Derby Profile: Lion Heart Ready to Resume Training; Can He Go the Distance?

Derby Profile: Lion Heart Ready to Resume Training; Can He Go the Distance?
Photo: Benoit
Hollywood Futurity winner Lion Heart, has gained weight during break from racing.
Hollywood Futurity (gr. I) winner Lion Heart is scheduled to return to the work tab in about a week, trainer Patrick Biancone said. The son of Tale of the Cat has not worked since his victory in the Futurity on Dec. 20.

"He's doing very well," Biancone said. "We gave him a little break and he's put on some weight. We're looking to run him in the (March 6) San Rafael (gr. II). Even though we have to drop back to a mile, it gives us four weeks to the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) and another four weeks to the Kentucky Derby (gr. I), which is perfect. It also gives us the option of waiting a week later for the San Felipe (gr. II), just in case."

There is no questioning Lion Heart's talent. He was brilliant in the Hollywood Prevue (gr. III) and the Futurity, in which he defeated St Averil, who came back to win the Santa Catalina Stakes (gr. II). In his only other start, he broke his maiden in a blazing 1:09 1/5 at Santa Anita. He runs with a reckless abandon you don't see too often, reminiscent of Dr. Fager. But that is just in action and running style. Obviously, it's far too early to even mention him in the same breath as the good doctor.

If there is a one concern it is his stamina. Because we still don't know how far the Tale of the Cats want to go, it's difficult to assess his chances going 1 1/4 miles. Bred to a daughter of Risen Star, Tale of the Cat did sire Alcibiades (gr. II) and Golden Rod (gr. II) winner Be Gentle, who sustained a fracture in the latter that has ended her career.

Lion Heart's female family doesn't provide much help in determining how far he wants to go, but there are positive signs. His dam, Satin Sunrise, made 78 starts, winning the My Fair Lady Stakes at Suffolk Downs and earning over $250,000. She produced Florida Oaks (gr. III) winner French Satin to the cover of French Deputy.

Satin Sunrise is by Mr. Leader, who could always be found on the Top 10 sires list every year, and he did sire the winners of several top-class 1 1/4-mile stakes. As a racehorse, he was best at a mile to 1 1/8 miles, on dirt and grass, and held the course record for 1 1/8 miles on the grass at Arlington Park, winning the Stars & Stripes Handicap in 1:47 2/5. At stud, he sired Santa Anita Handicap winners Ruhlmann and Martial Law, Travers and Super Derby winner Wise Times, Suburban Handicap winner Quiet Little Table, and Gulfstream Park Handicap winner Hurry Up Blue, as well as several top-class distance grass horses.

Satin Sunrise's dam, Logic, is by Naskra, who finished third in the Belmont Stakes and Suburban Handicap. Naskra sired horses who excelled mainly at middle distances. His daughter, Nastique, won the 1 1/4-mile Delaware Handicap twice and the Ladies Handicap. Of his top sons, Nasty and Bold won the 1 1/2-mile Booklyn Handicap in 2:26 flat (third fastest 1 1/2 miles ever run at Belmont behind Secretariat and Prove Out) and the 1 1/4-mile American Derby; Water Bank captured the 1 1/4-mile Hawthorne Gold Cup; and Naskra's Breeze won the 1 3/8-mile Man o'War Stakes on grass.

Mr. Leader's sire is the Classic chef-de-race Hail to Reason, and Lion Heart's fourth generation sire in his tail-female family, Bold Reason, won two major 1 1/4-mile stakes -- the Travers and Hollywood Derby. So, Lion Heart's dosage index of 3.00 is just about right. There are enough 1 1/4-mile influences to remain hopeful he can stretch out. But in short, with his running style and Tale of the Cat an unknown factor at this point, he's going to have to depend a great deal on his natural talent, of which he has plenty.

Biancone's other top 3-year-old, Pomeroy, is back in training and is pointing for the Rebel Stakes (gr. III) at Oaklawn Park. The son of Boundary finished first in the Kentucky Cup Juvenile (gr. III), but was disqualified and placed third in what many felt was a questionable call. Prior to that, he won his first two starts by 6 and 11 1/2 lengths before finishing second to Cuvee in the Saratoga Special (gr. II).

He was picked out as a yearling at Keeneland September by Nick Zito for $45,000, then pinhooked by owner Robert La Penta at the Fasig-Tipton 2-year-old sale, where he was bought by Demi O'Byrne for Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith for $300,000. His dam, Questress, is a daughter of Seeking the Gold.

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