Archive for February, 2014

Kentucky Derby 2014 Contenders: Talented Tapiture

Tapiture is the new Kentucky Derby 2014 points leader with 22 following a sharp victory over Strong Mandate in the G3 Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park.

Tapiture horse

Tapiture passed his second graded test in the Southwest – photo by Eclipse Sportswire

Tapiture, making his first start since Nov. 30, save all of the ground on or near the lead from the inside post and was 4-1/4 lengths clear at the wire. He received a 98 BSF.

I like the progression on the numbers scale from age 2 to 3 for Tapiture but I have my doubts about his ability to get ten panels. I am basing my opinion on his pedigree and headstrong nature. Sons of Tapit do not possess the stamina or mindset to handle classic distances. See pedigree profile below.

In sharp contrast to the winner, clear runner-up Strong Mandate raced in traffic before making a good looking wide middle move. He continued to travel wide and failed to keep a straight line in the lane. He should have gotten a ton out of the race and should move up in the Rebel.

Kendall’s Boy faded for the second time in as many two turn tries and drops off the list. He is still worth following in the sprint ranks.

Schoolofhardrocks (former exceptional eleven) worked 6f in 1:14.40 (4/9) at Santa Anita on Feb. 19. He is expected to return to the races “in a couple of weeks,” trainer David Hofmans said.

Purple Sky (former exceptional eleven) is entered in a 7.5f allowance race at Delta Downs on Feb. 22. The All Stall Jr. trainee disappointed in his final two juvenile starts and tries to get back on the winning track.

The next two big events on the Derby trail are the Fountain of Youth from Gulfstream Park and the Risen Star from Fair Grounds. Both will be run on Saturday, Feb. 22.

Saturday’s G2 Fountain of Youth Stakes is my featured play of the day at HorseRacingNation.com

Listen to my analysis of the Risen Star Stakes on the Fast Track radio show Saturday 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

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: 4f breeze in :49.71 (6/13) at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 19. “We walked him yesterday and jogged him this morning,” trainer Shug McGaughey offered. “He seems to be pretty good.”

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 missed some training time due to bruising up his back ankles. He returned to the worktab Feb. 12.

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

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

Derby Points (6)

Comments: Finished 5th in his Saratoga bow. He smartly graduated at 6.5f second time out and cruised in the G1 Hopeful at 7f (mud, sealed) on Sept. 2. He never got untracked in 7th place Champagne puzzler and 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, losing nothing in defeat in the G3 Southwest Stakes on Feb. 17.

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

Trainer: Kiaran McLaughlin – Owner: Namcook Stables

Latest Workout: Breezed 4f in 48.75 (16/83) at Palm Meadows on Feb. 15. “It really went well; it went perfect. We were looking for :49 or :50 , and we got :48-and-3. He looked great doing it,” trainer McLaughlin said. “We’ll most likely work him every Saturday from now on, although we may take one Saturday off, because there are a lot of Saturdays between now and March 29.”

Derby Points (14)

Comments: Won his first two races including the G2 Nashua and just missed in a strange renewal of the Remsen. He dominated the G2 Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 25. He returned to the worktab Feb. 15 and is training up to the Florida Derby (March 29).

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

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

Derby Points (14)

Latest Workout: 5f in 1:01.25 (3/9) at Palm Meadows on Feb. 17.

Comments: Went wire-to-wire in his Saratoga debut and earned a 102 BSF and held off Honor Code by a nose in the G1 Champagne (93 BSF) second time out. Stalked and pounced from post 13 in BC Juvenile but could not hold off New Year’s Day. From DRF: We’ve kind of consolidated three breezes here in 15 days,” said Pletcher on Tuesday. “Now, hopefully, he’s on schedule where we can kind of space them out every six or seven days.”

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

Trainer: Steve Asmussen – Owner: Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC

Latest Workout: 4f in :49.80 (17/47) at Fair Grounds on Feb. 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 12-27. He finished a better than appears 3rd in the Lecomte and could easily move forward in the Risen Star on Feb. 22.

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

Trainer: John Sadler – Owner: C R K Stable

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.

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

Trainer: Bob Baffert – Owner: Mike Pegram

Latest Workout: 5f in :59.60 (6/61) at Santa Anita on Feb. 21.

Derby Points (12)

Comments: Ran his record to 2-for-2 in a prominent throughout G3 Sham triumph. The blinkers off helped him relax but his mind was wondering in the lane. He was a bit rank early and settled for the show in the G2 Robert Lewis Stakes. He has raw talent but still needs to develop mentally.

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

Trainer: John Sadler – Owner: Hronis Racing LLC.

Latest Workout: 6f in 1:13 (2/12) at Santa Anita on Feb. 17.

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. Joel Rosario will ride in the San Felipe.

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

Trainer: Steve Asmussen – Owner: Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC.

Derby Points (22)

Comments: Lost his first three starts including 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. The Rebel is next on his docket.

10. INDIANAPOLIS (Medaglia d’Oro – Pretty N Smart, by Beau Genius)Indianapolis horse silks

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

Latest Workout: 6f bullet in 1:11.40 (1/14) at Santa Anita on Feb. 5.

Comments: Smartly ran his sprint record to 2-for-2 in the San Pablo for Baffert. He came down with a cough last week, which forced him to miss the G2 San Vicente at 7f on Feb. 16.

11. NOBLE CORNERSTONE (Noble Causeway – Besige, by Polish Numbers)Noble Cornerstone silks

Trainer:  Wesley Ward – Owner: My Meadowview Farm

Latest Workout: 5f in 1:00.56 (4/10) at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 19.

Comments: Easy 6f maiden win in prominent throughout Aqueduct debut. He rallied for the place in the Springboard Mile to end his juvenile campaign. Kicked off his 3yo campaign in the G3 Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay on Feb. 1 but was very fractious in the gate and never got involved in a throwout race. There is no more time for mistakes.

Pedigree Spotlight: Tapiture

Tapiture’s sire Tapit (Pulpit – Tap Your Heels, by Unbridled) won half of his six starts and earned more than $550k in 2003-04. He won the G1 Wood Memorial before finishing 9th in the Kentucky Derby. He is known for siring hard to handle, aggressive runners like Flashback, Hansen (9th in Kentucky Derby 2012), and Tapizar. Another son of Tapit, Normandy Invasion, finished 4th in last year’s Kentucky Derby.

tapiture breeding

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.

Tapiture’s dam Free Spin (Olympio – Spin n Win, by Private Account) captured 3 of 6 starts (2 allowance sprints) from 2001-04. She is also the dam of minor stakes winners Retap and Remit.

Olympio won 9 of 17 starts and banked more than $1.4 million on the racetrack, winning such races as the G2 Arkansas Derby, G1 Hollywood Derby, and G2 Malibu. He sired 30 stakes winners before his death at age 23 in 2011.

Tapiture will almost certainly have enough points to make the Derby gate. He is clearly talented and on the upswing but can a son of  Tapit successfully negotiate 10f on the first Saturday in May?

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Kentucky Derby 2014 Contenders: Kobe is Back!

Kobe’s Back jumped into the Kentucky Derby 2014 picture with a visually impressive late running tally in Sunday’s Grade II San Vicente Stakes at Santa Anita Park.

Candy Boy

Candy Boy, Kobe’s Back, and Kristo give trainer John Sadler three Derby hopefuls – photo by Eclipse Sportswire

John Sadler now has three viable Derby threats. In addition to Kobe’s Back, he also conditions G2 Robert Lewis hero Candy Boy and G3 Sham runner-up Kristo.

Kobe’s Back has looked like a late running sprinter since day one, and that is what his breeding suggests as well. He finished a troubled 10th in his lone two turn try, the G1 CashCall Futurity, and that productive race has produced three graded winners so far this year – Kobe’s Back (San Vicente), Candy Boy (Robert Lewis), Tamarando (El Camino Real Derby).

Kobe’s Back will get another shot at two turns in the G2 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park on March 15.

Tamarando rallied to take the G3 El Camino Real Derby (91 BSF) on Feb. 15 for Jerry Hollendorfer. The hard knocking CA-bred was making his 10th career start on Saturday. He has now won four synthetic races, including the G1 Del Mar Futurity, but is 0-for-3 with three underneath finishes on conventional dirt.

Bayern totally freaked in an allowance route at Santa Anita on Feb. 13. He plastered his headcase stablemate Tap It Rich by 15-lengths and earned a 98 BSF. Gary Stevens rode the son of Offlee Wild for owner Kaleem Shah. He received a 92 BSF in his winning 7f debut on Jan. 4 and is clearly fast and talented. The San Felipe on March 8 could be his next engagement.

Last Saturday, Candy Boy earned 10 Kentucky Derby 2014 qualifying points with a professional tally over Baffert runners Chitu and Midnight Hawk in the Grade 2 Robert Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita Park on Feb. 8.

Candy Boy ate Shared Belief’s dust in the G1 CashCall Futurity to end his juvenile campaign, but with the 2-year-old champ on the sidelines, there was no stopping the John Sadler trainee in the Lewis. He stalked, pounced, and finished strong, crossing the line a 1/2 length on top, garnering a solid 96 BSF.

Jockey Gary Stevens is really high on this one and it appears that he will await the SA Derby in April.

Chitu proved that he could handle two turns and might end up shipping to Oaklawn Park for the Rebel Stakes. The Sunland Derby also makes sense.

Midnight Hawk still has some growing up to do. He lost for the first time in three starts and was not disgraced but wants to do too much early at this stage. If you like this one (I still like him), do not abandon ship. It looks like Baffert experimented with rating tactics in the Robert Lewis, so chalk it up to a valuable learning experience.

Schoolofhardrocks fired a 5f bullet in :59 (1/37) at Santa Anita Park on Feb. 13. As I have stated previously, he only has one career start and is unlikely to make the Derby. He was an original member of my “Elite Eleven” last September, and I look for him to make some noise later this year.

Speaking of former Derby list members, Purple Sky continues his steady February work pattern at Fair Grounds for Al Stall Jr. His most recent move was a 5f breeze from the gate in 1:01.80 (23/60) on Feb. 15. He has shown flashes of ability but has not been able to put everything together when it matters. He could still be a quality performer down the road.

With less than 11 weeks to the Derby, it is time to remove Shared Belief from the list. The juvenile champ has not worked since Jan. 3 and is rapidly running out of time to get two preps under his belt.

The next big event on the Derby trail is the Grade III Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park on Monday, Feb. 17. It marks the much anticipated return of Strong Mandate.

Monday’s G3 Southwest Stakes is my featured play of the day at HorseRacingNation.com

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 :35.66 (2/6) at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 12. “He breezed very well – I was very pleased with him,” McGaughey said. “He seemed to come out of it very well. I jogged him this morning just to make sure and it seemed like he was none the worse for the wear, so, hopefully, all systems are go.”

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 missed some training time due to bruising up his back ankles. “I think the Gotham (at Aqueduct on March 1) in New York would be too soon,” McGaughey noted. “Two weeks after that is the Rebel (at Oaklawn on March 15), and I think that would be one I could probably make.”

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

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

Latest Workout: 4f bullet in :48.60 (1/77) at Oaklawn Park on Feb. 2.

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. Monday’s Southwest Stakes is his first 2014 target.

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

Trainer: Kiaran McLaughlin – Owner: Namcook Stables

Latest Workout: Breezed 4f in 48.75 (16/83) at Palm Meadows on Feb. 15. “It really went well; it went perfect. We were looking for :49 or :50 , and we got :48-and-3. He looked great doing it,” trainer McLaughlin said. “We’ll most likely work him every Saturday from now on, although we may take one Saturday off, because there are a lot of Saturdays between now and March 29.”

Derby Points (14)

Comments: Won his first two races including the G2 Nashua and just missed in a strange renewal of the Remsen. He dominated the G2 Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 25. He returned to the worktab Feb. 15 and is training up to the Florida Derby (March 29).

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

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

Derby Points (14)

Latest Workout: 4f in :50.50 (18/30) at Palm Meadows on Feb. 11.

Comments: Went wire-to-wire in his Saratoga debut and earned a 102 BSF and held off Honor Code by a nose in the G1 Champagne (93 BSF) second time out. Stalked and pounced from post 13 in BC Juvenile but could not hold off New Year’s Day. From DRF: We’ve kind of consolidated three breezes here in 15 days,” said Pletcher on Tuesday. “Now, hopefully, he’s on schedule where we can kind of space them out every six or seven days.”

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

Trainer: Steve Asmussen – Owner: Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC

Latest Workout: 4f breeze in :49 (16/68) at Fair Grounds on Feb. 10.

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 on Feb. 22.

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

Trainer: John Sadler – Owner: C R K Stable

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.

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

Trainer: Bob Baffert – Owner: Mike Pegram

Latest Workout: 4f in :47.80 (9/66) at Santa Anita on Feb. 16.

Derby Points (12)

Comments: Ran his record to 2-for-2 in a prominent throughout G3 Sham triumph. The blinkers off helped him relax but his mind was wondering in the lane. He was a bit rank early and settled for the show in the G2 Robert Lewis Stakes. He has raw talent but still needs to develop mentally.

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

Trainer: John Sadler – Owner: Hronis Racing LLC.

Latest Workout: 5f bullet in :59.20 (1/47) at Santa Anita on Feb. 10.

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. The G2 San Felipe is next.

9. KENDALL’S BOY (Sky Mesa – Golden Damsel, by Gold Token)Kendall's Boy silks

Trainer: Tom Amoss – Owner: Jerry Namy

Latest Workout: 4f in :48.60 (8/68) at Fair Grounds on Feb. 10.

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. He is entered in Monday’s Southwest Stakes. “When you look at his form, you see he was second to (the highly-regarded) Havana in his first start so you walk away saying this is a very nice horse,” said Amoss. “But the question still remains will he successfully negotiate two turns. Like I said, we’ve worked on that and we’ll see.”

10. INDIANAPOLIS (Medaglia d’Oro – Pretty N Smart, by Beau Genius)Indianapolis horse silks

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

Latest Workout: 6f bullet in 1:11.40 (1/14) at Santa Anita on Feb. 5.

Comments: Smartly ran his sprint record to 2-for-2 in the San Pablo for Baffert. He came down with a cough earlier this week, which forced him to miss the G2 San Vicente at 7f on Feb. 16. He will drop off the list if he does not recover quickly.

11. NOBLE CORNERSTONE (Noble Causeway – Besige, by Polish Numbers)Noble Cornerstone silks

Trainer:  Wesley Ward – Owner: My Meadowview Farm

Latest Workout: 5f in :59.82 (4/17) at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 12

Comments: Easy 6f maiden win in prominent throughout Aqueduct debut. He rallied for the place in the Springboard Mile to end his juvenile campaign. Kicked off his 3yo season in the G3 Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay on Feb. 1 but was very fractious in the gate and never got involved in a throwout race.

Pedigree Spotlight: Candy Boy

Candy Boy’s sire Candy Ride (Ride the Rails – Candy Girl, by Candy Stripes) went 6-for-6 in 2002-03 and ended his brief career with a victory in the G1 Pacific Classic. He has been a smashing success at stud, siring stakes winners Clubhouse Ride, Kettle Corn, Misremembered, Sidney’s Candy, Twirling Candy, and juvenile champ Shared Belief, among others. His versatile offspring typically handle any distance on dirt, synthetic, and turf. He stands for $35,000.

Candy Boy pedigree

Ride the Rails (Cryptoclearance – Herbalesian, by Herbager) was on the Kentucky Derby trail in 1994, finishing 3rd in the G2 Fountain of Youth, 2nd in the G1 Florida Derby, and 4th in the G2 Arkansas Derby. In addition to Candy Ride, he sired 22 stakes winners before his death in Uruguay in 2010.

Cryptoclearance (Fappiano) earned more than $3 million from 1986-89, capturing such prestigious races as the G1 Florida Derby and G1 Donn, and placing in the G1 Preakness, G1 Belmont Stakes, and G1 Jockey Club Gold Cup.

Candy Boy’s dam She’s an Eleven (In Excess – She’s a Sensation, by Flying Sensation) won 2 of 13 career starts including the 2006 Melair Stakes. She tried tougher rivals later that year in the G2 Black-Eyed Susan (5th), G2 Hollywood Oaks (4th), and she was 6th in the 2007 Lady’s Secret (G1).

In Excess was one of my favs back in the day. He captured 11 of 25 starts, good for more than $1.7 million. The multiple stakes winner scored grade one glory in the Met Mile, Suburban, Whitney, and Woodward in 1991. As a stallion, he was responsible for 16 California champions. Unfortunately, he died last year at age 26.  I was a fan of the band INXS, and I used to wear my concert shirt to the races when In Excess the horse ran.

Candy Boy possesses an interesting pedigree with some stamina influences on top and mostly speed on the bottom. He should handle any footing but ten furlongs might be pushing the envelope.

Kentucky Derby 2014 Contenders: Running Wild

Saamrat and Uncle Sigh, a pair of NY-bred Kentucky Derby 2014 hopefuls, battled throughout in the Grade III Withers Stakes at Aqueduct.

Samraat

NY-breds ran 1-2 in last Saturday’s Withers – photo by Eclipse Sportswire

Saamrat stuck his head in front at the quarter pole and gradually inched a length clear at the wire. Uncle Sigh was more than ten clear of maiden show finisher Scotland. The winning BSF was 94.

The jury is still out on the strength of the Withers. The top two dominated throughout, the pace was ordinary, and a maiden was third. The waters will get much deeper in the Gotham and Wood Memorial.

In the Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay, Pletcher trainees Vinceremos and Harpoon finished 1-2 in an exciting contest. The BSF came back 82, and this did not look like a serious Derby prep to say the least.

Post time favorite Noble Cornerstone was very fractious in the gate and never got involved in a throwout race. His gate behavior was very disturbing. If he manages to make the Derby gate, how is he going to react with a noisy crowd surrounded by nineteen other horses?

Romping G2 Hutcheson hero Wildcat Red was the most impressive sophomore of the weekend. He earned a 96 BSF at Gulfstream on Saturday and will try two turns in the Fountain of Youth Stakes on Feb. 22.

This week’s Derby prep is the Grade II Robert Lewis Stakes from Santa Anita Park.

Saturday’s Robert Lewis Stakes is my featured play of the day at HorseRacingNation.com

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. From Mike Welsh via DRF Inside Post (1-28-14): Shug says Honor Code “bruised up his back ankles a little bit” nothing serious will return to the track on Friday but FOY unlikely. He is currently jogging at Gulfstream Park.

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

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

Latest Workout: 4f bullet in :48.60 (1/77) at Oaklawn Park on Feb. 2.

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.

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

Trainer: Kiaran McLaughlin – Owner: Namcook Stables

Derby Points (14)

Comments: Won his first two races including the G2 Nashua and just missed in a strange renewal of the Remsen. He dominated the G2 Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 25. At this stage, he is expected to skip the Fountain of Youth Stakes and wait for the Florida Derby.

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

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

Derby Points (14)

Latest Workout: 4f in :48.95 (3/6) at Palm Meadows on Feb. 6.

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. From DRF: “We got a little behind schedule with him, but hopefully we’ll be able to get him back on the work schedule this week and make the Swale,” trainer Todd Pletcher said. “If he runs well in the Swale, we’d still have time to give him two preps before the [Kentucky] Derby, although only one of them will be around two turns, that’s all.”

5. SHARED BELIEF (Candy Ride – Common Hope, by Storm Cat) shared belief 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 and another on Jan. 24 due to a foot abscess, and is out of the Robert Lewis Stakes. 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.”

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

Trainer: Steve Asmussen – Owner: Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC

Latest Workout: 5f breeze in 1:00.60 (3/44) at Fair Grounds on Feb. 3.

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. MIDNIGHT HAWK (Midnight Lute – Miss Wineshine, by Wolf Power) midnight hawk silks

Trainer: Bob Baffert – Owner: Mike Pegram

Latest Workout: 5f in 1:00.60 (18/71) at Santa Anita on Feb. 2.

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 mind was wondering in the lane. He has plenty of raw talent and should continue to develop mentally and physically.

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

Trainer: John Sadler – Owner: Hronis Racing LLC.

Latest Workout: 5f in :59.80 (7/43) at Santa Anita on Feb. 3.

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.

9. KENDALL’S BOY (Sky Mesa – Golden Damsel, by Gold Token) Kendall's Boy silks

Trainer: Tom Amoss – Owner: Jerry Namy

Latest Workout: 5f in 1:00.80 (5/43) at Fair Grounds on Feb. 1.

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.

10. INDIANAPOLIS (Medaglia d’Oro – Pretty N Smart, by Beau Genius) Indianapolis horse silks

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

Latest Workout: 6f bullet in 1:11.40 (1/14) at Santa Anita on Feb. 5.

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.

11. NOBLE CORNERSTONE (Noble Causeway – Besige, by Polish Numbers) Noble Cornerstone silks

Trainer:  Wesley Ward – Owner: My Meadowview Farm

Comments: Easy 6f maiden win in prominent throughout Aqueduct debut. He rallied for the place in the Springboard Mile to end his juvenile campaign. Kicked off his 3yo campaign in the G3 Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay on Feb. 1 but was very fractious in the gate and never got involved in a throwout race. He clings to the bottom of my list.

Pedigree Spotlight: Wildcat Red

Wildcat Red silks

Overachiever Wildcat Red (D’wildcat – Racene, by Miner’s Mark) is easy to root for, but how far will he be able to carry his speed?

His win early sprint sire D’wildcat (Forest Wildcat – D’Enough, by D’Accord) was built for speed, winning the G3 Swale, G2 Churchill Downs Handicap, and G1 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash. His top three leading runners by lifetime earnings are Authenicat ($720,046), D’Funnybone ($686,700), and D’wild Ride ($622,841).

wildcat red pedigree

D’wildcat’s sire, 9-time winner Forest Wildcat, was fast in his own right, winning the G3 Maryland BC ‘Cap, G3 Finger Lakes BC, Ben Cohen Stakes, and Keeneland Phoenix Stakes in 1996. He sired 55 stakes winners including G1 Acorn winner Forest Secrets and G2 Lexington hero Behindatthebar. His son Wildcat Heir also won the the G1 De Francis Dash.

Wildcat Red should get stamina from the female side of his pedigree. His mother, Racene, won 2 of 14 career starts including a ten furlong entry level turf affair at Santa Anita in 2002.

Dam sire Miner’s Mark (Mr. Prospector – Personal Ensign, by Private Account), bred by Ogden Phipps, fell just short of the $1 million earnings plateau, capturing the G1 JC Gold Cup, G2 Jim Dandy, and G3 Colin Stakes. His full brother Our Emblem sired 2002 Kentucky Derby winner War Emblem, and his half-sister, multiple Grade I winner My Flag, tossed 2002 champion juvenile filly Storm Flag Flying.

Wildcat Red gets a ton of speed from his sire line and picks up some class and stamina on the dam side. He will probably a bigger threat in races like the G1 King’s Bishop at 7f later this year, but he is razor sharp and loves Gulfstream Park, so trying two turns in the Fountain of Youth makes sense at this stage of his career.       

Kentucky Derby 2014 Contenders: Cairo Prince Crowned in Holy Bull

Cairo Prince moves up a couple of spots on my top Kentucky Derby 2014 contender list following a dominating stalk and pounce victory in Saturday’s Grade II Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 25.

Cairo Prince horse

Cairo Prince started his 3yo season in style with an easy win in the Holy Bull – photo by Eclipse Sportswire

Cairo Prince is a nose away from a perfect 4-for-4 record, and it is good to see Kiaran McLaughlin with a viable Derby threat. He earned a solid 95 BSF on Saturday and could show up next in the Fountain of Youth or wait for the Florida Derby.

Finishing behind Cairo Prince in the Holy Bull were Conquest Titan, Intense Holiday, and early leader Almost Famous. Second betting choice Coup de Grace folded like a bad poker hand and is off the Derby trail.

On the Holy Bull undercard, Shug McGaughey’s promising late runner Top Billing captured an allowance route in fine fashion and earned a 90 BSF. He is likely to try the Fountain of Youth next, and we will see how good he is at that time.

Also on Jan. 25, California Chrome ran away from a decent state bred field including grade one winner Tamarando in the Cal Cup Derby. He hopes to follow in the footsteps of fellow CA-breds Best Pal, Cavonnier, and Free House, and make some noise on the Derby trail and beyond. The above average Art Sherman trainee earned an 88 BSF in the Cal Cup Derby and will likely face graded rivals in the San Felipe on March 8.

Schoolofhardrocks, one of my original exceptional eleven contenders, worked again on Jan. 28. He traveled 4f in :47.60 (2/25) at Santa Anita Park. He has only raced once so the Derby is highly unlikely, but he is one to keep an eye on as the year unfolds.

As noted below, Honor Code, Shared Belief, and Havana have all had recent setbacks and will miss their next scheduled starts. They remain on my list but I will keep a close eye on each in the coming weeks.

This week, Tampa Bay begins their 3yo route stakes series with the Grade III Sam F. Davis.

Today’s Sam F. Davis Stakes is my featured play of the day at HorseRacingNation.com

At Aqueduct, six sophomores square off in the Grade III Withers. A pair of promising NY-breds, Uncle Sigh and Samraat, figure to take the bulk of the wagering action, but I have my eye on G2 Jerome 2-3 finishers Classic Giacnroll and Scotland. The latter is still a maiden but has talent and is good enough to make some Withers noise at 8-1.

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. From Mike Welsh via DRF Inside Post (1-28-14): Shug says Honor Code “bruised up his back ankles a little bit” nothing serious will return to the track on Friday but FOY unlikely.

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

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

Latest Workout: 5f bullet in 1:00.40 (1/60) at Oaklawn Park on Jan. 27.

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.

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

Trainer: Kiaran McLaughlin – Owner: Namcook Stables

Derby Points (14)

Comments: Won his first two races including the G2 Nashua and just missed in a strange renewal of the Remsen. He dominated the G2 Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 25 and might resurface in the Fountain of Youth Stakes, or he could wait for the Florida Derby.

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

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 but has yet to have a published work and will not make the Fountain of Youth. From DRF: “We got a little behind schedule with him, but hopefully we’ll be able to get him back on the work schedule this week and make the Swale,” trainer Todd Pletcher said. “If he runs well in the Swale, we’d still have time to give him two preps before the [Kentucky] Derby, although only one of them will be around two turns, that’s all.”

5. 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 and another on Jan. 24 due to a foot abscess, and is out of the Robert Lewis Stakes. 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.”

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

Trainer: Steve Asmussen – Owner: Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC

Latest Workout: 4f breeze in :50.20 (14/27) at Fair Grounds on Jan. 27.

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

Trainer: Bob Baffert – Owner: Mike Pegram

Latest Workout: 5f in 1:03.20 (35/40) at Santa Anita on Jan. 27.

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.

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

Trainer: John Sadler – Owner: Hronis Racing LLC.

Latest Workout: 4f in :47.80 (3/26) at Santa Anita on Jan. 27.

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.

9. KENDALL’S BOY (Sky Mesa – Golden Damsel, by Gold Token)Kendall's Boy silks

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.

10. INDIANAPOLIS (Medaglia d’Oro – Pretty N Smart, by Beau Genius)Indianapolis horse silks

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

Latest Workout: 4f in :47.40 (4/33) at Santa Anita on Jan. 30.

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.

11. NOBLE CORNERSTONE (Noble Causeway – Besige, by Polish Numbers)Noble Cornerstone silks

Trainer:  Wesley Ward – Owner: My Meadowview Farm

Latest Workout: 5f in 1:02.53 (6/11) at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 22.

Comments: Easy 6f maiden win in prominent throughout Aqueduct debut. He rallied for the place in the Springboard Mile to end his juvenile campaign. Kicks off his 3yo campaign in the G3 Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay on Feb. 1.

Pedigree Spotlight: Cairo Prince

I am rooting for Cairo Prince to do well on the road to the Kentucky Derby because his sire, Pioneerof The Nile (Empire Maker – Star of Goshen, by Lord at War), was my Derby horse in 2008, and I got to see him on a recent visit to WinStar Farm.

Cairo Prince bloodlines

Pioneerof The Nile won half of his ten lifetime starts and banked more than $1.6 million. In addition to his Derby place finish, career highlights included wins in the G1 CashCall Futurity, G2 Robert Lewis Stakes, G2 San Felipe, and G1 SA Derby. America’s #2 freshman sire has a 2014 stud fee of $20k.

I seem to really identify with these bloodlines, because Pioneerof The Nile’s sire Empire Maker (Unbridled – Toussaud, by El Gran Senor) was my Derby pick in 2003.He ended up 2nd on the first Saturday in May that year and turned the tables on Funny Cide in the Belmont Stakes five weeks later. Another of my top five Derby players this year, Gold Hawk, is a son of Empire Maker.

Pioneerof The Nile

Pioneerof The Nile at WinStar Farm in 2013 – photo by Stacy Edwards

Empire Maker has sired U.S. champion, Royal Delta, and Kentucky Derby runner-ups Bodemeister and Pioneerof the Nile. He was exported to Japan in 2010.

Empire Maker’s sire Unbridled won the Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup Classic in 1990 and sired 1996 Derby hero Grindstone and 2000 Preakness winner Red Bullet.

Empire Maker’s late, great Grade I winning dam Toussaud also tossed Grade I winners Chester House, Honest Lady, Chiselling, and Grade II hero Decarchy.

On the female side, Cairo Prince gets class from his mother Holy Bubbette (Holy Bull), a 6-timer winner (2 stakes wins) of more than $240k.

Dam sire Holy Bull was on the Derby trail in 1994, winning Horse of the Year and 3YO honors that season. He captured 13 of 16 career outings and earned more than $2.4 million, winning such prestigious races as the G1 Futurity, G1 Florida Derby, G1 Met Mile, G1 Haskell, G1 Travers, and G1 Woodward.

Cairo Prince owns a classy pedigree with many classic influences on top. His early-pressing running style keeps him out of trouble and he is an exciting prospect on the Derby trail.