Lord Nelson after winning the San Vicente Stakes.
Photo: Benoit Photography
While Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I) winner
Texas Red ran second in his 3-year-old debut, finishing a neck behind Peachtree
Stable’s Lord Nelson in the $200,250 San Vicente Stakes Feb. 1 at Santa Anita
Park, I suppose the connections of the top two finishers are largely
In cutting Texas Red back to one turn for his seasonal debut
in a race that doesn’t carry qualifying points toward the Kentucky Derby
Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), the seven-furlong San Vicente clearly was a
prep race for the son of dual classic winner Afleet Alex. Still, Texas Red passed four
horses in the stretch to just miss winning.
a little disappointing, you know, ’cause it’s so close to winning, but the
long-term goal is well within reach,” said trainer Keith Desormeaux, who plans
to ship Texas Red to Fair Grounds for the Risen Star Stakes (gr. II) Feb. 21
and return for the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) April 4.
Meanwhile Lord Nelson and Rafael Bejarano held on for the
victory. The win, Lord Nelson's third in five starts, marked the son of Pulpit’s second
stakes win and first graded stakes win. A concern is the two races he lost came
at two turns: a fifth in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (gr. II) at Churchill
Downs and a fourth in the FrontRunner Stakes (gr. I) at Santa Anita Park.
Still, it seems like the breeding is there to handle two
turns. Trainer Bob Baffert said he thought he’d seen improvement in the works
before the San Vicente and then Lord Nelson backed that up with a victory. Perhaps
added maturity and experience will help him go longer?
Lord Nelson is from the second-last crop of the late A.P.
Indy sire Pulpit. Last year grandsons of Pulpit captured the three Triple Crown
races as California Chrome, by the California-based sire Lucky Pulpit, won the Derby
and Preakness Stakes (gr. I); while Tonalist, by leading sire Tapit, won the
Belmont Stakes (gr. I). Lucky Pulpit and Tapit are both sons of Pulpit.
Lord Nelson is the first starter for the Seeking the Gold
mare African Jade, who is a daughter of 2001 Overbrook Spinster Stakes (gr. I)
winner Miss Linda, a champion in Argentina. Miss Linda is a full sister to
Argentine grade I winner and champion miler Mr. Nancho and a half sister to
Argentine grade II winner Miss Mary.
By the way, surely it can't be much longer until the
talented Bejarano lands his first Triple Crown race win? To date the best
classic finishes for the five-time Breeders' Cup winner are a second aboard
Andromeda's Hero and a third on Sunriver in the 2005 and 2006 Belmont.
Triple Crown Trainers
Nearly Shut Out: I suppose when many trainers dream of winning a Triple
Crown race, the coda of those happy visions includes a full stable of
3-year-olds in the years after the breakthrough triumph. That hasn’t been the
case for last year’s classic-winning trainers.
Art Sherman and Christophe Clement, who each scored their
breakthrough Triple Crown race wins in 2014, have just one horse between the
two of them nominated to this year’s Triple Crown races.
Sherman, who saddled Perry Martin and Steve Coburn’s California
Chrome to victories in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, does not have a single
horse nominated. Clement, who sent out Belmont winner Tonalist for Robert S.
Evans, has just one horse nominated in Donegal Racing’s Brother O’Connell.
Still a maiden, Brother O’Connell made three turf starts
last year at Saratoga Race Course and Belmont Park, registering a runner-up
finish in his final start of the season.
Take Charge Brandi on
Oaks Path: After champion 2-year-old filly Take Charge Brandi won her
3-year-old debut in the Martha Washington Stakes Jan. 31 at Oaklawn Park, owner
Willis Horton hinted that the Derby could be in her future. While Take Charge
Brandi is one of 11 fillies nominated to the Triple Crown races, trainer D.
Wayne Lukas emphasized that she is being pointed to the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I).
Take Charge Brandi runnig in the Martha Washington Stakes.
Photo: Coady Photography
That is consistent with what Lukas told me last month for a Blood-Horse
magazine feature on fillies in the Derby. Lukas has started four fillies in the
Derby, including 1988 winner Winning Colors, but he’s leaning toward the Oaks
with Take Charge Brandi.
“As you get to the spring, you can evaluate your horse, the
fields, and who’s going where; but right now we’re pointing to the Oaks and
will probably stick with that,” Lukas said.
Don’t forget that because of the current Derby points
system, if Horton and Lukas were to change their minds and try the Derby, that
decision would have to be made in time to start Take Charge Brandi against
males in one of the points races. There are no points races exclusive to fillies
in the Road to the Kentucky Derby points system used to determine the Derby
field if more than 20 horses are entered.
Points Races: The
final weekend of January saw no Road to the Kentucky Derby points races. Good news: That
will be the final such weekend through its April 11 conclusion.
This weekend features a pair of points races Feb. 7 in
the $250,000 Withers Stakes (gr. III) at Aqueduct and the $200,000 Robert B.
Lewis Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita Park. Both races award points to the top
four placers: 10-4-2-1.
Expected to enter the 1 1/16-mile Withers is Zayat Stables’
El Kabeir, who will try for a third straight graded stakes win after closing 2014
with a victory in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill and opening this
year with a win in the Jerome Stakes (gr. III) at Aqueduct. Expected to make
his 2015 debut in the Robert B. Lewis is Kaleem Shah’s undefeated Dortmund, who
closed out his juvenile year with a win in the Los Alamitos Futurity (gr. I).