ITM analysis of the top 2-year-olds to watch from: September 4 – September 11:
(* denotes a previous ITM Horse to Watch)
*DIAMOND BACHELOR (turf) (colt, War Front – Seasoned by Pulpit) – He solidified his status as one of the top juveniles in the country and a leading contender for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf with his powerful victory in the Oak Tree Juvenile Turf. All eyes were on the Patrick Biancone runner after his commanding debut win on turf in which he tracked the pace, made a move and drew off. This time, jockey Julien Leparoux put him on the lead from the start. He was never challenged in the mile test and improved his time (1:34.36 vs. 1:35.82) in the two-and-a-half length victory.
Biancone has some lofty goals for the colt who is bred on the successful War Front – Pulpit cross discussed previously on In the Money. The trainer said he plans to keep Diamond Bachelor on turf for now, but next year will be different. “This horse can win the Derby,” he said. More: http://inthemoneypost.com/biancone-on-diamond-bachelor-this-horse-can-win-the-derby/
Ontology (Tapit) ran well for second in his first start on turf for trainer Simon Callaghan. Jockey Rafael Bejarano: “He wants to lug in at the start and he did it again today, but we got going and he ran well.”
SMART COVER (colt, Any Given Saturday – Crazy Cousin by Smart Strike) – The one-two punch of Dale Romans and Donegal Racing in the Iroquois Stakes sent a message about their positioning for the Kentucky Derby. Smart Cover and winner Cleburne (Dixie Union) both started at the back of the pack and worked their way through the 10-horse field while Laddie Boy (War Pass) and Rise Up (Rockport Harbor) set the pace before fading. Smart Cover had a wider trip, was moving the best late and just missed by a neck to his stablemate. His pedigree leans more to longer distances than Cleburne, who seems suited for middle distances. The race was on the slow side overall with a final time of 1:45.65 for the 1 1/16-miles and a final split of 7:21.
There is room for growth, however, and these two are not likely Donegal’s top prospects for the first Saturday in May. They are loaded with classy juveniles, many yet to be unveiled, and a few are mentioned in this Des Moines Register article: http://www.desmoinesregister.com/article/20130908/SPORTS1405/130908010/Iowa-based-Donegal-Racing-positioned-for-another-Kentucky-Derby?Frontpage
As noted previously in In the Money, Romans has had a resurgence thanks to his juveniles, who are winning at a high rate lately at Ellis. This trend is transferring to Churchill and Indiana Downs as well.
When asked about the Breeders’ Cup for Cleburne and Smart Cover, Romans said: “We’ll at least go with the winner, and we might go with both.”
Highly regarded favorite Ride on Curlin (Curlin), who missed some time due to a shin issue, was in contention until late stretch and dropped back to fourth. It wasn’t a bad effort considering the layoff and injury; the true test for the Billy Gowan trainee will be next out, which is yet to be determined.
Jockey Calvin Borel on Ride on Curlin: “No excuse. He ran good. He’s just a baby and this was his first time going two turns. We asked a lot of him today. He took me out there good and to the quarter pole, but then he had enough. Believe me, he’s a racehorse, and if we do right by the horse he’ll show up. He’ll be just fine.”
Tapiture (Tapit), who came out of a key Saratoga maiden race won by eventual Hopeful winner Strong Mandate (Tiznow), snatched the lead at one point in the stretch but couldn’t hold on and faded to third. He remains one to watch, as this was just the Steve Asmussen trainee’s second career start and his first time around two turns.
DANCE WITH FATE (colt, Two Step Salsa – Flirting With Fate by Saint Ballado) – He had the most troubled trip of the nine runners in the Del Mar Futurity field, yet he broke loose to go four-wide and rally for second behind winner Tamarando (Bertrando). Not to take away from the victor, a California-bred who has notched two straight wins for Jerry Hollendorfer. Also important to note Bob Baffert trainee Can the Man (Into Mischief) ducked in at the gap, affecting his momentum and positioning, and was in contention until late stretch of the seven furlong test. With the traffic issues and mishaps, this race is tough to gauge, and several should improve next out with better trips.
Julien Leparoux on Tamarando: “He’s the kind of horse who wants to run from the back, so that’s what we were ready to do. I felt I could move well with him at any point. He just felt strong. He’s a handy horse. And I think the farther the better with him. Definitely the farther the better.”
Hollendorfer on Tamarando: “We loved this horse at seven furlongs. I was thinking about running in the Cal-bred (I’m Smokin Stakes at 6 furlongs) but we decided to go for the big moment. I guess I’m glad we did now. I’ve never won this race before, so it’s a special moment and a special horse.
“We wanted to win first time out but we didn’t do that. He came back and won second time and now this, so he looks like a pretty good candidate to do something next year. I was a little disappointed that he was as far back early as he was, but apparently that’s the way he wants to run.”
Martin Garcia on Can the Man: “He tried to make the gap on me. He green. He’s a baby, but he can really run. He’s a nice horse and you’ll hear more from him.”
SOLITARY RANGER (colt, U S Ranger – Galileo’s Star by Lil E. Tee) – An impressive five-and-a-half length victory for a maiden jumping to stakes company off a nearly five-month layoff in the Arlington Washington Futurity. The final time for the mile was a bit slow compared to the Lassie (1:38.17 vs. 1:37.98), and we would rate the Lassie field a bit tougher. Still, this is a quality win and the first stakes winner for new sire U S Ranger. The Wayne Catalano runner tracked the swift pace set by Lotsa Mischief (Into Mischief), took over and drew off unchallenged. He was second to the talented No Nay Never (Scat Daddy) in his second start at Keeneland. This prospect has an old school pedigree that is rare to see; no inbreeding through the fifth cross.
Could he make a move to grass? “I think we’ll be eventually trying the turf with him,” Catalano said. “But, right now, our main goal is to get him to the Breeders’ Cup.”
Also being considered for turf is runner-up Whyruawesome (Whywhywhy), who drifted some in the stretch behind the leader. Trainer Anne Smith on the gelding’s hesitance to switch leads: “It’s a little aggravating. In the mornings he swaps easily; it’s almost robotic, but he’s a young horse and ran well.”
Favorite High Roll (Roman Ruler) is likely to shorten in distance after finishing fifth as the favorite, said trainer Jimmy DiVito.
“That horse was disappointing to me. He might just be a sprinter. I left it up to (jockey) Francisco (Torres) on deciding to go for the lead or not. Perhaps that was a mistake. We probably should have gone to the front. Sprinting is probably better for that horse. His half-brother (Muppet Man) was a sprinter and I should keep him in sprints for now.”
Team Valor’s Captain’s Affair (Captain Rio), making his first U.S. start and first start on synthetic, made a move after trailing the field but flattened out to finish fourth. According to Arlington Park, Team Valor said the colt will “return in grass races after not handling the Arlington Polytrack well.”
*ROSALIND (filly, Broken Vow – Critics Acclaim by Theatrical) – The question going into the Pocahontas: Is this Kenny McPeek trainee solely a turf runner? Her pedigree shouts grass, but she handled the dirt with aplomb, closing for third in the 1 1/16-mile test. Her pedigree is also one for classic distances, so watch for when she stretches out on either surface.
Winner Untapable (Tapit), a half-sister to Paddy O’Prado, overcame some obstacles in just her second start, including a long layoff and a stretch out from sprinting. Credit for the victory largely goes to jockey Rosie Napravnik, who had a very rank filly on her hands throughout the early stages of the race. Untapable was tossing her head and climbing while positioned behind horses on the rail, and she was quite green in the stretch run, getting up in time to catch Stonetatsic (Mizzen Mast). The talent is there, but like many Tapit progeny, she’ll need to conserve her energy in the future.
Napravnik talked about it after the race. “She did that a little bit in her first race. I started out hitting her left-handed, then when I hit, pushed her right-handed she wanted to lean-in, but I couldn’t stop riding her. I wanted to get the win.”
Trainer Steve Asmussen on Untapable, who is headed to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies: “I think she’s a very special filly. That was a huge move considering she had one sprint race. We had planned on running her once at Saratoga, but it didn’t work out. She’s not short on ability, but definitely a little short on experience. She was pretty headstrong (on the backstretch), but about halfway down the backstretch she dropped the bridle and you could tell she was going along smooth enough.
“I thought once she dropped the bridle, she didn’t really know where to go after that. When she finally got out in the stretch she really hesitated, and I think it was just not knowing to go and having to wait so much. When she got up to even terms (with Stonetastic) she kind of leveled back off a bit.”
The final time of 1:44.38, with a final split of 6:79, was markedly faster than the Iroquois.
A valiant run for second by Monmouth invader Stonetastic, who lost by a half-length in her second start. The 1 1/16-mile distance is likely her top. She remains dangerous at sprints and is one to watch on a switch to turf. Trainer Kelly Breen said Stonetastic remains under consideration for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies.
*SHE’S OFFLEE GOOD (filly, Offlee Wild – La Belle by Dixie Union) – Many runners endured a traffic-troubled trip in the Arlington Washington Lassie Stakes going a mile at Arlington Park. This Richard Scherer trainee was able to avoid the tie-ups as Eddie Castro moved her to the outside, where she could rally four-wide to a two-length victory. She’s two for two on Arlington synthetic.
Scherer: “I know she can rate so it was all Eddie’s race. I said if it’s fast up front, you sit off. If it’s not, you sit up there where you want to be. She does everything you ask her to. It was an impressive race and a nice ride by Eddie. For a second I thought she was getting late and tired, but then she dug in and went on by.”
Tamazula (Two Step Salsa), making her third start, was among a trio moving together on the inside before getting shuffled back. Note she re-rallied and split horses through a very slim space to finish a sneaky-good fourth. This is a runner who would be intriguing on a switch to dirt.
Runner up Sweetsoutherndame (Colonel John) endured the widest trip of all runners and still managed a good second. This Tim Hamm runner has not yet tried dirt.
She’s Offlee Good and Battlefield Angel (Proud Citizen), sixth, are likely headed to the Alcibiades at Keeneland.
Trainer Wayne Catalano on Battlefield Angel: “She had a rough trip, but was only beaten three lengths. Go back and look at the race. Nothing went right for her. She stumbled a bit and had traffic the whole way.”
Also likely headed to Keeneland is Maria Maria (Curlin), who made up ground to finish third after starting eighth in the field of 11.
Trainer Jimmy DiVito on Maria Maria: “I think she’ll run much better next time around two turns and she’ll be better as she runs farther. She’s much better than that race. She never got clear sailing.”
*SOLID SENDER (filly, Early Flyer – Miss Ritz by Spend a Buck) – This Louisiana-bred is three for three and versatile. She used a new tactic to win the John Franks Memorial at Evangeline. After closing from far off the pace in her first two wins, she stuck close to the pace this time and still dominated her competition.
THEGIRLINTHATSONG (turf) (filly, My Golden Song – Belle of the Band by Dixieland Band) – This Texas-bred is two of three with a second since moving to turf and endured a tough stretch battle with Bern Legacy (Bernstein) to win the Happy Ticket Stakes.
*GOT SHADES (turf) (colt, Pollard’s Vision – Melancholy by Run Softly) – Named an ITM Horse to Watch after his win in the Sunny’s Halo Stakes, he followed up with a notable victory over Mighty Brown (Big Brown) in the Sunday Silence Stakes at a mile for trainer Danny Pish.
*ARABELLA’S MUSE (filly, Finality – Excited Miss by Mass Market) – We tabbed this British Columbia-bred as one to monitor after she dominated in her debut and finished the six and a half furlongs in a sharp 1:16.43 at Hastings. She moved up to stakes company and delivered an even more impressive performance, winning the Sadie Diamond Futurity by more than five lengths and improving her time to a swift 1:16.07.
*CHU AND YOU (filly, You and I – Bronze Charmer by Volponi) – She’s the top-ranked juvenile filly on the Northwest circuit after a romp in the Northwest Farms Stakes moved her to four for four. The Robert Baze trainee has never trailed a horse in any of her wins, so the question of rating remains, but she’s dominated in each victory. Surely some are feeling regret as she was available for a $25,000 tag in her debut.
*MOSLER (colt, War Front – Gold Vault by Arch) – We tabbed this Bill Mott runner, a half-brother of Contested, as one to watch after his fourth place debut in what could emerge as a key maiden race at Saratoga (Aug. 10 In Trouble, Sound of Freedom, Tiznowforamerica). As expected, he followed up with a professional, front-running win when stretching out to a mile at Belmont. This is a highly regarded $1.05-million Keeneland September purchase, and with good reason. Just two starts to date and he’s already sporting a nice, fluid stride. The War Front crosses with classic broodmare sires such as Pulpit, Tapit and now Arch are a developing successful trend. This looks like a runner who could handle added distance.
PROTONICO (colt, Giant’s Causeway – Alpha Spirit by A.P. Indy) – What an eye-catching debut at Delaware by this long-striding, athletic colt with a classic router’s pedigree. The Oussama Aboughazale trainee was pressured early by Carpetbagger (Ile St. Louis), but that didn’t last long as Protonico dispatched him with ease en route to a 12 3/4-length romp. Impressive time of 1:10.67 is solid for this class level and track. A definite for the virtual stable.
PLEASE EXPLAIN (filly, Curlin – Lizzie’s Bluff by Pine Bluff) – From the widest post in a 12-horse field going six furlongs, she overcame a troubled start and rallied from 10th going four-wide to almost catch front-running winner Divine Beauty (Divine Park), who lasted through very fast fractions (:21.36, :45.08). Tom Proctor has a very nice prospect for classic distances with this filly. Also to watch from this race is the highly regarded Daddy’s Memory (Scat Daddy), third, from the Bret Calhoun barn.
MR. SPLASH (colt, Old Fashioned – Armenia by Woodman) – It’s a race you have to see to believe. Turning into the homestretch in a six-furlong test at Golden Gate, Mr. Splash was last behind a double wall of horses and stuck on the inside. He checked off heels several times, thwarting his momentum. Late in the stretch, he moves laterally right, forges his way outside and goes five-wide, passes the field and wins. Really. This was the Richard Baltas trainee’s debut.
BIKINI BEAUTY (turf) (filly, Bernardini – Beautyandthebeast by Machiavellian) – There’s substantial turf influence on the dam side of this well-bred Christophe Clement trainee; it showed as she closed from far off the pace and displayed a quick late turn of foot to win going seven furlongs on grass at Belmont. She adeptly handled traffic in the 11-horse field and remained far ahead of foes on the gallop out. Another to watch from this test is Holabird (Dunkirk), a first-time starter who covered a lot of ground in the stretch to finish third for trainer Rick Violette. Holabird is one who could move up on dirt.
CULPRIT (colt, Street Sense – Caught in the Act by A.P. Indy) – A sneaky-good third from the rail post by this Dale Romans runner in his debut going seven furlongs at Churchill Downs. He is one of several from Donegal Racing, which boasts a bevy of youngsters, some yet to be unveiled. He passed winner Wry (Distorted Humor) on the gallop out. Wry, out of the dam High Heels, a half-sister to On Fire Baby, had the benefit of a previous start and was much the best, finishing in 1:24.08.
Trainer Gary Hartlage on Wry: “He was no cinch or anything like that, but he acts like he’s a good horse. He’s going to be okay. We’re thinking pretty big about him. . . I’m sure we’ll try to stretch him out next time.”
Also to watch from this race is Fire Starter (Tapit), a half-brother of Bordonaro who started last in the field of 10 and had a troubled start, yet rallied late for fourth.
BLITHELY (filly, Exchange Rate – Merryland Monroe by Allen’s Prospect) – This New York-bred exits a key Saratoga race from Aug. 8 that featured next-out winners Nutmeg and Miss Narcissist, and winner Con Gee followed up with a second in the Irish Sonnet Stakes. Blithely, trained by Mark Hennig, has the makings of a sharp sprinter. She set fast fractions (:22.41, :46.14) before drawing off to win by more than 11 lengths in the six-furlong test against state-breds.
RUNWAY GIANT (turf) (filly, Giant’s Causeway – Costume Designer by Capote) – Interesting to note in the mixed allowance race at Churchill Downs that the winner and runner-up were both fillies. We added this promising grass runner for Ian Wilkes after her sharp win going a mile on turf at Ellis. She just missed catching pacesetter Richies Party Girl (Any Given Saturday), also an ITM Horse to Watch, and powerfully motored past her on the gallop out after the mile test.
LIFE IS A JOY (gelding, Globalize – Tadita by Indian Charlie) – He’s two for two sprinting at Golden Gate for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. It wasn’t a very imposing field in the allowance win, but he was trapped in a tough position on the rail and still fought to snatch the lead in the stretch.
REGAL CONQUEROR (filly, Sky Conqueror – Classic Stamp by Regal Classic) – Flashy debut win at Woodbine by more than seven lengths by this Ontario-bred, who finished the six furlongs in 1:10.31.
BIG BAZINGA (gelding, Bluegrass Cat – Darling Daughter by Maria’s Mon) – Last at the start of his debut at Woodbine, he sat far off the pedestrian pace and closed with a rush, moving from eighth at the top of the stretch to nab leader Ease on Bai (E Dubai) at the wire. It’s not easy to close into those fractions from so far back first time out, and a stretch out to beyond one mile, 70 yards works in favor of this Katerina Vassilieva trainee.
CABO GOT GAME (gelding, City Weekend – Pumpkin Bluff by Pine Bluff) – It appeared all hope was lost in this Indiana-bred’s debut as he was pinched back at the start and spotted the field several lengths. Assisted by a quick pace up front, he was able to gain ground in the stretch and moved from 10th in the 11-horse field to win by a neck. He’s still somewhat green in blinkers, but that was impressive for a first-time starter against mostly experienced competition.
LIL HONEY BADGER (filly, Flatter – Legendary Lady by Virginia Rapids) – Another from the Dale Romans barn to watch, this filly was rushed to the lead and kept going, winning by two lengths in the six furlong test at Indiana Downs. Final time of 1:10.89 and an A-plus gallop out.