The road to the 2014 Kentucky Derby begins to gather momentum this weekend at Santa Anita where six newly turned three year olds will go post-ward Saturday afternoon in our Horse Racing Race of the Week, the Grade: 3, one mile, $100,000 Sham Stakes.
Over the next several weeks the prep races for the Derby will snowball until hitting a crescendo in March and early April and, with few exceptions, I’ll be looking at and breaking down all of them.
While you’re looking over the Sham Stakes, also be sure to take a look at the San Pasqual, also on the Saturday’s card at Santa Anita, and just three races later.
The San Pasqual drew a field of seven but it’s deep and competitive. The speedy Blueskiesandrainbows, Majestic City, who even though is just 4 for 17 in his career, has run bang up in his last two, Majestic Harbor, who has been on the board in 67% of his career starts, the stretch running Rousing Sermon and the hard trying Drill are all entered. On paper, it looks like a heck of Horse Race.
While you’re at it, be sure to notice the several races at Gulfstream Park on Saturday as well.
Csaba will take on nine others including Howe Great and Suns Out Guns Out in the $200,000 Fort Lauderdale Stakes going a mile and a sixteenth on the turf in the ninth race.
Csaba is cross entered in the very next race, the $100,000 Hal’s Hope Stakes (a prep fro next month’s Donn Handicap), and at this writing it is unclear in which race he’ll start. Should he choose the Hal’s Hope, other participants include the veteran Jackson Bend, the talented Neck n’ Neck and the good looking and late running Uncaptured, who I expect a big year from this year.
Also on Saturday’s Gulfstream card (in the second race) marks the return of Revolutionary, a top three year old last year and was ranked #1 by yours truly in the weeks leading up to the 2013 Kentucky Derby.
It will be the first start for Revolutionary since finishing fifth to Palace Malice in the Belmont Stakes last June. After that race, owner WinStar Farm decided to give him the next half of the year off and bring him back as four year old.
“He’s progressing really well,” trainer Todd Pletcher said. “Physically, he’s done great since the Belmont. He’s put on a lot of weight and filled out and matured, so we’re very pleased with him.”
The good looking, immpecably bred (War Pass- Runup the Colors, by A.P Indy) had no less than eight works since about the middle of November with his last one going four furlongs in :49.4 on Jan. 4.
“Mainly with him, it’s just been his physical development,” Pletcher said. “He’s broadened out and filled out and strengthened and gained weight. He looks like a 4-year-old now.”
He won his first two races last year, the Withers Stakes and Louisiana Derby, before finishing third (beaten just 3 ½ lenghts to Orb) in the Kentucky Derby.
“His Louisiana Derby was impressive, and he ran a big third in the Derby and wasn’t beaten that far,” Pletcher said. “I think when he’s on his game, he’s arguably as good a horse as there is in training. We’re hoping that proves to be the case this year.”
Others entered in that same race on Saturday include Falling Sky, winner of the 2013 Sam F. Davis; 2012 Gulfstream Park Derby winner Reveron, Honorable Dillon, who won the Hutcheson at Gulfstream last year; and the late running My Adonis, who was eighth in the 2013 Belmont Stakes.
“We’ve got big goals with him,” Pletcher continued. “This first race isn’t one of those big goals, but we always want to win.”
The first major goal Pletcher speaks of for Revolutionary is the $500,000 Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Feb. 8.
“We’ll see how this race goes,” he said. “Hopefully, this is a steppingstone toward the Donn, and we’ll go from there.”
Santa Anita Park – Saturday, January 11, 2014
Race 5 – 2:30 PM
Sham Stakes (Grade: 3)
Purse $100,000. For Three-Year-Olds
|1||Kristo||3/C||L||R Bejarano||118||J W Sadler|
|2||I’ll Wrap It Up||3/C||L||T Baze||118||D F O’Neill|
|3||Life Is a Joy||3/G||L||C S Nakatani||118||J Hollendorfer|
|4||Ontology||3/C||L||M Gutierrez||118||S Callaghan|
|5||Top Fortitude||3/C||L||K Stra||118||R K Owens|
|6||Midnight Hawk||3/C||L||M E Smith||118||B Baffert|
1) Midnight Hawk– had a very interesting career debut.
Under Mike Smith, this gray colt by Midnight Lute actually broke a step slow but quickly caught up to lead the field by half a length after the first quarter mile. Smith, sensing the colt was expending too much energy too early, took the colt back slightly to be third after the first half mile. But when they reached the top of the stretch, this horse had enough of that and dragged Smith to the lead (and opened up 1 ½ lengths on the field) like it or not.
Smith, who is white hot of late (18 starts, 6 wins and 4 seconds) gave in and let this colt run at that point and boy did he ever….in what seemed like a blink of an eye this horse opened up five more lengths on the field and crossed the finish line 6 ½ conclusive lengths in front.
Trainer Bob Baffert, who is experiencing an eye popping 28% success ratio with horses he runs for the first time at route distances, removes the blinkers which signals they want this horse back off the pace early (again). That in turn bodes well with the way this race sets up (there is a good amount of early speed signed up).
Lastly, can you still see the smoke lingering over the Santa Anita surface from this colt’s last two works?….I can…and its impressive. (Dec 30- 6F- 1:11 flat and Jan 6- 5F- :58.2)
2) Top Fortitude– was ultra impressive in his career debut as well when he scored by 2 ¾’s lengths while getting 6 ½ furlongs in a solid 1:16.1 and registering a strong 92 speed figure.
But forget those numbers for just a second (even though that hard to do) and take a “closer look” at just how he won that race…..look at his past performance line.
Notice he was third, a length behind the two horses in front of him. Yet, he passed those two horses and still won by those aforementioned 2 ¾’s lengths.
So basically this colt by Top Hill, a $2,000 stallion and a full brother to $691,512 earner Uh Oh Bango, winner of the 2012 San Pasqual and third in the Santa Anita Handicap, passed two horses and made up 3 ¾’s lengths all within a sixteenth of a mile. That is what I call a strong finish….
I’m a little concerned about why they waited 56 days to run him again but regardless, he looks like Midnight Hawk’s main competition should he finish the last sixteenth in this race in that same fashion of his last.
3) Kristo– ran a pair of strong seconds to open his career before manhandling a group of maidens (won by 6+ lengths) while taking them wire to wire.
$500,000 September Keeneland sale colt by Distorted Humor shows two strong six furlong works for this (Dec 30- 1:12.2 and Jan 5- 1:12.4) and speed figures that say he can contend with the top two.
Lastly, please note it’s been some 2 ½ months since his last start as well…which could be a cause for concern (minor injury?) or he just needed extra time coming off that huge (win) effort.
2014 Record: 0-1 = 0%
2013 Record: 20-59 = 34%
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Little Bets N’ Pieces
**** The brilliant and undefeated CashCall Futurity winner Shared Belief worked five furlongs last Friday in 1:00 2/5 over the main track at Santa Anita.
Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said afterward that the three year old gelding will be heading to Santa Anita’s $200,000 Robert B. Lewis Stakes at 1 1/16 miles Feb. 8.
“It was a very nice work, and the last part, a very nice turn of foot. I think we’re going to look at that race first,” the Hall of Fame trainer said.
Corey Nakatani was aboard Shared Belief for the workout, which was the 11th fastest of 40 at the distance on the morning.
**** 2012 New York Horse of the Year, The Lumber Guy, has been retired and will stand at Keane Stud in Amenia, N.Y., this year as property of Spendthrift Farm. His fee will be $5,000 stands and nurses.
“When you look back at the 2012 crop of 3-year-olds, you could easily make the argument that it was one of the best we’ve seen in the last several years,” said Spendthrift general manager Ned Toffey.
“The Lumber Guy was a seriously talented racehorse, and he has the looks and pedigree to match,” said Ken Wilkins, Spendthrift’s stallion director. “We’re thrilled to be able to bring him home to New York breeders for 2014.”
**** Top turf mare Laughing, a finalist for the 2013 Eclipse Award for best female turf horse, died on Tuesday at Mid Atlantic Equine Clinic in Ringoes, N.J. after a bout with colic.
The speedy 6-year-old mare fell ill on Monday night according to Dr. Allan Wise, resident veterinarian for Santulli’s Colts Neck Farm; her condition was “extremely painful.”
“She went to surgery about 4 a.m. (Jan. 7) and expired on the table,” Wise said. “She had been pretty healthy up until now. She had some issues like all horses do, but she was healthy enough to win four graded stakes. It’s really tough for the boss and all of us.”
Wise said Santulli had planned to campaign Laughing through this year, and then retire her from racing to become a broodmare.
“She made it easy to get up and go to work in the morning,” Wise said. “She was as game as they come and a real nice horse to be around. She didn’t do one thing wrong and was an interesting animal”.
**** 1988 champion grass horse Sunshine Forever died Wednesday at Old Friends, the Thoroughbred retirement farm near Georgetown, Ky. He was 29.
Sunshine Forever was discovered in his paddock at dawn and an autopsy will be performed to determine the cause of death.
“Our foundation stallion, the Eclipse Award winner who we brought home after his breeding career was over, is dead, and there’s nothing much more to be said,” Old Friends founder and president Michael Blowen said. “I don’t think I’ve ever been sadder.”
“I want to thank everyone who ever fed him a carrot or petted him or bet on him or bred to him or just smiled when they saw him,” Blowen said. “You are the ones who had the privilege of knowing how extra-special he was in a very special place.”…you’re welcome Michael, I can’t say I ever bred a mare to him, but I did everything else you mentioned.
Thanks for reading…