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2014 Kentucky Derby: Have You Seen the Winner Yet?

 

The Juvenile racing season is coming to a close. As with any other year at this time there should be much speculation regarding which of our freshman will make it to the first Saturday in May and which of our hopefuls will prove to be pretenders. 

 

However, instead of ranking our Kentucky Derby contenders let’s conclude the Juvenile season by asking if any of you are certain that you’ve seen the next winner yet. And by that I’m referring to whether or not you have actually watched him (or her) race thus far.

 

Now, that’s a pretty broad question so let’s break it down a little bit further. Where to begin. How about we start in the most obvious place; is our next Kentucky Derby winner a Juvenile that has already won a Graded Stakes?

 

The first horse that comes to everyone’s mind is Honor Code, the recent winner of the G2 Remsen Stakes. Known for skipping the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile after a strong runner up finish to Havana in the G1 Champagne, this stout young colt by A.P. Indy and Serena’s Cat proved the decision to be a wise one. His refuse to lose effort in the Remsen was nothing short of spectacular and he rightfully deserves all of the attention he has been awarded thus far.

 

But what about some of our other notable Graded Stakes winners? According to our 2014 Kentucky Derby Contenders, the top ten is loaded with Juveniles that have already tasted victory against the some of the best so far. They include Strong Mandate, Shared Belief, Albert’s Hope, No Way Never and the horse that all but beat Honor Code, Cairo Prince. Others that are outside the top ten but have already got our attention include Tapiture, Havana, Tamarando, Rise Up and Wired Bryan.

 

Since these Juveniles have already won on the main stage, then yes, if they win the Kentucky Derby, you have seen the next best thing race at this stage of the trail by now. In fact, if any of the horses that didn’t win a graded stakes but still entered become the next champion, then I guess we’ve already seen them too. It may not have been the prettiest of efforts but if they were in the program, you at least gave them a glance. Some that come to mind are Tap it Rich, Smart Cover or Yes I’m Lucky.  

 

In case anyone is wondering why I have yet to mention New Year's Day, there is a reason. And that’s because the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile has to be addressed on its own. I feel like I’ve pointed it out a million times but until it happens again; I’m not going to stop. We all know that Street Sense is the only horse to ever win both the BC Juvenile and Kentucky Derby. But, are you aware that a BC Juvenile entry has only ever won the Kentucky Derby on 5 occasions?  Orb did not enter the 2012 Juvenile so you have to go back to Mine that Bird in 2008-2009 to find the last. Prior it was Street Sense ‘06-'07, Sea Hero ‘92-'93, Alysheba '86-’87 and Spend a Buck '84-'85.

 

Therefore, we need to ask, will New Year's Day or any other 2013 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile entry win the 2014 Kentucky Derby?

 

Now let’s move into the area where some may have seen a contender while others did not. Because it lacks Graded Stakes status, you may have missed it. For example, how many of us watched the Colin Stakes at Woodbine? If not, don’t mind that you don’t know who Conquest Two Step is. I’m not sure that I do either but he is ranked inside the top 20. Or what about another Florida bred named Jessethemarine? Did anyone see him win the ungraded Whirling Ash Stakes at Delaware Park or the James F. Lewis III Stakes at Laurel? He’s not ranked in the top 50 right now but neither is Storming Inti, winner of the Awad Stakes at Belmont Park and Pulpit Stakes at Gulfstream.

 

Should they be? If so, did you see them and do you think they could win in May? Or what about the most mysterious contenders right now; the ones that have only entered in Allowance races and / or Maidens.

 

Getting the most attention in that category at HRN is Stash the Cat, 2nd place in his only attempt so far, a Maiden Claiming at Churchill Downs on September 20. Another one is Commissioner, a WinStar Farm owned colt that is trained by Todd Pletcher. In two MSW attempts he finished as the runner up before winning. Maybe it has more to do with TP and the colt’s Dam or Sire but none the less Meadowood, a horse that has not raced since breaking his maiden in his only attempt on June 23rd at Monmouth, has also been looked at as a potential contender.

 

Chances are that most of us have not seen any juveniles that have yet to enter a graded or non-graded stakes race. Sorry it took me this long to bring it up but that, in part, is pretty much my whole point.

 

How many of us saw Orb race as Juvenile? You may have heard of him but did you actually watch any of his four Maiden races in 2012. What about Animal Kingdom in 2010, did you see him race in either of his maidens?

 

To sum it up, that is what’s puzzling and also fun about the road to the Kentucky Derby. So many connections are focused on the first Saturday in May, it’s become more about preparations in the Juvenile season than anything else. What’s unique, and a talent of some trainers, is that Graded Stakes races may not matter as much as they used to, especially with the new points system. These days it seems like a juvenile can prepare very well just the same outside of stakes races as they might racing in them. If you're healthy, you're a contender. 

 

To prove that even more, let’s go back to Monarchos and Fusaichi Pegasus. Did anyone watch them not win a single MSW race in their Juvenile season, the only races they entered?

 

I love thinking that I have already seen the next winner at the end of the Juvenile season but the 3-yr-old season is where stars come out to race more often than not. This isn't to take anything away from the Juvenile season because I do think it is still very important. It's all about the way a horse is handled and prepped for a very a intense few months of racing and training in the 3-4 months leading up to May rather than what races they win or enter as a 2-yr-old. 

 

But, it's still fun to predict. So, has anyone already seen the next Kentucky Derby winner race in 2013?

 

Here’s a look at our last 20 Kentucky Derby winners and what their best win and entry was in the Juvenile season.

 

Year Horse Best Win Best Start
2013 Orb MSW MSW
2012 I'll Have Another MSW G1 Hopeful Stakes
2011 Animal Kingdom MSW MSW
2010 Super Saver G2 Kentucky Jockey Club G2 Kentucky Jockey Club
2009 Mine That Bird G3 Grey Stakes G1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile
2008 Big Brown MSW MSW
2007 Street Sense G1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile G1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile
2006 Barbaro Laurel Futurity Laurel Futurity
2005 Giacomo MSW G1 Hollywood Futurity
2004 Smarty Jones Penn Nursery Stakes Penn Nursery Stakes
2003 Funny Cide Bertram F. Bongard Stakes Bertram F. Bongard Stakes
2002 War Emblem Allowance Manila Stakes
2001 Monarchos No wins MSW
2000 Fusaichi Pegasus No wins MSW
1999 Charismatic Maiden Claiming Allowance
1998 Real Quiet G1 Hollywood Futurity G1 Hollywood Futurity
1997 Silver Charm G2 Del Mar Futurity G2 Del Mar Futurity
1996 Grindstone MSW G2 Bashford Manor Stakes
1995 Thunder Gulch G2 Remsen Stakes G1 Hollywood Futurity
1994 Go For Gin G2 Remsen Stakes G2 Remsen Stakes

 

 

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Older Comments about 2014 Kentucky Derby: Have You Seen the Winner Yet?...

Like to shores.
Since it's January 1, 132 years of history tells me yes I have. I just don't know who it is yet.
most of my Kentucky derby list is under the radar horses like wicked strong. But my pick for the derby would have to be Strong Mandate. Don't get what the buzz is about shared belief
"Flying under the radar as a Juvenile before winning the Kentucky Derby is more common than you might think" no duh
I haven't seen the winner yet but I'm thinking if Solemnly Swear gets his act together I may see him soon!vu gfe
Of the horses I've seen, I thought it was a fairly even field until Dec. 14. That's when I saw Shared Belief - now I'm a Believer!!
I have watched many Kentucky Derby winners since Northern Dancer won. The ones that won in the 60's 70's posted times that are still not equalled.If you look at the times of when Northern Dancer won, Churchill Downs was a very deep and slower track. Currently, Churchill is graded, and planed to give faster times. In 1991, based on the track equalization ratings Chrurchill was 86 and Santa Anita was 94 going a distance of route. That's 8 ticks slower than Santa Anita.Now, if you look at the track equalization ratings, Santa Anita is only 1 tick faster! Horses that do well on Santa Anita tracks now fair pretty well against eastern based horses. In the 60's and 70's the track times of under 2:00 minutes at Churchill would be, if we were to transposed this, would be well under 1:59 times today. I'm speaking of horses like, Northern Dancer and Secretariat especially. Question is: are we really breeding Kentucky Derby horses?
I think I've found my horse in Shared Belief....but need to see if he races as well on dirt, as he does on synthetic. There is a nice crop of 2-year-olds out there this year.
I usually find my horse when they start running 1-1/16 under 1:44 and by the time Ashland Stk come around I'll have my TOP 4
I think i am impressed by more 2 year olds than I was last year. For sure
I find it difficult to draw any hard and fast conclusions, but it does seem to be the trend that the Derby winner is one that was overlooked or completely unheard of as a juvenile. I believe many of the stakes winners we have already seen will go on to be sprinters/milers. It seems that our Classic winners as of late have been slower to develop. Will Take Charge is one that pops immediately to mind.
Mallios. Just because a colt could win the triple crown doesn't mean the year would automatically be boring. What if one won the crown then another won the Haskell travers JCGC and breeders cup? Hey you never know what could happen! Look at will take charge! :)
Maybe it is me,the only way i want to see a Triple Crown Winner is if a friend owns or trains him. Other than that,i think it is so much better for the game when there isn't a dominant horse. This years 3YO campaign was exciting and extremely competitive. It makes it more exciting from never knowing who will win,to having better odds on horses to bet.
The last few years are showing a disturbing trend in my opinion as I believe a good two year old foundation is essential if we ever hope to see another triple crown winner. I am not sold on any that I have seen so far....but even if I were would it matter? I was as positive as you could be by the end of Lookin At Lucky's two year old year that he would win the Derby and maybe even the triple crown. Look what happened there....! LOL
I also think this horse wants distance. Just a little more track and he would have had Havana and would now be undefeated. That and also if he didn't have to go 8 or 9 wide on the turn!
Also Him being a son of AP Indy, who was a late developer, this colt looks to only get better and better. Not regress as most juveniles do
Great article. Normally this is exactly my thinking as well. Most juveniles either never make it to the big dance or many of the quality ones do but get an awful trip or an off track and it just isn't their day. I truly believe the Derby is the hardest race in the world to win. Navigating through 20 horses as a three year old at a distance they have never run before- it is difficult. That is why I have a feeling deep in my gut that 2014 will be different. And it's all because of this fabulous colt Honor Code. He has so much going for him that I truly think everything will like up for him on the first Saturday in May. A great trainer who will take his time and not push the colt into situations he isn't ready for. The colt has already handled a sloppy track and navigated through traffic like a race car driver. He has already handled a two turn longer distance race while skipping the juvenile. He has been tested and proven his worth by fighting back for the win and showing his true heart. This horse could possibly be the one to do it all that we have been waiting so long for. And I feel blessed to be able to watch it all unfold, and proud that I have supported him from the very start when so was flipping through channels, landed on tvg and saw his beauty pulling away in the slop that got my so excited for a horse since Barbaro. Go Honor Code!
10 of the last 20 Derby winners ran in a Grade 1 or 2 race at 2 as shown above. I think this is a year where the Derby winner will have run in a major juvenile race. A number of the top 2 year olds seem to have better breeding and racing style for the classic distance, Honor Code and New Years Day for example, than in the past. Including the Hollywood Futurity, the top 2 year old races this year have several horses that could continue to improve and be better next year.
Great minds think alike - I was just thinking about how the Derby winner is probably just a maiden winner right now!
Brian, i think that now it confirms that there are really 2 Seasons for young horses. the 2yr old and 3 yo. In the past,one supported the other. Now they rush them to get them to the Cup. They basically empty the tank and wind up hurting them one way or the other.

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