ITM analysis of the top 3-year-olds to watch from – March 6 – March 12 (* denotes a previous ITM Horse to Watch)
*Maleeh (colt, Indian Charlie – Gold Mover by Gold Fever) - This Virginia-bred moved up from his outstanding debut to win over a solid field in the Fred “Cappy” Caposella Stakes. He waited patiently behind Clawback before making his move in the stretch to overtake the favorite and pulled ahead by 2 3/4-lengths. The Kiaran McLaughlin trainee wields a strong sprint to middle distance pedigree. Good effort by runner-up Tenango, who spotted the field several lengths after hitting the starting gate.
Art Magnuson, assistant to Kiaran McLaughlin: “I was a little worried about the rail [post], watching the races all day today. He stepped it up. It was a tough race, and you don’t know until you try. We were in a very good spot. I was only worried about how much horse [Eddie Castro] had under him, but I liked where we were.”
Magnuson said Maleeh likely will remain in sprints for now.
*Hero Force (colt, Political Force – Doubtless by Grand Slam) - One of the most consistent 3-year-olds on this circuit, the Bret Calhoun runner defeated a good field in the Pelican Stakes and posted a notable time of 1;33.36 for 7.5-furlongs.
*Mr. Palmer (colt, Pulpit – In Truth by Quiet American) – A longtime In the Money Watch horse, he’s evolved from his early trials of finding his best tactics to a versatile runner who can come from off the pace or win on the lead. The Bill Mott trainee was left last at the start of the Private Terms before embarking on a seven-wide, ground-gobbling late run. Even on the gallop out, he resurged again when rivals approached. He has improved with each race and could be a late bloomer, but he wasn’t able to catch tougher competition in previous tests.
The Daily Racing Form reported Mr. Palmer is likely for the Wood Memorial.
Co-owner Michael Lauffer: “You gotta get excited about these three-year-old colts this time of year. We’re going to try to put this horse on the Derby and Preakness trail if he’s good enough. He’s a horse that’s getting better every race. He finally woke up. Now he’s won two in a row. He loves the distance. He’s just a horse with a lot of heart that gives you everything he’s got.”
Jockey Junior Alvarado: “He broke a step slow but I wasn’t worried. The race was just starting. There were a lot of horses on the inside so I tried to kick on with him and when I asked him to run he definitely took off. I really love the way he runs, he’s so professional.”
*Rose to Gold (filly, Friends Lake – Saucy by Tabasco Cat) – Calvin Borel’s expert front-running tactics helped this Sal Santoro runner return to the winner’s circle in the Honeybee Stakes. She turned back Flashy Gray, who stalled one-paced in second throughout the 1 1/16-mile-journey. Decent fractions of :23.71, :47.76 and 1;13.18 kept Rose to Gold well-rated as she strolled off to win by 2 3/4-lengths in 1:45.06. Santoro said prior to the race he might skip the Honeybee and head home to Calder to train up to the Kentucky Oaks. Flashy Gray’s distance limitations might have been exposed, as she has a high dosage of 8.33 and a sprint-dominant pedigree.
Borel: “We had planned on sitting right off the pace, but she broke so sharp. She has a lot of wind. She took it to them. That other one (Flashy Gray) is a nice filly. I had seen her races. Mike (Smith) tried to come to me at the 3/8ths pole, but my filly pulled away. I knew we would be double tough. She came home strong.”
Ocala Breeders’ Champions Series
Conquestor (colt, Broken Vow – Runaway in Love by Runaway Groom) - This Woodbine invader was the highlight of the OBS series card with a memorable last-to-first rally in the six-furlong Sprint for trainer Mark Casse. Last of the seven runners at the top of the stretch, he circled the field with a powerful run and drew off to win by three lengths. A monumental win for jockey Gary Boulanger, who has returned to riding after he suffered serious injuries in a fall at Gulfstream Park in 2005.
Michael With Us (colt, Bluegrass Cat – Unbridled Melody by Unbridled’s Song) – This closer wasn’t able to catch the speed previously in his races on dirt, but he appeared to move up on the synthetic surface at Ocala with a solid win at 1 1/16-miles. He also benefited from the added distance, as it was his first trip over a mile.
*Spring Venture (filly, Spring at Last – Zahwah by Rahy) - This Mark Casse runner returned to her best surface on the synthetic at Ocala and orchestrated an impressive re-rally from the inside to top her stablemate, Spring at Last, who appeared to have the race won. She was third behind Spring at Last and Toasting late in the stretch and accelerated to win by three-quarters of a length in the 1 1/16-mile test. Spring Venture had the benefit of a race, finishing fifth in the Forward Gal, while Spring at Last was making her first start since the Breeders’ Cup, in which she reportedly bled without Lasix. The solid final time of 1:44.80 bested the colts and geldings division (1:45.00). This is a filly who is a force to be reckoned with on a synthetic surface.
*Cor Cor (filly, Smoke Glacken – Babe’s Flair by Capote) - This Joan Scott trainee is the real deal and she can run on anything. The Florida-bred, who’s won on all three surfaces, is 4 of 5 with her only loss coming to mighty sprinter Kauai Katie in the Old Hat. All of her wins have come in front-running fashion, and she displayed her speed in the OBS Fillies Sprint by setting an OBS record for six furlongs (1:09.60).
Hear the Ghost (gelding, Ghostzapper – Rehear by Coronado’s Quest) - It was an eventful San Felipe that featured a heated early pace duel between the top two choices plus some post-race drama. In the midst of it all emerged a new Derby hopeful in Jerry Hollendorfer’s closer Hear the Ghost, a lightly-raced gelding who took advantage of the swift start. Jockey Corey Nakatani, aboard for the first time, kept Hear the Ghost in the perfect mid-pack stalking position and made a late run alongside In the Money Live Longshot Tiz a Minister, who was last until the stretch. The final time of 1:42.34 is solid for the 1 1/16-miles, and although Hear the Ghost benefited from the pace scenario and trip, his previous races indicated he belongs with this company. He was a closing second to talented sprinter Distinctiv Passion and defeated another top California sprinter in Let Em Shine. The stretch out was an added plus considering his pedigree.
Flashback was hampered by the tiring battle with Goldencents, and jockey Julien Leparoux conceded the colt “wouldn’t do” what he wanted. Still, this was just the third lifetime start for this Bob Baffert runner, and his second start in stakes company. Considering the circumstances, he’s not one to dismiss off this performance.
Goldencents was rank from the start, tossing his head, and he wouldn’t be held by jockey Kevin Krigger. O’Neill admitted after the race some adjustments would need to be made for the Into Mischief colt to progress. This race was a regression from his effort in the Sham, in which he rated well behind Manando. He boasts natural talent but has a lot to learn in a short amount of time.
The speed duel produced some interesting post-race comments. More: http://inthemoneypost.com/krigger-blasts-leparoux-for-ride-on-flashback-in-san-felipe/
*Verrazano (colt, More Than Ready – Enchanted Rock by Giant’s Causeway) - It was the crowning of an early Derby favorite, the confirmation of a star on the Derby trail for trainer Todd Pletcher. The dominant force at Gulfstream proved he can ship and handle a new, “quirky” surface, and he also overcame a troubled start. The colt stumbled badly, grabbed a quarter and suffered a cut on his right front. Jockey John Velazquez smartly rushed him up to keep pace after the setback, and the lightly-raced colt handled the adversity by drawing off to win by three lengths.
Falling Sky tracked Verrazano but faded to third behind the rallying Java’s War, who demonstrated he can handle dirt and showed the most promise of the also-rans. Dynamic Sky made a move while running mid-pack but wasn’t able to sustain his momentum.
Verrazano covered the 1 1/16-miles in 1;43.96 with a final split of 6:40.
Trainer Todd Pletcher: “He has had some freakishly good performances and some of the things he does in the morning in his training, we don’t see too often.
“We were a little unsure of what the pace scenario would be. You had horses with speed coming out of other races and ideally we wanted to stalk someone, but he is so naturally fast for a big horse, there wasn’t enough pace to get behind too many horses.”
More on Verrazano: http://inthemoneypost.com/verrazano-a-derby-dean-declared/
The Daily Racing Form reports Verrazano is likely headed to the Wood Memorial to meet foes like Vyjack, Normandy Invasion and possibly Bob Baffert’s Tiz the Truth. That would certify the Wood as a top prep heading into the first Saturday in May.
Manuka Honey (filly, Borrego – Al Max Diner by End Sweep) - After struggling early in her career, this John Terranova trainee has put it all together by switching from turf to dirt, resulting in a maiden-breaking win at Gulfstream in her sixth start. She followed that up with a rousing romp in the Suncoast Stakes under the direction of Edgar Prado against mostly locally-based company. She controlled a pedestrian pace (:24.75, :49.19) and drew off to win by 7 1/4-lengths in 1:41.75 for the 1 mile, 40 yards.
Terranova: “She had a tremendous breeze after her Gulfstream win (six furlongs in 1:12), so it was a no-brainer to go into this spot. I left the strategy up to Edgar. With a filly with that kind of class and ability, you don’t want to get in her way, and you don’t have to tell Edgar much.”
Prado: “She just keeps getting better. She broke just right and in front and I let her relax and wait for a challenge. I asked her for run nearing the stretch and she really responded. We were almost in hand getting to the finish.”
*Propelloroneway (turf) (filly, Malibu Moon – Catch the Blue Hat by Storm Cat) – She returned to her preferred surface and notched her second win with a dominant victory in an allowance at 7.5 furlongs.
*Calistoga (filly, Speightstown - Styler by Holy Bull) – One of a bevy of promising Bill Mott fillies, she proved her debut win was no fluke when she returned to win authoritatively again in a 6.5-furlong allowance. She clicked off sharp fractions and final time of 1:16.54. She’s still a bit green, but the talent is there. Both of her wins have come in front-running fashion and she has the look of a sprint to middle-distance runner.
*White Rose (turf) (filly, Tapit – Garden Dance by El Prado) - Jake Ballis and the Miami Heat’s Rashard Lewis own this promising Bill Mott trainee, who proved much the best in her 3-year-old debut going 1 1/8-miles on grass. She came from off the pace and took control in the stretch to win by 1 1/2-lengths in 1:48.71, with a final split of :11.69. Strong performance considering she was coming off a long layoff; she’s Kentucky Oaks nominated and ran fourth behind Emollient in her debut, her only start on dirt.
Red Rifle (colt, Giant’s Causeway – May Night by Gulch) - Outside post proved no issue in the debut of this Todd Pletcher trainee, who strolled past pacesetter Bob and the Gang in the seven-furlong test. Nice pedigree leans to longer distances. Good effort from ITM Horse to Watch Apex, who bumped hard with Steel Dust Dancer in the stretch, impeding his rally.
Freedom Child (ridgling, Malibu Moon – Bandstand by Deputy Minister) - This long-striding Thomas Albertrani trainee turned a corner in his fourth start, leading wire-to-wire in an eye-catching victory at 1 1/8-miles. He posted solid fractions (:23.14, :46.83, 1:11.56) and a final time of 1:50.96. He was second to Orb in a key race at Aqueduct that also featured Revolutionary. Connections are reporting the Illinois Derby could be next.
Street Trick (turf) (filly, Street Sense - Brief Bliss by Navarone) - The five furlongs was just short for this Tom Bush trainee on debut, as she closed with a late rush and just missed behind Coarsegold. This is a definite for the virtual stable who should like a stretch out; versatile pedigree. She’s half-sister to Hierro and Cherokee Triangle.
*Declan’s Warrior (colt, Majestic Warrior – Comanche Star by Saint Ballado) and Narvaez (colt, Holy Bull – Miss Lulu by Unbridled) - Dandy dead-heat duel between these two runners, with Narvaez catching a stubborn Declan’s Warrior in the stretch. Declan’s Warrior was gutsy in his no-surrender mode and he boasts a nice stride; time of 1:29.74 for the 7.5-furlong race.
*Close Hatches (filly, First Defence – Rising Tornado by Storm Cat) - She bypassed the Suncoast Stakes in favor of an allowance at 1 1/16-miles and took a different approach as compared to her off-pace debut win. This time, she controlled the pace and held off her five foes, winning by 1 1/4-lengths in 1:43.57. Solid runner-up performance from Kimberly Jean, who was closing well in the final furlong but was no match for this promising Bill Mott filly.
Pink Trillium (turf) (filly, Unbridled’s Song – Amandola by El Prado) – Notable debut on grass for this Chad Brown trainee, who came from off the pace to catch Daddy’s Gold in late stretch. Most impressive was her late turn of foot – a speedy acceleration just before the wire in the 7.5-furlong test and a notable time of 1:28.51.
Barbie Wire (filly, Tapit - Fencelineneighbor by Wild Rush) – A troubled start from a wide post, a three-wide run into the turn and a late rally for second in her debut make this Chad Brown trainee one to watch.
Path of Dreams (turf) (filly, Giant’s Causeway – Path of Thunder by Thunder Gulch) - Toss her off race on the slop and you have a promising grass filly for Todd Pletcher. She closed well into a moderate pace for a close second to War Relic in her third start. She’s bred for the longer distances and could be a force with more experience; a full sister to 2012 Suncoast Stakes winner Wait Til Dawn.
*Let Em Shine (colt, Songandaprayer - Justaspell by Johannesburg) - This is a serious sprinter from the barn of Adam Kitchingman who is 2 of 3 and making quite a statement at Santa Anita. He’s been unbeatable since his third-place debut, in which San Felipe victor Hear the Ghost topped him coming from the 10-post. His wins on the front end have been dominant, and although his allowance time dropped from 1:08.36 to 1:09.14, his final split moved up from :13 flat to :12.90. Solid early fractions in the :21 range. Stakes company likely next.
Examen (gelding, Giants Causeway – Surf N Sand by Boston Harbor) - With the allowance race taken off the turf, this Tom Proctor runner tested the wet fast track and passed with flying colors, winning by 3 1/4-lengths and covering the mile in 1:37.38. The pace set up perfectly for Examen and Garrett Gomez, who rallied behind speedy Meringue Pie and made their move in the stretch. In addition, he was flattered by the win by Democrat Duck, who was second in Examen’s debut win on turf.
Jockey Garrett Gomez: “My main concern was how he would handle the wet dirt. He got splattered a little going into the first turn and it didn’t bother a bit, so I decided to go ahead and cover him up some.
“Tom’s an awesome horsemen and this horse is really coming around, learning from each race. When he made the lead today, he started looking around a little, like he did with me the first time. The main thing is, you want them competitive when somebody comes to them and he is.”
Trainer Tom Proctor: “His mother never ran on the turf and won something like $400,000. She was a pretty solid horse and she was better as she got older as well… I’m not very ambitious in life, or with horses. I let them do what they do and I don’t try to expect too much.”
Democrat Duck (turf) (colt, Mizzen Mast – Athena Two O Four by El Prado) - Outstanding ride by Tyler Baze helped this Jerry Hollendorfer runner break his maiden going a mile on the grass in his fourth start. He bravely split horses and showed strong late acceleration in the stretch. He’s boosted his form since moving to turf and was second to the talented Examen.
*Noble Tune (turf) (colt, Unbridled’s Song – Serena’s Cat by Storm Cat) – Triumphant and eye-catching return for the talented Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf runner-up, who kicked it into another gear to rally from the back of the pack to win in a one-mile allowance. Surging with him was Are You Kidding Me, who was beaten by just a nose in 1:35.05. Noble Tune is likely suited for distances longer than a mile.
This is one of the top 3-year-olds on turf who’s yet to try another surface, but that looms in his future.
Noble Tune will head to Keeneland in Lexington for a possible run in the Blue Grass Stakes on April 13. “I’ll probably stay short of speculating right now (about the Derby),” Brown said. “The way he finished today, the mile-and-an-eighth of the Blue Grass should be no problem. The Tampa Bay Downs turf course has worked well for us in the past. All of our horses seem to come out of their races well.”
Ronson (gelding, Southern Image – Rare Ribbon by Proudest Romeo) - Speedy sprinter has put up top-notch fractions for a 3-year-old on the Turfway surface, bolting home in 1:10.92 in his most recent start, a runaway win in at six furlongs in an allowance. His usual early fractions are in the :21-22 range and he posted a blistering :44.18 in the March 8 win for trainer Joe Deegan. In his debut in a claiming race at Keeneland, he wore front wraps and nearly won at 43-1. He’s yet to race on dirt.
Beyond Empire (colt, Empire Maker – Intend to Win by Housebuster) - This New York-bred flashed promise in his debut, navigating tight quarters in the turn and powering past his experienced rivals in the mile test. The Kiaran McLaughlin trainee is a half-brother to Raven Run and Pan Zareta winner Josh’s Madelyn.
*Guadalupe High (filly, Cuvee – Fighting Zone by Wild Zone) – This Louisiana-bred continues to impress as she tallied her third straight win in the Azalea Stakes and posted a strong time of 1:32.65 for the 7.5 furlongs.
C C Gold (filly, Touch Gold – Carson City Secret by Carson City) – She romped by more than nine lengths in her debut despite sharply checking on the rail in traffic.
Free Song (filly, Hat Trick – Altos de Chevron by Polish Numbers) – This Pennsylvania-bred appreciated a drop in class from stakes company, rallying wide off the pace for a win in her fourth start.
*Fevernthefunkhouse (colt, Henny Hughes – Wicked Wish by Gold Case) - Consistent Kenny McPeek runner returned to his winning ways with a front-running win by four lengths under the guidance of resurgent Calvin Borel, who is riding very well of late.
Deighan (filly, Dance With Ravens – Code Variance by Awesome Again) – This consistent Pennsylvania-circuit runner chalked up another easy front-running sprint win to move to 2 for 4.
Lori’s Store (turf) (filly, El Prado – Big Promise by Rahy) - A gradual improvement in each race. plus better performances on turf render this Tom Proctor trainee one to watch on this circuit.
New Line (colt, First Defence – Introducing by Deputy Minister) – One of many First Defence progeny for Bill Mott, it took this colt a while to get to the winner’s circle, but he delivered his top performance in Saturday’s win. He cruised to win by five lengths and notched a speedy time of 1:40.79 for the 1 mile, 40 yards.