The People vs. Storm the Court

Between oddsmaker Mike Battaglia and the general public it is quite obvious that no one has a clue what to make of Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner Storm the Court. The colt will remain an enigma until he launches his assault on the Kentucky Derby, most likely in next year's Robert B. Lewis Stakes.

He also is going to cause a great deal of head scratching when the voting begins for champion 2-year-old, especially after Champagne winner Tiz the Law could finish no better than third in this past weekend's Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes. The truth is, there really is no one to choose from, unless you throw the book away and go with Independence Hall based on his spectacular 12-length victory in the grade 3 Nashua Stakes, in which he earned triple-digit Beyer and Equibase speed figures and an outrageous negative-2 Thoro-Graph figure.

Battaglia, in making his odds for the first Kentucky Derby Future Wager, decided for some reason that Storm the Court was going to go off as the favorite among the 23 listed horses and made him a baffling 12-1 co-choice with Independence Hall.

Considering that Storm the Court won the BC Juvenile by a head at odds of 45-1 in a race where the three big horses didn't show up (one literally and two figuratively) and he defeated a 28-1 shot and a 39-1 shot, those 12-1 odds seemed extremely unrealistic.

On the other hand, the public went way too far in the opposite direction by making Storm the Court a ridiculous 41-1 in the Future Wager. Whether you feel he can win the Derby or not, can you imagine having the Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner and possible 2-year-old champion at 41-1? I doubt very much that has ever happened before.

Even Storm the Court's speed figures differ dramatically, as he received a slow 87 Beyer speed figure in the BC Juvenile compared to a fast 102 Equibase speed figure. Although he won the Juvenile, he didn't even get the fastest Thoro-Graph figure in the race, earning a 5 1/2 compared to a 3 3/4 for runner-up Anneau d'Or.

So, what is one to make of Storm the Court? Is he a serious Derby horse or simply the winner of a flukey Breeders' Cup Juvenile who took advantage of a bizarrely run race without any of the favorites within binocular range at the finish and the other leading contender scratched several days before the race?

It is just possible that Storm the Court, with blinkers added for the Juvenile, and runner-up Anneau d'Or, making his dirt debut after romping on the grass, are legitimate Derby contenders who did after all finish 3 1/4 lengths ahead of the third-place finisher, Del Mar Futurity runner-up Wrecking Crew, who was 4 1/2 lengths ahead of Iroquois and Saratoga Special runner-up Scabbard.

Storm the Court had finished a well-beaten third in the American Pharoah Stakes, but trainer Peter Eurton felt he wasn't focused and needed blinkers to keep his mind on the race and show more speed on the speed-favoring Santa Anita track. He responded by going to the lead and gamely holding it to the wire despite being under pressure most of the way.

Anneau d'Or stalked him throughout the race, but could never get by, despite being hit with the whip 17 times from the far turn to the finish.

Both colts came out of the OBS April 2-year-old sale, with the regally bred Anneau d'Or selling for $480,000, while Storm the Court went for a mere $60,000 after selling as a yearling at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky February mixed sale for a paltry $5,000.

What is important to remember is that Storm the Court will not even turn 3 until four days after the Kentucky Derby, so for such a young horse to break his maiden first time out on Aug. 10 and win the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, you have to figure we have not seen anywhere near the best of him.

He had made an assessment of him even more difficult when he lost his rider soon after the start of the Del Mar Futurity. If there has been one thing consistent about this colt, it's that the public has constantly underestimated him, from his two ventures into the sales ring, to his BC Juvenile odds, to his Future Wager odds. Now, will they underestimate him in the Eclipse voting and when he embarks on the Derby trail next year?

Although Storm the Court's sire, Court Vision, was predominantly a turf horse, winning the Breeders' Cup Mile and also the 1 ¼-mile, grade I Hollywood Derby, as well as three other grade 1 stakes on grass, he did win the mile and an eighth Remsen Stakes and one-mile Iroquois Stakes on dirt at 2. He currently stands in Louisiana for a fee of $3,500.

Storm the Court's broodmare sire, Tejano Run, finished second to Thunder Gulch in the Kentucky Derby and his only inbreeding is to the Classic stallion Buckpasser. His third dam is by Kentucky Derby and Belmont winner Riva Ridge, out of a mare by English Triple Crown winner Nijinsky. In all, he has seven horses in his pedigree (five generations) who finished first or second in the Kentucky Derby.

Storm the Court, as mentioned earlier, is trained by the astute Peter Eurton, who has emerged as one of the top trainers in the country, and ridden by Flavien Prat, who won this year's Kentucky Derby and knows how to get horses to stay long distances.

So maybe Storm the Court isn't that much of an enigma after all. Perhaps it's not him, it's us, as Battaglia and the public showed in their wildly contradictory opinions of him, as did the speed figure gurus. Now it is up to the Eclipse Award voters to decide whether his is championship material. It's not going to be an easy decision. Right now, there are no easy decisions when it comes to Storm the Court.

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