The Juvenile Path to Kentucky Derby 2014

The Juvenile Path to Kentucky Derby 2014
Photo: Bob Mayberger/Eclipse Sportswire

Over the last twenty years, colts that have been victorious in the Kentucky Derby have followed a fairly specific training pattern. The majority of the Derby winners from 1990 – 2013 made their initial start between June and October and won their maiden between August and November. The exceptions are I’ll Have Another, who won his maiden in July, plus Fusaichi Pegasus and Monarchos, who didn’t win their maiden race until the following January although they did race the previous year. Twelve of the last twenty Kentucky Derby winners have run in a stakes race as a two year old.

Traditionally, the Derby champs started their three year old season in January or February and participated in three or four prep races before the big dance. All this changed dramatically in 2007 when Street Sense didn’t start his year until March and had only two prep races.   Five of the last six Kentucky Derby winners followed in the hoofprints of Street Sense, participating  in just two races before heading to the winners’ circle in the Kentucky Derby.  Last year’s Kentucky Derby winner Orb made three starts before the Kentucky Derby.
The playing field changed further last year with the inception of the Kentucky Derby points.  Points are awarded to the first four finishers of designated stakes races. Thirty-four races are included in the series, starting in September with the Iroquois Stakes and ending in mid-April with the Lexington Stakes.  Going back to 2000, the following juvenile races have produced the most top three finishers to also finish in the top three in the  Kentucky Derby:
The Cash Call Futurity, Remsen and Breeders’ Futurity  - 3
Champagne, Breeders’ Cup Juvenile – 2
Delta Downs Jackpot Stakes, Grey Stakes, Kentucky Jockey Club – 1
Frontrunner (previously the Norfolk) and Iroquois – 0
It’s too soon to determine how much credence we can give to the juvenile races that are included in the new Kentucky Derby Points System.  Nine races for two year olds are included in the structure, so 36 colts are awarded points.  Here’s how the top four in last year’s Kentucky Derby fared in the 2013 designated two year old races:
Winner - Orb – no 2YO stakes
2nd Place – Golden Soul – no 2YO stakes
3rd Place – Revolutionary - no 2YO stakes
4th Place – Normandy Invasion – 2nd Remsen (G-2), 4 points
The top two year olds of 2013 were nowhere to be found.
Now we know the parameters for finding a Kentucky Derby 2014 winner.  We’re looking for a colt who won their maiden race between August and November and who may have participated in a stakes race.  
That’s a pretty broad requirement, although after they stampede past the finish line in this year’s Derby, we’ll have the wisdom of hindsight.  Meanwhile, we’re still in the beginning of 2014 with a huge pile of jumbled jigsaw pieces lying on the table.  It will take months to create a viable picture, so let’s get started with the top three finishers of the juvenile stakes:
Shared BeliefSHARED BELIEFPros: No one has finished in the same zip code since he took to the track.  Cons: Borderline pedigree for the distance. Some have remarked that he hasn’t run over dirt yet. Cushion Track plays like dirt; horses that handle one surface generally handle dirt too. Plus, he’s breezed twice at Santa Anita with comparable times to his breeze over Cushion.  Good horses can run over anything. Read his pedigree profile here.
CANDY BOYPros: won and placed in his last three starts, including a mile maiden race over dirt.  Cons: By Candy Ride out of an In Excess mare, Candy Boy was best of the rest in the Cash Call. It’s doubtful that he’ll want to run 1 1/8 miles, let alone 1 ¼ miles.
TAMARANDOPros: The most accomplished colt in California, he won the Del Mar Futurity (G-1) and Real Quiet Stakes, plus he placed in the FrontRunner (G-1), Golden State Juvenile and CashCall. He’s won over Poly, Cushion and placed on dirt.  Cons: By Bertrando out of a Dehere mare, he may find the going gets tougher in longer races. Tough to figure how much more he can improve at three.
Honor CodeHONOR CODEPros: He’s at the top of most early Derby lists for his performances in the Nashua and Remsen. He’s battle tested and has proven he has the heart to win.  Honor Code has a classy female family and his trainer is gunning for a second straight Kentucky Derby.  Cons: Hard to find a chink in his armor at this point.  The last horse to win both Remsen and Kentucky Derby was Thunder Gulch in 1994.
CAIRO PRINCEPros: Won his first race and the Nashua easily, then lost the Remsen by the narrowest of margins.  By Kentucky Derby runner-up Pioneerof The Nile out of a stakes winning Holy Bull mare, he should handle the 1 ¼ mile distance of the Kentucky Derby.  Cons: See Honor Code.
WICKED STRONGPros: he closed like a freight train in the Remsen and was in front of the dueling duo a couple of strides past the wire. By Kentucky Derby runner-up Hard Spun out of a mare by Classic winner Charismatic, Wicked Strong’s pedigree screams distance. He’s still developing and could become a household name on the Derby trail. Cons: He was very green in the Remsen, shying from the whip and bearing out in the stretch. Hopefully, experience will correct this trait.
We Miss ArtieWE MISS ARTIEPros: Not a whole lot. He placed on dirt in his debut and ironically, more Futurity horses have hit the board in the Kentucky Derby on Poly than when the race was held on dirt.  Cons:  We Miss Artie’s sire Artie Schiller is a strong turf influence. Only two of his offspring have won a stakes over dirt and less than half of his babies win over dirt. Additionally, We Miss Artie was unplaced in his second dirt attempt in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. The last winner of both the Futurity and Derby was Forty Niner in 1987.
SMARTY’S ECHOPros: By Smarty Jones out of an Eastern Echo mare, he has a dirt oriented pedigree.  Smarty’s Echo is a half to two stakes winners, plus his dam and second dam both own blacktype on dirt. Cons: Seriously outclassed in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in his first try over dirt.  Although his sire was a popular Kentucky Derby winner, Smarty Jones hasn’t lived up to grand expectations as a sire. He has 11 stakes winners, but none have won at Grade 1 level.  Cons: Smarty’s Echo may develop into a solid Grade 2/3 level performer. Give him another shot over the dirt.
ARCTIC SLOPEPros: He showed early promise finishing in the money in his first three starts. Cons: Those starts were all over Polytrack. He was out of the money in two graded starts at Churchill. Additionally, he’s only one of two horses in two generations to own blacktype in his female family. Wait for him to go back to Arlington or aim for a stakes at the Keeneland Spring meet.
HavanaHAVANAPros: Showed his class holding on to win the Champagne Stakes over a fast-closing Honor Code, then battled for most of the 1 1/6 mile Breeders’ Cup Juvenile only to tire at the bitter end.  He’s battle tested and has heart.  Cons: By Belmont Stakes and Florida Derby runner-up Dunkirk out of a sprint-oriented distaff family, it’s doubtful that Havana will want any part of 1 ¼ miles or even 1 1/8 miles in top company.
HONOR CODE – See above.
RIDE ON CURLIN – Pros: He showed a strong late kick after taking a journey through the clubhouse to pass the field on the turn. Beaten only 1 ½ lengths, he could have made it a horse race if he’d not been as wide.  By the Champion Curlin out of a stakes placed Storm Cat mare, Ride on Curlin’s dam is stakes placed and his second dam is the Grade 1 winning sprinter/miler Victory Ride. With Storm Cat and Seeking the Gold in his bottom line, Ride On Curlin might handle 1 ¼ miles.  Cons: His only win is a maiden race – which he earned at Ellis Park. Ride On Curlin has a 3-0-1-1 record at Churchill and should have outclassed the field in the Street Sense Stakes after his Champagne.  At this point, he has some class issues to overcome.
NEW YEAR’S DAY – Unfortunately, he’s the first name on the Kentucky Derby injury list – he’s been retired.
HAVANA – see Champagne Stakes. 
Strong MandateSTRONG MANDATEPros: Totally outclassed the competition in the Hopeful by over nine lengths. After tossing in a clunker in the Champagne, Strong Mandate was aggressively ridden from the start of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and had horses breathing fire down his neck for much of the race. He engaged with Havana through the stretch and tired late.  By Tiznow, Strong Mandate is a half to Newfoundland, who is stakes placed at 1 ¼ miles and to stakes winner Full Mandate, who is a winner at 1 1/8 miles. His dam, multiple G-1 winner Clear Mandate won at 1 ¼ miles in G01 company, so this guy should have the lungs to get him to the Derby.  Cons: At this point, there aren’t many. His trainer Wayne Lukas is enjoying a resurgence. Strong Mandate will go to Kentucky by way of the Arkansas Derby. The last horse to capture both races was Smarty Jones, although in 2010 Super Saver finished second in the Arkansas Derby before wearing the roses.
Rise UpRISE UPPros: He’s won four of his six starts, including the Mountaineer Juvenile and Jean Lafitte Stakes.  Cons: He tired to sixth in the Iroquois at Churchill.  Only one horse from the Delta Jackpot has hit the board in the Kentucky Derby. Two, Big Drama and Goldencents, have developed into Grade 1 winners. Rise Up has a lot to prove before we can consider him in their league.
CASIGUAPOPros:  you never know where a good horse can come from. In this case, Casiguapo came from the University of Kentucky’s breeding program. After starting his career at Calder, the son of Sightseeking outclassed rivals to finish second at long odds in the Hopeful Stakes. His only off the board finish was in the Champagne. Cons: Casiguapo owns the only blacktype in two generations of his female family. His pedigree is borderline for 1 ¼ miles. No, he doesn’t know if he’s running in a Grade 1 or a claiming race, and he has heart. It would be a great Derby story if he could emulate Closing Argument’s second place finish in Kentucky.
RANKHASPRIVILEGES – Pros:  He has a classy family. His dam is a full sister to Forty Niner. Sire Einstein is off to a slow start at stud, but this colt should have the energy to handle classic distances.  Cons: After winning his maiden on the Poly, Rankhasprivileges was a distant third in the Jackpot and eighth after a wide trip in the CashCall.  Rankhasprivileges may do better over the turf and improve with maturity…say, around age four.
Ami's HolidayAMI'S HOLIDAYPros:  A son of the late Harlan’s Holiday, Ami’s Holiday is  a graded stakes winner and stakes runner-up and has a dirt oriented pedigree.  Cons: Oh where do I begin? Off to an auspicious start, Ami’s Holiday won his first two races, then he finished off the board going 1 1/8 miles in the Coronation Futurity.  Mine that Bird and the disqualified Dancer’s Image are the only two horses to come out of the Grey in over 100 years to win the Kentucky Derby.  Mine That Bird was a Canadian Champion Juvenile.  That ain’t happening here.
BIG BAZINGAPros: He’s a half to stakes winner Holiday Mischief.  Cons: After the Gray Stakes, he finished seventh in the Delta Jackpot. His dam was third in a 1 1/8 mile graded stakes over the turf, so he might prefer that route.
GO GREELEYPros: Never out of the money in six starts, including three straight stakes at Woodbine. Finished third in a four horse Grey Stakes at 1 1/16 miles.  His second dam is multiple graded stakes winning sprinter Devil’s Orchid.  Cons: Go Greeley is bred for speed top and bottom.

TapitureTAPITUREPros: Won the Kentucky Jockey Club convincingly – entered the race as a maiden and exited as a graded stakes winner. His full brother Retap is a stakes winning sprinter, while full sister Remit is a stakes winning miler. Cons: His pedigree is borderline for 1 ¼ miles. Sire Tapit has only two stakes winners at the distance over dirt while his damsire Olympio has one. Tapiture may try the Louisiana route to the Kentucky Derby.
LADDIE BOYPros:  Finished in the money in half of his six starts.  Cons: The pretty gray colt held on for second place finish by a neck after setting the early pace in the Kentucky Jockey Club. He’s won one of four starts at 1 1/16 miles. By War Pass out of a Lil’s Lad mare, Laddie Boy has a miler’s pedigree and likes to set the pace. 1 1/16 miles may be his distance limit.
AWESOME SKYPros: He encountered some trouble in the Kentucky Jockey Club but still closed nicely for third, beaten just a neck. The pretty gray colt had a good learning experience.  He’s still a maiden, but has plenty of room for improvement. Cons: Awesome Sky’s pedigree is borderline for 1 ¼ miles. His sire Sky Mesa is noted for getting offspring with distance limitations. Awesome Sky’s full sister is G-3 placed and his second dam is the champion Beautiful Pleasure.
Only a handful of these colts look like the real deal heading onto the Derby trail. Honor Code, Cairo’s Prince, Shared Belief and Wicked Strong appear to be the best of the newly turned three year olds at this point. 

Meet Laurie Ross

 HRN Pedigree Analyst 


 Published Author

 Pedigree Research/Consultation/Sales 

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 Member – NTWAB

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. 

I support clients with all aspects of pedigree/breeding analysis, research, sales, catalogue review, and recommendations on claims or private sales. Clients include national leading owners, racing/breeding syndicates, the little guy with one mare, and everyone in between. 10-20% of all proceeds are donated to Thoroughbred rescue & retraining groups. Check out my website, Iron Maidens Thoroughbreds, and the IMTBreds blog.

I welcome your questions regarding pedigree, handicapping, and breeding. If you would like me to cover a specific topic, please contact me. 

Twitter: @IMTBreds
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