It seems impossible but it is that time again, and the September tradition continues. This is my first in a series of blogs devoted to Kentucky Derby 2016 contenders. This is just the beginning and there will be many twists and turns in the weeks and months ahead.
10 of the last 15 Kentucky Derby winners graduated by October 4, including 7 of the last 9. Kentucky Derby 2012 hero I’ll Have Another captured his career debut at Hollywood Park on July 3 of his juvenile season.
Kentucky Derby 2013 winner Orb lost his first three juvenile outings. He graduated at the Big A on November 24, 2012, his first of five straight wins, culminating in a scintillating off the pace tally under the Twin Spires on May 4.
Kentucky Derby 2014 winner California Chrome earned his diploma in his second career start ($100k Graduation – 5.5f) at Del Mar on July 31, 2013. He ended his juvenile season with an easy win in the King Glorious, the beginning of a 6-race winning streak that ended with a dead-heat for 4th in the Belmont Stakes.
Triple Crown 2015 winner American Pharaoh graduated in the G1 Del Mar Futurity on 9-3-14, the beginning of an 8-race win streak (7 Grade 1‘s and a Grade 2).
Some of my original September Derby blog juvenile contenders panned out, like my early 2010-2011 Number 1’s Stay Thirsty and Alpha. Both won the G1 Travers during their 3-year-old seasons. Others turn out to be disappointments, such as Fortify and Purple Sky, my 2012 and 2013 original Number 1’s.
International Star was my original number one Kentucky Derby 2015 contender and he was scratched the morning of the Derby. 3 of my original 11 Derby contenders made it to the starting gate including winner American Pharoah. The other two were Frosted and Carpe Diem.
An ideal Kentucky Derby contender would have a solid juvenile foundation, a long-winded pedigree, sharp graded stakes form, running style versatility, and winning connections. Strong pre-Derby works are the icing on the cake.
Graded Recaps (Derby Points Races)
G1 FrontRunner (79 BSF): American Pharoah won the FrontRunner last year. This time around, Nyquist was the overwhelming favorite and he remained undefeated with yet another win over Swipe. His margin of victory dipped and talented juvenile filly Songbird ran much faster in the G1 Chandelier. Nyquist looks like a miler and will not make my Derby list at this time.
G3 Iroquois (81 BSF): Cocked and Loaded stalked, pounced, and kicked clear to win by 2-lengths over Rated R Superstar, Unbridled Outlaw, and Conquest Windycity. The Iroquois has not been a productive race in regards to Derby contenders in recent years.
There are three Derby points races this weekend: G1 Champagne (Belmont Park, Oct 3), G1 Breeders’ Futurity (Keeneland, Oct 3), and G3 Grey (Woodbine, Oct 4).
Jarrod Horak’s “Exceptional Eleven” Kentucky Derby 2016 Contenders
(1) MOHAYMEN (Tapit – Justwhistledixie, by Dixie Union)
Trainer (Kiaran Mclaughlin) – Owner (Shadwell Stable)
Comments: The $2.2 million yearling purchase was a determined 1/2 length winner (87 BSF) at six furlongs in his Belmont Park debut on 9-19-15. Dam Justwhistledixie won the G2 Davona Dale and G2 Bonnie Miss at GP in 2009.
The G2 Nashua on Nov 4 at Aqueduct might be next.
(2) SEYMOURDINI (Bernardini – Graeme Six, by Graeme Hall)
Trainer (Linda Rice) – Owner (Iris Smith Stable)
Comments: $900k purchase battled with Mohaymen throughout and ended up 2nd in his debut. He is one of three Bernardini freshman to make the initial list.
(3) MOR SPIRIT (Eskendereya – Im a Dixie Girl, by Dixie Union)
Trainer (Bob Baffert) – Owner (Michael Lund Petersen)
Comments: $650k purchase had a slow start, made a nice inside middle move, took the lead, and ended up a clear 2nd (83 BSF) in his 6f Santa Anita debut Sept 27. He will not be a maiden much longer.
(4) RALIS (Square Eddie – Silar Rules, by Ten Most Wanted)
Trainer (Doug O’Neill) – Owner (Reddam Racing LLC.)
Latest Workout: 5f in 1:01.60 (53/87) at Santa Anita on Sept 26.
Comments: His five starts include a second time out maiden win at Santa Anita, a 2nd in the Graduation Stakes at Del Mar, and a romping win in the G1 Hopeful (93 BSF) at Saratoga Sept 7. He is entered in the G1 Champagne at Belmont Park on Saturday, Oct 3.
(5) STREET VISION (Street Sense – Emmy’s Storm, by Stormy Atlantic)
Trainer (Mark Glatt) – Owner (Norman Stables, LLC.)
Comments: Followed up a distant 4th behind a runaway winner in his Del Mar bow with a professional stalk/pounce win under Bejarano at Santa Anita Sept 27 (87 BSF).
Trainer (Shug McGaughey) – Owner (Phipps Stable)
Latest Workout: Breezed 4f in :47.66 (5/40) at Belmont Park on Sept 27.
Comments: Rallied to finished a distant 3rd (17-1 odds) behind Ready Dancer & Condominium in his six furlong debut at Saratoga Aug 29. He was ready to roll in his second start at Belmont Park (one mile, Sept 12), going last-to-first by a head at 3.95-1 odds. He is entered in the G1 Champagne at Belmont Park on Saturday, Oct 3.
Trainer (Mark Casse) – Owner (Conquest Stables, LLC.)
Latest Workout: 4f in :47.20 (2/32) at Churchill Downs Sept 25.
Comments: Broke in the air, rallied wide to take the lead, and was run down by Brody’s Cause in his flat mile debut at Churchill Sept 11. His is still immature and needs to get over his gate issues.
Trainer (Jerry Hollendorfer) – Owner (Hans Poetsch)
Latest Workout: 5f in 1:00.60 (4/13) at Los Alamitos Sept 25.
Comments: Romped in his Los Alamitos debut Sept 11.
Trainer (Bob Baffert) – Owner (Zayat Stables LLC.)
Latest Workout: 5f bullet in :59.20 (1/55) at Santa Anita Park Sept 28.
Comments: Went all the way in an easy wire job debut at Del Mar Sept 5 (86 BSF).
Trainer (Dominick Schettino) – Owner (St. Elias Stable)
Latest Workout: 5f in 1:00.85 (5/31) at Belmont Park Sept 26.
Comments: Missed by a neck in his Saratoga debut July 25 and scored by a neck at that same venue (seven furlongs) second time out Sept 5. He is entered in the G1 Champagne at Belmont Park on Saturday, Oct 3.
Trainer (Dale Romans) – Owner (Albaugh Family Stable)
Latest Workout: 5f breeze in 1:01.80 (21/43) at Churchill Downs Sept 26.
Comments: Finished 8th in his Ellis Park debut and went last-to-first (paid $69.20) to beat well-meant first timer Conquest Big E at a flat mile (Churchill Downs) Sept 11. He is entered in the G1 Breeders’ Futurity Stakes at Keeneland on Saturday, Oct 3.
Honorable Mention: (12) Nyquist, (13) Swipe, (14) Exaggerator, (15) Who’s Out, (16) Gametown, (17) Wild Man, (18) King Kranz, (19) Arabian Leopard, (20) Rafting