Over the past few years one of the biggest angles a horseplayer uses
in order to figure what horse could become a potential Derby horse, or
even a top three-year-old, is to discount any obvious two year old
stars. Is this angle legit or is it a myth? Well, after some research, I have good reason to believe that that stipulation is very misleading.
there is a valid reason to discount the two-year-old champions, the
angle to ignore every talented juvenile would seem to be unfounded. Hansen,
this year’s Juvenile Champion is often discounted because of the pure
speed he was able to dominate his competition with during 2011. That is
understandable, if he is to progress and be effective over longer
distances he needs to learn to harness that speed. However, the concerns
over Union Rags have me slightly baffled. Union Rags
is not your stereotypical juvenile. Yes, he is very talented, extremely
talented, but he was not some speed crazed colt who won only off of his
superior speed. Union Rags talent is more than just speed, it is his
build, his stride, his mind, and ability to be place anywhere in the
pack and still win. Add in his unbelievable raw ability and you have a
very serious and dangerous colt. Yet, even with this knowledge, many
fans still say that his chances of progressing onward to becoming a top
three-year old are slim.
I have some new for those doubters that
may have gone unnoticed, during the past decade there were quite a few
juveniles who demonstrated talent at age two and carried that talent
into age three. 2000-2001 saw Point Given a graded stakes winner at two, and a classic winner and champion at three. Funny Cide
won two stakes as a two year old and was an extremely impressive maiden
winner. He went on to win the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. Smarty Jones
and unbeaten and extremely impressive at two nearly took the 2004
Triple Crown , winning the Derby and Preakness while remaining unbeaten.
Must we forget Afleet Alex? Winner of the Hopeful and Sanford Stakes at two continuing on at three to win the Preakness and Belmont. Barbaro might have been a turf horse, but there was still quite the buzz about him when he was a juvenile. Street Sense a juvenile Champion won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile before winning the Derby, Jim Dandy, and Travers at three. Lookin at Lucky
nearly went unbeaten as a juvenile winning multiple graded stakes went
on to win the Rebel, Preakness, and Haskell Invitational, becoming the
2010 Champion Three-Year old.
There you have it, a plethora of
examples that disprove the notion that a talented juvenile cannot carry
that talent over into their sophomore season. The key is not the talent
level vs. age, it is the mind that a young horse possesses. War Pass is a
perfect example of a speed crazed juvenile who refused to relax and
therefore was unable to improve from age two to three. Street Sense,
Lookin at Lucky, Point Given, Afleet Alex, and Barbaro were all
extremely talented horse at two, but had great minds that allowed them
to relax and race professionally. That professionalism was what allowed
them to dominate at two and keep improving at three.
has that mind, and what makes him even more dangerous is his ability to
come from anywhere. He can run his foes into the ground or close on them
like a runaway freight train. Make no doubt, despite his drifting
issues, he is still an extremely talented and professional colt. Some
may say the drifting is him showing vulnerability going longer
distances, I say it is him simply getting bored and looking around. He
was not tired in the Juvenile or Saratoga Special, but in both instances
when he began to drift, there were no other horses close enough to grab
his attention. In the Juvenile when he got closer to Hansen and felt
the other colt he dug back in and focused. During the Champagne he was
boxed and walled in before he found a way out. He may have blown the
race open, but he had many targets before that time.
Do not let
yourselves be fooled into turning away from this colt by a stipulation.
Do not discount him before he has even begun, especially when history
proves that colts similar to him have had much success in their
three-year old campaigns. This one may already be well know, but he
still has a tremendous upside. Do not let the myth influence your
decisions. Let the facts educate you and the horses show you.