Texas Red Keith Desormeaux
Afleet Alex—Ramatuelle, by Jeune Homme
Other than not winning, you couldn’t have asked for a better debut. This race will do him a world of good in the long run, and you had to love the way he split horses and how he was striding out at the end, coming home his final eighth in :11 4/5 and final three-eighths in :35 flat off a pace that was on the slow side for these kinds of horses. And he was beaten by a very good horse who you’ll be hearing a lot from this spring. This was not Texas Red’s game at all and even with the power he demonstrated in the Breeders’ Cup, it’s always reassuring when they can duplicate that big turn of foot as a 3-year-old, especially at a distance that’s far from their best. And remember, Desormeaux hasn’t turned the screws on him in the mornings, and there was no way he was anywhere near 100 percent fit and tight going into this race. This should set him up beautifully for his return to two turns, likely in the Risen Star at Fair Grounds.
American Pharoah Bob Baffert
Pioneerof the Nile—Littleprincessemma, by Yankee Gentleman
Returned to the work tab with an easy 3f breeze in :36 1/5 with jockey Martin Garcia aboard. Great to see him finally back in action, and judging from the photos posted on the Internet, he looks spectacular. Question now is how far he can carry his speed and whether he can rate off the pace. Great Grandsire Ecliptical is a half-brother to the dam of Preakness winner Codex, Oaklawn Handicap winner Eminency, and $960,000 earner Talakeno, a long-distance grass horse. Traces to the best of Fred Hooper blood – Tri Jet , winner of the Whitney in track-record time and Hawthorne Gold Cup, and Crozier, winner of the Santa Anita Handicap, second in the Kentucky Derby to Carry Back, and the sire of Hall of Famer Precisionist.
Upstart Rick Violette
Flatter—Party Silks, by Touch Gold
It would seem that starting out with a 105 Beyer doesn’t give him much of a ceiling to work with and you always have to worry about peaking too early. But his 102 Beyer in the Champagne gives him the necessary foundation of speed to all but assure there is still ample room for improvement. With his abundance of stamina on both sides of his pedigree and the speed to win from 5 1/2 furlongs to 1 1/16 miles, while never running slower than an 85 Beyer, there isn’t much more you can ask for from a Derby prospect. Violette saw his star 3-year-old Read the Footnotes gutted in his 3-year-old debut in 2004, taking a major toll in the Derby, and you can bet he’s not going to let that happen with Upstart, who is the only 3-year-old at this point with no more questions to answer. He is Derby-ready and Violette just has to keep him there.
Dortmund Bob Baffert
Big Brown —Our Josephina, by Tale of the Cat
He could vault right up near the top of everyone’s ranking with an impressive score over a top-class field in Saturday’s Robert Lewis Stakes. But he’ll have to move forward off his narrow victory in the Los Alamitos Futurity, which was not conducive to such a big long-striding horse. His grandsires, Boundary and Tale of the Cat, are known more for their speed than stamina, and his dam was a sprinter, but sire Big Brown was a freak up to 1 1/4 miles; second dam is a half-sister to Champagne winner Mogambo, who placed in four grade I stakes; and third dam, Lakeville Miss, won the 1 1/2-mile Coaching Club American Oaks and was a stakes winner routing and sprinting.
Firing Line Simon Callaghan
Line of David—Sister Girl Blues, by Hold For Gold
It’s hard to imagine he’s not going to move forward off his gutsy second in the Los Alamitos Futurity, stretching out to two turns for the first time. For the Lewis he gets Gary Stevens, who is a perfect fit for a horse with Firing Line’s tactical speed. He had an easy 5f breeze in 1:02 3/5, and look for him to settle just behind the pace, regardless how fast they go up front. He appears to be extremely adaptable and has shown a professionalism beyond his years and limited number of races. He’s fast and he’s tough; we just have to see about getting the mile and a quarter.
Carpe Diem Todd Pletcher
Giant's Causeway—Rebridled Dreams, by Unbridled’s Song
Pletcher, as usual, has more horses nominated for the Triple Crown than most trainers have in their entire stable. If he’s going to improve on his 1-for-40 Derby record, one would think this is the year, with this colt heading an assault team loaded with distance pedigrees and unlimited potential. He continues to train well, breezing a half in :48 2/5, and as mentioned last week, he appears to have all the tools, the right mechanics, and an overall look of class about him. His pedigree is geared more toward 1 1/8 miles, but his many attributes should help him stretch out. WinStar and Stonestreet make a powerful team, loaded with good karma, and while this isn’t your California Chrome or Smarty Jones Cinderella story it would be an appropriate victory for two fan-friendly establishments who go about things the right way.
Lord Nelson Bob Baffert
Pulpit—African Jade, by Seeking the Gold
Have felt all along this was a real sleeper, and although he’s unbeaten sprinting and 0-for-2 around two turns, he had no shot in those two longer races and I still feel he is going to love the classic distances, especially with eight generations of Argentine classic blood in his pedigree. Second dam Miss Linda won the Argentine Oaks at 1 3/8 miles and was champion 3-year-old filly in Argentina. Miss Linda’s sire Southern Halo was the leading sire in Argentina eight times and sired 120 stakes winners. He also was second in the 1 1/4-mile Super Derby in the United States. Third dam Miss Peggy was the Broodmare of the Year in Argentina, and her sire Fitzcarraldo finished second, third, and fourth in the Argentine Triple Crown, while Fitzcarraldo’s sire Cipayo won the Argentine 2,000 Guineas and was second in the Argentine Derby. Fourth dam Miss Bimba was a group II winner in Argentina whose granddam Bambuca won 13 of 19 starts and never finished out of the money. This family also traces to the mare Juventas, winner of the group I Gran Premio 25 de Mayo, Argentina’s most prestigious weight-for-age race. So don’t think for a second that Lord Nelson is just a sprinter. Oh, yes, he’s also inbred 4x5 to major classic influence Buckpasser. And let’s not forget his final eighth in :12 flat and the big difference in ground loss compared to Texas Red.
Imperia Kiaran McLaughlin
Medaglia D'Oro—Cocoa Beach, by Doneraile Court
Still finding it difficult separating him from Frosted and now Ocean Knight in the McLaughlin hierarchy. Imperia seems to have a better turn of foot, although I’d like to see a bit more explosiveness than what he showed from the quarter pole to the eighth pole in the Kentucky Jockey Club. Turned in a 5f breeze in 1:01 3/5 at Palm Meadows and appears to be progressing nicely toward debut. McLaughlin could send either him or Frosted to New York for the Gotham Stakes and point the other to the Fountain of Youth. He has Ocean Knight on course for the Tampa Bay Derby. Imperia also has a big effort over the Churchill Downs surface if that means anything. He appears to be solid and dependable and I’m looking forward to seeing how he’s made the transition from 2 to 3.
Ocean Knight Kiaran McLaughlin
Curlin—Ocean Goddess, by Stormy Atlantic
McLaughlin drew his third ace when this lightly raced colt took a big step forward by winning the Sam F. Davis Stakes like a seasoned pro, despite having only one six-furlong maiden race over the Aqueduct inner track and breaking from the 11-post, then having to race wide the entire race. To accomplish this by defeating two talented house horses who were in top form and had been training over this quirky surface all winter shows that this is no ordinary horse. Normally I would be reluctant to put such a lightly raced horse in the Top 12, who likely will have only four career starts going into the Kentucky Derby, but he got a lot out of this race and always seemed to be in control, suggesting he is far more advanced and professional than his number of starts might indicate. He methodically wore down a real nice horse in Divining Rod, who was getting Lasix for the first time, and although the margin was only a neck, he looked like a winner the entire length of the stretch, coming home his final sixteenth in a hair under :06 2/5 and covering the 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.74, the second fastest running ever of the Sam F. Davis. And the runner-up finished five lengths ahead of a horse who was coming off a 14 1/2-length win over this track.
Competitive Edge Todd Pletcher
Super Saver—Magdalena’s Chase, by Cape Town
Continues to train forwardly, breezing a half in :49 1/5 and then following it up with a half in :48 2/5. He is another lightly raced horse, and he still has to prove himself going two turns. But once he does, he will climb up the rankings. He still may be as talented as any of them, based on what we saw last year, and it is important to remember that he is bred for longer distances. It’s just a question of where Pletcher will bring him back. He mentioned early March, again giving him only two Derby preps and only four career starts. It just seems as if there are so many Derby hopefuls these days who are left with very little room for error, having to depend on everything going perfectly. With only two starts, like the others in the same boat, he better get a lot out of both of them. A cakewalk in an allowance race won’t do him much good. Perhaps a race like the Gotham would suit him well, but with not a lot of foundation getting to the Derby.
Ocho Ocho Ocho James Cassidy
Street Sense– Winner, by Horse Chestnut
Turned in a sharp half-mile drill in :47 3/5 and should be razor-sharp for his return. This is a fast, versatile colt who can blaze 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:02 4/5 or 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:14 2/5 or beat you in a street fight going 1 1/16 miles on a bullring track. And he can use his speed anywhere in the race. And even though he’s won going short in rapid times he is bred for distance, and his great-granddam is Hall of Famer Personal Ensign. We’ll just have to wait and see if he can overcome his name, regardless of its derivation.
International Star Mike Maker
Fusaichi Pegasus—Parlez, by French Deputy
Still has a lot of kinks to work out. He has to have set a record for the most lead changes in the stretch during his career, and he was all over the place in the Lecomte. But he does have the ability, pedigree, and toughness you want to see. He ran into traffic problems twice in the stretch of the Lecomte, but finally was able to ease out for room and blew by his opponents before drawing off. But he was a mess in the stretch, shying from the whip, veering in and out and, as usual, changing leads every few strides. What I love most is his versatility, having won on grass, synthetic, and dirt, and his pedigree, being inbred to Elmendorf’s tough Speak John and also to the fiery Halo, a son of Hail to Reason, out of the great Cosmah. Also love great-grandsire Verbatim, a son of Speak John, for speed, toughness, and slop. Verbatim’s dam is by Never Say Die, winner of the English Derby and St. Leger. He’s almost there if he can get his act together.
Knocking At The Door
Racing fans are starting to get uneasy again after the early defections from the Derby trail of Sham Stakes winner CALCULATOR, Remsen Stakes winner LEAVE THE LIGHT ON, and Hutcheson Stakes winner BARBADOS on consecutive days. The ultimate déjà vu is seeing horses drop off the Derby trail this time of the year, and most fans now come to expect it. It is wondering who is next that makes everyone apprehensive and reluctant to latch onto a horse emotionally and monetarily. But still we do it every year.
I reluctantly decided to drop DAREDEVIL off the Top 12 after finding out that the colt’s 3-year-old debut likely will come in the seven-furlong Swale Stakes Feb. 28. Although I love to see a proven classy 2-year-old make his 3-year-old debut in a sprint, as Texas Red did, I have serious concerns when that sprint comes so late that it prevents a horse from having more than one two-turn race before the Derby. If Daredevil does run in the Swale, and knowing how Pletcher likes to space his races out, it seems logical to deduce that the colt will be able to have only one two-turn race before the Derby. So perhaps Pletcher feels this might be a one-turn horse. If not, then the colt is in danger of not having a proper foundation to go 1 1/4 miles. As much as I like this colt, we’ll just have to wait and see what transpires.
DIVINING ROD, a gutsy second in the Sam F. Davis, was making only his third career start and did break his maiden in his career debut going a mile at Laurel, which is not an easy task. The son of Tapit has plenty of stamina in his female family and should only improve off this effort.
What to make of the 96Rock Stakes winner THE GREAT WAR, who looked awesome visually, winning by 7 1/4 lengths over Turfway’s Polytrack, but we still have no idea how far he can carry his speed? Previously trained by Aidan O’Brien before being turned over to Wesley Ward, the son of War Front has made nine career starts and eight of them have been at 6 1/2 furlongs or shorter. He has a ton of early lick away from the gate and ran a huge race when finishing fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in his only two-turn race, finishing only 1 3/4 lengths behind Carpe Diem and Upstart for the place. And he did it despite not changing leads at all. He was a bit late changing at Turfway, but was much better this time, and his stride down the stretch was flawless, as he ran as straight as a horse can run. All we can do now is wait for the Spiral Stakes, which he looks at this point to have at his mercy and see where he goes from there. We know Ward can train for speed as well as any trainer in the country, and this colt is quick out of the gate. But getting them to carry their speed 1 1/4 miles is another matter,
If you’re looking for a horse who is improving rapidly and at the right time, keep a close eye on PROSPECT PARK, who in the long run may help ease owner/breeder Marty and Pam Wygod’s pain of selling Shared Belief. The son of Tapit took four races to break his maiden and then did so in courageous fashion by turning back several challenges from both sides in a gutsy effort. Trainer Clifford Sise brought him back in a one-mile allowance/optional claimer and we saw a colt who no doubt has made tremendous strides over the past month. Prospect Park did everything the right way and had to overcome traffic problems on the turn, in which he had to steady very slightly along the inside and wait patiently for something to open up. When a seam opened between horses, he shot through and was gone in a flash, winning off by 5 1/4 lengths under wraps with his ears pricked for the final 100 yards. He came home his final two eighths in :12 1/5 (:24 2/5) to complete the mile in a sharp 1:35 3/5. The only thing preventing him from possibly cracking the top 12 is that he didn’t beat much, with the 1-2 favorite The Gomper finishing fourth of five after encountering traffic problems on the first turn. But visually I loved what I saw.
A half-brother to grade I Santa Anita Oaks winner Silent Sighs and grade II Milady and Encino winner Proposed (both full sisters owned and bred by Wygod), there are several other aspects of his pedigree I absolutely love. He has the RF (Rasmussen Factor), being inbred to the top broodmare Foggy Note as well as In Reality. And he is inbred to French-bred Le Fabuleux, one of the greatest stamina influences in the world. Also, his tail-female family traces in the fifth generation to top-quality horses bred in France, Ireland, Germany, and Chile. So, if you’re looking for a new face who is moving forward the right way and has a super pedigree, this is a colt to follow. Now he just needs to be tested for class, which is always the big step.
MADEFROMLUCKY, who broke his maiden by almost five lengths at Gulfstream Dec. 23, has been purchased by Everett Dodson’s Cheyenne Stables from Mac Nichol and turned over to, who else, Todd Pletcher. Although the son of Lookin At Lucky was hard-ridden a long way out, having to be asked on the far turn, he does have huge room for improvement and a female family to die for. His dam, Home From Oz, is a full-sister to mega-sire Tapit. His second dam, Tap Your Heels (by Unbridled), is a three-quarter sister to champion sprinter Rubiano. His third dam, Ruby Slippers, is a half-sister to multiple stakes winner Glitterman, sire of five millionaires. And his fourth dam, Moon Glitter (by In Reality), is a full-sister to major stamina and slop influence Relaunch. In his female family are two American Triple Crown winners and an English Triple Crown winner, in addition to two other Kentucky Derby winners and a Belmont Stakes winner.
While on the Pletcher parade, two of his other up-and-comers, ITSAKNOCKOUT and MATERIALITY, both turned in solid breezes in 1:01 1/5 and 1:01 2/5, respectively.
One of Pletcher’s more interesting colts is J S BACH, who broke his maiden by 8 1/2 lengths at Gulfstream Jan. 17. Breeder Donald Dizney tried twice to sell the son of Tale of the Cat at public auction, but was forced to keep him after he was bought back for $85,000 at the Keeneland September yearling sale and was withdrawn from the Fasig-Tipton March 2-year-old sale. Although his sire is not known for stamina, what I love about his pedigree is his 3x4 RF (Rasmussen Factor) inbreeding to Claiborne Farm’s great mare Narrate through her daughters, full sisters Yarn, dam of Tale of the Cat, and Preach, dam of Pulpit, who is J S Bach’s broodmare sire. There is also stamina from tail-female influences Damascus, Numbered Account, and Key to the Mint. He’s a very efficient mover with good extension and Pletcher is now looking to move him up in the Fountain of Youth as his next possible start.
Leave the Light On’s trainer Chad Brown is hoping his maiden winner MARCH can get him back on the Derby trail when he saddles the son of Blame in next weekend’s Withers Stakes at Aqueduct. Two big names in the Withers are EL KABEIR and CLASSY CLASS. El Kabeir made great strides in his last start, learning to rate and overcoming significant ground loss. It's just a question of how far he wants to go. Classy Class could be a sleeper, making his debut after a fourth in the Remsen Stakes.
Smarty Jones winner FAR RIGHT returned to the Oaklawn work tab, breezing five furlongs in 1:02 1/5. At Parx Racing, Jerome runner-up NASA had an easy five-furlong breeze in 1:03 4/5.
View all Kentucky Derby point earners here.
View the results and points from all Kentucky Derby prep races here.