Saturday, January 30, 2010

Kentucky Derby Trail: Lurking in the Shadows

By Steve Haskin

This week was highlighted by the first Derby Dozen, and although there are several top-class colts listed, many people are still looking for that one horse, or horses, with the “Wow” factor.

As usual, there are many promising colts who are still lightly raced, having just broken their maidens, and have a great deal of catching up to do. In the past, horses still running in maiden races and sprints in late January would be pretty much eliminated as legitimate Kentucky Derby prospects.

Although they were not quite ready to win the Derby, the emergence of Curlin , who made his career debut on Feb. 3 going seven furlongs, and Summer Bird, who made his career debut on March 1 going six furlongs, has given trainers and owners hope that their late developer can at least make his presence felt in the Derby and then go on to win one of the other Triple Crown races. And, of course, we all know that Big Brown was a virtual unknown maiden winner on the grass in his only start when he debuted as a 3-year-old on March 5. Two races later, he won the Kentucky Derby.

So, it makes sense to keep an eye on these late-developing horses that normally would have appeared to be behind the eight-ball. It is also beneficial to watch out for allowance races that could serve as a steppingstone for accomplished 2-year-olds who are in need of a prep race, preferably two turns.

Pro Pulsion

Such a race will be held at Gulfstream Sunday, and such a horse will be running in the 1 1/8-mile event, and he definitely is worth watching, as are several of the others entered.

That horse is Pulsion, who will be making his all-important debut on dirt. If he turns in a big effort, then he likely will catapult himself right into the Top 12, based on his pedigree, his temperament, and his record as a 2-year-old.

A lazy horse in the mornings, who basically eats and sleeps and does nothing more that what is asked of him, he has accomplished enough in the afternoons to suggest he has a bright future. He certainly has seen it all for a young horse, having gone through the sales ring as a weanling ($60,000), yearling ($200,000), and 2-year-old ($250,000). He was purchased at the Ocala Breeders Sales Co. March 2-year-old sale by trainer Patrick Biancone for Flying Zee Stables and partners.

His first five starts last year were at five different distances. After breaking his maiden at a mile at Del Mar, he came flying late to snatch second in the grade I Norfolk Stakes, beaten 1 3/4 lengths by 2-year-old champ Lookin at Lucky.

Although he finished a disappointing 11th in the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I), he was bounced around like a rag doll going into the first turn and returned with a laceration so severe Biancone had to stop on him for five weeks. He shipped him to Gulfstream Park to see how he took to dirt, and the son of Include gave him a good indication by working six furlongs in 1:12 flat.

Biancone set his sights on Sunday’s allowance race as a prep for the Fountain of Youth (gr. II), and kept mum for fear of the race not filling. Now that the race is a go, Biancone finally will find out if he has a Derby contender.

Pulsion has already run big against the best 2-year-old in the country; he has the right running style and a good closing kick, and he has the pedigree. He is inbred to Nijinsky II, his sire is inbred three times to Turn-to, and his second dam, Spinnin Cannon, is a full-sister to the dam of Gentlemen.

So, stay tuned on Sunday. And while you’re at it, you might as well also pay close attention to the maiden winner Drosselmeyer, a regally bred son of Distorted Humor who was extremely impressive breaking his maiden by six lengths going a mile at Churchill Downs for Bill Mott and WinStar Farm. He has already finished first or second on a firm turf course at Belmont, on Poytrack at Keeneland, and on a ‘good’ dirt track at Churchill. So far, there is very little not to like about him, and he will get a good class test on Sunday. If he should win, grab your spot on the bandwagon, because it’s going to get crowded awfully fast.

Another colt eligible to improve off his maiden score is the Rock Hard Ten colt Best Actor, who is working lights out, coming off a :59 3/5 drill for Wayne Catalano. His four-length victory was a big improvement following a poor effort at Churchill Downs.

Guys Reward is interesting in here, coming off a fast-closing fifth, beaten less than two lengths, in the Dania Beach Handicap on the grass. In his previous start he closed fast to finish second to Maximus Ruler, beaten a length, in a one-mile allowance race at Churchill Downs. The son of Grand Reward has already made seven starts in his career, but seems to be just now finding himself.

But the two glamour horses in here are Pulsion and Drosselmeyer, both of whom could be dangerous in the Fountain of Youth with a big performance Sunday.

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