Road to Derby Retrospect

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Dec. 11, 2013) -- Twenty-five races remain on the Road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), with the Jan. 4 Jerome Stakes (gr. II) at Aqueduct and the Jan. 11 Sham (gr. III) at Santa Anita Park kicking off the action in 2014.

Here's a look at how the winners of last year's prep races fared after their victories, with an update on what each is doing now -- including returns for Vyjack, Itsmyluckyday, Super Ninety Nine, and more.

Jerome (1 mile, 70 yards, Aqueduct) -- Vyjack -- Sidelined
The Into Mischief gelding won his first four races, including the Jerome (gr. II) and Gotham (gr. III). After finishing third to Verrazano in the Wood Memorial (gr. I), he ran 18th in the Derby and eighth in the Belmont. He hasn't been seen since a sixth-place finish in the July 28 William Hill Haskell Invitational (gr. I), but should return to trainer Rudy Rodriguez's barn in four to five weeks. He is currently rehabbing at Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton, Md., after a setback for reported gastric ulcers. 

"He’s doing very good, we gave him like 3 months off; he’s getting back in shape over there and later on hopefully soon he’ll be able to come back to the barn," said Rodriguez, who has no particular target in mind for Vyjack's first race of 2014.

"We’d like to see him and evaluate where he’s at," he said. "The main thing we were thinking is, he’s a gelding, so we’re trying to see if we can bring him for 2014 and hopefully he came come back the same way or maybe a little better than before. He’s a nice horse and we’re just trying to do the right thing by him, and hopefully he’ll do the right thing by us."

Sham (1 mile, Santa Anita) -- Goldencents -- Active
Another Into Mischief runner, Goldencents entered the Sham heavily favored off his Delta Jackpot (gr. III) score, and delivered a solid win. Although he ran fourth in the San Felipe (gr. II), he came back from that loss to take the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I). While a 17th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby was his worst and he failed to inspire with a Preakness (gr. I) fifth, he strung together three seconds against older horses -- in the Bing Crosby (gr. I), the Pat O'Brien (gr. II), and the Santa Anita Sprint Championship Stakes (gr. I) -- before taking the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (gr. I).

Following a seventh in the Nov. 30 Cigar Mile (gr. I) at Aqueduct, trainer Doug O'Neill confirmed the colt will race again in 2014, with his likely target the Jan. 18 Strub Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita.

Goldencents won the 2013 Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile. Photo: Chad B. Harmon

Lecomte (1 mile, 70 yards, Fair Grounds) -- Oxbow -- Retired
The son of Awesome Again added only one victory to his roster after taking the Lecomte, but made it count. A wire-to-wire win at odds of 15-1 in the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) signaled the resurgence of his Hall of Fame connections, trainer D. Wayne Lukas and rider Gary Stevens. Between the Lecomte and the Preakness, he was fourth in the Risen Star, second in the Rebel, fifth in the Arkansas Derby, and sixth in the Kentucky Derby. A solid second in the Belmont (gr. I) was also to his credit. He retired to stud at Taylor Made Stallions after running fourth in the William Hill Haskell Invitational (gr. I), and is offered for a 2014 fee of $20,000.

Smarty Jones (1 mile, Oaklawn Park) -- Will Take Charge -- Active
Hero of the season via an unlikely route, Will Take Charge won the Smarty Jones at the beginning of the year and the Clark Handicap (gr. I) over Game On Dude at the end of the year with plenty of adventures between, including a runner-up finish by a nose in the Nov. 2 Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) to Mucho Macho Man. The chestnut son of Unbridled's Song beat Oxbow in the Rebel Stakes (gr. II). His other wins came in the Travers (gr. I) and Pennsylvania Derby (gr. II) after an unsucessful but unscathed run at all three Triple Crown classics. Currently stabled at Oaklawn Park with Lukas, he will race for owner Willis Horton in 2014 and is likely to have a prep in Arkansas before targeting the March 8 Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) en route to the $10 million Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) on March 29. 

Will Take Charge won the 2013 Clark Handicap. Photo: Reed Palmer Photography, Churchill Downs


Holy Bull (1 1/16 miles, Gulfstream) -- Itsmyluckyday -- Back at the Track
After defeating champion 2-year-old Shanghai Bobby by two lengths in the Holy Bull, Itsmyluckyday finished second behind Orb in the Besilu Stables Florida Derby (gr. I). He ran 15th in the Derby, but redeemed himself with a stout runner-up finish to Oxbow in the Preakness. He was pulled up in the June 16 Pegasus Stakes (gr. III) at Monmouth Park, in which he fractured his pelvis.

Trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. had positive reports from Florida, where he said the colt's recovery is "110 percent."

"I expect he'll work at the end of this month, and as far as the way he's traveling, I couldn't be any happier," Pleasa said. "We gave him four months off in the stall -- I kept him with me at Monmouth Park -- and then when we came down here to Florida, he hand-walked for about 30 days and shedrowed for about 30 days. Now he's back to jogging and galloping and he's been a perfect patient.

"I'm always lookjing for the easiest spot (first race off the layup); I would hope it would be sometime at end of the Gulfstream meet. I'm in no big hurry to find a race for him, there's nothing on the radar. We're going to stick with the plan and take our time with him." 

Withers (1 1/16 miles, Aqueduct) -- Revolutionary -- Active
With his bold late run and a remarkably determined nature, Revolutionary burst onto the early prep scene via an exciting Withers (gr. III) win. The son of War Pass won the Louisiana Derby in similarly impressive style, and was a good third in the Kentucky Derby. The Belmont would be his final start of 2013, however; he finished fifth there and went to the sidelines for the remainder of the season.

Now back at Palm Meadows with trainer Todd Pletcher, Revolutionary has four solid works under his belt since Nov. 19, including a recent five furlongs in 1:02 1/5 on Dec. 10. Calls to Elliott Walden of WinStar Farm seeking comment on plans for his first start of 2014 were not returned.

Robert B. Lewis (1 1/16 miles, Santa Anita) -- Flashback -- Active
This Tapit colt used the Robert B. Lewis as a stepping-stone to the San Felipe, where he was second en route to a runner-up finish in the Santa Anita Derby, 1 1/4 lengths behind Goldencents. A chip in his right knee sidelined him from the Kentucky Derby trail, and he came back off the layup Nov. 2 with a good runner-up finish a head behind Zeewat in the seven-furlong Damascus Stakes. Recently clocking a handy five furlongs in 1:00 3/5 at Santa Anita on Dec. 2, he is pointing toward the Dec. 26 Malibu Stakes (gr. I) for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert.

El Camino Real Derby (1 1/8 miles, Golden Gate) -- Dice Flavor -- Active
Dice Flavor won the El Camino Real on Golden Gate's Tapeta track in February, then made a run at the U.A.E. Derby (UAE-I) on the synthetic surface in Dubai in March, but finished eighth. Rested until June, he finished fourth in the Affirmed Handicap (gr. III) going 1 1/16 miles on Hollywood Park's all-weather track, and was third in July in the Swaps Stakes (gr. II) there. The Scat Daddy colt found his way back to the winner's circle in August, when he took the La Jolla Handicap (gr. IIT) on the Del Mar lawn. He has been off the board in two starts since then, recently eighth in the Nov. 1 Twilight Derby (gr. IIT) at Santa Anita, but has returned to the worktab for trainer Patrick Gallagher three times since then, including a Dec. 5 six furlongs in a handy 1:15 flat over the Cushion Track at Hollywood Park. 

Southwest (1 1/16 miles, Oaklawn) -- Super Ninety Nine -- Active
This son of Pulpit skipped away in the slop to win the Southwest by 11 1/4 lengths, which many deemed a freak performance over a track several contenders did not relish. However, after a fifth in the Rebel, he did come back to finish third in the Santa Anita Derby. Then it was off to the sidelines for Super Ninety Nine, who got a good breather from that April 6 event. He has yet to race again for Baffert, but the Hall of Fame conditioner said he is targeting the Dec. 26 Malibu as well. Looking back to October, he's had a strong regular work pattern. Recent breeze: six furlongs in 1:16 3/5 over Hollywood's Cushion Track on Dec. 6. 

Fountain of Youth (1 1/16 miles, Gulfstream) -- Orb -- Retired
Phipps Stable and Stuart Janney III's Malibu Moon colt registered his third consecutive win for Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey when he rumbled in the Besilu Stables Fountain of Youth (gr. II) at Gulfstream Park en route to victories in the Besilu Stables Florida Derby (gr. I) and the Kentucky Derby. Fourth in the Preakness and third in the Belmont, he would run third in the Travers before an eighth against elders in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) signaled the end to his career. He was retired to stud at Claiborne Farm, where he enters the 2014 season for $25,000. 

Orb and jockey Joel Rosario won the 2013 Kentucky Derby. Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt

Risen Star (1 1/16 miles, Fair Grounds) -- Ive Struck a Nerve -- AWOL
Trainer Keith Desormeaux did not return calls seeking information on the status of this son of Yankee Gentleman, who won the Risen Star (gr. II) but went to the sidelines shortly thereafter with an ankle injury.

Gotham (1 1/16 miles, Aqueduct) -- Vyjack -- Sidelined
See Jerome.

Tampa Bay Derby (1 1/16 miles, Tampa Bay Downs) -- Verrazano -- TBA
The Tampa Bay Derby (gr. II) in March was the launching pad for Verrazano's interesting and buzz-worthy sophomore season. His first graded stakes win, it set him up for a Wood Memorial (gr. I) score for Let's Go Racing and trainer Todd Pletcher. Although he finished 14th in the Kentucky Derby, he came back with strong victories in the Pegasus (gr. III) and the William Hill Haskell Invitational (gr. I). His last three races were not as satisfying; a seventh in the Travers, fourth in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile, and third in the Cigar Mile (gr. I). News is expected any day on whether he will retire for Coolmore Partners or continue racing in 2014.

Verrazano won the 2013 William Hill Haskell Invitational. Photo: Chad B. Harmon. 

San Felipe (1 1/16 miles, Santa Anita) -- Hear the Ghost -- Active
Lightly raced Hear the Ghost finished second in an optional claimer Nov. 7 in his first start since winning the San Felipe Stakes (gr. II) eight months earlier. The 3-year-old Ghostzapper gelding has won twice in four starts for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, with earnings of $232,800. He is entered in the $150,000 Native Diver Stakes (gr. III) to be run Dec. 14 at Hollywood Park.

Rebel (1 1/16 miles, Oaklawn) -- Will Take Charge -- Active
See Smarty Jones.

Spiral (1 1/8 miles, Turfway Park) -- Black Onyx -- Active
Trainer Kelly Breen withdrew the son of Rock Hard Ten from consideration for the Kentucky Derby after a hairline fracture was discovered in his left leg. On Dec. 12 he had his second work back and first clocked move at Palm Meadows Training Center, "just three-eighths, just trying to start getting him fit," Breen reported. Clockers caught the striking colt in :39.70 on the turf.

The Spiral Stakes (gr. II) winner got back in shape in Ocala at Eisaman Equine. No target has been determined, but expect to see him in the spring if all goes according to plan. 

"It's too early to tell (where he'd run next)," said Breen. "I should just be happy that he's sound right now and he looks good, Obviously we have high expectations for him--and so far, so good--but we're just going to take our time with him."

Sunland Derby (1 1/8 miles, Sunland Park) -- Govenor Charlie -- Active
Govenor Charlie won the Sunland Derby by five lengths, but skipped the Kentucky Derby and fizzled in the Preakness, where he was eighth of nine. The Midnight Lute colt hasn't been seen in the starting gate since then, but is another Baffert said could go in the Malibu on Dec. 26. Works at Hollywood Park have been steady; last went six furlongs in 1:12 4/5 on the Cushion Track there.

Florida Derby (1 1/8 miles, Gulfstream) -- Orb -- Retired
See Fountain of Youth.

U.A.E. Derby (1 1/8 miles, Meydan) -- Lines of Battle -- International Man of Mystery
The son of War Front won the U.A.E. Derby (UAE-I), ran seventh in the Kentucky Derby, finished second in a stakes at the Curragh in June, ran eighth in the Prix Jean Prat (Fra-I) later that month, and was sold to Hong Kong. Now renamed Helene Super Star, he is pointing toward the March 16 Hong Kong Derby.

Louisiana Derby (1 1/8 miles, Fair Grounds) -- Revolutionary --
See Withers.

Santa Anita Derby (1 1/8 miles, Santa Anita) -- Goldencents --
See Sham.

Wood Memorial (1 1/8 miles, Aqueduct) -- Verrazano --
See Tampa Bay Derby.

Arkansas Derby (1 1/8 miles, Oaklawn) -- Overanalyze -- Retired
Son of Dixie Union took the Arkansas Derby by a powerful 4 1/4 lengths, his final trip to the winner's circle after victories in the Futurity (gr. II) and Remsen (gr. II) at Belmont as a 2-year-old. After finishing 11th in the Derby and seventh in the Belmont, he did manage a third in the West Virginia Derby (gr. II), but was retired to stud at WinStar Farm where he stands for $10,000 in 2014.

Blue Grass (1/ 18 miles, Keeneland) -- Java's War -- Sidelined
After winning the Toyota Blue Grass (gr. I), Charles Fipke's homebred son of War Pass ran 13th in the Kentucky Derby for trainer Ken McPeek. He headed out to California for McPeek but was an outkicked fourth of four in the Swaps. Transferred to Barclay Tagg, he ran in the Pennsylvania Derby (gr. II) but finished eighth and last of all.

"There was nothing really wrong with him, he just never picked his feet up there," Tagg said. "They took him home to the farm and they've had him there since. I'm expecting him to head back to the track around January or February. He just seemed bodysore and not really 100% "

Lexington (1 1/16 miles, Keeneland) -- Winning Cause -- On Vacation
This Giant's Causeway colt ran an interesting campaign for Todd Pletcher and Alto Racing after taking the Coolmore Lexington (gr. II). He headed up to Woodbine to notch runner-up efforts in the Marine Stakes and Victoria Park Stakes there in May and June, took the Sir Cat Stakes at Saratoga in July, was third in the Dance of Life Stakes there in August, returned to Woodbine to run second in the Ontario Derby (Can-III), and rebounded from a 10th in the Oct. 4 Stoll Keenon Ogden Phoenix Stakes (gr. III) at Keeneland to run second in the Oct. 26 Hagyard Fayette Stakes (gr. II). Fifth in the Commonwealth Turf (gr. IIIT) at Churchill Downs on Nov. 16, he headed down to Florida for some R&R.

"He's having a little vacation in Florida at J.J. Pletcher's in Ocala," said Alto partner Gil Moutray. "He's as sound as he can be--he's a little iron horse, there's nothing wrong with him. This horse was in a 2-year-old in training sale when we bought him, and has been campaigned ever since. This guy's been in training pretty much for a year and half, at least. We felt like he needed a little break and we're looking forward to Keeneland and bringing him back in the spring."

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