Saturday, December 27, 2008

Ky. Derby Trail: Stout Group for 2009

GOOD LUCK!! and have A GREAT DAY!!!

by Steve Haskin

It looks as though the upcoming crop of Derby contenders will be the most stamina-laden in years, with powerful pedigrees, especially on the female side, in abundance.

Even with our two best 2-year-olds – Vineyard Haven and Midshipman -- off to Dubai, we still have a number of top-quality colts who look like Derby material, such as Break Water Edison, Old Fashioned, Pioneerof the Nile, Beethoven, Square Eddie, Hello Broadway, Capt. Candyman Can, Charitable Man, Giant Oak, Chocolate Candy, Big Drama, I Want Revenge, West Side Bernie, Atomic Rain, Believe in Hope, and Terrain among others. Most of these horses have solid 10-furlong pedigrees, eliminating one of the major question marks we are confronted with each year.

And then we have the next tier – horses who have not yet made a name for themselves in stakes competition, but who have a big shot to make the leap into Derby contention by next May.

In alphabetical order:

Brother Keith – Bobby Frankel is high on this son of Johar, who is inbred to Secretariat, Tim Tam, and the top-class broodmare Tamerett. He was impressive in his only start, a 2 1/4-length victory at Churchill Downs. He has basically a miler’s pedigree, but if he has the talent he should be able to get the mile and a quarter.

Danger to Society – He’s down in Florida with Kenny McPeek and is one to keep an eye on. The son of Harlan’s Holiday, who McPeek trained to win the Florida Derby and Blue Grass Stakes before having the horse taken away from him, has a ton of stamina in his female family and is inbred to Princequillo. His only start was a maiden victory at a mile at Churchill Downs and it was the kind of career debut you love to see. He came from off the pace and closed strongly in the stretch to win going away in an 11-horse field. His :47 4/5 work at Gulfstream indicates he should come out for his 3-year-old debut with guns blazing.

Idol Maker – Anyone who looks at his last start and sees a well-beaten fourth with no apparent excuse in the Remsen Stakes will have a tendency to dismiss him. But this is a talented colt, who unfortunately has had some attitude issues and was at times quite a problem child for J.J. Pletcher, who gave him his early training before sending him to his son Todd. His career debut at Belmont was impressive enough to forgive him for his effort in the Remsen, considering you never know what kind of mood he’s going to be in. He likely gets that attitude from his sire, Empire Maker, who also gives him a good deal of his ability. Maturity should help and he deserves another chance.

Imperial Council – It seems as if everyone has latched on to this horse. That may because he seems to have it all – pedigree, style, and professionalism. With only one start he hasn’t been tested for class, but the horse who finished second to him, American Dance, came back to finish third in the Remsen Stakes (gr. II), and the third-place horse, Professor Z, won his next two races and also figures prominently on this list. We’ll just have to wait to see if he’s worthy of all the rave notices, but there is little doubt this is a classy colt.

Indygo Mountain – It’s a shame he had to be scratched at the gate because of a hoof abscess, especially after that race was canceled the week before. So, he’s actually missed two races in the span of a week. Assuming he bounces back from this setback, he still must be considered a bright young prospect off his impressive maiden score. By A.P. Indy, he traces to Ribot twice in his female family through Pleasant Colony and Key to the Mint.

Majormotionpicture – He’s the West Coast version of Imperial Council, as all eyes will be on him when he makes his next start. He was impressive winning his career debut last August at Del Mar, showing a good deal of tenacity while racing down on the inside. By Action this Day, out of a Rahy mare, he is inbred close-up (3x3) to Roberto in his tail-male and tail-female family, so distance will be no problem.

Obligingly – Pletcher sent him to Calder to break his maiden by 11 1/2 lengths. It wasn’t the margin as much as the ease in which he did it. He probably didn’t beat much, and we don’t know how far the Officers want to run, so he has to show what he can do against better horses. He does have a solid female family.

Professor Z – There’s a lot to like about this son of Grand Slam, and he could give Zayat Stables a potent one-two punch on both coasts with Pioneerof the Nile. His last three races have been impressive and he keeps improving with each start. He had no trouble stretching out to two turns, romping in an allowance race at Aqueduct in early December. Grand Slam isn’t known as a stamina sire, but there’s plenty of stamina in his female family. He traces to Vaguely Noble and the great King Ranch producer Fairness, dam of Prove Out, Heartland and other top runners.

Quality Road – The word was out on this son of Elusive Quality before his career debut. Richie Migliore had been working him for a month for Jimmy Jerkens and was extremely high on him, but due to a prior commitment was unable to ride him. In a field of quality maidens, he went right to the lead, set a solid pace, and had no trouble holding off a top prospect in Toulouse Lautrec in 1:16 flat for the 6 1/2 furlongs. Although Elusive Quality sired Smarty Jones, his offspring need help on the female side, and this colt gets plenty of help from broodmare sire Strawberry Road and great-grandsire Alydar.

Sunday Blitz – If you like Old Fashioned you have to like this colt, who was beaten a nose by the Remsen winner in early October. He then came back and broke his maiden at Delaware Park at six furlongs. He has enough speed through broodmare sire Cherokee Run to be competitive sprinting, but he should get better as he stretches out. By the Forty Niner stallion Sunday Break, his maternal granddam is by Pleasant Colony and great-granddam is by the Nodouble stallion Singular. With Tom Rolfe in his sire line he is inbred 5x5 to Ribot.

Uno Mas – The son of Macho Uno was very impressive blowing by Friesan Fire in a one-mile allowance race at Fair Grounds to win going away by 2 1/4 lengths for Steve Asmussen. With Fappiano in his female family and being inbred 4x4 to Ta Wee, he has John Nerud written all over him.

Well Positioned – He was a red-hot commodity after his 14 1/4-length romp in an Aqueduct maiden race at a mile, but any subsequent deals following that race failed to materialize. He’s by Awesome Again, out of a Holy Bull mare, and his maternal great-grandsire is the 1 1/4-mile grade I winner Hail the Pirates, a son of Hail to Reason. He is a complete outcross, which could make him attractive to a number of breeders.

A few others to keep an eye on are Stimulus Plan, who ran a big race to finish a fast-closing third in the Boyd Gaming’s Delta Jackpot; awesome tail-female family through mother and daughter Searching and Admiring and Bold Lad, a name you don’t see much any longer…Gresham, who overcame a troubled trip to win an allowance race at Churchill Downs; Prince Charming, who showed a good deal of potential in two races at Belmont before turning a poor effort in the Nashua Stakes (gr. II). He deserves another chance…Friesan Fire, who was the beaten favorite at Fair Grounds and has been underachieving. One has to question his premature move to the lead approaching the half-mile pole. Don’t throw him out just yet. Two others at Fair Grounds who bear watching are Silver City and Au Moon.

A few points regarding the CashCall Futurity (gr. I). From a standpoint of time and final fractions it was a good race, but the Hollywood Cushion Track was playing extremely fast, so times are not that much of an issue. Although you can’t fault the winner, Pioneerof the Nile, who ran a game race and looks likes a classic horse, he was being hard-ridden a long way out to catch two horses who were running each other into the ground, one of whom -- his stablemate Ventana -- was running as if he were his rabbit. It was assumed the son of Toccet would rate stretching out for the first time, but he was rushed to the lead and eventually was run off his feet, finishing last. Runner-up I Want Revenge, who ran a bang-up race rallying from between horses to just get nipped at the wire, will get better as he goes longer, being by Stephen Got Even out of a Roy mare. Chocolate Candy was impressive, racing wide the entire way and closing well after circling the field. He also will relish longer distances. Bittel Road had every chance turning for home after breaking from the 10-post and racing wide, but didn’t change leads and ran evenly late. He may be a better grass horse, but it’s too early to give up on him for next year’s California Derby preps.

So, all in all, this was an excellent gauge for next year, with the first three finishers all looking like strong classic contenders, and Bittel Road running well enough to keep his classic-trail hopes alive. All four horses, however, still have to prove themselves on dirt.

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GOOD LUCK!! and have A GREAT DAY!!!

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