In 1992, Lil E. Tee finished second in the Arkansas Derby, after which he was equipped with a shadow roll for the Kentucky Derby by trainer Lyn Whiting. We all know how that decision turned out. Now, nearly a quarter of a century later, another Arkansas Derby runner-up is being equipped with a shadow roll in the Kentucky Derby.
Trainer Donnie Von Hemel said following Suddenbreakingnews’ sharp five-furlong work in :59 3/5, out in 1:13, Friday, while wearing a shadow roll for the first time, that the gelding will wear the new equipment when he runs for the roses next Saturday.
Suddebreakingnews has proven he can outclose anyone down the stretch with a powerhouse of a move that has him flying at the end of every one of his races. If he gets you in his sights he can run you down. But his problem has been launching that move too late. After his brilliant work, Von Hemel is hoping the addition of a shadow roll will help eliminate any distractions and that he’ll be able to reach a contending position earlier and put himself in position to win.
“I was very happy with his work, and if everything goes the way we’re thinking, we’re going to use the shadow roll when he runs,” Von Hemel said. “When he’s training he has a lot of confidence in himself and really handles all situations well. Nothing much bothers him. With the shadow roll you’re trying to figure things out and do something to help even a little bit.”
All year, I’ve been saying that if the Derby gods are at work this year and feel compelled to smile down on anyone it would be either Dale Romans or Kiaran McLaughlin for reasons explained earlier. They meet all the criteria the Derby gods look for. I have since added Von Hemel, who more than qualifies for the Derby gods’ attention. The 54-year-old Von Hemel is a second generation trainer, whose father is in the Nebraska Racing Hall of Fame, and whose brother also trains horses.
Like another veteran trainer who paid his dues, Barclay Tagg, Von Hemel comes into the Derby with a hard-knocking gelding in Suddenbreakingnews. Tagg’s Derby winner, Funny Cide, and Suddenbreakingnews both are descendents of the Ribot stallion Tom Rolfe and trace to two-time Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner Ribot twice. Funny Cide also traces to Arc de Triomphe winner Sea-Bird, and Suddenbreakingnews’ maternal great-grandsire in two-time Arc de Triomphe winner Alleged, who is by Tom Rolfe’s son Hoist the Flag.
While Tagg was making his Kentucky Derby debut, Von Hemel returns to the Derby for the first time since 1989 when he saddled his only Derby starter, Clever Trevor. Now, 27 years later, Suddenbreakingnews, like Clever Trevor, goes into the Derby off a second-place finish in the Arkansas Derby, just like Lil E. Tee. Oh, yes, Suddenbreakingnews won one stakes last year – the Clever Trevor Stakes.
Von Hemel still takes care of the now 30-year-old Clever Trevor on his farm in Oklahoma. Are you listening, Derby gods?
Suddenbreakingnews’ two grandsires, A.P. Indy and Afleet Alex were both deprived of a Derby victory most people felt was theirs for the taking. A.P. Indy was scratched the morning of the Derby with a foot bruise, and few people felt he wouldn’t have beaten Lil E. Tee that day, especially considering he had easily handled the runner-up Casual Lies in California. And Afleet Alex encountered traffic problems in the Derby and exited the race with a lung infection, then bounced back to romp in the Preakness and Belmont.
So, if you want to take the ethereal approach to go along with the shadow roll angle and the gelding’s howitzer of a move, you can box Suddenbreakingnews, Brody’s Cause, and Mohaymen and let them fight it out for the Derby gods’ affection. The believers feel the gods were guiding Lil E. Tee in 1992 when they gave Pat Day his only Derby victory, along with 82-year-old owner W. Cal Partee, who had given so much to the sport over the years. Suddenbreakingnew's owner, Sonny Henderson, is 78 and has been involved in racing for five decades.
From a more down-to-earth viewpoint, Suddenbreakingnews, despite his three come-from-the-clouds performances this year, actually displayed remarkable versatility last year, coming from everywhere, whether it was with an explosive move on the turn from the back of the pack, sweeping by the entire field on dirt and grass, or squeezing his way between horses. If you don’t think he has speed, he was four lengths off a :44 2/5 half in his gutsy victory in the seven-furlong Clever Trevor Stakes, rallying between horses. When he broke his maiden battling on the lead he drew off without ever being touched with the whip. In the Springboard Mile, he was stuck behind horses in the upper stretch, then squeezed through the narrowest of openings between horses, only to be beaten the shortest of noses by eventual Smarty Jones winner Discreetness in the slop. So, as you can see, this smooth-striding gelding can do anything and from anywhere, and perhaps the shadow roll will help him return to that versatile style of running.
So, even if you don’t believe in the Derby gods, there is something else Suddenbreakingnews has going for him, as well as the addition of a shadow roll. He is one classy racehorse with an explosive turn of foot and a true Derby pedigree. That’s enough right there.