ITM analysis of the top 3-year-olds to watch from – March 20 – March 27
(* denotes a previous ITM Horse to Watch)
*Govenor Charlie (colt, Midnight Lute – Silverbulletway by Storm Cat) – On a day when the track was historically fast, Bob Baffert’s newest Kentucky Derby hopeful not only put on a show, he tacked a new track record for the 1 1/8-miles (1:47.54) in the Sunland Derby. His final split was a solid 12:58. He did have the advantage of a very swift early pace, but there was no doubt who was much the best among this group. The field wasn’t top-tier colts/geldings, but he did overpower San Vicente champ and stablemate Shakin It Up.
It’s tough to gauge the strength level of Sunday’s stakes races considering the track’s lean toward speedy times. Along with Midnight Lucky, another track record was set in the Bill Thomas Memorial by Isn’t He Clever. The fact he conquered this distance, at a new track, in just his third start is enough to render him a contender. He will train up to the Derby according to Baffert, which means he’ll need to overcome a lot. He’s only raced three times and did not race at the age of two. The distance isn’t a question for this runner; it’s experience and class. He has yet to face a tough field. Interesting to note in both of his wins, he was not farther back than third. Both of his wins also featured a very fast early pace.
*Midnight Lucky (filly, Midnight Lute – Citiview by Citidancer) – The second half of the Midnight Lute march at Sunland smashed the track record for 1 1/16-miles (1:41.06) with a sizzling final split of 6:55. She’s obviously a special and talented filly who has come a long way in just two starts, mastering rating off the pace, the stretch out and different tracks. She’ll go into the Kentucky Oaks off just two starts and not having raced at the age of two. It’s not as tough a challenge as it is for the colts/geldings trying a challenging 1 1/4-miles, so there’s a chance, depending on how the Oaks field forms, she could handle this task. She also didn’t appear to be taxed after the Sunland Oaks despite flying home in record time.
In both her starts, she sat in second just off the pace and took control. Although she’s been incredibly impressive, she has yet to face adversity or any of the top-tier fillies, such as Beholder, Live Lively and Close Hatches.
*Back Seat Roll (filly, Roll Hennessy Roll – Back Seat Charm by Silver Charm) – The consistent New Mexico-bred is now 5 of 8 after her New Mexico Breeders’ Oaks win.
*Crop Report (colt, Medaglia d’Oro – Amarillo by Crafty Prospector) – Although the field was dwindled by three scratches, the Rushaway performance was still impressive considering this Graham Motion runner had to make up considerable ground in the stretch. The connections mentioned post-race how they’d hope he’d show more speed from the gate. In his previous start at Gulfstream on turf, he hit the gate and broke last, yet managed to rally for third. He showed the same hesitance at the start in the Rushaway and didn’t pick up the pace until mid-stretch, when he was forced to circle the field to reach pacesetter Divine Ambition.
The final time of 1:45.66 is standard for the distance, class and track. His closing run was one of the better performances on the day, but watching the race live, it wasn’t a ‘wow’ move like Animal Kingdom’s bold run into a strong headwind in 2011.
“He proved today that he can run, but I was kind of worried when we passed the three-eighths pole,” jockey Joel Rosario said. “He was catching horses so quickly, he got the job done today. I was concerned coming around the far turn because it took a while for him to get going.”
Graham Motion’s assistant, David Rock: “I was a little concerned. We hoped he would show a little more speed, but we knew he would finish up. The horse gave himself a lot to do. He’s European and a big horse, so maybe the gate’s a little small to him.”
Team Valor’s Barry Irwin said the colt, who is still quite immature, won’t target the Derby and instead will point to the Belmont Stakes with one prep. The prep is possibly the Peter Pan, a 1 1/8-mile test at Belmont on May 11.
*Black Onyx (colt, Rock Hard Ten – Kalahari Cat by Cape Town) – This intriguing runner now boasts wins on all three surfaces and is 2 for 2 since moving to the barn of Kelly Breen. What’s appealing is his mid-pack running style isn’t dependent on a pace scenario, and he seems quite maneuverable. He did drift some in late stretch of the 1 1/8-mile Spiral, but didn’t appear taxed post-race. His pattern is solid for a continued increase in distance, as both wins were in routes and he’s not one who’s been languishing in sprints for most of his young career. Although turf is likely his best surface, he won on dirt at Aqueduct and was fourth in a strong allowance race on dirt at Gulfstream that featured Bradester and Cerro.
He’s set to ship to Churchill this week, meaning he’ll get acclimated much earlier than his rivals. The key will be how he takes to the surface.
Uncaptured, returning after a four month layoff, performed very well considering it was his first try at 1 1/8-miles. He struggled in the stretch with his leads and appeared to get weary late, but these top two were strides better than the rest of the field. Excellent comeback race for the Mark Casse trainee, who could head to the very competitive Blue Grass as a final prep. He is head and shoulders better at Churchill, but what happens at Keeneland could be the determining factor for his future.
Jockey Miguel Mena: “He really needed the race. He was getting tired from the eighth pole.”
*Silsita (filly, Macho Uno – Naturally Wild by Wild Again) – She had the advantage of the outside spot in a battle with Marathon Lady, who was on the rail, that lasted until the finish of the Bourbonette. The Todd Pletcher runner handled the new surface well and tallied her first win since her debut. Although she is in firm position points-wise for the Oaks, the connections haven’t decided on a next start. Her better performances have come on turf and synthetic.
Marathon Lady, a daughter of Graeme Hall trained by Steve Hobby, will go back to Oaklawn and could start in the Fantasy Stakes.
Kenny McPeek’s Pure Fun was visibly tired in the stretch and couldn’t make up ground, finishing third by 1 1/4-lengths. While the layoff is a consideration, it was obvious that she was not taking hold of the track.
*Tread (filly, Arch – Scoot Yer Boots by Seeking the Gold) – The definition of refuse to lose, this Al Stall runner appeared beaten on the rail with Silver Strike to the outside. She didn’t succumb and re-rallied, not only to beat that foe, but also holding off the late-closing I Think So. She’s consistent; has yet to stretch out beyond six furlongs.
*Anyriderill Do (turf) (colt, Street Hero – E Looe by Lure) – Versatile grass runner for Ronny Werner won his second straight using front-running tactics in the mile test. He had a legitimate excuse of traffic trouble in his debut. Definite for the virtual stable.
Bella Castani (turf) (filly, Big Brown – Caroni by Rubiano) – This half-sister to Beautician was eased in her debut, a race on dirt won by the talented Close Hatches. She returned on grass rejuvenated and flashed strong late acceleration in the stretch going one mile for Eddie Kenneally.
Summer of Fun (turf) (filly, Include – Royal Innocence by Royal Anthem) – Valiant return from a third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf for this George Weaver runner, who is building up to a strong 3-year-old campaign with an allowance win. Notable time of 1:40.20 for the 1 1/16-miles and she beat a good field.
Rip Roarin Ritchie (turf) (gelding, Bring the Heat – Silently Mighty by Mighty) – The runner who showed promise as a 2-year-old returned victorious off a long layoff, catching a speedy favorite in a grass sprint. Off the Page ran a strong race with swift early fractions, but this Wes Ward runner was able to nab him at the wire.
Light My World (filly, Purim – Freccia by Cryptoclearance) – In a breakthrough performance in her third start, this Judith DiNatale trainee closed into a moderate pace and drew off impressively in the mile test.
*Officer Alex (colt, Officer – Ms. C D Player by Boca Rio) – A drop from graded stakes and a return to sprints resulted in a trip to the winner’s circle for this Lynn Whiting runner. He’s one to watch in sprints and among his class.
*Jan’s Perfect Star (filly, Imperialism – Perfect Exchange by Valid Appeal) – She proved her debut romp was no fluke by stretching out to 1 1/16-miles and beating state-bred stakes company in just her second start. Purchased by locally based David Clark after her impressive maiden win, she cruised to a 3 3/4-length win in the Arkansas’ Breeders Stakes and remains one to watch on this circuit. The time over the track labeled good was on the slow side (1:51.33).
Unfettered (gelding, Rockport Harbor – New York Jessica by Phone Trick) – Standout debut by this Florida-bred at 13-1. He grabbed the lead and extended to the wire to win by more than five lengths. Tough to gauge just how strong these Sunland races were considering the feverishly fast times.
Mal Guapo (gelding, Into Mischief – Jostlin Kate by Fit to Fight) – Hampered by a wide post, this first-time starter for Kellyn Gorder made up substantial ground, with heavy kickback, to finish a good second behind winner Impassable Canyon. He’s one to watch on a surface switch to dirt and a stretch out from six furlongs.
*Dads Caps (colt, Discreet Cat – Seeking the Silver by Grindstone) – He’s 2 for 2 on the inner track and proved quite game in his most recent start, as he held off Tenango to secure the win.
Shadow Rock (turf) (gelding, Distorted Humor – Dream Time by Storm Cat) – He was very green in the stretch, but it was just his second start and he showed marked improvement moving from dirt to turf. Speedy time of 1:04.50 for the 5 1/2 furlongs on grass.
College Park (colt, Louis Quatorze – County Brass by Wayne County) – Stunning gray son of Louis Quatorze won his debut easily against state-breds in a solid time of 1:19.46 for 6 1/2 furlongs.
Honour the Vow (gelding, Broken Vow – Decoratedwithonour by Matter of Honor) – The seven furlongs and a fast Charles Town track were what this Flint Stites runner needed to get back in the winner’s circle. Nice, sweeping move in the stretch of the allowance test.
Jitterbug Slim (colt, Holy Bull – Dickson Street by Storm Boot) – Solid debut against mostly experienced foes for this Louisiana-bred trained by Sam Breaux. Good time of :58.69 for five furlongs.
Happy My Way (gelding, Wilko – Holy Queen by Holy Bull) – He’s won two straight including a gutsy neck win over favorite Carried Interest at 16-1. This is a solid Florida-bred sprinter worth watching for Joe Orseno.
Mills (turf) (gelding, Any Given Saturday – Highland Hope by Unaccounted For) – Barclay Tagg’s runner just missed in his debut going a mile on the grass, finishing a closing second to the more experienced Drenched.
Midnight Music (colt, Midnight Lute – Forest Whispers by Forestry) – A drop to the claiming level for the Steve Hobby trainee led to a 2 1/2-length victory at six furlongs on a sloppy track.
Tampa Bay Downs
Natural Rush (filly, Indian Charlie – Lu Ravi by A.P. Indy) – She didn’t care for the turf, and after a few unsuccessful tries on dirt, she showed improvement with a rail-riding win at 6 1/2 furlongs. Sharp move by the Bill Mott runner to push her way between the rail and Classy Broad, and she extended her advantage to the wire. She’s a daughter of multiple graded stakes winner Lu Ravi.