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Kentucky Derby Daily

Kentucky Derby 2019 Daily: Starlight back on the big stage

Welcome to Horse Racing Nation’s Kentucky Derby Daily, which will each day leading up to the May 4 race at Churchill Downs detail all the news and notes related to contenders in one convenient space.


For nearly two decades the Starlight Racing partnership has sought to compete at the highest level. And about a year ago, a new way to that goal materialized.


Jack Wolf, CEO and managing partner, cited the risk taken in 2018 by buying out SF Racing’s share in a pair of horses that at the time hadn’t yet qualified for the Kentucky Derby.


Then Justify won on the first Saturday in May. Audible, third in the Derby, continues to campaign, targeting the March 30 Dubai World Cup (G1) next.


It doesn’t get any bigger.


“At least from our standpoint, we want to be participating in these Grade 1s,” Wolf said. “We’ve luckily been involved in a lot of them over the years. That’s what it’s all about for us.”
 

 

Starlight’s chance to return for the 2019 Kentucky Derby could receive a major boost pending Improbable’s finish in Saturday’s Rebel Stakes (G2).


A year after taking part in a Triple Crown run, the group made another sage decision to get involved early with the son of City Zip. After opening his career 2-for-2, Improbable became a Grade 1 winner of the Los Alamitos Futurity in his first start with Starlight on board.


Improbable is, as with Justify and Audible, also campaigned by WinStar Farm and China Horse Club. Starlight’s way in is by purchasing the racing — not breeding — share owned by SF Racing.


“We have a continued relationship with them, and it just so happens the three horses so far all look like they can run,” Wolf said. “Well, I guess that’s sort of an understatement.


“We don’t have a lot of turnover with the partners. I pretty much have an understanding of what they want to do — how much risk and capital they want to extend.”

Starlight’s involvement with SF Racing/Bloodstock has increased to the point that Wolf refers to the group — named after the philanthropist George Soros’ investment fund — as a “business partner.” The two share ownership in 24 yearlings purchased in 2018.



Starlight also continues to campaign horses running in its own silks, among them the 3-year-old Sombeyay, the Grade 3 winner who’s resting up to return later this year, and Cutting Humor, who’s targeting the Sunland Derby (G3).


Cutting Humor ran into a particularly rough trip last out as the Southwest Stakes (G3) favorite at Oaklawn Park. To get a second horse in the Kentucky Derby field seems like a longshot for Starlight.


“I don’t think we’re fooling ourselves about his Derby prospects,” Wolf said. “I think the Sunland Derby is a very nice-sized purse with horses we can compete with. God forbid we win the thing, call me and I’ll probably have changed my mind.”

Screener says...

Before moving completely on to the Rebel, some thoughts on last Saturday's trio of preps from Mike Shutty, author of Horse Racing Nation's Super Screener handicapping system...

On the Gotham Stakes: "
The Super Screener analysis indicated that Instagrand was beatable off the long layoff and ended up making him a 'B' horse. Ironically, even though he finished third, I believe he ran the best race here considering how close he ran to that correctly anticipated white-hot pace and yet, despite being away since August and having not have routed before, that was a very impressive effort and something to build off."


On the Tampa Bay Derby: "
The winner, Tacitus, displayed mixed signals coming into this race off a great debut last year but with no racing since November. Combined with unimpressive works, we kept him at the 'C' horse level to use under, as the route experience in this case and the balanced way he lays out energy offered positive signals to counter some of the negative. He fired, taking advantage of another race featuring a hot pace."


On the Jeff Ruby Steaks: "This race came up as one that looked like easy pickings for Somelikeithotbrown, and that is exactly what happened. He shook off Five Star General after briefly dueling with that foe and then drew away at will. Dynamic Racer was definitely have-able, though no matter how many times they would run this race, we would have never come up with Moonster hitting the trifecta. Not any Kentucky Derby implications coming out of this race."


Derby links


 The big news of the day: Saturday’s Rebel Stakes will indeed split into separate divisions, with Game Winner and Improbable leading the flights.


 The Rebel represents a tipping point on the Derby trail, says The Pressbox’s Gene McLean, whose Top 20 rankings could be in line for a big shift after Saturday.


 On a different note, what to make of Instagrand after his defeat in the Gotham Stakes — or any horse that loses his first race of the season?


In case you missed it…


Tuesday’s Derby Daily report reported on the next race spots for Juddmonte Farms 3-year-olds Hidden Scroll and Tacitus, who will stay separated heading into the first Saturday in May.

 

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Horse Racing Nation's Kentucky Derby daily blog counts down to the May 4, 2019, race at Churchill Downs with a once-a-day update on all things Derby. Get the latest news and chatter, workout reports and a look at fields for upcoming preps all in once place.



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