Jose Ortiz kept the chestnut colt just to the outside of pacesetter Hagler. Courvoisier lengthened his stride and poured it on in the stretch as his rival faded. The Kelly Breen trainee was relatively clean prancing to the winner's circle.
Courvoisier began his career in September, and he has improved with every race.
He just missed the victory by a nose in his third start but gained experience and returned to win his maiden next time by a neck at 1 1/8 miles. Courvoisier passed his test his first time against winners in the Jerome Stakes.
Elevage II LLC and Hill 'n' Dale Equine Holdings bred Courvoisier. Surprisingly, he didn't meet his $275,000 reserve at last year's Keeneland September Yearling Sale but then sold at the November Mixed sale for $600,000. Courvoisier campaigns for John Sikura's Hill 'n' Dale Equine Holdings and James Spry.
From the Jerome to the Derby
Jerome Stakes winners often continue their careers as stakes winners, usually as sprinters or milers, although some stretch to middle distances. The 2018 Jerome hero Firenze Fire took a bite out of the competition in the sprint division, racking up $2,730,350 in earnings through a 38-race career. He often tangled with 2019 Jerome winner Mind Control.
Fusaichi Pegasus in 2000 was the last horse to achieve the Jerome-Kentucky Derby double, but that was when the Aqueduct race was a Grade 2 held in the fall. That was a banner year as Jerome runner-up El Corredor later won the Cigar Mile (G1), and third-place finisher Albert the Great made his mark as multiple graded handicap horse.
The cleverly named Courvoisier (Tapit - Take Charge Brandi, by Giant's Causeway) has classic breeding and conformation.
His sire Tapit is a consistent top-five North American sire. Since 2014, four of his sons won the Belmont Stakes, including last year's hero Essential Quality, and two others placed.
Tapit's resume lacks a Kentucky Derby winner despite his leading sire status and classic-winning offspring. The best result was a third-place finish by Tacitus in 2019.
The Tapit-Giant's Causeway breeding is tried and true, producing 32 winners from 44 starters and two black-type winners. The other is Monmouth Oaks heroine Cassatt. Tapit also has a Grade 2 winner out of a daughter of Seeking the Gold, Courvoisier's second damsire.
Courvoisier physically resembles his dam, 2014 champion 2-year-old filly Take Charge Brandi, and is the young mare's first black-type earner. The mare has a 2022 2-year-old by Justify and expects an Uncle Mo foal this year.
After winning her debut, the daughter of Giant's Causeway finished off the board in her next three starts. She was one of the best-looking fillies in the paddock at the 2014 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies but was dismissed at 60-1 odds. Living up to her name, Take Charge Brandi took over early and held off a late charge to win by a half-length, rewarding astute bettors with a $125.40 victory.
On a roll, Take Charge Brandi won her next three starts, the Delta Downs Princess (G3), Starlet Stakes (G1), and Martha Washington Stakes, all in the space of three months.
Unfortunately, before the Kentucky Oaks, she sustained a non-displaced bone chip in her right knee, sending her to the sidelines until August. Take Charge Brandi wasn't the same, finishing last in the Test (G1) and eased in the Cotillion Stakes (G1).
Sadly, Take Charge Brandi's dam Charming (Seeking the Gold), ran only three times but passed along stakes-winning genes to her foals, including Omaha Beach (War Front) and his full brother Courage Under Fire.
Omaha Beach is a multiple Grade 1 winner from six furlongs to 1 1/8 miles, including the Arkansas Derby (G1), Santa Anita Sprint Championship and Malibu Stakes (G1). He also won the Rebel (G2) and placed second in the 2019 Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile.
His full brother Courage Under Fire is Group 1 stakes-placed in Ireland.
The class continues in Courvoisier's third generation with the solid competitor Take Charge Lady. Over three years the daughter of Dehere compiled $2,480,377 in 22 starts, winning eight graded stakes from 1 1/16 miles to 1 1/8 miles.
Just as adept in the breeding shed, Take Charge Lady bore three graded winners. She was 2014 broodmare of the year when her son Will Take Charge (Unbridled's Song) was crowned 2013 champion male. Take Charge Lady also bore Florida Derby hero Take Charge Indy (A. P. Indy) and multiple graded winner As Time Goes By (American Pharoah).
Derby contender or pretender?
Courvoisier proved that he could handle 1 1/8 miles, and it wouldn't be a surprise to see him add to Tapit's list of Belmont Stakes winners. If he succeeds at 1 1/4 miles in Kentucky, he'll be the stallion's first Kentucky Derby winner.
Despite all of the stamina in his pedigree, Courvoisier is athletic enough to press the pace with a high cruising speed. Courvoisier runs straight without excessive leg movement or paddling. He looked smooth while handling the sloppy track in the Jerome Stakes.