What do the following horses have in common? Secretariat,
All of them, despite having run at a mile or longer as a 2-year-old, made their 3-year-old debut going seven furlongs or shorter.
In recent years, trainers, for whatever reason, are reluctant to drop a horse back in distance for his 3-year-old debut. Now you see races like the Hutcheson Stakes and Bay Shore Stakes dominated by sprinters. You rarely see a top 2-year-old make his first start at 3 in a sprint of any kind, with many trainers rushing them into 1 1/8-mile races, as they do with horses who have never even been two turns.
Of the horses mentioned above, Seattle Slew, Affirmed,
Starting top 2-year-olds off in sprints at 3 was the norm for a trainer like Ben Jones, who ran Whirlaway, a stakes winner at 1 1/16 miles at 2, in five sprints at 3 before stretching him back out to two turns. Jones ran Citation, also a stakes winner at 1 1/16 miles, in two sprints before stretching him back out. One of Whirlaway’s races was at 5 1/2 furlongs, which he won, while Citation defeated older horses in the seven-furlong Seminole Handicap on Feb. 11, nine days after winning a six-furlong allowance race.
In other words, there was no rush back then. Once horses were given a good 2-year-old foundation it was only logical that they return in sprints to sharpen them up and prepare them mentally for the Triple Crown grind. It’s no coincidence that the horses mentioned above include five Triple Crown winners.
Perhaps it is no coincidence that Kentucky Derby and Preakness winners Funny Cide, Smarty Jones , War Emblem, and Charismatic all ran in two-turn stakes in January and likely were beginning to regress a bit by the time they got to the Belmont Stakes.
The reason for pointing all this out is that, for the first time in many years, several trainers of top 2-year-olds will be taking a page from history and running their big horse first time out in next Friday’s seven-furlong Hutcheson Stakes instead of the 1 1/8-mile Holy Bull Stakes the next day. The horses in question are Break Water Edison and Hello Broadway, the one-two finishers, respectively, in the one-mile Nashua Stakes (gr. III) at Aqueduct; and Capt. Candyman Can, winner of the one-mile Iroquois Stakes (gr. III) at Churchill Downs and a close third in the 1 1/16-mile Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (gr. II). These three horses are trained by old-school horsemen John Kimmel, Barclay Tagg, and Ian Wilkes, who was an instrumental part of Street Sense ’s Kentucky Derby victory as longtime assistant and colleague of Carl Nafzger.
John Kimmel’s thinking regarding Break Water Edison is, “Coming off a three-month layoff, he doesn’t have to be tuned to sprint. He’s had nine breezes since he returned to training. I don’t have him completely cranked, but I’m positive a race like this will put him on the right path. We have a long way to go, his weight is great, and he’s accomplished exactly what we set out to do going into this campaign, which has a tendency to be grueling.”
Perhaps if one or more of these horses go on to win Triple Crown races and are still around and winning big races in the summer and fall it will serve as a wake-up call to trainers that the old methods of developing 3-year-olds might be the best after all.
In other 3-year-old news:
— At Nad al Sheba Jan. 22, two of Godolphin's Derby hopefuls, Desert Party and Regal Ransom, finished one-two in the Ford Flex Trophy, with the former, winner of the Sanford Stakes, coming through along the rail to defeat his stablemate by three-quarters of a length. Godolphin reports that Vineyard Haven, winner of the Hopeful and Champagne, will be pointed for the UAE 2,000 Guineas. There was no word about Midshipman, according to Dubairacenight.com.
— John Gerbas, owner of the undefeated Free Country, has sold one-third interest in the son of Big Country to a group consisting of Lee Einsidler, Nathan Fox, and Al Ferri. Kenny McPeek will continue to train the colt, who could show up next in the Sam F. Davis Stakes (gr. III) at Tampa Bay Downs. In his last start, Free Country came off one six-furlong maiden win to out-battle Remsen (gr. II) runner-up Atomic Rain the length of the stretch in a 1 1/8-mile allowance race at Gulfstream.
Kenny McPeek has mapped out a schedule for his big 3-year-olds. Danger to Society runs next Saturday in the Holy Bull Stakes, Theregoesjojo will ship to Fair Grounds for the Risen Star Stakes (gr. III), and, as mentioned, Free Country heads to Tampa for the Sam F. Davis.
— Stardom Bound, champion 2-year-old filly, is coming along beautifully under the care of Bobby Frankel at Santa Anita. According to owner IEAH Stables, the immediate objective is the Las Virgenes Stakes (gr. I) Feb. 7, after which there is a good chance she’ll be pointed for the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I). The main objective as of now is the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I), but no final decision will be made until after her connections see how she runs against the boys.
— In discussing the RF (Rasmussen Factor) horses last week (inbred to top-class broodmares), I overlooked Foggy Note who appears in the male and female line of recent allowance winner Poltergeist. What is unusual is that she appears in the female family as the dam of Poltergeist’s broodmare sire Relaunch and in the male family as the fourth dam of Poltergeist’s sire Tapit. On both occasions, the sire is In Reality, giving Poltergeist full siblings – Relaunch and Moon Glitter – on top and bottom.
— The one horse you’d expect to run in the Hutcheson is Notonthesamepage after his brilliant 8 1/4-length victory in the Spectacular Bid Stakes, in which he blazed the six panels in 1:08 2/5. But trainer Wesley Ward has opted to wait for the one-mile Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II) and stretch the colt out to a mile.