Creative Cause Mike Harrington
Giant's Causeway—Dream of Summer, by Siberian Summer
No one talks about him much, but he scores high marks in every category. In his three victories he’s never been touched with the whip. His lead change is so smooth you can barely see him do it. He had trouble in both losses, is bred to run all day, and is relentless in the stretch. He’s always running strongly at the wire, and is extremely consistent and versatile, having won at five furlongs and 1 1/16 miles. Earned 98 Beyer in debut. He seems to be more of a one-paced grinder who just keeps coming at you and does everything on his own, with little encouragement; the consummate pro. Private clocker report says his last work, a bullet 6 furlongs, was unimpressive, but he’s not known as an enthusiastic worker, and you can’t let a single work in January be a deterrent.
Union Rags Michael Matz
Dixie Union—Tempo, by Gone West
Believe he’s the most gifted colt seen so far, and is a deserving No. 1, except for his tendency to swerve out in the stretch; he was bad in Spa Special and BC Juvenile. But was all class in the Champagne, showing great athleticism. He has beautiful action and showed an excellent turn of foot in Juvenile, while racing very wide every step of the way. Was in front one step past the wire after losing all momentum ducking out in midstretch. Untapped ability and we’ll see if Matz can nurture him along, as he did with Barbaro.
Algorithms Todd Pletcher
Bernardini—Ava Knowsthecode, by Cryptoclearance
Like Creative Cause, this handsome, smooth-striding colt has no apparent weaknesses and does everything like a seasoned pro. Love the way he bounded away in the Holy Bull, while hugging the rail, under a hand ride. Undefeated in three starts, he seems to be improving with each performance. Got caught up in Hansen’s blistering :22 flat second quarter, going in :22 2/5, and still went his next quarter in :23 4/5. Everyone within 5 lengths paid the price except him. Earned a career-high 105 Beyer. Add a powerhouse pedigree and you’ve got one serious Derby horse.
El Padrino Todd Pletcher
Pulpit—Enchanted Rock, by Giant's Causeway
Whether the wet sealed track helped him, his allowance score at Gulfstream was as impressive visually as any 3-year-old race this year. Bounded past a classy stakes horse in Take Charge Indy, who finished 13 ¾ lengths ahead of the third horse, while earning a lofty 100 Beyer. Like Algorithms, he did it on his own without the whip, despite having to catch a good horse who had opened a huge lead on the turn, trying to bust the race open early. He’s already shown his class finishing a close third in the nine-furlong Remsen and looks like he still has improvement left in him. Only thing he still has to do is win on a fast track, but there is no doubt this is a quality horse.
Sabercat Steve Asmussen
Bluegrass Cat—Miner's Blessing, by Forty Niner
Last year, he was visually as impressive as anyone. Turned in an electrifying move in the Delta Jackpot and never broke stride despite being taken hold of when he almost ran up over horses. Showed quick turn of foot drawing off in Garden State romp. Likes to run his foes into the ground and put them away quickly, but also can be tenacious, as he showed out-battling the talented My Adonis in maiden race. He’s won three straight, all at a mile or longer. He just needs to improve his speed figures. He’s been galloping at Santa Anita and progressing beautifully for a March debut.
Liaison Bob Baffert
Indian Charlie—Galloping Gal, by Victory Gallop
Baffert loves these Silver Charm types who know how to win and do whatever they have to get it done. He’s not going to blow you away, but ask Rousing Sermon’s trainer Jerry Hollendorfer how tough it is to get by him. Liaison wouldn’t let this powerful stretch runner get by him in the Real Quiet, and although it looked like Rousing Sermon was getting to him in the CashCall Futurity, Liaison dug in and wouldn’t let him by in the gallop-out. Female family is loaded with stamina and traces back through five generations of Calumet Farm breeding to Bull Lea (twice) through Hall of Fame mares Real Delight and Twilight Tear. A big performance Saturday will move him up several places.
Out of Bounds Eoin Harty
Discreet Cat—Unbridled Elaine, by Unbridled's Song
He’s the “in” horse in California right now, but not as battle-tested as Liaison. By one of the most brilliant horses of recent years, out of a Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner, if there is a horse with tremendous scope for improvement it is this tall, long-striding winner of the Sham Stakes. He could be any kind. His Sham score was almost a carbon copy of his maiden victory, stalking a rapid pace in third or fourth and then running down the leaders in the final furlong with great determination. Not quite as agile as some of the others, but for a colt with his stride he is more than athletic enough. Sire was special and could be the next hot stallion.
Gemologist Todd Pletcher
Tiznow—Crystal Shard, by Mr. Prospector
It’s difficult to get a good line on him, especially with Timely Tally off the Derby trail with an injury. But this undefeated colt did beat a good one in Ever So Lucky in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes. A big, scopey colt, he’s unbeaten in two starts at Churchill Downs, has good tactical speed, and has to be taken seriously, at least until someone beats him. Like WinStar’s Derby winner Super Saver, he spent some time at the farm to freshen up, but has been back training for about a month. Another on a two-prep schedule.
Hansen Mike Maker
Tapit—Stormy Sunday, by Sir Cat
His first defeat in the Holy Bull over a sloppy, sealed track was not as much of a concern as the fact that he has yet to show he can rate off the pace. He charged to the lead in the Holy Bull after stumbling and never seemed to relax, scorching his second quarter in :22 flat. He’s still 3-for-4 with a second, and he’s going to win his share of major races, but he has to show he can conserve some of that raw speed and energy and settle better, even if it’s on the front end. He opened a big lead against some fast horses with early lick, indicating he was too fresh. His next start should tell us a lot more about him. Hate to put a champion with his speed and heart this far down, but he needs to show he’s not one dimensional.
Dullahan Dale Romans
Even the Score—Mining My Own, by Smart Strike
He really caught the eye in his Breeders’ Futurity score, winning despite losing a ton of ground and making a wide five-furlong sustained run. But it was his fourth in BC Juvenile on dirt that proved he was legitimate. Hopelessly out of it at the quarter pole, he made a strong, steady rally from last of 13 to hit the board. With his style of running he does need luck and needs to get faster, but he runs like he’s crying out for 1 ¼ miles. He’s very intriguing at 30-1 in Vegas, and could be enticing at a big price in the first Future Wager. Romans is going to win one of these and soon.
Discreet Dancer Todd Pletcher
Discreet Cat—West Side Dancer, by Gone West
Pletcher says he has “tremendous mechanics and great action” and he’s never seen the bottom of him. He feels there’s no telling how good he may be. He was spectacular in only two starts, but how far can he carry his speed? One big thing in his favor is that he has combined professionalism with his brilliance and has the right temperament; easy-going colt, just like his sire. Next start should tell how special he really is.
Alpha Kiaran McLaughlin
Bernardini—Munnaya, by Nijinsky
Throw out his BC Juvenile, in which he bled. If he can get over his antics in the gate he could be right up there with the best of them. Huge maiden score at Spa, strong second in Champagne, and impressive win in Count Fleet. After 6-length romp in maiden race under Darley colors he was upgraded to Godolphin blue. Like the way he was drawing off in the Count Fleet. He’ll try for graded money in Saturday’s re-positioned Withers Stakes.
Rousing Sermon Jerry Hollendorfer
Lucky Pulpit—Rousing Again, by Awesome Again
Forced to start off with a baker’s dozen. Cal-bred has a pedigree filled with top-class influences and has shown his ability several times, especially his two powerful seconds to Liaison. Unleashed powerful stretch run after going very wide in CashCall Futurity. He is one of three major contenders for Hollendorfer, who also has the late-running Russian Greek and Sham third-place finisher Longview Drive. He’ll try again to knock off Liaison in Saturday’s Robert B. Lewis Stakes.
Knocking At The Door
Sky Kingdom Bob Baffert
Empire Maker—Sky Beam, by Kingmambo
Likely will take on stablemate Liaison again in Robert Lewis Stakes after finishing 4th to him in CashCall. His last race was very impressive, winning while under wraps the length of the stretch and still drawing off to big win in dirt debut. He actually looked like he was galloping out the final three-sixteenths. He has a nice way of moving and a high cruising speed; was taken out of his running style when shuffled back to 10th in CashCall, yet still was only beaten 3 lengths. A big effort in Lewis will catapult him way up the list. Wouldn’t be surprised to see him win it all.
Ever So Lucky Jonathan Sheppard
Indian Charlie—Bally Storm, by Summer Squall
If you like Gemologist, you surely have to like this colt, who finished a game second to the WinStar colt in the Kentucky Jockey Club in only his second career start and first over 6 ½ furlongs. It would be great to see his trainer, the always dangerous Jonathan Sheppard, on the Derby trail for the first time. Pedigree just so-so for 10 furlongs, but if anyone can get him to go that far it’s Sheppard, especially considering the colt’s laid-back temperament. He’ll make his first start at 3 in the seven-furlong Hutcheson Stakes.
Fed Biz Bob Baffert
Giant's Causeway—Spunoutacontrol, by Wild Again
Highly promising colt who was impressive breaking his maiden, defeating Zackn’mat, who came back Sunday to break his maiden against a classy field. This colt gives all indications of being a runner.
Souper Speedy Tom Albertrani
Indian Charlie—Speed Succeeds, by Gone West
Not sure if he’ll stay 1 1/4 miles with his style of running, but he is one tough horse on the lead, and he did finish ahead of El Padrino in the 1 1/8-mile Remsen. He’s not an easy horse to get by in the stretch, and we’ll just have to see if he can be as effective coming from off the pace.
Rounding out the Top 25 are the first three finishers in the Lecomte, Mr. Bowling, Z Dager, and Shared Property; the most accomplished maiden in the country, Brother Francis; the late-running Russian Greek, winner of the Gold Rush and California Derby; My Adonis, who showed flashes of brilliance at 2 and made up 15 lengths in the Holy Bull to finish third; Take Charge Indy, who tried to bust Jan. 29 allowance race wide open with big early move, but couldn’t withstand El Padrino, while finishing nearly 14 lengths ahead of the third horse; and Smarty Jones winner Junebugred and runner-up Reckless Jerry. Other names to keep an eye on are Casual Trick and Consortium, who, assuming they came out their respective races sound, deserve another shot over a fast track; Empire Way, Reveron, Motor City, Longview Drive, Currency Swap, Neck n Neck, Spring Hill Farm, Prospective, King Kid, Big Blue Nation, Zackn’mat, Apprehender, Thunder Moccasin, Liberty Bound, Castaway, Ecabroni, Quick Wit, and Maritimer.
In Action Last WeekQuick Wit
, trained by Dale Romans, boosted Spring Hill Farm’s
status by breaking his maiden in impressive fashion after being drubbed by the Pletcher-trained colt in his previous start. First-time starter Apprehender
crushed a maiden field going 5 ½ furlongs at Oaklawn, winning by 7 ½ lengths and earning a 98 Beyer speed figure. By Posse, out of multiple stakes winner Missy’s Mirage, his pedigree is all speed, but maternal grandsire is Derby and Belmont winner Riva Ridge and maternal granddam, Grey Mirage, is a half-sister to NYRA Filly Triple Crown winner Dark Mirage. Has a lot of catching up to do. Although you can’t find fault with Zackn’mat’s
maiden score, watch out for runner-up Stirred Up
, who really caught the eye flying from last and galloping out well clear of the winner; Darley/McLaughlin unveiled another well-bred colt in Side Road
, a son of Street Cry who drew off to a four-length score in a mile maiden race at Aqueduct. Corporate Chapel
, coming in from Remington Park, upset a mile maiden event at Oaklawn, rallying from sixth to win by three-quarters of a length at 11-1. Beggarthyneighbor
shipped in to Laurel from New York to win the 6-furlong Dancing Count Stakes in 1:09 4/5 for Chad Brown.