Texas Red Keith Desormeaux
Afleet Alex—Ramatuelle, by Jeune Homme
(Late news) Foot abscess will keep him out of Risen Star and he will now point for the Santa Anita Derby with the Arkansas Derby as an alternative. Desormeaux said starting off at 7f just seemed right based on past experience, and he’s always been a believer in conditioning horses through training and racing, which supersedes winning percentage. He also remembers Unbridled beating Housebuster going 7f and doing it on class (in 1:21 4/5 in his first start after winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic). He said that race has always been etched in his mind, and that Texas Red had the build and personality to handle it.
American Pharoah Bob Baffert
Pioneerof the Nile—Littleprincessemma, by Yankee Gentleman
Baffert said the champ likely will make his 3-year-old debut in the March 14 Rebel Stakes. He turned in his second 3f work, going in :36 2/5 and galloping out a half-mile. As with the other horses making just two starts, there is no room for error and everything will have to go perfectly. We also have to see if he can win from off the pace, so there are still plenty of questions. He is only up this high because he may be freaky talented. His tail-female line is all Fred Hooper breeding and that is unlike any other family. It is an entity unto itself, and while many Hooper horses have been brilliant, they haven’t established any line of note.
Upstart Rick Violette
Flatter—Party Silks, by Touch Gold
Returned to the work tab with a half-mile breeze in :49 2/5 at Palm Meadows. No more revelations regarding this talented colt. We are all well aware of what he is and what he’s capable of achieving. He has all the tools and appears to be much farther advanced than the others in Florida, as he heads for the Fountain of Youth Stakes. Violette just has to maintain his high level and still have him peaking on Derby Day. The Holy Bull gives him an excellent foundation of speed to go along with his big performances last year, so even a slight regression in the Fountain of Youth would be nothing to be concerned about. It’s after that race that the big buildup begins and he’s almost there already.
Dortmund Bob Baffert
Big Brown —Our Josephina, by Tale of the Cat
He looked for sure like he was beaten turning for home and through the upper stretch in the Robert Lewis, as he appeared to have nothing more to give, but he somehow battled back while being pinned down close to the rail under a furious ride from Garcia. The gap of 21 lengths to third tells you how good he and Firing Line are. Final time of 1:42 1/5 actually compares quite favorably with Shared Belief’s time in the San Antonio, and although they came home in a so-so :31 2/5 for the final five-sixteenths, they ran the three-quarters two full seconds faster than the San Antonio. So did Dortmund really get re-energized or did he just stay on off that fast three-quarters better than Firing Line? You had to love how perfectly straight he ran so close to the rail. He also had a bit of a rough start, getting bumped from both sides. He’s now beaten Firing Line winning from the far outside over a tight Quarter Horse track and from the inside, coming back from certain defeat, and he’s won decisively twice and he’s won in photos twice, over three different racetracks on both ends of the country. A big, long-striding colt, he is learning and maturing with every race and has proven to be as versatile a young colt as we’ve seen in a while. He does, however, have a lot of speed in his pedigree, and although Big Brown won the Derby, he was by a sprinting sire, but was a total freak.
Carpe Diem Todd Pletcher
Giant's Causeway—Rebridled Dreams, by Unbridled’s Song
His 5f breeze in :59 2/5 indicates he should be razor-sharp in his debut in the Tampa Bay Derby. Pletcher has six of the 23 horses on the Derby Future Wager, in addition to Withers winner Far From Over. Those seven horses have made a grand total of 15 career starts. That’s basically two starts per horse. Welcome to the new Derby trail. Each year, Pletcher dominates the Derby trail with his army of lightly raced horses, so we’ll see how it plays out come Derby time. This colt has a ton of class and a good foundation under him and shouldn’t need much to get him Derby tested. But like many of the others, he can’t afford to have any setbacks, even a minor one.
Firing Line Simon Callaghan
Line of David—Sister Girl Blues, by Hold For Gold
Gary Stevens says he moved too soon on him and thought for sure he had Dortmund beat, and was surprised to see the winner come back and beat him. He did break a little slowly, giving up some position early. It’s hard to fault his performance, but still not sure how far he wants to go. Again, did Dortmund actually battle back or did Firing Line start coming back to him at the end after three-quarters in a testing 1:10 3/5? As well as he ran, you never want to see a major Derby hopeful allow a horse to come back at him to the extent that Dortmund did. He has a number of classy 1 1/8-mile horses throughout his pedigree, but there are a number of speed influences, from Lion Heart, Tale of the Cat, Capote, Red Ransom, and Conquistador Cielo. He is from a strong tail-female line tracing to the super mare Kamar, and his sire and dam did win the Arkansas Derby and Hollywood Oaks, so there is plenty of class in his pedigree. Stevens said he’ll ride him differently next time and we’ll see if he can move forward off this effort, stretching out another sixteenth of a mile.
Far From Over Todd Pletcher
Blame—Alchemist, by A.P. Indy
This may seem to be an overreaction to his remarkable effort in the Withers Stakes, but this regally bred ridgling has accomplished so much in two career starts he probably has the experience of a seasoned battle-tested horse. He not only overcame a bad stumble at the start, he beat two very good horses. What he has going for him is having two two-turn races, one at 2, and he’s shown both times what a warrior he is. That’s a lot of quick maturing for a May 9 foal. And he still has a lot to learn. In his maiden race, he hopped at the start, battled head and head with a 9-5 shot, alternating back and forth for the lead, put him away and looked ripe for the kill turning for home. But he found more when the 8-5 favorite eyeballed him and refused to let him by, despite jumping back to his left lead after shying from a cocked whip and bouncing off the rail. In the Withers, he dropped 11 lengths back after his stumble, charged up the inside, came between horses, and then outside the two leaders in the stretch, flying home in a brilliant :23 4/5 and :06 1/5, despite jumping back to his left lead. His pedigree is so star-studded, we’ll save that for next week. All in all, this is a racehorse who has proven so much in two starts you have to admire the fact that he wins in spite of his immaturity.
Lord Nelson Bob Baffert
Pulpit—African Jade, by Seeking the Gold
Many are dismissing him as a one-turn horse, but his two two-turn defeats are more than excusable. How can anyone hold it against him for finishing fourth in a grade I stakes, 1 3/4 lengths behind Texas Red, coming off only one 5f maiden race on Poyltrack? And he had a horrible trip in the Ky. Jockey Club, stumbling at the start and having to race wide the entire way, while being forced 7-wide at the head of the stretch. He may not look like your typical American stayer, but he is more typical of a classic Argentine horse and he is such an efficient mover there is no reason why he won’t stay going long. With his classic Argentine breeding through eight generations, we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and wait to see what he does when he stretches back out again, likely in the San Felipe.
Imperia Kiaran McLaughlin
Medaglia D'Oro—Cocoa Beach, by Doneraile Court
This had become more of an Imperia—Frosted report, as it’s difficult not lumping both these colts together. But it’s time for Imperia to stand on his own now that Frosted has earned his own place. Imperia looks to have a bit more upside at this point, and a little more turn of foot and should come out running in the Risen Star Stakes, where he likely will face Texas Red and we’ll see who handles that long stretch the best. Imperia still is not being asked for speed in the morning, breezing 5f in 1:02 2/5, but that was over a track that was dead following the break. He’s made great strides since his career debut, going straight into the grade III Pilgrim Stakes and winning by a length with a powerful burst of speed in the stretch. Although his narrow defeat in the Kentucky Jockey Club in his dirt debut looks strong on paper, he will have to improve off that effort and show the closing power he did in the Pilgrim. There is still plenty of room for improvement and his debut should be very revealing.
Ocean Knight Kiaran McLaughlin
Curlin—Ocean Goddess, by Stormy Atlantic
He is becoming a buzz horse, as everyone is raving about his Sam F. Davis win, and rightly so, as he proved a lot in that race. The Sam F. Davis is an important prep in that it allows a horse to return for the Tampa Derby and then have his big final Derby prep four weeks later, so he is on a good schedule for a lightly raced horse that should have him in peak condition on Derby Day, especially if he continues to move forward at the rate he has this winter. His strength is his great mind. Nothing bothers him and he just goes out there and gets the job done, whether it’s at 6f at Aqueduct or 1 1/16 miles at Tampa. His female family is rather mundane, but does trace to Native Dancer, through Dancer’s Image, as well as Tom Fool and Gallant Man.
Ocho Ocho Ocho James Cassidy
Street Sense– Winner, by Horse Chestnut
After a sharp half-mile work in :47 3/5, he came back with an easy half in :49 4/5 as he prepares for the San Felipe Stakes. There is a lot to like about this colt, especially his versatility and his ability to use his speed at any point in the race, as he showed in the Delta Jackpot. He can sprint with the best of them, battling on the lead in a blazing :43 4/5 or go two turns, and he’s shown the ability to make several moves and adjust quickly to what others do. I like the way he moves and the way he carries himself, and am expecting a big performance first time out. And remember, he has as strong a pedigree top and bottom as you’ll see on the Derby trail.
Frosted Kiaran McLaughlin
Tapit—Fast Cookie, by Deputy Minister
He’s earned his own placing after a razor-sharp half-mile breeze in :47 2/5 that was described as “breathtaking.” You always have to love it when they come out of a big race and work lights out. He came out of the Holy Bull as if he hadn’t run and was yelling for his dinner the next day. To show how strong a work this was, it was the fastest of 63 works at the distance. He had everything against him in the Holy Bull, from a severe bumping incident at the start, in which he got creamed from the outside from a chain reaction of bumps, the pedestrian pace (:48 4/5 and 1:12 2/5), to the short stretch that didn’t do him any favors, playing right into the hands of Upstart, who stalked that slow pace throughout. He has to get rid of his bridesmaid role, finishing second in four of his five starts, but we should see a different horse in the Fountain of Youth. If he continues to move forward and be right there in every race, he could prove to be a Giacomo type, who keeps making baby strides and then puts it all together on Derby Day.
Knocking At The Door
DAREDEVIL and COMPETITIVE EDGE no doubt are top-class horses, but I’m going the wait-and-see route until we find out which one, if not both, debut in the Swale Stakes, which would suggest they will remain around one turn. Right now it looks as if the Swale is definite for Daredevil, while Pletcher is still undecided about where Competitive Edge will debut. And remember, when Competitive Edge does return, he will be coming off a six-month layoff, raising the question of how fit Pletcher can get him for the Derby in only two starts. Daredevil has proven he’s a top-class colt, but if he does run in the Swale, it is unlikely he will have enough distance foundation, with only one two-turn race, to be competitive going 1 1/4 miles on the first Saturday in May. Competitive Edge has the pedigree to go long, so we’ll see where he debuts before thinking about putting him back in the top 12. Daredevil breezed 5f in a sharp :59 3/5, while Competitive Edge went the same distance in 1:00 1/5.
Pletcher said the undefeated BLOFELD is almost ready to start galloping, so the chances of him being a Derby horse appear slim at best.
While on the Pletcher parade, undefeated ITSAKNOCKOUT breezed 5f in 1:00 1/5. The son of Lemon Drop Kid has shown a lot, but needs to be tested for class, especially after his stablemate G FIVE, who finished third to him in his last start, came back and finished last, beaten nearly 58 lengths, in the Sam F. Davis. We’ll obviously know more about him after his next start in the Fountain of Youth, where he’ll likely face Upstart, Frosted, and other class horses, unless, of course, Upstart waits for the Florida Derby.
Pletcher’s MADEFROMLUCKY, a recent purchase by Cheyenne Stables, made his debut for his new trainer a winning one, as he captured an allowance/optional claimer in workmanlike fashion in 1:52 for 1 1/8 miles as the 1-5 favorite. We really didn’t learn too much about the colt, except he still has to prove he has what it takes to be a legitimate contender on the Derby trail.
CYRUS ALEXANDER responded to blinkers by finally breaking his maiden for Jerry Hollendorder, and he did it impressively, going four-wide on the first turn, stalking the pace, and then drawing off to win by almost four lengths. A $1.7 million yearling purchase, the half-brother to Super Saver by Medaglia d’Oro still is a bit awkward, running with his head high, switching to his left lead in the final eighth, and veering in toward the rail. Although the blinkers have no doubt helped him focus and put away his rivals, he still has to smooth out the rough edges.
Another maiden winner of note was DANZIG MOON, who won off by almost five lengths at Gulfstream for Mark Casse as the 3-2 favorite. The son of Malibu Moon did it the right way, racing between horses early, pouncing on the leaders four-wide on the far turn and drawing clear quickly to win under a steady hand ride, suggesting he has a bright future. He had been working bullets at Palm Meadows and was making his first start since an excellent second-place finish going a mile at Churchill Downs. This is solid Phipps breeding on the bottom, tracing to Wheatley Stable’s great producer Grey Flight. This looks like a colt you’ll be hearing more from. Danzig Moon’s time of 1:38 for the mile was a fifth faster than LIEUTENANT COLONEL, who won the other division by a head in his career debut for Chad Brown.
So, while the familiar names in Florida point for their respective stakes, watch out for late developers like Danzig Moon and GORGEOUS BIRD, who look ready to make their presence felt. They just need to show they are fast enough to compete with the top horses.
INTERNATIONAL STAR, who I have ranked No. 13 right now, breezed 5f in 1:01 3/5 at Gulfstream Park for Mike Maker. If he returns to Fair Grounds for the Risen Star he will face much better quality horses than he did in the LeComte.
An exciting new contender on the Derby trail, PROSPECT PARK, ranked at No. 14, returned to the work tab with an easy half-mile breeze in :51 2/5. Yes, he needs to face better quality horses, but visually he was as impressive as any 3-year-old seen at Santa Anita this winter. He also was flattered by Cyrus Alexander, a horse he beat two races back and who was impressive breaking his maiden Saturday with first-time blinkers. Prospect Park has won both his starts since blinkers were removed.
Smarty Jones Stakes winner FAR RIGHT tuned up for next week’s Southwest Stakes by breezing a half in :49 flat. Also working for the Southwest was MR. Z, who went 5f in 1:01 for Wayne Lukas.
At Fair Grounds, TIZNOW R J, third in the LeComte Stakes following a 13 1/4-length maiden romp, turned in sharp six-furlong work in 1:11 4/5 breezing for trainer Steve Asmussen. There’s no reason why this son of Tiznow should not go on to bigger and better things with the LeComte under his belt
California Derby winner CROSS THE LINE worked 6f in 1:15 2/5 at Golden Gate for the El Camino Real Derby. At Aqueduct, the brilliant maiden winner LEHIGH FIVE, who got started too late to be considered a serious Derby contender, breezed a half in :48 3/5 for Rick Violette.
View all Kentucky Derby point earners here.
View the results and points from all Kentucky Derby prep races here.