Kentucky Derby Notebook: Contender Profile - Ice Box

By Rob Fundter, aka Amateurcapper

ICE BOX ran the most compelling internal fractions of the Kentucky Derby prep season en route to his 20-1 Florida Derby upset on March 20.  What is the likelihood he can repeat that effort on May 1 at Churchill Downs?  Considering multiple Kentucky Derby winning trainer Nick Zito is calling the shots, very good!

In the Florida Derby, multiple G.3 winner RULE was the 9-5 favorite.  The speedy colt was trying to stretch his brilliant speed out to 9 furlongs.  Unbeknownst to nearly everyone not named Corey Nakatani and Patrick Biancone, newly-blinkered PULSION rocketed to the lead through an opening ¼ in :23.21.  RULE would press him just a head back through a nearly identical second ¼ mile in :23.25, virtually eliminating the winning chances of ordinary, stretch-running also-rans.

Lurking in last place was ICE BOX, open lengths from next-to-last LENTENOR.  Visually, I was impressed that RULE hung on gamely for third, considering ICE BOX and nose loser PLEASANT PRINCE plodding pace beneficiaries.

What amazed me from chart dissection is that despite staying in last place, ICE BOX ran his second ¼ in :22.75 recording the fastest internal fraction of any horse in the race!  Indicating he's no ordinary, one-run closer ICE BOX slowed down faster in each successive fraction than any other horse in the race.  His third ¼ was a remarkable :24.00, a fourth ¼ in a :24.33 show of stamina, both fractions part of an impressive final 5 furlongs in 1:00.93.  Contrast those raw pace figures with his Fountain of Youth splits, in which he recorded the fastest internal ½ mile split (:47.29).  His second ¼ was run in :23.50, third ¼ in :23.79, fourth ¼ in :24.93 with a final 5 furlongs in 1:02.75.  Clearly, this March foal is improving leaps and bounds now that he's chronologically turned three years old.

ICE BOX doesn't look all that different this year than SUMMER BIRD, the 2009 champion three-year-old male, did last year coming into the Kentucky Derby.  SUMMER BIRD's final prep, a third to PAPA CLEM and OLD FASHIONED in the then-G.2 Arkansas Derby, was eerily similar to the subject colt's Florida Derby win:



1st quarter

2nd quarter

3rd quarter

4th quarter

Final 1/8

Final 5f

Summer Bird

Ark. Derby ‘09







Ice Box

Florida Derby ‘10








In the Kentucky Derby, ICE BOX will get ample pace to chase.  Currently AMERICAN LION, CONVEYANCE, DISCREETLY MINE, LINE OF DAVID, RULE, SIDNEY'S CANDY, and SUPER SAVER all are top 20 earners who've led virtually gate-to-wire in at least one prep at either age two or three.  The already crowded front end in the Derby can grow more contentious and speedy if Blue Grass runner-up and #19 earner PADDY O'PRADO makes the race.  The Dale Romans trainee was part of the fastest fractions when compared with other Blue Grass renewals after Keeneland switched to Polytrack.  Likely Derby favorite ESKENDEREYA, owner of the two top Beyer speed figures of 2010 sophomores, never races far from the leader which will add to the intensity in the leading group and should enhance the late run of ICE BOX.

By the productive A.P. INDY stallion PULPIT, ICE BOX has stamina-rich blood from his TABASCO CAT broodmare SPICE ISLAND.  In appearance, his chestnut coat would be inherited from damsire TABASCO CAT, winner of the Preakness and Belmont Stakes in 1994.  SPICE ISLAND captured turf graded stakes on the grass at 1 3/8 miles and 1 ½ miles.  Third dam BELLE DE JOUR, by 1987 Kentucky Derby and Preakness S. winner ALYSHEBA, produced 1985 Kentucky Derby winner SPEND A BUCK.  Bottom line, ICE BOX should adore every bit of the 1 ¼ mile Derby distance.  Jockey Jose Lezcano can wait until the third ¼ mile to pick off the inevitable also-rans.  The momentum ICE BOX produces through the middle of the Derby will put the colt into a winning position at the mile mark.  The final ¼ mile always goes to the horse with the best combination of racing luck and stamina.

Without a high-class juvenile campaign, the same lack of experience that may have limited SUMMER BIRD in last year's Derby, the question is whether ICE BOX has the bottom and class at this stage of development to reproduce his Florida Derby win?  The six weeks between races could be the mini-freshening that SUMMER BIRD wasn't afforded (he had only three weeks from final prep to Derby), allowing ICE BOX to recover from the taxing race at Gulfstream Park.

Last year's version of ICE BOX was SUMMER BIRD.  After a 6th place Derby finish, the "other Bird" became a champion.  Whether ICE BOX can match or exceed that colt's accomplishments remains to be seen.  One thing is certain, Nick Zito knows what he has in ICE BOX.  Translation:  look out Derby field!

P.S.  I've analyzed the charts of the Kentucky Derby preps upside down and sideways.  I would enjoy any and all comments at my blog, which features a complete recap of the Santa Anita Derby, a ESKENDEREYA / LOOKIN AT LUCKY dream Triple Crown rivalry, and a pretty thorough run down of Pool 2 final odds in two parts (#1 and #2). 

Also, check out the TBA homepage where you can digest as little or as much horse racing information you can swallow.

Enjoy the final bit before the Derby!

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