There has been a lot of talk about Balto Star recently. His last two races – actually, last three -- have been so mind-boggling, people simply don't know what to make of him. Coming off a "zero" Thoro-Graph number (the lower the number the better) in the Spiral, he ran a "one-quarter" in the Arkansas Derby. It's extremely rare to see a young 3-year-old run a "zero," but what's even more incredible is virtually running two of them back-to-back. And he did it with his ears pricked both times. Thoro-Graph's Jerry Brown said he can't recall any 3-year-old ever running those kind of numbers back-to-back. Despite this, Brown believes he will not regress enough in the Derby to be discounted.
Balto Star is the horse Bob Baffert is afraid of, despite being a gelding, a son of sprinter Glitterman, and a confirmed front-runner. If you go by logic, all three of those factors add up to Balto Star having too much going against him.
Not so fast. Even being by Glitterman, Balto Star will get the 1 1/4 miles of the Derby. Whether he can turn in another super performance after the Spiral and Arkansas Derby is another matter. But if he doesn't, it won't be his pedigree that stops him.
We acknowledge that Glitterman has an abundance of speed influences in his pedigree, but they are not sprinting influence. His dosage is high because of the Bold Ruler-Nasrullah-Nearco link to his sire Dewan. But take into account that the Bold Ruler line has more than proven itself at 1 1/4 miles, and in the Kentucky Derby. Dewan was one of those distance-oriented Bold Rulers, having won the 1 1/4-mile Brooklyn Handicap. He also had the class and speed to defeat reigning Horse of the Year Arts and Letters in the Westchester Handicap, in which he ran a mile in 1:34 1/5. Glitterman has produced mainly sprinters only because he's been bred mainly to mares from speed families. In his fifth generation, he is inbred to one of the great stamina influences Blenheim II, as well as inbred to the distance-loving Discovery and War Relic.
As for the dam side, Miss Livi has a very low (stamina-oriented) dosage index of 0.74, and her broodmare sire Stage Door Johnny is one of the great classic-stamina influences in the country. One of our favorite pedigree tools is inbreeding (sire and dam) to top-class mares. It is not that common, but Miss Livi has it twice. She is inbred 5x5 to Banish Fear, who produced the sire of the great mare Cosmah (on top) and the dam of the great sire and broodmare sire Prince John (on bottom). She also is inbred 4x5 to Almahmoud, the dam of Cosmah (on top) and the dam of Natalma (on bottom), who is the dam of Northern Dancer. Also, Miss Livi's third dam is Musical Chairs, who produced Kentucky Derby runner-up Woodchopper for Greentree Stud. Because of this family, Balto Star has a very low dosage index of 1.80. As we said, this horse has a lot more stamina than people think.
Speaking of Thoro-Graph numbers, Jerry Bown says he's never seen a crop of 3-year-olds going into the Derby with such incredibly strong numbers. "This is heads and shoulders the best crop I've seen," he said. "By comparison, they're running as fast as Captain Steve and Tiznow."
Millennium Wind ran an incredible "minus one-quarter," or a quarter of a point below zero, in the Blue Grass Stakes. By jumping 5 3/4 points from the Louisiana Derby and running such an absurdly low number, Brown and most speed sheets handicappers would conclude he is ripe for a bounce. Congaree, after running a 5 3/4 and a 3 3/4, ran a 1 1/4 in the Wood Memorial, and appears ready to pretty much duplicate that effort in the Derby. "Baffert's horses just don't bounce in Triple Crown races," Brown said. "He does a great job getting his horses to the Triple Crown the right way."
Which brings us to the head honcho Point Given, who went from a 2 1/4 in the San Felipe to a "one-half" in the Santa Anita Derby. All indications point to the big chestnut running somewhere close to that number in the Derby, coming off a four-week rest, and still having enough to get him through the Triple Crown in good order.
There are other interesting conclusions from the Thoro-Graph numbers, which we'll touch on occasionally over the next two weeks.