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.


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

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.       

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