Jonesing for the Roses

I don't like to pick one of the favorites for the Kentucky Derby.  I prefer to hone in on a well-bred longshot, and then to have my hopes and dreams dashed as my picks straggle in fourth or fifth... or nineteenth.

But in recent years, I've had a feeling about a few horses. And I've almost felt guilty, because they were the consensus picks... the crowd favorites.  In the case of Big Brown (SRO), I legitimately loved his pedigree.  And I'm a fan of Smile (pedigree), which led me to Smarty Jones (SRO).  I had a feeling about Street Sense (SRO) since watching him as a juvenile (and oh boy do I love that double of Natalma...).  Still, it's more fun to pick a longshot than to go with the favorite.

I think I'm doomed again this year, though.  Much as I like the pedigrees and performances of some other possible Derby contestants, I just know that this is the year of Larry Jones.  And Jones has two of the most likely favorites come the first Saturday in May.

It couldn't happen to a better guy -- Larry Jones is a top-class trainer and a great representative of the Thoroughbred industry -- so I think I can live with it.  Especially since both of his big horses are pretty interesting themselves:

  • Friesan Fire (profile) has a pedigree pattern that I love -- inbreeding to Secretariat as the damsire of both the sire and broodmare sire.  Friesan Fire is a son of A.P. Indy (SRO) out of a mare from the Deputy Minister son Dehere (SRO)... he's bred to get a distance while still burning up the track with fast fractions. (Can you imagine if Friesan Fire takes the Derby and the Preakness -- the Belmont would be a mere formality for this bay colt.)  His 2-c female family is one of the hottest dam lines in Australia right now, as well -- Bollinger (AUS) was herself winner of the Coolmore Classic (Aus-I) and is one of three graded winners out of 1993 Tooheys Golden Slipper Stakes (Aus-I) winner Bint Marscay (AUS).  Bint Marscay, in turn, was one of three group I winners produced by the Sir Tristam mare Eau d'Etoile (NZ).  Jones has brought Friesan Fire along perfectly with increased distances and a schedule that has been challenging without being punishing.

  • Old Fashioned (profile) is by a stallion that seems to be everywhere now -- "everywhere" here being defined as the pedigrees of sales-topping 2-year-olds and big stakes winners.  Unbridled's Song (SRO) passed on his signature grey coat to Old Fashioned, but the bottom half of the pedigree is what excites me for the colt's Derby chances.  Meadowlake (from the Prince John line), Alleged (Tom Rolfe), Bold Ruler (Nasrullah), and Ambiorix (Tourbillon (FR)) are the first four damsires in Old Fashioned's lineage -- all add substance and the ability to get a route to Unbrided's Song's dizzying speed and finesse.  The 4-m family plays a prominent role here:  it's the broodmare line of both Old Fashioned's sire and dam -- although you have to go back to Maggie B B in 1867 to find their common origin.  (I noted a similar circumstance with Request for Parole and Proud Spell in an old post about Thoroughbred female family #4.)  Jones gave Old Fashioned the winter off after a solid juvenile campaign that included the nine-furlong grade II Remsen Stakes by seven lengths. It would appear that the colt can cover some ground, and his three-length score in the Southwest (gr. III) in mid-February indicates he's come back from his rest in fine form.

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