2015 Kentucky Derby Dozen - Stakes Performers

January 01, 2015 06:49am
leave the light on Remsen 615 X 400
Photo: NYRA/Joe Labozzetta
In my article “How to Find a Kentucky Derby Winner,” I noted that five Kentucky Derby winners, since 2000, won or placed in a graded stakes race as two-year-olds. In a three-part series, I’ll review colts who have hit the board in graded stakes, allowance/listed stakes, and maiden races, with an eye towards next year’s Triple Crown path. 
Experience tells us that many of today’s top two year olds may become yesterday’s has-beens by the time the first Saturday in May rolls around. However, some of the juveniles do progress as three year olds.  Let’s review the colts with the greatest promise to handle longer distances on the trail to the 2015 Kentucky Derby
Several two-year-olds in the spotlight after tenuous victories and slim-margin defeats include: Leave the Light On, Frosted, El Kabeir, Imperia, Eagle, Dortmund, Firing Line, and of course, Mr. Z, the perennial bridesmaid.
Blofeld coltBLOFELD (Quality Road - Storm Minstrel, by Storm Cat)
Race record:  3-3-0-0 ($319,800)
Trainer:  Todd Pletcher
Owner:   Glencrest Farm LLC and JSM Equine
Breeder: Keats Grove Farm
Auction:  2014 FTFMAR $225,000
Outlook:  It’s hard to argue with perfection.  Blofeld has done everything asked of him with ease, including two victories over eventual Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes winner El Kabeir.  But other than that rival, this lightly raced colt hasn’t beaten much, nor has he raced beyond a mile.  Blofeld’s pedigree is suspect for 1 ¼ miles. Quality Road set track records at 1 1/8 miles, but failed to win in three starts at 1 ¼ miles. So far, the first crop sire’s offspring haven’t won beyond a mile.  Storm Cat is the damsire of four stakes winners over dirt at 1 ¼ miles. Remarkably, all of them except an Argentinian stakes winner carries Seattle Slew in their sire line. Blofeld descends from an excellent distaff line.  His dam and second dam are multiple stakes winning sprinter/milers. His third dam Minstrella was an Irish Champion Juvenile Filly. Pletcher hasn’t had tremendous success with Kentucky Derby horses, and Blofeld may not have the foundation to be a force in next year’s longer races, but we’ll keep him on the list for now. Blofeld hasn’t recorded a breeze in over a month.
Carpe Diem coltCARPE DIEM (Giant's Causeway - Rebridled Dreams, by Unbridled's Song)
Race record:  3-2-1-0 ($709,800)
Trainer:  Todd Pletcher
Owner:   WinStar Farm and Stonestreet Stables
Breeder: Coffee Pot Stable
Auction:  2014 OBSMAR $1,600,000
Outlook:  Carpe Diem followed his maiden win with a spectacular 6 ½ length score in the Claiborne Breeders' Futurity (G-1) over Mr. Z.  He is the second of his dam’s sons to win Keeneland’s Grade 1 race for juvenile colts.  This pricey baby is a half brother to Dixiana Breeders' Futurity (G-1) hero J. B.'s thunder (by Thunder Gulch) and the English multiple stakes winner Doncaster Rover (by War Chant). Carpe Diem’s dam is a stakes placed sprinter and his second dam won two stakes as a juvenile.  Carpe Diem has the pedigree to handle classic distances, however, he was all out to beat Upstart by a nose to grab the place spot in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.  Like Blofeld, Carpe Diem is lightly raced and trained by Todd Pletcher.  Carpe Diem hasn’t recorded a work in two months.
Eagle coltEAGLE (Candy Ride (ARG) - Sea Gull, by Mineshaft)
Race record:  4-2-1-1 ($81,602)
Trainer:  Neil Howard
Owner:   W. S. Farish
Breeder: W. S. Farish
Auction:  None
Outlook: The still developing Eagle has been brought along slowly by his conservative trainer. After winning his debut, Eagle gained experience in a couple of allowance starts before taking on graded stakes company in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes.  He had to steady a bit around the turn, but Eagle was right there at the finish, with only two heads separating him from El Kabeir and Imperia. Eagle’s dam is a half sister to the middle distance stakes veteran Private Ryan. One of her  half sisters bore the Japan Mile winner Magnifica.  Neil Howard conditioned Eagle’s damsire, HOY Mineshaft. Eagle breeze a bullet 5F :59.80 at the Fairgrounds on December 29.
Firing Line coltFIRING LINE (Line of David - Sister Girl Blues, by Hold for Gold)
Race record:  3-1-2-0 ($144,800)
Trainer:  Simon Callaghan
Owner:   Arnold Zetcher
Breeder: Clearsky Farms
Auction: 2014 KEEAPR $240,000
Outlook:  Firing Line is a veteran of the sales ring.  He sold for $65,000 as a weanling, was a $150,000 yearling and brought $240,000 at the Keeneland Two Year Old in Training Sale.  A 4 ½ length last out maiden winner, this son of Arkansas Derby hero and Freshman Sire Line of David gave the experienced Mr. Z all he could handle on the front end in the Los Alamitos Futurity. Firing Line nosed out that rival for second place in a three-way photo finish.   Firing Line has the pedigree to improve with time and distance.  His dam battled the Champion Mare Azeri for 1 1/8 miles in the Vanity Stakes (G-1) before being outclassed by only two lengths. Sister Girl Blues is a half sister to Dwyer Stakes winner Mint Lane.  Firing Line has inbreeding to the blue hen Gold Digger through her son Mr. Prospector, the damsire of Hold for Gold, and Gold Digger is Line of David’s fourth dam.  Firing Line worked a bullet 5F :58.80 (1/65)  on December 11.
Frosted coltFROSTED  (Tapit - Fast Cookie, by Deputy Minister)
Race record:  4-1-3-0 ($150,600)
Trainer:  Kiaran McLaughlin
Owner:  Godolphin Racing
Breeder: Darley
Auction: None
Outlook:  The pretty gray colt was three to four wide the entire way in the 1 1/8 mile Remsen Stakes and just missed the front running Leave the Light On by a ½ length. Frosted’s dam Fast Cookie is a multiple stakes winner, her greatest accomplishments include the Cotillion Handicap (G-2) at 1 1/16 miles.  Fast Cookie is a half sister to Champion Juvenile and well-regarded freshman sire Midshipman. Frosted’s second dam Fleet Lady is a multiple graded stakes winner up to 1 1/8 miles. Frosted showed his heart in the Remsen and according to Trakus, ran 61 feet farther than Leave the Light On.  Frosted breezed December 24, recording four furlongs :49.95 (24/45) at Palm Meadows.  
Imperia coltIMPERIA (Medaglia d'Oro - Cocoa Beach (CHI), by Doneraile Court)
Race record:  4-1-2-0 ($183,404)
Trainer:  Kiaran McLaughlin
Owner:   Godolphin Racing
Breeder: Darley
Auction:  None
Outlook: In his first start over the dirt, the well-bred son of Medaglia d'Oro fought the more experienced El Kabeir to a head, losing the photo on the wire. His sire wasn’t a true classic horse.  Yes, he won the Travers Stakes at 1 ¼ miles, but he did it against a weak field on a sloppy track. Overall, Medaglia d'Oro’s record was 1-6  in six starts at 1 ¼ miles or further. So far, he’s sired one dirt stakes winner at 1 ¼ - Micromanage.  Imperia’s dam Coco Beach won over all surfaces, including a victory in the 1 1/8 mile Beldame (G-1) and was second behind Zenyatta in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff.  Imperia has a borderline pedigree for classic distances, however, his running style and class could trump his pedigree.  He should also improve with experience and maturity.  Imperia hasn’t breezed since his last race and he is currently at Palm Meadow’s in Florida.
Keen Ice coltKEEN ICE(Curlin - Medomak, by Awesome Again)
Race record:  4-1-0-1 ($78,875)
Trainer:  Dale L. Romans
Owner:   Donegal Racing
Breeder: Glencrest Farm
Auction: 2013 KEESEP $120,000
Outlook: Keen Ice has this bad race/good race cycle going.  He sandwiched a maiden win and a third place finish in the Remsen Stakes in between off the board placing’s in his debut and in the Claiborne Breeders' Futurity.  Yes, he was a distant eight lengths behind the top two in the Remsen, but besides Frosted, he was the only other horse in the race to make up ground over a speed favoring track.  He also got his last quarter in 25:28, which was the best final quarter in the Remsen.  In the last two years, horses that finished second and third in the Remsen rounded out the Kentucky Derby Superfecta. Keen Ice is by a Breeders’ Cup Classic hero out of a mare by a Breeders’ Cup Classic winner, so 1 ¼ miles should certainly be within his scope. As for quality, Keen Ice’s dam is a half sister to the G-3 winning miler Coal Play. This is the distaff family of Grade 1 winners Serra Lake, Somali Lemonade, Verrazano, plus multiple graded winners Hungry Island and Al Khali. Keen Ice has every right to improve as a three year old and could be one of those over-looked types that eventually skates by with a huge win. Keen Ice’s last work was before the Remsen Stakes.
Leave the light on coltLEAVE THE LIGHT ON  (Horse Greeley - Lantern Glow, by Mineshaft)
Race record:  3-2-0-0 ($285,375)
Trainer:  Chad Brown
Owner: Klaravich Stables, Inc. and William Lawrence
Breeder: All Gold Racing
Auction: 2014 OBSAPR  $210,000
Outlook: Leave the Light On refused to let anyone by in the Remsen Stakes, first, Classy Class took a shot at him, and then Frosted came with his move. Leave the Light On had a much better trip than his rival and was aided by a speed favoring track, but he still dug in for the win.  Leave the Light On’s pedigree is a carefully layered blend of speed and stamina. Leave the Light On’s last work was November 23 at Belmont Park.  Read his pedigree profile.
Mr. Z coltMR. Z (Malibu Moon - Stormy Bear, by Storm Cat)
Race record: 8-1-4-11 ($499,726)
Trainer: D. Wayne Lukas
Owner:  Zayat Stables, LLC
Breeder: Richard D. Maynard
Auction: FTKOCT13 $135K
Outlook:  The tenacious, gritty Mr. Z has racked up almost $500,000 in earnings with a single victory to his name.  He’s raced twice as much as the rest of this year’s class of two year olds and he runs his race almost every time. This is typical of Lukas charges. The majority of the old-time trainer’s Triple Crown winners had heavy two year old campaigns.  Mr. Z is fairly precocious for a son of Malibu Moon, yet he has the pedigree to stretch out to middle distances.  As long as he stays healthy and competitive, he’ll be a fixture in the Kentucky Derby prep races, and he certainly has the conditioning to be a factor in the Kentucky Derby. Mr. Z’s last breeze was before the Los Alamitos Futurity.
Ocho Ocho Ocho coltOCHO OCHO OCHO  (Street Sense - Winner, by Horse Chestnut (SAF))
Race record:  3-3-0-0 ($693,600)
Trainer:  James Cassidy
Owner:   DP Racing, LLC
Breeder: Siena Farms
Auction: 2014 OBSAPR $200,000
Outlook:  Ocho Ocho Ocho has a quality pedigree and has shown that he can win from on or off of the pace. He beat the experienced Mr. Z in the Delta Jackpot along with three other stakes winners. Granted the Delta Jackpot hasn’t offered much in the way of Triple Crown prospects, but there’s always that one time. Ocho Ocho Ocho is taking a breather in California.  Read Ocho Ocho Ocho’s pedigree profile.
Texas Red coltTEXAS RED (Afleet Alex - Ramatuelle (CHI), by Jeune Homme)
Race record:  5-2-1-1 ($1,192,300)
Trainer:  Keith Desormeaux
Owner:  Brehm, Erich, Detmar, Wayne, Michaels, Lee, Desormeaux, J. Keith et al
Breeder: Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings
Auction:  2013 KEESEP $17,000
Outlook:  Yes, I know that Breeders’ Cup Juvenile contestants have a horrid record in the Kentucky Derby – if they even make it that far.  But this colt doesn’t have the typical speedy, precocious miler pedigree that has dominated the Juvenile in the last several years. Texas Red is a big, long-bodied colt who needed three starts to win his maiden.  He chased the speedy American Pharoah and Calculator in the FrontRunner Stakes and totally dominated a so-so group with a huge sweeping move in the Juvenile, totally winning for fun. He has the best chance since Street Sense to pull off the Juvenile/Derby double. After taking a break after the Breeders’ Cup, Texas Red worked an easy 4F :50.40 (46/55) at Santa Anita. Read Texas Red’s pedigree profile.
Upstart coltUPSTART (Flatter - Party Silks, by Touch Gold)
Race record:  4-2-1-1 ($463,800)
Trainer:  Richard A. Violette, Jr.
Owner:  Ralph M. Evans
Breeder: Mrs. Gerald A. Nielsen
Auction: 2013 FTNAUG $130,000
Outlook:  Yes, he’s a New York bred and no, we can’t compare him to Funny Cide, although Upstart did win the state-bred stakes named in honor of the Three Year Old Champ. After two victories, Upstart finished second in the Champagne Stakes to Daredevil, then he was nosed out for second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile by Carpe Diem, while Daredevil finished last.  Not bad for Upstart’s first four starts.  By the sire of two-time Jockey Club Gold Cup hero Flat Out, Upstart is out of a daughter of a Belmont Stakes winner. Upstart has the pedigree to improve as a three year old.  His unraced dam is a half to Grade 2 winning veteran Josh’s Madelyn.  Upstart’s second and third dams own blacktype. After almost two months off, Upstart recorded his first work, 3F :37.24 (2/4) at Palm Meadows in Florida.
So there are a dozen colts who, if they stay healthy and improve, could stay in the headlines next year.  Who have I left out? 
Colts who may find 1 1/8 miles at the top of their range, due to pedigree and/or running style include American Pharoah, El Kabeir, Dortmund and Calculator. International Star may prefer turf. Check back on Friday when I review a dozen listed/allowance colts who could be factors in 2015.


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Through hands-on work at barns, I learned valuable lessons about Thoroughbred conformation, gait, and temperament and later worked withThoroughbred rescue/re-train organizations. I have committed my passion for horses to the intensive study of pedigree and breeding theory for the last 20 years. 

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