Good Magic Chad Brown
Curlin—Glinda the Good, by Hard Spun
He’s starting to get serious, breezing a half in a bullet :48 2/5 at Palm Meadows, fastest of 37 works at the distance. He has a solid enough pedigree. By a two-time Horse of the Year, out of a stakes-winning mare, his broodmare sire Hard Spun was a grade 1 winner who was second in the Kentucky Derby, BC Classic, and Haskell. Second dam is half-sister to a multiple grade 1 winner and third dam is a half-sister to Jersey Derby winner Avie’s Copy. Looks like it will be the Fountain of Youth and Florida Derby, so like most big-name Derby horses these days, we have to sit back and wait to see what the 3-year-old model looks like. He’s not the strongest No. 1 we’ve ever seen, because he’s only won one race, but what he has accomplished in only three races has been remarkable, so we really don’t know what we are dealing with. And will see Saturday how the Champagne Stakes form holds up, with Firenze Fire and Enticed running in stakes.
Bolt d’Oro Mick Ruis
Medaglia d'Oro—Globe Trot, by A.P. Indy
Many people, including his connections, feel he was robbed in the Eclipse voting, considering his overall resume, and right after, Corey Nakatani was replaced by Javier Castellano, most likely because Nakatani had lost so much ground on both turns that could have cost him the race and the Eclipse Award. But awards are old news as far as the Derby is concerned. What is important now is that he returned to the work tab following his pulled muscle, breezing 3 furlongs in :36 4/5. A Kentucky Derby victory would make the Eclipse snub insignificant and long forgotten. But he did miss his intended debut, which is never a good thing, because it means he is now on a revamped schedule. It may turn out to have absolutely no bearing on the Derby and he’ll be able to thrive just as well with only the San Felipe and Santa Anita Derby under him. If both he and Good Magic march through their preps without any problem and head to Louisville in top shape, it could set up an interesting East-West, Breeders’ Cup grudge match.
Catholic Boy Jonathan Thomas
More Than Ready—Song of Bernadette, by Bernardini
Shipped to Tampa Bay to get a work over the track before the Feb. 10 Sam F. Davis Stakes and turned in a solid 1:01 breeze, second fastest of 22 works at the distance. Not looking for anything spectacular from him with all those two-turn races on dirt and grass under him, but needs to be closing and get a lot out of the race. Some feel More Than Ready will restrict him stretching out to 1 1/4 miles, but the feeling here is that the stamina comes from the dam, and speedballs Boundary and Elusive Quality didn’t hamper their sons Big Brown and Smarty Jones from getting the distance. In addition. More Than Ready has sired his share of long distance horses in Australia. His progression of stallions in his female family reads like this: Bernardini, Seeking the Gold, Nijinsky, and the top-class English stayer Court Harwell. His second dam, grade 3 winner Winner’s Edge, is a half-sister to Park Hill Stakes winner and Lancashire Oaks runner-up Lucky Song, high-weighted filly at 1 3/4 miles and longer on the European Handicap, and his fourth dam, La Sevillana, was the 2-year-old and 3-year-old champion in Argentina and winner of the Argentine Oaks and 2,000 Guineas. Pedigree is no concern. With owner Bob LaPenta on a major roll, Thomas is quick to point out the team effort that has contributed to his success and what a key role racing manager John Panagot plays.
McKinzie Bob Baffert
Street Sense—Runway Model, by Petionville
His female family is not going to blow you away, but he has a solid enough pedigree to go along with his speed, class, and raw talent to suggest 1 1/4 miles will be no problem. As we know, his sire won the Kentucky Derby and Travers and his dam captured the Alcibiades and Golden Rod and placed in the BC Juvenile Fillies. His broodmare sire won the Louisiana Derby and Ohio Derby, and although not a big-name stallion, did sire Alabama winner Island Fashion, who was second in the Santa Anita Handicap and placed I five other grade 1 stakes. Petionville also sired the speed Two Step Salsa, who was brilliant from 6 furlongs to 1 1/16 miles, winning the grade 1 Godolphin Mile. No plans have been set yet, but by winning the Sham Stakes I January, he can now freshen up until his two final preps, which could come in the San Felipe Stakes and Santa Anita Derby. but we’ll have to see what plans Baffert has for Solomini and whoever else emerges,. It looks like Mourinho will continue to ship to Oaklawn, having already had success there.
Instilled Regard Jerry Hollendorfer
Arch—Enhancing, by Forestry
Drilled a sharp half in :47 4/5 in his first work since the Le Comte Stakes. It will be interesting to see if Hollendorfer sends him back to Fair Grounds for the Risen Star Stakes or keeps him at Santa Anita. What this colt has accomplished in his last two starts stamps him as a serious Derby contender. As for pedigree, this one is out of the park. We know that Arch, winner of the 1 1/4-mile, grade 1 Super Derby and sire of BC Classic winner Blame, can sire horses who can run all day. Instilled Regard’s second dam, Alabama and Beldame winner Heavenly Prize, earned nearly $2 million for the Phipps family, winning or placing in 14 grade 1 stakes, and finished a fast-closing third to Cigar in the Donn Handicap. Instilled Regard’s third- and fourth-generation sires reads like a Who’s Who: Storm Cat, Seeking the Gold, Storm Bird, Pleasant Colony, Mr. Prospector, and Nijinsky. His third dam, out of the stakes-winning Riva Ridge mare Blitey, is a sister to Suburban Handicap and Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Dancing Spree and two other grade 1 winners, and Blitey’s dam, Lady Pitt, by Horse of the Year Sword Dancer, was champion 3-year-old filly, winning the CCA Oaks, Mother Goose, and Delaware Oaks. So good luck finding a stronger pedigree top and bottom.
Enticed Kiaran McLaughlin
Medaglia d'Oro—It's Tricky, by Mineshaft
Breezed a half in :49 3/5 at Palm Meadows, his fourth work in January, so he is progressing nicely toward his debut in Saturday’s Holy Bull Stakes, where he may have a tactical advantage over Tiz Mizchief because of his stalking style and the short stretch at Gulfstream. Speaking of pedigree, you can’t do much better stamina-wise than Medaglia d’Oro on top and Mineshaft on the bottom. His bottom as a whole is an excellent combination of stamina and speed, with Tale of the Cat and Afleet in his tail-female family and his dam being inbred to Mr. Prospector three times. It is looking like the Champagne may be the key race last year, especially if Firenze Fire can duplicate his form going two turns. Although he only won the Kentucky Jockey Club by a head, Tiz Mizchief is extremely talented, and finishing up the track was Bravazo, whose recent victory stamps him as a potential Derby horse. A big effort on Saturday and he surely would move up the list. His stablemate, Avery Island, ships up to New York for the Withers Stakes, so this could be a huge weekend for McLaughlin, as he will learn just where he stands on the Derby trail.
Tiz Mischief Dale Romans
Into Mischief—Indivia, by Tiznow
He has been working like a machine, with 5-furlong drills in 1:00, :59 4/5, :59 4/5, and 1:00. And prior to that, a half in :47 4/5. You can’t get more consistently fast than that. If you liked the battle between him and Enticed in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes, just wait for the rematch in Saturday’s Holy Bull. Romans says he is “the real deal,” and we can’t see any reasons to disagree with him. Just go back and watch his maiden victory at Keeneland when he was in tight early in a 12-horse field, dropped back to 10th, then made as impressive a long sustained move as you’re likely to see, despite running into more traffic and having to come around, then between, horses. He looked beaten in the short stretch, with the finish line at the sixteenth pole, but quickly shifted to another gear and took off, winning by a length with a dramatic late spurt. In the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes, he broke from post 12 and again dropped way back, made another long sustained run, but had to alter course in the stretch, and was just nipped at the wire by Enticed. The more I watch this horse the more I like him. But if he drops way out of it again, he could be compromised by that short stretch at Gulfstream.
Solomini Bob Baffert
Curlin—Surf Song, by Storm Cat
Justin Zayat said he is doing “fantastic” following a slight illness that cost him a few days of training. He has always been slated to debut in the San Felipe Stakes after a freshening, so like Bolt d’Oro, he has plenty of time to get some serious work in before then. He certainly has a lot of foundation and stakes experience under him. I was going to move him up, but too many horses on the Dozen are running next weekend and the Saturday after, so we’ll wait to see how they do first. He’s been chasing the likes of Good Magic and Bolt d’Oro, but definitely is eligible to improve as he matures. His sire is a classic winner and all four of the sires in the fourth generation of his female family are classic winners; three of them Kentucky Derby winners, two of them Triple Crown winners, and one of them an English Derby winner. He may not be a grade 1 winner on paper, but he doesn’t know that. To him, his owners, and many disgruntled fans, he is a grade 1 winner and had to work hard for it. So far he’s been kind of one-paced and just keeps going at a strong steady clip, and had no answer for Good Magic’s turn of foot in the Juvenile after opening a clear lead. So he’ll just have to figure out what his best weapon is and how to use it. He could be a terror if loose on the lead from the start and allowed to control the pace. Anyone taking Belmont bets?
Firenze Fire Jason Servis
Poseidon's Warrior—My Every Wish, by Langfuhr
With the late news that Mask is going to miss some time with a setback, according to DRF, I am adding Firenze Fire as he tries to conquer two turns in Saturday’s Withers Stakes. This is a colt for whom I have enormous respect. I am glad we’ll be seeing him at 1 1/8 miles, so we’ll know one way or other how he handles two turns, and not just 1 1/16 miles, but a more demanding distance. With his sire, it has to be a question, despite some solid stamina in his female family. Not many trainers are bold enough to run back in three weeks this early on the Derby trail, especially stretching out to 9 furlongs already. But it says a lot about Firenze Fire’s toughness and trainer Jason Servis’ faith in his horse. If there is a throwback this year, he looks to be the one. If he runs well and is coming on in the stretch, then that will alleviate all doubts about his distance capabilities.
Hollywood Star Dale Romans
Malibu Moon—Hollywood Story, by Wild Rush
He is the only horse I tweeted about last year after the impression he made training for the Breeders’ Cup. I loved the way he moved and the way he carried himself. But he needed to mature mentally to complement that big beautiful frame. His last two works have been brilliant, including a bullet :59 breeze in company with Free Drop Billy, and he appears to have made tremendous strides from 2 to 3. Because he and Free Drop Billy will be running over the next two weekends, we’ll put them both on for now. Romans said both colts will be entered in the Holy Bull and he’ll go by his gut feeling which one will run. The other will run a week later in the Sam F. Davis. Romans also said Hollywood Star has turned the corner the most, and that’s all I needed to hear. He overcame a rough trip in his career debut at Churchill Downs, scoring a gutsy victory, then ran an excellent second to the brilliant Copper Bullet in the Saratoga Special before closing well for second in the Iroquois Stakes, stretching out to two turns. Breaking from the 12 post in the BC Juvenile, he was steered to the inside immediately after the break, making a sharp left turn, and was forced to cross all the way to the rail. By the time he got there he was dead last, some dozen lengths off the lead and five lengths behind the next to last horse, Free Drop Billy. Racing down on the rail, which was not the place to be, he swung outside a tiring Free Drop Billy, and although the race was over for him, he did pass horses in the stretch to finish a respectable sixth. His pedigree is inundated with stamina and the only horse he is inbred to is Swaps, which is a rarity and which I love.
Free Drop Billy Dale Romans
Union Rags—Trensa, by Giant's Causeway
As mentioned above, he breezed a sharp 5 furlongs in :59 flat in company with Hollywood Star, and all we can do for now is wait to see which one Dale Romans runs in the Holy Bull Stakes and which one will wait a week for the Sam F. Davis. Romans also has the Ellis Park Juvenile winner Dak Attack for the Albaugh Family, but hasn’t made up his mind where he will run next following a third in the Mucho Macho Man Stakes. There is little separating Free Drop Billy and Hollywood Star, and the former has stronger credentials with a runaway score in the Breeders’ Futurity and a close second in the Hopeful Stakes, but we put Hollywood Star just above him, believing he may a bit more scope for improvement, and the physical and mental maturity he has shown since the Breeders’ Cup. But you can’t go wrong with either one. I keep insisting there is a Derby trophy with Dale Romans’ name on it, and this looks as good a year as any.
Marconi Todd Pletcher
Tapit—Ponche de Leona, by Ponche
We will find out more about him Saturday as he gets thrown into the fire, facing graded stakes winners Avery Island and Firenze Fire in the 1 1/8-mile Withers Stakes. He could also be facing one or two stakes-placed stablemates in Bal Harbour and Coltandmississippi, as well as one of Dale Romans’ top Derby prospects. This will be a real test for class, coming off that slow maiden victory. This will also be his third 1 1/8-mile race in as many career starts, which seems unprecedented. Against this talented a group, he naturally does not need to win, but if he can be competitive and show some of the qualities he displayed in his last race, he will be well on his way. I know Pletcher has no qualms about running horses in the Derby with three or four lifetime starts and doesn’t mind bucking history, but I would love to see this colt come back in the Gotham Stakes, now back to a one-turn mile, rather than wait for the Wood Memorial and have to go into the Derby off only four career starts without a single one-turn race to sharpen him up. He has shown he’s tough, like his brother Mucho Macho Man, so he can take that extra race, which would sharpen him up as a prep for the Wood Memorial.
KNOCKING AT THE DOOR
Big big weekend coming up, with the Holy Bull at Gulfstream, Robert Lewis at Santa Anita, and the Withers at Aqueduct. It surely will have a major impact on the Derby trail and the Derby Dozen, as we can expect quite a shakeup. As mentioned earlier, one horse who is looking to hit the Top 12 and boost the Remsen Stakes form is the Kiaran McLaughlin-trained AVERY ISLAND, winner of the Nashua Stakes before being outrun by Catholic Boy in the Remsen. He needs to show a quicker turn of foot, as he seemed one-paced in the Remsen from the three-eighths pole to the wire, as Catholic Boy had no trouble drawing clear of him. Both he and Enticed are owned by Godolphin. Avery Island showed some of that sharpness, breezing 5 furlongs in 1:00 3/5 at Palm Meadows.
Because of the number of Derby Dozen horses running over the next two weekends, and the likely traffic going in and out of the Top 12, I have to put MOURINHO on hold for now to make room for one this weekend’s runners on whom I am high. Once the picture clears and the horses sort themselves out, there is an excellent chance he will return in no time.
Is it possible, we could see as many, if not more, Derby horses emerge from Saturday’s one-mile Dania Beach Stakes on the grass as we do the Holy Bull Stakes? You never know. Graham Motion had decided on the Holy Bull as UNTAMED DOMAIN’S dirt debut to embark on the Derby trail, but after giving it second thought, he felt there weren’t enough points awarded to the Holy Bull to try it now when he can wait for the bigger 50-point races and have a race under his belt. So the son of Animal Kingdom will run in the Dania Beach, where he will face the intriguing GIDU, an Irish-bred son of Frankel, trained by Todd Pletcher, who broke his maiden on grass December 23, zipping 5 furlongs in :55 4/5 and winning off by 3 1/2 lengths. Although the Frankels have been grass horses, Gidu’s female family is mostly dirt breeding with names like (broodmare sire) Unbridled’s Song, Private Account, Damascus, and Numbered Account.
Shifting to Ireland, Aidan O’Brien is hoping to get one of three horses to the Kentucky Derby – MENDELSSOHN, SEAHENGE, and THREEANDFOURPENCE, by way of the “European Road to the Kentucky Derby,” with the UAE Derby another target. The series, with all races run at one mile and designed to find potential Derby horses, consists of the Road to the Kentucky Derby Condition Stakes at Kempton in England on March 1, the Patton Stakes at Dundalk in Ireland on March 2, and the Burradon Stakes at Newcastle in England on March 30.
Mendelssohn, a son of Scat Daddy and a half-brother to Beholder and Into Mischief, captured the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. Prior to that, he was beaten 33 lengths by Seahenge in the Champagne Stakes on good to soft ground and then finished second in the Dewhurst Stakes, 2 1/2 lengths ahead of Seahenge on good ground. Seahenge, another son of Scat Daddy who was purchased for $750,000 at the Keeneland September sale, won the group 2 Champagne Stakes by a neck and was third in the group 1 Dewhurst Stakes before finishing ninth in the group 1 Racing Post Trophy. Threeandfourpence, a son of War Front, won a maiden race and then jumped up and finished fourth in the Dewhurst at 20-1. The first two are owned by Coolmore, while Threeandfourpence is owned and bred by Mrs. E.M. Stockwell.
Add another weapon to Todd Pletcher’s arsenal. Although he is playing catchup with a late career debut in January, you have to pay attention to GLEASON, who broke his maiden going seven furlongs at Tampa Bay, scoring by 5 1/2 lengths in a solid 1:23 3/5. What I loved about him is that he had his ears straight up the entire race, even when he was being asked in the stretch. He obviously still is short on experience and has learning to do, but when a horse can win that convincingly with his ears pricked, you know there is untapped talent there. He would have to squeeze in three races to have a legitimate shot at the Derby. By the promising young stallion Algorthims, a son of Bernardini, he traces to the legendary Ribot four times through Graustark, Con Brio, Tom Rolfe, and Tom Rolfe’s son Hoist the Flag, and is inbred to Fappiano, so there is plenty of class and long-distance pedigree there. He’s just way behind.
One Pletcher horse who has been making a super impression in the mornings is MONTAUK, a potential monster who had his first breeze of the year January 28, going a leisurely 3 furlongs in :37 1/5. This was his first work since demolishing a maiden field by 11 1/4 lengths at Belmont on October 7. He would seem to be very iffy to make the Derby unless his connections want to rush him and either somehow squeeze in three races, which will be difficult, or run him in the Derby off three career starts, which has blown up in Todd Pletcher’s face a couple of times in past years. But there is no doubting this colt’s sheer brilliance and awesome presence, and perhaps he can be the rarity that defies logic and history. I can guarantee that his 3-year-old debut will be covered as if it is a stakes race, that’s how much buzz there is surrounding him.
Pletcher will be moving the brilliant allowance winner AUDIBLE up in class in Saturday’s Holy Bull Stakes. By Into Mischief, out of a Gilded Time mare, I don’t know how far he wants to go, but he looked awfully good winning last out by 9 3/4 lengths going a mile at Aqueduct. Strong tail-female family, but still has to overcome all that speed. Javier Castellano, who rides top-ranked 3-year-olds Bolt d’Oro, Instilled Regard, and Mask, will be back aboard.
Pletcher also found the winner’s circle when LIFE’S A PARLAY, coming off a third to the speedy Cove Blue, broke his maiden going a mile on Saturday, winning wire to wire by 1 1/2 lengths. But his :26 3/5 final quarter leaves a lot to be desired, and the horse who stood out was the runner-up PERSONAL TIME, a full-brother to Derby winer Orb who is trained by Shug McGaughey and was getting Lasix for the first time. The son of Malibu Moon closed like a rocket, making up 6 lengths in the final furlong, while finishing nearly 4 lengths ahead of the third horse. We are witnessing yet again Pletcher’s annual domination of maiden and allowance races in Florida. Good luck trying to figure out which ones will make the Derby and which will fizzle out when they face the heavy hitters. Life’a a Parlay’s owners, Mike Repole and Vinnie Viola have another colt who definitely bears watching and on whom I am very high.
That colt is VINO ROSSO, winner of both his career starts. He is by Curlin, out of a Street Cry mare, whose dam is by Belmont Stakes winner Touch Gold. So, right off the bat, we’re talking serious breeding. Bred by John D. Gunther, this colt looked to be special from day one. It was so tough saying goodbye to him at the Keeneland September yearling sale, Gunther’s daughter, Tanya, who is an integral part of the operation, broke into tears when the hammer went down. “I thought I would hold it together a little bit better than that or at least wait until I got back to our consignment,” she said. “I remember one guy who witnessed my small outburst exclaiming, ‘What’s wrong?’ with a worried look on his face. But I had become so attached to the horse and was so proud of him that he sold well ($410,000), but at the same time sad to see him go.”
I was taken by Vino Rosso, watching both his races, because unlike many Pletcher youngsters who sizzle early, he was more methodical and calculating, doing just what he had to, while always keeping in control of the situation. He has a bright eye and seemed extremely alert and intelligent. In short, he just looked like a horse who enjoyed what he was doing and not only knew how to win, but win the right way, always saving something for next time. There was no way this colt was going burn himself out early in the year with monster speed figures.
As Tanya recalled, “He was a really a nice character to be around; laid back and relaxed like nothing ever seemed to bother him. He liked to sleep a lot, a memory that stuck in my mind because my dad has always said he likes a horse that’s a good sleeper. He was easy to work with all the way through sales prep (in contrast to some colts who can become perhaps a bit too full of themselves as they become more fit and act like your arm might be their next savory meal). Then at the sale, he took it all in stride from the word go and was consistently good and very well-behaved.
“After he sold and I went back to the consignment to say my goodbyes to him, Jim Martin (Mike Repole’s racing manager) came down to see him which is when I discovered that Repole and St. Elias were partners on him. I remember thinking well that's some consolation. He will be in good hands, maybe go to Todd, and he’ll get a great shot at making it as a racehorse. Physically, he was one of those colts that stayed pretty balanced throughout the foal to yearling growth phases, with no really awkward stage. Dare to hope? Dreams start early.”
Hallelujah! GIVEMEAMINIT, third, beaten a neck in Hopeful Stakes, fifth in the Breeders’ Futurity, fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, eighth in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes, and second, beaten a neck at 4-5, in the Louisiana Futurity, finally broke his maiden at 6 furlongs, blowing away his field by 8 lengths at odds of 1-20 with blinkers added. For what it’s worth, his time of 1:10 3/5 was pretty legitimate. You can bet Dallas Stewart will return him to stakes competition.
Activity is really picking up on the work tabs. Two of the top 2-year-olds coming back from an injury are Hopeful winner SPORTING CHANCE, who breezed 5 furlongs in a sharp 1:00 2/5, followed by 1:01 2/5 for his return in the Southwest Stakes for Wayne Lukas, and Saratoga Special winner COPPER BULLET, who breezed a half in :49 4/5 and 5 furlongs in 1:02 2/5 at Fair Grounds for Steve Asmussen.
Asmussen had two more of his hopefuls on the work tab, headed by LeComte runner-up PRINCIPE GUILHERME, who breezed a sharp 5 furlongs in 1:00 2/5, while the late-running ZING ZANG breezed his 5 panels in 1:01 2/5.
Although he was a disappointing third in his last start following an exceptional career debut, I can’t help but remain intrigued by the Bob Baffert-trained RESTORING HOPE. I don’t know if he wants to go classic distances, but his last two 6 furlong works in 1:13 and 1:12 2/5 make him a serious threat next time out. But he really needs to break his maiden in his next start to advance and be considered a legitimate Derby hopeful. Baffert has begun stretching out his brilliant maiden sprint winner AX MAN, who drilled a bullet 6 furlongs in 1:12 2/5.
One horse who I got into in detail last week as he attempts to get Dick Mandella back on the Derby trail is the aptly named PEACE, a son of Violence, who worked a strong 6 furlongs in 1:13 3/5. Another big effort in the Robert Lewis Stakes Saturday, like he showed in his maiden victory, and he’s on his way. Mandella said of the colt, “He is so sweet and was kind of slow growing up. We called him Gumby because when he moved his legs he wouldn’t bend them. He has gotten better as he’s gotten fitter. He showed in his last two starts he needs blinkers because he thinks about things too much.”
HIGH NORTH, who rallied from 13th to finish fourth in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes in his last start for trainer Brad Cox, showed he may be sitting on a big comeback effort, breezing a bullet 5 furlongs in 1:00 flat at Fair Grounds, fastest of 55 works at the distance. The son of Midnight Lute broke his maiden by a nose at Keeneland in his previous start and before that finished second to Avery Island at Belmont Park.
One equipment change to take note of was blinkers off TIZ OUR TURN, who overcame the 12-post going 1 1/16 miles at Oaklawn and won off by 4 1/2 lengths for trainer Walter Bindner Jr. By Take Charge Indy, out of a Tiznow mare, distance should not be a problem.
Most people’s last memory of DIAMOND KING is clipping heels going into the first turn of the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes and unseating his rider. That was coming off two impressive sprint victories at Parx for trainer Robert Reid. The son of Quality Road returned to action on December 30 in the 7-furlong Heft Stakes at Laurel and scored by 1 1/2 lengths. He has since been turned over to John Servis, who trains for Cash is King (of Afleet Alex fame) in Florida. Servis is trying to get the colt to relax and gave him a strong two-minute lick type of work, timed in 1:45 for the mile. But first he will point to the 7-furlong Swale Stakes. Right now he seems more of a Preakness horse, but they’ll see where he takes them.
One of the faster horses in New York is the Mike Maker-trained CALIFORNIA NIGHT, who broke his maiden by 3 lengths at Aqueduct in December, defeating the highly regarded 3-5 favorite HOLLAND PARK, owned by Godolphin. The son of Midnight Lute remains sharp, breezing a half in a bullet :47 3/5 at Belmont, fastest of 24 works at the distance.
Next week, even with all the stakes activity, I am going to profile HIGHER POWER, who I believe is a horse to get in on now in the Future Book. There are several reasons why I am extremely high on this colt and would love to see him get to the Derby.
I’m going to deviate from the norm a little and provide a short anecdote about a sire who has been dominant on the Derby trail this year. Medaglia d’Oro, who is hot as a sire on the track and in the sales ring, is represented so far by top Derby hopefuls Bolt d’Oro, Enticed, and Higher Power, as well as the exciting Montauk and the multiple graded stakes winning filly Wonder Gadot. His son, Violence, is the sire of the promising maiden winner Peace, and his daughter, Gold d’Oro, is the dam of runaway maiden winner Strike Power.
Many think of Medaglia d’Oro as pure blue blood born of aristocracy. But Medaglia d’Oro was not “to the manor born,” and certainly was not raised as such.
Born at Katalpa Farm in Paris, Ky., Medaglia d'Oro was sent to the farm of his owner/breeder, Joyce and Albert Bell, who had a 110-acre spread outside Great Falls, Montana. After being broken, he was about to return to Kentucky for his early training when the Bells’ trainer, Kent Jensen, suggested they send him to a small ranch in Arizona, which was located pretty much in the middle of nowhere, between Cave Creek and Carefree.
The Bells agreed to send Medaglia d'Oro to the Arizona ranch, shipping the big, strapping yearling down just after Thanksgiving. Over the next five months, Medaglia d'Oro grew into a racehorse, but it certainly wasn't the conventional early training one would expect for a future star, who would win the Travers, Whitney, Oaklawn Handicap, Donn Handicap, Strub Stakes, Jim Dandy, and San Felipe Stakes, finish second twice in the Breeders' Cup Classic, as well as the Belmont Stakes, Dubai World Cup, Wood Memorial, and Pacific Classic, and would sire the great Hall of Fame filly Rachel Alexandra.
The place he was sent was just a small obscure cowboy ranch that didn't even have a rail, and Medaglia d'Oro would go off in the desert to get his exercise, running out with the cactus. It is safe to say he has come a long way since his days in Montana and the Arizona desert.