In the Money

Horse racing insight that's loose on the lead

Kobe’s Back makes it a trio on the trail for Sadler

February 16th, 2014

By J.J. Hysell

San Vicente winner Kobe’s Back is the latest addition to the list of trainer John Sadler’s Triple Crown trail prospects.

Sadler also has Robert B. Lewis winner Candy Boy and the developing Kristo, runner-up in the Sham, as contenders for the first Saturday in May.

Sadler with three Derby prospects

Sadler with three Derby prospects

Kobe’s Back, with jockey Joel Rosario aboard. showed marked improvement in his win Sunday, his 3-year-old debut and his first start on dirt. He showed promise as a 2-year-old with a scintillating last-to-first win in his debut at Hollywood Park. He followed up with a second place finish to the highly regarded Shared Belief in the Grade 3 Hollywood Prevue.

His 10th-place showing in the Grade 1 CashCall is a toss race considering he clipped heels with Candy Boy and lost all momentum.

Kobe’s Back, a muscular gray son of Flatter, worked steadily toward his season debut at Santa Anita with works that gradually increased in distance, capped by two at six-furlongs.

The dam side of Kobe’s Back’s pedigree leans heavily to sprint, but the sire side has some stamina. Flatter, a son of A.P. Indy, is the sire of Flat Out, who twice won the Jockey Club at 10 furlongs.

“He can go two turns, even on the gallop out he just looks like it,” said owner Lee Searing of C R K Stable. “Maybe now, with that sitting-back, stalking style, he’ll be ready to go two turns.”

Sadler said Kobe’s Back is a candidate for the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn on March 15. Kristo is likely for the San Felipe on March 8 and Candy Boy, also owned by C R K Stable, is headed for the Santa Anita Derby on April 5.

 

Mark Casse to HRRN: “Conquest Titan 50-50 for Fountain of Youth”

February 15th, 2014

By J.J. Hysell

Conquest Titan, Holy Bull Stakes runner-up and No. 1 on the ITM Derby Gauge, is “50-50” to run in the Fountain of Youth on Feb. 22, trainer Mark Casse told Mike Penna of Horse Racing Radio Network Saturday.

Conquest Titan

Conquest Titan

Casse said he’s “not positive” he will run the son of Birdstone in the key Kentucky Derby prep at Gulfstream Park.

“He worked very well the other day,” Casse told HRRN. “But I’ve got to tell you, it was pretty hot when we ran him in the Holy Bull. I just kind of felt like he lost a few pounds and, looking at him and everything, I’m going to see how he trains this week.

“The Fountain of Youth, it’s not something that we have to do.”

To hear more from Casse, click on this link for the HRRN interview: http://horseracingradio.net/hrrn-interviews/mark-casse-interview-february-15-2014/

Charge Now, brother of Super Saver, among Mott maidens starting Saturday

February 14th, 2014

By J.J. Hysell

Trainer Bill Mott will be sending out a multitude of maidens at Gulfstream Park Saturday. Among them is Charge Now, a half-brother to 2010 Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver by Tiznow campaigned by WinStar.

Charge Now is entered in the sixth race, a one-mile test on turf with a field of nine. Interesting to note Mott’s comments in the Gulfstream Park notes regarding the choice of this particular race on grass for the 3-year-old colt’s first start.

Bill Mott

Bill Mott

“We wanted to get him started,” Mott said. “There was no dirt race (going long) and I had two of them in the other dirt race (on Saturday). He’s been working well.”

Charge Now is 225-1 in the Wynn’s Las Vegas Future Book as of Feb. 12.

Also in the sixth are Unikat, an Ontario-bred son of Galileo making his first start for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin; Part, a son of Bernstein who is bred for a mile on turf; and Rompin Reid, who is out of multiple graded stakes winner Runway Model, making his first start on turf.

The other two Mott was referring to are Athens and Mettlesome, entered in the seventh race, which features eight colts going seven furlongs on dirt.

Mott’s 3-year-old filly Quilt adds blinkers for her second start in the fifth race, slated for 1 1/16-miles on dirt.

Samantha Nicole, sister of Rachel Alexandra, set to debut Sunday

February 13th, 2014

By J.J. Hysell

The long=awaited debut of Samantha Nicole, the full sister of 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra, is slated for Sunday at Fair Grounds.

The 3-year-old filly – trained by Steve Asmussen, who also trained Rachel Alexandra – is entered in race four at one mile, 70 yards on the main track at Fair Grounds. Rosie Napravnik is named to ride. A total of six fillies are entered, including Perfect La Comete, a half-sister of Munnings making her sixth start, and Samantha Nicole’s stablemate Alessandra.

Samantha Nicole has posted a steady work tab over the surface in preparation for her first start.

 

Kentucky Derby Gauge: Feb. 12

February 13th, 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

I doubted his abilities on dirt until his breakout allowance race at Churchill Downs on Nov. 30, one of the top performances by a 2-year-old last season. Trainer Mark Casse knows this colt’s best asset is his affinity for the CD surface, a key element in a Derby contender. “We know he loves Churchill Downs, so we’re trying to get him there happy and healthy,” Casse said when announcing Conquest Titan would contest the Fountain of Youth. He might need longer than 1 1/16 to show off his late kick, but it’s there. 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. 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: 2

D. Wayne Lukas thinks highly of this son of Tiznow and with good reason. He proved he can handle an off track – and top-tier competition – when he romped in the Hopeful. He bounced back from a puzzling dismal showing in the Champagne with a strong third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. This colt handles shipping and adversity without issue. His sire is a two-time Breeders’ Cup Classic winner and his dam’s sire Deputy Minister won the Donn Handicap (9 furlongs).

 

 3. TOP BILLING

Shug McGaughey

Shug McGaughey

PEDIGREE: 4

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CD SURFACE RATING: Projected 4

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DERBY POINTS: 0

I tabbed this son of Curlin as Shug McGaughey’s leading Derby contender immediately following his smashing debut in the slop on Dec. 6. He hasn’t let us down and continues to improve with each start. The super stride on this muscular chestnut is his top asset. Can he get the points? 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.

4. INDIANAPOLIS

Bob Baffert

Bob Baffert

PEDIGREE: 4

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CD SURFACE RATING: Projected 4

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DERBY POINTS: 0

I pegged him as a future star before his debut on Nov. 24 and he’s done nothing wrong in two starts. A professional son of Medaglia d’Oro who takes everything in stride, he’s a wild card, but also appears to be the most mature of the Baffert armada. The Daily Racing Form reported Wednesday he’ll miss the San Vicente because of a cough, but he continues to gallop and there’s still time for two preps if necessary. 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.

 

5. COMMISSIONER

Todd Pletcher

Todd Pletcher

PEDIGREE: 5

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CD SURFACE RATING: Projected 3

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DERBY POINTS: 0

This son of A.P. Indy began his career in a mile race and has only extended in distance since. He’s a throwback route runner who will keep grinding; that’s a big plus for a Derby contender. In his allowance win over Top Billing, he refused to let that foe pass him, even on the gallop out. 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. TONALIST

PEDIGREE: 5

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CD SURFACE RATING: Projected 5

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DERBY POINTS: 0

He’s a lightly-raced unknown who might not make the field, but he caught my eye in his maiden win at 9 furlongs. This son of Tapit, who can dig down and stretch his neck in the lane, boasts a magnificent stride. The Christophe Clement trainee grew a little weary at the end of that maiden win, but he was coming off a two-month layoff and stretching out from a mile. Tonalist was part of a key race at Aqueduct in November won by Matterhorn that also featured Harpoon. The talent’s there; will he blossom in time? 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.

7. TAPITURE

Tapiture

Tapiture

PEDIGREE: 4

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CD SURFACE RATING: 5

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DERBY POINTS: 12

This son of Tapit has been overlooked while he quietly trains for his 3-year-old debut, likely in the Southwest Stakes. Steve Asmussen’s colt had a few bumps in the road during his juvenile season, but put it all together in his fourth start, the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill. 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 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.

8. HARTFORD

Todd Pletcher

Todd Pletcher

PEDIGREE: 4

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CD SURFACE RATING: Projected 5

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DERBY POINTS: 0

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 Tuesday. 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

Although he hasn’t faced the tough competition of his Florida-based foes, this agile son of Tiz Wonderful is a warrior. He can take bumping, slop, and just about anything you throw at him and still emerge the winner. That toughness, plus a win at Churchill Downs, makes this gelding one to watch as he moves forward to stakes company for trainer Kellyn Gorder. 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’s 1 for 7 record is deceiving. He didn’t perform as well on synthetics as dirt and he’s competed in four stakes races with one Grade 1 win in a dirt route. His fourth-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile was much better than it looks on paper. The time off has served him well – he’s continued to post solid works – and he could emerged refreshed for his 3-year-old season. 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.

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 in his 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. 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.

16. 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.

 17. GOLD HAWK

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.

18. 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.

19. 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.

20. 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.

21. 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.

22. 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the Money unveils the 2014 Derby Gauge Analysis and Derby Gauge Rankings

February 13th, 2014

In the Money ushers in the 2014 Kentucky Derby season with its Derby Gauge Analysis and Derby Gauge rankings.

The Derby Gauge Analysis is a an assessment of a horse’s performance in an individual race. Selected participants in key 3-year-old races are assessed on their performance using a system based on ratings by roses from one to five. A “five-rose” performance would be the best possible. A “one-rose” performance would be the lowest rating.

Here’s an example:

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TOP BILLING (CURLIN), ALW, GULFSTREAM PARK, JAN. 3: FOUR ROSES

Top Billing continued to show progression with his runner-up finish to the more experienced Commissioner in his second start for trainer Shug McGaughey. The colt rated far off the pace before responding when asked to make his move in the stretch, rallying from fifth to second. The jump from a sprint at Laurel to a 1 1/8-mile test at Gulfstream proved no challenge. He also proved he doesn’t need an off track to shine. Is he McGaughey’s “franchise player” for the Derby?

The Derby Gauge rankings, posted weekly, will highlight In the Money’s top Derby prospects.

Derby Gauge rankings are solely a reflection of a horse’s projected ability for the Kentucky Derby and the Triple Crown trail, not an overall assessment of a horse’s talent.

Derby Gauge assesses a horse’s pedigree based on 10 furlongs. The Churchill Downs surface rating is based on the horse’s performances over the Churchill track. If there are no previous performances, a projection of how the horse might handle the surface is made based on several factors, including a horse’s pedigree.

 

Kentucky Derby Path: Stevens says Candy Boy “not a typical Candy Ride”

February 9th, 2014

By J.J. Hysell

Candy Boy is the latest addition to the Kentucky Derby discussion with his superb win in the Robert B. Lewis Saturday.

The son of Candy Ride, trained by John Sadler and owned by C R K Stable, was perfectly guided from a mid-stalking position by jockey Gary Stevens. He passed Chitu in late stretch, with favorite Midnight Hawk stalled in third, and finished the 1 1/16-miles in a sharp 1:41.83.

After two fourth-place finishes at Del Mar in August, Candy Boy has developed into a consistent performer, not finishing worse than second in four starts.

Stevens showered the big bay colt with compliments after the race. derby logo 2014

“For a big horse he has a lot of acceleration and confidence on the turn,” he said. “I was closer than I thought we were going to be today. He’s grown a lot lately. I’ve been up for his last five works and we haven’t really squeezed the trigger yet. The gallop out was huge today and I was already thinking about the Santa Anita Derby as we were galloping out around the turn.”

Most interesting, however, is what Stevens said about Candy Boy compared to other Candy Ride progeny. For the most part, Candy Ride runners tend to be better on turf and synthetic, excelling at middle distances from a mile to 1 1/16.

Stevens notes this Candy Ride colt is different.

“He’s not a typical Candy Ride,” he said. “He sits higher than others and he continues to grow. The further the better for him. He has a high cruising speed. . . I couldn’t believe the time. When we were coming back I saw the time was one-forty-one, with the first quarter in twenty-three and change, but it felt like we were going twenty-five down the backside. He covers so much ground. When you set him down he really gets underneath you and gives you a really good feeling.”

Unlike another Candy Ride on the Derby trail – gelding Shared Belief, the undefeated champion male – Candy Boy is proven on dirt and appears to prefer it to synthetic.

Candy Ride progeny have not fared well at the Kentucky Derby. Sidney’s Candy, who won three straight graded stakes at Santa Anita in 2010 including the Santa Anita Derby before arriving at Churchill Downs, finished a lackluster 17th. His performance could be excused, however, by the sloppy track, as he was visibly uncomfortable with the footing on the surface even in the post parade. Sidney’s Candy went on to flourish as a turf runner, winning the La Jolla Handicap and the Fourstardave Handicap.

Chocolate Candy, second in the 2009 Santa Anita Derby, was a respectable fifth when faced with an off track in the Kentucky Derby. In two additional tries on a fast track at Churchill Downs later in his career he was fifth in the Alysheba and 12th in the Churchill Downs Stakes.

Some Candy Ride progeny were at home on Churchill Downs dirt. Capt. Candyman Can, who was very successful on dirt, won the Iroquois Stakes and the Matt Winn. Misremembered, Candy Ride’s leading money-earner campaigned by Bob Baffert, was second to Blame in the 2009 Clark Handicap and won the Indiana Derby at Hoosier Park.

Stevens and Sadler are hoping this son of Candy Ride will change past luck for the sire on the first Saturday in May. His next stop is the Santa Anita Derby on April 5.

“He’s the number one draft choice for me,” Stevens said.

 

 

 

 

 

Kentucky Oaks Path: Cassatt generating buzz at Fair Grounds

February 9th, 2014

By J.J. Hysell

It was early in the new Churchill Downs September meet, and trainer Larry Jones was leaving at the end of a race day. A young man approached Jones and asked him if he had any young horses to watch, any good 2-year-olds that would be unveiled during the meet.

Jones was quick to respond with one name: Cassatt.

Cassatt

Cassatt

The gray daughter of Tapit – an imposing physical presence and, like many by her sire, sometimes a handful – is highly regarded by Jones and Fox Hill Farm. After being sidelined by shin issues after her debut, she returned with a stellar victory at six furlongs Jan. 9 at Fair Grounds. She’ll move up from that maiden win to stakes company in the Rachel Alexandra on Feb. 22.

With several standout 3-year-old fillies based at Fair Grounds this season, Cassatt has remained under the radar – until Sunday, when she generated buzz with her sharp work over the Fair Grounds track.

Cassatt went a mile with Rosie Napravnik aboard in 1:39.60. The work drew rave reviews from railbirds and clockers.

Cassatt will face a tough test in the 1 1/16-mile race that is part of the Louisiana Derby Preview Day program. Also pointing to the race is Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies victor Ria Antonia, who worked five furlongs in company in 1:01.80 Sunday for trainer Jeremiah Englehart.

The field is also expected to include: Pocahontas Stakes winner Untapable; Letellier Memorial Stakes winner Divine Beauty, who is also trained by Jones; and allowance winner Shanon Nicole.

The Rachel Alexandra is an Oaks points race with 50 points to the winner, 20 for second, 10 for third and five for fourth.

 

 

Key horses in Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool 2

February 5th, 2014

By J.J. Hysell

The second edition of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager opens Thursday, Feb. 6 at noon (ET) and ends Saturday at 6 p.m. or prior to post time of the Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita, whichever comes first.

Key horses:

CONQUEST TITAN (30-1)

It’s doubtful he’ll be near this appealing morning line when the wagering closes, but anything over 15-1 seems like a favorable option considering the upside for this son of Birdstone.

Conquest Titan

Conquest Titan

PROS: He’s improved tremendously with maturity and a change in running style. This colt favors Churchill Downs – he absolutely flies over the strip. He’s battle-tested and has faced some tough competition. He’s tallied four Derby points, which isn’t enough to make the field, but it’s a good start. His pedigree is tailored for long distances and also favorable for an off track.

CONS: He’s well-traveled and started his 2-year-old campaign early (June). His newfound come-from-behind running style is sometimes gold, other times rust in the Derby; it is pace dependent.

INDIANAPOLIS (20-1)

A lot of steam building on this Bob Baffert trainee, whom we tabbed as one to watch on debut in November. He’s one who shines in the morning and lives up to his works in the afternoon. This morning line is on the low side for a two-race sprint winner, and he’s likely to get some play.

PROS: This son of Medaglia d’Oro is beautifully bred for routes and comes from successful bloodlines. He stepped up from maiden company and won a stake. Both wins have been professional and, unlike a couple of other Baffert contenders this year, he appears to be mature without any issues. He’s won on two different surfaces, suggesting he can adapt.

CONS: He’s yet to run beyond six furlongs and is slated to go seven furlongs in his next start. He has only competed in California and against lesser competition. He has no Derby points and won’t get any in the San Vicente, so everything could be on the line in his final prep. That’s some pressure.

MATTERHORN (50-1)

The debut winner has returned to the work tab at Palm Meadows but remains behind his rivals, many of whom have had a start or two since they turned 3. He’s a half-brother to Title Contender, who won last year’s Ohio Derby and British Columbia Derby.

PROS: His debut was a key race that featured Harpoon (second) and Tonalist (fourth). His win in that mile test was impressive and from off the pace; he adeptly maneuvered through traffic.

CONS: It’s tough to back a colt whose lone claim is a maiden win at Aqueduct in November, even if it was a key race. He’ll need to work his way back quickly. His works so far at Palm Meadows have been on the slow side. He has no Derby points. His pedigree looks more suited for middle distances.

STRONG MANDATE (20-1)

D. Wayne Lukas enjoys relaying the talent of this son of Tiznow, and he has been right in the mix against some of the top 3-year-olds. Lukas said this colt has a good mind and he’s handled shipping and adversity. This is one of the few established 3-year-olds currently on the trail who looks to have “the whole package.”

PROS: He boasts a solid pedigree for long distances and the classic bloodlines you look for in a Triple Crown contender. He had some taxing races close together as a 2-year-old, but is now on a favorable path in Derby preps. He’s at Oaklawn where Lukas can keep a watchful eye – and he’s training lights out. He romped in the slop in the Hopeful.

CONS: His running style is yet to be determined, but so far he’s a colt whose best performances have been as pacesetter or close to the pace. He threw a clunker in the Champagne; was he brought back to soon after three straight races? Surprisingly, he has just 2 Derby points and the Oaklawn preps look stacked with talent. He’s likely to take some play.

TAPITURE (20-1)

This consistent son of Tapit has not finished worse than third in four starts. The Steve Asmussen trainee is under the radar and in the shadow of his Florida foes while training superbly at Fair Grounds. He shouldn’t be overlooked.

Tapiture

Tapiture

PROS: He’s shown an affinity for Churchill Downs, where he was a very good third in the Iroquois and won the Kentucky Jockey Club. His running style is adaptable and he’s an athletic colt who can respond quickly to cues – a key trait for a Derby contender. He’s collected 12 Derby points and therefore has less pressure than some of his other rivals. He’s recording some impressive stamina-building works at Fair Grounds.

CONS: His pedigree is loaded with familiar classic lines, but could lean toward middle distances – up to 1 1/8-miles. He was second to Strong Mandate at Saratoga, but didn’t face the same level of competition at Churchill as some of his rivals did on other circuits.

TONALIST (50-1)

A newcomer on the scene for trainer Christophe Clement, who is considered by some as more of a turf trainer. Clement knows how to prepare long-distance runners, and that’s a benefit when it comes to the Derby trail. He’s taking his time and weighing all the options for a colt he said has “got all the makings of a horse who should stay long on the dirt.”

PROS: As Clement detailed, this is a son of Tapit who is loaded with stamina influence on the dam side, specifically through Pleasant Colony. His debut was a key race won by Matterhorn that also featured Harpoon. This colt has won at 1 1/8-miles on dirt already – something few 3-year-olds can say at this juncture, and that race in particular appeared to be quality. If you like him, you’ll likely get solid odds here. If he dominates in a Florida Derby prep, he won’t be anywhere near this morning line going into the race.

CONS: You have to have faith he’ll get the points. He’s a maiden winner whose next start is being debated and he’s competing in Florida, arguably the toughest circuit on the trail. So far in his young career, he’s preferred to come from far off the pace; he could be pace dependent, but it’s too early to tell.

TOP BILLING (15-1)

An In the Money 3-year-old to watch since his debut in December, we predicted he’d be better suited for the Derby than stablemate Honor Code. Now, he tops many Derby lists, and rightfully so after looking like a star in an allowance race at Gulfstream. Trainer Shug McGaughey is coming off a dream Derby and could be in a “zone” with these 3-year-olds.

PROS: As a son of Curlin, his pedigree is outstanding for long distances and also the Churchill Downs surface. The Curlin progeny so far have often improved during their 3-year-old season. He hasn’t flinched yet, including a good second to Commissioner when he stretched out from a sprint to 1 1/8-miles; that is a huge step forward, particularly off a layoff from a 2-year-old season. McGaughey said the colt has a good mind, is professional and doesn’t mind shipping. He’s not a monster in size but has a muscular build. His main rivals (Honor Code, Cairo Prince) are passing on the Fountain of Youth, opening the door for possibly a big performance.

CONS: There can’t be any bumps in the road as he has no Derby points. With all this steam, he’ll take some play, and 15-1 is already very low to take on an allowance winner. He’s raced twice in January and all three of his career races have been in a span of less than two months.

 

 

Hollendorfer’s best Derby hope might be this colt – and he’s not Shared Belief

February 5th, 2014

By J.J. Hysell

Shared Belief, the undefeated 2-year-old male champion, is rightfully heralded as a top Kentucky Derby contender. Some hoof issues, an interruption in training and a questionable pedigree for dirt and the Derby distance, however, leave many question marks.

Shared Belief might not be trainer Jerry Hollendorfer’s best hope for a Kentucky Derby contender. Hollendorfer has a 3-year-old entered Saturday who fits the profile of a long-distance runner on dirt with some potential.

Little Curlin, set to make his third start in the six-furlong second race at Santa Anita, is still a maiden, but he drew attention after his last race. He encountered traffic trouble en route to a fast-closing third behind winner Roger Rocket and Ferocious. The race was five and a half furlongs, obviously shorter than what this long-striding son of Curlin needs. He displayed talent in his debut at Keeneland in October, a race won by Gulfstream Park Derby winner General a Rod. Little Curlin rallied to finish fourth on the synthetic despite the far outside post in the seven-furlong test.

Little Curlin faces an uphill battle to make the Derby field, as he’s short on time and has no points. It’s also not encouraging to see him entered in a sprint again instead of stretching out. Still, he should be more effective at longer distances and will give a better indication of where he stands progress-wise on Saturday.