Kentucky Derby 2014 Contenders: Baffert’s Derby Push

Bob Baffert’s Hoppertunity qualified for Kentucky Derby 2014 last week, and Chitu and Midnight Hawk join their stable mate after finishing 1-2 in the Sunland Derby on March 23.

Chitu was the post time favorite from the outside post and made his presence felt throughout under Martin Garcia. Midnight Hawk briefly went by him while three wide but Garcia never panicked and pulled clear again, crossing the line 2-1/4 lengths in from and earning a 102 BSF.

We Miss Artie

We Miss Artie surges late in an exciting Spiral Stakes victory – photo by Eclipse Sportswire

Midnight Hawk was returning in two weeks and was clearly second best. Chitu also beat him in the Robert Lewis Stakes. Midnight Hawk is a gem of consistency but is not quite top class at distances beyond a mile.

Commissioner did not have much of a chance after stumbling at the start and leaving himself too much to do. He found his best stride late and ended up a better than appears 3rd. He only has 10 Derby points and will run next in the Arkansas Derby.

Chitu is built like a sprinter and adds even more pace to chase in the Derby. The top three Sunland Derby finishers have ability but I do not think we saw the Kentucky Derby winner in that field, unless Commissioner qualifies and flies home under the Twin Spires.

At Turfway Park on March 22, We Miss Artie surged very late to nip Harry’s Holiday and Coastline in a thrilling renewal of the Spiral Stakes (88 BSF).

We Miss Artie has proven quite capable on turf and synthetic but has failed to seriously threaten in a trio of conventional dirt tries. The Kentucky Derby is next, but if he struggles with the Churchill footing as expected, look for the Ontario-bred to switch gears and shoot for the Queen’s Plate at Woodbine (Sunday, July 6).

Harry’s Holiday was a late Triple Crown nominee and could be headed to the big dance.

Keeping up with past “exceptional eleven” members, Schoolofhardrocks worked 6f in 1:12.80 (4/16) at Santa Anita on March 28. It might be too much to ask at this stage, but the SA Derby is next. Look for more from him later this year.

This week’s key Kentucky Derby preps are the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds and the Grade 1 Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park.

My LA Derby Day Fair Grounds full card analysis is ready to purchase!  

Saturday’s Grade 1 Florida Derby 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. CAIRO PRINCE (Pioneerof The Nile – Holy Bubbette, by Holy Bull) Cairo Prince silks

Trainer: Kiaran McLaughlin – Owner: Godolphin Stable

Latest Workout: 4f in :50.90 (59/74) at Palm Meadows on March 22. “He went great. We were looking for a 49ish, but it doesn’t matter. It was just a maintenance work, his last work. He did it great,” trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said. “We’re all set for next weekend.”

Derby Points (14)

Comments: Won his first two races including the G2 Nashua and just missed to Honor Code in the slow early/fast late Remsen. He dominated the G2 Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 25. He is the 9-5 moning line favorite for the Florida Derby (March 29).

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

Trainer: John Sadler – Owner: C R K Stable

Latest Workout: 6f in 1:12.80 (4/15) at Santa Anita on March 22.

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.

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

Trainer: Steve Asmussen – Owner: Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC.

Derby Points (42)

Comments: Lost his first three starts including a 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. He finished a troubled 2nd in the Rebel and should wrap up his Derby prep campaign in the Arkansas Derby.

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

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

Latest Workout: 4f in :54 (38/39) at Oaklawn Park on March 26.

Derby Points (11)

Comments: Finished 5th in his Spa bow and smartly graduated at 6.5f second time out. He cruised in the G1 Hopeful at 7f (mud, sealed) and never got untracked in 7th place Champagne puzzler. In his final 2yo start, he 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, the G3 Southwest Stakes on Feb. 17, and set the pace and weakened to 4th in the G2 Rebel.

5. CALIFORNIA CHROME (Lucky Pulpit – Love the Chase, by Not for Love)california chrome silks

Trainer:  Art Sherman – Owner: Coburn or Martin

Latest Workout: 4f in :47.40 (7/31) at Los Alamitos on March 22.

Derby Points (50)

Comments: 5-for-9 lifetime including three straight romps at Santa Anita. The overachieving CA-bred ran them off their feet in the G2 San Felipe (107 BSF) and will either run in the SA Derby or train up to the Kentucky Derby. He is a great Cinderella story and will try to overcome his modest breeding on May 3.   

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

Trainer: Bob Baffert – Owner: Mike Pegram

Derby Points (52)

Comments: G3 Sham hero followed up that win with a show finish in the G2 Robert Lewis Stakes, a clear, distant 2nd in the G2 San Felipe, and another clear place finish in the G3 Sunland Derby. He has qualified for the Kentucky Derby but is not quite top class in graded route races.

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

Trainer: Steve Asmussen – Owner: Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC

Latest Workout: 4f in :50.60 (17/27) at Fair Grounds on March 24.

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 Dec. 22. 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. The LA Derby is his last chance to qualify for the Kentucky Derby.

8. GALA AWARD (Bernardini – Wilshew, by Carson City)Gala Award silks

Trainer:  Todd Pletcher – Owner: Michael B. Tabor, Derrick Smith and Susan Magnier

Latest Workout: 4f in :49.50 (40/74) at Palm Meadows on March 22.

Comments: Runner-up in 8.5f turf route bow at the Gulf Dec. 7 and earned his diploma at that same course/distance second time out Jan. 20. Smartly captured the G3 Palm Beach Stakes at 9f March 1 and is living up to his hefty $1.55 million purchase price. He will likely try to qualify for the Kentucky Derby in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland.

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

Trainer: John Sadler – Owner: Hronis Racing LLC.

Latest Workout: 5f in :59.20 (3/44) at Santa Anita Park on March 24.

Derby Points (14)

Comments: Finished 2nd in his first two sprint starts and stretched out at Santa Anita and romped by almost 7-lengths on Oct. 31. He fought Midnight Hawk throughout in the G3 Sham and was clearly second best, and ended up a distant 3rd (California Chrome & Midnight Hawk 1-2) in the San Felipe. Listed in the NYRA barn notes as a possibility for the Wood Memorial.

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

Trainer: Bob Baffert – Owner: Kaleem Sham

Latest Workout: 5f in 1:00 (8/38) at Santa Anita on March 26.

Comments: Followed up a good looking debut 7f win on Jan. 4 with a commanding allowance route score Feb. 13 (both at Santa Anita). A foot bruise knocked him out of the San Felipe. He returned to the work tab March 20 and Baffert is looking at the SA Derby or Arkansas Derby for his final Derby prep.

11. INTENSE HOLIDAY (Harlan’s Holiday – Intensify, by Unbridled’s Song)intense holiday silks

Trainer: Todd Pletcher – Owner: Starlight Racing

Latest Workout: 4f breeze in :49.40 (36/74) at Palm Meadows on March 22.

Comments: The G2 Risen Star hero joins the list because of his decent late kick in a Derby trail dominated by speed horses. Mike Smith will stick by his side for the LA Derby, and he will break from the rail as the 2-1 morning line favorite.

Pedigree Spotlight: Chitu

Does Chitu (Henny Hughes – Sea Gift, by A.P. Indy) have Kentucky Derby pedigree power?

chitu silks

Chitu’s sire Henny Hughes (Hennessy – Meadow Flyer, by Meadowlake) won 6 of 10 lifetime starts and banked more than $1.1 million. The talented sprinter captured the G2 Saratoga Special in 2005, and the G3 Jersey Shore, G1 King’s Bishop, and G1 Vosburgh in 2006. His biggest winner to date is Beholder, 2-time Eclipse champion and 2012 BC Juvenile Fillies and 2013 BC Distaff winner. The 11-year-old stallion was sold to Japan in 2013.

chitu pedigree

Sea Gift (A.P. Indy – Ocean Queen, by Zilzal) won her only start in 2005. Her 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. As a sire, he was responsible for well over 100 stakes winners.

Sea Gift’s sire 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.

Hennessy (Storm Cat – Island Kitty, by Hawaii) captured 4 of 9 starts and earned $580k. He made the grade in the Hollywood Juvenile Championship, Sapling, and Hopeful Stakes as a two-year-old. He sired 2001 juvenile champion Johannesburg. Unfortunately, Hennessy died of heart failure in Argentina in 2007.

Hennessy’s sire, Grade I winner Storm Cat (Storm Bird – Terlinga, by Secretariat), captured 4 of 8 lifetime starts and was 2nd in the 1985 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at the Big A. The legendary stallion stood for 20 years and sired more than 100 graded stakes winners. He died in 2013 at age 30 and is buried at Overbrook Farm.

Storm Cat’s sire Storm Bird (Northern Dancer) was a European champion. He sired 63 stakes winners (Summer Squall, Bluebird) before his death in 2004 at age 26.

Chitu is built like a sprinter and has successfully carried his speed nine furlongs. This is the wrong year to have a speedy sophomore and he figures to struggle with ten furlongs on the first Saturday in May.

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