Haskin's Derby Trail: Who is the Real News Pending?

News Pending burst on the scene with his surprising second-place finish in the Fountain of Youth Stakes at odds of 27-1. But who exactly is this horse? Watching his races, he is a horse you cannot handicap, because he still hasn’t figured out who he is or what he is. And that in its own odd way is what makes him so dangerous and what makes his performance in the Fountain of Youth so fascinating.

In his previous races, he has been on the lead, he has stalked the pace, and he has come from far back. He’s been on the inside, between horses, and wide throughout, and all this on the dirt and grass.

In the Fountain of Youth he stayed true to character by running three different races in one. While his startling move on the first turn, in which he went from sixth to challenging for the lead, didn’t rival Secretariat’s first-turn explosion in the 1973 Preakness, it’s the closest thing we’ve seen since. After engaging the 4-5 favorite Discreet Dancer leaving the clubhouse turn and battling with him all the way to the quarter pole, he was inhaled by Union Rags, who quickly opened up by daylight. But he proceeded to put Discreet Dancer away and kept running on like a fresh horse, and wasn’t losing any ground to the winner in the closing stages. If you had turned on the race at the eighth pole, you would have thought News Pending was rallying from off the pace to finish second, he was moving with such authority. He was just outrun by a much more accomplished and talented horse.

Kent Desormeaux is the perfect jockey for him, because, like the horse, you never know what Desormeaux is going to do. He no doubt is the most unconventional of the top jockeys, and sometimes you’re going to pay the price for that unconventionality and sometimes it’s going to put you in the winner’s circle. When Desormeaux is on he is as good a money rider as there is in the country.

Let’s go back over News Pending’s career. His debut last year on the dirt at Saratoga was a disaster, but his second start stretching out on the grass was an improvement, as he finished fifth, beaten 2 ¼ lengths, after breaking from the far outside and losing ground.
Now is when it gets interesting. In a 1 1/16-mile maiden race at Belmont, he shot to the lead, set the pace, and dug in gamely when challenged, only to be nipped by the narrowest of noses in a head-bobbing finish. So, when he returned in a 1 1/8-mile race at Aqueduct, it was naturally assumed he’d be on or right off the lead, but was fanned four-wide going into the first turn and remained four-wide the entire race. He raced in fourth and stayed there, getting beat 6 ½ lengths.

Then came the race that would alter his career. Trainer Dale Romans put him back on the grass, going 1 1/8 miles at Gulfstream. With Rajiv Maragh, his fourth different jockey in five races, aboard, he saved ground along the inside in third, and at the head of the stretch, two horses came charging up on his outside, putting him in an apparent box. Fortunately the two horses in front of him spread apart, giving him a gaping hole. At first, it seemed as if he had no desire to take advantage of it and he appeared to be going nowhere. Then in the final sixteenth, it was if the light bulb went on. He accelerated and outran the outside closers to win by a half-length and then opened up six lengths in the gallop-out, with the outrider having to chase him down. It was in that final sixteenth that he became a racehorse.

Romans kept him on the grass, but stated before the race he was looking forward to getting him back on the dirt and onto the Derby trail. Just when you thought you knew this horse’s running style, he ventured into new territory by dropping far back off the pace, a dozen lengths back. He began his move leaving the three-eighths pole, but was hopelessly out of contention. Turning for home he swung out to the middle of the track and kicked into a gear no one had ever seen from him. He flew by horses in the final furlong, but Exothermic, an up-and-coming star in his own right, was long gone by then. He still kept passing horses as if moving in another time frame and managed to get up for second, beaten 1 ½ lengths.

Romans felt he was now developing into a top-class horse and was getting so good he decided to run him in the Fountain of Youth, despite the presence of Union Rags, the ill-fated Algorithms, and Discreet Dancer.

So, what does one make of this horse? Did he finish second because someone had to or is he developing into a major Derby contender? Judging from his explosive early and seemingly premature move, the way he put away a good horse in Discreet Dancer, and the way he was still striding out strongly at the end, it would seem this horse can do just about anything…and from anywhere on the racetrack.

Romans said the plan going into the Fountain of Youth was to take him back and “come running,” as he had done in his previous start. But the horse was moving so smoothly, with his ears up, Desormeaux decided to let him “do his thing.”

Now that we know what his “thing” is, or at least we think we do, there’s no telling what to expect from him as he continues on his oddly paved road to Louisville.

By the way, the horse who finished fourth in the aforementioned grass allowance race, a length behind News Pending, was stablemate Finnegan’s Wake, who is by a grass sire and whose only dirt start was a 26-length drubbing in the slop in his career debut at Churchill Downs. But Romans will take another shot and run him in Saturday’s Gotham Stakes, hoping he handles the dirt. Does anyone really want to speculate what this horse is going to do? When it comes to Romans don’t even bother.


Leave a Comment:


"and wasn’t losing any ground to the winner in the closing stages."

If I may recall, I don't think Union Rags even stretched his legs. However, it showed that News Pending was finishing the race even though Union Rags blew by him, which is good to see. Is that what you meant to say, Steve?

29 Feb 2012 12:02 PM

After reading your enjoyable article Steve, sounds like this horse is appropriately named! It's an exciting time of year, tempered by chips and splints...and even liver ailments.

29 Feb 2012 1:50 PM

When I saw News Pending in the Post Parade, I thought he was the handsomest horse on the track.  It was the first I've seen him, and I'm certain it won't be the last I see him.  It was his first stakes race, and he ran it admirably.  He almost stole the race.  He's joined my list of favorites, and I'm looking forward to his next out.

29 Feb 2012 2:17 PM

Great article, Steve!

All I knew going into the FOY was, "Dang, that horse looks good!"

What's your best guess on CASTAWAY's next venue?

29 Feb 2012 3:11 PM

Hi Steve, good article I had posted in the derby dozen but you didn't answer, thought I would try here. Do you know what Union Rags stride angle is? Curious given his height, I have read Zenyatta's and Big Red were both 110 degree.



29 Feb 2012 3:53 PM
Steve Haskin

JR, sorry, but I dont know what you mean by stride angle.

29 Feb 2012 5:00 PM
Zen's Auntie

I like Finnegans Wake, ND over MR P works for me, looks like he will need to grow into himself some though... the book was not bad either as I recall...

Can I say here how much I LOVE the mating of Now I Know and Uncle Mo, I cant wait for the foal!

29 Feb 2012 5:26 PM

Hi Steve, stride angle is interesting concept, this link will have pictures showing of some of the great race horses stride angle. When you look at them and read the explanation I'm sure you will find it interesting also.www. somaxsports.com

Kind Regards,


29 Feb 2012 6:54 PM

So nice to seen an article on this lovely horse. He was so eye-catching during the post parade of the Fountain of Youth that I had to cheer for him during the race. I can't wait to watch him run again.

29 Feb 2012 10:51 PM
The Deacon

Loved this post Steve, well done..........

01 Mar 2012 2:14 AM
Miguel Bonifaz

Good article Steve, venturing into Derby futurology.

I can add to your discovery, that a couple of weeks back, we had Kent here in Lima, Perú for the VI International Jockey Challenge won by Alex Solís. Talking to him I asked if he had a Derby prospect for this year and his answer was a son of Harlan´s Holiday (couldn´t remember the name) preped by Dale Romans. Seems he knew what he was talking about.

01 Mar 2012 8:51 AM
Pedigree Ann

His dam was a turf-only winner, his damsire was a turf-only winner, his second dam was a turf-only winner. Why do I think that News Pending's eventual best surface will be turf?

Having Hail to Reason 5x4 and Exclusive Native 4x5 in his pedigree certainly helps in the stamina department.

01 Mar 2012 8:56 AM
Tiz Herself

Can't wait to see News Pending's next start.

Anyone know where Battle Hardened is going to start next? Also the maiden winner that is filling in for Consortium for Darley, Side Road looks interesting. Another one I wonder of is Majestic City, though unsure if he is more suited to the grass or dirt. And of course Pyro's baby brother Longview Drive. Then there's Finnegans Wake, loved his sire Powerscourt.

01 Mar 2012 11:06 AM
Tiz Herself

Love the pedigree on Gotham contender Pretension


The names in his pedigree! Being by Bluegrass Cat and out of Street Cry mare Main Streetin'.

And another one I wonder about if he's in training or where he's at is Jack's in the Deck www.pedigreequery.com/jacks+in+the+deck

01 Mar 2012 11:12 AM
Linda in Texas

Just now seeing your article on News Pending, I had not read this before i posted earlier that i really liked News Pending as he was waiting to go into the gate for the FOY. I thought oh my goodness, he is just that. I will repeat that i noted 'one to watch' on my notes. And so i am glad to see that sometimes my instincts are just as others, it is reassuring to me to think the same way such learned folks in the horse world do like Steve, Slew and BigTex and so many nice people

who post with Steve. It justifies my hours spent doing my homework.

And do agree with Zen's Auntie, i also look forward to the prospect of Now I Know and Uncle Mo and what their foal will be.

Steve, maybe your 'flash player' is on the blitz or crashed which is not allowing you to view your video. It may need to be reinstalled. I think that is what my problem is sometimes,heck most of the times, and not just with computers!

01 Mar 2012 11:53 AM

Anyone know where Battle Hardened is going to start next?

Tiz Herself 01 Mar 2012 11:06 AM.

It has been mentioned he will try the Tampa Bay Derby.

02 Mar 2012 2:03 AM
Tiz Herself

Steve, what is your opinion of Cyber Secrets? Been watching him for some time now and see they have the Rebel in mind for him and possibly the Derby.

02 Mar 2012 7:12 PM
Tiz Herself

Thanks tcc. I tend to follow all of Coolmore's prospects - who knows maybe Wrote will find his way over here for the Derby.

There is also Reflecting, a Phipps colt. www.pedigreequery.com/reflecting2

Elusive Quality - Daydreaming, by A.P. Indy. Get Lucky who is the dam of Daydreaming, is from the family of Girolamo, Super Saver, Bluegrass Cat, Harborage, Rhythm, Not For Love, and Private Account. Not sure when he's starting as can't find if he's started his career as of yet.

02 Mar 2012 7:30 PM

Jr:  To coin a phrase from A Christmas Story, "A crummy commercial?"

If there is some well-embedded horse racing information on that site you ran the url for, please give the whole link.  Right now it is advertising a website that has books and videos for sale that have NOTHING to do with horses, horse racing, or anything else pertinent to this blog.

04 Mar 2012 4:44 PM

Zen's Auntie/ Tiz Herself,

Why would you love the breeding of Uncle Mo with Now I know?

Both barely raced, Indian Charlie barely raced, UM never won an open G1 and the farthest he has won is at 8.5 furlongs. NIK had a bad knee. These 2 could pass frailties to their offsprings. OH we want more frail milers that bleeds and barely raced? This industry need real sturdy great thoroughbreds that can go long like 10 furlongs or longer. Not flash in the pans where the fans donot see their favorites run past 3 years old. No wonder this industry is headed for the _______

08 Mar 2012 11:38 AM
Linda in Texas

Steve and Slew - is that not the most

handsome little feller you have seen

since Rachel's little colt?

His color appears to be the very dark same coat as Zenyatta. Hardly

can believe that he had just been foaled shortly before the photo was snapped. A little Slew in the mix and A P Indy and Bernardini.

Be still my heart, i am a proud  adopted trans state2 legged grandma. And does his birth make Stay Thirsty, Algorithms et al his half uncles or what???  

I hope Steve was there. Were you

Steve??? I sure hope so.

09 Mar 2012 12:25 PM

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