Kentucky Derby 2014 Contenders – Havana pops Champagne cork

Todd Pletcher’s top early Kentucky Derby 2014 contender Havana followed up a sharp debut maiden win with a game neck victory in the Grade I Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park on Saturday, October 5.

Havana holds off Honor Code in G1 Champagne – photo by Eclipse Sportswire

Havana dueled through honest splits of :22.87 and :45.54. He opened up a 2-1/2 length lead after six panels in 1:10.12 and widened his advantage to 4-1/2 lengths in the lane.

The Champagne was not ready to be uncorked with Honor Code was flying home on the outside, but he came up a tad short in a gallant effort. Ride On Curlin was well clear of the rest in 3rd. The final time was 1:35.81, which translated to a solid 93 BSF.

We Miss Artie is a Grade I winner on paper after capturing Keeneland’s Breeders’ Futurity, but he only received a 70 BSF for his winning effort. He needs to run much faster if he expects to be competitive on Breeders’ Cup day.

Sunday’s Grade III Grey Stakes winner Ami’s Holiday garnered an 80 BSF against three opponents.

This is only my second Kentucky Derby 2014 contenders blog, and at this early stage, my original “exceptional eleven” contenders remain intact despite some disappointing efforts. Ride On Curlin ran fast enough to be considered and will have every chance to join my list with another strong performance.

Click on the names of each horse below (Top 5) to view their Horse Racing Nation profile page, which includes pedigree information, results, and video.

Jarrod Horak’s “Exceptional Eleven” Kentucky Derby 2014 Contenders

1. PURPLE SKY (Pulpit – Tessa Blue, by Awesome Again)

Trainer: Al Stall Jr. – Owner: Bruce Lunsford

Latest Workout: Breezed 4f in :50.80 (50/65) at Churchill Downs on 10-12.

Comments: 3rd behind Honor Code and Misconnect in Aug. 31 Saratoga debut and raced green that day. He overcame adversity to earn diploma at Churchill Downs (one mile) on 9-28.

2. HONOR CODE (A.P. Indy – Serena’s Cat, by Storm Cat)

Trainer: Shug McGaughey – Owner: Lane’s End Racing & Dell Ridge Farm

Comments: Made up more than 20-lengths in his career debut (Saratoga slop) to score by 4-1/2 lengths at 7f on 8-31 (89 BSF). He rallied to miss by a neck in the G1 Champagne on 10-5 and will skip the G1 BC Juvenile in favor of the G2 Remsen at Aqueduct on Nov. 30.

3. MISCONNECT (Unbridled’s Song – Summer Raven, by Summer Squall)

Trainer: Todd Pletcher – Owner: Repole Stable

Comments: Battled on the pace throughout and was 2nd best to Honor Code in his 8-31 debut at the Spa. He graduated by a length at Belmont on 9-28 (85 BSF).

4. HAVANA (Dunkirk – Missy Turtle, by Kyle’s Our Man)

Trainer: Todd Pletcher – Owner: Taber, Magnier, and Smith

Comments: Went wire-to-wire in his Saratoga debut on 8-23 and earned a 102 BSF. Put away Debt Ceiling and Grand Arrival early, and held off Honor Code by a nose in the G1 Champagne (93 BSF) at Belmont on 10-5. The BC Juvenile on 11-2 is next.

5. NEW YEAR’S DAY (Street Cry – Justwhistledixie, by Dixie Union)

Trainer: Bob Baffert – Owner: Gary & Mary West

Latest Workout: 4f bullet in 4f in :47.80 (1/27) at Santa Anita on 10-8.

Comments: Rallied for 3rd in his 5.5f Del Mar debut 8-17 and won by 1-3/4 lengths (one mile) at that same venue 8-31.

Strong Mandate will try to rebound in the G1 BC Juvenile – photo by Eclipse Sportswire

6. STRONG MANDATE (Tiznow – Clear Mandate, by Deputy Minister)

Trainer: D. Wayne Lukas – Owner: Baker & Mack

Comments: Finished 5th in his 7-22 Saratoga bow. He graduated by 4-1/2 lengths at 6.5f at the Spa on 8-17 and cruised by 9-3/4 in the G1 Hopeful at 7f (mud, sealed) on 9-2 (85 BSF). He never got untracked in 7th place Champagne puzzler and will likely try to rebound in G1 BC Juvenile.

7. SCHOOLOFHARDROCKS (Rock Hard Ten – Miss Chapin, by Royal Academy)

Trainer: David Hofmans – Owner: Amerman Racing LLC.

Latest Workout: 5f in 1:00.80 (32/48) at Santa Anita on 9-25.

Comments: It is not easy to win a route race first time out, but he did just at Del Mar on 8-31. Veteran jockey Victor Espinoza is high on this one. “He’s a very talented horse,” Espinoza said of the son of Rock Hard Ten. “I liked him the first time I saw him. I was impressed with how he ran going a mile and winning from the one hole (at odds of 10-1 Aug. 31 at Del Mar). I feel he’ll get even better.” Schoolofhardrocks scratched out of the FrontRunner Stakes. “It’s not too significant,” trainer David Hofmans said of the unrevealed injury. “It’s a problem we’re working on.”

8. GRAND ARRIVAL (Harlan’s Holiday – Grandstone, by Grindstone)

Trainer: Nick Zito – Owner: Ameche Jr., Ameche III, & Prancing Horse Enterprises

Comments: Distant 3rd in his 7-22 Saratoga debut (Strong Mandate 5th). Romped by 6-1/4 lengths as the 3-2 favorite at that same venue at 7f second time out on 8-31 (sloppy, sealed). Attended pace and retreated to 8th in Champagne. He should get better with age.

9. KENDALL’S BOY (Sky Mesa – Golden Damsel, by Gold Token)

Trainer: Tom Amoss – Owner: Jerry Namy

Comments: Clearly second best to Havana in his 8-23 debut (94 BSF) at the Spa and rolled by 5-1/4 lengths at 6f under the Twin Spires on 9-13. He never appeared comfortable on synthetic footing and was not persevered with in 11th place Breeders’ Futurity effort.

10. CANDIP (Candy Ride – Indefinable, by Storm Cat)

Trainer: W. Bret Calhoun  – Owner: Sanders and Hirsch

Latest Workout: Breezed 4f in :51.41 (8/14) at Remington Park on 9-22.

Comments: Coasted home by 4-1/4 lengths in his 5.5f Remington bow on 9-2 (89 BSF).

11. GIVE NO QUARTER (Tiz Wonderful – Roadtohanna, by Not for Love)

Trainer: Graham Motion – Owner: Sagamore Farm

Comments: Two races at Presque Isle with a clear place finish in his 5.5f bow on 8-15 and a 22-length romp at one mile on 9-17 (85 BSF). He was eased without an apparent excuse in the G3 Grey Stakes at Woodbine on Oct. 6. From Graham Motion’s Twitter account: @GrahamMotion – I’m afraid I can’t give an explanation for Give no Quarter’s poor performance at Woodbine today. He seems to have cooled out fine.

Pedigree Spotlight: Havana

Havana’s hot freshman sire Dunkirk (Unbridled’s Song – Secret Status, by A.P. Indy) had a brief but productive 5-race career in 2009, beginning with a debut maiden win at Gulfstream Park in January.

havana pedigree

Dunkirk captured an allowance race in Florida second time out, and followed that up with a 2nd in the Florida Derby, a troubled 11th place finish in the Kentucky Derby, and a 2nd place effort in the Belmont Stakes. He suffered a condylar fracture to his left hind cannon bone during the Test of Champions and was unable to return to the races. He stands at Ashford Stud in Versailles, KY.

Dunkirk’s late sire Unbridled’s Song (Unbridled – Trolley Song, by Caro) captured the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in 1995 and won the G1 Florida Derby and G2 Wood Memorial as a sophomore. Plagued by tender feet, he finished 5th as the beaten favorite in the Kentucky Derby.

As a stallion, Unbridled’s Song was responsible for more than 100 stakes winners including 2013 G1 Travers hero Will Take Charge.

Unbridled’s Song’s sire Unbridled (Fappiano – Gana Facil, by Le Fabuleux) won the G1 Florida Derby, G1 Kentucky Derby, and G1 BC Classic in 1990. He earned more than $4.4 million on the racetrack and sired classic winners Grindstone, Red Bullet, and Empire Maker.

Dunkirk’s mother Secret Status (by A.P. Indy) took the G1 Kentucky Oaks and G1 Mother Goose in 2000.

Secret Status’s papa A.P. Indy won the G1 Hollywood Futurity in 1991 to end his juvenile season. In 1992, he captured the G2 San Rafael, G1 SA Derby, G2 Peter Pan, and G1 Belmont Stakes. He wrapped up his stellar career with a victory in the G1 BC Classic.

A.P. Indy is a son of Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew, out of Secretariat mare Weekend Surprise. She was also the dam of 1990 Preakness winner Summer Squall.

Havana’s mother Missy Turtle was a 4-time dirt sprint winner ($103,283 earnings) from 2000-04.

Missy Turtle’s father Kyle’s Our Man (by In Reality) won the G3 Nashua as a juvenile in 1990 and the G2 Gotham as a 3yo in 1991.

Missy Turtle’s mother Redding Ridge (by Screen King) won 7 of 37 starts and earned more than $164k, including wins in the 1988 Dearly Precious Stakes, and the 1989 Alma North Handicap and Dearly Precious Stakes.

Havana has more speed than stamina influences in his pedigree, especially on the dam side. He could stay two turns, up to nine furlongs, and possibly beyond, if he learns to relax and better distribute his available energy.

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