In the Money

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Kentucky Derby Gauge: Feb. 26

February 25th, 2014

2014 KENTUCKY DERBY GAUGE

1. CONQUEST TITAN

Conquest Titan

Conquest Titan

PEDIGREE: 5

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CD SURFACE RATING: 5

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DERBY POINTS: 4

The son of Birdstone was being pointed to the Florida Derby, but he’ll travel to the Tampa Bay Derby on March 8 instead, trainer Mark Casse announced Tuesday. That offers positives and negatives. The late closer moves away from the traditionally speed-favoring Gulfstream Park track and the competition who’ve shown an affinity for it. With the race closer on the calendar, it also offers a cushion in case he doesn’t collect enough points. On the other hand, the Tampa Bay Derby is 1 1/16-miles compared to 1 1/8-miles for the Florida Derby. This colt rallies from far back, so a longer distance might better suit him. I would’ve liked to have seen him try the Louisiana Derby – where Golden Soul, who boasted a very similar running style, was able to be in the mix in that long stretch – but if he’s as good as he’s looked in his last two races, he’ll find a way to overcome the obstacles. He was flattered by General a Rod’s game second in the Fountain of Youth, as Conquest Titan is the only horse other than Wildcat Red to beat him. His sire Birdstone won the Belmont (12 furlongs) and his dam’s sire Mineshaft won the Jockey Club Gold Cup (10 furlongs) and the Pimlico Special (9.5 furlongs).

2. TOP BILLING

Shug McGaughey

Shug McGaughey

PEDIGREE: 4

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CD SURFACE RATING: Projected 4

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DERBY POINTS: 10

He did nothing in his late-rallying Fountain of Youth run to dissuade handicappers of his abilities – if anything, he confirmed he’s one of the top contenders on the tough Florida circuit by overcoming a wide post and closing on a speed-heavy strip. The son of Curlin broke last and appeared disoriented at the start, but he made up substantial ground in the stretch and finished a good third behind two speedy colts, Wildcat Red and General a Rod. The wide trip left him toiling on the gallop out, but Joel Rosario also likely wanted to save the colt from further taxation and pulled him up quickly. “We’d like to run in the Florida Derby, but it’s a little early, so we’ll just have to wait and see,” McGaughey said.

3. TAPITURE

Tapiture

Tapiture

PEDIGREE: 4

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CD SURFACE RATING: 5

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DERBY POINTS: 22

He’s steadily climbing the list each week. He’ll get another true test in the Rebel Stakes on March 15 with shippers like Kobe’s Back expected to arrive. In the Southwest Stakes, he profited from an inside post that helped him avoid the scrum that occurred in the outside lane, but there’s no denying this was a statement run. Once on the lead, he shied from the right-handed whip, but when jockey Ricardo Santana, Jr. – who’s been aboard for his last four races – switched to the left, this son of Tapit turned on the engines and extended his lead. He galloped out with energy to spare. He’s not physically imposing, but he’s very athletic and responds quickly to cues, which is integral to a Derby contender. He’s one who might have the mettle for a 20-horse field. His dam’s sire, Olympio, was a multi-surface threat who won the American Derby on dirt at 10 furlongs and the Hollywood Derby on turf at 9 furlongs.

4. CONSTITUTION

Todd Pletcher

Todd Pletcher

PEDIGREE: 4

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CD SURFACE RATING: Projected 5

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DERBY POINTS: 0

If you were like me and needed one more see-to-believe performance from this lightly-raced colt, you got it with his front-running win in a strong allowance at 1 1/16-miles on the Fountain of Youth undercard. I’ve ranked him high on the list despite the obvious obstacles – he has no points yet and yes, Apollo, he didn’t race at 2 – because I don’t see him as the usual Gulfstream need-the-lead, blossom-early type. His debut was proof he can overcome adversity, as he overcame a troubled start to win going away. He also boasts the perfect pedigree for the Churchill Downs strip, being a son of Tapit out of a Distorted Humor mare. He needs to overcome his habit of breaking slowly and rushing up. I’d like to see him ship and try another track, but his future plans have yet to be revealed. “Historically, I think we’re trying to buck a trend, but I think we have a horse that’s talented enough to keep moving in the right direction,” Todd Pletcher said.

5. INDIANAPOLIS

Bob Baffert

Bob Baffert

PEDIGREE: 4

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CD SURFACE RATING: Projected 4

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DERBY POINTS: 0

He moves down two spots because he hasn’t posted a work since it was revealed he had a minor setback (cough). He remains high on the watch list, however. He looks to be the most talented of the Baffert armada. The question is his distance top; it might be 9 furlongs. His sire won the Travers at 10 furlongs and was very consistent at 9 furlongs against top company. His dam’s sire Beau Genius won multiple races at 9 furlongs.

6. STRONG MANDATE

D. Wayne Lukas

D. Wayne Lukas

PEDIGREE: 4

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CD SURFACE RATING: Projected 4

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DERBY POINTS: 6

No change this week as he awaits the Rebel Stakes. There’s no shame in his runner-up performance to Tapiture in the Southwest considering he was coming in off a layoff of more than three months. Lukas has them ready second off the layoff, and that’s when this son of Tiznow could fire. He endured a very wide trip and covered much more ground than Tapiture, so it’s no surprise he grew weary in the stretch. The one concern is how he flinched at the dirt in his face while running behind Tapiture; he also appeared to climb a bit over the Oaklawn surface. Still, not one to be discounted. His sire is a two-time Breeders’ Cup Classic winner and his dam’s sire Deputy Minister won the Donn Handicap (9 furlongs).

 

7. HOPPERTUNITY

Bob Baffert

Bob Baffert

PEDIGREE: 4

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CD SURFACE RATING: Projected 4

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DERBY POINTS: 5

That was a sneaky-good fourth in the Risen Star Stakes for this son of Any Given Saturday. He waited at the back of the pack until the stretch run and was at one point six-wide before Martin Garcia maneuvered him back inside to avoid two tiring horses. He finished with a strong gallop out. It was a good trial run for the Louisiana Derby if that’s the call; he’s another who didn’t race at 2 but appears quite promising. “He seemed to like the track here and I think he showed he might be better at a longer distance,” said Jimmy Barnes, assistant trainer to Bob Baffert. How far can he go? That’s the question. Sire Any Given Saturday was eighth in the 2007 Kentucky Derby, beat Hard Spun and Curlin in the 9-furlong Haskell Invitational and won the Brooklyn Handicap at 9 furlongs. His dam’s sire, Unaccounted For, won the Whitney Handicap at 9 furlongs and was second to Cigar in the Jockey Club Gold Cup at 10 furlongs.

8. TONALIST

PEDIGREE: 5

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CD SURFACE RATING: Projected 5

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DERBY POINTS: 0

Tough to judge his runner-up finish to Constitution in Saturday’s allowance race on the swift Gulfstream surface. He stalked the pace, made a move, but flattened out and simply maintained behind the winner. Smart move by trainer Christophe Clement to keep him at an allowance level and not stakes; he simply wasn’t ready. After all, this was just his third start and second off the layoff. He was flattered when Global Strike, second to Tonalist last out, won on the Fountain of Youth undercard. He’s still highly-regarded on the list, but he might need more time than two months to peak. Sire Tapit is known for middle-distance progeny, but his sons and daughters have historically fared very well at Churchill Downs. His broodmare’s sire, Pleasant Colony, won the 1991 Kentucky Derby and Preakness and was third in the Belmont.

9. BOURBONIZE

Bourbonize

Bourbonize

PEDIGREE: 3

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CD SURFACE RATING: 5

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DERBY POINTS: 0

Don’t count him out after that tricky trip in the Southwest from an outside post. He was stuck behind horses in a traffic tussle and, once free, made up ground. The bad news is he didn’t collect any points, but connections reported he emerged from the race fine and hopefully he’ll continue on the trail. This is a tough horse who has the mentality for the Derby. New sire Tiz Wonderful is a son of the legendary Tiznow and was 2 for 2 at Churchill Downs in his short career. His dam’s sire, Halo’s Image, won multiple stakes races at 9 furlongs.

10. BOND HOLDER

Doug O'Neill

Doug O’Neill

PEDIGREE: 4

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CD SURFACE RATING: Projected 4

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DERBY POINTS: 11

This son of Mineshaft has developed an issue with flying that caused him to scratch from the Risen Star and also to divert to Florida, where he’ll remain for the Tampa Bay Derby on March 8. It all might be to his benefit as that race is now shaping up to be quite a rumble; a wait and see approach now. His dam’s sire, Conquistador Cielo, was a tremendous performer who went 9 of 13 and won the Belmont Stakes, Dwyer Stakes and Jim Dandy Stakes.

 

DERBY GAUGE: TIER 2

11. KRISTO

He’s training lights out at Santa Anita; latest work (2/24) a bullet at 6 furlongs (1;10.80). The son of Distorted Humor was forced into a speed duel with Midnight Hawk in the Sham. He should improve when returning to routes and rating off the pace. Great pedigree for Churchill Downs, but the 10 furlongs is a question. San Felipe is up next.

12. MEXIKOMA

A solid rally from last to third behind Constitution and Tonalist in a super allowance at Gulfstream puts him in the mix. The son of Birdstone prefers to come from off the pace, and he was making up ground in a good effort for sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. He’s held his own in these two tests against tough competition. Dosage of 5.67 is worrisome.

13. GLOBAL STRIKE

I don’t know what Todd Pletcher’s plans are for this maiden winner, and he’s running against the clock, but respect for any colt who can wing it on the front end and win the way he did at 1 1/8-miles in just his third start. The son of Smart Strike looks like he wants to run all day; he was second to Tonalist in his second start.

14. HARTFORD

He dropped out of the Top 10 because he hasn’t posted a work since Feb. 11 (5f, 1:01.25). Will he get on board the trail in time? The odds are against this son of Tapit as he’ll have to overcome the “Curse of Apollo” and become the first Derby winner since 1882 who didn’t have a start at the age of 2. His debut was effortless and effervescent.  Whether or not he makes the Derby, this gray colt is one to watch. His dam’s sire, Editor’s Note, won the Super Derby at 10 furlongs and won the Belmont Stakes at 12 furlongs. That’s a family of grinders that goes far back.

15. BAYERN

He’s the darling of the Southern California circuit after his eye-catching allowance win at Santa Anita for trainer Bob Baffert. The son of Offlee Wild is a Bodemeister type who didn’t start his career until January. Pedigree is solid, but I won’t be sold until he wins beyond a mile and beats a substantial field. What will happen when things don’t go his way?

16. CAN’THELPBELIEVING

The son of Duke of Marmalade is likely a turf horse, but sometimes these long-distance grass runners can transfer to dirt. No doubt he’s got an affinity for endurance tests with his sharp performances so far at nine furlongs.

17. CAIRO PRINCE

This son of new sire Pioneerof the Nile has drawn a lot of attention after his dominant Holy Bull performance and rightfully so. His campaign has been well-timed by Kiaran McLaughlin and he could come into the Derby with the perfect foundation behind him. I remain curious about his ability at 10 furlongs.

18. KOBE’S BACK

He’ll need to rely on his sire side for the stamina as there’s not much to pull from on the dam side, but one can’t ignore that powerful win in the San Vicente, his 3-year-old debut. He’s likely for the Rebel Stakes, where we’ll get to know him better.

19. CANDY BOY

Gary Stevens is crazy about this colt, a son of Candy Ride who has been quite consistent since October of his 2-year-old season. Unlike most Candy Ride progeny who excel on turf and synthetic, this colt is better on dirt. It’s not a pedigree that screams 10 furlongs on dirt at Churchill Downs, but he did look impressive in the Robert B. Lewis.

20. MOSLER

This is a Churchill Downs pedigree: a son of War Front out of an Arch mare. While most War Fronts excel on turf and synthetic, this Bill Mott trainee won impressively on dirt and is training lights out at Payson Park. He’s just a maiden winner, so there’s a lot to overcome, but he’s one to watch if he comes to Louisville.

21. STREET STRATEGY

He’s entered in an allowance against older on Thursday at Oaklawn. The son of Street Sense is another who would have to buck the “Curse of Apollo,” and he’s an outsider for the Derby, but the gray colt is one to watch. Rebel Stakes is the plan.

 22. GLOBAL VIEW

A son of Galileo in the Derby? It could happen. This stakes winner on turf for trainer Tom Proctor is training on dirt at Tampa Bay. A classy individual who looks quite promising. No word on his projected next start.

23. HONOR CODE

Talented son of A.P. Indy who unfortunately had a minor setback that stalled his training. He’s now likely for the Rebel Stakes and will be playing catch-up. He’s built like a true long-distance route runner, won at 9 furlongs at two and certainly has the pedigree for the Derby, but I don’t believe he’s Shug McGaughey’s top Derby hope at this point.

24. IRONICUS

He remains on the list, but he hasn’t worked since Feb. 3.

25. CHELIOS

An outsider to make the Derby at this point. This son of Distorted Humor found the winner’s circle with a change of tactics by Gary Stevens, who put him on the lead and hustled him home. He looks like a colt who would appreciate a route of ground, but can he rate? His dam’s sire is A.P. Indy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Analysis: Kentucky Oaks Future Wager

February 25th, 2014

By J.J. Hysell

Who are the most intriguing fillies in the lone Kentucky Oaks Future Wager? The pool opens Thursday at noon (ET) and closes at post time for the Santa Ysabel at Santa Anita, or 6 p.m., whichever comes first.

ARETHUSA (A.P. Indy) (20-1) – This is a filly who will only get better as the races get longer. She’s better on dirt and boasts the perfect running style for the 1 1/8-mile test on May 2. She is training consistently at Santa Anita and currently has two Oaks points.

BIRD MAKER (Empire Maker) (30-1) – Watch how this Ian Wilkes trainee does in Thursday’s route allowance at Gulfstream Park. She was distanced by Dame Dorothy, but that was on a sloppy Gulfstream track. Churchill’s main strip is a study in contrast, and this filly did very well there as a 2-year-old.

Bird Maker

Bird Maker

DAME DOROTHY (Bernardini) (12-1) – A Todd Pletcher-trained Pennsylvania-bred filly – sound familiar? She doesn’t have as much experience as Princess of Sylmar did at this juncture, but she’s done nothing wrong. She proved she is versatile and an off track won’t deter her.

HOUSE RULES (Distorted Humor) (20-1) – She’s on the outside class-wise, but the Davona Dale runner-up boasts an outstanding pedigree for the Churchill Downs surface.

JOINT RETURN (Include) (50-1) – She hasn’t faced the toughest company, an off track doesn’t suit her, but those are some nice odds for a filly who is 3 for 4 and has won at a route. In all of her wins she’s rallied from last to first and didn’t always get an easy fast pace.

ONLYFORYOU (Malibu Moon) (8-1) – Stingy odds but rightfully so as this looks like Todd Pletcher’s stable star in the filly ranks. Undefeated in four starts, she can stay steady on the lead or come from off the pace. The distance won’t be a question and she’s one of the classiest of the Oaks contenders with two graded stakes wins on a tough circuit.

PLEASE EXPLAIN (Curlin) (30-1) – My top under the radar Oaks filly and I think she’ll be live if she makes the race. She dominated the Suncoast Stakes and has improved from a learning 2-year-old into a professional. Her only “off” race was on synthetic, and it was still a good third. With that pedigree she should have no trouble with the distance. If she’s anywhere near these odds, this is one I’ll be playing for sure.

ROSALIND (Broken Vow) (20-1) – This long-striding filly takes a while to get going, but she’s always running well late. She’s set to make her 3-year-old debut in the allowance Thursday at Gulfstream Park that also features Bird Maker.

SWEET REASON (Street Sense) (20-1) – The Spinaway winner is working steadily for her 3-year-old debut. She’s a bit of a wild card as we haven’t seen her since the Breeders’ Cup, but she managed a good fourth in that race despite a lot of trouble. Solid pedigree for Churchill Downs.

UNBRIDLED FOREVER (Unbridled’s Song) (8-1) – The In the Money top-ranked Oaks filly awaits a big challenge in the Fair Grounds Oaks. She’s continued to train well since her Silverbulletday win. She’ll likely be coming into the Oaks off just two preps, but can’t ignore that made-for-the-race pedigree.

UNTAPABLE (Tapit) (6-1) – As with many Tapit fillies, she’s matured into her 3-year-old year and announced herself as one to be reckoned with in her Rachel Alexandra romp. Her best asset is her affinity for the Churchill Downs track, where she’ll feel right at home. If she wins the Fair Grounds Oaks and goes into the race on her toes, these odds will look like a dream.

ALL OTHER FILLIES (6-1) – Always a good bet, and doubt it will stand at a generous 6-1, but I think it’s very likely this year’s Oaks winner is on the pool list.

 

 

Unbridled Forever, Untapable could make for unforgettable Fair Grounds Oaks

February 24th, 2014

By J.J. Hysell

Unbridled Forever, the sharp Silverbulletday Stakes winner who is the daughter of Kentucky Oaks champ Lemons Forever, was considered the queen of the Fair Grounds-based 3-year-old fillies – until Saturday.

Untapable offered up a challenge with her dominating romp in the Grade 3 Rachel Alexandra Stakes for trainer Steve Asmussen and owner Winchell Thoroughbreds.

Untapable after her Pocahontas Stakes win

Untapable after her Pocahontas Stakes win

This sets the scene for an unforgettable Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks on March 29, as both fillies are listed as likely for the race.

“Yes, I would think we’ll be pointing her to the Fair Grounds Oaks, assuming everything continues to go right with her between now and then.” said Winchell Thoroughbreds’ farm manager David Fiske in the Fair Grounds press notes. “In fact, the Fair Grounds Oaks is on March 29, and that’s Ron Winchell’s birthday.”

As far as Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner Ria Antonia, who was fourth in the Rachel Alexandra in her first start since that race, plans remain undecided on whether it will be the Fair Grounds Oaks or the Risen Star.

“I think they will be making a decision in a couple of days about that,” said Elizabeth Dobles, assistant to trainer Jeremiah Englehart.

 

 

Bond Holder targeting Tampa Bay Derby after more flight trouble

February 24th, 2014

By J.J. Hysell

Bond Holder won’t be going home to California after another flight issue, the Doug O’Neill Racing Stable reported Sunday.

The colt, who scratched from Saturday’s Risen Star at Fair Grounds after being body sore due to flight issues from California, apparently didn’t like taking to the skies again. His plane was re-routed to Florida, where he will stay and train for the Tampa Bay Derby on March 8.

From O’Neill’s Facebook Page: “Bond Holder was not happy flying and was routed to Florida.  Luckily, we had nominated him to the Tampa Bay Derby and so we will keep him in Florida to run there on March 8.  Audible called, but that is horse racing!”

Bond Holder scratched from Risen Star, now likely for San Felipe

February 19th, 2014

By J.J. Hysell

Bond Holder will not make his 3-year-old debut in Saturday’s Risen Star Stakes. He will instead point to the San Felipe at Santa Anita on March 8.

A message from the Doug O’Neill Racing Stable: “This morning we scratched Bond Holder from the Risen Star due to the effects of his having a tough flight going to Louisiana.   We will point to the San Felipe instead on March 8th and continue on to Kentucky as the goal!”

Kentucky Derby Gauge: Feb. 19

February 18th, 2014

2014 KENTUCKY DERBY GAUGE

1. CONQUEST TITAN

Conquest Titan

Conquest Titan

PEDIGREE: 5

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CD SURFACE RATING: 5

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DERBY POINTS: 4

It was announced this week that Conquest Titan will skip the Fountain of Youth and await the Florida Derby on March 29. It’s the best option when you consider the late closer is likely better at the longer distance of 1 1/8-miles, as well as the fact Casse said he’s a “light horse.” Casse needs to pick his spots to avoid fatigue before the main goal. The only drawback is Conquest Titan’s need for points, and the Florida Derby could be the toughest Derby prep this year. Sire Birdstone won the Belmont (12 furlongs) and his dam’s sire Mineshaft won the Jockey Club Gold Cup (10 furlongs) and the Pimlico Special (9.5 furlongs).

2. TOP BILLING

Shug McGaughey

Shug McGaughey

PEDIGREE: 4

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CD SURFACE RATING: Projected 4

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DERBY POINTS: 0

Shug McGaughey’s top Derby hope will get his true test in Saturday’s Fountain of Youth. He didn’t get the benefit of the draw, installed in post 12 of the 13-horse field, but his late-running closer’s style helps. It’s all about tactics with main rival Commissioner situated at the rail. If he doesn’t get the points here, there’s still time; he just needs to deliver a solid performance. He boasts all the qualities you want to see in a Derby contender. Sire Curlin is regarded as one of the best horses of the era and his dam’s sire A.P. Indy is the ultimate stamina influence.

3. INDIANAPOLIS

Bob Baffert

Bob Baffert

PEDIGREE: 4

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CD SURFACE RATING: Projected 4

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DERBY POINTS: 0

It’s all about timing for this professional but lightly raced son of Medaglia d’Oro. He missed a key prep opportunity in the San Vicente because of a cough. He looks to be the most talented of the Baffert armada. The question is his distance top; it might be 9 furlongs. His sire won the Travers at 10 furlongs and was very consistent at 9 furlongs against top company. His dam’s sire Beau Genius won multiple races at 9 furlongs.

4. TAPITURE

Tapiture

Tapiture

PEDIGREE: 4

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CD SURFACE RATING: 5

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DERBY POINTS: 22

He moves up from No. 7 last week after a scintillating win in the Southwest Stakes Monday at Oaklawn. He profited from an inside post that helped him avoid the scrum that occurred in the outside lane, but there’s no denying this was a statement run. Once on the lead, he shied from the right-handed whip, but when jockey Ricardo Santana, Jr. – who’s been aboard for his last four races – switched to the left, this son of Tapit turned on the engines and extended his lead. He galloped out with energy to spare. He’s not physically imposing, but he’s very athletic and responds quickly to cues, which is integral to a Derby contender. He’s one who might have the mettle for a 20-horse field. His dam’s sire, Olympio, was a multi-surface threat who won the American Derby on dirt at 10 furlongs and the Hollywood Derby on turf at 9 furlongs.

5. COMMISSIONER

Todd Pletcher

Todd Pletcher

PEDIGREE: 5

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CD SURFACE RATING: Projected 3

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DERBY POINTS: 0

We’ll find out Saturday if this distance-dominating Derby candidate can handle a class challenge in the Fountain of Youth. This will be his first time starting from the rail position and that’s a factor. What isn’t a factor is the cutback in distance – he’s an athletic type who can sit close to the pace if necessary. He’s another contender who would be well-served to pick up some points here. A.P. Indy’s son Malibu Moon is the sire of Derby winner Orb, but A.P. Indy has yet to sire a Derby winner himself – could this be the year? His dam’s sire, Belmont Stakes victor Touch Gold, is a strong stamina influence on dirt as well.

6. STRONG MANDATE

D. Wayne Lukas

D. Wayne Lukas

PEDIGREE: 4

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CD SURFACE RATING: Projected 4

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DERBY POINTS: 6

He was dropped from No. 2 to No. 6, but there’s no shame in his runner-up performance to Tapiture in the Southwest considering he was coming in off a layoff of more than three months. Lukas has them ready second off the layoff, and that’s when this son of Tiznow could fire. He endured a very wide trip and covered much more ground than Tapiture, so it’s no surprise he grew weary in the stretch. The one concern is how he flinched at the dirt in his face while running behind Tapiture; he also appeared to climb a bit over the Oaklawn surface. Still, not one to be discounted. His sire is a two-time Breeders’ Cup Classic winner and his dam’s sire Deputy Minister won the Donn Handicap (9 furlongs).

7. TONALIST

PEDIGREE: 5

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CD SURFACE RATING: Projected 5

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DERBY POINTS: 0

The decisive moment arrives Saturday when this standout son of Tapit faces a plethora of Derby hopefuls in a key 1 1/16-mile optional claiming race at Gulfstream. The dilemma? It’s a field of closers with no standout pace, so tactics will be key for regular rider Joe Bravo. It’s likely he’ll either be ordained a superstar or dropped from many Derby lists based on his performance Saturday. Sire Tapit is known for middle-distance progeny, but his sons and daughters have historically fared very well at Churchill Downs. His broodmare’s sire Pleasant Colony won the 1991 Kentucky Derby and Preakness and was third in the Belmont.

8. HARTFORD

Todd Pletcher

Todd Pletcher

PEDIGREE: 4

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CD SURFACE RATING: Projected 5

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DERBY POINTS: 0

His most recent work was Feb. 11 at Palm Meadows (5f, 1:01.25). Will he get on board the trail in time? The odds are against this son of Tapit as he’ll have to overcome the “Curse of Apollo” and become the first Derby winner since 1882 who didn’t have a start at the age of 2. That doesn’t bother me as much as the fact he lost a few days of training because of a grabbed quarter (per Daily Racing Form) and just resumed training. His debut was effortless and effervescent. The Todd Pletcher trainee looked like he could go around again after dominating the seven-mile test. Whether or not he makes the Derby, this gray colt is one to watch. His dam’s sire, Editor’s Note, won the Super Derby at 10 furlongs – under Gary Stevens – and won the Belmont Stakes at 12 furlongs. That’s a family of grinders that goes far back.

9. BOURBONIZE

Bourbonize

Bourbonize

PEDIGREE: 3

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CD SURFACE RATING: 5

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DERBY POINTS: 0

Don’t count him out after that tricky trip in the Southwest from an outside post. He was stuck behind horses in a traffic tussle and, once free, made up ground. The bad news is he didn’t collect any points, but connections reported he emerged from the race fine and hopefully he’ll continue on the trail. This is a tough horse who has the mentality for the Derby. New sire Tiz Wonderful is a son of the legendary Tiznow and was 2 for 2 at Churchill Downs in his short career. His dam’s sire, Halo’s Image, won multiple stakes races at 9 furlongs.

10. BOND HOLDER

Doug O'Neill

Doug O’Neill

PEDIGREE: 4

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CD SURFACE RATING: Projected 4

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DERBY POINTS: 11

The Blood-Horse reported Wednesday that Bond Holder is out of the Risen Star due to injuries he suffered on the flight to New Orleans. Wait and see approach now. His dam’s sire, Conquistador Cielo, was a tremendous performer who went 9 of 13 and won the Belmont Stakes, Dwyer Stakes and Jim Dandy Stakes.

 

DERBY GAUGE: TIER 2

11. KRISTO

The son of Distorted Humor was forced into a speed duel with Midnight Hawk in the Sham. He should improve when returning to routes and rating off the pace. Great pedigree for Churchill Downs, but the 10 furlongs is a question. San Felipe is up next.

12. GLOBAL VIEW

A son of Galileo in the Derby? It could happen. This stakes winner on turf for trainer Tom Proctor is training on dirt at Tampa Bay. A classy individual who looks quite promising.

13. TEXAS RYANO

I can’t stop watching this son of Curlin’s debut on turf, in which he circled the entire field in the final furlong and came back like it was jog in the park. Although he’s up against it to make the Derby, this is one exciting prospect with a stellar pedigree. His dam, Blending Element, was a turf monster who won stakes races at 10 and 11 furlongs.

14. CHELIOS

This son of Distorted Humor found the winner’s circle with a change of tactics by Gary Stevens, who put him on the lead and hustled him home. He looks like a colt who would appreciate a route of ground, but can he rate? His dam’s sire is A.P. Indy.

15. BAYERN

He’s the darling of the Southern California circuit after his eye-catching allowance win at Santa Anita for trainer Bob Baffert. The son of Offlee Wild is a Bodemeister type who didn’t start his career until January. Pedigree is solid, but I won’t be sold until he wins beyond a mile and beats a substantial field. What will happen when things don’t go his way?

16. CAN’THELPBELIEVING

The son of Duke of Marmalade is likely a turf horse, but sometimes these long-distance grass runners can transfer to dirt. No doubt he’s got an affinity for endurance tests with his sharp performances so far at nine furlongs.

17. CAIRO PRINCE

This son of new sire Pioneerof the Nile has drawn a lot of attention after his dominant Holy Bull performance and rightfully so. His campaign has been well-timed by Kiaran McLaughlin and he could come into the Derby with the perfect foundation behind him. I remain curious about his ability at 10 furlongs.

 18. GOLD HAWK

Will he bounce back in Saturday’s Risen Star? His LeComte was a bit disappointing as Vicar’s in Trouble cruised and Albano won the gallop out. It could be a case of too much, too soon, as it was his third race in less than a two-month span. The son of Empire Maker is not one to be discounted yet.

19. CANDY BOY

Gary Stevens is crazy about this colt, a son of Candy Ride who has been quite consistent since October of his 2-year-old season. Unlike most Candy Ride progeny who excel on turf and synthetic, this colt is better on dirt. It’s not a pedigree that screams 10 furlongs on dirt at Churchill Downs, but he did look impressive in the Robert B. Lewis.

20. MOSLER

This is a Churchill Downs pedigree: a son of War Front out of an Arch mare. While most War Fronts excel on turf and synthetic, this Bill Mott trainee won impressively on dirt and is training lights out at Payson Park. He’s just a maiden winner, so there’s a lot to overcome, but he’s one to watch if he comes to Louisville.

21. STREET STRATEGY

The son of Street Sense is another who would have to buck the “Curse of Apollo,” and he’s an outsider for the Derby, but the gray Oaklawn-based colt is one to watch. Rebel Stakes is the plan.

22. IRONICUS

The “other other” Shug McGaughey, this son of Distorted Humor has performed well in turf routes but also trains well on dirt. Unsure of McGaughey’s plans for him, but if he tries dirt, look out.

23. HONOR CODE

Talented son of A.P. Indy who unfortunately had a minor setback that stalled his training. He’s now likely for the Rebel Stakes and will be playing catch-up. He’s built like a true long-distance route runner, won at 9 furlongs at two and certainly has the pedigree for the Derby, but I don’t believe he’s Shug McGaughey’s top Derby hope at this point.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Normandy Invasion, Rydilluc return Saturday at Gulfstream

February 17th, 2014

By J.J. Hysell

Saturday’s card at Gulfstream is fabulous – not just due to the Fountain of Youth, a key Kentucky Derby prep, and the Davona Dale –  but because of the undercard races as well.

Rydilluc

Rydilluc

The long-awaited return of Normandy Invasion, fourth in the Kentucky Derby in his last start, has arrived. The Chad Brown trainee drew post 1 in an allowance optional claiming (race 4) going a mile on dirt. Javier Castellano was named to ride Normandy Invasion in the race, which features a field of six.

Rydilluc, on the Derby trail last year until his fourth-place finish in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes, makes his 4-year-old debut in the competitive Grade 3 Canadian Turf Stakes. With Edgar Prado named to ride, the Gary Contessa trainee drew post three in a field of 12 that includes Unbridled Ocean, Guys Reward, Reload and Joha,

 

 

Casse confirms Conquest Titan will await Florida Derby

February 17th, 2014

By J.J. Hysell

Trainer Mark Casse hinted during his interview with Horse Racing Radio Network over the weekend that Conquest Titan, No. 1 on Derby Gauge, might bypass Saturday’s Fountain of Youth.

Casse confirmed Monday through Gulfstream Park that the son of Birdstone, second in the Holy Bull Stakes in his last start, will await the Florida Derby on March 29.

Conquest Titan

Conquest Titan

“We’re going to pass on it (Fountain of Youth),” Casse said. “His last race, he came out of it good but I thought he lost a few pounds. He worked really well last week and he trained great this morning, but we can’t make all the dances. We’re just going to wait for the Florida Derby.”

“He’s not a big horse, anyway. He’s just kind of an average-sized horse, and the Fountain of Youth is going to come up tough. We’re always at a disadvantage with him going a mile and a sixteenth, especially with a speed-favoring track. I talked with (owner) Ernie (Semersky) and we just decided to wait and go straight to the Florida Derby.”

The Florida Derby at 1 1/8-miles also better suits the colt’s late-closing running style. The Fountain of Youth is 1 1/16-miles.

 

Kentucky Derby Path: Southwest should answer early questions

February 16th, 2014

By J.J. Hysell

With a field featuring several leading Kentucky Derby contenders, Monday’s Grade 3 Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park should answer some early questions.

Prospects like Hopeful Stakes winner Strong Mandate, Kentucky Jockey Club winner Tapiture and Springboard Mile winner Louies Flower are all making their 3-year-old debuts. A win from any of these will be convincing and will vault them into the upper echelon of Derby lists, but they don’t necessarily need to win to remain viable candidates. A strong showing off the layoff will keep them in the mix. Tapiture must overcome the rail post, so a win for him would carry some added weight. Layoff numbers for trainer D. Wayne Lukas aren’t very high, so a win by Strong Mandate would also bode well for the colt’s star status.

Ride on Curlin

Ride on Curlin

It’s a different story for Coastline, Bourbonize, Ride on Curlin, Walt and Kendall’s Boy. These contenders have a January race behind them and should be primed for the 1 1/16-mile challenge. Coastline, a son of Speightstown, is specifically under the microscope as far as his ability to route is concerned. A lot of positives are notable for the mostly forgotten Ride on Curlin, who is coming into the race off a solid win in an allowance at Oaklawn in which jockey Calvin Borel adeptly hustled him from a far outside post in a 10-horse field. He’s drawn a more favorable post here (8).

Bourbonize is a Derby sleeper who gives the impression of a route-running grinder. He’ll have an excuse if there’s trouble from post 11 and an even better Derby Gauge rating if he overcomes it.

Walt, sharp in a runner-up showing to Tanzanite Cat in the Smarty Jones, adds blinkers and appeared comfortable in that equipment in a work over the course Thursday. His biggest challenge is likely distance. That’s the same concern for Tanzanite Cat, who should handle 1 1/16-miles but would be a question mark beyond that.

Kendall’s Boy is on the “bubble” of Derby contenders, but he was second to Havana in his debut and his only “off” race was on synthetic. A good performance here could thrust the son of Sky Mesa into the spotlight.

Kendall's Boy

Kendall’s Boy

Paganol, Son of Dixie and Fire Starter are seeking to answer class questions. Paganol is taking quite a leap from his debut win, albeit an impressive one in a key race. Son of Dixie took a tough beat as the pace in an Oaklawn allowance over a sloppy track won by Bourbonize. A fast track equals a whole new ballgame for the son of Dixie Union.

Fire Starter, a son of Tapit who is half-brother of Bordonaro, flashes signs of his genetic prowess at times – but also shows shades of Tapit when rank in races. He’ll need to display some maturity and composure to take a step forward on the Derby trail.