Rebel to run in the Louisiana Derby (gr. II), also will have to come back in the Arkansas Derby or be forced to run in the Kentucky Derby off a six-week layoff and only one race in 11 weeks. The six-week layoff, which likely will apply to every horse running in the Louisiana Derby who does not have a another prep, has history going against it, as the last horse to win the Derby off that long a layoff was Needles in 1956.

Robert B. Lewis (gr. II) winner Anthony’s Cross, who runs next in the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I), will have to go into the Kentucky Derby off only one race in 12 weeks. Santiva, by waiting for the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I), will have only one Polytrack race in 11 weeks going into the Derby. All the big Florida Derby (gr. I) horses – Soldat, To Honor and Serve, Dialed In, and Stay Thirsty, will have five weeks to the Derby, which was proven successful by Barbaro, Big Brown, and Mine That Bird. As you can see, times definitely are changing.

The only horses who will go into the Derby the old-fashioned way, with at least three and less than a six-week layoff, are Soldat, Premier Pegasus, Bench Points, Comma to the Top, Positive Response, Brethren, Toby’s Corner, the horses coming out of the Oaklawn Park series, as well as The Factor. The status of Sway Away is up in the air following his disappointing effort in his two-turn debut.

In other Derby news:

-- Riveting Reason, runner-up in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes, is dealing with a hoof problem and will be given some time off. The Derby hasn’t been totally ruled out, but it seems like a huge longshot at best.

-- Flashpoint turned in a strong five-furlong breeze in :59 4/5, the fastest of 14 works at the distance. No decision has been made on the Hutcheson (gr. II) winner’s next start, but owner John Fort of Peachtree Stable, is seriously considering stretching him out in the Florida Derby, not necessarily as a Kentucky Derby prep, but as a goal by itself.

-- Graham Motion said there is a good chance Toby's Corner, third in the Gotham, will tackle Uncle Mo in the Wood Memorial (gr. I).

“I’m not crazy about running against Uncle Mo, but it doesn’t involve the ship and I’d rather not ship,” Motion said. “I think he just regressed a little off his Whirlaway win. He ran such a big race that day. In hindsight, and I’m not knocking Eddie at all because I think he did the right thing, but he tried to get him to settle and they crawled up front. It was hard to make up that kind of ground. The winner was only two lengths in front of us, but he got the jump on us. (Toby’s Corner) is a neat looking horse, very scopey, and he has such a good stride on him. Right now we're 50-50, but I haven’t even breezed him yet. I think under the right circumstances I wouldn’t be opposed to going to the Wood. I guess if there is ever going to be a time to run against Uncle Mo this would be it.”

-- March has been quite a lucrative month for George and Lori Hall and trainer Kelly Breen. They sell their top 3-year-old Sweet Ducky for well into seven figures and still will be represented this weekend by two horses – Nacho Business and Pants on Fire – in the $1 million Louisiana Derby and two horses -- Nacho Saint and Ruler on Ice -- in the $800,000 Sunland Park Derby.

-- Astrology will make his long-awaited 3-year-old debut in next weekend’s Sunland Park Derby (gr. III), after which a decision will be made whether to give him another start before the Derby or possibly await the Preakness.

-- Todd Pletcher sent out Dance City and Cal Nation to a 1,2 finish in a one mile allowance race at Gulfstream. We could see Dance City, owned by the Estate of the late Edward P. Evans, in the Illinois Derby (gr. III). He had broken his maiden going 1 1/8 miles in the slop, so he has some foundation under him.

-- Bandbox did what he had to at 3-5 to win the one-mile Private Terms Stakes at Laurel for his fourth career victory from six starts. The son of Tapit scored by 1 1/2 lengths, running down the second choice Rush Now, who finished five lengths ahead of the third-place finisher in the field of six.


Leave a Comment:


Steve, I think you could add Wilcoxx Inn to your "splendor in the grass "list. He is 19th on the earnings list, and he is nominated to both the Spiral and the Blue Grass.

Any thoughts?

21 Mar 2011 2:05 PM

Happy to see you mention Saratoga Red...I liked his effort a lot, he has a nice way about him...nice athletic colt.

I never doubted TF.

21 Mar 2011 2:52 PM
Steve Haskin

Susan I totally agree. I had been following him and then forgot they rescheduled the Grindstone and he ran second. I will add a mention to the story.

21 Mar 2011 3:17 PM
steve from st louis

Steve, I guess training really hasn't changed all that much since Senor Horatio Luro warned against squeezing the lemon dry. But two 3-year-old starts before the Derby for Uncle Mo? It just makes it easier for me to play against the Indian Charlie colt. I think Pletcher's caution speaks volumns.

21 Mar 2011 5:01 PM


The Factor's time in the Rebel is only topped by Smarty Jones (1:42.07) in 2004 as fasted time for the Rebel in the last 24 years!

Not bad for a horse that just turned 3 last Tuesday (March 15).

21 Mar 2011 5:16 PM
Brian Russell


First Silver Medallion last week and now King Congie.  Are you, by sheer will, trying to make a Badge of Silver be a dirt horse? On paper I see your logic but on the track, so far, they ALL seem to prefer the grass.

21 Mar 2011 5:28 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

I'm convinced that Sway Away is a sprinter. I'd try him in a grass sprint next. Staying on the Derby Trail would be futile and taking the chance of ruining him. Find his niche. I think there is a high probability that is is sprinting on the grass.

21 Mar 2011 5:44 PM
Zenyatta John

Nice to see Mr Motion may run Toby's Corner in The Wood, after all his sire Bellemy Road ran out of his skin and crushed his Wood field. Might give Mo a run for his money.

I had Bandbox on my list all year, but after his win over the weekend, his trainer said pointing to the Preakness and won't rush him to the Derby.

21 Mar 2011 5:46 PM

I find it interesting many are saying Uncle Mo will not face much in the Wood a G1 race for 1 million dollars but few are mentioning The Factor didn't face a single Derby horse in the Rebel.

21 Mar 2011 6:10 PM

I think no matter how you shape it this 3 year old crop is looking like an above avg. group. I mean its still early but with the lack of older male horses out there I can see some of these 3 year olds really doing well, come Breeders Cup. I mean right now you have Giant Oak as your top older male so the sky's the limit for these 3 year olds as far as I am concerned! lol

21 Mar 2011 6:25 PM

Steve-Now that The Factor has burst on to the scene and shown that he can handle 2 turns, do you think Pletcher may change his mind and run Uncle Mo in the Florida to give him a more challenging race before the Derby?  It certainly doesn't look like he's going to be challenged in the Wood, and I'm thinking The Factor may have shaken things up a bit.

21 Mar 2011 6:32 PM

Steve, George and Lori Hall also have Ruler On Ice pointing for the Sunland Derby.  I don't know if he's headed for the Derby though.

21 Mar 2011 6:56 PM

Steve, reported that Bob Baffert was "leaning towards" the Wood Memorial, for Jaycito rather than Santa Anita Derby.

21 Mar 2011 7:05 PM
Mookie's Hero


Your comments regarding Street Sense, Mind That Bird and Super Saver are interesting but they all had Calvin Borel as the winning jockey and you have to admit after seeing Mind That Birds winnning Derby no jockey but him would have gone into that hole. And that is the reason he won ( his Preakness was good too)

Just thought I would give Calvin his due

21 Mar 2011 7:25 PM
Steve Haskin

Thanks Alisha, I added him to the story.

Josh, that doesnt surprise me.

21 Mar 2011 7:43 PM
Junie Wise, Rocky Road Farm


Baffert is always dangerous when it comes Derby time!!!..I am starting to get the feeling that with all the"SPEED" coming to The Derby,it might set it up for another big closer,at a "BIG" price

All they will need is "Calvin"

21 Mar 2011 7:52 PM
Paula Higgins

The next two races for Uncle Mo and The Factor will tell the story. I think The Factor can get 1 1/8 and win, but 1 1/4 I am not so sure about. I still like Uncle Mo. I think they will stick to their plan and go to the Wood with him. The Derby may come down to these two horses but with a big field, anything can happen. You have some other decent horses out there. After the next two races, I expect to see one or two of these horse dominating the scene. Pletcher is trying to keep Mo healthy I think this is why he has taken this approach.

21 Mar 2011 8:04 PM

furlongs,  Let's not forget Giant Oak is not the only older male. Gio Ponti could also lay claim to that title.

21 Mar 2011 8:25 PM

Thank you, Steve, for trying to sort things out and give us more information to go on, but I find myself even more confused - lol!  I was very impressed with The Factor whom I had already decided in my own little head was a sprinter, but his win was so decisive, it looked like he really could be a monster.  Then I remind myself that I don't have a clue what I'm talking about, so I'm just going to sit back and watch as it unfolds and enjoy the run up to the run for the roses.  Thank you!

21 Mar 2011 8:32 PM
Ruland Farm

I'm not "seasoned" to the race world because I live in Maine.  However, The Factor greatly impresses me,reminding me of the one and only SPECTACULAR BID.

21 Mar 2011 8:48 PM

It appears the Sunland Derby will have a good field probably much better than the Wood. I will be rooting for a colt Steve didn’t mentioned i.e., Behold De Buy. He was acquired for $3700. His sire E Dubai was one of the fastest sons of Mr. Prospector. His dam sire Cat Thief was 3rd in the Derby and won the Breeder Cup Classic. Interestingly, Behold De Buy dam Beholden was purchased by Darley for $700,000 but they are not listed as the breeders.  They obviously sold the mare probably in fold as they owned E Dubai. Could Behold De Buy turn out to be another Whobegotyou? You never know

21 Mar 2011 9:18 PM
Mike Relva


I have your # like most do that know your style. Your quote was "The Factor won't be a factor". Since after The Factor proved you wrong and then you do your famous spin control as usual. Question? Who did Uncle Mo beat in his debut? Can you answer or will you ignore when someone has you on the ropes? Did Mo beat "Derby horses"  a couple weeks ago? Right.

21 Mar 2011 9:57 PM

Ok, any news of "Joes Blazing Aaron" ? "Wilburn" ? or "Maclean's Music" ? to report, besides the likes of "Crimson Knight" these few have all peaked my interest as of late whether i think they have a chance in hell of getting in a Derby gate or not. And what has happened to "Lou Brissie" and "Willcox Inn" ? those of us out in boonies don't get much word of any of the likes of these until they suddenly pop up in some undercard race somewhere where they seeemingly were totally lost before and considations had dwindled following SOOO many others. In this day of instant commincation, one would think that we would all be more easily better informed and especially through the likes of Bloodhorse and the DRF. Makes me think i should maybe consider joining Cindy P. or the Downey profile nation just so I could find out tid bits on those others other than the always hyped 'dozen' sometimes.    

21 Mar 2011 10:19 PM

P.S. And, whether anyone passes along word re that of any on my short list previously posted , add "Cloud Man" as another that  I am interested in tracking the future of.            TY  

21 Mar 2011 10:28 PM

Yes agreed, and some intriguing breeding there on "Ruler On Ice", whom I just picked up on also when I saw he was an entry.

21 Mar 2011 10:33 PM
Karen in Indiana

If there is any one thing you could say about the horses going into the Triple Crown trail this year, it is this - at least they'll be well rested.

21 Mar 2011 10:50 PM

How IS Big Brown?  His Facebook page only has fan postings.  Has he bred to anyone?  Where is he?

21 Mar 2011 10:55 PM

 D’Pendable: (Fla.); Tr. B. Baffert; (T) ; $27K ’09 FTS Kty. ; $200K ‘10 BAR ; (T)

                      1       1     0     0 ;    D.I. 4.00 ;  Tomlinson Distance rating 000 ; Haskin’s # nl- ;

         D’Wildcat-Forset Wildcat-Storm Cat-Storm Bird-Northern Dancer-Nearctic-

                    (s.s.s.d.s.: Secretariat-Bold Ruler-Nasrullah)-(s.s.d.s.s.: Raise a Native-Native Dancer)-

                    (s.d.s.s.: Secretariat 2 -Bold Ruler-Nasrullah)-(s.d.s.d.s.: Northern Dancer 2 )-

                    (s.d.d.s.s.: In Reality)//

         Wildy Celestial-Wild Again-Icecapade-Nearctic 2 –(d.s.s.d.s.: Native Dancer 2 )-

                    (d.d.s.: Relaunch-In Reality 2 )-(d.d.d.s.s.: Northern Dancer 3 );

                          [[triple bred to Northern Dancer & dbl. bred to Secreatariat & Native Dancer & In Reality ; &…

                               2X bred w/the “BHXFG” via Mah Mahal & Blossom Time]];

                             winner Msw fur. (T) ; NOT AN EARLY DERBY NOMINEE;

21 Mar 2011 11:42 PM

 Ari C: (Kty.); Tr. T. Pletcher; $130K  ’09 Keenlander;

                    3       1     1     0 ;   D.I. 2.50 ;   Tomlinson Distance rating 000 ; Haskin’s # nl- ;

                           Pool #1 Field 2-1; Pool #2 Field 3-1; Pool #3 Field 5-1;

        Stormy Atlantic-Storm Cat-Storm Bird-Northern Dancer-(s.s.d.s.: Secretariat-Bold Ruler)-

                  (s.d.s.: Seattle Slew)-(s.d.s.d.s.: Poker)//

        Mia Donna-A.P. Indy-Seattle Slew-(d.s.s.d.s.: Poker)-(d.s.d.s.: Secretariat-Bold Ruler)-

                  (d.d.s.s.: Danzig-Nortehrn Dancer)-(d.s.d.d.s.: Buckpasser)-(d.d.s.d.s.: Secretariat-Bold Ruler)-

                  (d.d.d.s.s.: Nijinsky-Northern Dancer)-(d.d.d.d.s.: Hail to Reason-Turn To);

                       [[triple bred to Northern Dancer & Secretariat & dbl. bred to Seattle Slew ; &…

                               5X bred w/the “BHXFG” via 3X to Cosquilla & via Brushup & Blossom Time]];

                    Mdn. winner Msw. 1 1/16 (T); 1:42.04 ; 87 Beyer ; 2nd 1  1/8  (T)  1:46.80 ; + ½  ; 92 Beyer ;

                         00 the $$ & 5th  in the Gr. III  1  1/8 (T)   $150K  Palm Beach ; 1:47.85 ; +++

 Ok, there you have a few additions of the TURFERS from my present files if anyone else is monitoring potential Turf to Dirt distance crossover types & I could go on and on, but I don't mean to be every posted entry on any given blog and you can do your homework too. But your welcome, where as in "Ari C" I have also dropped a few names that Steve left out of his article should they pop up somewhere when you are track side or possibly even into the Triple Crown picture.

21 Mar 2011 11:55 PM

 Mr. Commons: (Kty.); Tr. J. Shirreffs;  $70K FTS Kty ‘ 09;

                   3       2     0     0 ;    D.I. 1.44 ;  Tomlinson Distance rating 000 ; Haskin’s # nl- ;

                           Pool #1 Field 2-1; Pool #2 Field 3-1; Pool #3 50-1;

        Artie Schliller-El Prado (Ire.)-Sadlers Wells-Northern Dancer-(sdsss: Raise A Native)//

        Joustabout-Apalachee-Round Table-Princequillo (Fr.);

                      [[triple bred to Nantallah & dbl. bred to Nasrullah]]; [[Note: bred for Turf but no links to the “BHXFG” strains]];

                   winner Msw. 6 ½ fur. 1:12.14 ; 92 Beyer;

                   winner 1 Mi. Alw. 1:34.84 ; + a head over Hollyood Heist;  SA ; 89 Beyer;

21 Mar 2011 11:56 PM

Saratoga Red was a big, strong, good looking horse.  I expect to see more from him in the future.

Calvin BoRAIL deserves his due but Mine that Bird didn't need the holes on the rail to win that Derby.

22 Mar 2011 12:21 AM
Dr Drunkinbum

Ruland Farm

  I'm sure most people would disagree saying he has a lot more to prove to even come close to being compared to The Bid, but that's who he reminds me of also. They would be correct in saying that he has a long ways to go, but I see the potential with his speed and fluid stride. Spectacular Bid was very fast, setting a 7f record and a 10f record. Only time will tell but I'm glad you said it because I was too chicken to say it. Wouldn't that be something, after all of this time to see that kind of super talent again? Spectacular Bid is underrated because he stepped on a safety pin to ruin his Belmont for the Triple Crown and because Secretariat's Belmont time and demolition has set him apart but he would have had a tough time beating The Bid, and The Bid ran some races that nobody could have beaten him in. I wrote a few months ago that The Factor was a Triple Crown threat and someone called me insane. Still a long ways off but he has that kind of talent and is learning to cruise. I'm excited about his chances to win his next two races in spectacular style.

22 Mar 2011 1:11 AM

draynay, the factor beat jp's gusto, archarcharch, sway away, and caleb's posse. theyre all on the list of top derby prospects according to earnings. i think jp's gusto is like #2 or something. i'm not saying they're the best horses but they are on the list as derby contenders. the horses uncle mo beat last time out aren't.

22 Mar 2011 1:25 AM
El Kabong


I was a little concerned when Santiva didn't enter the LD at FG. You mentioned the Blue Grass as his next start, which concerns me. Did he have a health issue that was not disclosed as this seems like quite a break in the action for him?

22 Mar 2011 5:51 AM
Mike from Michigan

Behold De Buy will win the Sunland Derby

22 Mar 2011 6:03 AM
Zenyatta John

Zarvona - what were you posting? Was it the Pythagorean Theory? It looked like my dog was typing on the keyboard with spaces and numbers and more blank spaces. Holy schmitt!

You also mentioned some horses who just broke their maidens - why would they be mentioned in a Derby blog since they have no shot at getting in the gate - even if there the fastest horse in the world because of no graded earnings.

Lou Brissie - has returned to training but has only had a few works.

Wilcox Inn - is pointing to a Polytrack prep at Turfway or Keeneland.

And I did find the info on those horses either on BloodHorse, DRF, or BrisNet Handicappers report.

22 Mar 2011 7:42 AM

We can see in the history of the Rebel Stakes, the perfomance of different horses that made a huge races in the riple crown, let see for example: 2010 Lucky at Lucky 1:43:06; 2007 Curlin 1:44:07; 2004 Smarty Jones 1:42:07; 1998 Victory Gallop 1:44:60; 1992 Pine Bluff 1:42:80; 1984 Vanlandingham 1:41:00; 1983 Sunny´s Hallo 1:42:20; 1980 Temperence Hill 1:42:80, and more. Those horse had in the Triple Crown his owne history and The Factor if go healthly should make a great history too. Sound that we will have a very good first step for the Crown, the bets are open....could Uncle Mo go to the 1 1/4 miles with that kind of enemy besides him?...Let the history told us wich is the true...

22 Mar 2011 7:50 AM

Glad to see Astrology finally making a start; I don't think he's a real derby contender though; I think AP Indy will miss out on siring a derby winner.

22 Mar 2011 8:54 AM
Forbidden Apple

Brilliant Speed should be listed as a promising 3 y.o. turf horse. He has had some tough luck recently. In his last start he was bothered by a stablemate being whipped repeatedly left handed by J. Castellano. This reminded me of Castellano in the B.C. Marathon when he rode Prince Will I Am. I would like to see a new jockey on this horse in his next race, J.V. just can't find the wire with this colt. Some might call him a hanger, but I completely disagree.

Sway Away deserves another chance to run two turns on dirt. Unless he came out of it with a minor injury, he had zero excuses.

Although I am not over the moon with Flashpoint, I hope he enters the FL Derby. This would give Soldat some added experience rating. I know that Soldat can rate well. He is not a speed horse like many people are saying.

Bandbox is an improving horse who I like a lot, he could be good enough for the Preakness.

The Factor had a 350 Tomlinson distance # in last weeks DRF. In this weeks DRF his Tomlinson distance # was 431. Which is it? Does anyone know if these numbers change after every race?

22 Mar 2011 9:00 AM

I'd be interested on comments from someone more in the know than I on how they feel The Factor compares to Ghostzapper (won BCC) or Dr. Fager? Any other speedballers out there that refused to rate but could and did go the distance when not pushed? Again, it's early in all the Derby contenders to rank them with the greats, but not to early to compare for discussion purposes. Thanks.

22 Mar 2011 9:38 AM
Derby Dew


I was anxious to see what Alternation would do in the Rebel.  His antics in the gate caused him to be scratched and I wasn't able to find out if he sustained an injury.  Do you know anything about Alternation's current condition and if he is off the Derby trail?

22 Mar 2011 9:39 AM
steve from st louis

Mike Relva, you come here and constantly make a fool of Draynay. Next time, I want to see one hand tied behind your back to make it more equitable.

22 Mar 2011 9:59 AM
Joe Alva


I remember an excellent article you posted before last year's Derby which reminded us of how the great horses of the past began their three year-old campaigns.  Secretariat, Seattle Slew, Affirmed, Alydar, Easy Goer and others kicked off their roads to the Derby with a one-turn race and then extended themselves around two turns.  

Breeding has made today's runners more fragile than these greats of the past and trainers now thus take on a far more conservative approach to get to the Derby.  Opting for only two preps before May, they naturally tend to run them at two turns from the get-go to build up stamina.  This approach to the Derby has been succesful in recent years as the campaigns of Street Sense, Big Brown, Mine That Bird and Super Saver have demonstrated.

However, any trend will only last so long.  Might we this year see a Derby winner whose prep pattern resembles more those of the greats I mentioned above?

This year's contenders whose prep pattern begins with a one-turn race are:

Uncle Mo (although unlike the previously mentioned greats will only have two races prior to May), Dialed In, The Factor, Premier Pegasus and Mucho Macho Man.

Ironically, these are all premier contenders and Uncle Mo, Premier Pegasus and Dialed In are ranked #1, #2 and #4 respectively in your Derby Dozen with The Factor at #8 just waiting to soar up if he can carry his speed through a mile and an eigth.

If any of these win the Derby we will probably see a slew of trainers next year jump starting their three year old Derby hopefuls with the one-turn race approach of the past.          

22 Mar 2011 10:12 AM

I am also one who is reminded of the Bid by The Factor. He obviously has alot to prove before he can be considered in the same league, but if he can carry that speed further then look out. He is a throw back to horses that could sprint at the highest level and carry their speed a distance of ground and win while being pressed by top level horses.

22 Mar 2011 10:57 AM
tj conway

1) Santiva

2) Stay Thirsty

3) Astrology

4) Uncle Mo

This is how I have it right now. I have a retired son of Quiet American in my backyard. He's 15 and he's full of sheetz and giggles! I love the mentality of the Quiet Americans.....that's probably why I'm showing more love for Astrology.

22 Mar 2011 11:21 AM


Gio Ponti is not winning a Older Male title running on the Turf when the BC classic is on Dirt at Churchill Downs. So once again there is not to many older horses these 3 year olds have to worry about in the Classic Division in 2011.

22 Mar 2011 11:33 AM
Fran Loszynski

Mine That Bird was from Birdstone so he had the courage but Calvin just didn't go along for the ride. A racehorse can feel the guts and "courage in the reins" from the jockey, that the jockey is going along with him and directing him to the finish line. I believe a racehorse can sense if his 'pal" on board wants to or doesn't want to take the plunge. Calvin saw the hole and Mine That Bird said "Yep, that's for us!"

22 Mar 2011 11:40 AM
Gary Max

Steve, in my respectful view I am really not convinced of Todd's confidence in UM'S ability to go 10 furlongs.I think his uncertainty is playing out here by his on the fence status regarding which way to commit UM'S participation to the florida derby or the wood.

22 Mar 2011 11:53 AM
Mike Relva

STEVE from ST. Louis

Thanks for that! Too bad that some live in a fantasy world. BTW I've always enjoyed your comments.

22 Mar 2011 12:47 PM
Jean in Chicago


Big Brown is at Three Chimneys and must have been bred to somebody since he's #3 weanling sire for 2010.  He always had a great pedigree, Danzig was Boundary's sire and Nureyev as dam sire, but I've never been able to get past the steroid use.

22 Mar 2011 1:17 PM

Steve, looks like I know who YOUR Derby horse might well be, and I think you've convinced me, too! :-) Looking forward to what The Factor does next. I just can't seem to get on the Mo bandwagon.

22 Mar 2011 1:59 PM


I'm interested in why Jaycito to the Wood is not surprising to you?  It caught me by surprise.  Does Baffert feel Jaycito's style is not a good fit for Santa Anita?

And if Jaycito's in the Wood and The Factor is in the Ark Derby, will Baffert have a starter in the SA Derby?  His Awesome Patriot didn't run well in the San Felipe, and I can't think of another contender he has who could fill a spot in the SA Derby.

22 Mar 2011 2:42 PM
Steve Haskin

Gun Bow, it doesnt surprise me because Baffert changes his mind just about every day. Where he says he's going one day has little bearing on where he winds up going.

RiderWriter, you do? Tell me who it is considering I have no idea who I like and wont until I get to Louisville and watch all the horses train. Right now it's all a puzzle and we're all just trying to line up the pieces to get some semblance of a picture. We wont see the whole picture for another month or two.

Gary Max, you may be right. I dont think anyone has total confidence a horse can go 1 1/4 miles, especially a horse with his kind of brilliance and running style. I think there's enough dam-side pedigree to get him there, but he has to be able to do it mentally as well.

Joe Alva, that's it. If he can carry his speed 1 1/8 miles convincingly he definitely will move up. I am fascinated how off winning the Rebel Stakes he's being compared to Dr. Fager, Seattle Slew, and Spectacular Bid. At this point I think it's sufficient comparing him to War Emblem and possibly Spend a Buck, but let's wait a while before comparing him to the greats of all time.

22 Mar 2011 3:27 PM
Steve Haskin

El Kabong, Santiva has had three slow breezes since the Risen Star and hasnt missed a beat. I'm not sure of their reasoning other than he's already run a big race in a grade I at Keeneland, and they feel this is a race he can win. But thats just a guess.

22 Mar 2011 3:33 PM
cuban chef de race

this derby has the look of a hospital,horses going to the derby with one prep,one single two turn race,one start in 12 weeks before the derby,one work in 4 weeks for a million dollar race and on and on,then who is going to win the derby? i am not worry because is going to be only one horse,it is okey i can handle that.

22 Mar 2011 4:44 PM


thanks, for those updates...

& no sorry my files on horses (spacing & such) and the difference in width conversions from 8 1/2 to whatever ( 4 ? ) the width spacing of the blog postings don't match up.  

SORRY, but if anyone would take the trouble or cares, COPY my Horse's file as listed from the blog to a WORD . doc and the spacing will be clearer and more readable ( I hope ) then.

& Sorry, as I have never taken the time to match those files one at a time to the BLOG spacing difference & yes, I too have always felt a little badly by the way they are exposed in appearance, but there is info there if anyone cares to go after it. Sorry "Z"

22 Mar 2011 5:15 PM

Steve, what was up with leaving out Mucho Macho Man's extremely poor showing in the Holy Bull in your otherwise touching article "Mucho Macho Man a gift of the heart"?

Sounds more like a setup for another horse racing Disney movie, but since this is real life, lets report the bad as well as the good.

22 Mar 2011 6:50 PM

CRIMSON CHINA.  I  said wow watching that turf race from the 1 hole. very impressive and will indeed run on dirt like his Daddy. I think he  would love the stretch run on the first SATURDAY  in MAY.

22 Mar 2011 7:16 PM

about JACITO u want to get a FAIR track under him if ur the trainer, that SANTA ANITA TRACK is nothing more than a DRAG RACE quarter mile time wise track. i mean ever sprint  231 and 44 ans some

22 Mar 2011 7:19 PM
Steve Haskin

LMaris, what do you consider leaving out? I didnt go into detail in any of his races. I suggest you read the article again and tell me I "left out" the Holy Bull. The negativity of some people never fails to astound me.

22 Mar 2011 7:42 PM
comma to the top fan

why do I have a strong feeling that

, Comma to the Top will win the derby??  can you make a case for him

22 Mar 2011 9:27 PM
cuban chef de race

do you want to see monsters on paper that were never seen at the derby last turn? holly bull a 115 beyer in florida derby and 113 beyer in the blue grass,unbridled song a 114 beyer in florida derby and 109 in the wood,hansel a track record in the former Jim bean 9 1:46 3/5!! and then won the lexinton by 9!! and the list is long and sad, they also were compared to spectacular bid and they were not my friend,the speed is great when is allow to use properly and at the derby distance you better pray for it,i know what i mean do you?.  

22 Mar 2011 9:34 PM
El Kabong


Thanks for the update on Santiva.

I read that Kiaran is pleased with the "take dirt" training he gave Soldat in his recent work. Sounds like they are on board with your advice about taking him back for the FD. Soldat is just a smart horse and I think he will do what he thinks is best to win. From the company I see lining up, there just doesn't seem to be a strong pace horse showing up. Oh well, hope the training continues to progress. We'll just have to be patient and let Soldat run his race.

p.s. the negativity is out there, and it's not because of you. Keep up the grace under pressure, it's the only option, and as you know, it's nothing personal.

22 Mar 2011 9:38 PM

Hi Steve -- Thanks for the article.  In the course of your interview with McGaughey, did he happen to let on what he thinks of Break Up the Game (not as a Derby contender, of course, but just in terms of potential)?  Also, do you have any sense of whether Al Stall's Sour will be given a chance to make the Derby (I realize he doesn't appear fast enough at this point, but I love the pedigree).  Thanks!

22 Mar 2011 11:08 PM
Steve Haskin

Rondo, I did ask Shug about Break up the Game and he's very high on him. Called him the complete package. But he's not going to rush him. He is looking to the summer and Travers, but he'll run in some big races before then.

23 Mar 2011 12:44 AM

Don't sleep on Animal Kingdom. He broke his maiden going a mile and an eigth last fall at Keeneland, and should really relish the classic distances.  Leroidsanimaux horses have shown an affinity for turf, but I expect him to give a good account of himself in the Spiral this saturday

23 Mar 2011 12:47 AM
Steve Haskin

I thought Comma to the Top ran a terrific race and should run another big one in the SA Derby. My main concern with him is the 1 1/4 miles. There's not a lot of stamina in his pedigree. But I really impressed with the way he hung in there in the San Felipe.

23 Mar 2011 12:52 AM
Point Given

If the Connections of The Factor decided to run him in the KD, they can assure themselves that none of those in the field has ever ran in the 1 1/4 mile race yet.The only thing TF must do is keep on"WINNING" and I "CAN'T WAIT" to watch him running in KD and in the end,TF will cook them with his brilliant speed and those at his rear end can only smell TF's cooking.

23 Mar 2011 2:25 AM
Zenyatta John

Thanks Zarvona for the update -

copying and pasting explains it all.

Lou Brissie just worked out again yesterday - check our Brisnet - Handicapper's Edge, I read it just to keep up with workouts.

23 Mar 2011 7:28 AM

Thanks for giving a little ink to Willcox Inn.  He closed well under Napravnik in the Grindstone which had an extremely slow pace.  Hopefully he'll do well in the Blue Grass where he's being pointed and have sufficient earnings to make his dirt debut @ CD.  Rosie riding for the Roses would make for a nice story.

23 Mar 2011 8:32 AM
Mike Relva


Talk about "splitting hairs". Are you serious?

23 Mar 2011 9:32 AM

I believe Pletcher wants to push Uncle Mo only as much as necessary to get him ready for the Derby. I feel he believes Mo is a Triple Crown threat. With this strategy if Mo should win the Derby he will have a better chance of lasting all three races.  In other words he is not getting Mo ready for the Derby but for the Triple Crown. The only problem with this is it makes winning the first jewel a little more difficult  Maybe Pletcher just really believes in this colt's abiity.

23 Mar 2011 10:17 AM

foxhillfan: thanks for pointing out what is really at the base of much of our scrutiny and (highly criticized premature hopes when comparing young horses to the "greats")...I think people are tired of trying to pick the Derby winner as a stand alone single race winner only to see him derailed by a long shot in the mud or come up lame or just miss in one of the 3 races. It's a triple crown we want. And to hope and pull for a youngster to be the next super horse - well it's natural (not realistic) because seeing so many promising horses and smart, successful trainers fail at the task, it truly seems as if a horse with an S on it's breast and a red cape will be needed to break the longest drought in it's history.

23 Mar 2011 12:00 PM
Marianna Haun

The Factor has plenty of heart. He is expressing the heart of his broodmare sire, Miswaki, who passes the Princequillo heart, the same large heartline as Secretariat. Add that heart to his speed elements and the Kentucky Derby is right down his alley. A couple of other horses expressing the Miswaki heart were his other maternal grandsons, Sea the Stars and Galileo. They inherited it from their dam, Urban Sea by Miswaki. All of those horses went on the win Group 1 races when they won the Arc in France. I like his speed elements and I love his X Factor elements. Marianna Haun

23 Mar 2011 1:16 PM
cuban chef de race

it is not the same to pass stamina from the dam side like urban sea did to 12 furlongs galloping runners on turf then to 10 furlongs dirt runners that need to spend more energy in the early part of a race,the pace factor in 12 furlong races in Europe is totally independent then a 10 furlong factor on dirt in America,how many European turf runners have won the Kentucky derby? not many even want to try,so miswaki been out of a buckpasser mare is a plus but many contenders have buckpasser and princequillo in their bloodlines in this derby,so pedigree is very important to win the derby but it is not all you need to win.

23 Mar 2011 3:34 PM
cuban chef de race

this is the country of heroes, what you do last time out is the rule to be fame i need to pick the derby winner not the rebel or fountain of youth winner get off from that cloud to pick the winner you most be really a smart and lucky player,if you think they want to put money in your bank account when the derby is 6 weeks away yet i wish you luck my friend,i know how to find value even on may 7.

23 Mar 2011 4:00 PM
Robbie joe

First of all, I want to thank for all the information you give me each week.From the old stories to the derby dozen. Don't always agree with the order of your list but i am not gonna bash you for it I cannot believe the nerve of some on here. I bet there are days when you want to just take your ball and go home. Thanks again for all the info and goodluck on the road to louisville.

23 Mar 2011 4:02 PM
cuban chef de race

i don't think brethren is ready for the derby but he can run fractions of 44 4/5 and 1:08 4/5 like he did in his Belmont debut and may push the factor farther then people think his workout pattern has been breezy all the time at palm meadows if you see them change to handily you may see a tester for the factor even when we hope he will loose.

23 Mar 2011 5:08 PM

You're right on the money foxhillfan. Todd's making sure Uncle Mo has plenty in the tank for the Triple Crown. Todd and Mike know that Uncle Mo is heads and shoulders above the rest of this crop. Just look at Smarty Jones, if he didn't have 4 preps he may have won the Triple Crown. Actually I know he would have. There was no reason to run him in the Count Fleet.

23 Mar 2011 6:02 PM
Steve Haskin

Cuban chef de race, please rein yourself in. If you have 15 thoughts at one time, kindly put them in one comment and not 15 separate ones. Moderators or myself have to read each one and post each one, which is a hassle. One comment, please.

23 Mar 2011 7:58 PM
cuban chef de race

my friend haskin,if you think i am confusing your blogers is up to you,when i do comment something about the derby is to share my experience about the race so that the blogger can respond with their opinion and that way we can help each other to find good information that can benefit all of us,i am not a cocky blogger but i said premier pegasus was the horse to benefit most from the San vicente losers and he did,i said that Sway away had a good chance to loose after the San Vicente because he was hard redden in that race and he lost,and that he closed the race in 12 1/5 and the factor closed in 13 0/0 flat and that may be the factor was better then the San Vicente and he was,i don't see any bad blood from any of your bloggers for my participation here but you,i hope to win even if i do not comment any more brother.      

23 Mar 2011 9:10 PM
Matthew W

If I had Premier Pegasus, I would not trade horses with anybody right now.....

24 Mar 2011 12:54 AM
Steve Haskin

Cuban, let me try this one more time. You can send as many comments as you wish, but put them all together in one or two posts at a time and not 8 or 9 separate ones simultaneously. The moderators have to read each one and post each one. If you cant understand that and do not wish to post here anymore that is up to you.

24 Mar 2011 5:39 AM
old timer

This is off the derby subject, Steve. There was alot of talk last year about how "racing" did essentially nothing to publicize or hype Zen in order to bring in new fans. Same story re Rachel in 09. I have an idea for NTRA, or whomever: Fan tours to Kentucky next spring to visit the 2 queens and their babies, as well as horse park and maybe Sires as well. Aimed at fans who don't or can't travel around the country to see their favorites. Some of use can't afford it, unless they race close to us. I saw Rachel at Saratoga, but never Zen. I have several friends just in my small rural area who would be thrilled to sign up if it were not mega money.

24 Mar 2011 1:30 PM
Mike in SB

I have noticed several people saying that Todd Pletcher wants to give Uncle Mo a light schedule so he will be fresh for the Triple Crown. I believe this is the opposite of what he should be doing. All three Triple Crown winners from the 70's started their 3 year old campaigns in March and had at least 3 starts, with the last one coming two weeks before the Derby. They were fit and ready for three tough races in five weeks. I can't see Uncle Mo being ready for the Triple Crown the way he is being trained.

24 Mar 2011 2:04 PM

Lmaris I must say your comment on a very well written piece was completely uncalled for.  Every horse pointing to the Derby has a story, and in this case the trainer also has one - and one that needs to be told over and over again.  What possesses you to take issue with such a nice piece of writing about not only a horse with Derby hopes, but a trainer whose live was saved by organ donation?  Seriously, I would love to know, because it just seems so ill-tempered to me.

Frankly I'm tickled to read the story, this is a horse maturing before our eyes whose stride consumes ground in a natural and exciting way.  I hope for the best for him and his people!

24 Mar 2011 2:46 PM

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