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HRN Original Blog:
Past the Grandstand

2014 Kentucky Derby Hopeful: Danza

Danza Arkansas Derby 615 X 415
Photo: Coady Photography

 

He’s the horse that stunned handicappers and fans in one of the final 2014 Kentucky Derby preps of the season – the rare Todd Pletcher long shot that stole a grade one event at odds of 41-1. But Danza will certainly not be overlooked on Saturday in the Run for the Roses. Although still doubted by many, his utter brilliance and stunning physique will keep a fair amount of attention on him as America’s signature race approaches.


Racing Performances


Debuting at Belmont Park in July in a maiden special weight going five and one-half furlongs, Danza pressed the leader under strong asking from his rider, being ridden vigorously to remain in second. The chestnut took a slight lead turning for home and after losing his advantage at the top of the stretch, Danza spent the majority of his rally down the homestretch fighting to regain the lead. With utter determination, he dug in within the final strides to edge clear to win by ¾ of a length.


Making his graded stakes debut a month later in the six and one-half-furlong Saratoga Special Stakes (gr. II), Danza raced mid-pack off the rail as a blazing pace was set by the leaders.  Entering the homestretch, he suddenly altered his path to rally along the rail, passing tiring rivals to finish a fast-closing third.


Kept away from the races for nearly seven months, Danza made his three-year-old debut in an allowance optional claiming event at Gulfstream Park on March 1. Going seven furlongs, Danza sat just behind the leaders down the backstretch, galloping a few paths off the rail as he settle into a position mid-pack. Surging on the outside around the far turn, Danza required strong urging from his rider to keep up with his adversaries, falling behind and fanning out. Too tired to keep up with the leaders, Danza finished third, beaten 7 ½ lengths.


While his sophomore debut resulted in a disappointing effort, perhaps the colt simply needed to get a race in, as he would run the race of his life in his next start, the Arkansas Derby (gr. I) on April 12. Sent off as the second longest shot in a field of eight, Danza was facing not only the toughest test of his life in terms of competition, but in distance, as he was extending to the distance of a mile and one-eighth.


Breaking sharply from the rail, Danza showed good early speed before settling to comfortable position behind the leaders. Remaining along the inside rail, the chestnut colt remained a handful of lengths behind the pacesetters down the backstretch before gaining ground on them nearing the far turn. As jockey Joe Bravo encouraged the long shot, Danza initially appeared to be making no progress around the bend, but as Bravo offered his mount stronger urging, the colt found a new gear. Accelerating impressively, Danza shot through a spot on the rail and never looked back from there, powerfully drawing away to a 4 ¾-length victory.


Pedigree Analysis


While Danza’s sire, Street Boss, was a grade one-winning sprinter, he is a son of Street Cry, winner of the 2002 Dubai World Cup (UAE-I, 10F). Street Cry is not only the sire of 2010 Horse of the Year Zenyatta, winner of the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I, 10F), but he has also produced 2007 Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense, Caulfield Stakes (AUS-I, 10F) winner Whobegotyou, Clasico Derby Nacional (PER-I, 12F) winner Tomcito, Matriarch Stakes (AUS-II, 10F) winner Midnight Martini, and AAMI Hobart Cup (AUS-I, 12F) winner Hurdy Gurdy Man.


Danza’s dam, Champagne Royal, won four stakes races and placed in a pair of graded stakes. A winner of up to a mile and one-eighth, Champagne Royal is also the dam of the Tokyo City Cup Stakes (gr. III, 12F). Champagne Royal is a daughter of French Deputy, the sire of multiple group stakes-winning group stakes winners, including Takarazuka Kinen (JPN-I, 11F) winner Eishin Deputy, Nikkei Shinshun Hai (JPN-II, 12F) winner Meisho Beluga, and Long Island Handicap (gr. II, 12F) winner Queue. French Deputy is a son of Deputy Minister, a major stamina influence and the broodmare sire of the likes of the ten-furlong Grand Prix de Tokyo winner Kane Hekili and Belmont Stakes (gr. I, 12F) winner Sarava. Interestingly enough, Deputy Minister is the sire of Travers Stakes (gr. I, 10F) winner Will Take Charge’s broodmare sire, Dehere.


The dam of Champagne Royal, All Tanked Up, also produced a black-type winner – He’s Hammered, who placed in the twelve-furlong Mac Diarmida Stakes – and an additional black-type-placed runner. All Tanked Up is a daughter of Preakness Stakes (gr. II, 9.5F) winner Tank'
s Prospect. One of the more interesting aspects of Danza’s female family is his fifth dam, the Reine de Course mare Brighton View. This blue hen is also the fifth dam of Secretariat Stakes (gr. I, 10F) winner Paddy O’Prado and the third dam of American Derby (gr. II, 10F) winner Olympio.


Conclusion


No one knows if Danza’s remarkable performance in the Arkansas Derby was a fluke or not. He is clearly abounding with natural talent and seems to be peaking at the right time, but is he truly as good as his Arkansas Derby victory suggests? Furthermore, while his pedigree is not overflowing with stamina, it is certainly sufficient and should provide him with enough stamina to be successful at classic distances. With such a big performance in his last start, the possibility of a bounce could also be a concern. Danza has the makings off a top contender, but he is also an uncertain prospect. He has made quite the impression since arriving at Churchill and if we’ve learned anything from past editions of the Derby, horses that thrive at Churchill should always be considered. Make of Danza what you will.

 

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Older Comments about 2014 Kentucky Derby Hopeful: Danza...

Danza may be the BOSS, however, I’m not sure about the “Bounce” of him running such a fast race in the ARK Derby, plus he had the total “perfect” rail trip the entire way around the track and there are couple other points that needs to be addressed. First, since 1973 only 3 horses have won the Derby with a graded stakes race after March 31 and secondly, in the past 20 years only 2 horses have won the derby with only (4) career starts. With this in mind I’m only going to use Danza in the bottom of my exotics
the "bounce" is a far OVERUSED made up after the fact unprovalbe idea. You are stating that a YOUNG ROBUST animal leaves so much of himself, that 2 to 3 weeks later he has not rebounded? Fillies maybe but these giants?
A bounce is possible i suppose. he could also be peaking 3rd start off a layoff. That's why they run the race.
perfect rail trip only forth start now gets twenty horse field can you say BOUNCE
As Frank Mirahmadi said at the end of the Arkansas Derby, "Danza is the Boss." I give Danza a shot to get in the money on Saturday.
i disagree. i think he's got a big shot. as far as foundations go he started in july last year. That's plenty of foundation.
Was in Hot Springs to see Danza do his thing. Obviously, did not have a dime on him. Never even thought Pletcher , ran in 2 year old stakes, why is he in here ? Obvious ???s unasked. NOW KD. Still not impressed. Distance Pedigree is a maybe; Foundation is weak; NOt convinced; Ride on Curlin remains horse of interst from AD
Probably the MOST ODDS ON favorite in the Derby on the last century $0.70 to 1 (in reality he was the 3rd behind the 0.40 to 1 of both Honest Pleasure and Bimelech) Native Dancer appeared to be impossible to beat. I got the 1954 American Racing Manual today and read of all the trouble Eric Guerin got into taking that one in out and around while the front running Dark Star just kept going. Photo showed a short head was the difference at the wire. If such a trip can happen to arguably one of the most dominant colts of the century, it can happen to any of them. All your eggs in one basket is foolish in this contest, VERY foolish. Lookin for Lucky, Holy Bull and many other short prices had the same experience. DUMB to limit a choice to that narrow a scope in a 20 horse field with babies going a distance and with weight the majority of them will NEVER see again and all of that NOISE!

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About Mary Cage

 

Mary Cage, an 18-year-old avid fan of horse racing, has been around horses all her life, having owned, shown, and judged them for as long as she can remember. She began writing her own horse racing blog, Past the Grandstand, in August 2011 and has since been published with the BloodHorse's website, the American Quarter Horse Association's magazine "America's Horse", and Southern Racehorse Magazine. Blogging about the sport of horse racing combines her love for horse racing and writing. In her personal horse experience, she has won several horse judging contests at major stock shows and, in the show ring, is a Texas 4-H State Champion and Appaloosa Youth World Championship Show Top Ten finalist. 

 

Mary has always aspired to have a career with horses and since her love for horse racing began, she has dreamed of pursuing a career in the Thoroughbred racing industry, possibly as a writer. With this blog, she hopes to show readers horse racing through the eyes of a young fan as she writes about assorted horse racing topics.