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Past the Grandstand

2014 Kentucky Derby Hopeful: Commissioner

Commissioner Allw 615 X 400
Photo: Eclipse Sportswire


Four years ago, the white and green silks of WinStar Farm – stained by mud – were carried to Kentucky Derby (gr. I) glory by Super Saver and Calvin Borel. One of the most renowned farms in the horse racing industry, WinStar Farm has experienced much success in some of the most important races in the world, including not only the Derby, but also the Dubai World Cup (UAE-I), Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I), and Belmont Stakes (gr. I). But surely few victories would taste sweeter than an additional win in the Run for the Roses.

In WinStar’s possession is a talented colt that could grant them that triumph: Commissioner. In just three starts, none of which were at the stakes level, Commissioner has left his mark on the Derby trail. While the well-bred colt still has much left to prove, he is certainly on the right track to Louisville.

Racing Performances

Debuting at Monmouth Park in August 2013, Commissioner broke slowly, establishing ample distance between himself and his competitors as he trailed the field. A quarter-mile into the one-mile race, the bay colt was already more than eight lengths behind the leader. A quarter-mile later, he was nearly ten lengths behind. However, as the horses entered the far turn, Commissioner began to accelerate, closing the gap between him and his adversaries. Taking the outside route, the son of A.P. Indy made up a significant amount of ground to get up for second as the winner drew off to an 8 ½-length victory.

Shipped to Saratoga for his second start, Commissioner changed his tactics and showed more early speed than he had in his debut. In what has become a rarity for two-year-old maiden races, the colt was competing at nine furlongs – just one furlong shorter than the Derby distance. Although he did not press the pace, the colt raced fourth of sixth in the early stages of the race, keeping about four lengths between him and the leader throughout.  Nearing the far turn, Commissioner began to inch closer to the pacesetters along the rail but remained boxed in around the bend. Forced to go wide, the colt began to wear down the second choice – Souper Lucky – in a remarkable display of determination. In the very final stages of the races, Souper Lucky began to resurge, but Commissioner repelled this rival’s rally, crossing the wire a head in front. Those two finished an astounding 22 ½ lengths clear of the third-place finisher.

Commissioner was kept away from the races for four months, returning as a newly-turned three-year-old on January 3 at Gulfstream Park. Facing winners for the first time, Commissioner took on six competitors, including a colt that has become one of the most highly regarded horses on the Derby trail in Top Billing. Exhibiting much more speed than he had in his previous races, Commissioner immediately joined the leaders as the field raced into the clubhouse turn of the nine-furlong allowance optional claiming contest, leading the field in the initial furlong. However, he allowed two rivals to pass him as he settled into third along the rail shortly after entering the backstretch. Racing only about two lengths off the leader down the backstretch as a slow pace was set, Commissioner allowed the leader to lengthen the distance between them as the field entered the far turn. However, he then began to pick up the pace as Jose Lezcano guided him to the outside to maneuver around the frontrunners.

Entering the homestretch, Commissioner continued to steer around the leaders but in doing so, he made contact with Top Billing. Despite this, those two began to draw clear of the others, racing neck and neck in the final sixteenth of a mile. But Commissioner dug in, finding more as he edged away to win by a neck. However, it must be pointed out that he was carrying four pounds less than Top Billing.

Pedigree Analysis

Commissioner is a member of the final crop of legendary racehorse and sire A.P. Indy. One of the most successful sires in recent history, A.P. Indy has sired the winners of some of the most important races in North America, including the Belmont Stakes (gr. I, 12F), Travers Stakes (gr. I, 10F), Kentucky Oaks (gr. I, 9F), and Queen’s Plate (10F). However, the Kentucky Derby has eluded his offspring and this year is the last possible year one of his foals can wear the garland of red roses.

A.P. Indy’s lack of Derby winners is certainly not due to an inability to pass on stamina to his progeny. A winner of the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I, 10F) and Belmont Stakes, stamina was clearly not an issue for A.P. Indy. And it certainly is not an issue for his offspring, either. An abundance of A.P. Indy sons and daughters have found immense success at distances of ten furlongs or longer, including 2003 Horse of the Year Mineshaft, who won a pair of grade ones at a mile and one-quarter; 2006 Champion Three-Year-Old Male Bernardini, who also captured two grade ones at ten-furlongs; 2007 Champion Three-Year-Old Filly Rags to Riches, who outdueled two-time Horse of the Year Curlin to win the mile and one-half Belmont Stakes; Music Note, who won the ten-furlong Coaching Club American Oaks (gr. I) by eleven lengths; Tomisue’s Delight, who won the Personal Ensign Handicap (gr. I) at ten furlongs; and Eye of the Leopard, who conquered the first leg of Canada’s Triple Crown, the Queen’s Plate, at ten furlongs.

Commissioner’s dam, Flaming Heart, was a two-time stakes winner who won up to a mile and one-sixteenth. Her most successful foal to date is Laugh Track, a graded stakes winner who finished second in the 2013 Breeders’ Cup Sprint (gr. I). While this may indicate that Commissioner’s dam side is primarily speed-influenced, don’t be fooled. Flaming Heart is a daughter of Belmont Stakes winner Touch Gold, who has quickly found success as a broodmare sire, producing the dams of ten graded stakes winners, including the multiple grade one winner Emollient, who has won up to ten furlongs.

Commissioner is inbred 4 X 4 to Buckpasser, a Hall of Famer and major stamina influence. Inbreeding to this all-time great, particularly in A.P. Indy offspring, has been very successful, as more than twenty A.P. Indy foals inbred to Buckpasser have won at the stakes level.  Inbreeding to Buckpasser is found in the pedigrees of many horses that have found success at classic distances, including Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver.

While Commissioner has not yet competed in a stakes race, he has one thing going for him that many Derby prospects do not: he has a stamina-based pedigree that has shone through in his performances on the track. Obviously, he needs to step up his game and prove himself at a higher level, but Commissioner could be destined for big success. 


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Older Comments about 2014 Kentucky Derby Hopeful: Commissioner...

nice..thanks for the info EP Taylor
Jinlie- He should be in the FOY.
any thoughts on his next race? FOY? Gotham?
I can't wait to see him run.
I hope this one stays sound.
Definitely in my Top 10 Derby Prospects...looking forward to his first stakes debut.

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About Mary Cage


Mary with champion Classic Empire

Mary Cage, a 21-year-old avid fan of horse racing, has been around horses all her life, having owned, shown, and judged them for as long as she can remember. She began writing her own horse racing blog, Past the Grandstand, in August 2011 and has since been published in America's Horse, American Racehorse and the Appaloosa Journal, as well as with the websites of The Blood-Horse and The Equine Chronicle. She has also had photos published with Paulick Report and Thoroughbred Daily News. In addition, she works as one of the social media coordinators for the Texas Thoroughbred Association and has interned at WinStar Farm with a marketing focus - with projects involving photography, videography, giving tours, data entry, etc. 

In her personal horse experience, Mary has been around horses all her life and has won several Appaloosa National Champion and Reserve World Champion titles in the show ring. She has also worked as a hotwalker and groom.

Mary has always aspired to have a career with horses and since her love for horse racing began, she has dreamed of pursuing a career in the Thoroughbred racing industry, possibly as a writer/photographer and marketing/communications specialist. She is currently attending the University of North Texas, where she is a journalism major with a concentration in advertising and a minor in marketing. With this blog, she hopes to show readers horse racing through the eyes of a young fan and transport you to some of racing's biggest events through her photos and words.

University of Louisville College of Business Equine Program

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