Posts Tagged ‘Kiaran McLaughlin’

Triple Crown Series 2016 Recap + Top 5 Three-Year-Olds to Watch

Now that the Triple Crown series is in the books, it is time to take a final look back at what transpired this spring and look forward to an exciting second half of 2016.

Nyquist

Kentucky Derby 2016 winner Nyquist – photo by Eclipse Sportswire

Kentucky Derby

Nyquist tracked distance challenged Danzing Candy and the race was over when that one got tired. Exaggerator got on track too late to catch his nemesis but ran a quality race to finish a clear 2nd. Gun Runner was always in a good contending position but could not quite see out the trip and held off Mohaymen and Suddenbreakingnews to secure the show by a head.

Hard to believe that the Top 4 betting choices finished 1-2-3-4. The Derby has become a race for stalkers and the betting favorite has won every time since they switched to the points system.

Forwardly placed runners dominated the main track races at CD on Oaks/Derby Day. The Derby fractions seemed to be really fast but that was more a function of a lightning quick racing strip.

Preakness

Pace makes the race and everything pointed to Exaggerator turning the tables on Nyquist in Baltimore. Not that he needed the help, but Exaggerator moved up on the wet track and jockey Kent Desormeaux was the only rider brave enough to put his horse on the rail in the slop and his smooth inside/outside trip was bold and decisive. Kent D also put the versatile Exaggerator in the race earlier and he always looked like a winner.

Cherry Wine got past Nyquist late for the place. The Derby winner, while obviously a talented horse, was over hyped because of his unblemished record and people were spoiled by Triple Crown winner American Pharaoh last year. The Triple Crown is no easy feat and pretenders to the throne are usually exposed in one of the three distance tests. Nyquist came out of the Preakness with a fever and was forced to pass the Belmont Stakes.

Belmont

Everything worked out wonderfully for WinStar Farm. Gettysburg the rabbit did his job carving out honest splits and forcing Destin to work long and hard to get past him. Meanwhile, Creator was biding his time and getting an outstanding ground saving ride by Irad Ortiz Jr. In the last desperate stride before the wire, Creator got his nose down to edge Destin, who ran way too good to lose.

Japanese war horse Lani finished a wide 3rd and lost countless lengths running 80 feet farther than Creator.

Governor Malibu was blocked by a tiring Gettysburg and finished an unlucky 4th.

With different horses winning all three Triple Crown series races, the second half of the year is wide open and below are five horses worth following as the year progresses.

Jarrod Horak’s Top 5 3-year-olds to Watch (second half of 2016)  

(1) MOHAYMEN (Tapit – Justwhistledixie, by Dixie Union) mohaymen silks 2016

Trainer (Kiaran Mclaughlin) – Owner (Shadwell Stable)

Comments: He was my one and only top ranked Derby contender since the start of my list last September. He won his first five starts including four grade two scores. In the Florida Derby, he raced wide on a wet track he did not handle and ended up 4th in his first career loss as Nyquist ruled the day. It rained late in the afternoon on Kentucky Derby Day and he was not handling the track early and was much farther back than normal on a day when forwardly placed runners dominated. To his credit, he kept plugging away and ended up 4th, a head behind show finisher Gun Runner. After the Derby, McLaughlin said he would get a rest and point to the Jim Dandy and Travers at Saratoga.

2. GIFT BOX (Twirling Candy – Special Me, by Unbridled’s Song) gift box 2016 silks

Trainer (Chad Brown) – Owner (W. S. Farish)

Latest Workout: 4f in :48.58 (6/50) at Belmont Park on June 18.

Comments: He was on my early Derby list for a good stretch. He graduated vs. Matt King Coal, another horse I have liked for quite some time and currently on the sidelines with a non-displaced hairline fracture of his pelvis. After breaking his maiden, Gift Box finished 3rd to Mohaymen in the G2 Remsen last fall and did not resurface until easily winning an Optional Claiming race at Belmont Park on May 26. He received a 98 BSF for his win on May 26 and could make some noise in sophomore stakes races later this year.

3. UNIFIED (Candy Ride – Union City, by Dixie Union) unified silks

Trainer (James Jerkens) – Owner (Centennial Farms)

Latest Workout: 3f in :36.20 (2/14) at Belmont Park (dirt training) on June 16.

Comments: 3-for-3 lifetime with back-to-back stakes wins in the G3 Bay Shore and G2 Peter Pan. His patient trainer Jimmy Jerkens thought the Belmont Stakes was too much too soon and he opted to wait for the G3 Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth Park on Sunday, June 19. It remains to be seen if he will be most effective routing or sprinting but he is fast and talented and appears to have a bright future.

(4) AMERICAN FREEDOM (Pulpit – Gottcha Last, by Pleasant Tap) american freedom silks

Trainer (Bob Baffert) – Owner (Gary and Mary West)

Latest Workout: 6f bullet in 1:11.80 (1/18) at Santa Anita on June 19.

Comments: Followed up a visually impressive maiden win on a wet track at Santa Anita with a very disappointing 6th place finish in the G3 Pat Day Mile on the Kentucky Derby undercard at Churchill Downs. He bounced back with a determined length victory (came again) in the Sir Barton Stakes (muddy, sealed track) on the Preakness undercard at Pimlico. I am not sure what Bob Baffert has in mind for his lightly raced, promising colt but he has won the Haskell many times and that could be his summertime goal.

(5) DESTIN (Giant’s Causeway – Dream of Summer, by Siberian Summer) destin silks

Trainer (Todd Pletcher) – Owner (Twin Creeks Racing Stables, LLC and Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners)

Comments: He was very good in the Sam F Davis and Tampa Bay Derby this winter and his connections decided to enter the Kentucky Derby off an eight week freshening. He made a bid before flattening out and finishing 6th on the first Saturday in May. His next start would come in the Belmont Stakes and he battled WinStar Farms rabbit and former stablemate Gettysburg throughout but WinStar closer Creator nipped him in the final jump. He ran too good to lose in the test of Champions and he is still fresh for the second half of the year.

Kentucky Derby 2016 Contenders: Holy Bull Preview Featuring Mohaymen (Video)

My top ranked Kentucky Derby 2016 contender Mohaymen makes his much anticipated 3-year-old debut in the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park on Saturday, January 30.

Mohaymen

Mohaymen starts his 3yo season in the Holy Bull – photo by Eclipse Sportswire

Mohaymen sports an unblemished 3-for-3 record has worked four times at Palm Meadows in preparation for the Holy Bull including a five furlong bullet on Jan. 21.

Six horses will line up in Holy Bull and there is not much pace in the paper race. Mohaymen and Conquest Big E look like the main speed and I would not be surprised if Mike Smith tried to go all the way aboard the latter.

Grade 1 Champagne winner Greenpointcrusader is the other main contender. The race shape of the Holy Bull might play against the patient type and I expect him to get better as the year progresses.

This is my first 2016 Derby contenders update. So far this year, the winners of the Derby Points races have flattered some of the top performers from last year. Flexibility (entered in G3 Withers at Aqueduct Jan 30) flattered Mohaymen with his tally in the Jerome and Mo Tom flattered Kentucky Jockey Club 1-2 finishers Airoforce and Mor Spirit with his win in the LeComte.

Graded Recaps (2016 Derby Points Races)

Smarty Jones (1-18-16, 83 BSF): Discreeetness stalked Gordy Florida and beat his rival by a neck after a lengthy stretch duel. Synchrony rallied from 10th to finish 3rd and odds-on favorite Toews On Ice attended the pace and faded to 6th for Baffert.

G3 LeComte (1-16-16, 88 BSF): Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes show finisher Mo Tom (Uncle Mo) had a troubled beginning, dropped well off the pace, and closed strongly on the outside to win by 2-1/4 lengths over Tom’s Ready, who rallied to the lead in the stretch but could not match strides with the winner. Uncle Walter stalked the pace and ended up an even 3rd.

G3 Sham (1-9-16, 80 BSF): Collected successfully made the turf/dirt move for Baffert. He stalked, pounced, and pulled clear by 1-1/4 lengths as the 3-2 favorite. Let’s Meet in Rio rallied from 8th to land the place and Laoban was best of the rest. This did not look like a strong Derby prep on paper and the speed figure drove that point home.

G3 Jerome (1-2-16, 90 BSF): Remsen runner-up Flexibility was the heavy favorite and did not disappoint his backers with a very easy stalk/pounce score by 4-1/2 lengths. Vorticity dueled on the lead and finished a clear 2nd and In Equality was almost ten lengths ahead of the rest.

Jarrod Horak’s “Exceptional Eleven” Kentucky Derby 2016 Contenders

(1) MOHAYMEN (Tapit – Justwhistledixie, by Dixie Union) mohaymen silks 2016

Trainer (Kiaran Mclaughlin) – Owner (Shadwell Stable)

Latest Workout: 5f bullet in :59.40 (1/10) at Palm Meadows on Jan 21.

Comments: The $2.2 million yearling purchase went 3-for-3 as a juvenile and rattled off back-to-back graded wins in the G2 Nashua (89 BSF) and G2 Remsen (96 BSF), both at Aqueduct. He is training well for his sophomore debut. He has been my top ranked Derby contender since I started my list last September.

Derby Points (10)

(2) MOR SPIRIT (Eskendereya – Im a Dixie Girl, by Dixie Union) more spirit silks 2016

Trainer (Bob Baffert) – Owner (Michael Lund Petersen)

Latest Workout: 5f in 1:00.20 (6/37) at Santa Anita on Jan 28.

Comments: $650k purchase was a clear 2nd (83 BSF) in his 6f Santa Anita debut Sept 27 and returned to graduate at a flat mile Oct 23 second time out (92 BSF). He shipped to Churchill Downs and battled hard throughout in a good runner-up performance in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes on Nov 28 and wrapped up his fine juvenile season with a nice win in the G1 Los Al Futurity on Dec 19. He continues to prepare for the Robert Lewis Stakes on Feb 6 and stays put at #2.

Derby Points (14)

(3) BRODY’S CAUSE (Giant’s Causeway – Sweet Breanna, by Sahm) brody's cause silks 2016

Trainer (Dale Romans) – Owner (Albaugh Family Stable)

Latest Workouts: 5f in 1:01.16 (11/31) at Gulfstream Park on Jan 24. 4f bullet in :47.74 (1/38) at Gulfstream Park on Jan 18.

Comments: The professional runner looked good from off the pace in back-to-back wins at Churchill (one mile maiden win) and Keeneland (G1 Breeders’ Futurity). He worked his way through traffic to finish a decent 3rd in the BC Juvenile and figures to make a nice late run wherever he shows up on the Derby trail. He is wintering in Florida and remains at #3.

Derby Points (14)

(4) GREENPOINTCRUSADER (Bernardini – Ava Knowsthecode, by Cryptoclearance) greenpointcrusader silks 2016

Trainer (Dominick Schettino) – Owner (St. Elias Stable)

Latest Workout: 5f in 102 (8/16) at Palm Meadows on Jan 24.

Comments: After a pair of solid sprint efforts to begin his career at Saratoga, he put it all together from off the pace in a strong 4-1/2 length victory in the Champagne. The BC Juvenile favorite was too far back early and ended up a better than appears 7th after getting fanned very wide in the lane at Keeneland Oct 31. He exited the BC Juvenile with an eye ulcer, probably caused by flying dirt during the running of the race. He is wintering in Florida and returned to the work tab Dec 28. I fancy his pedigree and he kicks off his 3-year-old season in the Holy Bull. He retains his #4 ranking and I like him as a long term prospect.

Derby Points (10)

(5) CONQUEST BIG E (Tapit – Seeinsbelieven, by Carson City) conquest big e silks 2016

Trainer (Mark Casse) – Owner (Conquest Stables, LLC.)

Latest Workout: 4f in :49 (39/102) at Palm Meadows on Jan 24.

Comments: Visually impressive maiden win at Keeneland Oct 2. In the BC Juvenile, he chased the pace from the inside pace and faded to finish 8th. He bounced back with a solid stalk/pounce 2-length flat mile Optional Claiming win at Churchill Downs on Nov 28. He is wintering in Florida and will be the services of Mike Smith in the Holy Bull. He remains at #5.

(6) GIFT BOX (Twirling Candy – Special Me, by Unbridled’s Song)

Trainer (Chad Brown) – Owner (W. S. Farish)

Latest Workouts: 4f in :49 (25/71) at Palm Meadows on Jan 25. 4f in :48.95 (13/74) at Palm Meadows on Jan 19.

Comments: Beat Matt King Coal by a nose at 8.5f (Belmont Park, Oct 3) and was flattered when that one returned to win impressively four weeks later. He fought restraint in the Remsen and ended up an even 3rd in his first stakes try. He returned to the worktab at Palm Meadows Jan 19. He moves up one position.

Derby Points (2)  

(7) NYQUIST (Uncle Mo – Seeking Gabrielle, by Forestry)

Trainer (Doug O’Neill) – Owner (Reddam Racing LLC.)

Latest Workout: 6f in 1:15.60 (14/18) at Santa Anita on Jan 24.

Comments: Ran his record to 5-for-5 and wrapped up the 2-year-old title in the BC Juvenile. To his credit, he was farther back than usual and raced wide from post 13. He gamely held off Swipe for the fourth consecutive race but the final clocking was more than a second slower than filly counterpart Songbird. He seems like a miler type but keeps on winning. At this stage he is in great shape in regards to Derby points and is preparing to make his first 2016 start in the G2 San Vicente Stakes at Santa Anita on February 15. He is up one spot.

Derby Points (30)

(8) AIROFORCE (Colonel John – Chocolate Pop, by Cuvee)

Trainer (Mark Casse) – Owner (John C. Oxley)

Latest Workout: 4f in :48 (3/71) at Palm Meadows on Jan 25.

Comments: His first three turf races produced two wins (MSW, G3 Bourbon) and a second (G1 BC Juvenile Turf). They switched to dirt (wet track) in the G2 Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Nov 28 and he wrapped up his juvenile campaign with a victory over subsequent graded stakes winners Mor Spirit (Los Al Futurity) and Mo Tom (LeComte). He returned to the worktab Jan 11 but missed his next work with an elevated temperature. He resumed morning activity Jan 25. He makes his debut on the list.

Derby Points (10)

(9) EXAGGERATOR (Curlin – Dawn Raid, by Vindication)

Trainer (Keith Desormeaux) – Owner (Big Chief Racing, LLC)

Latest Workout: 7f in 1:25.80 (2/5) from the gate at Santa Anita on Jan 23.

Comments: He had a busy juvenile campaign with six starts and wins in the G2 Saratoga Special and G3 Delta Jackpot. He was also 2nd in the G1 Breeders’ Futurity and 4th in the G1 BC Juvenile. He is expected to begin his Derby March in the San Vicente. He is a new addition to the list.

Derby Points (16)

(10) SYNCHRONY (Tapit – Brownie Points, by Forest Wildcat)

Trainer (Donnie K Von Hemel) – Owner (Pin Oak Stable)

Comments: After finishing 2nd in his career debut, he won back-to-back races at Keeneland and Churchill to end his 2-year-old season. He put in a nice late run to finish 3rd in the Smarty Jones and was gaining on the top two in a promising effort at Oaklawn Jan 18. He is new to the list and might go next in the Southwest in Feb 15.

Derby Points (2)

(11) MATT KING COAL (Cool Coal Man – Donna Marie, by Came Home)

Trainer (Linda Rice) – Owner (Lady Sheila Stable)

Comments: Earned two of the better juvenile speed figures in a clear place finish at 8.5 furlongs at Belmont Oct 3 (93 BSF) and a 96 BSF for his easy flat mile wire job maiden win at that same venue Oct 29. Following a respiratory infection, he spiked a fever and missed the G3 Jerome on Jan 3. He is getting a 4-6 week vacation on the farm and they hope to have him back for the G3 Gotham at Aqueduct March 5. He remains glued to the bottom of the list.

Honorable Mention: (12) Flexibility, (13) Mo Tom, (14) Zulu, (15) Sail Ahoy, (16) I Will Score, (17) Rafting, (18) Street Vision, (19) Swipe, (20) Seymourdini

Kentucky Derby 2015 Contenders: Carpe Diem New Number One

This is my December 2014 update and fourth in a series of blogs devoted to Kentucky Derby 2015 contenders. Once again, I am got an early start in September, and there will be many twists and turns in the weeks and months ahead.

Kentucky Derby 2015 logo

You will notice a few changes to the list. International Star is no longer the top dog. He drops to 7th after an even 4th in the Ky Jockey Club Stakes. Carpe Diem is the new Number 1.

Frosted is the big upward mover, going from 7th to 2nd after landing the place in the Remsen.

Chief Istan has been inactive since breaking his maiden at Delaware on Sept 3 and has been replaced by Dortmund.

Lord Nelson is 2-for-2 sprinting and 0-for-2 around two turns. His replacement is Imperia.

Graded Recaps

G2 Remsen (90 BSF): Leave the Light On (Chad Brown) rode the inside speed bias to victory over unlucky favorite Frosted. The latter broke from the outside post and was wide throughout in a fine effort. It was another 8 lengths back to show finisher Keen Ice.

G2 Kentucky Jockey Club (94): El Kabeir established the early lead and had just enough left in the tank to hold off Imperia. The latter was making his dirt debut for McLaughlin-Godolphin and seems to want more ground. Eagle, International Star, and Lord Nelson rounded out the top five finishers.

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 2015 Contenders

  1. CARPE DIEM (Giant’s Causeway – Rebridled Dreams, by Unbridled’s Song) carpe diem silks

Trainer: Todd Pletcher – Owner: WinStar Farm & Stonestreet Stables

Last Start: 2nd in G1 BC Juvenile at Santa Anita on Nov 1.

Comments: Enjoying some R & R at Winstar Farm.

Derby Points (14)

  1. FROSTED (Tapit – Fast Cookie, by Deputy Minister) frosted silks

Trainer: Kiaran McLaughlin – Owner: Godolphin Racing

Last Start: 2nd from the outside post in G2 Remsen.

Comments: He almost certainly would have won the Remsen with a better post position.

Derby Points (4)

  1. BLOFELD (Quality Road – Storm Minstrel, by Storm Cat) blofeld silks

Trainer: Todd Pletcher – Owner: Glencrest Farm

Last Start: 1st in G2 Nashua (8f, 93 BSF) at Aqueduct on Nov 2.

Comments: Blew past pacesetter El Kabeir to win G2 Nashua by five. He skipped the Remsen and will winter in Florida.

  1. AMERICAN PHAROAH (Pioneerof The Nile – Littleprincessemma, by Yankee Gentleman) american pharoah silks

Trainer: Bob Baffert – Owner: Zayat Stables

Last Start: 1st in the G1 FrontRunner at Santa Anita on Sept 27.

Comments: Foot bruise knocked him out of the G1 BC Juvenile. He is expected to resurface next February.

Derby Points (10)

  1. SOUPER COLOSSAL (War Front – Soaring Emotions, by Kingmambo) souper colossal silks

Trainer: Eddie Plesa Jr. – Owner: Live Oak Plantation

Last Start: 7th in G1 BC Juvenile on Nov 1.

Comments: Stumbled at the start and dueled 3-wide before slowly fading to 7th in the BC Juvenile at Santa Anita on Nov 1.

  1. EL KABEIR (Scat Daddy – Great Venue, by Unbridled’s Song) el kabeir

Trainer: John Terranova II – Owner: Zayat Stables

Last Start: 1st in G2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill on Nov 29.

Comments: Snuck away early in the Remsen and was all out to hold on. I stand by my November comment that he is fast but might have distance limitations.

Derby Points (11)

  1. INTERNATIONAL STAR (Fusaichi Pegasus – Parlez, by French Deputy) international star silks

Trainer: Michael Maker – Owner: Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey

Last Start: 4th in G2 Ky Jockey Club at Churchill on Nov 29.

Comments: Still searching for his best footing. He needs to kick it up on dirt in the near future.

Derby Points (11)

  1. TEXAS RED (Afleet Alex – Ramatuelle, by Jeune Homme) texas red silks

Trainer: Keith Desormeaux

Last Start: 1st in G1 BC Juvenile on Nov 1 (104 BSF).

Comments: Big, romping off the pace win in G1 BC Juvenile for Team Desormeaux. I like his pedigree moving forward but note that the pace sort of fell apart in the Juvenile and the top four finishers rallied from 11th, 10th, 8th, and 7th.

Derby Points (12)

  1. IMPERIA (Medaglia d’Oro – Cocoa Beach, by Doneraile Court) Imperia silks

Trainer: Kiaran McLaughlin – Owner: Godolphin Racing

Last Start: 2nd by a head in the G2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill on Nov 29.

Comments: Handled dirt just fine under the Twin Spires on Thanksgiving weekend.

Derby Points (4)

  1. DAREDEVIL (More Than Ready – Chasethewildwind, by Forty Niner) Daredevil silks

Trainer: Todd Pletcher – Owner: Let’s Go Stable

Last Start: 11th and last in G1 BC Juvenile.

Comments: Was hung out to dry (wide throughout from outer post) in BC Juvenile and retreated to last in a throw out effort. Enjoying some R & R at Winstar Farm.

Derby Points (10)

  1. DORTMUND (Big Brown – Our Josephina, by Tale of the Cat) Dortmund silks

Trainer: Bob Baffert – Owner: Kaleem Shah, Inc.

Latest Published Workout: 5f in 1:00.80 (7/19) at Santa Anita on Dec 9.

Comments: 2-for-2 including a visually impressive optional claiming victory at Churchill Downs (8f, 97 BSF) on Nov 29. The G1 Los Al Futurity might be next.

Honorable Mention: (12) Upstart, (13) Ocho Ocho Ocho, (14) Calculator, (15) Lord Nelson, (16) Mr. Jordan, (17) Eagle, (18) Leave the Light On, (19) Startup Nation, (20) Chief Istan

Injured Reserve

Competitive Edge – Hairline fracture (9-17-14). Out for rest of 2014. Back in Pletcher barn at Palm Meadows.

Hashtag Bourbon – Ankle chip (left front). Could show up at Oaklawn Park in 2015.

Om – Hock injury. Out for rest of 2014.

 

 

 

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.     

Belmont Stakes 2012 Bloodlines: Alpha

Which horse has the best pedigree to handle twelve furlongs in the final leg of the Triple Crown on Saturday, June 9 at Belmont Park? My Belmont Stakes alphabetical list starts with graded winner Alpha, and you would be hard pressed to find better bloodlines.

Alpha

photo by Eclipse Sportswire

Alpha’s sire Bernardini raced just one season but he certainly made a splash in 2006. In his 3rd career start, he won the G3 Withers and followed that up by capturing the G1 Preakness, G2 Jim Dandy, G1 Travers, and G1 Jockey Club Gold Cup. He finished his career with a runner-up effort behind Invasor in the G1 BC Classic.

As a sire, Bernardini was represented by three grade one winners in his first crop, including his son Stay Thirsty, who finished 2nd in the 2011 Belmont Stakes.

Bernardini’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.

Belmont Stakes 2012 – I’ll Have Another Triple Crown

I’ll Have Another will take one final step in his quest for Triple Crown glory in the twelve furlong Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park on Saturday, June 9, 2012.

Union Rags

Is Union Rags the Belmont Stakes spoiler? – photo by Eclipse Sportswire

There is no shortage of fresh horses waiting for him in the Test of Champions including my top ranked 3-year-old Union Rags.

I have always thought that Union Rags was the most talented colt of his generation and he is already a grade one winner at Belmont Park. His new rider John Velazquez won the Belmont Stakes in 2007 aboard Rags To Riches and the Michael Matz trainee could play spoiler on June 9.

Dullahan is a 2-time grade one winner and was last seen rallying for the show in the Kentucky Derby. He can seemingly run all day and looms a late running threat under new pilot Javier Castellano.

Alpha loves the Big Apple and owns a long winded pedigree. He finished 12th in the Kentucky Derby but could go much better at Big Sandy. His trainer Kiaran McLaughlin saddled 2006 Belmont Stakes winner Jazil.

Bodemeister is getting a rest but trainer Bob Baffert could be represented by late bloomer Paynter. The G3 Derby Trial runner-up earned a 106 BSF in a romping allowance win on the Preakness undercard at Pimlico on May 19.

At this stage at least a dozen horses are aiming at the Belmont Stakes. Check out Horse Racing Nation for all of the latest Triple Crown news and I’ll post daily blogs here with updated Belmont Stakes news.

Belmont Stakes 2012

Will I’ll Have Another Sweep Triple Crown?

I’ll Have Another will try to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978 when he runs in the Belmont Stakes on Saturday, June 9.

I'll Have Another

Does I’ll Have Another have what it takes to win the Triple Crown? – photo by Eclipse Sportswire

Since Spectacular Bid in 1979, eleven 3-year-olds have won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness only to fail in their Triple Crown quest at Belmont Park.

Spectacular Bid appeared to be a slam dunk in the ’79 Belmont Stakes but received a questionable ride and finished 3rd. Pleasant Colony was also 3rd in his failed bid in 1981. Alysheba finished a disappointing 4th behind runaway winner Bet Twice in 1987. Easy Goer turned the tables on his arch rival Sunday Silence to deny history in 1989.

Touch Gold turned the tables on Silver Charm in 1997. Real Quiet moved too soon and Victory Gallop made him pay the price late in 1998. My value top Lemon Drop Kid spoiled Charismatic‘s party in 1999.

Big Brown

Big Brown was a big frown in 2008 Belmont Stakes – photo by Eclipse Sportswire

War Emblem faded to 8th while Sarava lit up the tote in 2002. My Derby top Empire Maker got sweet revenge on Funny Cide in 2003. I was never on the Smarty Jones bandwagon and was not surprised to see him go down to Birdstone in 2004. Finally, I was not a fan of Big Brown and expected him to go down in flames in 2008 but I was not smart enough to come up with Da Tara.

I did not start attending the races until 1980 so I just missed Spectacular Bid’s 3-year-old season, but I did see the last ten failed attempts and know how hard it is to complete the sweep with a win in the Test of Champions.

I’ll Have Another has a winning spirit, versatile running style, and a promising pedigree, but is that enough to complete a seemingly impossible task? History is not on his side.

Mario Gutierrez has been a huge asset up to this point, but so was Stewart Elliott aboard Smarty Jones until he was harassed by Rock Hard Ten (Alex Solis) and Eddington (Jerry Bailey) at Big Sandy. Kent Desormeaux jumped the gun in ’98 aboard Real Quiet and Gary Stevens and Victory Gallop tagged him late. Gutierrez has been a cool customer so far but the inexperienced pilot could get lost in the vastness of Belmont Park.

Ruler On Ice

Last year’s Belmont Stakes winner Ruler On ice – photo by Eclipse Sportswire

Fresh, talented rivals also make the twelve furlong task a daunting one. Empire Maker, 2nd to Funny Cide in the 2003 Derby, skipped the Preakness and turned the tables on him in the Belmont. Birdstone did the same thing to Smarty Jones in 2005. The last six Belmont Stakes winners (Ruler On Ice, Drosselmeyer, Summer Bird, Da’  Tara, Rags To Riches, Jazil) did not run in the Preakness Stakes.

The most dangerous threat to I’ll Have Another is Union Rags. The Michael Matz trainee is a 3-time graded winner exiting back-to-back troubled trips under Julien Leparoux in the Florida Derby and Kentucky Derby. I have always thought that he was the most talented member of his generation and a clean trip is all he needs to prove me right. Look for Matz to reach out for an experienced NY rider for the Belmont Stakes.

Alpha is another interesting candidate and reminds me of last year’s Belmont Stakes runner-up Stay Thirsty. He owns tactical speed, is bred to run all day, and should get better with age. Kiaran McLaughlin won the 2006 Belmont Stakes with Jazil. This year’s Kentucky Derby show finisher Dullahan is also waiting in the wings.

Much will be written and said in the weeks leading up to the Belmont Stakes. I would like to see a Triple Crown winner as much as anyone and will be pleasantly surprised if history is made at Belmont Park on Saturday, June 9. Let the games begin!