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Breeders' Cup 2017

HRN Original Blog:
Zipse At The Track

2014 Kentucky Derby: Down and Derby Sweet 16

New Year's Day BC 615 X 400
Photo: Eclipse Sportswire - Alex Evers


1. Honor Code (A.P. Indy - Serena’s Cat, by Storm Cat) Shug McGaughey – It was a noteworthy decision for sure, when his connections passed on the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in favor of more time and the Remsen Stakes at the end of November. Skipping the Cup, with a horse who very well could have won, tells us one thing … they are focused on the 2014 Kentucky Derby. Honor Code’s veteran trainer, Shug McGaughey finally broke the seal, and won the Derby this year with Orb. In Orb, this time last year, he had a promising juvenile who could turn out to be something good. In Honor Code, McGaughey looks to have something substantially more special. The son of A.P Indy has demonstrated a closing kick that you just don’t see in American juveniles anymore. His maiden win, and his near miss in the Champagne have fans excited, and for good cause. Continued development is all that stands between him and a big shot on the First Saturday in May. 

2. Coastline (Speightstown - Culinary  by  El Amante) Mark Casse –  I consider it only a matter of time before the tandem of trainer, Mark Casse, and owner, John Oxley, win a big one in the States, and in Coastline, they might have just the horse to do it. Sire Speightstown might sound a bit short on the distance front, but don’t forget he he has already had sons Haynesfield and Golden Ticket win major races at the Derby distance. It doesn’t hurt that his female family has a strong international flare, and dam, Culinary was a fine runner. I really liked what I saw in his career debut when chasing Almost Famous around, and that belief came to fruition with a nice maiden score at Keeneland in his second start. He  followed that up with an impressive win over a good field in the one-mile Street Sense Stakes under the twin spires of Churchill Downs.  

3. Strong Mandate (Tiznow - Clear Mandate, by Deputy Minister) D.Wayne Lukas - A bit on an enigma wrapped up in a riddle to date, I tend to look a this one’s three strong efforts, rather than dwelling on his two failed efforts. His maiden and Hopeful wins at Saratoga were nothing short of powerful, and it wouldn’t be much of stretch to say he was best in the BC Juvenile. Hung out to dry from his outside post position, he pressed fast fractions all the way and looked good coming back at Havana down the lane. We know Lukas knows how to get a horse to the Triple Crown, and this one has the pedigree to stay the trip. He also looks like a type who can win from a variety of different early positions. I don’t know what happened in the Champagne, but I still like him. 

4. New Year's Day (Street Cry - Justwhistledixie, by Dixie Union) Bob Baffert – Do you remember Justwhistledixie? She was the filly all the rage one spring in Florida before an injury knocked her out of the Kentucky Oaks. As a son of hers, and established distance sire, Street Cry, this one has the bloodlines to be a good one. So far, he has done nothing to disappoint. After making up ground in his debut sprint, New Year’s Day came back nicely to beat the good Bond Holder in a key maiden race at Del Mar. Trying dirt at Santa Anita for trainer, Bob Baffert, he had a series of good works before the Breeders’ Cup, and then ran big to rally along the inside and grab all the money in the Juvenile. It is a win that not only likely will give him an Eclipse Award, but also demonstrates he can handle the dirt.

5. Shared Belief (Candy Ride - Common Hope, by Storm Cat) Jerry Hollendorfer – Anyone who saw the recent Hollywood Prevue has no alternative but to be impressed with this son of Candy Ride. The way he rocketed down the Hollywood Park stretch away from the good, Kobe’s Back, for new connections, Jim Rome and Jerry Hollendorfer, was a real eye-opener. It shouldn’t have come as too big a surprise though, as he did very much the same in his career debut at Golden Gate Fields. He has never run beyond seven furlongs, nor on dirt, so there are major questions still to be answered, but look for him to take another step forward as the horse to beat in next month’s CashCall Futurity. His talent is undeniable.

6. Green Mask (Mizzen Mast - Bonsai Beauty, by Forestry) Wesley Ward - You will not find this one on most expert’s list at this point, but I believe it is only a matter of time, before you do.  Along with the horse directly above him on this list, this Wesley Ward charge impressed me as much as any juvenile going short so far this year. Green Mask has run only once so far, a dominating win in a six-furlong Keeneland maiden race, but he continues to impress in the mornings. While it is true that there is plenty of speed within his pedigree, he does have enough stamina influences in there to believe that immense talent can carry him a long way as the important races get longer on the Kentucky Derby trail. Look for him to make his way west, and for his next start to come in a stakes race.  

7. Cairo Prince (Pioneerof The Nile - Holy Bubbette, by Holy Bull) Kiaran McLaughlin – Another impressive colt with only two lifetime starts, the son of good looking young sire, Pioneerof the Nile is undefeated and untested to date. While both breaking his maiden at six furlongs by 2 3/4 lengths at Belmont, and then scoring in Aqueduct’s one-mile Nashua Stakes by 2 1/2 lengths, Cairo Prince uncorked a devastating turn of foot to effectively end each contest at the top of the stretch. This knockout punch will be tested when the competition gets tougher and the distance increases. Both of those should take place when he is expected to challenge the top one in what should be a very interesting renewal of the Remsen Stakes. While I like the prospects of Pioneerof The Nile offspring around two-turns, this one does half plenty of speed influence on his female side. 


8. Havana (Dunkirk - Missy Turtle, by Kyle’s Our Man) Todd Pletcher - He truly has done nothing wrong in his three lifetime starts, including a win in the Grade 1 Champagne and a second place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, but still, I find myself struggling to rate him any higher than eighth. He has that look of so many good two-year-olds that struggle as their late wind becomes more important in races of nine furlongs or longer. While his breeding does not scream sprinter, I am going to need to see how is precociousness at two carries over to three, before I get too excited about him as a legitimate Derby contender. Still, his obvious class does warrant a prominent position in my first Down and Derby Sweet 16.


9. Smart Cover (Any Given Saturday - Crazy Cousin, by Smart Strike) Dale Romans – Color me far from convinced that September’s Iroquois Stakes is going to wind up being a key race, but the way this one closed down the lane of the Churchill Downs stretch was something to remember. Making up about seven lengths in the final furlong, the Donegal Racing runner fell just short of getting by stablemate, Cleburne, for the win. Already a winner on turf at Ellis Park, Smart Cover has the pedigree to go long, and a conditioner, in Dale Romans, who is destined to win the Kentucky Derby sooner or later. It’s never too early for me to look for a stretch runner in the Derby, and this one intrigues me. 

10. Almost Famous (Unbridled’s Song – Wild Gams, by Forest Wildcat)  Pat Byrne – This good looking son of Unbridled’s Song received a lot of ink after an impressive debut performance at Churchill Downs in which he bested my highly rated, Coastline. That outcome was reversed, though, when the two came together in the flat-mile Street Sense Stakes. Coastline was the more experienced by that point, and Almost Famous faded in the stretch to finish fourth.  A good bounce-back performance, where he dominated a well-intended allowance field, going two-turns, did a good job of restoring some of his lost luster. Obviously talented, I wonder if his pedigree has enough on the female side to get the ten furlongs. He could get his initial stakes score in the Kentucky Jockey Club, also at Churchill Downs, coming soon.

11. Noble Moon (Malibu Moon - Mambo Bell, by Kingmambo) Leah Gyarmati – Trainer Leah Gyarmati not only has a real Kentucky Oaks prospect in the barn, in Sweet Reason, but she also has this interesting son of Malibu Moon. He began his career by taking his speed all the way in a six-furlong maiden event. He only won by three-quarters of a length, but showed good heart keeping his competition at bay. Sent off as a long shot in his second start, the Nashua Stakes, he had no chance to flash any speed, as he was bumped solidly at the start. Employing completely different tactics, he stormed from last to just miss the place spot, despite a wide run around the final turn.  He never threatened the winner, Cairo Prince, but it’s easy to imagine that things could have been very different with a better trip.

12. Bond Holder (Mineshaft - Cielo Girl, by Conquistador Cielo) Doug O’Neill – With six starts, this is the most experienced colt on the list. Improving with each start for Kentucky Derby winning trainer, Doug O’Neill, he ran a good second to New Year’s Day in his first non-sprint, before finally breaking his maiden in the Grade 1 FrontRunner Stakes, with a big late rush.  He ran into, and lost, to that familiar foe again in the BC Juvenile, but did nothing to discourage those who like him, with a solid rally to complete the superfecta. He may not have the talent of many on this list, but his consistent late run, coupled with a pedigree which should not quit, make him an interesting prospect for next spring.     

13. Tap It Rich (Tapit - Gold Canyon, by Mr. Prospector) Bob Baffert – An explosive debut performance, in which he came from well back to win going away by better than four lengths at Santa Anita, sent him headlong into the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile as the now horse. Let go as the 3-1 second choice, this son of Tapit didn’t exactly throw in a clunker, but could manage no better than fifth in the large field. Still, it was a lot to ask of the $510,000 yearling purchase in only his second lifetime start, and at the wire, he was only 3 1/4 lengths behind the winner.  Look for the Baffert trainee to be given a little more time now, and we may well see more good things from the impressive maiden winner down the road.

14. Mexikoma (Birdstone – Toccet Over, by Toccet) Rick Mettee – After doing nothing to speak of in a turf debut at Saratoga, this son of a Belmont winner, came back to dismantle a maiden field at Delaware Park. That win, and his good looks, prompted Team Valor to purchase him privately. Turned over to Rick Mettee, they shipped him out west for a quick return on the investment, but things did not pan out. Way back early, he did show plenty of interest in the stretch, though, and was actually not far from hitting the board. All and all, it was a good performance. If you like the long winded types, this one fits the bill, as 1 ¼ miles should be well within his scope.

15. In Trouble (Tiz Wonderful - Ballpark Butterfly, by Grand Slam) Anthony Dutrow – On the shelf after having a knee chip removed, this son of Tiznow demonstrated a lot to like before his juvenile came to a close. A sharp maiden win at Saratoga was followed by a 2 ¾ length victory in the Futurity Stakes at Belmont. While both of those wins came at six furlongs or less, the Tony Dutrow runner has the kind of breeding that you look for in a Derby runner. As a grandson of Tiznow, and with a stamina rich female family, look for this one to stretch out successfully when he does come back to the races.

16. Culprit (Street Sense - Caught in the Act, by A.P. Indy) Dale Romans - One of three from the Romans barn that I considered for this last spot, Culprit is still very much a work in progress. Liked enough to be placed in a graded stakes on turf in his second start, while still a maiden, he showed good late interest on that day, as he done in each start. The son of Derby winner, Street Sense, is not only bred for class, but he should run all day. Rebounding from that try in the Bourbon, the Donegal charge made use of his late-running ability to get up in a one-mile maiden race at Churchill. He only won by a half-length that day, but it looked like a strong field for maidens, and he has the look of a horse that will only improve with age. 



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Older Comments about 2014 Kentucky Derby: Down and Derby Sweet 16...

I think it's time for an UPDATE....where's the next installment of the Derby Sweet 16?????
Several horses on the list that have stamina breeding and should move forward as 3 year olds. I think both New Years Day and Mexikoma could turn out to be very good next year.
I REALLY like Mexikoma and really appreciated the good interest he showed in the later stages of the BC Juvenile. Here's a Team Valor prospect I'm excited about!
Waiting to see how Cleburne runs in Kentucky Jockey Club
Even though his tactics are different, Strong Mandate looks like a giant that will only get better with time and distance, like stablemate Will Take Charge.
As of now..sticking with Strong Mandate, Honor Code, and Shared Belief
When Zipse speaks, people listen...he noted Green Mask's win at Keeneland. This alone is enough for me and we'll be looking for the Wesley Ward trainee on the Derby trail...
I agree, Anne.
If he can run on dirt, I think Rankhasprivileges could be a big contender.
Really nice article And nice comment by Dani as well. Now we have the spelling police correcting the word tactical. This is so childish. Quite sure no one here failed to compute that tactilcle meant tactical.
*vodkak, not vodka, sorry, lol.
Dani, agreed. I apologize for saying "Noble Toon", I was mixing it up with the turf three year old, and it is not the first time I have made that mistake. I was not the one arguing over it, I might add, as that was vodkak and tmallios. I simply apologized for the mis-spelling and left to handicap some races. Them arguing over it is childish and stupid. Accusing me of being vodka made me laugh, especially since vodka and I have budded heads in the past, but that's a different subject. In regards to *tactical* speed, yes, the Kentucky Derby winner generally has that attribute, as well as breaking quickly, and he (or she?) always demonstrates the ability to get 10f. Generally, I don't bet closers in the Derby to win, because they often hit traffic in the chaotic 20 horse field. I generally dislike betting front runners, even if they can rate, because one of the most exceptional angles you can use in the Derby is *more speed than expected*. It is very rare that you will see a front runner get the lead with no challengers and little pace, because more often than not, someone will challenge. Honor Code has incredible talent and has displayed it in both of his races, while facing and defeating some quality colts. Honor Code must learn how to break better in order to compete in the KY Derby, in my opinion, because weaving through a 20 horse field could prove disastrous for the jockey. I don't really like New Year's Day, or any juvenile from the Breeder's Cup, mainly because I thought the race wasn't very strong at all. Havana will struggle getting the distance. If there is any closer, besides Honor Code, that I am excited about it is not New Year's Day. Bond Holder was impressive, to me, in the juvenile. He's been consistent throughout his career. I just hope the connections don't over run him.
Again, can we have respect for Brian's work? Everyone on here makes mistakes, spelling or factul every now and then. Enough with "noble toon." We are none perfect and to harp on that is childish and takes away from Brian's blog, so please lets show him, if not anyone else respect, especially after everyone agreed to last night. The winner of the Derby could still be a maiden, or they could have stakes exp. or maybe even be stakes winners. You have had examples of each over the last ten years. Just goes to show that the Derby winner can be any kind. SS was a later developing 2yr old who love CD and distance, but was precocious enough to compete with the best juveniles at 1m or higher. New Years Day, Honor Code and a few others fit this bill. Derby winners are exceptionally tacticle. Orb, could go wherever you wanted, depending on pace. IHA, while able to sit a little closer than Orb, could do just about the same. They have the ability to devestate when they are told to go. Honor Code needs more tacticle speed, as does New Years Day, but sometimes that just needs to be developed. Right now, none of them have anything more to offer than potential, so yes, it is like throwing darts. But, that is part of what makes it fun, trying to guess which horse, out of the dozens will developing into the horse that can win it all.
I understand your concern regarding front runners,i do agree that they sometimes will over exrt themselves.The thing about Famous is,i truly believe he will be able to sit behind horses when called upon.Laz,contrary to the beliefs of many,and i have been shown proof by someone who knows the pedigree side alot more than i do.When delving into his family tree,he has tremendous stamina and bloodlines.That being said,he has found himself on the lead in his 2 wins.The reason is that he was that much better than the field.In his 2nd race,he never ran,the race is a toss.Thus the quick turnaround and romp. If he were a speed demon,he would be taking off from the start.In his last going 2 turns,he waited on the horse outside of him , when Lanerie said GO,it was history.That is why i have no concerns regarding his running style.But i do understand the concerns. Only the Elite of the Elite can dominate gate to wire.He is far from that point at this stage.But who knows.
Tom, I have never been one to favor front runners unless they can be rated while on the front end and run a controlled pace, and then only without using valuable energy in being hard held. The front runners that can relax and control the pace have an excellent chance of being developed into a good horse. It’s true that front runners usually run the shortest way around the race track and can often choose what path they run in, but from a mental aspect, striving to remain in front while others are pounding the track behind you can be stressful and can take it’s toll. As for over racing at two, I think it is much harder on horses that have a need to run on the front end than horses that come from behind because I believe they are under much more duress and use far more energy and thus need a proper recovery time. JMO
Laz, i agree with you on its being a crap shoot.Like i mentioned earlier.The last Derby winner Orb,i believe was still a Maiden at this time last year. After looking at the horses on this listing and searching for others.There are only 4 colts who are out right now ,that i would even consider candiddates. All Most Famous,Noble Moon, Honor Code,Tap it Rich. Personally the rest are pretenders. Most of these have already been run into the ground or have no shot to get 9 furlongs,let alone go further.I thought Havana might of had a shot until they decided to run him in the Jeuvenile. He looks like he will need alot of maintanance to get him back to peak form.From what i have seen,my 2 picks are Famous and Noble Toon(i mean Moon) seriously,i have always favored pace horses over closers.Makes for easier trips and less ground loss when the real running starts.
Still a crap shoot at this time of year Brian and there seems to be too many to choose from because the two year old crop seems to have an abundance of potential. Based on how they are now and in running around two turns instead of one: 1) Honor Code looks the best so far, but still has to run around two turns. The Remsen, competing against a good Cairo Time, and going 9F will tell whether he is going to be the winter book favorite for the Derby though he still won’t have answered the two-turn question. 2) Schoolofhardrocks was really impressive in coming from 8 ½ back at the half in a two-turn race when breaking his maiden in his only start at Delmar. He is well bred though his win was on synthetics and his breeding might possibly suggest a turf horse. 3) Bond Holder broke his maiden in a G1 around two-turns and made up 10 lengths from the half in the Juvenile on Havana. He seems to be a patient sort and is comfortable in waiting for his jockey to tell him to go. 4) Noble Moon really impressed me when bumped and then taken too far back at the start to gather himself in the Nausua. He made a huge move around the turn and was six wide into the stretch and gained a lot of ground on Cairo Prince, but had no chance of winning. On another day it might be different because after wiring the field in his only other start, a maiden win, it’s safe to say that that bump and wide trip really did cost this guy and he should be the type to break with the pack. 5) Almost Famous, a front runner, which I don’t necessarily get excited about with two year olds, but this guy showed something in his last. In his opener he blitzed an opening quarter in 22.54 in wiring a field at Churchill. After running a surprising unexplained clunker in his next he came out in an optional claimer and ran an opening quarter in 23.98 and again wired the field, but did so with a very controlled pace. A lot of people are high on this guy and if he continues to run controlled quarters he might be hard to beat.
Nice list Brian. Super high on Honor Code since his maiden, but I'm liking the looks of Cairo Prince too. The Remsen sure is going to be a good one this year!
The last horse to complete the Juve/Derby double was by Street Cry, as well. He also had only a maiden win to his credit when he won the Juvenile. I would not underestimate New Years Day. He's not a favorite, but given the similarities between him and Street Sense, I would not put him last by any means.

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Meet Brian Zipse 

Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Taken to the races at a very young age, he has been lucky enough to see all the greats in person from Secretariat, Forego, and Ruffian through Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta, and American Pharoah. Before coming to the Nation, Brian displayed his love for the sport through the development of his horse racing website, which quickly became one of the most popular blogs in the game. 

The Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, Brian authored a daily column as Zipse at the Track, or ZATT for short, and added his editorial flare to the overall content of the website. Now a Senior Writer for HRN, Brian continues to contribute his thoughts on racing, as well as co-hosting the popular racing show, HorseCenter. A big supporter of thoroughbred aftercare, he serves as the President of The Exceller Fund.

Brian's work has also been published on several leading industry sites. He has consulted for leading contest site Derby Wars, is both a Hall of Fame and NTRA poll voter, and is a Vox Populi committee member. 

A horse owner and graduate of DePaul University, Brian lives just outside of Louisville with his wife Candice and daughter Kendra.


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