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Updated: 3 hours 38 min ago

TDN Derby Top 12 for March 6

Mon, 2018-03-05 16:53

We have a new No. 1 in the TDN Top 12 rankings, but for how long? The two previous early-season leaders couldn’t quite live up to their advance billings when returning off layoffs, and we’ve seen a steady progression of sophomores advancing through the ranks more or less by default without witnessing one powerfully dominant “Wow!” performance yet this season. But the cadence will quicken and the plot will thicken this coming weekend, with a trifecta of coast-to-coast preps spanning California, Florida and New York.

1) MCKINZIE (c, Street SenseRunway Model, by Petionville)
‘TDN Rising Star’ O-Karl Watson, Michael Pegram & Paul Weitman. B-Summer Wind Farm (KY). T-Bob Baffert. Sales History: $170,000 yrl KEESEP ’16. Lifetime Record: GISW,
3-3-0-0, $270,000.
Feb. 27 TDN Top 12 Rank: 2
Last Start: 1st GIII Sham S., SA, Jan. 6 Accomplishments Include: 1st, GI Los Alamitos Futurity, LRC, Dec. 9
Next Start: GII San Felipe S., SA, Mar. 10
Equineline PPs. Caulfield on McKinzie.
KY Derby Points: 20

‘TDN Rising Star’ McKinzie makes his debut as the new No. 1 on this week’s Top 12 list without having raced in two months. He inherits the kingpin slot with plenty of unrealized potential seemingly in his favor, but he’ll have to do something his two TDN top-ranked predecessors—Good Magic (Curlin) and Catholic Boy (More Than Ready)—failed to do, which is to run an assertive, leave-no-doubt race off the layoff to retain that leader-of-the-pack status. Sunday, trainer Bob Baffert was satisfied enough with this $170,000 KEESEP colt’s second consecutive in-company, seven-furlong work—this one in 1:23.80 (1/2)—to declare that this coming Saturday’s GII San Felipe S. at Santa Anita will be McKinzie’s next afternoon target. This Street Sense (Street Cry {Ire}) colt will enter that 1 1/16- miles test undefeated (albeit with one win via DQ), looking to continue a linear developmental arc in which his strengths have been a nice in-race response when cued to quicken and a willingness to fight through the stretch. Baffert has won two of the past three runnings of the San Felipe (and six overall, with six different jockeys). But because McKinzie got off to a slightly later start (Oct. 29 debut), the timing of his races has thus far avoided a head-to-head clash with Eclipse Award juvenile finalist Bolt d’Oro (Medaglia d’Oro), who rates a very close second on this week’s Top 12 and is likely to go off favored over McKinzie in the San Felipe. Either way, Saturdays stakes rates as the best head-to-head match-up of the season so far on the Derby trail.


2) BOLT D’ORO (c, Medaglia d’OroGlobe Trot, by A.P. Indy)
O-Ruis Racing. B-WinStar Farm (KY). T-Mick Ruis. Sales History: $630,000 yrl FTSAUG ’16. Lifetime Record: MGISW, 4-3-0-1, $576,000.
Feb. 27 TDN Top 12 Rank: 3
Last Start: 3rd GI Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, SA, Nov. 4
Accomplishments Include: 1st, GI Del Mar Futurity, DMR, Sept. 4; 1st GI FrontRunner S., SA, Sept. 30.
Next Start: GII San Felipe S., SA, Mar. 10 Equineline PPs. Caulfield on Bolt d’Oro. KY Derby Points: 14

Bolt d’Oro has waited 127 days to redeem himself after his compromised trip as the beaten favorite in the GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and Saturday’s San Felipe S. will be no slouch of a spot for his return to the races. He’ll have to deal with the slightly fresher (but similarly lightly seasoned) No. 1-ranked McKinzie, among others, and the company lines in this test (and another presumed subsequent start before the Derby) are going to look a lot tougher than the fields $630,000 FTSAUG yearling purchase by Medaglia d’Oro (El Prado {Ire}) pasted back in August and September. One tactical quirk that “Bolt” needs to address is his propensity for exiting the starting gate a step slowly, which is something he was able to overcome in the GI Del Mar Futurity, but not in the Breeders’ Cup, when he bobbled at the break, came out 11th, and got parked very wide on the clubhouse turn trying to catch up. Breaking tardily was something he also did in his most recent work from the gate last week, too, so it appears as if this issue is a work in progress. Then again, the raw talent this colt displayed last season has everyone on the Triple Crown trail on edge waiting to see how he’s developed from age two to three, and if he runs a lights-out race on Saturday, he’ll be a formidable foe with a target on his back just in time for the major remaining preps to stretch out to nine furlongs. He blitzed a half mile Monday morning at Santa Anita in :46.40 (1/94) for his final San Felipe blowout.


3) AVERY ISLAND (c, Street Sense-Kinda Spicy, by A.P. Indy)
O-Godolphin Racing. B-Godolphin (KY). T-Kiaran McLaughlin. Lifetime Record: GSW, 5-3-1-0, $365,332.
Feb. 27 TDN Top 12 Rank: 4
Last Start: 1st GIII Withers S., AQU, Feb. 3.
Accomplishments Include: 1st GII Nashua S., AQU, Nov. 5.
Next Start: Aiming for GII Louisiana Derby, FG, Mar. 24
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 14

A solo half-mile breeze on Sunday in :48.40 (12/86) at Palm Meadows keeps this stout-framed son of Street Sense (Street Cry {Ire}) on target for the Mar. 24 GII Louisiana Derby. It is not difficult to envision this push-button stayer relishing every inch of the 1,346-foot Fair Grounds stretch based on his stamina-oriented pedigree. What remain open questions, however, are A) Will he be able to replicate his success outside of New York, where all three of his victories came in short (seven-, six-, and five-horse) fields? And B) Will his cruising speed evolve into a better-honed, more dangerous weapon to enable him to be more of a menacing in-race presence when forcing the issue in stalk mode? One small intangible in Avery Island’s favor for his next race is that jockey Joe Bravo moved his tack to New Orleans this winter, perhaps affording him track-specific insights that could help in the Louisiana Derby.


CATHOLIC BOY (c, More Than ReadySong of Bernadette, by Bernardini)
O-Robert V. LaPenta & Madaket Stable. B-Fred W. Hertrich III & John D. Fielding (KY). T-Jonathan Thomas. Sales History: $170,000 PS yrl KEEJAN ’16. Lifetime Record: MGSW, 5-3-1-0, $354,000.
Feb. 27 TDN Top 12 Rank: 5
Last Start: 2nd GIII Sam F. Davis S., TAM, Feb. 10
Accomplishments Include: 1st GII Remsen S., AQU, Dec. 2.; 1st GIII With Anticipation S., SAR, Aug. 30.
Next Start: Possible for either GII Louisiana Derby, FG, Mar. 24 or GI Florida Derby, GP, Mar. 31
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 14

Catholic Boy’s trainer Jonathan Thomas tries to strike a balance between hands-on horse management and data-driven analysis when it comes to assessing his top sophomore. “What I’m seeing in front of me is he’s improving physically,” Thomas said last week when asked about Catholic Boy’s progression following a second-place run in the GIII Sam F. Davis S. “But what I’m seeing numerically, his [speed figure] sheet numbers have consistently gotten stronger, and coming off a 10-week layoff, he ran his lifetime best. We’re seeing a good, methodical improvement on numbers, which I like to see, but he’s also a very generous training horse. Anything you ask him to do, he’s a very willing participant. He’s just intelligent, listens to his riders well, and I think when you get into these tougher races, those details become so much more important. I’m not saying you have to ride him like a turf horse, but I’d like to see him just taken back, get settled, and then get into a good rhythm and just produce a run, because the horse has a turn of foot. And I think if you kind of engage him too early you’re just robbing him of the opportunity to tip out and make a run and finish up strong. That seems to be his style, and I’d like to reinforce that. Hindsight’s 20/20—if I could go back to the Davis, I’d have told Manny [Franco] just to bury him far back, even if it was just second last, and just make one strong run instead of pecking at the pace. It’s hard for horses to do that unless they’re truly grinders, and he’s not a grinder.”


5) GOOD MAGIC (c, CurlinGlinda the Good, by Hard Spun)
O-e Five Thoroughbreds & Stonestreet Stables. B-Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings (KY). T-C Brown. Sales History: $1 million yrl KEESEP ’16. Lifetime Record: Ch. 2yo, GISW, 4-1-2-1, $1,255,000.
Feb. 27 TDN Top 12 Rank: 1
Last Start: 3rd, GII Fountain of Youth S., GP, Mar. 3
Accomplishments Include: 1st GI Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, SA, Nov. 4.; 2nd GI Champagne S., BEL, Oct. 7.
Next Start: Possible for GII Blue Grass S., KEE, Apr. 7
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 34

Good Magic not only carried jockey Jose Ortiz on his back in Saturday’s GII Fountain of Youth S., but the lightly raced, million-dollar KEESEP colt also had to bear the lofty expectations of being a Breeders’ Cup winner and divisional champion making his highly anticipated seasonal debut, and that has to be factored into any forward-thinking assessment. No, Good Magic did not live up to the burdensome months of off-season hype based on his punchless third as the 7-10 favorite after looking primed to pounce through the first five furlongs of Saturday’s race. But there is plenty for trainer Chard Brown to build upon here over the next two months, and you get the sense that diminished pressure to perform in spectacular fashion could work in this son of Curlin (Smart Strike)’s favor. Over the next few weeks, the fact that Good Magic couldn’t reel in an 18-1 breakaway pacemaker over a traditionally speed-carrying track (with a short-stretch finish) will look more and more like a viable excuse for his subpar try, and my bet is this colt will cycle back into being a “now” horse by the time his next probable start in the Apr. 7 GII Blue Grass S. rolls around. “When it came time to run, I think he just kind of had enough with all the dirt. It’s a new experience for him,” Brown said post-race. “The horse came back a little tired. He was blowing pretty good. It looked like he needed the race. Hopefully, he got what he needed out of it and go on to the next step.”


6) SOLOMINI (c, Curlin-Surf Song, by Storm Cat)
O-Zayat Stables LLC. B-Glenna R. Salyer (KY). T-Bob Baffert. Sales history: $270,000 KEESEP ’16 yrl. Lifetime Record: MGISP, 4-1-2-1, $472,000
Feb. 27 TDN Top 12 Rank: 6
Last Start: 3rd GI Los Alamitos Futurity, LRC, Dec.9.
Accomplishments Include: 2nd GI Frontrunner S., SA, Sept. 30; 2nd GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, DMR, Nov. 4
Next Start: GII Rebel S., OP, Mar. 17 Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 14

Trainer Bob Baffert told the Santa Anita press notes team Sunday that he’s decided Solomini will be his Rebel S. representative at Oaklawn Park based off three consecutive bullet workouts at Santa Anita, the most recent a 1:11.40 (1/7) in-company drill Sunday. The placement makes sense from a timing perspective and based on Baffert’s desire to keep A-list candidates McKinzie (who stays home for the San Felipe) and Solomini separated in races for the time being. Zayat Stables no doubt harbors positive vibes for Hot Springs considering the outfit’s eventual Triple Crowner American Pharoah (Pioneeerof the Nile) launched his 2015 campaign there, also in the Rebel. But I have a sneaky feeling this year’s edition is likely to come up as a more difficult than envisioned in two weeks with at least three recent under-the-radar allowance winners from strong stables and a couple of other “On the Bubble” candidates lurking as legit upsetters. Solomini had a star-crossed juvenile campaign in which he mixed it up with some of the division’s heavy hitters despite appearing a little unfocused at times, and he did have his number taken down in a controversial Grade I disqualification. But all of that can be chalked up to “learning experience” if he moves forward off of those 2017 tries and manages to conjure up a powerful performance in the Rebel that sets him up for a higher-seeded assault as the Derby nears.


7) Promises Fulfilled (c, Shackleford-Marquee Delivery, by Marquetry)
O-Robert J. Baron. B-David Jacobs (KY). T-Dale Romans. Sales history: $37,000 yrl KEESEP ’16. Lifetime Record: GSW, 4-3-0-1, $327,280.
Feb. 27 TDN Top 12 Rank: N/A
Last Start: 1st GII Fountain of Youth S., GP, Mar. 3.
Next Start: Pointing towards GI Florida Derby, GP, Mar. 31
Equineline PPs.
Kentucky Derby Points: 52

This $37,000 KEESEP son of Shackleford (Forestry) sparked a Top 12 debut off an 18-1 wire-to-wire dismantling of the Fountain of Youth field that is best described as an efficient deployment of tactics rather than a blunt-force drubbing. After nimbly and responsively securing the lead from outermost post nine, jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. moderated the tempo down the backstretch, quickened into the far turn while bracing for the attack of favorite Good Magic (that never materialized), then stayed on commendably through the short (first finish line) stretch of the 1 1/16 miles Gulfstream configuration. It was the lead-loving chestnut’s first outing since running a better-than-looks third in the GII Kentucky Jockey Club S. Nov. 25, and he’s now 3-for-4 lifetime with a likely return in the Florida Derby scheduled next. “They let him go in [:48.39] with his ears up, and I knew it was going to take a heck of a horse to pass him at that point,” said trainer Dale Romans. “I think [the 3-year-old picture] is muddy water right now, but it’ll start clearing itself up. This round of preps and the next round are the two where they all come together. Right now there’s nobody just running away from the crop and that makes it exciting.”


8) AUDIBLE (c, Into MischiefBlue Devil Bel, by Gilded Time)
O-WinStar, China Horse Club & SF Racing. B-Oak Bluff Stables LLC (NY). T-Todd Pletcher. Sales history: $175,000 FTNSAR yrl ’16; $500,000 FTFMAR 2yo ’17. Lifetime Record: 4-3-0-1, $287,720
Feb. 27 TDN Top 12 Rank: 7
Last Start: 1st, GII Holy Bull S., GP, Feb. 3.
Next Start: GI Florida Derby, GP, Mar. 31
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 10

The plot thickened over the weekend for Audible in terms of his attempted parlay of the GII Holy Bull S. and Florida Derby, because we now know that the 1-2 finishers of the Fountain of Youth S. will be similarly aiming for that Mar. 31 stakes. This Todd Pletcher-trained $500,000 FTFMAR son of Into Mischief (Harlan’s Holiday) isn’t a pure needs-the-lead type, but his running style slants toward forward placement, and you’d have to think some form of a fight with wire-to-wire Fountain of Youth winner Promises Fulfilled will materialize at some point in the Florida Derby. Audible gave us a good clue that his development arc is going in the right direction when he confidently quickened from stalk mode into a sweet overdrive gear when confronted at the head of the lane in the Holy Bull; it was a deft move that belied his light (four races) seasoning. But a chief concern moving forward is the fact that three well-regarded entrants in the Holy Bull never truly fired their “A” efforts, so it’s hard to tell how much of Audible’s visually impressive performance was attributable to his own skill set versus his being able to capitalize in a race where there were clearly several no-shows. The colt worked a :49.13 half mile (3/26) at Palm Beach Downs Saturday.


9) INSTILLED REGARD (c, Arch--Enhancing, by Foresty)
O-OXO Equine LLC. B-KatieRich Farms (KY). T-Jerry Hollendorfer. Sales history: $110,000 RNA yrl KEESEP ’16, $1,050,000 2yo OBSMAR ’17. Lifetime Record: GSW & GISP, 6-2-2-1, $244,000.
Feb. 27 TDN Top 12 Rank: 9
Last Start: 4th, GII Risen Star S., FG, Feb. 17
Accomplishments: 1st, GIII Lecomte S., FG, Jan. 13; 2nd, GI Los Alamitos Futurity, LRC, Dec. 9.
Next Start: Uncommitted
Equineline PPs. Caulfield on Instilled Regard.
KY Derby Points: 19

Within this week’s Top 12, Good Magic, Catholic Boy, and Instilled Regard share similarities in that they all started the season seeded higher on this list yet each underwhelmed in their most recent starts. But taking the medium-term view, none of their connections should be in panic mode with regard to prepping for the Derby because they all figure to get one more redemption race, probably at nine furlongs, to solidify both qualifying points status and their respective levels of conditioning. This $1.05 million OBSMAR Arch (Kris S.) colt smoked the Jan. 13 GIII Lecomte S. field in impressive finished-with-authority fashion, and even though he did not replicate that effort when favored and fourth in the GII Risen Star S. a month later, that race as a whole could wind up being a toss-out deviant unless the 21-1 and 41-1 long shots who ran 1-2 prove they’re no flukes in an anticipated Louisiana Derby rematch. As for Instilled Regard, no next-race plans have been publicly disclosed. But he’ll go into his next start off a solid base of four consecutive route races, several of which signaled obvious talent, and trainer Jerry Hollendorfer will have the benefit of seeing how Saturday’s San Felipe S. at Santa Anita shakes out before plotting a course for his top sophomore’s next prep.


10) FREE DROP BILLY (c, Union RagsTrensa, by Giant’s Causeway)
O-Albaugh Family Stables LLC. B-Helen K. Groves Revokable Trust (KY). T-Dale Romans. Sales history: $200,000 KEESEP yrl ’16. Lifetime Record: GISW, 6-2-3-0, $495,220.
Feb. 27 TDN Top 12 Rank: 8
Last Start: 2nd, GII Holy Bull S., GP, Feb. 3.
Accomplishments Include: 1st, GI Breeders’ Futurity, KEE, Oct.7; 2nd, GI Hopeful S. Sept. 4.
Next Start: GIII Gotham S, AQU, Mar. 10
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 14

Trainer Dale Romans had three horses entered in Saturday’s Fountain of Youth S. and Free Drop Billy was the one who got redirected onto a different path by scratching the morning of the race. He instead breezed five furlongs in 1:02.55 (28/46) at Gulfstream, and the new plan is to reroute this $200,000 KEESEP Union Rags (Dixie Union) colt to Aqueduct for this Saturday’s one-turn mile GIII Gotham S. “The owner and I made the decision [to scratch],” Romans said. “He’s already a Grade I winner, and we just wanted as easy a race as we can get going into the last round of preps, so we decided to go the New York way. [The Fountain of Youth] looked like it was coming up the toughest of the year, and I think it did [Romans won the race with 18-1 Promises Fulfilled]. It was just a strategy play.” This May 3 foal broke his maiden at Churchill Downs last June, and the win-over-the-track angle could become important eight weeks down the road. But “Billy” is now winless in five months, and needs to produce a resounding race on a weekend that is loaded with chances for other contenders to snag his spot within the Top 12.


11) FLAMEAWAY (c, Scat DaddyVulcan Rose, by Fusaichi Pegasus)
O-John C. Oxley. B-Phoenix Rising Farms (ON). T-Mark Casse. Sales History: $150,000 yrl KEEJAN ’16; $400,000 yrl FTSAUG ’16. Lifetime Record: MGSW, 7-5-0-0, $434,834.
Feb. 27 TDN Top 12 Rank: 11
Last Start: 1st, GIII Sam F. Davis S., TAM, Feb. 10
Accomplishments Include: 1st, GIII Dixiana Bourbon S., KEE, Oct. 8; 1st, Kitten’s Joy S., GP, Jan. 6
Next Start: GII Tampa Bay Derby, TAM, Mar. 10
Equineline PPs. Caulfield on Flameaway.
KY Derby Points: 10

Pre-race chatter about Saturday’s GII Tampa Bay Derby has been relatively quiet, and I have a suspicion this could wind up being one of those prep stakes that attracts a couple of surprise last-minute “up and comer” entrants by closing time Wednesday. This $400,000 FTSAUG colt ran the race of his life when fending off the well-regarded Catholic Boy in his wire-to-wire Davis S. win, but I don’t think this recently transitioned Scat Daddy (Johannesburg) turfer has progressed to the point yet where he’s scaring off any Tampa Derby rivals. Then again, Tampa is one of those offbeat, sand-based, dirt surfaces that has been known to elicit polarizing responses from horses who either really like or dislike the footing, and when you know a runner like Flameaway gets over it fine, you have to include that as a positive factor in his assessment. In fact, this Mark Casse trainee never seems to “need” a particular type of footing to fire his best shot, as evidenced by his being the only Top 12 contender to have won so far over fast dirt, firm turf, mud, slop, and a synthetic surface. He’s also a nervy front-runner who can handle pace pressure, which adds another dimension to his long-shot appeal when thinking farther down the road to the first Saturday in May.


12) MY BOY JACK (c, Creative CauseGold N Shaft, by Mineshaft)
O-Don’t Tell My Wife Stables & Monomoy Stables LLC. B-Brereton C. Jones (KY). T-Keith Desormeaux.
Sales History: $14,000 RNA wlg KEENOV ’15; $20,000 yrl KEESEP ’16. Lifetime Record: GSW, 8-2-3-1, $425,145.
Feb. 27 TDN Top 12 Rank: 12
Last Start: 1st, GIII Southwest S., OP, Feb. 19
Accomplishments Include: 3rd, GIII Sham S., SA, Jan. 6; 1st, Zuma Beach S., SA, Oct. 9
Next Start: Uncommitted
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 12

“Have you news of my boy Jack? When d’you think that he’ll come back?” Those lines are part of the opening stanza of a 1916 Rudyard Kipling poem. Now, a touch more than a century later and in a very different context, they also ask an apt question about the $20,000 KEESEP purchase who snared a breakthrough $500,000 stakes score by rallying from next to last and skimming the rail under quagmire conditions in Oaklawn’s GIII Southwest S. This plucky, late-developing Creative Cause (Giant’s Causeway) colt relaxed off the bridle in that Feb. 19 try, and that ended up being a subtle clue to his improvement that jockey Kent Desormeaux said he definitely did not do when third behind McKinzie in the Sham S. back in January. It’s true that he’s never won over a fast dirt track or against top-shelf Derby competition. But “Jack” ran a deceptively good seventh in November in the GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, coming up only three lengths short despite a five-wide run through the lane during which Desormeaux dropped his whip at the eighth pole. Being out of a Mineshaft (A.P. Indy) mare additionally solidifies any misperceptions about My Boy Jack’s stamina, and having the proverbial light bulb go on inside this colt’s head at the right time of year could make for an interesting next few weeks as trainer Keith Desormeaux plots a next-race plan.

On the Bubble (in alphabetical order)

Bravazo (Awesome Again): Lukas-trained 21-1 Risen Star S. upsetter will be in for a tougher battle in the nine-furlong Louisiana Derby.
Combatant (Scat Daddy): Five-eighths Oaklawn breeze was Sunday first work since muddy GIII Southwest S. second; shipper-infused Rebel S. likely next.
Curlin’s Honor (Curlin): Followed Keeneland debut win with Feb. 25 allowance score at Fair Grounds; now 2-for-2 and possibly headed to Oaklawn’s Rebel S. for Casse.
Enticed ( Medaglia d’Oro): Listed by Aqueduct as “possible” for Gotham S.; in search of one-turn mile confidence boost after fourth as beaten Holy Bull S. fave.
Exclamation Point (Concord Point): 2-for-2 off stretch-out OP alw win; GI Arkansas Derby possible. Cox: “Work in progress, nice horse, tons of talent.”
Firenze Fire (Poseidon’s Warrior): Servis prior to Gotham: “He doesn’t get much respect…I don’t get it…I think if he’s ridden right, he’ll get a mile and a quarter. But he’s got to get the points first.”
Higher Power (Medaglia d’Oro): 2-for-3, with two route wins, and aiming for Mar. 17 Rebel S. at Oaklawn.
Hollywood Star (Malibu Moon): ‘Rising Star’ been breezing at GP last two weekends. So-so fourth in Davis at Tampa not indicative of his true ability.
Justify (Scat Daddy): Not sure where this ‘Rising Star’ will resurface off commanding debut win, but he’s attracting outsized attention in Vegas future books.
Kanthaka (Jimmy Creed): Will pass on planned trip to New York for Gotham in favor of tangling with tougher in San Felipe over home track at Santa Anita.
Lombo (Graydar): High-energy frontrunner will face far deeper talent pool in San Felipe while riding two-race win wave.
Magnum Moon (Malibu Moon): 2-for-2 ‘Rising Star’ for Pletcher could try Rebel S. for next step on Derby trail.
Marconi (Tapit): Never in it to win it against grain of speed-slanted GP profile. Can’t toss this stamina-oriented ‘Rising Star’ until we see a truer test at nine furlongs over different surface.
Mourinho (Super Saver): ‘Rising Star’ yet to resurface on worktab after arduous mud trip as beaten fave in Southwest S.
New York Central (Tapit): ‘Rising Star’ scored in OP quagmire in the race after the Southwest S.; the GIII Sunland Derby has been mentioned as next-out possibility.
Noble Indy (Take Charge Indy): First breeze at Palm Beach Downs Saturday since this ‘Rising Star’ was third in the Risen Star at Fair Grounds.
Quip (Distorted Humor): 2-for-3 ‘Rising Star’ listed Sunday by Aqu as “probable” for Gotham while same-day Tam release lists him as “expected entrant” for Tampa Derby.
Reride ( Candy Ride {Arg}): ‘Rising Star’ now 4-for-5 with stakes wins at Delta and Sunland.
Retirement Fund (Eskendereya): After dead-heat seventh in sloppy Southwest, ‘Rising Star’ might try to get back on track at FG (where he’s 2-for-2) in Louisiana Derby.
Restoring Hope (Giant’s Causeway): Been working in company recently with Solomini for Baffert for what figures to be an eventual stakes start.
Snapper Sinclair (City Zip): Breezed Monday at FG in prep for likely Louisiana Derby start; won’t be 41-1 this time around.
Sporting Chance (Tiznow): GI Hopeful S. winner encountered trouble, but was tiring in stretch, off six-month Southwest S. layoff. A tighter colt in Rebel could be intriguing.
Storm Runner (Get Stormy): Checked when attempting tight rail run on backstretch of Fountain of Youth and retreated thereafter.
Strike Power (Speightstown): ‘Rising Star’ was commendable second in two-turn Fountain of Youth debut; Florida Derby a possible next target.
Sumahama (Jpn) (Neo Universe {Jpn}): Early speed, stamina pedigree, but after earning Japanese series points to qualify a Derby berth, he’s still not Triple Crown nominated.
Tiz Mischief (Into Mischief): Could be sleeper in Saturday’s Tampa Derby; one of numerous highly ranked sophomore hopefuls who didn’t fire a big shot in his 2018 debut.
Untamed Domain (Animal Kingdom): West Point turf GSW has now breezed twice over Tampa dirt in prep for Tampa Derby start.
Vino Rosso (Curlin): He galloped out past top two in Davis S. and appears to be winding up for crackerjack effort in Tampa Derby. If other speed softens Flameaway, look out.
Zing Zang (Tapit): $300K KEESEP colt breezed Sunday at Oaklawn with Rebel S. as next likely target for Asmussen.

Pedigree Insights: Promises Fulfilled

Mon, 2018-03-05 15:15

Only a week ago, when discussing the long-term prospects for the survival of Storm Cat’s male line, I wasn’t sure whether to mention the Forestry branch alongside those of Harlan, Hennessy and Giant’s Causeway. In the end I decided not to, but perhaps I should have–it was Forestry’s son Shackleford who supplied Promises Fulfilled, the unexpected winner of Saturday’s GII Fountain of Youth S.

Promises Fulfilled comes from only the second crop of 3-year- olds by the 2011 GI Preakness S. winner, and the first also produced a winner of a Grade II carrying 50 Kentucky Derby points to the winner. That was the Rebel S. winner Malagacy, who never made it to the Triple Crown.

My reluctance to include Forestry in last week’s article reflected the doubts created by his topsy-turvy stallion career. After all, how many stallions have ever commanded a fee as high as $125,000, only to plummet to as little as $8,000 only six years later? By the end of 2014 it had been announced that Forestry would not be returning from his shuttle visit to Brazil.

Forestry’s story could be described as a salutary warning to anyone (and this includes virtually everyone) who is tempted to get carried away by a stallion’s early results.

Expectations were already high before Forestry had even had a runner, as he had hit the headlines both as a yearling and as a 3-year-old. With Storm Cat as his sire and the Grade I winner Shared Interest as his dam, the young Forestry was guaranteed to attract considerable attention when he appeared at the 1997 Keeneland July Selected Sale–especially when Shared Interest’s third and fifth dams were those famous mares Sequence and Myrtlewood. Even though the youngster was little more than 14 months old, he topped the sale at $1,500,000 and was sent to Bob Baffert. All he needed to do was win a Grade I and he was going to be a very valuable stallion prospect.

Shared Interest hadn’t become a Grade I winner until she was five and this fact, coupled with Forestry’s May 9 birthday, helps explain why Forestry wasn’t asked to race at two. His trainer once explained that, “when we bought him, he was medium-sized and got big quick. That’s why I didn’t want to push him too early.”

Forestry soon rewarded his connections’ patience, with his record standing at six wins, a second and a third after eight starts. He was winning for the fifth successive time when he landed the GII Dwyer S. over a mile and a sixteenth, but the step up to a mile and an eighth in the GI Haskell Invitational proved just too much. Forestry weakened into third place in the closing stages after leading most of the way.

Forestry’s search for that all-important Grade I victory saw him dropped back to seven furlongs in the King’s Bishop S. and he seized his chance, winning well after covering the first half-mile in :43.59 and six furlongs in 1:07.68. Forestry started favorite for the GI Breeders’ Cup Sprint on the strength of this victory but could finish only fourth behind Artax. Incidentally, his year-younger half-sister Cash Run had fared much better earlier on Breeders’ Cup day, winning the Juvenile Fillies.

Forestry duly became the highest-priced new sire of 2000 when he retired to Taylor Made Farm at a fee of $50,000. Judged purely on his first crop, you could be forgiven for thinking that Forestry had a good chance of following in Storm Cat’s footsteps to the champion sire title. This crop contained 75 named foals, of which six (8%) became graded stakes winners and a further ten finished second or third at the graded level. That’s more than 21% graded stakes performers. It was Forest Danger, winner of the Carter H., who became his first Grade I winner in 2005.

Forestry’s second crop, numbering only 56 named foals, produced another two graded winners and the Grade I winners Diplomat Lady and Discreet Cat emerged from an 82-strong third crop. The 10 graded winners from these first three crops represented 4.7%, which encouraged the belief that even better was to come from the crops sired at ever-greater fees. However, there were no graded winners among the 2006 crop’s 106 foals, sired at $75,000; just one Grade III winner among the 2007 crop’s 90 named foals, sired at $100,000; and no graded winners among the 2009 crop’s 94 foals, also sired at $100,000.

The one bit of good news concerned Forestry’s 2008 crop–his most expensive, at $125,000. Its two graded winners were headed by Shackleford, who won a legion of admirers with his courage and his bold running style. In defeating Animal Kingdom to land the Preakness, Shackleford became the first colt by a son of Storm Cat to win a Triple Crown event, and he also trained on well enough to take the GI Metropolitan H. and GI Clark H. as a 4-year-old. His trail-blazing Met Mile success was especially admirable.

Shackleford also has the distinction of being out of Oatsee, a Broodmare of the Year who has produced graded stakes winners to four different stallions.

Promises Fulfilled follows Malagacy, Wellabled and Dream It Is as the fourth graded winner to emerge from Shackleford’s first two crops, each of them sired at a fee of $20,000 at Darby Dan. With more than 100 juveniles in his third crop, it is going to be interesting to see what the rest of 2018 holds for the 10-year- old stallion.

There’s a good chance that we haven’t yet seen the full extent of Promises Fulfilled’s talent, as he has a May 11 birthday and has raced only four times. Shackleford would probably need a little help from his mares if he is to sire contenders for the GI Kentucky Derby or the GI Belmont S.

Promises Fulfilled’s dam Marquee Delivery may be one such mare. This versatile mare, who showed her form on dirt, turf and all-weather, was third in the GIII Arlington Oaks over a mile and an eighth. She was bred to stay reasonably well, as her sire, the flashily-marked Marquetry, was a Grade I winner over a mile and a quarter and her dam, the stakes-winning Fast Delivery, was a daughter of Little Missouri, a Grade I winner over a mile and a half. The main cause for doubt is that Marquetry sired two Eclipse Award winners and both of them–Artax and Squirtle Squirt–were champion sprinters.

Bolt d’Oro Has Final Drill for San Felipe

Mon, 2018-03-05 14:54

Multiple Grade I winner Bolt d’Oro (Medaglia d’Oro) completed major preparations for his 3-year-old debut Monday morning at Santa Anita with a sharp half-mile breeze in :46.40, earning the bullet from 95 workers at the distance. The bay colt is set to clash with undefeated ‘TDN Rising Star’ McKinzie (Street Sense) in Saturday’s GII San Felipe S. in Arcadia.

“He’s ready to go,” said regular rider Victor Espinoza. “I’m impressed with how much he’s improved since the last time I worked him. I knew we were going pretty quick, but he was doing it on his own. I encouraged him just a little bit. He’s fit enough … Hopefully, he can run a big race.”

Winner of the GI Del Mar Futurity and GI FrontRunner S. as a juvenile, the $630,000 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga graduate was last seen running third as the heavy favorite in the GI Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Nov. 4. He is expected to use the San Felipe as a springboard to the Apr. 7 GI Santa Anita Derby.

“We have a plan,” said owner/trainer Mick Ruis immediately following the work. “The San Felipe isn’t really the race we’re pointing for … He’s got a lot of talent. He’ll be really good in the Santa Anita Derby.”

Peter Stanley: Let’s Make It Pay to Stay

Mon, 2018-03-05 13:25

It is not just genetics. There is a cultural legacy that abides, as well–whether in the aristocrat sitting here in his Newmarket drawing room, or in the other type of Thoroughbred stabled in the adjacent yard.

In Peter Stanley himself, that means strong opinions about the direction of the breed are just as soundly rooted as you would expect, in a great-grandson of the man who founded arguably its single most important stud, the 17th Earl of Derby. Or, come to that, in anyone who cherishes the heritage of the Turf sufficiently to have John Wootton’s glorious panorama of the Heath hanging just behind his chair. Tregonwell Frampton, and all the other marvellous 18th Century characters clustered in the foreground of the canvas, appear to be craning forward and nodding as Stanley berates the reckless agenda of their modern successors.

For in Stanley’s view, the commercial breeder of the 21st Century is unpicking some of the Thoroughbred’s definitive wiring: all those Classic hallmarks that generations past strove to select, to replicate, to preserve.

“There is no doubt if you breed the stamina out of your mares, that’s it, you can’t get it back,” he says animatedly. “If it’s gone, it’s gone. End of. And you’ll end up like they are in Australia, where there’s barely an Australian-bred winner in any of their staying races. Royal Ascot works for five days only because there are so many different types of race we look forward to and love. There are genuine sprinters, genuine stayers, genuine middle-distance horses. The day it’s just an amalgam in the middle, you’ll have sprinters running a mile and a half.”

“In Australia, they have their Derbys and Oaks, and they’re won by what they consider to be good horses,” he says. “But I wonder how well these horses stay. With the importance of the Golden Slipper, the accent has been on sprint races, and in my opinions they breed the best sprinters in the world. But I would love Winx (Aus) (Street Cry {Ire}) to come over here. Firstly because it would be fascinating to see this remarkable mare; but also to see exactly how she measures up against international opposition. I fully expect Australian horses to win many of our top sprints–but I’d be genuinely surprised to see them win any of our best races at 10 furlongs or farther.”

If doubts about Winx’s invincibility are received as sacrilege Down Under, then the obvious recourse would be to take up the gauntlet in the G1 Prince of Wales’s S. over 10f. But Australians should resist discovering additional provocation in their patrician source. Yes, Stanley also supervises the stud of his brother, the 19th Earl of Derby; and duly takes credit for Ouija Board (GB) (Cape Cross {Ire}), the Oaks and Breeders’ Cup winner who has since become dam of a Derby winner in Australia (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}). But Stanley is no dilettante; quite the reverse, in fact. To make his New England Stud viable, he has to come to hard-headed terms with precisely those fashions he most deplores.

As such, he resembles a man adamant that the lifeboat is being pointed away from land, but with no choice but to wield his oar in unison with everyone else. The alternative, after all, is to throw yourself into the boat’s icy wake, and hope against hope that you get picked up by one of the few seaworthy vessels travelling the right way.

Almost invariably, then, the 20-odd mares in which he has a stake are sent to sires chosen not so much on account of their eligibility to sire a Classic racehorse, as according to the anticipated whims of the sales ring.

One of those mares was supposed to go to Coolmore to be covered by Australia (GB), only to be grounded by a touch of laminitis. An alternative from the same sire-line had to be found closer to home, and Stanley admits that strong consideration was given to a first-season sire before accepting the claims of Nathaniel (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}).

“There has to be something wrong in the mindset of breeders, if we think for a moment that an unproven stallion is somehow ‘sexier’ than the sire of the Arc winner and an out-and-out champion in his first crop,” he says. “I mean, what more can you do than that? And it wasn’t as though Enable (GB) (Nathaniel {Ire}) was his only good horse, there were several other stakes winners. But that is the mindset breeders have. And we’ve got to change it, we really do.”

Stanley admits a candid distaste for his own pragmatism. “As a commercial breeder, it doesn’t matter what I like,” he says. “I always had to ask myself what will the market like, two or three years hence; and what will it hate? So, no, I don’t like some of my mating plans. There’s far too much of an influence of speed and precocity.”

“Why aren’t I rushing to use Nathaniel more? Because, rather remarkably, even after Enable, in commercial terms, he had a median of 37,000gns [2017 yearlings] compared with a nomination fee of £20,000. It’s an awful thing to say, because this is a horse we should be rushing to; he should be chock-full. I bought a share in him because I believed in him; and I still believe in him, he looks like becoming a really significant sire. So I’m not demeaning Nathaniel, but the industry.”

As it is, Stanley feels obliged to confine himself to polar opposites: either a proven sire or a complete rookie. But since “proven” means in the ring, too, that excludes the sires he considers best value of all: the likes of Champs Elysees (GB) (Danehill) or Mount Nelson (GB) (Rock Of Gibraltar {Ire}).

Both moved on to National Hunt farms in Ireland last year after falling out of commercial favour. The staggering dividends of this switch–expanding their final books in Britain from 54 and 22 respectively to 241 and 210–causes Stanley to exclaim in bewilderment.

“How scary is that?” he says. “Of course, they’d still have every right to produce a good Flat horse, if sent the right mares. And if you were an owner-breeder, why wouldn’t you? I think over time you could breed an Oaks winner, or something like that, from Champs Elysees. You’re not going to get a sharp, whizzy 2-year-old. But you are going to get something with a chance.”

“And these horses have a residual value,” he says. “What do you with that little buzzy 2-year-old, sprint-bred and rated 78? Can’t go jumping, can’t go abroad. Whereas with a later-maturing horse, that keeps on improving, you’ve somewhere to go.”

The obvious issue, as he acknowledges, is that you would often have to factor another year’s training fees into that equation. Which is why, on the same pragmatic principle that governs his dealings with the market as it stands, Stanley believes that its prejudices can only be corrected by appealing to the bottom line.

“The only way to get breeders to do the right thing is to make owners go to the marketplace wanting to buy the right kind of horse,” he says. “And, for the first time ever, I do feel the industry is on side. All of us are alarmed and there’s now a genuine will to do something. The question is what? I’m pushing for something, and I feel I’m a lot closer than a year ago–and that is a Plus 10 for older horses.”

“Why are we running a Plus 10 which is ultimately designed to encourage whizzy 2-year-olds? That seems exactly the area of the market that needs no assistance. So perhaps we could agree not to have Plus 10 races before Royal Ascot, say, and instead fund maiden and conditions races for 3-year-olds at a mile and above–and to make some of these races Plus 20, rather than Plus 10. I think that could dramatically increase the profile of those races.”

“Yes, the BHA understand the problem and are putting on various extra [staying] races, with good prizemoney, and they’re topping up races like the Jockey Club Cup. And that’s helpful–but only in a tiny way, because it’s a dozen or 20 races. We need to hit the mainstream. We want people saying: ‘I don’t want something that can run in May [at two] but a nice stayer. Because my friend had one last year, and he won a Plus 10 and a Plus 20, and then sold it to Australia for 80 grand; or even 800 grand.'”

The breeder’s element of a Plus 20 prize, moreover, might well double the original covering fee: a tonic to morale, at the very least. After all, it is not as though the current dysfunctions of the market are helping many breeders to prosper.

“Especially here,” Stanley noted. “The English breeder is disappearing. One of the problems we have is that we no longer have an agrarian economy. If people don’t do it themselves, they have to pay keep fees to the likes of me. And the awful thing is that it prices the smaller breeders out of the market, because the cost of keep is really too big for a potential return unless it’s a frightfully smart mare–which, of course, most people can’t afford. I think that’s why we’ve so few smaller breeders in this country: at the bottom of the pile, it just doesn’t add up.”

“Whereas in Ireland, with so many horsemen, there’s this huge enthusiasm to breed,” says Stanley. “The small breeder has a friend with 10 acres and says can I keep a couple of horses with you, or shall we go into partnership on a mare, and they’ve a friend who’ll prep it as a yearling or breeze it and take 10%. And that works. They’re all helping each other, which is marvellous.”

“Unfortunately, that then leads to overproduction, which costs all of us because it devalues the product. Some of the sires that fill are horses of no relevance. But they’ve stud masters behind them who are great salesmen, and market their stallions so well.”

But if everyone recognises overproduction as a problem, might that at least mean Stanley can benefit from a buyer’s market in mating his mares? After all, anecdotal evidence suggests many advertised fees are merely an opening gambit for negotiation.

“But that’s only if you’re happy not to go to the crème de la crème of the commercial market,” Stanley says. “Because in reality there’s a price to be paid, in three years’ time, when you take your yearling to market. Then you’ll discover why they were discounting the nomination 40%, or even giving it away. It’s a buyers’ market unless you want the premium product. And if you want that, you’ve got to pay through the nose.”

“It’s unusual to have a marketplace in which you have something for sale that doesn’t cost anything to produce. Literally: a bit of semen. So actually to cover an extra mare is zilch, it’ll cost you fifty quid in labour or whatever. So if you’re not full and give away a nomination, or discount it down, it’s meaningless. By the beginning of May a nomination is only worth what you want to pay for it, because nobody else will be using it.”

However stale he considers the forces driving the market, every year still represents a fresh challenge. Stanley plainly finds stimulation in having to box clever: to decide which among countless new sires will strike a lasting chord; or which of the proven sires will prove equal to the extra investment.

“I love to use a proven horse if I can, but they relatively quickly become unaffordable,” he shrugs. “At what stage do you stop using Dark Angel (Ire) (Acclamation {GB})? He has been an amazing success, and I am sending him a couple of mares, but at some stage it will be impossible to make money. He’s now up to a significant fee, at €85,000. So it’s going to be fascinating to see whether he can make that quantum leap, can get a Guineas winner maybe.”

“What’s terrifying is that when I discuss matings with other professionals, we all home in on the same tiny group of stallions. And it’s pathetic how small it is. Siyouni (Fr) (Pivotal {GB}), Dark Angel, Kodiac (GB) (Danehill). Okay, Australia. And Nathaniel maybe. Muhaarar (GB) (Oasis Dream {GB}). Maybe some foal shares. New Approach (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) I love, I think he’s very under-rated. His fee went way up quickly and has gone down just as quickly, it’s all been a bit of a mess but any horse that can get three Royal Ascot winners in his first year, and then go on and have Classic winners, is a serious stallion. I think I’m sending three mares to him. So occasionally you do take a punt: Cape Cross (Ire) (Green Desert) I obviously had a lot of luck with, for instance, and I started using Pivotal (GB) (Polar Falcon {GB}) early.”

By helping Evelyn de Rothschild with his broodmare band, Stanley can at least partly satisfy his yearning to plan matings on the outlandish premise that he might end up with a horse that can gallop, rather than one that can merely walk round a sales ring. And he does also accept that things could be so much worse. Everyone has by now heard that Galileo himself was designated T:T (i.e. an outright stamina profile) by the Equinome genetic testing–but that never stopped him producing Frankel (GB), and countless top-class juveniles.

And the farm that stands the most potent sire of his era, for all its commercial imperatives, has made a mighty stand for the values Stanley fears to be under threat–to the extent that Camelot (GB) (Montjeu {Ire}), himself making a fine start at stud, was given a crack at a Triple Crown.

“Which is surely telling you more about the horse, as a stallion prospect, than any amount of anything else,” Stanley enthuses. “We’re so lucky that Coolmore recognise that. They’ve been magnificent for middle-distance racing: Sadler’s Wells, Galileo, Montjeu. They’ve supported the Derby more than any other race. And do you remember how, 15 years ago, the Gold Cup was in danger of being a little bit of a jumping race? By running all these wonderful mile-and-a-half horses, they’ve brought it back and made it a great spectacle again.”

Coolmore raced Australia, of course, and now stand him too. For obvious reasons, Stanley would love to see Australia help to restore the commercial lustre of Classic assets: a Derby winner by a Derby winner out of an Oaks winner.

“With Galileo and Montjeu, you’re talking about beautifully-bred Classic horses who did what it said on the tin,” he remarks. “And I think it’s brilliant for the industry that it’s now happening with Frankel too. I’d love to see Australia become a champion stallion, of course I would. And he’s getting very good-looking stock, the trainers are giving me very good vibes.”

“But yes, we’ve all seen these horses crash, Dancing Brave, Entrepreneur, any number of them over the years. We’re so often wrong. Good stallions can come from surprising places. Look at everything Dark Angel has achieved. And just look at how Sunday Silence, rejected by the American industry, has transformed the Japanese one. In fact, I can see the Japanese breeding the best stayers in the world in years to come–taking over a role traditionally held by British owner-breeders.”

“So while there’s always the sale-topper that wins a Classic, there’ll also be a cheap one that wins something big as well. And in the end that’s what keeps us all going. Because the day the top lot is champion every year is the day there’s no point any of us getting out of bed.”

Quality Road Filly Graduates in Santa Anita Debut

Sun, 2018-03-04 19:01

7th-SA, $55,662, (C), Msw, 3-4, 3yo, f, 5 1/2f, 1:04.88, ft.
WELL HELLO (f, 3, Quality Road–Just Say Goodbye, by Not For Love), given a 79-10 chance off of a modest local worktab debuting in this event restricted to $100,000 purchases and under, dropped out to run last of seven behind a contested :22.31 quarter. Advancing without urging while saving ground on the turn, the $70,000 KEESEP grad angled into the five path at the top of the stretch and finished full of run in the final furlong to score going away by 3 1/4 lengths. Tapalita (Eskendereya) held on for second after disputing the pace. The winner has a yearling half-brother by Mineshaft named Backup Plan and her dam was bred to Uncle Lino last spring. Lifetime Record: 1-1-0-0, $32,400. Click for the chart or VIDEO, sponsored by Fasig-Tipton.
O-Buscar Stables, Radley Equine, Inc. & Rick Gold; B-Charles McGinnes (MD); T-Dan Blacker.