Ky. Derby Trail: Brilliant Speed Revisited

The Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) was once a great race that attracted many of the leading Derby contenders. Since the switch to Polytrack it no longer is regarded as a top Derby prep, attracting mostly grass and synthetic horses. It did get eventual Derby winner Street Sense, who pretty much used the race merely to set him up for the big one, and he was beaten in a four-horse photo by longshot Dominican. The three horses in the photo with him would finish 11th, 12th, and 17th in the Derby.

This year proved to be a similar type of race, minus a horse of the caliber of Street Sense. It attracted few dirt horses and was run like a grass race, with form tossed out the window. The first four finishers went off at 19-1, 24-1, 13-1, and 17-1.

So, do we ignore this race or actually try to make a case for the victorious Brilliant Speed, who was strictly a grass horse and was beaten a total of 40 lengths in his two dirt appearances?

We’re not going to attempt to tout Brilliant Speed as a potential Derby winner, but we certainly can for hitting the board and being part of the exotics. If anyone buys into it, they can then take it another step if they wish after looking at the tote board.

First off, let’s address his two dirt races. As a long, lean son of Dynaformer, whose offspring develop late and want to a distance of ground, he had no shot in his career debut going five furlongs at Saratoga. His fourth, beaten 19 lengths, looks terrible on paper, but let’s not forget that the winner, eventual Hopeful (gr. I) winner Boys at Tosconova, won by 12 lengths in a blistering :56 flat, while he broke slowly and raced greenly. So we can certainly give him a pass on that race.

In his second start, going seven furlongs at Saratoga, he again broke slowly, was rushed up to chase a :45 3/5 half, while down on the rail, but was rank and green, and drifted to the outside turning for home before tiring badly.

Did he not like the dirt or was he just extremely green and immature?

Trainer Tom Albertrani switched him to the grass and stretched him out to two turns at Belmont and he ran a pair of solid thirds over yielding courses. Albertrani gave him a couple of months off to grow and mature and brought him back at Tampa.

Breaking from the rail, he swerved a bit at the start, raced along the inside and ran up behind a wall of horses nearing the head of the stretch. When an opening appeared down on the rail, he shot through and drew off to win in hand.

Dropping back from 1 1/16 miles to a mile in the Dania Beach, he broke sharply, but got squeezed back to sixth, some seven lengths off the pace. Nearing the top of the stretch, instead of swinging wide, John Velazquez elected to stay put and wait for racing room. But it quickly became apparent there would be no way through, so he looked over his right shoulder to make sure he was clear and steered Brilliant Speed, who was still stuck on his left lead, to the outside. When he changed leads, he burst to the front, but was just nipped on the wire by the late-charging Adirondack Summer.

In the Hallandale Beach, he broke from the far outside and raced in fourth through the early going, about four lengths off the lead. He swung out widest of all turning for home and was full of run, but his stablemate, King Congie, kept drifting out into his path, continuously forcing him out. Not only did King Congie, who crossed the wire first, hamper his stablemate, his drifting allowed Master Dunker to slip through inside him to get second. That also cost Brilliant Speed the win, as King Congie was disqualified to third, with Master Dunker being placed first.

Albertrani ran both horses back in the Toyota Blue Grass and pretty much gave up on Brilliant Speed down the backstretch, when he dropped back to 12th and last behind snail-like fractions of :50 3/5 and 1:14 3/5. Albertrani just figured he wasn’t handling the Polytrack. But when Joel Rosario asked him to pick it up, Brilliant Speed swung off the rail to the far outside and came charging down the stretch, only to encounter a repeat of the Hallandale Beach, as King Congie again came out into him, forcing him out several more paths. But this time, he wasn’t going to be denied. Despite having to go seven-wide at the top of the stretch and losing his momentum having to deal with King Congie’s antics again, he still managed to fly home his last three-eighths in a sensational :34 2/5, with closing fractions of :22 4/5 and :11 3/5. How this translates to dirt we have no idea, considering the surface, but that is still flying, especially under the circumstances.

“He’s never had a chance to really stretch his legs out before the Blue Grass,” Albertrani said. “He’s always had to check or steady, and even at Tampa he had to steady behind horses, and then found his way through. He’s a really good finisher and I’d love to see if he can run the same race back again in the Derby as he did in the Blue Grass. When I saw him last on the backstretch, I’m thinking to myself there is no way he’s going to close on this track; he’s way too far back. He was farther back than I thought he’d be and I could only think he wasn’t getting hold of the track.

“Then I saw him make his move, and I tell you what, Rosario gave that horse such a good ride. He didn’t lose an inch of ground. He went from the rail and switched right out to the middle of the track in three strides. Then I saw him coming and said, ‘Wow, this horse is rolling.’”

What we really like about Brilliant Speed is his lean, chiseled look and refined head, like a European stayer. He has beautiful action and has shown the ability to overcome bad trips, whether it’s coming inside horses, in between horses, or outside horses. That kind of adaptability and willingness to go wherever he needs to should serve him well in a 20-horse field. And he can really motor once he gets going. In the Dania Beach, he closed his final quarter in :23 3/5 and came home his final sixteenth in :05 and change in the Hallandale Beach.

And for the Beyer pundits, his Beyers have gotten faster in each of his last six starts – 32, 65, 69, 79, 84, and 93.

He has done all his training on dirt, and has handled it well, according to Albertrani. As for his pedigree, Dynaformer sired Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner Barbaro, who also started out as a grass horse. Brilliant Speed’s broodmare sire, Gone West, sired Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winner Commendable, and his second dam, Daijin, is a full-sister to Belmont and Haskell (gr. I) winner Touch Gold. It is also important to note that Dynaformer’s offspring have won three grade I stakes on dirt and two of them came at Churchill Downs – Barbaro in the Derby and Perfect Drift in the Stephen Foster.

For Albertrani, April has been the proverbial roller coaster of emotions. Two weeks ago, he had no Derby aspirations at all. Then Arthur’s Tale, a son of Albertrani’s greatest horse Bernardini, nearly pulled off a shocker in the Wood Memorial (gr. I), getting beat a neck, and just like that Albertrani had a legitimate Derby contender. A few days after the race, Arthur’s Tale was off the Derby trail with a splint bone injury and so was Albertrani. Now, here he is back on the Derby trail with a grade I winner…all within a week.

“I think it’s great that we’re going to the Derby,” Albertrani said. “This is like a dream come true for Mrs. (Charlotte) Weber.”

From a historical standpoint, Mrs. Weber finished second in the Kentucky Derby nearly 30 years ago when her 18-1 shot Laser Light rallied from 19th under Eddie Maple. Her Live Oak Plantation is the only established long-time stable participating in this year’s Derby, so just maybe the Derby gods have her in their sights this year.


Leave a Comment:


Since AP Indy won't be having a Derby winner this year (and probably never), it would be good to see Dynaformer have another; I would like to see Rock Hard Ten get one someday too!

20 Apr 2011 3:07 PM
Bill Daly

Street Sense figured to run well in The Derby. Nafzger was repeating a pattern that worked for the horse as a 2yr. old.  He told the world that was why he was running him in The Bluegrass as opposed to some other race.  That's probably the last horse to come out of the race that figured to run well in The Derby.  You do a great job of analyzing the past performances of Brilliant Speed and that's about all that can be done at this point.  Until he runs in The Derby nobody has a clue how this horse will do.  It's a shame he didn't get the opportunity earlier to run a Churchill as a 2 yr. old.  Maybe then we could have seen a pattern or at least some idea as to whether he liked the track.  What a Gordian Knot this Derby is!

20 Apr 2011 3:09 PM

IF this horse handles the dirt, I believe he is a serious Derby threat.  No other horse in the field has the pedigree that screams distance like his does.  If not the Derby, then the Belmont for sure.  If Uncle Mo runs, there will be a honest pace for Brilliant SPeed (B.S.) to run at and with that long Churchill stretch, he just might make some noise.  He is bred more for distance than Barbaro was and with Gone West, Deputy Minister, Buckpasser, and Northern Dancer as the sires of his 4 dams, I believe he has plenty of dirt ability in that pedigree and the stamina to get better the farther he goes.

20 Apr 2011 3:09 PM

I knew things were gonna be tough for the bloggers in the year following Zenmania but have things gotten so desperate that they need to tout horses between by 40 lengths? I bet Steve is almost longing for those days past when he had to keep the Zen and Rachel fans from killing each other.

20 Apr 2011 3:19 PM

I like the angle your using here. I had a chance to look at Brilliant Speed's pedigree in depth. It quickly occurred to me that he is one of the few horses that want 1 1/4 miles. You touched on the fact that his trainer gave him time off to mature which some dynaformer offspring usually need. Also touching on the fact that some grass horses especially dynafromer's offspring tend to run well at Churchill. I loved they way he closed on snail like fractions, he'll appreciate the added distance. If he gets a clean trip, I can see him flying late to get 3rd or 4th. Thanks for the info Steve!

20 Apr 2011 3:21 PM
steve from st louis

To have even a small bit of hope that you could somehow win the Derby is the stuff of dreams. Live Oak has paid their dues, supporting the industry for decades. Even if you don't love a particular condensed soup, you have to root for her colt.

20 Apr 2011 4:08 PM

Bravo Bravo Bravo, this horse might just shock a lot of fans on Derby Day

20 Apr 2011 4:16 PM

steve i see m.smith is rideing astrology on saturday.i have to think if astrology rates and comes home stronge hes going to the derby!

20 Apr 2011 4:39 PM

The year Street Sense ran it was a huge bias for off of the pace there. 1/4 mile sprints home won almost everything-European racing. Speed was beyond dead most races.

It has gotten much fairer but it is still a crapshoot to use that race now in handicapping. In the old days of dirt speed did much better and could could throw you off than now but it could be used in your picking because the timing before the Derby and knowing the horse didn't have to ship to KY again in most cases.

A great horse will win on anything and its shows somewhat that a horse is right, but using the Bluegrass now???? No known stars in that group that looked like they are special on the dirt.

20 Apr 2011 4:49 PM
Matthew W

Steve--nothing with Rosario is a toss-especially in a year like this, where, after their excuse laden final preps, horses like Uncle Mo and The Factor will be heavily bet, tire misrably, then everybody is gonna say "it figured, excuses or not, those two were not meant for 1 1/4, their connections practically have said so, themselves--it's most likely going to take more stamina to win the Derby--Brilliant Speed did all of that closing on Sat--I only saw the race once, but it looked to me like jockey Rosario dod not whip him until the very end--right before the wire--he was too busy steering him/keeping him clear--and changing leads on the fly--Joel Rosario is the best jock to come along in a long time--if he's up, I'll use Brilliant Speed--he passed them all--all in the stretch--they did what it takes, sometimes, in the Derby--pass lots of horses.....

20 Apr 2011 5:13 PM

Great comments about Brilliant Speed, which I endorse wholeheartedly. Fortunately, I saw all these features, the chiseled looks; swift acceleration; great distance pedigree, and troubled trips before the Bluegrass. Hence, I was able to win and set aside enough to bet on him to win again, i.e the Derby. BS sure looks like the real deal.

20 Apr 2011 6:00 PM

Thank you, Steve, for analyzing and sharing this information about Brilliant Speed.  With the times he has had with racing so green and immature at the start to then being able to go around horses and keep on going, he may have just the type of experience that is needed to navigate the cavalry charge of the derby.  I'm always amazed by all the details you are able to pick out of watching a race and I thank you for your expert eye!

20 Apr 2011 7:40 PM

I will be looking very closely at any horse in the Derby coming from the Blue Grass.  The track was extremely slow.  The Blue Grass time of almost 1:51 would not usually be competitive for the Derby.  But it was actually ok considering how slow the track was and how slow the other prep races have been.  Probably the best race in the Blue Grass was from Twinspired as the track was favoring come-from-behind types.  I would also give a close look to King Congie.  Horses that make a sudden, premature move and then flatten out often do really well next time (and are often overlooked).

20 Apr 2011 8:15 PM
Zenyatta John

Wow!  Second dam a full to Touch Gold! As much as he seems like a turf/poly horse , with those genes, he is eligible to jump up like Barbaro did.

I will have to take him more serious now and see how he works leading up to the race.

20 Apr 2011 8:21 PM
Cuppy Track

I too made a nice wager on BS in the Bluegrass but, I'll pass in the Derby.  He beat Twinspired and King Congie by what...less than a length??...Let's face it...the BG was a nice allowance race for Turf horses.  

For those of you who love BS should really like Animal Kingdom who beat Twinspired soundly in the Spiral.

20 Apr 2011 8:29 PM
David S

Played Blue Grass solely on surface handicapping and Brilliant was the bet. If I look at the Derby I can't back him as Dynaformer's are better on Syn and Turf.  On other hand, they can run on dirt and love his distance capabilities.  Odds will be the deciding factor.

20 Apr 2011 9:17 PM

Steve, I'm wondering if it might be an omen that Avalyn Hunter put up a pedigree piece on Brilliant Speed at exactly the same time you put up this blog entry!

You and Avalyn are both such terrific writers, and seeing work from both of you side-by-side, so to speak, is more than enough to make me know that I'm going to be working Brilliant Speed into the mix at least a little more that 2 weeks from now!

By the way, Steve....have you read Avalyn's books on Northern Dancer and Mr. Prospector?  Fabulous stuff!  I highly recommend them!

Also, I agree wholeheartedly about Mrs. Weber being deserving of a Derby winner.  I wish her and her Live Oak Plantation the very best of luck!

20 Apr 2011 9:48 PM
Steve Haskin

I'm certainly not touting Brilliant Speed to win the Derby. I just found him instesting in many ways as a horse to keep an eye on in the exotics, especially this year. And, yes, Animal Kingdom is also intriguing if he handles the dirt. Brilliant Speed has far superior dirt breeding than Animal Kingdom. Hey, how about boxing those two with Master of Hounds in an all synthetic trifecta.

20 Apr 2011 10:34 PM
John T

Brilliant Speed looks more like a

Belmont type but it will be interesting first to see how he handles dirt again in the Derby.

20 Apr 2011 11:12 PM

BS shows no precocity from the 2yo record, no dirt form, both of his wins were off 114n/c paces. The time to bet him was the Blue Grass where he was up against a weak field. Chances to hit the board improve on an off track.

21 Apr 2011 2:58 AM
Rich P

Steve--You mentioned in your video with Lenny that a derby Trivia release said the top eight Derby Beyer figures all were soundly beaten. I tried unsuccessfully to find this info on-line. Can you be more specific.

Thanks, Rich P.

21 Apr 2011 9:03 AM

Dan C,

Take it from this AP Indy critic; the pensioner will have his breakthrough in this year's Derby via his best son Mineshaft.  Dialed In will win the Kentucky Derby and Nehro (also sired by Mineshaft) has a great shot.

Brilliant Speed will not finish in front of Santiva at Churchill Downs. The latter is the only Bluegrass horse with a live shot at great odds.  Something needs to be done about the Bluegrass Stakes in relation to the Derby because it keeps a couple of competitive Dirt horses on the outside looking in while giving a backdoor entry to grass/synthetic/unproven dirt runners. Thats a problem worth fixing instead of the annual attacks on the Graded earning system by some blog posters.

21 Apr 2011 9:14 AM
Steve Haskin

Rich P, I didnt say 8, I said 9, and I didnt say they were soundly beaten, I said they were out of the money.

From 120 down to 113 -- Bellamy Road, sinister Minister, Holy Bull, Millennium Wind, Unbridled's Song, Serena's song, Read the Footnotes, Skip Away, and Holy Bull again.

21 Apr 2011 10:38 AM
Fran Loszynski

Jess Jackson was given two great gifts in horseracing before he left this good earth, how lucky he was. I'm sure the cancer became secondary to him simply because he had CURLIN AND RACHEL ALEXANDRA. What a great hoorah to go out on.  I wanted to use your column to blog this Steve- because you liked Rachel and Zenyatta, heavy hitters this year and to lose a heavy hitter like Jess Jackson-he loved Rachel, so a heavy hitter columnist like you I choose to write this. I always liked Jess Jackson I thought he had "spunk"

21 Apr 2011 11:50 AM
Pedigree Ann

Once upon a time, we had quite a lot of horses who, like Round Table and Kelso, Ack Ack and Cougar II, John Henry and Exceller, Candy Ride and Lava Man, 'swung both ways': as good on dirt as turf. Now the assumption seems to be 'if he's good on turf, he can't be good on dirt.'

It would perhaps amaze some of these folks to realize that for decades when there was little if any turf racing in the US, the leading sires were largely turf-raced foreigners - Sir Gallahad III, Blenheim II, St. Germans, Bull Dog, Nasrullah - not a one of them ever set foot on a dirt course. Yet they sired dirt winners, Triple Crown winners some of them, numerous champions. Surface preferences are due to more than bloodlines and are not set in stone by pedigree.

Most of you are too young to remember *Hitchcock. He was a German-bred horse with generations of turf breeding who had finished third in the German Derby and won a G2-type race in France, all on turf. Yet when he came to the US, he adapted to dirt well enough to win the Suburban Hcp and two runnings of the Gallant Fox, back when those were top races (soon to become G1 and G2, respectively).

21 Apr 2011 12:34 PM

Yes! the reason is.....they ran too good!!!  Are you getting this people? you don't want to run too good!!!! Trust me! Nehro fans! you better listen.....the lemon has been squeezed! I make a living betting on horses.....just look at the field last year coming off great top races.....on and on...and on.....

21 Apr 2011 4:52 PM
Matthew W

Ranagulzion--Mine That Bird qualified for the Kentucky based on his synthetic track earnings as a two year old--if he hadn't gotten in, I suppose there would've been a dirt horse who would've drawn in--of corse, Birdie won by from here to across the street--by your methods he doesn't qualify, right? I say wrong!

21 Apr 2011 9:31 PM

SteveH : Man, this is going to mess me up because I've decided to throw out any horses that ran in the Bluegrass...but this article makes me wonder about BSpeed.  I'll have to wait to see what post he gets and of course, his odds.  He'll probably go off at around 15-1 or so, what do you think ?

22 Apr 2011 6:58 AM

If Rosario stays on Brilliant Speed, I'll have to find a way to use him, as Joel has been en fuego this year.

22 Apr 2011 7:04 AM

Last year I liked Stately Victor so I found excuses to explain away his dirt losses and bet him in my Derby superfecta.  That didn't work out so well.  

So this year the only way I'll play Brilliant Speed is if Rosario rides him in the Derby.  

I still can't believe he got Make Music For Me home in 4th last year.  That horse had zero dirt form, got badly beaten in his only 9f start, had one lifetime win and that was on turf, and so forth.  IMHO that was a better ride than Calvin on Super Saver.  At least Calvin had something to work with.  

22 Apr 2011 1:00 PM
Forbidden Apple


I remember about 1 month ago you had a blog with random 3 y/o colts listed. I was the only person to even mention Brilliant Speed as a horse that had talent and deserved a chance on dirt. His Bluegrass race was spectacular to me. He sat last and went flying by an extremely slow pace. I see him as a serious KY Derby threat. And yet he did not even make your April 18 D.D. list, I don't get it. You included Master Of Hounds and Animal Kingdom(who are both obvious grass horses to me), but no Brilliant Speed. Dynaformer has been known to throw both turf and dirt runners. This big horse has a long stride and should fall in love with the 1 1/4 mile distance of the KY Derby. This son of Dynaformer has brought back many happy memories of the late great Barbaro.

22 Apr 2011 2:59 PM

brilliant flunked my 5 part test before his last race and i didn't use him. maybe his excuses are valid. i will use him along with midnight, dialed and factor in my triple.(fool me twice shame on me)

22 Apr 2011 8:34 PM

Matthew W,

I agree except that Mine That Bird had dirt pedigree top and bottom, and was produced from the prolific Derby-winner-producing Raise A Native sire line (can't say the same about Brilliant Speed).

23 Apr 2011 12:22 AM


Has Dynaformer sired a deby winner?

Has Gone West sire a Belmont winner?

Has Gones West son sired a Derby and Preakness winner?

Has Deputy Mminister sire a Preakness and several a Belmont winner?

Has Deputy Mminister been broddmare sire of several Belmont winners?

Has Buckpasser Been grandsire of two derby winners and broodmare sire of a Belmont winner?

If the answers to the above questions is Yes, your conclusion about BS in clearly wrong.

23 Apr 2011 1:53 PM

Recent Posts



Social Media

More Blogs