Kentucky Derby Trail: Top Trainers Still Searching the Country for Derby Horses

Kentucky Derby Trail: Top Trainers Still Searching the Country for Derby Horses
Photo: Jeff Coady/Coady Photography
Haskin says that despite a high dosage index, Mr. Jester should be able to go a distance.
This is the 11th in a series of early looks and next year's potential Kentucky Derby horses. The market is heating up for young, unproven colts, while new talent is unveiled at Hollywood Park and Fair Grounds.

We mentioned in an earlier report about the new trend the past couple of years of big-name trainers on the constant lookout for impressive maiden and allowance winners. The offers for these horses have become so huge that many owners are holding out for more money or simply refusing to sell. Bob Baffert has already bought two horses and Bobby Frankel has bought one. Expect more to come. The reasoning is simple: If you're going to pay $1 million or more for an unproven yearling, then why not go out and look for a 2-year-old or young 3-year-old who has already won impressively, and who has the pedigree and looks of a potential Derby horse?

It's because of that reasoning that the market for maiden and allowance winners has risen dramatically. So, if you are an owner, do you take the money now while your horse is in demand or do you keep him and follow the dream as far as it'll take you?

One of the horses Baffert purchased, Misty'sgoldentouch, has already had two super works for his new trainer, including a recent 5-furlong drill in :59 1/5.

With the excellent second-place finish by English-based Master David, bought by Peter Minikes, in the Remsen Stakes (gr. II) and the victory at Turfway Park this past Sunday by Shadowland, an English colt purchased by Team Valor, it is obvious the search for Derby horses is stretching across the Atlantic. Shadowland, discussed in an earlier report, was sent off as the 6-5 favorite in his U.S. debut and won going away almost 2 lengths, getting the mile in 1:39.

Last Friday, at Delta Downs, Mr. Jester, winner by disqualification of the Kentucky Cup Juvenile (gr. III), captured the $1 million Delta Jackpot over Fire Slam and Perfect Moon. It's too early to tell whether this was a top-caliber race, or whether any of these three horses wants to go 1 1/4 miles. But Mr. Jester and Perfect Moon have proven themselves in stakes company on more than one occasion, and Fire Slam took another step forward after winning his first two starts.

Although Mr. Jester has an undesirable DI of 4.78, we don't see any reason why this colt should have any problem stretching out to nine or even 10 furlongs. By Silver Deputy, his dam, Future Pretense finished second to the great Sky Beauty in the 1 1/4-mile Coaching Club American Oaks (gr. I) and Alabama Stakes (gr. I). She is by Kentucky Derby-winning sire and and grandsire Fappiano, out of a mare by Quack, who ran the fastest 1 1/4 miles ever by a 3-year-old (1:58 1/5), defeating older horses in the Hollywood Gold Cup, a race which he won again the following year in 1:59 2/5.

Fire Slam, who has a 4.60 DI, is more suspect at 1 1/4 miles, but no doubt is a talented colt, winning his first two starts, both sprints, at Keeneland and Churchill Downs before rallying from eighth to finish second in the Delta Jackpot, stretching out to 1 1/16 miles.

Don't think the Delta Jackpot was the only 2-year-old race of note last week, as we had several impressive performances by some exciting newcomers.

Saint Afleet, also mentioned in an earlier report, followed up his maiden score in 1:09 4/5 at Hollywood Park on Nov. 16 with a victory in a 6-furlong allowance/optional claimer, in which he won by 2 1/2 lengths in 1:09 2/5. Trained by Craig Dollase, he has pretty much a miler's pedigree on top, but counters that with some strong stamina blood in his female family. His dam is by Saint Ballado out of a Fluorescent Light mare and is inbred 4x4 to major stamina influence Herbager, which helps account for his 1.59 DI.

Also at Hollywood Park, Baffert sent out the stamina-oriented Totally Platinum to break his maiden by 5 lengths, going 1 1/16 miles in his fifth career start. Following three troubled trips, the son of Dynaformer finally was able to show his stuff, drawing off in a solid 1:43 4/5 after tracking the early pace in fourth. Not only is he by the distance-loving Dynaformer, his dam is by Hoist the Flag, out of the tough little Coraggioso, a multiple stakes winner of over $300,000 who knocked off some talented fillies such as champion Desert Vixen. Totally Platinum is inbred 4x4 to Ribot and 5x4 to Alibhai, which gives him as strong a classic pedigree as you'll see in any member of this crop. He has a dosage profile on 9-8-25-0-4 and a 1.79 DI. After five starts, however, he just has to show he can follow this up with another big effort against winners.

One other Hollywood winner was Last Minute Detail, a son of Devil's Bag who came from far back to win his career debut by a half-length in 1:09 4/5 at odds of 11-1. How about this dosage profile: 11-4-10-7-2 for a 1.43 DI. The high number of stamina points mainly is from crossing Herbager and Round Table. He is trained by the little-known Don Chatlos Jr.

Heading down to Fair Grounds, we start off with a bang with Silver Indy, who was squeezed back and bled in his career debut, but rebounded big-time by breaking his maiden by 1 1/2 lengths in 1:11 3/5 for trainer Ed Johnston. Silver Indy is by Silver Charm, out of an A.P. Indy mare, and is inbred 3x5 to Buckpasser and 3x5 to Poker. You can't fault his 3-2-11-2-0 dosage profile and 1.40 DI.

Next, we head over to Neil Howard's barn. Howard, who has high hopes for Gradepoint and Breakaway, sent out Possess to break his maiden going a mile on the grass after a horrible career debut in the slop at Churchill Downs. It'll be interesting to see if Howard tries him back on the dirt again. He's by Belong to Me, from a monster female family. His dam is by Alleged (grass and dirt stamina), out of Lassie Dear, which makes her a half-sister to Weekend Surprise (dam of A.P. Indy, Summer Squall, and Honor Grades), Charming Lassie (dam of Lemon Drop Kid and Statue of Liberty), and European stakes winners Wolfhound and Foxhound. Lassie Dear is a half-sister to French champion Gay Mecene, winner of the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud (Fra-I) and other stakes, and second in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes (Eng-I). Possess has a dosage profile of 6-8-21-0-1 and a 2.13 DI.

At Calder, Todd Pletcher finally found a winning spot for his regally bred colt Battle Hero. The son of Deputy Minister, out of champion Flanders rallied from 12th to win a 1 1/16-mile maiden race by 2 1/2 lengths in the slow time of 1:49 1/5. Previously, the Overbrook Farm colt was well-beaten in three starts in New Jersey.

On the work tab this past week was Lion Heart, brilliant winner of the Prevue Stakes (gr. II), who prepped for the Hollywood Futurity (gr. I) with a mile in 1:41 1/5. Hopeful (gr. I) winner Silver Wagon tuned up for the Whatapleasure Stakes by working a sharp 5 furlongs at Calder in 1:00 1/5. Although he is not expected to start until early next year, Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) winner Action This Day has had a pair of works, breezing 3 furlongs in :37 3/5 and his more recent work, a half-mile breeze in :51 4/5.

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