Kentucky Derby 2014 Contenders: Who deserves Top Billing?

Wildcat Red and Intense Holiday garnered 50 Kentucky Derby 2014 points each in Saturday’s Fountain of Youth and Risen Star.

Wildcat Red, General A Rod

Wildcat Red and General A Rod battled throughout once again at GP in the FOY – photo by Eclipse Sportswire

Wildcat Red and General A Rod threw down the gauntlet right out of the gate and battled all the way to the wire in the FOY (101 BSF). It was a virtual replay of their GP Derby battle but Wildcat Red got his nose down at the finish this time. Both are quality speed horses with stamina questions to answer. They were helped by the speed friendly oval on Saturday.

Beaten post-time favorite Top Billing rallied to finish a respectable 3rd. To his credit, he broke from a disadvantageous outer post in a full field over a speed favoring surface. He ended up sitting a decent trip and had every chance to catch the top two but failed to do so. Longer distances and a fair track will help his cause in the future but it looks like the late runner needs multiple factors in his favor to beat top company.

Last year, Orb showed class, versatility, and the ability to close into slow, fast, and moderate fractions and win vs. allowance foes and in the FOY and Florida Derby at the speed favoring Gulfstream oval for Shug McGaughey. Top Billing has not shown that same adaptability, but of all the horses to run in the FOY and Risen Star, he might be the most likely to make some noise on the first Saturday in May, especially with a strong pace at 10f. I am still not sure that he is top class and he will have to show more in the graded ranks next time.

In the Risen Star at Fair Grounds, Intense Holiday (97 BSF) got his nose down on the wire to edge game early runner Albano.

Intense Holiday flattered the form of Honor Code and Cairo Prince but the jury is still out on the overall strength of the Risen Star. Albano sped to a surprisingly easy early lead and was clearly aided after a slow start left Rise Up rank and virtually eliminated from the discussion. The latter must prove that he is more than a Delta freak.

Albano turned away almost all challenges and was well clear of the show. It was a solid effort but he will not get such an easy trip in the LA Derby.

Lecomte hero Vicar’s In Trouble finished a wide 3rd and might have distance limitations. Albano stole his trip and if they swapped posts the results would have been much different. As for his LA Derby chances, he should have gotten a ton out of the Risen Star and might be worth a look if he has better luck at the draw.

For the second time in as many graded routes at Fair Grounds, Gold Hawk threatened to run a big one but was as flat as a pancake in the stretch. He might need blinkers. He also might not be ready for prime time.

Still nothing from Indianapolis. I can no longer justify keeping him on the list and have replaced him with stablemate Bayern.

Havana makes his much anticipated return in the Grade 3 Swale at Gulfstream Park March 1. The seven furlong affair also attracted Wesley Ward’s undefeated charge No Nay Never.

Listen to my analysis of the Gotham 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: Easy 4f move in :52.06 (24/24) at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 25. “I’m going to work him again over the weekend and will probably put him in company,” McGaughey said. “I’d like to have Javier (Castellano) come out and do it. I’ll make up my mind after that.”

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. “I’m really happy with him–I think every day is better than the last,” McGaughey offered. “I jogged him Wednesday and he galloped great (Thursday).”

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 (1/31) at Oaklawn Park on Feb. 25.

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 49.90 (51/71) at Palm Meadows on Feb. 22.

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 1:00.90 (3/14) at Palm Meadows on Feb. 23.

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. He is entered in Saturday’s Swale Stakes at Gulfstream Park.

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

Trainer: John Sadler – Owner: C R K Stable

Latest Workout: 4f in :48.20 (26/78) at Santa Anita on Feb. 26.

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.

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

Trainer: Bob Baffert – Owner: Mike Pegram

Latest Workout: 5f in :58.80 (2/86) at Santa Anita on Feb. 26.

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.

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

Trainer: John Sadler – Owner: Hronis Racing LLC.

Latest Workout: 6f bullet in 1:10.80 (1/8) at Santa Anita on Feb. 24.

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.

8. 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.

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

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 an okay 3rd in the Lecomte and basically ran the same race (even 5th of 14) in the Risen Star on Feb. 22. He seems to be losing focus and I would like to see him add blinkers for the LA Derby.

10. BAYERN (Offlee Wild – Alittlebitearly, by Thunder Gulch)bayern silks

Trainer: Bob Baffert – Owner: Kaleem Sham

Latest Workout: 5f in :59.80 (4/43) at Santa Anita on Feb. 24.

Comments: Followed up a good looking debut 7f win on Jan. 4 with a commanding allowance route score Feb. 13 (both at Santa Anita). He is set to try graded foes next.

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

Trainer:  Wesley Ward – Owner: My Meadowview Farm

Latest Workout: 4f in :51.65 (23/24) at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 25.

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 is entered in Saturday’s G3 Gotham Stakes (blinkers on) at Aqueduct and needs a strong performance to remain on the list.

Pedigree Spotlight Revisited: 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 to stretch his speed 9f in the Florida Derby seems realistic, especially if the track favors speed like it did in the Fountain of Youth.

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