Breakout Time for Pair of Hot Juveniles

We're trying something new this year leading up to the Derby Dozen. Each week or so, if an unproven 2-year-old really catches the eye, we are going to feature him and give his background so readers can get in on the ground floor and learn about the horse and then follow him if they wish. Many will not pan out, as beating winners is not the same as beating fellow maidens no matter how impressive those wins look. But it will be fun trying to ferret out future stars before they make a name for themselves.

As we prepare for the upcoming 2-year-old stakes to determine who the big horses will be for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, and even get a long-range look at the Kentucky Derby, there is a good deal of optimism regarding this crop, especially with the combination of brilliance and class exhibited so far. And unlike some other years, most of this year's promising juveniles have pedigrees to suggest they are potential Derby horses.

On Saturday, Oct. 5, all eyes will be on the grade 1 Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park and the grade 1 Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland. Anyone who has been following the 2-year-olds is well aware that the undefeated Saratoga Special winner Green Light Go looks to be formidable in the Champagne, and runaway Hopeful Stakes winner Basin looks like the horse to beat at Keeeland, as both colts try two turns for the first time.

But this also is the time to start looking for those breakout horses who showed enough in their maiden victories to suggest they could be something special. Still, one must always take into consideration the number of impressive maiden winners who fail to demonstrate that same ability when facing winners.

It is a big jump from a maiden sprint score to a grade 1 stakes at 1 1/16 miles, but two horses who jumped off the screen in their maiden victories and look like they should handle the leap in distance and class are Gouverneur Morris, who is pointing for the Breeders' Futurity, and Three Technique, who goes in the Champagne.

Gouverneur Morris, a cleverly named son of Constitution and trained by Todd Pletcher, is named after one of the Founding Fathers who wrote the Preamble to the United States Constitution.

Owned by Team Valor International and WinStar Farm, his sire (who stands at WinStar and raced for WinStar and Twin Creeks Racing) is a son of Tapit who was undefeated when he won the Florida Derby in only his third career start, but never made it to the Kentucky Derby. His dam is by Unbridled's Song and his second dam is by Belmont Stakes winner Touch Gold.

It was a bit surprising seeing him debut at Saratoga at 5 1/2 furlongs, but he turned in one of the most impressive performances at the Spa meet. Not only did he stalk a fast pace in the slop and easily draw off to a nine-length victory, jockey John Velazquez never once even thought about cocking his whip and just hand-rode him the entire length of the stretch.

Yes, it was only 5 1/2 furlongs, but if you saw him gallop out, that wouldn't be a concern considering how strong he was going well past the wire. Of course he still has to do it on a fast track, but all signs point to this colt being the real deal.

His time of 1:04 1/5 earned him a lofty 101 Equibase speed figure, nine points faster than Green Light Go in the Saratoga Special and seven points faster than Basin in the Hopeful.

"This horse has been super at the farm since day one, never an issue and believe me, I thought I had another agreeable, good vetting, easy, great colt," said breeder Carrie Brogden.

"We get to the (Keeneland September) yearling sale and all of a sudden this pain in the butt horse shows up. I am like, ‘What the hell ... where is my well-behaved colt?' So even though he is a vision--big, beautiful, correct, clean vetting, nice page.... he shows himself terribly. We tried a lip chain over the nose and a Chifney bit, but nothing was agreeable to him. Keep in mind this horse has always had the greatest mind.  

"So, finally our amazing foreman, Marco Medina, figures him out and the colt loves him and starts showing great. Well, by then we have lost the majority of buyers (including plenty of people that saw him and his great attitude at the farm. The one buyer he shows flawlessly for the four times they looked at him was Phoenix Thoroughbreds. We send him through the ring and they love him and buy him. I remember Dermot Farrington was thrilled that they could buy him at the price of $200,000. So, that is how a $400,000 yearling sold for $200,000."

Tom Ludt, president of the Phoenix Thoroughbred Division, and Farrington bought him and then the following year pinhooked him for $600,000 at the Fasig-Tipton March 2-year-old sale.

"We buy quite a few horses and we are trying to keep funds always flowing," Ludt said. "So when we buy and send horses to Ocala to break we are always trying to decide to race or pinhook. Eddie Woods and I thought this horse would prep well and sell well so we decided to send him to the sales. He showed early toughness and was forward in his development. As long as they bring a good return, we will always sell to assist our program." 

Woods remembers him as a "big quality colt who was very quiet and laid back. You didn't even know he was there. He didn't have blazing speed, but enough to be dangerous. I was a little surprised that he was able to win at 5 1/2 furlongs. With his temperament, that didn't seem like an ideal distance for him, but he overachieved that day. He just cruised around there."

Brogden, who operates Machmer Hall with her husband Craig, recalls, "I asked Eddie how he was for him after he got to him and Eddie tells me, ‘He is easiest horse in the barn.' I am like, ‘Yes!' He must have just been feeling his royal oats for a few days."

If there is destiny behind this colt, it could be that his dam, Addison Run, died two months ago in foal to Candy Ride. She stepped on a sharp object in the field and it punctured her navicular bursa and she developed a pseudomonas infection in her foot. The Brogdens spent $10,000 trying to save her, but to no avail.

Yes, that is a lot of background for a young unproven colt, but as mentioned, this year we're going to try to catch some of these potential stars before they become stars. Some will no doubt turn out to be busts or just mediocre, but it will be fun trying to find the ones that become big names.

So, what to expect in the Breeders' Futurity facing more seasoned stakes horses going two turns on possibly a fast track for the first time? There obviously is no way to know, but even a good second or third would propel him forward and have him ready for a top effort in the Breeders' Cup. Even looking further ahead, he certainly has the pedigree (being inbred to Kentucky Derby and BC Classic winner Unbridled and Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew and tracing to English Derby winner Roberto) to have early Derby aspirations.

As for Three Technique, after two solid second-place finishes (one of them to Basin) going five and six furlongs, and not having ideal trips in either race, he stretched out to seven furlongs at Saratoga and seemed hopelessly beaten, floundering at the back of the pack. But the turn of foot he displayed in the stretch after swinging six-wide and blowing by everyone in a flash to win going away by 5 1/2 lengths in 1:22 4/5 was something to see. The way he lowered his head and was reaching out with enormous strides in the final sixteenth stamped him as one of the brightest young prospects seen this year. You rarely see a 2-year-old with that kind of extension to his stride and such low to the ground action.

Trained by Jeremiah Englehart and owned by Bill Parcells' August Dawn Farm, Three Technique, which is a football term referring to a defensive lineman lining up between the guard and tackle, is by Belmont Derby and Lexington Stakes winner Mr. Speaker, out of Personal Ensign's daughter Salute. There are also a good number of grass influences in his female family, but he is inbred to Travers winners Damascus and Honest Pleasure, both of whom equaled or broke track records in the Midsummer Derby.

Three Technique also was a pinhook, purchased for $50,000 as a weanling at Keeneland by Trudy Veinot, then sold at the Fasig-Tipton July yearling sale for $180,000.

"He was a beautiful weanling, big and forward, and the first Mr. Speaker to go through the ring, and at the time I had no recollection who Mr. Speaker was on the track," Veinot said. "I called Charles Campbell (broodmare manager at Lane's End where Mr. Speaker stands) and he said he had seen many Mr. Speakers who were very nicely put together. So I just took a shot and swung hard, because $50,000 was a lot for me at that time.

"I broke him and have pictures of me on him bareback. It's nothing new for me to get on all my yearlings that I break. I do all the work myself. He was always a very powerful colt and was always fast running across the field. The day he made his debut at Belmont, I called Charles and told him this was the kind of horse who could break his maiden first time out, so he really should bet him. That's how confident I was in him. I'm just so proud of him and how he turned out, although I can't take any credit for his success on the track." 

On "At the Races with Steve Byk" Englehart said of Three Technique, "He's one of those horses that gives you goose bumps when you watch him run." 

If what we saw in his maiden win is the real Three Technique, then definitely keep an eye on this colt.

Neither of these colts have to win to show they have great promise. They are at a distinct disadvantage, having never faced winners. If they can finish a good second or even third, that will be a big step forward. But don't be too surprised if they win it all.

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