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.

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