Ky. Derby Trail: The Challenge is On
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.
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.
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.
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.
Copyright © 2015 The Blood-Horse, Inc. All Rights Reserved.