This is my first in a series of blogs devoted to Kentucky Derby 2014 contenders. Once again, I am getting an early start in September, and there will be many twists and turns in the months ahead.
Eight of the last thirteen Kentucky Derby winners graduated by October 4, including six of the last eight. Kentucky Derby 2012 hero I’ll Have Another captured his career debut at Hollywood Park on July 3 of his juvenile season.
Kentucky Derby 2013 winner Orb lost his first three juvenile outings. He graduated at the Big A on November 24, 2012, his first of five straight wins, culminating in a scintillating off the pace tally under the Twin Spires on May 4.
An ideal Kentucky Derby contender would have a solid juvenile foundation, a long-winded pedigree, sharp graded stakes form, running style versatility, and winning connections. Strong pre-Derby works are the icing on the cake.
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 (81/91) at Churchill Downs on 9-22.
Comments: 3rd behind Honor Code and Misconnect in 8-31 Saratoga debut and raced green that day. He owns a promising route pedigree and is entered in the third race at Churchill Downs on Saturday, Sept. 28 (MSW, 8f).
UPDATE: Purple Sky overcame adversity to earn diploma at CD 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
Latest Workout: 5f breeze in 1:01.54 (13/24) at Belmont Park on 9-23.
UPDATE: Honor Code breezed 4f in :47.99 (5/38) at Belmont Park on 9-29.
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 should get better as distances increase and will run next in the G1 Champagne at Belmont Park on 10-5.
3. MISCONNECT (Unbridled’s Song – Summer Raven, by Summer Squall)
Trainer: Todd Pletcher – Owner: Repole Stable
Latest Workout: 4f breeze in :49.53 (8/29) at Saratoga (dirt training) on 9-21.
Comments: Battled on the pace throughout and was 2nd best to Honor Code in his 8-31 debut at the Spa. He won’t be a maiden much longer and is entered in the second race at Belmont Park on Saturday, Sept. 28 (MSW, 7f).
UPDATE: Misconnect graduated by a length at Belmont on 9-28 (85 BSF).
4. GRAND ARRIVAL (Harlan’s Holiday – Grandstone, by Grindstone)
Trainer: Nick Zito – Owner: Ameche Jr., Ameche III, & Prancing Horse Enterprises
Latest Workout: 4f bullet in :48.15 (1/29) at Saratoga (dirt training) on 9-21.
UPDATE: Grand Arrival fired a 4f bullet in :48.02 (1/31) at Saratoga (dirt training) on 9-28.
Comments: Distant 3rd to Big Sugar Soda 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).
5. STRONG MANDATE (Tiznow – Clear Mandate, by Deputy Minister)
Hopeful hero Strong Mandate eyes the G1 Champagne – photo by Eclipse Sportswire
Trainer: D. Wayne Lukas – Owner: Baker & Mack
Latest Workout: 5f breeze in 1:01 (5/50) at Churchill Downs on 9-22.
UPDATE: Strong Mandate breezed 4f in :48 (9/48) at Churchill Downs on 9-29.
Comments: Has been sensational since finishing 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 will go for back-to-back Grade I wins in the Champagne.
6. HAVANA (Dunkirk – Missy Turtle, by Kyle’s Our Man)
Trainer: Todd Pletcher – Owner: Taber, Magnier, and Smith
Latest Workout: 5f bullet in 1:00.85 (1/17) at Belmont Park (dirt training) on 9-23.
Comments: Went wire-to-wire in his Saratoga debut on 8-23 and earned a 102 BSF. The G1 Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park is next.
7. KENDALL’S BOY (Sky Mesa – Golden Damsel, by Gold Token)
Trainer: Tom Amoss – Owner: Jerry Namy
Latest Workout: Breezed 5f in :59.80 (2/40) at Churchill Downs on 9-23.
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.
8. 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.” He is entered in the G1 FrontRunner Stakes at Santa Anita on 9-28.
UPDATE: 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.”
9. 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).
10. NEW YEAR’S DAY (Street Cry – Justwhistledixie, by Dixie Union)
Trainer: Bob Baffert – Owner: Gary & Mary West
Latest Workout: Worked 4f in :49.40 (40/49) at Santa Anita on 9-23.
Comments: Rallied for 3rd in his 5.5f Del Mar debut 8-17 and won by 1-3/4 (one mile) at that same venue 8-31.
11. 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).
Pedigree Spotlight: PURPLE SKY
Purple Sky’s sire Pulpit (A.P. Indy – Preach, by Mr. Prospector) had a short but productive 6-race career in 1997, beginning with a debut maiden win at Gulfstream Park in January.
Pulpit (1994-2012) captured an allowance race in Florida second time out, and followed that up with a win in the Fountain of Youth Stakes, a 2nd in the Florida Derby, and a victory in the Blue Grass Stakes. He chipped his knee during a 4th place finish in the Kentucky Derby and was subsequently retired.
A.P. Indy’s most successful son at stud, Pulpit was responsible for 42 graded stakes winners (11 Grade I winners), including 2010 Florida Derby winner and Kentucky Derby runner-up Ice Box.
Unfortunately, Pulpit died in his stall at Claiborne Farm at age 18 in late 2012.
Pulpit’s sire 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.
Pulpit’s mother Preach (by Mr. Prospector) won the G1 Frizette as a juvenile in 1991. She won the Bourbonette Stakes to kick off her sophomore campaign, and placed in the G2 Prioress, G1 Test, Gallant Bloom, and Aladancer Stakes later that year.
Preach’s papa 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.
Purple Sky’s mother Tessa Blue, a Maryland-bred daughter of Awesome Again, won the G3 Indiana Oaks and Inside Information Stakes in 2007. She finished 2nd in the G2 Rampart and G3 Sixty Sails Handicaps in 2008.
Tessa Blue’s father Awesome Again (by Deputy Minister) won 9 of 12 races and more than $4 million, capturing such prestigious races as the Queen’s Plete, G2 Jim Dandy, G2 Stephen Foster, G2 Whitney, G2 Saratoga BC ‘Cap, G3 Hawthorne Gold Cup, and G1 BC Classic.
Tessa Blue’s mother Blue Sky Princess (by Conquistador Cielo), a classy Maryland-bred, won the Caesar’s Wish and Twixt Stakes at Pimlico and the Anne Arundel Stakes at Laurel. She also placed in the Hilltop, Pearl Necklace, G2 Cotillion, and G3 Martha Washington.
Purple Sky has class and stamina influences throughout his bloodlines and should continue to improve as distances increase. He has every reason to excel pedigree-wise if he makes it to the gate on the first Saturday in May.