Ky. Derby Trail: The Challenge is On
Photo: Coglianese Photos
Taqarub won the Jimmy Winkfield Stakes at Aqueduct Jan. 19.

So, 23 “elite” 3-year-olds have been chosen to make up the first Kentucky Derby Future Wager field. Well, several of those who didn’t make the cut are up in arms over the selections and are offering a challenge to the so-called leading Derby contenders.

The reason they are up in arms over the decision-making is that they feel several of those chosen are less -- or at least no more -- worthy of inclusion than they are.

They came to the sad conclusion that all one had to do to be considered a Derby contender was to run an outrageously fast Beyer speed figure going six furlongs or shorter, which many handicappers feel may be more of a negative than a positive. Not only was one horse chosen who was not even nominated to the Triple Crown and had his reputation based on one six-furlong restricted race, he was made the ridiculous odds of 12-1, the same odds as last year’s 2-year-old champion and runner-up, Midshipman   and Vineyard Haven  , and the same odds as the grade I winner Pioneerof the Nile  , winner of the recent Robert B. Lewis Stakes (gr. II). They simply couldn’t understand why four of their colleagues who have accomplished nothing beyond six furlongs were chosen ahead of them. (At the end of this column the pedigrees of those four will be discussed).

There is a saying that horses can’t read the tote board, but in this case the snubbed sophomores did take a gander at the morning line odds and choked on their afternoon feed.

They couldn’t understand how West Side Bernie and Beethoven, who finished on near even terms for third in the Holy Bull Stakes (gr. III), were made 50-1 and 15-1, respectively, especially considering the 50-1 shot had to rally from last on a speed-favoring track. They couldn’t understand how Capt. Candyman Can and Hello Broadway, who finished 1-2 in the Hutcheson Stakes (gr. III) and received high marks for their performances, were made 10-1 and 50-1, respectively, especially considering the 50-1 shot has a stronger 10-furlong pedigree. They couldn’t understand why a filly, whose trainer stated publicly he was not inclined to try the boys in the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I), was made 12-1.

The only bright spot was that all 378 horses not chosen were installed as the 5-2 favorite, with the next lowest horse at 10-1, meaning the oddsmaker and the public believe there is a much better chance the Derby winner is not among the chosen 23.

So, all the also-eligibles got together, selected their own group of 23 horses, and offered a challenge to those big-name horses who will have money bet on them individually and have their past performances downloaded for free on the Daily Racing Form website.

The challenge states that on the first Saturday in May the unchosen 23 will fare better in the Run for the Roses than their more illustrious counterparts.

They didn’t need an army of 378. They insisted on it being a fair fight. This regiment of rejects was more than willing to take on the roll of underdog to prove their point. So, here are the 23 (in no particular order) that were chosen to uphold the honor of those left out of the Future Wager field.

Terrain – How could he be excluded after his 2-year-old accomplishments; also back in training.
Ryehill Dreamer – Look for huge improvement off his third in the San Rafael.
Free Country
--
Undefeated, made big stretch-out from 6f to 1 1/8 miles; great potential
Take the Points – Up and comer from Pletcher; lots of room for improvement.
Masala – Runner-up to Take the Points from same barn; he will be heard from.
Theregoesjojo – Back on work tab after lung infection; allowance score was brilliant.
Imperial Council – Would be no surprise if he turned out to be the best of them all.
Atomic Rain – Has big chance in Saturday’s Sam F. Davis; blinkers on, work over track.
Break Water Edison
– Dropped off elite list after bad race in Hutcheson, but certainly has the talent to bounce back.
Poltergeist – Allowance romp at Oaklawn was one of the most impressive performances of the year. Strong pedigree top and bottom.
Flat Out   – Already a stakes winner, taking the Smarty Jones impressively. Southwest could stamp him as Derby contender.
Mr. Fantasy – Who knows how good this brilliant, undefeated NY-bred is? We’ll find out in the Gotham.
Mr. Hot Stuff
– Colonel John’s brother; his wake-up maiden score, from last to first, had everyone buzzing.
Obligingly – Ready for a bang-up performance in the Sam Davis; strong female family. Could make for strong exacta box with Atomic Rain.
Quality Road – Touted as something special from day one; just needs to harness his speed.
Alma d’Oro
—Romped in a one-mile maiden race after being sent to Dutrow; could be any kind.
Bear’s Rocket – Came down from Canada and nearly pulled off Holy Bull upset on lead at 33-1.
Nowhere to Hide – Ran a sneaky-good race when fourth in the Risen Star; on the improve.
Professor Z
– Back training after shedding frog in the Smarty Jones. May show up in the Southwest. We’ll see if he can bounce back.
Captain Cherokee
-- Impressive mile maiden score has gone virtually unnoticed.
A.P. Cardinal – Last was an improvement, and McLaughlin colt now tries the Sam Davis.
American Dance – Pletcher colt is under the radar, but ran a solid third in Remsen, supposedly much more mature this year.
Flying Private
– Overcame a terrible start in Oaklawn allowance, but still managed to close for second.

Just as a point of interest, there are several horses who got late starts and didn’t make their career debuts until late January or early February, but could turn out to be major stars before the Triple Crown is over. Watch for a couple of these to be on the second or third Future Wager list.

Perfect Song – Way behind, but his maiden score at Philly Parkwas spectacular; bred to run long.
Dunkirk
Despite low Beyer figure in career debut, his victory was visually impressive.
Warrior's Reward – Turned in a big 8 th-to-1st move to win debut at a mile.
Wise Kid –
Still very green, but his two career starts at Oaklawn indicate he is a colt with a bright future, and his pedigree is through the roof. Once he figures it all out he could be one to watch.
HullHoly Bull colt trained by Dale Romans came out smokin’ at Fair Grounds, winning big in fast time going 6 furlongs.
Hamazing Destiny -- Won by a pole first time out at Oaklawn in fast time, but is most likely a sprinter.

While the following didn’t make the cut, they might be worth keeping an eye on anyway, more as a roster of what’s out there:

Cribnote -- It's going to be real tight to make the Derby, but he did have his first little breeze. His second in the Hopeful was one of the highlights of the year in the juvenile division.
Checklist – Grabbed a quarter in last and ran poorly, but make no mistake, this colt is a runner and will be heard from.
Massone – Maiden who has been knocking heads with top horses has a shot to do some damage in El Camino Real Derby.
Bittel Road -- Most likely a grass horse, but still holding hos own against the heavy hitters.
Brave Victory – Zito colt turned in powerful stretch to win 6f allowance race; not bred for stamina but runs like he wants to go on.
Charitable Man -- One of the best 2-year-olds last year; great promise. Main question is, can he make it back from injury in time?
Jack Spratt -- Will make his dirt debut in the Fountain of Youth. Another good Candy Ride. Who knows?
ShaftedHe deserves another chance after inexplicably poor performance following huge win.
Danger to Society -- Another you cant give up on yet, now in Dutrow's barn.
Munnings -- Most likely a miler type, but he was one of the top 2-year-olds in the east and he does a ton of class.
Axel FoleyFormer European was good second in California Derby and beaten only five lengths in CashCall.
They're Late – Late-developing Zito colt, by Mineshaft, closed well for third in 9f allowance
Russell Road | BloodHorse.com Horse Profile">Russell Road -- Mid-Atlantic monster has won six in a row, all in sprints, but bred to stretch out with no problem.
Herr Mozart – Recent maiden winner for Baffert looked good beating a talented field.
Parade ClownWEBN winner should continue to stretch out with no problem.
Merus MiamiFriends Lakecolt likely to improve in El Camino Real Derby.
Stately CharacterWas expecting more in Holy Bull, but didn’t do much after bad start; still haven’t given up on him. Needs a fast pace on an honest track.
GreshamHe hasn’t quite made the kind of progress one had hoped, but with his pedigree he still can break through at any time.
FitzaslewNarrowly beaten sprinting in last, but should be much more effective settling off the pace.
Uno Mas – Hasn’t made sufficient strides since impressive allowance score over Friesan Fire, but third in Risen Star was an improvement over LeComte fourth.
Dr. Large – One bad effort has put a blot on his otherwise excellent record, but his last at Oaklawn was strong.
Cliffy’s Future – It’s taking him a while to find himself, but last race with blinkers on was encouraging; could make his presence felt late in Sam Davis for a piece of it.
Pitched Perfectly -- Held on to beat Cliffy's Future, but bred to run all day.
Indygo Mountain  One more chance? Why not.
More Than Willing – More was expected in his maiden win at 3-5, but he was stretching out from 6f to 1 1/8 miles and got the job done.
Haitian Sensation – Recent maiden winner at Aqueduct keeps improving for Seth Benzel; out of a Seattle Slew mare.
Musket ManDefends his home turf in Sam Davis..
Mayor Marv – Baffert colt could be one to watch in Sunland Derby down the road.
Allrightsreserved – Another maiden who should be heard from before long.
Millennium Lakes – Maiden who may need to get on dirt.
Snowmaster – Maiden who should be heard from later on.

OK, let’s get back to those “sprinters” on the Future Wager list. The most intriguing is Taqarub, who is by sprint champion Aldebaran, but what a female family, combining the best of Rokeby Stable and Darby Dan, two of the last remaining foundations of class and stamina. Taqarub’s dam, Honor Bestowed, has a phenomenal family tree, consisting of Glorious Song, Devil’s Bag, Singspiel, Rahy, Saint Ballado, Wonder Again, Plenty of Grace, Dawn’s Curtsey Diabolical, Tricky Creek, Parade Ground, and Parade Leader. Honor Bestowed is a half-sister to Soaring Softly, winner of the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf and Flower Bowl Invitational. Taqarub also is inbred top and bottom to the great classic influence Buckpasser, as well as being inbred three times to Northern Dancer. If this colt can learn to relax off the pace, there’s no telling how far his female family can carry him.

Silver City  , who could be Old Fashioned’s biggest threat in the Southwest, is not bred to be a confirmed sprinter, although he does have plenty of speed through sire Unbridled’s Song and broodmare sire Mt.Livermore. He could very well be nothing more than a sprinter, but the way he was finishing and galloping out in the Dixieland there appears to be a lot more in the tank. He is inbred to the potent French-bred stallion Wild Risk, and gets additional stamina from Storm Bird and Secretariat.

This One’s For Phil, the one with the gaudy 117 Beyer, is by the Unbridled stallion Untuttable, out of a Septieme Ciel (by Seattle Slew) mare. His tail-female great-grandsire is the Damascus stallion Lord Durham. The key, however, is his tail-female fourth generation sire Ruritania, a Greentree Stable-bred son of Graustark out of the Mahmoud mare Aiming High who finished second to Riva Ridge in the Belmont Stakes. Aiming High’s dam is by Sir Gallahad, giving This Ones for Phil a double dose of the Teddy line (along with Damascus) in his female family. Aiming High also traces to Man o’War.

Notonthesamepage, by Storm Cat’s son Catienus  , has a ton of stamina in his female family. His dam is by Cure the Blues, a son of Stop the Music, by Hail to Reason. His granddam is by the Roberto stallion Lear fan, giving him inbreeding to Hail to Reason on his dam’s side. His third dam is by Damascus, out of a Native Charger mare.

Once again, the key to all these speed demons is getting them to curtail their speed and learn to relax. The more they relax the farther they’ll carry it, and they all have enough pedigree on their dam’s side to stretch out. Do they look like Derby horses right now? Not the way they’ve been running going 5 1/2 and six furlongs. This Ones for Phil did break his maiden at a mile at Calder, but is winless in his three subsequent races around two turns. It’ll be interesting to see how far Dutrow can get him to go.

Taqarub didn’t work from the Jimmy Winkfield on Jan. 19 until Feb. 7, when he breezed a half in :49 at Palm Meadows. Silver Cityprepared for the Southwest by working a mile in 1:42 2/5, which should give him some bottom. Wesley Ward opted to skip the 7-furlong Hutcheson and wait for the Fountain of Youth, which seems like a wise move after the colt’s phenomenal 8 1/4-length romp in the Spectacular Bid in 1:08 2/5. We’ll see what happens when he squares off against This Ones for Phil and Taqarub on Feb. 28 and when Silver Cityfaces Old Fashioned and other classy colts in Monday’s Southwest Stakes.

Comment on this Column on Steve Haskin's Blog: Hangin' With Haskin.

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