In February, it looked as if Fort Calder was about to unleash the most potent corps of Kentucky Derby contenders ever assembled there. But most of the big names are gone, and it's now down to a pair of unlikely heroes to carry on the Calder name on this year's Triple Crown trail.
Back when the stars were still shining over Calder, there was What a Pleasure winner Second of June and Hopeful (gr. I) winner Silver Wagon, who dominated the Holy Bull Stakes (gr. III), finishing a pole ahead of eventual Florida Derby (gr. I) winner Friends Lake. There was the undefeated Sir Oscar, who already had five stakes wins to his credit, including a sweep of the Florida Stallion Stakes Series. There was Wynn Dot Comma, winner of four of his five starts, including two stakes victories, and a second to Sir Oscar in the Jack Price Juvenile.
By the middle of March, however, Second of June, who was beaten a neck by Read the Footnotes in an epic Fountain of Youth (gr. II) battle, and Silver Wagon were gone, sidelined by injury. Sir Oscar bled in the Fountain of Youth, then was taken away from his trainer, eventually finishing a dismal eighth in the Florida Derby. And although Wynn Dot Comma continued his success at Gulfstream Park, winning the Swale Stakes (gr. II), it was obvious he was a sprinter and wasn't even nominated to the Triple Crown. There was even high hopes for Ice Wynnd Fire, who was snatched up by Bobby Frankel after two starts at Calder. But he also was injured after an impressive third, beaten in a photo, in the Sunshine Millions Dash at Santa Anita in 1:08 3/5.
But the Calder Corps isn't dead yet by any means. Two remnants from the old brigade are still around, although they have gone to different homes. One is Imperialism
, who after running 12 times at Calder and working his way up the claiming ranks, was sold to Steve Taub and turned over to 21-year-old Kristin Mulhall. In a dramatic turnaround, the son of Langfuhr
proceeded to win the San Vicente (gr. II) and San Rafael (gr. II) at Santa Anita, and is now one of the favorites for the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I).
Then, there is Stolen Time
, winner of the Foolish Pleasure Stakes and third in the Jack Price Juvenile, who was sold to Jeanne Vance, owner of Belmont (gr. I) and Travers (gr. I) winner Lemon Drop Kid, who also captured a number of other grade I stakes. Shortly after the purchase, however, Vance died of pneumonia, and Stolen Time became the property of her two sons. A year earlier, Vance's husband, Laddie Dance, died.
Stolen Time was turned over to Bill Mott, who ran the son of Time Bandit in the Louisiana Derby (gr. II) off a four-month layoff. The chart shows that Stolen Time finished sixth, beaten eight and a half lengths, but watching the race, the horse ran much better than that. After making a good, steady move from mid-pack, Stolen Time looked strong in the upper stretch, battling with the leaders. It appeared as if he was going to be right in the thick of things at the wire, but tired late down the long Fair Grounds stretch, which is understandable after the long layoff. Now, Mott has decided to bring him back 13 days later in Saturday's Lane's End Stakes (gr. II), which is a bold move for the conservative Mott. If you ignore the last line in the past performances and just go by the visual aspect of the race, then you have to give Stolen Time a good chance in the Lane's End, assuming a big leap forward is on the way. This is not to say he's good enough to beat Birdstone or even Silver Minister (good local horses are always tough in this race), but he sure is appealing for the exotics. Expect to see a big run from this colt around the three-eighths pole, and if he can get that final eighth, he should make his presence felt.Looking ahead, Stolen Time is not bred to go 1 1/4 miles, and might not even be suited for 1 1/8 miles, having a good deal of sprint and mile influences in his pedgree, but that's something to discuss if he emerges from the Lane's End as a viable Derby prospect.-- If you want the hottest angle these days, remember, Little Matth Man, who should be flying at the end of the Lane's End Stakes, is a New York-bred.-- There is a good chance that The Cliff's Edge, a troubled third in the Florida Derby, will make his next start in the Coolmore Lexington Stakes (gr. II) at Keeneland April 17. Trainer Nick Zito had been contemplating running him in the Arkansas Derby (gr. II), but feels a big, long-striding colt like The Cliff's Edge would be better suited to Keeneland, and Zito likes the fact that the Lexington has produced several live Kentucky Derby horses. No decision has been finalized, but that's the way he's leaning right now. -- Zito will saddle the very "live" Pies Prospect in the Rushaway Stakes, as well as El Prado Rob, who gets blinkers for the first time since his career debut. Tales of Glory, trained by Todd Pletcher, will be making his 3-year-old debut and has been working very steadily at Palm Meadows. It's hard to say whether he's up to winning this race off a 3 1/2-length month layoff, but he looks to be a colt with a lot of promise.