Kentucky Derby Trail: Picking Up Some Tidbits On Way to Big Weekend

Kentucky Derby Trail: Picking Up Some Tidbits On Way to Big Weekend
Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt
Agent Buzz Chace, playing role in this year's Kentucky Derby picture.
A preview of this weekend's feast of big stakes in Florida and California and high-profile allowance races at Gulfstream will come later in the week, but for now, here are a few little appetizers to munch on.

The Buzz horses

Here's an interesting six-horse package you don't see too often. The once-highly touted Shaniko, who disappointed in the Louisiana Derby (gr. II), is still learning and should turn into a class horse once he matures. Value Plus, coming off a rousing five-length allowance score in 1:21 2/5, will run in next Saturday's Florida Derby (gr. I) and could steal the whole thing if he's ignored on the front end. Redskin Warrior, fresh off a brilliant victory in the Best Turn Stakes, will take a lot of beating in the March 20 Gotham Stakes (gr. III). Song of the Sword, unbeaten in three career starts following an gutsy allowance victory at Aqueduct last Wednesday, heads to Turfway Park for the Lane's End Stakes (gr. II). Intimidator, a maiden winner going 1 1/8 miles last time out, runs on Florida Derby day in a first level allowance race. He'll face Tango Tales, who trainer John Ward believes is a very talented colt after his impressive seven-furlong maiden victory in 1:22 3/5. Both colts would earn a berth in one of the big April 10 Derby preps should they run big on Saturday.

What do these horses have in common? They were all picked out of the sales by hawk-eyed bloodstock agent Buzz Chace. Buying at every level at six different sales, including weanlings, yearlings, and 2-year-olds, Chace paid $2,000,000 for Intimidator at the Keeneland July yearling sale and $1,100,000 for Value Plus at the 2002 Keeneland January mixed sale. At the mid-level range, he bought Shaniko for $550,000 at the Ocala 2-year-old sale and Song of the Sword for $220,000 at the Saratoga yearling sale. And at the bargain-basement level, he snatched up Redskin Warrior for $68,000 at the Timonium 2-year-old sale, and bought Tango Tales as a weanling for $75,000 at the 2001 Keeneland November mixed sale. The colt was pinhooked two years later for $600,000. Now that's picking out horses.

More Derby Trail tidbits

-- Mustanfar, who strayed off the traditional Derby path by running in the Palm Beach Stakes (gr. IIIT) on grass, will return to the dirt in a second level allowance race on Florida Derby day. The regally bred son of Unbridled, who still looks like a live Derby longshot, had a very wide trip in the Palm Beach, then put in a good run on the far turn, but couldn't sustain it after jockey Jose Santos had the whip knocked out of his hand in the stretch. This long-striding colt still has to be tested for class, and he won't get a chance to do that until he runs in one of the three big April 10 Derby preps. Among those he'll meet is the Nick Zito-trained El Prado Rob, who gets blinkers for the first time.

-- Also, in the aforementioned first level allowance race, in addition to Intimidator and Tango Tales, keep an eye on another Zito colt, Royal Assault, a son of Kris S., who will be trying two turns for the first time. Zito has been high on this colt from day one and expects a big performance on Saturday. Zito not only has four Derby hopefuls running at Gulfstream Saturday, and Birdstone in the Lane's End Stakes the following week, he'll be represented in Turfway's Rushaway Stakes by Pies Prospect, fourth to Swingforthefences in a recent allowance race.

-- Bob Baffert, coming off his victory in the Louisiana Derby with Wimbledon and a third-place finish in the San Rafael (gr. II) with Consecrate, also will be busy this weekend, sending out Odds On and Preachinatthebar in the San Felipe Stakes on Sunday and Totally Platinum in the El Camino Real Derby (gr. III) Saturday. Totally Platinum has really put it all together in recent weeks, working brilliantly, and if he should get his act together in the afternoon, his stamina-laden pedigree could help carry him a long way. But he has to wake up and run a big race on Saturday.

-- A promising colt flying way under the radar right now is Cheiron. Not only is this Cal-bred (and well-bred) son of Maria's Mon not being talked about, he's not even the top 3-year-old in his own stable. With all the press and accolades his stablemate Imperialism has been getting, no one is paying much attention to this colt, who is coming off a 1 1/16-mile allowance victory. What made the race impressive was the fact that he was coming off a huge effort going six furlongs, in which he was beaten a head in 1:08 3/5 in the Sunshine Millions Dash. Stretching out, he relaxed beautifully off a :47 2/5 half, rallied to take the lead at the eighth pole, then held off a good horse in Dream Place, with a gap of 4 1/2 lengths back to the Baffert-trained Courageous Act. His sire has already sired a Kentucky Derby winner in Monarchos, and his dam is by Wild Again, out of the top-class turf mare Terpsichorist, a stakes-winning daughter of Nijinsky II, trained by Woody Stephens. His pedigree and 1.77 dosage index suggest he should keep stretching out with no problem, and he's now run three super races since Mulhall took the blinkers off him and straightened out his mind. He steps up in class in the San Felipe, but could surprise a lot of people.

-- Wayne Lukas is running out of time if he hopes to make it to the Derby this year. His last chance may ride with Race For Glory, a seven-length winner of last year's Cavonnier Stakes for Cal-breds, in which he ran seven furlongs in 1:22 2/5, earning a 98 Beyer figure. Following a dismal showing in the Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I), he turned in two more dull efforts. However, it was discovered the son of Cape Town was suffering from a breathing problem, which Lukas says has been corrected by surgery. The colt is back working and drilled a half in :48 flat Tuesday, much to the delight of Lukas, who has shown he's never out of the Derby picture until after the Lexington Stakes (gr. II). In the past several years, he's used a Lexington victory as a prep for Derby winner Charismatic and Derby runner-up Proud Citizen, who didn't make his 3-year-old debut until the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I). He's also used the race as a prep for Derby third-place finisher Prince of Thieves, and won it again last year with Scrimshaw.

-- There is a possibility Mark Hennig, who trains Eddington, will run Notorious Rogue in the Florida Derby. Although he looks on paper to be in over his head, there is a talented horse inside him just waiting to burst out. This is a tough spot for it to happen, but if it does, he could pick up a piece of it at a huge price.

-- Finally, Todd Pletcher confirmed Tuesday that Purge definitely will stretch out to two turns in the Rebel Stakes (gr. II). The son of Pulpit showed in his maiden victory at Saratoga that he is talented, courageous, and professional, and he displayed his brilliance in his comeback race on Feb. 22 when he drew off from a very good field in 1:09 2/5, earning a 99 Beyer Figure. It's asking a lot to get him ready for the Kentucky Derby, but if he stretches out and is right there against an expected tough field in the Rebel, you should be hearing a lot from him in the weeks leading up to the Derby.

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