Kentucky Derby 2014 Contenders: Vicar’s In Charge

Vicar’s In Trouble burst onto the Kentucky Derby 2014 scene with a sharp, decisive, prominent throughout triumph in last Saturday’s Grade III Lecomte Stakes at Fair Grounds.

Kentucky Derby 2014 logo

Vicar’s In Trouble, a LA-bred son of Into Mischief, broke his maiden by many lengths in a local state bred sprint prior to the Lecomte. He settled into a nice pressing rhythm under Rosie Napravnik on Saturday, and with early-pressing types dominating on the main track all day, he figured to be tough to beat. He assumed the lead after six panels and widened throughout, crossing the line almost seven to the good and earning a 97 BSF.

Albano held off Gold Hawk for the place, with early leader Roman Unbridled checking in a clear 4th. The top four held their positions throughout in a bit of a merry-go-round race.

Vicar’s In Trouble is owned by Ken & Sarah Ramsey, and trained by Mike Maker. He is clearly fast and talented, and we will learn more when he faces better pace rivals in upcoming stakes assignments. He reminds me of another son of Into Mischief…Goldencents.

As for the others, runner-up Albano had no excuses. He figured to be forwardly placed stretching out in distance but could not match strides with the impressive winner.

Beaten favorite Gold Hawk is still worth following and will remain on my list. The speed favoring oval and race shape were not to his liking, which is why he did not punch it in turning for home, and he only missed 2nd by a ½ length. He was also returning in three weeks and was hardly disgraced in a valuable learning experience.

In the Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn Park on Monday (Jan. 20), Tanzanite Cat outdueled Walt in the flat mile affair, with post time favorite Coastline checking in 3rd. The winning BSF came back 83.

Indianapolis might be the most intriguing horse to win a stakes race during the 3-day holiday weekend. The Baffert trainee dusted three rivals in the San Pablo at six furlongs on Monday and garnered a 97 BSF. His promising route pedigree is featured below.

Unknown Road flopped in an allowance route test at Fair Grounds on Jan. 24 and drops off the bottom of my list. He is replaced by Indianapolis.

Later today, my 5th ranked Derby contender Cairo Prince makes his much anticipated sophomore debut in the G2 Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park. Coup de Grace, also one of my Derby players, drew the rail and looks like a serious threat as well.

Cairo Prince exits a strange renewal of the G2 Remsen, and we should get a better gauge on that race after today’s Holy Bull.

Today’s Grade II Holy Bull Stakes is my featured play of the day at

Breaking news from Gulfstream Park. Top Billing just swept past the field to win the 4th race in hand. The allowance route on the fast main track was contested at a mile and a sixteenth, and he completed his final 1/4 in :24.96. We will learn much more about Shug McGaughey’s promising late runner when he faces graded stakes foes next time.

Schoolofhardrocks, one of my original exceptional eleven contenders, got back on the worktab on Jan. 22. He went 3f in :36 (4/17) at Santa Anita Park. He could be one to watch as the year unfolds.

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. 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

Latest Workout: 3f breeze in :38.10 (2/14) at Payson Park on Jan. 18.

Derby Points (14)

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. McGaughey’s plan to skip the G1 BC Juvenile in favor of the G2 Remsen worked out well. He is expected to make his 3YO bow in the Fountain of Youth.

2. SHARED BELIEF (Candy Ride – Common Hope, by Storm Cat) Shared Belief horse silks

Trainer: Jerry Hollendorfer – Owner: Jungle Racing (Jim Rome)

Latest Workout: 5f in 1:00.40 (11/40) at Santa Anita Park on 1-3.

Comments: Cruised in his 10-19 Golden Gate debut and crushed four rivals in the G3 Hollywood Prevue on 11-10. He dominated the G1 CashCall Futurity (106 BSF) on 12-14, his first start around two turns. He missed a scheduled work on Jan. 12 due to a foot abscess and missed another workout on Jan. 24. Asked Friday morning (Jan. 24) for an update on the gelding’s status, Jerry Hollendorfer said, “There is no update.” When approached again later, the Hall of Fame trainer said, “I don’t have any news for the next 15 days.”

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

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

Derby Points (14)

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. Stalked and pounced from post 13 in BC Juvenile but could not hold off New Year’s Day. He has resumed light training in Florida.

Strong Mandate horse

Strong Mandate is targeting the Southwest Stakes – photo by Eclipse Sportswire

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

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

Latest Workout: 5f in 1:00.60 (2/46) at Oaklawn Park on Jan. 20.

Derby Points (2)

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. He shot to the front from post 14 and finished an improved 3rd in the BC Juvenile. The Southwest Stakes is his first 2014 target.

Cairo Prince runs later today in the Holy Bull Stakes – photo by Eclipse Sportswire

5. CAIRO PRINCE (Pioneerof The Nile – Holy Bubbette, by Holy Bull)

Trainer: Kiaran McLaughlin – Owner: Namcook Stables

Latest Workout: 4f solo breeze in :48.40 (7/52) at Palm Meadows on Jan. 19.

Derby Points (4)

Comments: Won his first two races including the G2 Nashua. Just missed in a strange renewal of the Remsen and will make his next start in the G2 Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park on 1-25.

6. GOLD HAWK (Empire Maker – Caressing, by Honour and Glory)

Trainer: Steve Asmussen – Owner: Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC

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 12-27. He finished a better than appears 3rd in the Lecomte and could easily move forward in the Risen Star.

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

Trainer: Tom Amoss – Owner: Jerry Namy

Latest Workout: 4f in :48.20 (2/51) at Fair Grounds on Jan. 20.

Comments: Clearly second best to Havana in his 8-23 debut 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. Went wire-to-wire in his 6f allowance return at Fair Grounds on Jan. 11.

8. MIDNIGHT HAWK (Midnight Lute – Miss Wineshine, by Wolf Power)

Trainer: Bob Baffert – Owner: Mike Pegram

Latest Workout: 4f in :47.40 (5/33) at Santa Anita on Jan. 21.

Derby Points (10)

Comments: Ran his record to 2-for-2 in a prominent throughout G3 Sham triumph. The blinkers off helped him relax but his mid was wondering in the lane. He has plenty of raw talent and should continue to develop mentally and physically.

9. KRISTO (Distorted Humor – Capote’s Crown, by Capote)

Trainer: John Sadler – Owner: Hronis Racing LLC.

Derby Points (4)

Comments: Finished 2nd in his first two sprint starts as the beaten favorite at Del Mar & Santa Anita. He stretched out at the Great Race Place on 10-31 and romped by almost 7-lengths after battling on the pace under Rafael Bejarano. He fought Midnight Hawk throughout in the G3 Sham and was clearly second best.

10. COUP DE GRACE (Tapit – Home Court, by Storm Cat)

Trainer: Chad Brown – Owner: Fox Hill Farms

Latest Workout: 4f bullet in :47.40 (1/52) at Palm Meadows on Jan. 19.

Comments: Ran his record to 2-for-2 with a professional one mile allowance tally at Gulfstream Park on 12-15. The G2 Holy Bull Stakes at the Gulf on Jan. 25 is next, and he will break from the rail under Johnny V.

11. INDIANAPOLIS (Medaglia d’Oro – Pretty N Smart, by Beau Genius)

Trainer: Bob Baffert – Owner: Magnier, Smith, and Tabor

Comments: Smartly ran his sprint record to 2-for-2 in the San Pablo for Baffert. He could go next in the G2 San Vicente at 7f on Feb. 16.

Pedigree Spotlight: Indianapolis

Indianapolis horse silks

Bob Baffert’s $490k purchase Indianapolis ran his record to 2-for-2 in the San Pedro Stakes, and he should get stamina from his sire, Medaglia d’Oro (El Prado – Cappucino Bay, by Bailjumper).

Indianapolis horse pedigree

Medaglia d’Oro won 8 races and earned more than $5.7 million on the track. He captured 7 stakes races and a trio of grade 1’s (G1 Travers, G1 Whitney, G1 Donn). He also finished 2nd in the G1 Belmont, G1 Pacific Classic, G1 Dubai World Cup, and the G1 BC Classic in 2002 and 2003. As a sire, he is responsible for such runners as Rachel Alexandra, Marketing Mix, Plum Pretty, and Violence.

Besides Medaglia d’Oro, El Prado (Sadler’s Wells) sired such performers as Artie Schiller, Asi Siempre, Borrego, Kitten’s Joy, Paddy O’Prado, and Winter Memories.

On the female side, dam Pretty ‘n Smart (Beau Genius – Charge d’Affaires, by Vice Regent) won 2 of 7 starts and placed 3rd in the G2 Railbird and Manhattan Beach Stakes.

Pretty ‘N Smart’s sire Beau Genius won or placed in 21 stakes races and earned more than $1 million. He was represented by 39 stakes winners including Belle Genius, Gentleman Beau, and My Creed.

Indianapolis could stretch out successfully with stamina on top and speed on the bottom of his pedigree. I would not be surprised if he handled turf, if they opt to explore that avenue in the future.

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