2014 Kentucky Derby Prep Horses To Watch
This gelded son of 2006 Kentucky Derby runner-up Bluegrass Cat looks up against it to make this year's Run for the Roses with only 14 qualifying points, but he's actually in better position than eventual 2 nd -place finisher Golden Soul was a year ago with the same total and a #28 ranking. Currently #25 on the leaderboard and likely to move into one of four also-eligible slots with the news that Chitu is headed to the 4/26 Derby Trial S. at Churchill Downs, Big Bazinga was wisely kept in Kentucky after his 4 th -place finish in Keeneland's G1 Blue Grass S. on 4/12 rather than shipped to Woodbine as trainer Katerina Vassilieva originally planned. Despite a slow start in the Blue Grass, he closed willingly under jockey Brian Hernandez, Jr. and earned an 89 BRIS Speed Rating, a couple below the career best 91 figure he was awarded in each of his two previous races. After breaking his maiden at 1 st asking at Woodbine last September, Big Bazinga picked up four Derby qualifying points with a good 2 nd in the G3 Grey S. there in October when Sandra Dominguez saddled him. Back with Vassilieva for the G3 Delta Downs Jackpot in November, Big Bazinga faltered and checked in 7 th in a field of 12. After a couple of months off, he tried again to earn Derby points in the G2 Holy Bull S. at Gulfstream Park in late January, but never threatened and wound up 33 lengths behind winner Cairo Prince as the last of 11 runners. Switching to turf for his next start, he closed from the clouds to just miss in an optional claimer at Gulfstream. Back on synthetic, Big Bazinga barely missed picking up points when finishing 5 th in the G3 Spiral S. at Turfway Park, his final race before adding 10 qualifying points in the Blue Grass. The dark bay was bred in Kentucky by Sheltowee Farm, Alfonso Mazzetti, Dr. Robert J. Hunt and Rodney Winkle. He is out of the Maria's Mon mare Darling Daughter and was foaled on March 21, 2011. Originally offered for $32,000 as a yearling at the Keeneland 2012 January Horses of All Ages Sale, Big Bazinga failed to meet his reserve. Derby Dreamers Racing Stable then purchased him for $25,000 at the Keeneland 2012 September Yearling Sale. With a 7-1-2-0 record, he has racked up $132,407 for his connections. As Vassilieva patiently awaited defections, she moved her charge to Churchill Downs on 4/21, where he is now stabled in barn 35.
Though only a maiden winner, Dallas Stewart's G2 Louisiana Derby 3 rd -place finisher could well find a spot in the G1 Kentucky Derby and surprise bettors with a big effort at a big price as his trainer's Golden Soul did when running 2 nd to Orb in 2013. The Master Command ridgling put himself in this position by overcoming trouble at the start of the Louisiana Derby and rallying late under Robby Albarado for 3 rd behind Vicar's In Trouble and Intense Holiday. The 98 BRIS Speed Rating was a career best, easily topping the 91 earned in his only victory. Commanding Curve needed four races to get his picture taken, finally winning a 1 1/16m maiden contest at Churchill Downs to close out his juvenile season at the end of November. After a freshening, he checked in 6 th of 14 in the G2 Risen Star S. at Fair Grounds. The bay was bred in Kentucky by T. F. VanMeter out of the Lion Hearted mare Mother and was foaled March 23, 2011.
He sold for $60,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky 2012 Fall Yearling Sale before current owner West Point Thoroughbreds picked him up for $75,000 at the Ocala Breeders' Sales Company 2013 Spring Sale of Two-Year-Olds in Training. With a record of 6-1-1-2, Commanding Curve has banked $142,434 and sat 24 th on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard with 20 points and $104,000 in non-restricted stakes earnings following the final prep races in the Kentucky Derby Championship Series. He is training at Churchill Downs while his connections hope for enough defections to get him in the gate on the 1 st Saturday in May.
Barring a last minute entry into one of the final Kentucky Derby preps offering qualifying points, this Michael Dilger trainee won't be running for the roses. But he could turn up in another spring classic after running away with the Calder Derby on 4/5 in South Florida. Under jockey Manoel Cruz, Our Caravan pressured longshot pacesetter Charlie the Boss through the first three quarters of the 1 1/8m contest before taking command and being engaged by heavily favored Ring Weekend. When Our Caravan ducked out towards that foe at the top of the stretch, Ring Weekend's pilot Alan Garcia briefly took up his mount and lost momentum. Our Caravan sped away at that point and crossed the line 9 ¾ lengths in front of the Tampa Bay Derby winner. The final time was 1:54.32 and the son of Daaher earned a 95 BRIS Speed Rating, the highest of his 4-race career. Our Caravan broke his maiden at 1 st asking at Gulfstream Park in mid-December. Dilger tried to get him on the Kentucky Derby trail, but the colt was well-beaten in both the G2 Holy Bull S. and G2 Fountain of Youth S., both at Gulfstream. The bay was bred in Kentucky by Hare Forest Farm, LTD. He is out of the Elusive Quality mare Alwaan and was foaled on March 31, 2011. Our Caravan was a $190,000 purchase from the 2012 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Yearling Sale and is campaigned by Anstu Stables, Inc. The Calder victory boosted the colt's earnings to $180,200 and he could add to that in his expected next start, the G2 Peter Pan S. on 5/10 at Belmont Park.
2013 Eclipse Award-winning trainer Todd Pletcher already has five horses on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard and four more, including this son of Bernardini, who could join their stablemates after the final round of prep races. Perhaps none have impressed the conditioner more in the mornings than Gala Award, winner of the grassy G3 Palm Beach S. on 3/1 at Gulfstream Park. With jockey John Velazquez in the irons for the 1 st time, he was in close contention throughout that 1 1/8m race and took command in the stretch to defeat the highly-regarded Mr Speaker by half a length. Gala Award stopped the clock in 1:46.14 and was given an 88 BRIS Speed Rating while earning his 1 st black type. Rested since that victory, which he won following his maiden-breaker on the Gulfstream turf in January, the colt drilled the 4f bullet with a 47.40 breeze (1/35) over fast dirt at Palm Meadows on 3/30. Bred in Kentucky by William L. Currin, the bay is out of Wilshewed, a daughter of Carson City, and was foaled on February 22, 2011. Purchased for a whopping $1,550,000 by Demi O'Byrne at the Keeneland 2012 September Yearling Sale, the colt races for Michael B. Tabor, Derrick Smith and Susan Magnier. Gala Award began his career with a runner-up effort on the grass at Gulfstream in December and has banked $123,180 for his connections. Pletcher is preparing his charge for the G1 Blue Grass S. on 4/12 at Keeneland, where he'll have a chance to earn a share of the $750,000 purse and up to 100 Kentucky Derby qualifying points.
The Wednesday Gulfstream Park allowance race with Social Inclusion and Honor Code ignited the most Kentucky Derby chatter last week, but one a day later on March 13 th at Fair Grounds may have also produced a contender to run for the roses. Trainer Neil Howard's Class Leader schooled his four opponents, three of them fellow Triple Crown nominees, with a sustained drive that carried him from well behind pacesetter Interchange into the winner's circle. With jockey James Graham having the return engagement, the son of Smart Strike finished the 1m 70 yards a length in front of Divine View, who as 10 lengths ahead of Interchange in 3 rd . The colt's final time of 1:42.18 earned him a career-best BRIS Speed Rating of 88, one point above the figure he was awarded when breaking his maiden at the same distance on 2/17 at the New Orleans oval. Class Leader had one start as a juvenile, a mid-pack finish in a full-field of maidens at Churchill Downs. The dark bay out of the Kris S. mare Class Kris is a homebred for W. S. Farish's Lane's End Racing and was foaled in Kentucky on March 25, 2011. Class Leader is a half-brother to multiple graded stakes winner Student Council and G3 Risen Star S. hero Gradepoint and now has earnings of $46,332. Should his connections want to place him on the Kentucky Derby trail, a Keeneland prep seems logical given Student Council's success on synthetic surfaces.
While most of the attention on the Kentucky Derby trail was focused on graded stakes at Tampa Bay Downs and Santa Anita, the performance of the day on 3/8 may have come from Kid Cruz in the Private Terms S. at Laurel Park. The son of Lemon Drop Kid broke slowly and lagged more than 18 lengths behind pacesetter Roman Fire early before jockey Julian Pimentel roused him into a sustained rally entering the far turn. The Linda Rice trainee took command nearing the sixteenth pole and cruised to a four-length victory against nine overmatched rivals. Kid Cruz covered the 1 1/8m in 1:54.82 and was awarded a 98 BRIS Speed Figure. Bred in Kentucky by Machmer Hall, the bay is out of Layreebelle, a daughter of Tale of the Cat, and was foaled on March 30, 2011. Kid Cruz was purchased for $80,000 by Black Swan Stable at the Keeneland 2012 September Yearling Sale and named in honor of New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz, a friend of one of the owners. He was sent to Bill Mott and began his career with a drubbing in a grassy Aqueduct maiden race last November. Entered next for a $50,000 tag on the dirt, the colt attracted the eye of Rice, who claimed him for Vina Del Mar Thoroughbreds LLC after he romped by six lengths. The Black Swan group quickly tried to buy him back and ultimately settled for a 45% share in partnership. In his 1 st start for his new barn, Kid Cruz closed for a good 2 nd in an allowance race at Aqueduct. The Private Terms score upped his earnings to $101,375 and Rice indicated that the G1 Wood Memorial S. at Aqueduct on 4/5 would be the likely next start for her charge.
Dismissed at odds of nearly 73-1 in Gulfstream Park's G2 Fountain of Youth S. on 2/22, this Bill Kaplan trainee overcame the disadvantageous outside post, rallied to complete the superfecta and earned five Kentucky Derby qualifying points. With Kaplan's go-to rider Juan Leyva in the irons, East Hall finished 6 1/2 lengths behind winner Wildcat Red and equaled his previous best BRIS Speed Rating of 93. The gelded son of Graeme Hall began his career last June and raced five times, twice in stakes, before breaking his maiden over Gulfstream's strip in October. Following a close 2 nd in a November allowance contest, East Hall launched his 3-year-old campaign with a solid 3 rd in the Gulfstream Park Derby on New Year's Day then just missed in the OBS Championship on the synthetic course in Ocala. Bred in Florida by Mary K. Haire, the chestnut is out of East Long Lake, a daughter of Sultry Song, and was foaled on March 12, 2011. He sold for $23,000 as a yearling before Kaplan signed a $55,000 ticket at the Ocala Breeders' Sales Company 2013 Spring Sale of Two-Year-Olds in Training on behalf of owners H. Jack Hendricks and Roger Justice. With an 11-2-1-4 record, East Hall has banked $120,370 for his connections and could make his next start at Gulfstream in the G1 Florida Derby on 3/29.
Texas Two Step
This son of Distorted Humor stamped himself as one to watch with a sustained rally from near the back of the pack to win a 6f Oaklawn Park maiden race in his 2/15 career debut. Ridden by Channing Hill, Texas Two Step easily whipped 10 rivals, drawing away late for final margin of 2 ¼ lengths and time of 1:11.26. The Kellyn Gorder trainee was awarded an excellent 91 BRIS Speed Rating for his effort, as well as a check for $34,200. Bred in Kentucky by Fares Farm, LLC, the chestnut is out of the Unbridled mare Miss Salsa and was foaled on March 1, 2011. He is a half-brother to graded stakes winner Pacific Ocean, who earned $245,389 and also won at 1 st asking, and was purchased as a yearling at the Keeneland September 2012 sale for $325,000. The colt races for WinStar Farm LLC and is nominated to the Triple Crown.
While he has yet to compete in a graded stakes or race in a route, this Pennsylvania-bred displayed tenacity when winning the Christopher Elser Memorial S. on 2/8 at Parx over stablemate Sonny Inspired. Contesting the lead out of the gate, Elevated took command after a half mile and withstood a late charge by his stablemate to prevail by a nose in the 6 ½f event restricted to colts and geldings who had spent 90 days in South Carolina. With Frankie Pennington in the irons, the Phil Schoenthal- trained colt covered the distance in 1:16.48 and earned an 86 BRIS Speed Rating, two points higher than his previous best. Elevated began his career with maiden and allowance wins at Parx then finished 4 th in the restricted Mark McDermott S. over the synthetic surface at Presque Isle Downs. Returning to dirt, he posted his only dull effort in the James F. Lewis S. at Laurel Park to conclude his juvenile campaign. Bred by Nina H. Gardner, the gray/roan is by Jump Start out of the Waquoit mare We Wak Harbor and was foaled on March 18, 2011. He was purchased for $30,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2012 Eastern Fall Yearling Sale and is campaigned by D Hatman Thoroughbreds and Kingdom Bloodstock, Inc. The Triple Crown nominee has banked $126,780 for his connections.
2013 Kentucky Derby winning trainer Shug McGaughey was already holding a strong hand for this year's Run for the Roses with Honor Code and Top Billing when Ragtime broke his maiden in his 2 nd career start at Gulfstream Park on 2/1. Under apprentice Dylan Davis, the son of sprinter Henny Hughes forced the issue early in the 6 ½f contest and was in control by the time he hit the half-mile pole in :45.32. Ragtime then cruised to a 3 ¼-length victory over seven rivals, five of them fellow Triple Crown nominees. His final time of 1:16.77 was good for a 93 Equibase Speed Figure. The colt was a closing 3 rd in his debut, a New Year's Day 6f maiden race also at Gulfstream. The handsome chestnut is out of the El Prado mare Castanet and was foaled on April 25, 2011. His earnings now stand at $28,200 and McGaughey suggested that grass could be in his future since his dam is a half-sister to the trainer's former turf star Dancing Forever.
After burying his Parx opponents in a maiden race over the slop on 12/29, this John Servis trainee was sent off as the $4.20 to $1 3 rd betting choice in a field of five Aqueduct allowance runners on 1/26. Despite stumbling at the start, brushing with a rival and checking early, Undertaker assumed control by the 1 st call in the 1 1/16m race and led all the way to hit the wire in 1:44.33. With jockey Eswan Florence taking the return engagement, the Unbridled's Son colt posted a 100 BRIS Speed Rating to easily top the 91 earned in his maiden-breaker. Trained by John Servis of Smarty Jones fame, Undertaker began his career with two dull efforts from well off the pace at Parx before Flores took the reins and guided the grey/roan to consecutive front-running scores. Undertaker was bred in Kentucky by Manganaro LLC. He is out of the Forestry mare Kris' Sis and was foaled on March 14, 2011. Owned by Leonard C. Green, the colt was purchased as a yearling for $150,000 at the 2012 Keeneland September Sale. Undertaker has banked $69,080 and will surely step into stakes company for his next start.
Dismissed at nearly 25/1 when he debuted in a one-mile Santa Anita maiden race on the turf on 1/20, this Carla Gaines trainee looked more likely to finish last through three quarters of the contest as he remained at the back of the pack. After veering a bit towards the rail when he broke from the inside post against eight foes, Texas Ryano was 12 lengths behind the leader at both the 1 st and 2 nd calls. The Curlin colt then began advancing only to run up on the heels of a rival and drop back again. Jockey Irving Orozco guided him to the outside and Texas Ryano commenced a powerful rally to win by half a length. His final time of 1:34.84 earned him an 82 BRIS Speed Rating. A homebred for Warren Williamson, the chestnut is out of the Irish mare Blending Element and was foaled on April 16, 2011. Texas Ryano banked $33,600 for his victory and even though his dam has produced four turf stakes winners, a try on dirt could be in the future for the Santa Anita Derby early bird nominee.
You won't see many 1 st -time starters overcome more than this son of Tiz Wonderful did to make a winning debut when taking the Oaklawn Park finale on 1/11. Squeezed back to last out of the gate, Paganol quickly advanced wide into contention, was knocked around and off stride in the stretch by a rival then dug in between horses to prevail against 11 foes in a photo finish. Under Norberto Arroyo, Jr., the colt covered the 6f in 1:14.24 and earned a 95 Equibase Speed Figure. The chestnut was bred in Kentucky by Bob Feld and Mark Toothaker. Paganol is out of the Artax mare Glittering Tax and was foaled on March 1, 2011. Cody Autrey's charge originally sold for $40,000 at the 2012 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky Select Yearling Sale before owners James and Ywachetta Driver purchased him for $250,000 at the Ocala Breeders' Sales Company 2013 Selected Sale of Two-Year-Olds in Training. The winning debut was worth $33,000 to his connections, and Paganol seems a logical candidate for the Kentucky Derby prep races in Hot Springs.
Bob Baffert's charge may still be a bit under-the-radar as a Kentucky Derby candidate, but the word was certainly out on his ability when the colt was bet down to 80 cents on the dollar for his debut in a 1/4 Santa Anita maiden race. Bayern ran as advertised, easily handling eight rivals, including five with racing experience. With Hall-of-Famer Gary Stevens aboard, the son of Offlee Wild pressed pacesetting stablemate Hold Everything through the 1 st two fractions, took over on the turn and pulled away to a 3 1/4 length victory. He covered the 7f in 1.22.24 and was awarded an 82 Beyer Speed Figure. The dark bay was bred in Kentucky by Helen Alexander and is out of Alittlebitearly, a daughter of Thunder Gulch. He was foaled on May 3, 2011, and sold for $320,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2013 Two-Year-Olds in Training Sale .