Haskin's Derby Trail: My Adonis Heads to Gotham

When Kiaran McLaughlin announced that Alpha would skip the Gotham Stakes (gr. III) and go directly to the Wood Memorial (gr. I), the connections of Hansen might have thought they were all but home free over Aqueduct’s speed-favoring inner track. But as it turns out they might be looking over their shoulder in the final furlong after all. My Adonis should be closing in fast, just as he did the Holy Bull Stakes (gr. III).

Trainer Kelly Breen said that the son of Pleasantly Perfect likely will make his next start in the 1 1/16-mile race March 3. In the Holy Bull, last year’s champion 2-year-old barely held off My Adonis for second behind Algorithms. What made My Adonis’ performance so impressive was the fact that he came from 20 lengths back after a half-mile over a speed-conducive sloppy sealed track, and was still nearly a dozen lengths back at the head of the stretch. In the final furlong, My Adonis made up seven lengths on Hansen, who was too keyed up early after stumbling coming out of the gate and scorching his second quarter in :22 flat.

My Adonis’ performance actually was totally out of character, as he previously had been a pace stalker in all his races, other than his career debut when he rallied from a dozen lengths back going 5 ½ furlongs.

After romping in a mile and 70-yard maiden race at Monmouth in the mud, he ran off with the one-mile Jean Laffitte as a prep for the rich Delta Downs Jackpot. But in the Delta Jackpot he got caught up in a suicidal speed duel (:22, :45 2/5) with the Bob Baffert-trained Drill, with both colts folding badly and finishing up the track.

Sent to Palm Meadows, he became a terror in the mornings, rattling off three consecutive bullets works – five furlongs in :59 2/5 breezing, a half in :47 breezing, and three furlongs in :34 4/5 breezing.

In the Holy Bull, he bumped with Consortium at the start and took himself out of the race, dropping back to last, far off the pace. The unfamiliar scenario didn’t seem to faze him, as he unleashed a powerful run and nearly got up for second.

“I think he’s a top horse,” trainer Kelly Breen said. “We’ve worked him with Ruler On Ice and Pants On Fire and he’s always gone head and head with them.”

When asked what his best running style is, Breen replied, “I don’t know. In the Holy Bull he looked like one of those Nick Zito horses that close from far back all the time in the Florida Derby (gr. I). It wasn’t until halfway through the Monmouth meet that he decided to run and put it all together. I think the addition of blinkers might have helped. Early on, he didn’t have the speed and would just keep going in :12s every eighth. After Monmouth, the light bulb went on and he got his mind together.”

As for his decision to run in the Gotham, Breen said, “I have horses up there, he’s training well, and it just seems to make sense.”

Breen has never let good horses scare him away from big races, and when asked if he was concerned about the possibility of Hansen getting loose on an easy lead over a speed-favoring track, he simply said, “It is what it is.”

My Adonis looks to be an improving horse who will love the mile and a quarter, especially being sired by Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) and Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) winner Pleasantly Perfect. Some may doubt his distance capabilities because of his broodmare sire Elusive Quality, who did sire Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Smarty Jones. It should be noted that Elusive Quality, as fast as he was, is out of a Rokeby Stable mare, Touch of Greatness, who is by Hero’s Honor, a long distance grass horse that won the United Nations, Bowling Green, and Red Smith Handicaps. Hero’s Honor also is a half-brother to Kentucky Derby and Travers winner Sea Hero. Touch of Greatness is out of Ivory Wand, who won the Test Stakes and placed in the Spinster twice. Ivory Wand is by English Derby winner Sir Ivor, out of Natashka, winner of the CCA Oaks and Monmouth Oaks, and the dam of top-class stayers Arkadina, who placed in the English and Irish Oaks; Blood Royal, winner of the long-distance Jockey Club Cup and Chester Vase; Gregorian, winner of the Group I Joe McGrath Memorial; and Truly Bound, winner of the Ashland, Fair Grounds Oaks, and Cotillion and second in the Spinster.

But it is My Adonis’ tail female family that is worth taking notice of. Four of his first five dams are sisters to major stakes winners. His dam, Silent Justice is a half-sister to Ancient Title (gr. III) winner Lakota Brave, and third dam, Stream, is a half-sister to Rokeby’s Prides Profile, winner of the Gazelle and Diana Handicaps and placed in the CCA Oaks, Alabama, and Mother Goose. Fourth dam, Hillbrook, is a half-sister to one of the leading handicap stars of his era, Hillsdale, a winner of 15 major stakes who swept the Strub Series and captured the Hollywood Gold Cup, Californian, Aqueduct Handicap, San Antonio, and San Carlos. He also finished second in the Santa Anita Handicap and came within a head of being named Horse of the Year, dropping a narrow decision to Sword Dancer in the Woodward Stakes, while finishing ahead of Round Table in what was billed as the Race of the Decade. My Adonis’ fifth dam, Johann, is a half-sister to American Derby winner and 3-year-old champion Fighting Step.

Breen also said that last year’s Belmont (gr. I) winner Ruler On Ice, who ran poorly in the recent Donn Handicap (gr. I), has been sent to owner/breeder George and Lori Hall’s farm in Kentucky for a little R & R.

“He got a little banged up, and considering he’s never had a break, we felt it was time give him some time off and get ready for the big races later in the year,” Breen said.

Breen and the Halls have another able representative in the older horse division in Pants On Fire, who runs next in the Mineshaft Handicap (gr. III) at Fair Grounds, where he won the Louisiana Derby (gr. II) last year.

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