In the Money

Horse racing insight that's loose on the lead

Kentucky Derby Path: Coastline in a tough spot, Indianapolis returns in San Pedro

January 19th, 2014

By J.J. Hysell

Monday’s cards offer two top stakes races for 3-year-olds that could have Kentucky Derby implications.

The Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn Park was the launching pad for Will Take Charge last year. He went on to win the Rebel Stakes and later the Travers, Pennsylvania Derby and Clark Handicap en route to champion 3-year-old male honors.

Only a few contenders in this year’s edition look like possible Kentucky Derby candidates. There are several locally-based challengers who have a good chance to do well in the one mile test.

Fire Starter

Fire Starter

With so much recent success by Tapit-sired 3-year-olds, Fire Starter jumps off the page. The Steve Hobby trainee, who will have Robby Albarado aboard, had a terrible start in his debut at Churchill Downs and still managed to finish fourth. He faced solid competition in his next start, including runner-up Commanding Curve, and finished a respectable third at a mile. He was pulled up in his third start, his first race with blinkers, and that appeared to be the problem as he was disoriented and bore out. That’s a toss race as he came back to crush a field of eight a Laurel, winning by nearly 11 lengths at a mile.

That was his one start with trainer Anthony Dutrow, and he has returned to the Hobby barn for this test. It is quite a class jump, however, and that could be an issue. He’s one to watch as he is a highly-regarded $300,000 Keeneland September purchase who is a half-brother of super sprinter Bordonaro. His dam excelled sprinting, particularly on turf, and most of his siblings did their better work sprinting. He does have the benefit of the Tapit influence, however, so he looks to be a candidate up to  1 1/16-miles.

Son of a Preacher

Son of a Preacher

Son of a Preacher was sharp in his debut win at Churchill, and he can’t be faulted for not liking turf in that second start. He rebounded to finish a good second to Gold Hawk, who was a bit of a disappointment when third in Saturday’s Lecomte Stakes. This son of Pulpit, trained by Bret Calhoun, is still learning and there’s also a question with distance for him, but he could certainly handle a mile. He’ll have a new jockey in M.C. Berry.

Illinois-bred A Step Ahead is intriguing. The son of Giant’s Causeway, a full brother of Giant Oak, boasts a long-distance pedigree and he’s greatly improved since moving to dirt. His lone win was front-running in the slop, and he was second at 1 1/16-miles after being pulled wide in a state-bred contest. Class is the question here, but he lacks nothing in pedigree. He has a new trainer in Brian Williamson and new jockey in Francisco Torres. Note that Williamson is off to a sharp start at this Oaklawn meet.

No reason to discount the talented Walt. After winning his first two sprint races, he was forced to come from far off the pace in the Springboard Mile and did well, finishing a wide fourth. That test was an excellent educational experience for this Chris Hartman trainee. His pedigree is pure sprint, possibly middle distance, and although he’s not a Derby candidate. he could give a good account here.

Denali Rahy Ruler will be glad to see no Louie’s Flower here, as that foe has had his number twice. This son of Roman Ruler was consistent until his flat performance from a wide post in the Springboard Mile. He drew better here, but he hasn’t faced very tough competition.

Tanzanite Cat, a son of Graham Hall, has yet to race beyond 5.5 furlongs and looks overmatched here; note the team of trainer Cody Autrey and jockey Norberto Arroyo have been top-notch this meet.

Unstoppable Colby

Unstoppable Colby

Unstoppable Colby, another victim of Gold Hawk, is from last year’s winning Smarty Jones connections, D. Wayne Lukas and Jon Court. The son of Pulpit was running well late in the slop in his debut, his race on synthetic is a toss, and he hung with Gold Hawk for second. Don’t understand the 20-1 morning line on this fellow, as he looks just as competitive as most of the other maiden winners here – if not more.

Coastline didn’t draw the best spot in the widest post of the field of 10. His Delta Jackpot is a toss because of the very detrimental stumble at the start. The son of Speightstown was one of the best 2-year-olds on the grounds at Churchill Downs and already won a stakes race at this distance for trainer Mark Casse. He retains his regular rider, Shaun Bridgmohan. The key for this colt is getting into action early from that outside post – just like Ride on Curlin did here in his allowance win on Jan. 12.

Coastline’s pedigree leans heavy sprint to middle distance, and he should excel up to 1 1/16-miles.

D’Cajun Cat and Whyruawesome look to be best at sprint distances.


The anticipated return of Indianapolis arrives Monday, when the Bob Baffert-trained son of Medaglia d’Oro takes on four rivals in the $75,000 San Pedro Stakes at six furlongs.

Indianapolis landed on the radar with his impressive off-the-pace debut win on synthetic at Hollywood at the same distance.

The half-brother of Heart Ashley and Ashley’s Kitty has posted a long string of works on Santa Anita dirt in preparation. What’s concerning, however, is the fact Baffert is running him back again at six furlongs. Either he feels he’s not ready to route yet or possibly he’s indicated he’s inclined to sprint. Good to see the faith of moving him up to stakes.

Baffert also entered Beach Hut, the son of First Defence who’s been a bit of a puzzle so far. California-bred gelding Elmonte Cristo is a legitimate threat making his first start on dirt for Jerry Hollendorfer. Papa Turf is experienced and has faced tough competition, while Rockin Home is the longshot of the short field.












Kentucky Derby Path: Shared Belief to possibly work later this week

January 19th, 2014

By J.J. Hysell

Shared Belief, the Eclipse Award winner for 2-year-old male, continues to recover from an abscess that has postponed his training.

The son of Candy Ride, undefeated in three races, missed his scheduled work last Sunday because of the abscess on his right front foot.

On Sunday, trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said Shared Belief might work later this week.

“We’re being overly cautious,” Hollendorfer said. “We have time. Maybe he’ll work in a couple of days.”

Shared Belief is being pointed to the Robert B. Lewis on Feb. 8.


Kentucky Derby Path: Old fashioned rivalry brewing between Midnight Hawk and Shared Belief

January 17th, 2014

By J.J. Hysell

If you like old-fashioned racing rivalries, it appears there might be one brewing between the two top California-based Kentucky Derby contenders.

In Santa Anita’s Friday press notes, both sides expressed opinions about each other’s horses.

Dan Ward, assistant to Shared Belief’s trainer, Jerry Hollendorfer, dished out his opinion of the Bob Baffert-trained Midnight Hawk.

Shared Belief, a son of Candy Ride and a finalist for the Eclipse Award for 2-year-old male, is undefeated in three starts on synthetic, including the Grade 3 Hollywood Prevue and the Grade 1 CashCall Stakes.

Midnight Hawk, a son of Midnight Lute who recently won the Grade 3 Sham at Santa Anita, is 2 for 2 and considered one of Baffert’s leading Derby contenders.

Ward had some blistering analysis of Midnight Hawk’s Sham win. The colt battled Kristo in what was essentially a two-horse race in a four-horse field and finished the mile in 1:36.48. The final eighth-mile was timed in 13:42.

“I didn’t see anything in the Sham that scared me, even a little bit,” Ward was quoted as saying in the notes. “The last eighth, that horse (Midnight Hawk) was looking for a bleeping taxi to get him home. He went in 13 and one (fifth). You could have timed him with a sun dial.”

Baffert reportedly fired back, saying the Sham was “a match race,” and that Shared Belief has never won on dirt.

Shared Belief missed a work last Sunday because of an abscess but is expected to return to the work tab. He is slated as possible for the Grade 2 Robert B. Lewis Stakes on Feb. 8.

“I’m not going to work him until he’s perfect,” Hollendorfer said.

The Derby trail appears to have a riveting rivalry on its hands – one that could come to fruition in the Santa Anita Derby on April 5.

Read more:



Kentucky Derby Path: What will be revealed about Gold Hawk and Albano?

January 16th, 2014

By J.J. Hysell

Two of the most talked about Kentucky Derby hopefuls of the Fair Grounds 3-year-old contingent – Gold Hawk and Albano – could issue more revelations about their capabilities for the first Saturday in May in Saturday’s LeComte Stakes.

Gold Hawk

Gold Hawk

The classically-bred Gold Hawk has won at the one mile, 70-yard distance and over this surface. He isn’t pace dependent and delivered a strong gallop out after his last win. Jockey Shaun Bridgmohan is aboard for the first time, replacing Ricardo Santana, Jr. Gold Hawk’s dominance in two starts and his promising pedigree have deservedly earned him a spot on most Derby lists. The main questions he will answer here are class – a new level of competition – and can he handle coming back on relatively short rest for a stakes test?

Albano, brother of Mark Valeski, hasn’t garnered as much exposure as Gold Hawk, but he’s accomplished quite a bit for trainer Larry Jones in a short while. He has the Sugar Bowl Stakes win to his credit and is 2 for 2 over the surface.  His top challenge could be distance, as he’s not raced beyond six furlongs and his pedigree leans sprint to middle distance. While this is a distance he could likely handle, stretching out in future Derby preps could be daunting.



Got Shades is an interesting betting choice as the son of Pollard’s Vision is trying dirt for the first time and has Robby Albarado in the saddle. Also interesting to note the stellar training over the Fair Grounds dirt surface by Smarty’s Echo, a son of Smarty Jones.


Kentucky Derby Path: Ride on Curlin back in the Derby mix

January 12th, 2014

By J.J. Hysell

Remember Ride on Curlin?

He turned heads with his impressive win at Ellis Park in July in his second start. The son of Curlin delivered one of the finest performances we’ve seen from a 2-year-old at that track in quite some time when he romped by more than seven lengths and set a new track record (1:03) for five and a half furlongs.

Ride on Curlin

Ride on Curlin

The colt dropped off the radar for a while after he was sidelined with shin issues. He returned to finish fourth in the Grade 3 Iroquois and was a solid third behind Havana and Honor Code in the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes at Belmont in October.

Ride on Curlin, trained by William Gowan and owned by Daniel Dougherty, closed out his juvenile campaign with a third-place finish in the Street Sense at Churchill Downs.

The colt appeared rejuvenated when he arrived on the scene at Oaklawn Park. The time off has served him well as he looks to have filled out.

He has re-established himself as a Kentucky Derby contender after his allowance win Sunday in a six-furlong sprint. Jockey Calvin Borel, who returned from his leg injury and is reunited with the colt, guided him from the far outside post in the 10-horse field to be on the pace. After going four-wide, he settled into position, took the lead and cruised to the finish with a 2 1/2-length win.

Ride on Curlin will be pointed to the Southwest Stakes on Feb. 17.

Borel, who returned to riding on Jan. 10, now has two high-profile Kentucky Derby prospects. He also rides Almost Famous, an allowance winner for trainer Pat Byrne who is being pointed to the Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park.




Kentucky Derby Path: Shared Belief misses training due to abscess

January 12th, 2014

By J.J. Hysell

Undefeated Shared Belief, the Kentucky Derby contender part-owned by sports talk host Jim Rome, has suffered a minor setback during training.

The gelding by Candy Ride missed a work Sunday due to an abscess on his right front hoof.

Shared Belief is expected to continue preparing for the Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita on Feb. 8.

“As soon as the area is dry, when he’s 100 percent, we’ll work him,” said Dan Ward, assistant to trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. “The Lewis is four weeks away. We should be fine.”

Shared Belief won the Grade 3 Hollywood Prevue Stakes and the Grade 1 CashCall Futurity and is considered one of the early favorites for the Derby.




Kentucky Oaks Path: Unbridled Forever boasts the right pedigree

January 12th, 2014

By J.J. Hysell

If you’re looking for the perfect Kentucky Oaks contender based on pedigree, Unbridled Forever fits the bill.

Unbridled Forever

Unbridled Forever

Unbridled Forever, trained by Dallas Stewart, is out of 2006 Kentucky Oaks victor Lemons Forever, who was also trained by Stewart and lit up the tote board at 47-1.

The filly is by Unbridled’s Song; that also adds to the appeal as the sire’s progeny can excel at distances of 1 1/16 to 1 1/8 miles.

Unbridled Forever showed substantial growth and improvement in her second start at Churchill Downs on Nov. 30. Under Robby Albarado, she sat off the pace and made a powerful move in the stretch before striding out to win by more than five lengths. Her final time for the seven furlongs was a sharp 1:21.91.

Unbridled Forever stood out physically while training at Churchill Downs and has continued her stellar works since shifting to Fair Grounds, where she will be entered in Saturday’s Silverbulletday Stakes.

“She’s fast just like her mother,” Stewart said in the Fair Grounds notes, “and we’ve been stretching her out in her works to get her ready to go a mile and 70 yards this time.”



Kentucky Oaks Path: Don’t overlook Kiss Moon

January 11th, 2014

By J.J. Hysell

Kiss Moon’s two races have been contrasts in many ways, but on both occasions, she’s emerged victorious and is one to watch.

The daughter of Malibu Moon began her career on synthetic at Turfway Park – and that first race didn’t go smoothly. She hesitated at the start and was left at the back of the 12-horse field in the six furlong test. Jockey Rodney Prescott remained patient and she steadily advanced, passing foes one by one, until she snatched the lead in the stretch. She won by two lengths for trainer David Vance and owner Carl Pollard.

It was a different story in her second start, a mile allowance at Oaklawn Saturday over a track labeled good. Jockey Terry Thompson took the filly to the lead from the start and she never stalled, widening her advantage throughout in a nine-and-a-half length romp.

Kiss Moon, out of the Kris S. mare Kiss the Devil, is a half-sister of Kiss Mine, a multiple stakes winner whose career highlights include the My Charmer Stakes, Ellis Park Turf Stakes and the Decoration Day Handicap. Kiss Mine’s best races were on turf and synthetic, and Kiss Moon looks to have multi-surface ability as well.


Kentucky Derby Path: Midnight Hawk a winner, but colt has some issues

January 11th, 2014

By J.J. Hysell

The scratches of Life Is a Joy and Top Fortitude whittled the Grade 3 Sham Stakes to a field of four. It ended up a match race between the top two betting choices: favorite Midnight Hawk and Kristo.

The two battled head-to-head until late stretch when Midnight Hawk took control en route to a win by 1 3/4-lengths.

The mile test at Santa Anita doesn’t shed much light on the Derby scene. It did, however, reveal both the talent and the quirks of Bob Baffert’s 3-year-old prospect.

Midnight Hawk, 2 for 2 with wins on two different surfaces, has had similar races in both starts. In his debut, he got off to a slow start, was rushed up to the lead, lost the lead and was forced to stalk before regaining the advantage.

In the Sham, he sat off Kristo before grabbing the lead, conceded to a rail-riding Kristo again before passing him in the stretch. It’s an interesting dynamic this son of Midnight Lute has shown, and even more intriguing considering Baffert removed the blinkers he sported in his debut.

Prior to the race, Baffert said Midnight Hawk is a speedy type who “wants the lead” and doesn’t want to sit behind horses in his works. This is what he’s showing in his races – and it’s both good and bad. By wanting the lead, he fights for the front position at any cost, which is a plus in a short field and sprint or middle distance situation. It’s not ideal, however, for endurance races or full fields, where he could easily get shuffled back and needs to relegate his energy. How would he respond in that situation?

Midnight Hawk, who has drawn attention because he’s part-owned by Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Mike Tice and Chicago Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville, also has an issue with noise and crowds.

After the Sham, jockey Mike Smith gave some insight into the colt’s mind.

“He was much better in the gate today,” Smith said. “It was evident the work they have done, he’s improved. There is some other work to be done, though. He’s still a bit green down the lane. When the crowd screams he over-exaggerates. He thinks they’re yelling right at him and gets scared. There are some things that Bob can do that should help that as well though.

“He was better today, without the blinkers, than he was his first race. When he hears the crowd, especially. If he couldn’t see them today it would be even worse. That’s the way I take it – maybe some cotton in the ears, we’ll see.”

While his pedigree suggests he might be a distance horse, his running style will likely determine how far he goes.

“He’s still a little green, but I liked him a lot better without the blinkers,” Baffert said. “He was waiting a little bit on horses, but he came back and he didn’t look like he was very tired. He wasn’t blowing very hard, so that’s a good sign.”

As far as his next start, Baffert said: “We’ll let him tell us when he’s ready to roll. He’s a big, heavy horse, and he can handle a lot. He’s so heavy, I’d rather run him than work him.”

Although he was second-best on this day, Kristo remains one to watch. The son of Distorted Humor was forced into a pace-control situation because of the short field, the rail position and Midnight Hawk. He’ll be better when he can rate off the pace in a longer race, likely at 1 1/16 to 1 1/8-miles. While he boasts an excellent pedigree for Churchill Downs, the Kentucky Derby distance is a question for the John Sadler trainee.

“We think he can get better,” Sadler said. “We think he wants to run farther. That’s not the style we wanted to run today, but when it came up sort of like a match race, you’re drawn inside of the other guy, what are you going to do? We had to run head to head all the way around, but he ran well.”





Racing manager for Mucho Macho Man: “Dubai World Cup is an option.”

January 11th, 2014

In today’s Gulfstream Park press notes, Dean and Patti Reeves’ stable manager Finn Green hinted Mucho Macho Man could be a prospect for Dubai this year.

The Breeders’ Cup Classic winner is slated to make his season debut in the Sunshine Millions Classic on Jan. 18 at Gulfstream Park. Mucho Macho Man breezed Saturday morning in preparation for the race, posting a time of 47.87 for the four furlongs.

“There are multiple options off that race for us,” Green said in the notes. “With the weather down here and the rain, we wanted to take the first short at a dry track that we could get. If it comes up wet we can go somewhere after that, but it launches us into February and March after that.”

Green said if Mucho Macho Man has to scratch from the Classic – he won’t run if the track comes up wet – the San Antonio at Santa Anita would be an option.

In an interesting note, Green talked about possible future plans for the 6-year-old and mentioned Dubai.

“This race also sets us up to go to several other places, even not in this country. The Dubai World Cup is an option,” Green said. “We have three different paths we can go. One is the conventional route on dirt and the other two are on other surfaces. He’s definitely a mile-and-a-quarter horse, so this race sets us up for a couple of races out in front of us, one is in California and the other is somewhere else.

“They have Tapeta over there (in Dubai). He ran very well on Tapeta. We’ve worked him over it a couple times, and he had great action, great extension. But there are 100 and some-odd things that can go wrong between here and there and only one thing that can go right to go over there.”