The weekend of March 24-25 turned up not one but two classic prospects that now have enough graded earnings to guarantee access to the starting gate for the Kentucky Derby- Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I). Both still have questions to answer about class, but on paper both look as if they should have no problems with the distance.
Team Valor International's Went the Day Well was the first to make his case for a Derby shot, scoring impressively in the Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes (gr. III) March 24 at Turfway Park. While this was on Polytrack, the colt broke his maiden on dirt at Gulfstream, hinting that the surface at Churchill Downs may not be an issue. More importantly, the colt is bred to run all day, suggesting that if he has the speed to compete with the likes of Union Rags and Hansen, the stamina to carry it will not be a problem.
Bred in New York by James Patrick Delaney, Went the Day Well is by 2002 Kentucky Derby runner-up Proud Citizen out of the Tiznow mare Tiz Maie's Day. With Tiznow having been one of the most accomplished 10-furlong horses in recent memory, that would seem to be sufficient on the topic of getting the Derby trip. But there's more. Though Tiz Maie's Day never raced, her half sister Jah (by Relaunch), a restricted stakes winner, was a long-winded turfer with an average winning distance of 9½ furlongs. And their dam, 1989 Selima Stakes (gr. II) winner Sweet Roberta, is a daughter of Epsom Derby winner and stamina influence Roberto out of Candy Bowl, whose sire Majestic Light won grade I events at up to 12 furlongs.
Candy Bowl, in fact, represented an attempt to graft more stamina into a quick branch of her female line. Her dam, the grade III-placed Dr. Fager mare Quick Cure, also produced 1980 Laurel Futurity (gr. I) winner Cure the Blues (by Stop the Music) and 1990 Gardenia Stakes (gr. III) winner Evangelical (by Devil's Bag) but had a pedigree tilted towards speed thanks to her dam Speedwell. Although closely related to the great Secretariat—she is by Secretariat's sire Bold Ruler out of his granddam Imperatrice—Speedwell had no pretensions to Secretariat's stamina, scoring her major wins in the Debutante Stakes at Churchill Downs as a juvenile and in the Prioress Stakes at Belmont at 3.
Speedwell was one of six stakes winners produced by Imperatrice, who could stretch out to intermediate distances but had a sharp enough turn of foot to win the seven-furlong Test Stakes against her own division at 3 and the six-furlong Fall Highweight Handicap against males at 4. (In one of the ironies of breeding, the one real stayer among Imperatrice's stakes winners, 1948 Coaching Club American Oaks winner Scattered (by Whirlaway), is the third dam of the great Quarter Horse racer and sire Dash for Cash.)
Proud Citizen has already shown the ability to sire a 10-furlong horse, as his best runner, 2008 champion 3-year-old filly Proud Spell, took the Alabama Stakes (gr. I) at that distance. A handsome son of Gone West from the family of Northern Dancer, Proud Citizen has sired 21 stakes winners so far and is also represented in 2012 by recent Santa Ana Stakes (gr. IIT) winner Vamo a Galupiar, a champion juvenile in her native Chile. He stands at Airdrie Stud for $10,000.
The other contender emerging from the weekend's racing is Cathy and Robert Zollars' Daddy Nose Best, who now owns wins on grass, Tapeta, and dirt after winning the Sunland Derby (gr. III) on the last-named surface. A determined runner who doesn't seem to know the meaning of the word "quit," Daddy Nose Best is one of the most seasoned colts among this year's sophomores with 10 starts under his girth. His only other start of 2012 was his season-opening win in the El Camino Real Derby (gr. III), in which he scored by a nose over an equally gritty Lucky Chappy.
Bred by the Patricia Ann Elia Trust, Daddy Nose Best shows some of the same zest for slugging it out that characterized his sire Scat Daddy . The son of multiple champion Johannesburg seldom won by all that much, but he beat some pretty nice horses along the way, including Nobiz Like Shobiz, Notional, Stormello, and Teuflesberg . He won some good races too, including the grade I Champagne Stakes at 2 and Florida Derby at 3, before retiring due to a tendon injury in June of his sophomore year.
The leading freshman sire of 2011, Scat Daddy has six stakes winners so far from the 111 named foals of his first crop of racing age. Besides Daddy Nose Best, they include 2011 Juddmonte Royal Lodge Stakes (Eng-II) winner Daddy Long Legs , 2011 Arlington-Washington Futurity (gr. III) winner Shared Property, and 2011 Summer Stakes Presented by TVG (Can-III) winner Finale. Scat Daddy stands at Ashford Stud at an advertised fee of $17,500.
Scat Daddy is inbred 4x2 to Mr. Prospector (by Raise a Native) and 5x4 to Northern Dancer, but this hasn't stopped him from producing well with mares whose pedigrees reinforce both strains. Follow Your Bliss, the dam of Daddy Nose Best, follows this pattern. A daughter of 1995 Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes (gr. I) hero Thunder Gulch (by Gulch, by Mr. Prospector), she is inbred 4x4 to Northern Dancer and carries an additional line of Raise a Native via Marshua's Dancer, sire of her granddam Money Player.
Follow Your Bliss failed to win, but her dam Follow the Money (by 1992 Preakness Stakes winner Pine Bluff) was a good mare, winning the 2000 Dahlia Handicap (gr. IIT) and the Violet Handicap (gr. IIIT) as a 4-year-old. A half sister to two other stakes winners, Follow the Money is out of the Marshua's Dancer mare Money Player. The female line has produced a sprinkling of nice horses during the last century, including 1948 Washington Park Futurity winner Model Cadet, 1952 Gazelle Stakes winner Hushaby Baby, and 1958 Top Flight Handicap winner Plucky Roman, but for the most part can be described as more solid than spectacular. Still, it looks as though Daddy Nose Best may be at least the equal of his granddam Follow the Money in class, and if he proves more talented than that, he will be one to keep an eye on down the road.