Kentucky Derby 2014 Contenders: A Golden Hoppertunity

Hoppertunity made the most of his Kentucky Derby 2014 prep opportunity in a rough renewal of the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park.

Hoppertunity horse

Hoppertunity is Bob Baffert’s latest Kentucky Derby contender – photo by Eclipse Sportswire

Hoppertunity and Tapiture were doing their best impression of “the bump”, and there was no change to the original order of finish despite an inquiry and objection.

Bob Baffert’s Hoppertunity, unraced as a juvenile, came into the Rebel off a rallying 4th in the Risen Star, but new pilot Mike Smith had him much closer to the pace this time. Baffert owns Oaklawn Derby preps and the Rebel was no exception. Hoppertunity’s sire, Any Given Saturday, was my Derby horse in 2007.

Tapiture had a perfect trip in the Southwest but took the worst of it in the Rebel. He was rank and unhappy with mud in his face along the inside and behind horses. He bullied his way into contention and ended up a fine 2nd.

Ride On Curlin mixed it up on the front end with Strong Mandate and outfinished the latter for the show. The average fractions allowed Ride On Curlin to hang in there.

I was expecting Strong Mandate to rate and finish, but Rosario had him up close due to moderate fractions. I wish he would have gone on with it like California Chrome did in the San Felipe. The modest pace kept the top four bunched up from start to finish. He remains on my list but drops a few spots.

Keeping up with past “exceptional eleven members, Kendall’s Boy worked 4f in :48.40 (2/35) at Fair Grounds on March 16. He is entered in the $100k Gazebo Stakes at Oaklawn on March 22. Misconnect drilled a 3f bullet in :36.20 (1/12) at Crupi’s New Castle Farm on March 22, and Schoolofhardrocks traveled 5f in :59.20 (4/56) at Santa Anita Park.

This weekend’s key Kentucky Derby preps are the Spiral Stakes and Sunland Derby.

Spiral Stakes Quick Picks: (1) We Miss Artie, (2) Coastline, (3) Tamarando, (4) Big Bazinga

Listen to my analysis of the Sunland Derby on the Fast Track radio show Sunday morning (10am ET).

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

HONOR CODE (A.P. Indy – Serena’s Cat, by Storm Cat)Honor Code horse silks

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

UPDATE (March 23): From DRF’s Mike Welsch – Honor Code off the Triple Crown trail with a slight tear in right hind upper suspensory. Will be re-evaluated in 60 days according to McGaughey. Stay tuned for new Derby #1.

2. CAIRO PRINCE (Pioneerof The Nile – Holy Bubbette, by Holy Bull)Cairo Prince silks

Trainer: Kiaran McLaughlin – Owner: Godolphin Stable

Latest Workout: 4f in :50.90 (59/74) at Palm Meadows on March 22. “He went great. We were looking for a 49ish, but it doesn’t matter. It was just a maintenance work, his last work. He did it great,” trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said. “We’re all set for next weekend.”

Derby Points (14)

Comments: Won his first two races including the G2 Nashua and just missed to Honor Code in the slow early/fast late Remsen. He dominated the G2 Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 25 and is training up to the Florida Derby (March 29). A majority interest in Cairo Prince was sold to Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum’s Darley operation. He will remain with McLaughlin but run in the colors of Godolphin Stable.

3. CANDY BOY (Candy Ride – She’s an Eleven, by In Excess)Candy Boy silks

Trainer: John Sadler – Owner: C R K Stable

Latest Workout (update): 6f in 1:12.80 (4/15) at Santa Anita on March 22.

Derby Points (10)

Comments: Got good late in his juvenile season, romping in a BHP maiden route and finishing 2nd to Shared Belief in the G1 CashCall Futurity. He started his 3yo season in fine fashion with a professional tally in the G2 Robert Lewis Stakes. The SA Derby is his next scheduled start.

4. TAPITURE (Tapit – Free Spin, by Olympio)Tapiture horse silks

Trainer: Steve Asmussen – Owner: Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC.

Derby Points (42)

Comments: Lost his first three starts including a show finish in G3 Iroquois. Put it all together in last two starts with sharp graded wins in the Kentucky Jockey Club and Southwest Stakes. He finished a troubled 2nd in the Rebel and should wrap up his Derby prep campaign in the Arkansas Derby.

5. STRONG MANDATE (Tiznow – Clear Mandate, by Deputy Minister)Strong Mandate silks

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

Derby Points (11)

Comments: Finished 5th in his Spa bow and smartly graduated at 6.5f second time out. He cruised in the G1 Hopeful at 7f (mud, sealed) and never got untracked in 7th place Champagne puzzler. In his final 2yo start, he shot to the front from the outside post and finished an improved 3rd in the BC Juvenile. He raced wide throughout and finished a clear 2nd in his sophomore bow, the G3 Southwest Stakes on Feb. 17, and set the pace and weakened to 4th in the G2 Rebel.

6. CALIFORNIA CHROME (Lucky Pulpit – Love the Chase, by Not for Love)california chrome silks

Trainer:  Art Sherman – Owner: Coburn or Martin

Latest Workout: 4f in :47.40 (7/31) at Los Alamitos on March 22.

Derby Points (50)

Comments: 5-for-9 lifetime including three straight romps at Santa Anita. The overachieving CA-bred ran them off their feet in the G2 San Felipe (107 BSF) and will run in the SA Derby. He is a great Cinderella story and will try to overcome his modest breeding on May 3.   

7. MIDNIGHT HAWK (Midnight Lute – Miss Wineshine, by Wolf Power)Midnight Hawk silks

Trainer: Bob Baffert – Owner: Mike Pegram

Latest Workout: 5f in 1:00.20 (8/46) at Santa Anita on March 17.

Derby Points (32)

Comments: Ran his record to 2-for-2 in a prominent throughout G3 Sham triumph (blinkers off). He was a bit rank early and settled for the show in the G2 Robert Lewis Stakes and was clearly second best in the San Felipe. He continues to rack up Derby points but still needs to develop mentally. Saturday’s Sunland Derby is next and he is the 5-2 morning line favorite.

8. GOLD HAWK (Empire Maker – Caressing, by Honour and Glory)Gold Hawk silks

Trainer: Steve Asmussen – Owner: Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC

Latest Workout: 6f in 1:12 (1/3) at Fair Grounds on March 17.

Derby Points (2)

Comments: Debut stalk and pounce tally at Churchill Downs Nov. 30. Found his best stride late in a good looking entry level route win at Fair Grounds Dec. 22. He finished an okay 3rd in the Lecomte and basically ran the same race (even 5th of 14) in the Risen Star on Feb. 22. The LA Derby is his last chance to qualify for the Kentucky Derby.

9. GALA AWARD (Bernardini – Wilshew, by Carson City)Gala Award silks

Trainer:  Todd Pletcher – Owner: Michael B. Tabor, Derrick Smith and Susan Magnier

Latest Workout (Update): 4f breeze in :49.50 (40/74) at Palm Meadows on March 22.

Comments: Runner-up in 8.5f turf route bow at the Gulf Dec. 7 and earned his diploma at that same course/distance second time out Jan. 20. Smartly captured the G3 Palm Beach Stakes at 9f March 1 and is living up to his hefty $1.55 million purchase price. He will likely try to qualify for the Kentucky Derby in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland.

10. KRISTO (Distorted Humor – Capote’s Crown, by Capote)Kristo silks

Trainer: John Sadler – Owner: Hronis Racing LLC.

Latest Workout: 4f in :47.60 (8/31) at Santa Anita Park on March 17.

Derby Points (14)

Comments: Finished 2nd in his first two sprint starts and stretched out at Santa Anita and romped by almost 7-lengths on Oct. 31. He fought Midnight Hawk throughout in the G3 Sham and was clearly second best, and ended up a distant 3rd (California Chrome & Midnight Hawk 1-2) in the San Felipe.

11. BAYERN (Offlee Wild – Alittlebitearly, by Thunder Gulch)bayern silks

Trainer: Bob Baffert – Owner: Kaleem Sham

Latest Workout: 4f in :47.40 (7/47) at Santa Anita on March 20.

Comments: Followed up a good looking debut 7f win on Jan. 4 with a commanding allowance route score Feb. 13 (both at Santa Anita). A foot bruise knocked him out of the San Felipe. He returned to the work tab March 20 and Baffert is looking at the SA Derby or Arkansas Derby for his final Derby prep.

Pedigree Spotlight: Hoppertunity

Hoppertunity silks

Hoppertunity (Any Given Saturday – Refugee, by Unaccounted For) tries to become the first unraced juvenile to win the Kentucky Derby since Apollo in 1882.

Hoppertunity’s sire Any Given Saturday (Distorted Humor – Weekend in Indy, by A.P. Indy) was my Derby horse in 2007 and he ended up 8th that day. Later that year, he captured the G2 Dwyer, G1 Haskell, and G2 Brooklyn. He has been a disappointment in the breeding shed but a Derby win by Hoppertunity would certainly boost his portfolio.

Hoppertunity pedigree

Any Given Saturday’s dam Weekend in Indy has A.P. Indy on top and Spectacular Bid on the bottom of her pedigree. She raced for James Bond in New York, winning one of eleven lifetime starts.

Any Given Saturday’s sire Distorted Humor (Forty Niner – Danzig’s Beauty, by Danzig) banked more than $769k in his career, winning such races as the G3 Salvator Mile, G2 Commonwealth, and G3 Ack Ack. He currently stands at WinStar Farm in Versailles, Kentucky for a stud fee of $100k. He has sired 119 stakes winners including Kentucky Derby/Preakness winner Funny Cide, Belmont Stakes/BC Classic hero Drosselmeyer, Travers hero and BC Classic runner-up Flower Alley (sire of Derby winner I’ll Have Another), 2-time G1 Whitney hero Commentator, and G1 Haskell winner Any Given Saturday.

Distorted Humor’s sire Forty Niner (by Mr. Prospector) was the 1987 Juvenile Champion. The ’88 Kentucky Derby runner-up won multiple stakes races as a 3YO including the G1 Travers and G1 Haskell. He was North American’s leading freshman sire in 1992 and sired ‘96 Belmont Stakes winner Editor’s Note. The sire of sires was whisked away to Japan in 1995 for a cool $10 million and was pensioned in 2007.

Forty Niner’s late, great sire Mr. Prospector (by Raise a Native) won 7 of 14 starts including the Whirlaway and Gravesend Handicaps in 1974.

Legendary “Sire of sires” Mr. Prospector is one of the most influential horses in the history of thoroughbred racing, siring 181 stakes winners (47 Grade 1 or Group I winners) and 16 champions.

Distorted Humor’s dam Danzig’s Beauty won the G3 Gardenia and finished 2nd in the G1 Acorn.

Danzig’s Beauty’s sire Danzig (by Northern Dancer) won all three career starts in New York. The influential stallion died in 2006 at age 29. He sired such prominent runners as Chief’s Crown (3rd ’85 Belmont Stakes), Stephan’s Odyssey (’85 Belmont Stakes runner-up), Danzig Connection (’86 Belmont Stakes winner), ’92 Preakness hero Pine Bluff, and Breeders’ Cup Mile winners Lure and War Chant.

Hoppertunity’s dam Refugee won 3 of 13 outings and finished 3rd in the G2 Orchard at the Gulf in 2002.

Refugee’s sire Unaccounted For won 6 of 13 starts (Jim Dandy, Whitney) and banked more than $998k. He had a successful stud career in Turkey before his death in 2013.

Hoppertunity has history against him but is on the upswing, has Classic influences in his pedigree, and Baffert knows how to win the Kentucky Derby.

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