Dennis' Moment Dale Romans
Tiznow—Transplendid, by Elusive Quality
His works keep improving, the latest being a half-mile breeze in :48. For a No. 1-ranked horse, it is still difficult to get a good gauge on him because of his two misfortunes, so you’re basically relying on an Ellis Park maiden romp and his stakes-record Iroquois Stakes (G3) victory at Churchill Downs. What it all means is that you are taking a chance that those two races define him. Pedigree-wise, his female family hasn’t produced much, but his third dam is by dual classic winner Pleasant Colony, and his fourth dam is by Round Table, out of Pink Pigeon, who set a new American record of 1:45 4/5 for 1 1/8 miles on grass at Santa Anita and ran 1 1/4 miles in 1:58 1/5 on grass at Saratoga.
Storm the Court Peter Eurton
Court Vision—My Tejana Storm, by Tejano Run
With 22 Derby-qualifying points already in the bank (highest of any 3-year-old through Jan. 27), Eurton can afford to start him off in a sprint, the seven-furlong San Vincente Stakes (G2) Feb. 9 at Santa Anita, to give him a sharpener after two grade 1 races at 1 1/16 miles. As you have heard me state ad nauseam, that is what classic winners and 3-year-old champions did, and that includes Secretariat, Seattle Slew, Affirmed, Spectacular Bid, Damascus, Buckpasser, Sunday Silence, Easy Goer, Arts and Letters, Majestic Prince and just about everyone else. But the refusal of Churchill Downs to award points to sprints has deterred trainers who feel they must accumulate points even in January and February. Whether Storm the Court wins the San Vicente or not, it should give him the jumpstart he needs, and he looks ready for a big effort with three straight sharp five-furlong works in 1:00 3/5, 1:00 1/5, and 1:00 3/5. Coming off four five-furlong works, he obviously isn’t being trained to run his eyeballs out in a sprint, so he only has to run well and be competitive to set him up for the longer races. But he could still win this on class. Just don’t get down on him if he comes up a bit short. Remember, this is a prep.
Thousand Words Bob Baffert
Pioneerof the Nile—Pomeroys Pistol, by Pomeroy
He was up to five furlongs in his works before blowing out a half in: 48 1/5 as he points for a possible start in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (G3) Feb. 1 at Santa Anita. In his Jan. 20 work, he went 1:01 2/5 in company going head and head all the way before inching clear late and then going strong past the wire while being vigorously ridden. He hasn’t dazzled anyone the way many of Baffert’s young horses do, winning both his starts by a total of three-quarters of a length, but he’s the kind of horse who will do whatever you ask him to, and he has shown he can run fast early and not get tired. So far he’s been in dogfights sprinting and at two turns and has prevailed each time. I’m still not sure what his distance limitations are, if he has any, because of the speed influences in his female family, but we won’t have any idea until he stretches out to 1 1/8 miles.
Tiz the Law Barclay Tagg
Constitution—Tizfiz, by Tiznow
He’s been working steadily for his debut in the Feb. 1 Lambholm South Holy Bull Stakes (G3) and a big effort could land him in the No. 1 spot. His opponents in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) have proven that is a tough race to figure, as the two horses that beat him both finished fourth in their 3-year-old debuts and the horse who finished behind him won the LeComte Stakes (G3) going away. One thing we do know is that he should not have problem stretching out to classic distances. His broodmare sire, Tiznow, is a two-time Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) winner, his great-grandsire, Go For Gin, won the Kentucky Derby (G1), and Go For Gin’s broodmare sire, Stage Door Johnny, won the Belmont Stakes (G1) and is a major stamina influence. Also, his third dam, Crafty and Evil, is a half-sister to Horse of the Year and 2-year-old champion Favorite Trick. His Champagne Stakes (G1) victory was one of the strongest performances of the year, as he blew the doors off Green Light Go with a final quarter in :24 1/5. He could be the best of the lot, and we’ll find out in the Holy Bull.
Gouverneur Morris Todd Pletcher
Constitution—Addison Run, by Unbridled's Song
This colt’s maiden victory stamped him as something special. It was a bit surprising seeing him debut at Saratoga at 5 1/2 furlongs, but he turned in one of the most impressive performances at the Spa meet. Not only did he easily draw off to a nine-length victory, jockey John Velazquez never once even thought about cocking his whip and just hand-rode him the entire length of the stretch. His time of 1:04 1/5 earned him a lofty 101 Equibase speed figure, nine points faster than Green Light Go in the Saratoga Special Stakes (G2) and seven points faster than Basin in the Hopeful Stakes (G1). Eddie Woods, who had him as a youngster, recalled that he was a big quality colt who was very quiet and laid back. You didn’t even know he was there. He didn’t have blazing speed, but enough to be dangerous. That is why he was surprised that he was able to win at 5 1/2 furlongs. With his temperament, that didn’t seem like an ideal distance for him. Then he comes back with that big effort in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) despite losing a lot of ground and making his big move to the lead too early. Now, the sky’s the limit. He showed his sharpness by breezing five furlongs in a strong 1:00 4/5 at Palm Beach Downs.
Independence Hall Michael Trombetta
Constitution—Kalahari Cat, by Cape Town
Well, you can’t say he doesn’t like the Tampa Bay surface. His five-furlong work in 1:00 flat was the fastest of 31 works at the distance. He definitely is ready for his 3-year-old debut, and the Feb. 9 Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3) at Tampa looks like a logical starting off point. With three emphatic victories in three starts against lesser competition, we really have no idea how good this colt is. If he is as good as he’s looked then he is another capable of vaulting into the top spot, especially with his pedigree, which is strong everywhere you look. In addition to having plenty of stamina, there is also classy speed, with his second dam being a full-sister to Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) winner Desert Stormer. One thing you have to say about him, he does make a striking appearance, and is all racehorse.
Maxfield Brendan Walsh
Street Sense—Velvety, by Bernardini
There is still hope, so we’ll keep him on, at least for the time being. He arrived at Palm Meadows on Jan. 23 and has been given the green light for full training. The reports are that he looks great physically and he will dictate where they go from here. There is no set date yet when he will have his first breeze. He still has more than a month and a half to be ready for the Rebel Stakes (G2) at Oaklawn Park if that’s the route they want to take. There aren’t many other options. He can’t return in the Louisiana Derby or Florida Derby (G1), so the Rebel is the only prep available other than the Gotham the week before to get two starts in and try to earn enough points. The only other race would be the Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) on Turfway’s Polytrack and that wouldn’t seem likely. So let’s give him a couple more weeks to show up on the work tab. He’s just too good a horse to keep off this early in the game. But as others come along and run big races, they will leapfrog him until he eventually falls off the Top 12.
Green Light Go Jimmy Jerkens
Hard Spun—Light Green, by Pleasantly Perfect
Like Peter Eurton with Storm the Court, Jerkens is doing what he feels is best for his colt in regard to starting him off in the best spot, which is the seven-furlong Swale Stakes. He will have plenty of opportunities to earn points, and if he’s as good as Jerkens believes that shouldn’t be a problem. Jerkens has him ready for a big effort, putting in a five-furlong work in 1:00 1/5. Unlike the Champagne (G1) when he was sent to the lead for some reason, expect him to sit just off the pace, as he did in the Saratoga Special. He does have sprinter’s speed through his great-grandsire Sheikh Albadou, and he gets distance speed from his sire Hard Spun. The stamina comes mostly from broodmare sire Pleasantly Perfect. I still believe the Champagne could turn out to be the key race.
Three Technique Jeremiah Englehart
Mr Speaker—Nite in Rome, by Harlan's Holiday
Other than winning, you couldn’t have asked for a better early Derby prep than his second in the Smarty Jones Stakes. Consider that it was his first time in a stakes, first time around two turns and against talented stakes winners, he had the outside post, it was in the mud on a shortened stretch and speed-favoring track with a stakes-winning speedball loose on the lead, and he was drawing away from the rest of the field. He was striding out beautifully in the stretch, opening 2 1/4 lengths in the final eighth on Springboard Mile winner and Hopeful runner-up Shoplifted, who was two lengths in front of Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) winner Silver Prospector. And I liked the way he galloped out past the winner with his ears pricked. His Thoro-Graph number jumped from an “8 3/4” to a “2 1/2,” making him a legitimate Derby contender already. This was his first big test and he passed on all counts. Now it’s on to bigger and better things. I almost moved him up a spot off this race, but let’s see how Green Light Go runs this weekend. I love the way this colt moves, with that low action and big extension. I still remember Englehart saying on At the Races with Steve Byk last year, “He’s one of those horses that gives you goose bumps when you watch him run.” Nothing has changed, even in defeat. He is still worth playing in the future book and could very well move up a spot or two next week.
Anneau d'Or Blaine Wright
Medaglia d’Oro—Walk Close, by Tapit
Talent-wise, he is right up there with the best of them, and with only three career starts, we obviously have not seen the best of him. As mentioned last week, he just has to learn how to pass horses. His latest six-furlong work in 1:13 2/5 over the Tapeta surface at Golden Gate Fields should have him dead-fit for his 3-year-old debut. You can’t find fault with his pedigree, as there is an abundance of class and stamina, with enough helping of speed. His granddam Spring Awakening was very fast, setting a track record for 5 1/2 furlongs at Del Mar, but to show how his family can carry its speed a distance, Spring Awakening is by In Excess, who won the 1 1/4-mile Suburban Handicap (G1) in a track-record 1:58 1/5, and his third dam is by Carson City, who was a pure sprinter, but the broodmare sire of Barbaro. We’ll see if Wright ventures back to Santa Anita or keeps him home for the Feb. 16 El Camino Real Derby.
Authentic Bob Baffert
Into Mischief—Flawless, by Mr. Greeley
He bounced out of his runaway victory in the Sham Stakes (G3) in great shape, as indicated by his pair of half-mile works in :49 3/5, then a sharp :47 4/5. He no doubt has a world of talent, but still has three questions to answer – can he go a classic distance with his pedigree, can he rate off the pace, and can he get rid of his greenness that was on display in the Sham? What is most fascinating about his pedigree is that he is inbred to Ruffian’s brother Icecapade, and the broodmare sire of his broodmare sire Mr. Greeley is Reviewer, who is the sire of Ruffian. So you have Ruffian’s sire and dam (twice) in his pedigree. What is also interesting is that he has Icecapade on top through the pure sprinter Clever Trick and on bottom through distance horse and BC Classic winner Wild Again.
Enforceable Mark Casse
Tapit—Justwhistledixie, by Dixie Union
His success in the LeComte Stakes is another reason to keep Maxfield in the top 12, as Maxfield beat him by six lengths in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1). But it appears that this colt had has made great strides since then, and he sure looked like a Derby horse winning the way he did at Fair Grounds. Although he came from far back, he is far from a plodder, having finished second going five furlongs in his career debut, and then was third going 5 1/2 furlongs in his second start. He then broke his maiden going 1 1/8 miles at Saratoga on Aug. 22, which is extremely early for a 2-year-old to go that far, and he did it in the solid time of 1:50 3/5. As for his pedigree, he has the much sought after Rasmussen Factor, being inbred to the top broodmare Foggy Note through full brother and sister Relaunch and Moon Glitter, the third dam of Tapit. Enforceable is a full brother to early Kentucky Derby favorite Mohaymen, winner of the Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2), Lambholm South Holy Bull Stakes(G2), and Remsen Stakes (G2); a half-brother to New Year's Day, winner of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) and sire of 3-year-old champion Maximum Security; and a full-brother to Kingly, winner of the La Jolla Handicap (G3T) and California Derby and second in the El Camino Ready Derby. And Justwhistledixie herself was a dual grade 2 winner and grade 1 placed.
KNOCKING ON THE DOOR
Timing is everything. You don’t often see the name of Fusaichi Pegasus in a top horse’s pedigree, but lo and behold, on the 20th anniversary of his dominating victory in the Kentucky Derby, there he is as broodmare sire of Smarty Jones Stakes winner GOLD STREET. Fusaichi Pegasus is one of the most underrated Derby winners ever, and most people really cannot appreciate just how special he was. He was the only horse ever to be ranked No. 1 on Derby Dozen coming off an allowance win and never having run in a stakes. That is how spectacular he looked – a regal and powerful athlete with one of the biggest, most effortless strides I have ever seen. His dominating victories in the Wood Memorial and Kentucky Derby stamped him as a future superstar, and he would have been had it not been for sore feet that plagued him.
To show how brilliant he was, especially for such a big, imposing horse, when he returned in the one-mile Jerome Stakes (G2) following an injury that forced him to miss the Belmont Stakes, he literally cruised to the front nearing the quarter pole with his ears pricked and under wraps, and it was a shock to see the three-quarters run in 1:08 1/5 (three-fifths off the track record). He had run his third quarter around that big turn in :23 flat as if loping along. Even jockey Kent Desormeaux thought he was going in 1:12 and change, his stride was so deceptive. He drew away from Albert the Great and held off the challenge of El Corredor, arguably the best miler in the country. He certainly had a mind of his own and there are numerous tales to tell about his antics. It is too bad that his name has faded over the years.
Perhaps Gold Street can do something about that, at least bringing his name back to prominence. But the son of Street Boss, despite running a powerful race, still has to show he doesn’t need the lead and doesn’t need a sloppy track. He is 0-for-3 on a fast track and 3-for-3 on a sloppy track. So the jury is still out on him. His sire was a sprinter (even though he was by Street Cry), but has sired horses who could stretch out to two turns. His first two dams were sprinters and his tail-female family traces to the stakes-winning sprinter Hagley. He has a beautiful head and an efficient stride, which should enable him to be effective going farther. He is going to be dangerous wherever he runs, but still has to prove he is a Derby horse.
Third-place finisher in the Smarty Jones, SHOPLIFTED, winner of the Springboard Mile and second in the Hopeful Stakes, tracked the pace inside Three Technique, but was no match for the runner-up in the final furlong. He is another who has distance question marks. The big disappointment was Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes winner SILVER PROSPECTOR, who never seemed to get hold of the deep muddy track, finishing fourth, beaten 7 1/2 lengths. He was never in the race and definitely deserves another shot over a more suitable surface. The winner, Shoplifted, and Silver Prospector are all trained by Steve Asmussen, who sent out seven 3-year-olds in the stakes and two maiden races on the opening day card. Asmussen also sent out ROWDY YATES to win the Riley Allison Futurity at Sunland Park in his eighth career start. This was a big comeback race following a poor showing in the Springboard Mile.
Earlier on the Oaklawn card, the Bret Calhoun-trained READY TO ROLL was indeed ready to roll, as he rolled to 7 1/2-length wire-to-wire victory in a 1 1/16-mile maiden race. After turning back one challenge nearing the top of the stretch, he drew away with every stride and was really running through the wire. He is by sprinter City Zip, but has a ton of stamina in his female family. The other maiden division was won in workmanlike fashion by the Wicked Strong colt VILLAINOUS, trained by Three Technique’s trainer Jeremiah Englehart. This was a big comeback race after finishing far back in his career debut following an awkward start going six furlongs. He still has a lot to prove.
The Todd Squad is beginning its annual assault on the Derby trail, with MARKET ANALYSIS and CANDY TYCOON both breaking their maidens at Gulfstream on Jan. 25. Neither looked extraordinary, but they looked good enough to be ready to take another step forward. Market Analysis, a son of Honor Code who was the 6-5 favorite in the seven-furlong race, looked as if he was going to win convincingly at the top of the stretch, but the 50-1 ATTACHMENT RATE came out of the clouds with a huge late run to fall three-quarters of a length short. It was a big effort considering the son of Hard Spun never changed leads. Candy Tycoon, with a second, two thirds, and a close fourth in four career starts, battled for the lead early, then finally began easing clear of his stubborn stablemate GIMME SOME MO and continued to draw away to a four-length victory, going 1 1/16 miles. The runner-up was nearly five lengths clear of the third-place finisher, so this was a very solid effort. You can add all three horses to the Pletcher arsenal, headed by Gouverneur Morris. The sleeper in the stable could very well be PORTOS, who has been working steady half-miles at Belmont Park for the Feb. 1 1 1/8-mile Withers Stakes (G3). The beautifully bred son of Tapit, out of a Tiznow mare, has a ton of bottom, having already run three times at 1 1/8 miles and once at 1 1/16 miles. In his last start on Dec. 31, he broke his maiden in the slop by nearly 11 lengths, while eased up the final sixteenth. All these slow distance races may have dulled him, so it would have been nice to see him shorten up a bit back to one turn just to sharpen him a little, but he will be making his fourth start at nine furlongs. He has a long efficient stride with great extension, which has enabled him to run so well going long.
At Aqueduct, Bill Mott may have hit the Derby trail with his Uncle Mo colt MODERNIST, who broke his maiden wiring his field by four lengths going 1 1/8 miles. Coming off a good third-place finish in early December going a mile, he was sent off as the overwhelming 1-5 favorite. It’s difficult telling how fast he is, running slow times over the deep Aqueduct surface, but, like Portos, a drop back to a mile could get him sharp if Mott feels he is Derby material. In this race they crawled early, which accounted for his final eighth in a respectable :12 4/5.
Saturday’s Holy Bull Stakes could be a stiff test for Tiz the Law. One of the more intriguing horses he could face there is ETE INDIEN, who scored a smashing allowance victory going a mile in his dirt debut for Patrick Biancone, in which he rattled off fractions of :45 2/5 and 1:09 4/5 and went on to score by 2 1/2 lengths in 1:35 flat, defeating the promising Chad Brown colt TOLEDO, coming off an impressive maiden victory. He has a good deal of stamina and we’ll find out just where he fits on the Derby trail. Another potential new face of interest is Chance It’s stablemate UNCORK THE BOTTLE, an undefeated former claimer, who is coming off a starter optional claimer on grass following two runaway victories on dirt, much like Maximum Security last year.
Finally, there is CARACARO, who was written about in great detail last week and who would be coming back in three weeks off his impressive maiden victory. The son of Uncle Mo really left an impression in that race and looked to be a live future book horse. Watch out for him.
Trainer Brad Cox has an interesting assortment of Derby hopefuls. ANSWER IN, runner-up in the Springboard Mile and a horse who appears to be improving with each race, will make his next start in the Southwest Stakes. What I like about Answer In’s pedigree is his stamina top and bottom and his tail-female line tracing to two European classic winners, Top Ville, winner of the French Derby, and Top Ville’s sire High Top, winner of the 2,000 Guineas. Also in his female family are major European stamina influences Nijinsky II and Le Fabuleux. He remains sharp, breezing a half in :48 at Oaklawn. MR. MONOMOY, the brother to Monomoy Girl who finished third in LeComte Stakes in his stakes debut, will target either the Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds or the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream. Then there is the intriguing filly TARAZ, winner of her two starts by a combined 18 3/4 lengths, including an 11 1/4-romp in the slop in the Letellier Memorial at Fair Grounds. The Juddmonte Farms owned and bred filly is by Into Mischief and her two starts have been at six and 6 1/2 furlongs, so she has a number of questions to answer before being considered Derby material. She will run Feb. 8 in the one-mile Martha Washington Stakes at Oaklawn, after which Cox said, “We’ll see how it goes,” in regard to trying the boys. And this past weekend Cox sent out the Lookin At Lucky colt WELLS BAYOU to win an allowance race at Oaklawn on the front end by four lengths going a mile in the mud. All three of his starts have been on off tracks, and after stopping badly in his previous start, Cox took the blinkers off and the colt had no trouble drawing off from the field.
MONDAY MORNING QB, winner of the seven-furlong Heft Stakes at Laurel, worked a half in :50 1/5 at Parx under jockey Chris DeCarlo, who said the colt finished strong and changed leads on cue without being asked. This followed a bullet five-furlong work in :59 3/5. The son of the Giant’s Causeway stallion Imagining will run next in the Feb. 1 Withers Stakes. Owner Cash is King Stables also has the Into Mischief colt MISCHEVIOUS ALEX, a 9 3/4-length winner of the seven-furlong Parx Juvenile Stakes, heading for the Swale Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream the same day. Cash is King and partners also purchased NY TRAFFIC following a fifth in the Notebook Stakes, and the son of Cross Traffic promptly won a 1 1/16-mile allowance race at Gulfstream for new trainer Saffie Joseph, who is really starting to make a name for himself. Still another from these connections, JOHNNY RITT, who won an allowance/optional claimer at six furlongs by 3 3/4 lengths, worked a half in :48 1/5 and likely will look for races in Maryland.
John Shirreffs said he has no plans yet for impressive maiden winner HONOR A.P., who is back training after missing the Sham Stakes (G3). The son of Honor Code, who breezed a half in :51 2/5, was an $850,000 yearling purchase at Saratoga and has tons of stamina in both his sire’s and dam’s pedigree. That missed race could prove costly, as it would mean the difference between having four career starts and five career starts going into the Derby. But at least he ran as a 2-year-old and broke his maiden at a mile, and has a trainer who you know will have him fit.
WAR STOPPER, who wired his field when breaking his maiden at a mile in his second start on dirt, had his first work back, breezing a easy half in :53 at Belmont Park for Rudy Rodriguez. You have to love this colt’s pedigree, being by Declaration of War, out of a Curlin mare and inbred top and bottom to Fappiano. Purchased for only $75,000 as a yearling, he was withdrawn from two 2-year-old sales. There is a possibility he could show up in Saturday’s Withers.
Other possibilities for the Withers are Remsen Stakes (G2) winner SHOTSKI, who breezed five furlongs in 1:02; impressive Parx maiden winner MAX PLAYER from the Linda Rice stable; Display Stakes winner VANZZY; Jerome Stakes runner-up BOURBON BAY; and the Turfway Park maiden winner HAIL TO THE CHIEF, trained by Wesley Ward ad owned by Ken and Sarah Ramsey.
One horse on the improve to keep an eye on in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes is the Richard Mandella-trained TIZAMAGICIAN, who already has six career starts, the last three coming at a mile. Following a bout of seconditis, he finally put it all together, winning impressively by 2 1/2 lengths. He will run all day and showed it by opening some eight to 10 lengths on the gallop-out, with Victor Espinoza having a tough time pulling him up. He is owned by the fan-based Myracehorse.com in partnership with Spendthrift Farm. This would make a great story and an exciting one if the son of Tiznow should make it to the Derby with such a large and enthusiastic following. Mandella still isn’t sure how good he is but feels he will test them pretty good in the Robert B. Lewis. His jump from a “9” Thoro-Graph figure to a “5 3/4” suggests he is finally starting that all-important forward move.
The undefeated Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf winner STRUCTOR finally had his first work of the year, breezing three furlongs in :37 1/5 at Palm Meadows. Trainer Chad Brown is looking forward to trying him on dirt for the first time. He is certainly bred for it. Hopeful winner BASIN had his second work back at Fair Grounds, breezing an easy five furlongs in :51 1/5.
One horse who continues to intrigue me is Remsen Stakes runner-up AJAAWEED, who breezed a half in :48 4/5 at Palm Meadows. The son of Curlin was flying at the end of the Remsen despite the sluggish early fractions, and his 4 1/4-length maiden victory going a mile at Belmont was very impressive. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him develop into a major force on the Derby trail. This is the kind of horse who could be a bargain in the future books.
ANCIENT WARRIOR, who was so impressive winning his career debut at Del Mar in November and then banished from Santa Anita along with trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, looks to have found a home at Oaklawn Park. Yet another son of Constitution, he turned in a sharp five-furlong work in 1:00 2/5, galloping out six furlongs in 1:13. It was the second fastest of 43 works at the distance. He looks like he is getting close to his 3-year-old debut. There was a race for him this past Sunday, but he obviously wasn’t ready for that. There is another race in the book for him on Feb. 14, so he will either go in that race or have to wait for the Southwest Stakes. In his only start at six furlongs, he broke from the disadvantageous one post, took the lead early, turned back the challenge of the Bob Baffert-trained favorite Garth and drew off at will to win by 4 1/4 lengths in 1:09 3/5, with Flavien Prat giving him only one light tap inside the eighth pole and then letting him win on his own without the slightest urging. He was late changing leads and Prat had to help him switch, but other than that this was an excellent debut.
Bob Baffert, who has stakes winners Thousand Words and Authentic, the brilliant maiden winner NADAL, Sham Stakes runner-up AZUL COAST, who could be his sleeper, and the in limbo grade 1 winner EIGHT RINGS, is keeping Bob Hope Stakes (G3) winner and Los Al Futurity (G2) third-place finisher HIGH VELOCITY sharp, working him six furlongs in 1:12 4/5. The son of Quality Road just needs to harness some of his early speed if he is to be a major Derby contender.
One of the more impressive maiden victories last year was turned in by the Simon Callaghan-trained GREAT POWER, a son of Blame who has not seen action since that race. But he finally returned to the work tab after four months, breezing three furlongs in :37 2/5 at Los Alamitos. Another who missed time but is back working steadily is American Pharoah Stakes (G1) runner-up AMERICAN THEOREM. In his most recent works, he breezed a half in :49.
If you’re looking for this year’s feel-good Patch story, FINNICK THE FIERCE is missing his right eye, yet has never run a bad race, breaking his maiden at Indiana Grand in his career debut, then finishing a fast-closing fourth, beaten 1 1/2 lengths, in a Churchill Downs allowance race before finishing a close second, beaten three-quarters of a length, in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at 87-1. In last week’s LeComte Stakes, he had to overcome a bad rail draw (for a horse blind in his right eye) yet still ran on well late to finish fourth. He definitely has a pedigree geared toward stamina and should only keep improving. He has the ability to turn in a long sustained run and seems most comfortable running outside horses, but does have a tendency to lug in a bit, which is not surprising, all things considered. His name is something from a 1940’s racing movie, which should endear him to racing fans even more. All he needs is Mickey Rooney on his back.
For those wondering about the promising SOROS, winner of the Smooth Air Stakes at Gulfstream on Nov. 30, the son of Commissioner has not worked since that race. Also absent from the work tab since November is Sunny Slope and Bob Hope Stakes runner-up STRONGCONSTITUTION, trained by Doug O’Neill.