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
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
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
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
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.