Posts Tagged ‘Todd Pletcher’

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 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.

 

 

 

Breeders’ Cup Juvenile 2014 Preview (Video)

Saturday’s 2014 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita Park changed dramatically this week following the defection of sharp speedster and morning line favorite American Pharoah.

With Bob Baffert’s aforementioned colt out of action, Todd Pletcher trainees Carpe Diem and Daredevil figure to vie for favoritism. Bob Baffert will still be represented by One Lucky Dane.

A few of my “Exceptional Eleven” Kentucky Derby 2015 contenders are entered in the BC Juvenile, including Carpe Diem, Daredevil, and Souper Colossal.

Click here to view free Breeders’ Cup Friday Early Pick 3 Tickets!

FRIDAY (OCT 31) & SATURDAY (NOV 1) BREEDERS’ CUP  analysis now available to purchase for $10 each at:

The Runaway Horse

Today’s Racing Digest

 

Kentucky Derby 2015 Contenders

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

Kentucky Derby 2015 logo

Kentucky Derby 2015 logo

9 of the last 14 Kentucky Derby winners graduated by October 4, including 6 of the last 8. 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.

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. The latter recently returned to action in a $40k claimer at Churchill Downs for Al Stall Jr.

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

G1 Hopeful (90 BSF): Competitive Edge ran his record to 2-for-2 with an easy win over I Spent It, who was nine clear of the rest.

G1 Del Mar Futurity (101 BSF): The fastest of the early graded juvenile events was dominated by maidens (American Pharoah, Calculator, Iron Fist) exiting the same August 9 Del Mar affair (Om won by 7.25 lengths). American Pharoah, trained by Bob Baffert, was sired by my 2009 Derby horse Pioneerof The Nile.

G3 Iroquois (82 BSF): The first Derby points race was captured by Lucky Player and it was not an impressive race visually or by clocking standards. The winner defeated stablemate Bold Conquest (both trained by Steve Asmussen). Hashtag Bourbon was a troubled 3rd and might have been best. 4th place finisher Danny Boy was well clear of beaten favorite Mr. Z.

G3 Arl-Wash Futurity (85 BSF): Recount turned the tables on Private Prospect by a head with One Go All Go another head back in 3rd. The winner is a decent Illinois-bred.

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

Trainer: Michael Maker – Owner: Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey

Comments: Romped in his turf sprint bow and was clearly second best in the Rockville Centre on dirt at Belmont second time out. He stretched out on turf in the G2 With Anticipation on Aug 28 at Saratoga and finished a troubled 2nd behind Startup Nation. International stallion Fusaichi Pegasus won the 2000 Kentucky Derby. Dam Parlez won a couple of 2003 dirt routes in Maryland, and dam sire French Deputy won the G2 Jerome in ’95.

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

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

Latest Workout: 4f breeze in :48.60 (11/40) at Monbmouth on Sept 14.

Comments: 3-for-3 at Monmouth Park including stakes tallies in the Tyro and Sapling (86 BSF). War Front, sire of 31 stakes winners, captured the G2 Vanderbilt in ’06 and placed in numerous other graded sprints. Dam Soaring Emotions won a flat mile allowance turf race at Tampa Bay in ’09 for Clement, and dam sire Kingmambo won a couple of overseas Group 1’s in ’93.

3. STARTUP NATION (Temple City – Pennyrile, by Wagon Limit)startup nation silks

Trainer: Chad Brown – Owner: Klaravich Stables

Latest Workout: Breezed 4f in :50.24 (6/12) at Saratoga (dirt training) on Sept 10.

Comments: Back-to-back late striding turf wins at 8.5f to begin his career including the G2 With Anticipation (85 BSF) at the Spa. His sire Temple City won the 2010 Cougar II at a mile and a half (Del Mar). Dam Pennyrile was stakes placed and dam sire Wagon Limit captured the ’98 G1 Jockey Club Gold Cup.

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

Trainer: Todd Pletcher – Owner: Glencrest Farm

Latest Workout: 5f breeze in 1:03.98 (6/7) at Saratoga (dirt training) on Sept 15.

Comments: A length best (88 BSF) in his Aug 14 debut at Saratoga as the heavy favorite. Freshman sire Quality Road won multiple graded races including the G1 Florida Derby, G1 Donn, G1 Met Mile, and G1 Woodward. Dam sire Storm Minstrel was a multiple stakes winner in the Mid-Atlantic, and legendary dam sire and Grade 1 winner Storm Cat was 2nd in the ’85 BC Juvenile.

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

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

Latest Workout: 4f breeze in :48.64 (8/55) at Belmont (dirt training) on Sept 15.

Comments: Won like a good thing in his 5.5f bow from the rail at Saratoga on Sept 1. Champion stallion and 2000 BC Classic runner-up Giant’s Causeway sired 12 GSW’s in ’13. Dam sire Rebridled Dreams was graded stakes placed in ’03 and dam sire Unbridled’s Song won the G1 BC Juvenile in ’95, and the G1 Florida Derby and G2 Wood Memorial in ‘96.

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

Trainer: Bob Baffert – Owner: Zayat Stables

Latest Workout: 4f in :47.80 (7/53) at Santa Anita on Sept 15.

Comments: A fading 5th as the beaten favorite in his Del Mar bow but was a different horse when handed a clear lead from the inside post in the G1 Del Mar Futurity (101 BSF). Sire Pioneerof The Nile finished 2nd in the ’09 Kentucky Derby and sprinting dam sire Yankee Gentleman was 5th in the ‘03 BC Sprint.

7. COMPETITIVE EDGE (Super Saver – Magdalena’s Chase, by Cape Town)competitive edge silks

Trainer: Todd Pletcher – Owner: Favreau, Psoinos, and Tabor

Comments: Cruised in both Saratoga starts including the G1 Hopeful (90 BSF). Freshman sire Super Saver won the 2010 Kentucky Derby. Dam sire Magdalena’s Chase was multiple stakes placed and dam sire Cape Town’s biggest score was the G1 Florida Derby in ’98.

INJURY UPDATE: On Sept 17, Competitive Edge sustained a a hairline fracture to his left foreleg.
He is done for the year and is expected to be out of training for 60 days.

8. CHIEF ISTAN (Istan – My Indian, by Indian Charlie)chief istan silks

Trainer: Larry Jones – Owner: Brereton C. Jones

Comments: Shook off pace foe and drew off in romping DelPark debut Sept 3. Multiple graded winning sire Istan is responsible for ’14 graded stakes winners Istanford and Albano. Dam sire Indian Charlie won his first four starts including the G1 SA Derby and his show finish in the ‘98 G1 Kentucky Derby was his career finale.

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

Trainer: John Terranova II – Owner: Zayat Stables

Latest Workout: 5f breeze in 1:00.22 (2/28) at Belmont on Sept 13.

Comments: 3rd to Blofeld in his Spa debut and was fast throughout in 10.75 length romp (93 BSF) at 7f on Aug 30. Stallion Scat Daddy sired 5 GSW’s in ’13. He won multiple graded races including the G1 Champagne, G2 Fountain of Youth, and G1 Florida Derby. Dam sire Unbridled’s Song won the G1 BC Juvenile in ’95 and the G1 Florida Derby and G2 Wood Memorial in ‘96.

10. I SPENT IT (Super Saver – Rateeba, by Sky Mesa)i spent it silks

Trainer: Anthony Dutrow – Owner: Alex and JoAnn Lieblong

Comments: Won first two outings including a professional effort in the G2 Saratoga Special (85 BSF). He could not keep up with Competitive Edge in the Hopeful and was clearly second best that day. Freshman sire Super Saver won the 2010 Kentucky Derby. Dam Rateeba went 1-for-10 in ’08 and dam sire Sky Mesa won the G1 Hopeful and G2 Breeders’ Futurity as a juvenile in ’02.

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

Trainer: Kiaran McLaughlin – Owner: Godolphin Racing

Latest Workout: 4f bullet in :48.48 (1/37) at Saratoga (dirt training) on Sept 12.

Current Entries: Frosted is entered in a MSW event (race 9, 6.5f) at Belmont Park on Sept 20.

Comments: 2nd to runaway winner Bayerd in his Saratoga debut Aug 23. Now stallion and multiple graded winner Tapit is responsible for ’14 Belmont Stakes hero Tonalist and G1 Kentucky Oaks winner Untapable. Dam Fast Cookie took the G2 Cotillion in ’03 and dam sire Deputy Minister won numerous graded races and was Champion 2-Year-Old in Canada and the U.S. in 1981.

Honorable Mention: (12) Om, (13) Bayerd, (14) Pride of Stride, (15) Iron Fist, (16) Wild Zambesi, (17) Calculator, (18) Today’s Agenda, (19) Bustin It, (20) Upstart

 

 

Stylish Return for Revolutionary

It was worth the wait. Revolutionary rumbled past Fallen Sky in a geared down 1/2 length tally at Gulfstream Park on Saturday, Jan. 11.

Revolutionary saddle cloth Kentucky Derby 2013

Photo by Stacy Edwards

Returning at a distance clearly shorter than his best off a 7+ month layoff and prepping for the G1 Donn ‘Cap, Revolutionary was comfortably ambling along and racing outside, about 4-lengths off the lead after a 1/4 mile. He crept a bit closer after a 1/2 in :46 and change and six panels in 1:09.84. He was just stretching his legs with two furlongs to go.

I was not sure he was going to get there turning for home, but he looked every bit a winner once Castellano got after him in the lane. It was a perfect prep for the Donn and Pletcher and company should be very pleased with the WinStar Farm colt. He should relish the nine furlong distance next time.

Hopefully, I will get to watch my Derby buddy race in Louisville later this year. I would like to see more attractive odds than the 1-5 offered on Saturday, but fair value might be hard to come by if he continues to win races with ease.

The company will get saltier in the near future but the talented son of War Pass should be up to the challenge. He could be any kind of performer if he stays healthy and the Handicap Division just got a lot more interesting!

Good Luck, Revolutionary!

My Kentucky Derby 2013 selection Revolutionary returns to action in the second race at Gulfstream Park on Saturday, Jan. 11. He will break from post 1 as the 7-5 morning line favorite in the flat mile optional claiming affair. Saturday’s rider Javier Castellano has booted him home twice.

Revolutionary

Jarrod and Revolutionary at WinStar Farm – photo by Stacy Edwards

Revolutionary lost his first three career starts as the favorite before springing to life with a maiden win and a visually impressive tally in the G3 Withers on the inner dirt at Aqueduct last winter. He punched his Kentucky Derby ticket with a late running tally in the G2 Louisiana Derby and rallied for the show five weeks later on the first Saturday in May. The Todd Pletcher trainee figured to have a big say in the G1 Belmont Stakes but was shelved after a flat 5th place effort.

I visited Revolutionary at WinStar Farm in the fall and he looked the picture of health. He shipped to Florida this winter, shows eight published workouts at Palm Meadows Training Center since Nov. 19, and appears primed for a large 4-year-old campaign.

Hopefully, he returns a more mature horse, and, if all goes well tomorrow, he will move on to the G1 Donn Handicap on Feb. 9.

Some other horses that I saw during my WinStar visit have also returned to the worktab recently, including Queenie’s Song (3f turf in :40.05 at Palm Meadows on 1-8), Flirtatious (3f bullet in :36 at Fair Grounds on 1-6), Normandy Invasion (4f in :50 at Palm Meadows on 1-5), and Alakazan Alakazan (4f gate bullet in :47.40 at Palm Meadows on 1-4). I will continue to follow the horses that I saw at WinStar and post updates as the make it to the entry box.

Kentucky Derby 2014 Contenders

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

Kentucky Derby 2014 logoEight of the last thirteen Kentucky Derby winners graduated by October 4, including six of the last eight. 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.

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.

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. PURPLE SKY (Pulpit – Tessa Blue, by Awesome Again)          purple sky

Trainer: Al Stall Jr. – Owner: Bruce Lunsford

Latest Workout: Breezed 4f in :50.80 (81/91) at Churchill Downs on 9-22.

Comments: 3rd behind Honor Code and Misconnect in 8-31 Saratoga debut and raced green that day. He owns a promising route pedigree and is entered in the third race at Churchill Downs on Saturday, Sept. 28 (MSW, 8f).

UPDATE: Purple Sky overcame adversity to earn diploma at CD on 9-28.

2. HONOR CODE (A.P. Indy – Serena’s Cat, by Storm Cat)

Trainer: Shug McGaughey – Owner: Lane’s End Racing & Dell Ridge Farm

Latest Workout: 5f breeze in 1:01.54 (13/24) at Belmont Park on 9-23.

UPDATE: Honor Code breezed 4f in :47.99 (5/38) at Belmont Park on 9-29.

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 should get better as distances increase and will run next in the G1 Champagne at Belmont Park on 10-5.

3. MISCONNECT (Unbridled’s Song – Summer Raven, by Summer Squall)

Trainer: Todd Pletcher – Owner: Repole Stable

Latest Workout: 4f breeze in :49.53 (8/29) at Saratoga (dirt training) on 9-21.

Comments: Battled on the pace throughout and was 2nd best to Honor Code in his 8-31 debut at the Spa. He won’t be a maiden much longer and is entered in the second race at Belmont Park on Saturday, Sept. 28 (MSW, 7f).

UPDATE: Misconnect graduated by a length at Belmont on 9-28 (85 BSF).

4. GRAND ARRIVAL (Harlan’s Holiday – Grandstone, by Grindstone)

Trainer: Nick Zito – Owner: Ameche Jr., Ameche III, & Prancing Horse Enterprises

Latest Workout: 4f bullet in :48.15 (1/29) at Saratoga (dirt training) on 9-21.

UPDATE: Grand Arrival fired a 4f bullet in :48.02 (1/31) at Saratoga (dirt training) on 9-28.

Comments: Distant 3rd to Big Sugar Soda in his 7-22 Saratoga debut (Strong Mandate 5th). Romped by 6-1/4 lengths as the 3-2 favorite at that same venue at 7f second time out on 8-31 (sloppy, sealed).

5. STRONG MANDATE (Tiznow – Clear Mandate, by Deputy Minister)

Strong Mandate horse

Hopeful hero Strong Mandate eyes the G1 Champagne – photo by Eclipse Sportswire

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

Latest Workout: 5f breeze in 1:01 (5/50) at Churchill Downs on 9-22.

UPDATE: Strong Mandate breezed 4f in :48 (9/48) at Churchill Downs on 9-29.

Comments: Has been sensational since finishing 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 will go for back-to-back Grade I wins in the Champagne.

6. HAVANA (Dunkirk – Missy Turtle, by Kyle’s Our Man)

Trainer: Todd Pletcher – Owner: Taber, Magnier, and Smith

Latest Workout: 5f bullet in 1:00.85 (1/17) at Belmont Park (dirt training) on 9-23.

Comments: Went wire-to-wire in his Saratoga debut on 8-23 and earned a 102 BSF. The G1 Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park is next.

7. KENDALL’S BOY (Sky Mesa – Golden Damsel, by Gold Token)

Trainer: Tom Amoss – Owner: Jerry Namy

Latest Workout: Breezed 5f in :59.80 (2/40) at Churchill Downs on 9-23.

Comments: Clearly second best to Havana in his 8-23 debut (94 BSF) at the Spa and rolled by 5-1/4 lengths at 6f under the Twin Spires on 9-13.

8. SCHOOLOFHARDROCKS (Rock Hard Ten – Miss Chapin, by Royal Academy)

Trainer: David Hofmans – Owner: Amerman Racing LLC.

Latest Workout: 5f in 1:00.80 (32/48) at Santa Anita on 9-25.

Comments: It is not easy to win a route race first time out, but he did just at Del Mar on 8-31. Veteran jockey Victor Espinoza is high on this one. “He’s a very talented horse,” Espinoza said of the son of Rock Hard Ten. “I liked him the first time I saw him. I was impressed with how he ran going a mile and winning from the one hole (at odds of 10-1 Aug. 31 at Del Mar). I feel he’ll get even better.” He is entered in the G1 FrontRunner Stakes at Santa Anita on 9-28.

UPDATE: Schoolofhardrocks scratched out of the FrontRunner Stakes. “It’s not too significant,” trainer David Hofmans said of the unrevealed injury. “It’s a problem we’re working on.”

9. GIVE NO QUARTER (Tiz Wonderful – Roadtohanna, by Not for Love)

Trainer: Graham Motion – Owner: Sagamore Farm

Comments: Two races at Presque Isle with a clear place finish in his 5.5f bow on 8-15 and a 22-length romp at one mile on 9-17 (85 BSF).

10. NEW YEAR’S DAY (Street Cry – Justwhistledixie, by Dixie Union)

Trainer: Bob Baffert – Owner: Gary & Mary West

Latest Workout: Worked 4f in :49.40 (40/49) at Santa Anita on 9-23.

Comments: Rallied for 3rd in his 5.5f Del Mar debut 8-17 and won by 1-3/4 (one mile) at that same venue 8-31.

11. CANDIP (Candy Ride – Indefinable, by Storm Cat)

Trainer: W. Bret Calhoun  – Owner: Sanders and Hirsch

Latest Workout: Breezed 4f in :51.41 (8/14) at Remington Park on 9-22.

Comments: Coasted home by 4-1/4 lengths in his 5.5f Remington bow on 9-2 (89 BSF).

Pedigree Spotlight: PURPLE SKY

Purple Sky pedigreePurple Sky’s sire Pulpit (A.P. Indy – Preach, by Mr. Prospector) had a short but productive 6-race career in 1997, beginning with a debut maiden win at Gulfstream Park in January.

Pulpit (1994-2012) captured an allowance race in Florida second time out, and followed that up with a win in the Fountain of Youth Stakes, a 2nd in the Florida Derby, and a victory in the Blue Grass Stakes. He chipped his knee during a 4th place finish in the Kentucky Derby and was subsequently retired.

A.P. Indy’s most successful son at stud, Pulpit was responsible for 42 graded stakes winners (11 Grade I winners), including 2010 Florida Derby winner and Kentucky Derby runner-up Ice Box.

Unfortunately, Pulpit died in his stall at Claiborne Farm at age 18 in late 2012.

Pulpit’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. He wrapped up his stellar career with a victory in the G1 BC Classic.

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.

Pulpit’s mother Preach (by Mr. Prospector) won the G1 Frizette as a juvenile in 1991. She won the Bourbonette Stakes to kick off her sophomore campaign, and placed in the G2 Prioress, G1 Test, Gallant Bloom, and Aladancer Stakes later that year.

Preach’s papa Mr. Prospector (by Raise a Native) won 7 of 14 starts including the Whirlaway and Gravesend Handicaps in 1974.

Legendary “Sire of sires” Mr. Prospector is one of the most influential horses in the history of thoroughbred racing, siring 181 stakes winners (47 Grade 1 or Group I winners) and 16 champions.

Purple Sky’s mother Tessa Blue, a Maryland-bred daughter of Awesome Again, won the G3 Indiana Oaks and Inside Information Stakes in 2007. She finished 2nd in the G2 Rampart and G3 Sixty Sails Handicaps in 2008.

Tessa Blue’s father Awesome Again (by Deputy Minister) won 9 of 12 races and more than $4 million, capturing such prestigious races as the Queen’s Plete, G2 Jim Dandy, G2 Stephen Foster, G2 Whitney, G2 Saratoga BC ‘Cap, G3 Hawthorne Gold Cup, and G1 BC Classic.

Tessa Blue’s mother Blue Sky Princess (by Conquistador Cielo), a classy Maryland-bred, won the Caesar’s Wish and Twixt Stakes at Pimlico and the Anne Arundel Stakes at Laurel. She also placed in the Hilltop, Pearl Necklace, G2 Cotillion, and G3 Martha Washington.

Purple Sky has class and stamina influences throughout his bloodlines and should continue to improve as distances increase. He has every reason to excel pedigree-wise if he makes it to the gate on the first Saturday in May.