Tiz the Law Barclay Tagg
Constitution—Tizfiz, by Tiznow
Just when you thought Tiz the Law was shifting his gears to neutral following the Curlin Florida Derby (G1), breezing an easy :52 4/5 half-mile, he shifts back into drive with a sharp 1:00 3/5 work for five furlongs. That should help set him up for...uh, nothing. With no races on the horizon, it will be interesting to see what Tagg does with him. You don't want to back off too much and let him get stale and you don't want him to get too sharp for no reason. This is what trainers all over the country who are not racing at Gulfstream or Oaklawn are facing. When you give your car a complete tune-up and rev up the engine you don’t want to just drive it to the supermarket when it needs to get on the expressway. On the other hand, you don’t want to leave your car parked for a month without starting it and then find out the battery is dead.
Maxfield Brendan Walsh
Street Sense—Velvety, by Bernardini
Yes, I know he’s been up and down like the proverbial yo-yo, but one week I look at his potential and the next week I look at the fact that he hasn’t run in 6 1/2 months, has had surgery to remove an ankle chip, and we can only speculate whether he will be the same horse at 3 he was at 2 when he put on a spectacular show at Keeneland that still resonates after all this time. The fact is, as solid and talented a crop as this appears to be, he still has provided the biggest explosion we have seen and his ceiling is limitless. And he has a pedigree that all but assures he will flourish at long distances. So, yes, he was our No. 1-ranked 2-year-old and has been as high as No. 2 on Derby Dozen and also in the No. 5 to 6 range, which when you think of it is not bad for a horse who has been out of sight for so long. He has been given a gift with the postponement of the Derby and now I just want to see this horse run already. Godolphin’s Jimmy Bell said he is “well and happy” and his time will come in due course.
Authentic Bob Baffert
Into Mischief—Flawless, by Mr. Greeley
He apparently is being put in mothballs until Baffert can find a race for him…if he can find a race for him. He hasn’t worked since March 29. As a May foal, this will give him more time to grow up and get rid of the little quirks he has displayed on occasion. He is an enigma because of the speed influences in his pedigree that are contrary to the racehorse who runs with gazelle-like strides that look as if they should carry him long distances. If his pedigree is an anomaly and what we see on the racetrack now is what we will see on Sept. 5 then he could turn out to be something special. But first, let’s see what he can do rating off the race.
Honor A. P. John Shirreffs
Honor Code—Hollywood Story, by Wild Rush
I thought the Arkansas Derby (G1) would be a good spot for him to get in a much-needed race and take another step forward on the Derby trail. But Shirreffs seems to be convinced that racing will resume at Santa Anita sooner than later and that there will be a race for him and he won’t have to travel all the way to Oaklawn Park. Shirreffs generally is more of a homebody and is willing to sit and wait and not have to put Honor A.P. on a plane, feeling he still has four and a half months to continue building a foundation in the horse. And when it comes to building a foundation, no one is more adept and more patient than Shirreffs. But he is dealing with a horse who wants action, as indicated by his extreme impatience galloping to the post for his latest work, fighting the restraint of the rider. Once the work started he was a happy camper, moving with great authority. He doesn’t have a big reach with his lead leg but has more of a roundhouse action. From the way the rider kept him wide turning for home it was obvious Shirreffs didn’t want him going too fast, which didn’t, just a nice :50 1/5 maintenance move.
Sole Volante Patrick Biancone
Karakontie—Light Blow, by Kingmambo
Can a horse actually be placed this high based on a victory in the Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3)? Yes, when you can’t get the visual aspect of that race out of your mind. I feel the Arkansas Derby would have been an important step for him, but Biancone had to bypass the race because of quarantine regulations regarding the people who accompany him. To those who frown over the possibility of Biancone having a serious Derby horse, things are not always what they seem. And whatever happened in the past, this is a second life for him and he is grasping it tightly. This is one of the most astute horsemen in the world who has performed brilliantly at the highest level in classic races both in America and Europe. Think any less of this horse or Ete Indien and it could very well cost you on Sept. 5. And remember, his sire’s broodmare sire won the Kentucky Derby (G1) and his dam’s broodmare sire won the English Derby (G1). He also has the Rasmussen Factor being inbred 3x4 to the great filly Miesque, which means he has two crosses of Prove Out, the son of Graustark who upset Secretariat, running the second-fastest mile and a half in the history of Belmont Park.
King Guillermo Juan Avila
Uncle Mo—Slow Sand, by Dixieland Band
The more I see of this horse the more he convinces me that he is as talented as any of them. Ignoring his 49-1 odds in the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby (G1), he was visually impressive, he dominated one of the best 3-year-olds in the country, showing a high cruising speed, and his speed figures were through the roof, especially his “zero” on Thoro-Graph, which was a seven-point jump from his two excellent grass races. He is bred and runs like a true distance horse, and even in his most recent work, he looked like something extraordinary, breezing six furlongs in 1:13 3/5 with the rider’s hands and body motionless. He was always on a loose rein, was striding out smoothly, and galloped out very strongly. If this horse should win the Arkansas Derby impressively he has to be right up there with Tiz the Law.
Gouverneur Morris Todd Pletcher
Constitution—Addison Run, by Unbridled's Song
I was happy to see him in the Arkansas Derby, mainly because he needs a race to continue the progression he’s been on. After running three consecutive “5s” on Thoro-Graph to begin his career, he actually broke through with a “2” in the Curlin Florida Derby (G1), despite finishing fourth, in which he gained a great deal of experience, getting caught in heavy traffic the entire length of the backstretch with nowhere to go and losing position. I thought he was striding out well in the stretch and was beaten a neck for third and one length for second. He doesn’t need to win at Oaklawn, just show good energy in the stretch and be running strongly at the finish. I’ve stuck with him all winter and this will be the test to see where he stands and what kind of progress he’s made.
Charlatan Bob Baffert
Speightstown—Authenticity , by Quiet American
The big question is whether he will get in the Arkansas Derby with so little earnings. He desperately needs to get in the starting gate and obviously has an excellent chance if they split the race, with the list of prospective starters continuing to grow. He worked six furlongs in 1:12 1/5, sitting off the flank of his workmate. He is the stock you’re debating whether to buy. The brokers are hot on it and are pushing it, but it is still a new inexperienced company that is just getting off the ground. If this big deal comes through in Arkansas, the stock will skyrocket. Like his stablemate Authentic we just don’t know what to make of his pedigree. Judging from his first two races he doesn’t expend a lot of unnecessary energy and there is no reason to think he won’t rate off the pace. But he has to demonstrate those same qualities when he takes on far better horses than what he’s been facing. In his most recent work, he pressed his workmate from the outside but was joined by a third horse on his outside. He was not being asked much getting his seven furlongs in a snappy 1:25 3/5. Too bad the exercise rider on his workmate couldn't claim foul after taking up sharply on the gallop out.
Nadal Bob Baffert
Blame—Ascending Angel, by Pulpit
It seems obvious what Baffert’s strategy is from the way he’s been working him several lengths behind a workmate and not going after him until deep stretch. Then he pours it on. You don’t want to take a horse’s natural speed away from him, but this horse needs to harness his speed if he is going to be a Derby horse. Right now, he is going too fast early, and despite winning all his races, too slow late. With a pedigree inundated with stamina all through his first five generations, it’s kind of baffling why he has so much speed and hasn’t shown an inclination to rate. This is the race American Pharoah learned to rate off the pace, and if this colt learns his lessons and reverses the way he’s been running then we are dealing with a serious Derby contender, because the mile and a quarter should be a piece of cake. In his last work, he dropped some six lengths behind his workmate and was still a long way off at the three-sixteenths pole, but showed good acceleration, making up a lot of ground quickly, going the six furlongs in 1:11 4/5. Could we see a new look Nadal at Oaklawn?
Farmington Road Todd Pletcher
Quality Road—Silver La Belle, by Langfuhr
I thought he would improve off his “4” Thoro-Graph number in the Oaklawn Stakes, but he paired up the “4,” which is still pretty good. However, with him now coming back in three weeks for the Arkansas Derby, that pairing up is the best thing to happen to him because it all but eliminates a “bounce,” and he now has room to make a significant jump, which he will need to do, as well as get lucky with traffic. If he can break sharply I don’t see him as far back as he’s been, and one of my favorite handicapping tools is second race blinkers on. His running style has also been puzzling, as his sire was brilliantly fast up to a mile and an eighth, setting three track records, and running on the lead, and his broodmare sire was equally as brilliant from sprints to a mile, with both of them winning the Met Mile. But the sires of Quality Road and Langfuhr both sired classic winners.
Mr. Big News Bret Calhoun
Giant's Causeway—Unappeased, by Galileo
If there was one horse last weekend who made a big leap in his Thoro-Graph number it was this colt, who jumped from an “8 3/4” to a “3,” which puts him within two to three points of the fastest 3-year-olds. It would have been difficult playing him in the Oaklawn Stakes off that career-high “8 3/4,” but he took a gigantic move forward, and now it’s a question whether he can come back in three weeks and not regress. His connections are watching him closely and have not yet committed to the Arkansas Derby, and in fact, don’t seem that anxious to run him back. We’ll just have to wait and see what they decide. He has a pedigree that shouts a mile and a quarter, especially his female family, and he has some very powerful inbreeding.
Attachment Rate Dale Romans
Hard Spun—Aristra, by Afleet Alex
The reason he is back in the Top 12 after being ranked No. 11 following the Gotham Stakes (G3) is that it looks as if he will be running in the new Unbridled Stakes at Gulfstream this weekend and I want to focus on horses who are currently seeing action. I am hoping two turns will help him finally change leads. I know the talent is there. If he can accomplish what he's done in his last three starts without changing leads then there definitely is something to work with. He's been stuck on his left lead in his one-turn races, but perhaps the light will go on when he rounds that first turn, and then he'll know what to do when he turns for home. In his most recent work, two other workers charged up behind him at the top of the stretch, literally on his tail. He pulled away from them by five lengths, which I liked to see, but he was still having problems with his lead change. And he did get a little wet, which I’m not concerned about. I just feel he has to get his act together in this race if he is going to be a legitimate Derby contender. So he gets one more chance.
KNOCKING ON THE DOOR
Everyone is knocking on the door these days, and hopefully we will know more after the Unbridled when we likely will see promising colts such as Attachment Rate, MONEY MOVES, and AMERICANUS among others. Money Moves came close to sneaking into the Top 12 because of his participation Saturday, but we went with the more experienced colt who has already been in the Top 12. Of course, the list likely will change dramatically after the Arkansas Derby, which will have an abundance of talented horses, especially if it’s split. With every other 3-year-old in limbo with no plans, I am giving preference to those who are running now. We will at least be able to get a handle on them.
I thought it best this week to feature a couple of horses and to get their back story rather than just throw a bunch of names out there and their works. Next week we’ll focus on the Arkansas Derby.
On the fence for the Arkansas Derby is the horse we featured strongly last week, PNEUMATIC, who was our No. 1 ranked newcomer. The Arkansas Derby would be asking a lot of such an inexperienced horse, but as owner Ron Winchell said, “We are super excited about him. We always thought he was top class, just not ready for the Derby.” Winchell continued, “He is from the family that keeps on giving to my family.”
Winchell explained how Pneumatic’s fourth dam, Carol’s Christmas, was claimed by his father, Verne Winchell, for $25,000 sight unseen. But she had a ton of speed and that was all he was looking for in a potential broodmare. When he saw her, however, he had buyer’s remorse, because she was extremely sway-backed, offset in the knees, and had crooked feet. “Basically, she looked like a train wreck,” Winchell said. But she had that all-important speed. Despite being the “ugliest broodmare on the farm,” she produced the most beautiful foals. She became Winchell’s foundation mare, and from Carol’s Christmas has come major stakes winners Tapizar, Olympio, Pyro, Cuvee, Paddy O’Prado, Call Wonder, and Wild Wonder, and now Pneumatic.
Another horse I want to feature this week is the one who I claimed could be the biggest steal in the last Future Wager, and that that would be MODERNIST at 50-1. He is another I would have loved to see in the Arkansas Derby, but it was decided to give him more time, which is understandable. He made a huge jump from a slow maiden victory at 1 1/8 miles at Aqueduct to winning a division of the Risen Star Stakes Presented by Lamarque Ford (G2). Although he finished third in the TwinSpires.com Louisiana Derby (G2) going 1 3/16 miles, he was wide the entire trip, raced a bit greenly in the stretch, and his Thoro-Graph number actually leaped from a “7” to a “4.” He makes an excellent appearance and has a beautiful way of moving.
Assistant trainer Riley Mott called him a “very solid horse, physically and talent-wise.” He added, “He’s not the type that’s going to dazzle you in his races, such as an Authentic or a Charlatan. He’s pretty workmanlike at this point; does what he needs to in his training and racing. He’s made like a fullback in that he’s very stout and has great bone. He’s built to be tough, not a weak physical that might wilt away from the rigors of a tough 3-year-old campaign.
Mott said Modernist (by Uncle Mo, out of a Bernardini mare) arrived at the barn in Saratoga last spring and he never struck them as the type who would be ready early. They sent him to Belmont and he spent most of the summer and fall down there. By September he started impressing everyone in his works.
“We were asking a lot of him to jump from a maiden win to the Risen Star but the horse was in good health and we needed to find out what kind of path we were going to take with him the rest of the year,” Mott said. “He’s training every day and we’re hoping to stay competitive in those types of races going forward, especially in the summer and fall, as we think he’s a horse that should progress with age. He’s a fourth generation Wygod homebred and you can’t say enough about their breeding program.”
Modernist’s second dam, Sweet Life, was broodmare of the year in 2009 and produced two Breeders Cup winners, Distaff (G1) winner Life is Sweet and Juvenile Fillies (G1) winner and champion 2-year-old filly Sweet Catomine, both owned and bred by Mr. and Mrs. Marty Wygod. Modernist’s only inbreeding is to major stamina influence, the Roberto stallion Kris S. through his son, the major stamina influence Arch, and his daughter, the aforementioned Sweet Life.
After these next two stakes are run and we hit the big lull, expect to see Modernist in the Top 12, as he definitely is one to watch later on.