A trio of Grade 3 stakes races for juveniles is scheduled for the next two weeks. The Debutante and Bashford Manor Stakes at Churchill Downs and the Hollywood Futurity at Hollywood Park will have implications in future events leading up to the Breeders’ Cup and possibly beyond.
This Saturday, seven fillies are scheduled to run in the six furlong Debutante. The victor of this year’s edition will join a number of champion fillies who include the Debutante on their list of accomplishments. Previous winners include the champions Hollywood Wildcat, Golden Attraction, Silverbulletday and Chilukki. Last year, Rachel Alexandra finished second in the Debutante in her third start.
Trainer John Hancock has nominated two contenders; both have faced the starter more than twice. The stronger entry, Internet Cafe (Freeforinternet – Starlet Note, by Notebook) a Florida-bred, is the most accomplished member of the field. The precocious bay miss was third in her debut, but came back two weeks later to trounce a field of maidens by six lengths wire to wire. On May 31, a week after her maiden score, Internet Cafe came from off of the pace to win by a desperate nose in a five furlong allowance contest. Internet Cafe’s dam is a half sister to the good Florida stakes winning mare Nancy’s Glitter and her half brother was a stakes placed sprinter. Additionally, Internet Cafe has Rasmussen Factor inbreeding (inbred to a superior female within five generations) to Missy Baba, whose daughters have produced A.P. Indy, Tabasco Cat (sire of Freeforinternet), Raja Baba (grand sire of Notebook), Lemon Drop Kid and other graded stakes winners.
Although this will be the first attempt by the juvenile fillies to travel six furlongs, Salty Strike (Smart Strike – Lake Huron, by Salt Lake) has run the fastest five furlongs of the field. She won her debut by a brilliant 4 ¼ lengths in :57 3/5 over the Churchill dirt. Although her sire’s progeny perform better as they mature, Smart Strike does have a lifetime average of 14% juvenile winners, which is above average. Salty Strike is a half sister to a stakes winner and stakes placed runner. Her stakes placed dam is a half sister to two stakes winners and stakes placed runner. Additionally, Salty Strike’s fourth dam is the blue hen Cosmah, whose sons and daughters have shaped the modern racing world. Salty Strike’s trainer Ken McPeek has a strong 20% win rate with juveniles and the filly has come back to breeze well after her debut.
Bach Hamilton (Cherokee Run – Chilling Effect, by Gold Fever) is the most experienced filly in the field with four races under her girth. It took her four attempts to win her maiden and she was beaten by Internet Cafe in the process. Her breakthrough came when she stretched to five furlongs and dipped a hoof in the maiden claiming ranks, where she beat up on maidens winning by three lengths in: 58 1/5. Her stakes placed dam did her best work over the lawn, as did her dam’s stakes placed half sibling.
Tristanme (Bwana Charlie – Forever Full, by Full Out) makes her debut over the dirt for trainer Steve Asmussen. After two attempts in April over the Keeneland Polytrack, the bay filly journeyed to Woodbine and recorded a one length win at 4 ½ furlongs in: 52 4/5. Her subsequent work at Churchill was slightly faster than previous breezes over the Woodbine course.Second crop sire Bwana Charlie has a good lifetime average of 15% juvenile winners. Tristanme is a half sister to two stakes winners and a stakes placed runner. Her dam is a half sister to grade 3 stakes winner Alcovy and two stakes placed runners.
Three fillies enter the Debutante after winning at first asking. Just Louise (Five Star Day – Kings Lynn, by Mt. Livermore) hopped at the start of her five furlong race, but came on between horses to win by 3 ¼ lengths. This chestnut filly has speed and class top and bottom in her pedigree. Her sire gets 14% lifetime winners and her damsire is also a producer of win-early speedsters. Just Louise is a half sister to graded stakes winner Sara Louise, who placed second in the Golden Rod (G-2) and won the Pocahontas Stakes (G-3) as a juvenile. Their dam was Grade 3 placed at three and her half sister Scoop was a Grade 3 winner. Just Louise has a recent strong five furlong work, indicating that she may move forward off of her debut.
Tater Taunter (Consolidator – Special Brush, by Broad Brush) won her debut three weeks ago. After sitting behind the pace, she made her move in the stretch to win the five furlong race by 1 ¼ lengths in :58 3/5. Consolidator, a second crop sire, has only 8% lifetime juvenile winners. Tater Taunter’s half sister Jet Set Broad won one of two starts as a juvenile and was stakes placed at three. Tater Taunter’s dam Special Brush was stakes placed at age four and is a half sister to Twilight Time, who won the Cowdin (G-2) at two. Special Brush is also a half sister to one other stakes winner and a stakes placed runner. The Crupper barn is 25% with juveniles but 0% with the maiden to stakes angle.
Big Sweets (American Champ – Many Many Sweets, by Atticus) invades from Pimlico, where she overwhelmed maidens by 5 ¼ lengths in :52 flat for four furlongs. Her sire American Champ was a six furlong specialist and grandson of Halo. Big Sweets’ distaff family is modest but durable. Her dam only won once in nine tries, but four of five of that one’s siblings raced, some making upwards of 20 starts. Trainer Robertson has good success with the maiden to stakes angle, winning with 25%.
Race analysis and selections:
Speed generally rules in dirt sprints at Churchill. This week 12 races were held at the Debutante distance of six furlongs. Of those, 33% of the winners wired the field while 75% were early pace setters/pressers. As is often the case with sprinting juveniles, most of the fillies have won on or pressing the lead. Salty Strike, Big Sweets and Tristanme all wired the field last time out. The trio may vie for the early lead. Salty Strike appears to have the most speed, and while young horses breaking from the rail can have difficulties, she attracts Calvin Borel, who is quickly becoming a Churchill legend. Internet Cafe can sit just behind the leaders and has an excellent chance to extend her winning streak to three. She owns valuable experience as the race’s only two-time winner. From a pedigree perspective, Just Louise is the class of the field and hails from a high percentage barn.
Bach Hamilton - longshot
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