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HRN Original Blog:
View From The Bluegrass

Road to the Kentucky Derby – 10 to Watch (No. 2)

We’re only eight weeks away from this year’s Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on Saturday, May 5, 2012 and most of the top three-year old Thoroughbreds have now taken to the track at least once this year.
As a result, the field is slowly beginning to take shape.
There are a few changes in this week’s “Road to the Derby: 10 to Watch” as a result of this past week’s races.
Dropping out of the list is Sabercat, a horse I thought had a lot of potential, but finished a very disappointing eighth in the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn.
New to the list is Secret Circle, who looked very impressive in winning the Rebel, which now gives trainer Bob Baffert two horses on this list.
In addition, Gemologist gets an honorable mention on this list with his win in an allowance race at Gulfstream last week. We’ll have to wait and see how he does in a stakes race before we move him up or down from there.
So, as mentioned last week… Keeping in mind I'm not an expert like one of my favorite writers, Steve Haskin of BloodHorse, let's continue to have some fun for the next few weeks and take a look at 10 horses to keep a watch on lading up to the Run for the Roses.
Road to the Derby: 10 to watch
Pedigree: by Dixie Union-Tempo, by Gone West
Trainer: Michael Matz (Barbaro 2006)
Jockey: Julien Leparoux for FOY; was Javier Castellano
Owner: Phyllis Wyeth – Chads Ford Stable (she is also the breeder)
Career Record: 5 Starts, 4 wins, 1 second, 0 thirds, $1,098,800
Best stakes finishes:
At 2: Won Champagne Stakes (G1, Belmont), Saratoga Special Stakes (G2, Saratoga); 2nd Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1,Churchill Downs).
At 3: Won the Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2, Gulfstream Park).
With his solid victory in the Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) at Gulfstream Park recently, the Dixie Union colt continues to hold the top spot on the list for now.
In addition, with that win, he now has enough graded-stakes earnings to wait until the Derby for his next race – if he wanted. However, his connections are thinking of giving him one more prep race, possibly the Florida Derby on March 31 at Gulfstream, where he might face El Padrino, who holds down the No. 4 position on this list.
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: Won Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1, Churchill), Kentucky Cup Juvenile Stakes (Turfway Park)
At 3: Won Gotham Stakes (G3, Aqueduct); 2nd Holy Bull Stakes (G3, Gulfstream Park).
Hansen scored a solid win in the Gotham Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct on March 3, which gave him enough graded-stakes earnings to give him a starting spot in the Derby.
However, like Union Rags connections, Hanson’s connections are, at least for the moment, planning one more prep race for their horse, which will most probably be the Wood Memorial on April 7 at Aqueduct.
Win or lose in that race, Hansen, who is a stunningly beautiful white (i.e. gray or roan) colt, will be a horse to watch, not just on the Triple Crown Trail, but throughout his entire career.
Pedigree: Giants Causeway-Dream of Summer, by Siberian Summer
Trainer: Mike Harrington
Jockey: Joel Rosario
Owner: Heinz Steinmann
Career Record: 6 Starts: 3 wins, 1 second, 2 thirds, $539,000
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)
Creative Cause is another solid thoroughbred who just seems to keep on improving. His recent win in the San Felipe Stakes (G2) was impressive. He also beat Bodemeister, who is No. 8 on this list, in that race.
His connections have him pointed to the Santa Anita Derby (G1) on April 7, which will go a long way in determining how good he really is and if he will be a threat come Derby time.
Pedigree: by Pulpit-Enchanted Rock, by Giants Causeway
Name Translation: According to PedigreeQuery.com, his name translates to "The Godfather."
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey: Javier Castellano (was the rider of Union Rags)
Owner: Let's Go Stable
Career Record: 5 starts, 3 wins, 1 second, 1 third, $266,100
Best stakes finishes:
At 2: 3rd Remsen Stakes (G2, Aqueduct)
At 3: Won Risen Star Stakes (G2, Fair Grounds)
El Padrino won the Risen Star Stakes (G2) at Fair Grounds on February 25 last time out, which put him into the No. 4 spot on this list. In that race, he beat out another top Derby contender, Mark Valeski, who is No. 7 on this list.
His connections have talked about two possible upcoming races in preparation for the Derby. One being the Louisiana Derby (G1) on April 1, the other being the Florida Derby on March 31 at Gulfstream. In the Louisiana Derby, he might face Mark Valeski, while in the Florida Derby, he might face Union Rags. Either way, a tough rode ahead for El Padrino.
Pedigree: Bernardini-Munnaya, by Nijinsky (Can)
Trainer: Kiaran McLaughlin
Jockey: Ramon Dominguez
Owner: Godolphin Racing LLC
Career Record: 5 Starts: 3 wins, 1 second, 0 thirds, $300,000
Best stakes finishes:
At 2: 2nd Champagne Stakes (G1, Belmont)
At 3: Won Withers Stakes (G3, Aqueduct), County Fleet Stakes (Aqueduct)
As mentioned last week, Alpha is another possible contender for this year’s Kentucky Derby. While he hasn’t faced any truly stiff competition this year, he has won a pair of stakes races at Aqueduct in the Wither Stakes (G3) on February 4 and the County Fleet Stakes on January 7, and has been working out well at Palm Meadows Training Center in Florida.
In his one meeting with a strong contender, Hansen, in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, Alpha finished out of the money. But, that was last year.
Two possible future races for Alpha could be the Wood Memorial, where he might face Hansen once again, or the Florida Derby, where he might end up meeting Union Rags and El Padrino, two other very tough three-year olds. Either way, a tough road to the Derby for the Bernardini-sired colt.
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)
With his win in the recent Tampa Bay Derby, Prospective, who already had two stakes wins in the Pasco Stakes and the Grey Stakes last year at Woodbine, has put himself squarely in the talk with the other horses on the Kentucky Derby Trail.
No doubt, the Malibu Moon colt is continuing to improve. A possible meeting with Hansen in the Wood Memorial in April at Aqueduct would be a big test.
Pedigree: Proud Citizen- Pocho's Dream Girl, by
Trainer: Larry Jones
Jockey: Rosie Napravnik (rode him in Risen Star)
Owner: Brereton Jones
Career Record: 4 Starts: 2 wins, 1 second, 0 thirds, $110,952
Best stakes finishes:
At 2: DNR
At 3: 2nd Risen Star Stakes (G2, Fair Grounds).
A strong second-place finish to El Padrino in the in the Risen Star Stakes (G2) in February, with new jockey Rose Napravnik riding, puts this colt on the list.
Yes, there are other strong contenders out there. However, the fact that he is associated with two class acts who really know what they are doing – he is owned and bred by Brereton Jones and trained by Larry Jones – and that he has some Old Friends’ karma in that his broodmare sire is Old Friends Retirement Farm’s retiree Fortunate Prospect, makes Mark Veleski a horse to watch this year.
Pedigree: Empire Maker-Untouched Talent, by Storm Cat
Trainer: Bob Baffert
Jockey: Rafael Bejarano
Owner: Zayat Stables
Career Record: 3 Starts, 1 win, 2 seconds, 0 thirds, $104,800
Best stakes finishes:
At 2: No races
At 3: 2nd San Felipe Stakes (G2, Santa Anita)
With his second-place finish to Creative Cause by three-quarters of a length in the recent San Felipe Stakes shows just how much potential this Bob Baffert-trained three-year old holds.
In that race, which was only the third in his entire career (he never raced as a two-year old), he led all the way, only to give up the lead in mid-stretch. Bodemeister just might be the horse to take Baffert to Churchill.
There is a possible rematch with Creative Cause looming in the Santa Anita Derby (G1) on April 7.
Pedigree: Eddington-Ragtime Hope, by Dixieland Band
Trainer: Bob Baffert
Jockey: Rafael Bejarano
Owner: Karl Watson, Michael E. Pegram & Paul Weitman
Career Record: 6 Starts, 5 win, 1 seconds, 0 thirds, $818,990
Best stakes finishes:
At 2: Breeders' Cup Juvenile Sprint (Churchill), Jack Goodman Stakes (Santa Anita)
At 3: Rebel Stakes (G2, Oaklawn Park), Southwest Stakes (G3, Oaklawn Park, Div. 2); 2nd Sham Stakes (G3, Santa Anita)
Here's another three-year old for trainer Bob Baffert, as Secret Circle scored a big graded-stakes victory in the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn this past Saturday. This goes along with his other graded-stakes victory in 2012, the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn, where he won the second division.
With the win in the Rebel, Secret Circle should have enough graded-stakes earnings to qualify for the 20-horse Kentucky Derby field now. The question now is – just how good is this horse? Time will tell.
Pedigree: Flower Alley-Arch's Gal Edith, by Arch
Trainer: Doug O'Neil
Jockey: Mario Gutierrez
Owner: J. Paul Reddam
Career Record: 4 starts, 2 wins, 1 second, 0 thirds, $184,000
Best stakes finishes:
At 2: 2nd Best Pal Stakes (G2, Delmar)
At 3: Robert B. Lewis S. (G2, Santa Anita)
His win in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (G2) put I’ll Have Another’s on this list. He continues to have strong workouts as well. Still, this three-year old Flower Alley colt has some more to prove before he gets some serious consideration.
He is also being pointed to the April 7 Santa Anita Derby, which could go a long way in showing how good, or how not-so-good, he is.
Honorable Mention:
Pedigree: Tiznow-Crystal Shard, by Mr. Prospector
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey: Javier Castellano
Owner: WinStar Farm
Career Record: 3 Starts: 3 wins, 0 seconds, 0 thirds, $127,400
Best stakes finishes:
At 2: Jockey Club Stakes (G2, Churchill)
At 3: Allowance (Gulfstream)
This horse is undefeated for trainer Todd Pletcher and holds a lot of potential. He got his first start of the season last Friday, winning an allowance race at Gulfstream Park in a strong wire-to-wire performance. In that race, he defeated grade one Hopeful Stakes winner, Currency Swap.
Along with his win in the Jockey Club Stakes (G2) last year at Churchill, makes this horse one to keep an eye on.
No word yet on what his next Derby prep race might be this season.
Off the list:
Pedigree: Bluegrass Cat-Miner's Blessing, by Forty Niner
Trainer: Steve Asmussen
Jockey: Corey Nakatani
Owner: Winchell Thoroughbreds
Career Record: 6 Starts: 3wins, 0 seconds, 1 third,$681,420
Best stakes finishes:
At 2: Won Delta Downs Jackpot Stakes (G3, Delta Downs), Garden State Stakes (Monmouth)
At 3: 8th in Rebel Stakes (G2)
This horse was kind of a mystery horse, for me at least, in that he hadn't raced yet this year. Well, he ran in the Rebel Stakes this past weekend and finished seventh. Not a great start to the 2012 season, and it bumped him from the list – for now.
There are still a number of Derby preps that he can run in this year, so there's still a chance for him to come back. But, his chances have gotten a lot slimmer after the Rebel.
Who are your favorites? Are they on this list? Leave a comment. Thanks.


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Older Comments about Road to the Kentucky Derby – 10 to Watch (No. 2)...

I LOVE Gemologist!!!!! He Should win the Wood Memorial next saturday,or come in 2nd to Alpha or that Tiger horse who ran 4th in the Gotham! Bet Gemologist across the board in the Kentucky Derby and wait to cash at the window!!! C Ya!!!
SABER needs nice run in Ark.Doesnt need to win though,Blasi said before Rebal he would not have him ready to run huge.real Saber shows up in Ark.
Where is Alpha running today and whos riding him in the Derby,They should bring in Frankie to ride in the Derby so if he wins we get the flying dismount ,plus is he not the go to boy for Godolphin blue..
If you do not have Creative Cause-Hansen-and Alpha inyour trifectas-you will lose betting on Union Rags
Creative cause
Can't Hansen prep at Churchill? He's already won at Churchill, so isn't Keeneland just a detour to broaden his base?
COlts need to prep on the same surface on the way to the big dance. Animal Kingdom was a simple exception, and I doubt, the rule
Hnasen NOW going to Keeneland? BIG MISTAKE BIG
Watch out for a new name to leap into the picture....Street Life.
El Padrino all the way!! :)
  • Nytodiz · My Top Fives : Algoritms, Hansen, Unions Rags, Secret Circle, Creative Cause. ( That is by now ) Waiting for the next Top Ten List. · 2034 days ago
Uh.... News Pending is where???
Yup using that wonderful logic Quiet Little Table si better than Forego, Dark Star whips Native Dancer and so on
I like the list, Prospective is a little high. Bod and M.V. are a little high due to not racing at 2, they may end up being great horses but it tough to buck that curse. Maybe put Secret Circle a little higher. I would keep an eye on My Adonis and Optimizer as well
Upset should be infront of Man O' War, he did beat him.
Hansen should be fiirst, only because he beat Union Rags.
I like the progress of Secret Circle.
I liked Optimizer's run in the Rebel and as impressed as I was with Secret Circle, I still have Derby distance conerns.
I loved Gemologist's win...so efforless. I also really liked Optimizer's rally in the Rebel...that looked really promising. Union Rags is still tops.
Hansen showed true grit, beating UR, I don't believe he's lost any of that grit.
Gemologist............undefeated Triple Crown winner 2012

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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)

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