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View From The Bluegrass

Road to the Kentucky Derby – 10 to Watch - Gemologist

Churchill Downs (May 4, 2012) – The time has finally arrived. We’re just one day away from the 138th running of the Kentucky Derby and it is a beautiful day at Churchill as this is being written.
 
No question, the excitement is building. The field is set. Trainers are making their final preparations and the horses are in their stalls relaxing for one more day and night before the big race.
 
So, with that in mind, it seemed appropriate to write the final Road to the Kentucky Derby – 10 to Watch article while sitting at Churchill Downs just a few hours away from post time for the Kentucky Oaks and on the eve of the Derby.
 
Please note that these are not in the order of any predicted finish. They are in an order based on their race history and a “gut feel.” Tomorrow we’ll see how close the list is to the order of finish.
 
 
 
Road to the Derby: 10 to watch
 
Pedigree: Tiznow-Crystal Shard, by Mr. Prospector
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey: Javier Castellano
Owner: WinStar Farm
Career Record: 5 Starts: 5 wins, 0 seconds, 0 thirds, $784,855
Best stakes finishes:
At 2: Jockey Club Stakes (G2, Churchill)
At 3: Allowance (Gulfstream); Wood Memorial Stakes (G1, Aqueduct)
 
Gemologist, who remains undefeated in his career, put on a sensational performance with his win in the Wood Memorial. Leading down the stretch, with his ears pricked and looking around, Gemologist eyed Alpha as that challenger tried to take the lead, clicked into another gear, and then went on to get the win.
 
That move – a move that champions make – is why he sits in the No. 1 spot on the list.
 
While he is ranked as the morning-line No. 3, Gemologist is still one of the top horses in this field, no question about it. If he wins, he’ll join the likes of Seattle Slew as an undefeated Kentucky Derby winner.
 
Pedigree: Empire Maker-Untouched Talent, by Storm Cat
Trainer: Bob Baffert
Jockey: Mike Smith
Owner: Zayat Stables
Career Record: 4 Starts, 2 win, 2 seconds, 0 thirds, $704,800
Best stakes finishes:
At 2: No races
At 3: Arkansas Derby (G1, Oaklawn Park), 2nd San Felipe Stakes (G2, Santa Anita)
 
With his impressive win in the Arkansas Derby, Bodemeister was made the morning-line favorite for the Derby. In addition, he is trained by Bob Baffert, who seems to have karma on his side for a few reasons. First, he’s won the Derby three times – 1987 with Silver Charm, 1988 with Real Quiet and 2002 with War Emblem. Second, he seems to have recovered very well from a heart attack that he suffered at the recent Dubai World Cup. Finally, Bodemeister is named after his son, Bode.
 
So, there you have it. A horse that seems to be hitting his stride, combined with a trainer who has some strong karma on his side. All of which just might be the right combination for another Derby win for Baffert.
 
Pedigree: by Dixie Union-Tempo, by Gone West
Trainer: Michael Matz (Barbaro 2006)
Jockey: Currently, Julien Leparoux; was Javier Castellano
Owner: Phyllis Wyeth – Chads Ford Stable (she is also the breeder)
Career Record: 6 Starts, 4 wins, 1 second, 1 thirds, $1,098,800
Best stakes finishes:
At 2: Champagne Stakes (G1, Belmont), Saratoga Special Stakes (G2, Saratoga); 2nd Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1,Churchill Downs).
At 3: Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2, Gulfstream Park); 3rd Florida Derby (G1, Gulfstream Park)
 
Union Rags seems to be the Rodney Dangerfield of the 2012 Derby. A top-notch horse who is somehow being overlooked somewhat because of some bad results, which were not really his fault.
 
It started last November when he finished second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile to Hansen off a bad ride by his jockey. Then at this year’s Florida Derby, off another not-so-great ride, he finished third in the Florida Derby.
 
So, the one-time two-year old horse who was touted to be the one who might win the Derby is now not talked about as much, except by his connections and his fans.
 
Given a good ride, there is no question that Union Rags can win the Derby. If he does, it should not come as a surprise to anyone. He is that good of a horse.
 
Pedigree: Tapit-Stormy Sunday, by Sir Cat
Trainer: Michael Maker
Jockey: Ramon Dominguez
Owner: Dr. Kendall Hansen
Career Record: 5 Starts, 4 wins, 1 second, 0 thirds, $1,473,200
Best stakes finishes:
At 2: Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1, Churchill), Kentucky Cup Juvenile Stakes (Turfway Park)
At 3: Gotham Stakes (G3, Aqueduct); 2nd Holy Bull Stakes (G3, Gulfstream Park). 2nd Blue Grass Stakes (G1, Keeneland)
 
Okay, you have to admit it – almost every one has to admit it – some part of you is pulling for Hansen to win the Derby. This beautiful, almost white horse really burst into the Derby conversation last year when he defeated Union Rags to win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. That win also earned him the Eclipse Award as the two-year old champion.
 
This year, while he won the Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct, he has a pair of second place finishes – one in the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulf stream and the other in the recent Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland – that has people wondering if he can win the Derby.
 
The answer is simple – yes – with a caveat. He needs a good ride and he needs to be left along by his owner during the lead up to the race (meaning, no painting of tails at Churchill like he tried to do at Keeneland). If all that happens, Hansen has the ability to win the race. The biggest question is will he rate, or will he go after the speed horses in the race and burn himself out so that he won’t have enough to make it 1-1/4 miles. We shall see.
 
Pedigree: Giants Causeway-Dream of Summer, by Siberian Summer
Trainer: Mike Harrington
Jockey: Joel Rosario
Owner: Heinz Steinmann
Career Record: 8 Starts: 4 wins, 2 second, 2 thirds, $869,000
Best stakes finishes:
At 2: Won Norfolk Stakes (G1, Santa Anita), Best Pal Stakes (G2, Delmar)
At 3: Won San Felipe Stakes (G2, Santa Anita); 3rd San Vicente Stakes (G2, Santa Anita); 2nd in the Santa Anita Derby (G1, Santa Anita).
 
Creative Cause comes out of California, which is always a tough road for Derby runners. However, he has a lot going for him, too.
 
So far this year, he’s won the San Felipe Stakes in a good showing. However, in his last race, he finished second in the Santa Anita Derby, a race he should have won.
 
Before shipping to Churchill, he’s had some good, solid workouts, so he seems ready to go. He’s also the top pick of Steve Haskin of Blood-Horse magazine, a man who truly knows horse and horse racing.
 
So, keep an eye on Creative Cause for sure. He could just win. If not, he’s definitely a strong contender to be in the money.
 
Pedigree: Flower Alley-Arch's Gal Edith, by Arch
Trainer: Doug O'Neil
Jockey: Mario Gutierrez
Owner: J. Paul Reddam
Career Record: 5 starts, 3 wins, 1 second, 0 thirds, $634,000
Best stakes finishes:
At 2: 2nd Best Pal Stakes (G2, Delmar)
At 3: Robert B. Lewis S. (G2, Santa Anita); Santa Anita Derby (G1, Santa Anita)
 
I’ll Have Another comes into the Derby off a great win over Creative Cause in the Santa Anita Derby. That win gave him the graded stakes earnings he needed to get into the starting gate for the Run for the Roses.
 
The question is – Can he duplicate that effort at Churchill? His connections believe he can, as do his fans.
 
His trainer Doug O’Neil is one of the best, so if anyone can get his horse ready for this race, he can.
 
Pedigree: Bernardini-Munnaya, by Nijinsky (Can)
Trainer: Kiaran McLaughlin
Jockey: Rajiv Maragh
Owner: Godolphin Racing LLC
Career Record: 6 Starts: 3 wins, 2 second, 0 thirds, $500,000
Best stakes finishes:
At 2: 2nd Champagne Stakes (G1, Belmont)
At 3: Withers Stakes (G3, Aqueduct), Count Fleet Stakes (Aqueduct), 2nd Wood Memorial (G1, Aqueduct)
 
This is another horse floating just under the radar this Derby season. He’s had some good wins – the Withers Stakes and the Count Fleet Stakes – and he put on an excellent showing in finishing second to Gemologist in the Wood Memorial.
 
Alpha is also out of Godolphin racing, and there’s no question that Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai and the owner of Godolphin, would love to finally win his first Kentucky Derby. To that end, Alpha has been training and preparing for the Derby in the United States, which is a departure for the normal Godolphin path of keeping their horses at home until just before the race.
 
So, maybe, just maybe, the change in preparation might make the difference this time around. No question, Alpha, given a good ride, could win the race.
 
Pedigree: by A.P. Indy-Take Charge Lady, by Dehere
Trainer: Patrick Byrne
Jockey: Calvin Borel
Owner: Chuck and Maribeth Sandford
Career Record: 6 Starts: 2 wins, 2 seconds, 0 thirds, $721,000
Best stakes finishes:
At 2: 2nd Arlington-Washington Futurity (G3, Arlington Park)
At 3: Won Florida Derby (G1, Gulfstream)
 
Take Charge Indy, the winner of this year’s Florida Derby, is, unquestionably, a horse to watch in this race.
 
Not only did he win the Florida Derby, but his jockey – Calivn Borel – has won the Derby three times (Street Sense (2007), Mine That Bird (2009) and Super Saver (2010)) and knows the Churchill track like the back of his hand.
 
While he’s not one of the morning-line favorites, he is truly a horse to keep an eye on. Seriously, anytime Borel is on a horse in the Derby, whether it is a favorite or not, you have to give the horse some serious consideration for its chances.
 
Pedigree: Malibu Moon-Spirited Away, by Awesome Again
Trainer: Mark Casse
Jockey: Luis Contreras
Owner: John Oxley
Career Record: 7 Starts, 4 wins, 2 seconds, 0 thirds, $441,317
Best stakes finishes:
At 2: Grey Stakes (Can-G3, Woodbine)
At 3: Won Pasco Stakes (Tampa Bay Downs), Tampa Bay Derby (G2, Tampa Bay Downs); 2nd in Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3, Tampa Bay Downs)
 
A win in the Tampa Bay Derby propelled Prospective into the spotlight and into the starting gate for the Derby.
 
The question for this horse, like a few others, is whether he can duplicate the effort at Churchill and for 1-1/4 miles.
 
Pedigree: by Pulpit-Enchanted Rock, by Giants Causeway
Name Translation: According to PedigreeQuery.com, his name translates to "The Godfather."
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey: Rafael Bejarano
Owner: Let's Go Stable
Career Record: 6 starts, 3 wins, 1 second, 1 third, $316,100
Best stakes finishes:
At 2: 3rd Remsen Stakes (G2, Aqueduct)
At 3: Won Risen Star Stakes (G2, Fair Grounds); 4th Florida Derby
 
El Padrino got his shot in the Derby thanks to his performance in the Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds. However, when tested against better combination in the Florida Derby, he could do no better than fourth.
 
Still, he has a really good trainer in Todd Pletcher and a good jockey in Rafael Bejarano, so you never know what could happen here.
 
Honorable Mention
 
Pedigree: by Proud Citizen-Tiz Maie's Day, by Tiznow
Trainer: Graham Motion
Jockey: John Velazquez
Owner: Team Valor (Barry Irwin) and Mark Ford
Career Record: 5 starts: 2 wins, 2 seconds, 0 thirds, $315,344
Best stakes finishes:
At 2: DNR
At 3: Won Spiral Stakes(G3,Turfway Park)
 
Not sure here whether Went the Day Well can win the Derby. Having said that, he comes into the race off a win in the Spiral Stakes at Turfway, with the same team – Team Valor (owner), Graham Motion (trainer) and John Velazquez (jockey) – that brought Animal Kingdom to the Derby last year. And, we all know how that turned out last year.
 
Based on that, you have to keep an eye on this one and give him some serious consideration.
 
So there you have it, 10 horses to watch in the 2012 Kentucky Derby.
 
All that’s left is to get the horse’s to the gate and go racing!

 

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Older Comments about Road to the Kentucky Derby – 10 to Watch - Gemologist...

Im iffy on hansen. His owner said he has some plans on derby day so hansens chances might just be ruined.
Ready to watch the race from the Lone Star state. All my picks are on the list. Let's go!

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Meet Rick Capone
                                  
Rick Capone has been a horse racing fan since the Saturday afternoon when he saw Riva Ridge, his all-time favorite horse, win the Kentucky Derby on television.
 
Today, he is the sports editor for The Woodford Sun, a weekly newspaper in Versailles, Ky., a town just outside of Lexington and only 15 minutes away from Keeneland.
 
In addition to his duties at the Sun, Rick is a volunteer at Old Friends, the thoroughbred retirement farm in Georgetown that is owned by Michael Blowen. He even is part owner of one of the retirees there, Miss Hooligan, the grand daughter of 1988 Eclipse Award – Champion Turf Horse, Sunshine Forever, who is also on the farm.
 
Rick grew up in Havertown, Pa., just outside of West Philadelphia. At 20, he moved to South Florida with his family and lived a stones throw from Gulfstream. After some stops in North Carolina, Georgia and California, he currently lives in Georgetown, Ky., where he gets to drive by some of the greatest horse farms in the world on his way to work every morning.
 

(Photo: Miss Hooligan and Rick at Old Friends this past December. (Photo by Steve Blake)