Ky. Derby Trail: Revenge is Sweet
by Steve Haskin
Date Posted: 3/4/2009 1:37:23 PM
Last Updated: 3/10/2009 3:06:47 PM

I Want Revenge in the stretch of the CashCall Futurity
Photo: Benoit

I Want Revenge   is a horse on a mission. The son of Stephen Got Even   has traveled across the country to get a head start on his compatriots back home. While they remain in California, content to scamper along on the synthetic surface, oblivious to the test that awaits them on May 2, I Want Revenge is willing to find out right now, once and for all,  whether he will get hit by a dirt bomb or take to the loam like a kid to a sandbox.

 

If it turns out to be the latter and he can defeat a talented field in Saturday’s Gotham Stakes (gr. III), or at least finish an exceptional second, he will rise up the Derby lists as quickly as the temperature of owner/breeder David Lanzman and trainer Jeff Mullins. Of course, their illness will be nothing more than an acute case of Derby fever that they hope will burst the thermometer.

 

“When I won the (2001) Breeders’ Cup Sprint with Squirtle Squirt, I had never experienced anything like that before,” Lanzman said. “I heard everybody say, ‘It’s nothing like the Derby,’ and I almost took offense to it. But now that I’ve got one that’s this close I totally see where everybody was coming from. There’s nothing like this. It’s not only nerve-wracking, but with all the information that’s out there on the Internet I probably get three or four calls a day from some friend of mine somewhere asking me, ‘Did you read this; did you read that?’ It’s overwhelming, but in a good way.”

 

Lanzman said the decision to leave California and head to the dirt was finalized after jockey Joe Talamo told them the colt did not handle the Pro-Ride surface, which had taken a good deal of rain prior to the Robert Lewis Stakes (gr. II) and was “spotty” throughout. I Want Revenge gained narrow lead turning for home, but didn’t kick on and had to settle for third, beaten 1 1/2 lengths.

 

“Joe said at the quarter pole, it wasn’t a question of whether or not we were going to win, but by how much,” Lanzman said. “But the horse just wasn't getting hold of the track. Joe said he thought he would do much better on dirt. And that was Jeff’s opinion basically from the day we brought him in from the farm. So, we started looking for a dirt race, and the timing of the Gotham was perfect. We decided to find out now rather than later whether he’ll handle the dirt.”

 

I Want Revenge is a long-striding colt who covers a lot of ground and moves with great efficiency. How that will equate to Aqueduct’s inner track, which in the past has been conducive to inside speed, we’ll have to see. So far, the track has been playing pretty fair, according to the NYRA handicappers.

 

Although he’s won only one of six races, he’s never run worse than third, and he turned in a super performance in the CashCall Futurity (gr. I), coming off a maiden victory to be beaten a nose by Pioneerof the Nile  , who has since established himself as the leading 3-year-old colt in California, along with The Pamplemousse  . In the CashCall, I Want Revenge demonstrated his agility by doing some nifty broken-field running, slicing between horses in the stretch, only to get nipped right on the wire in a gutsy effort.

 

Even in the Robert Lewis Stakes (gr. II), on a track he didn’t care for, he still finished a credible third, beaten only 1 1/2 lengths by Pioneerof the Nile and a length behind the improving Papa Clem  , who also will skip town in search of dirtier pastures in the Louisiana Derby (gr. II) March 14.

 

I Want Revenge could very well be one of those horses who actually is better on the dirt, in which case he will continue on the Derby trail possessing all the attributes you want in a Derby horse. He has the right running style, having shown he can be effective coming from mid-pack and negotiating traffic. And he’s versatile enough to have broken his maiden on the lead the whole way. He’s trained by a three-time Santa Anita Derby winner (he won three straight from 2003-2005) who has been to the Kentucky Derby four times, his best finish being a fifth by Buzzard’s Bay in 2005.

 

And finally, he has a pedigree that provides him not only with a ton of stamina top and bottom, but toughness and durability, which he gets from a tail-female family dominated by Argentine and British classic horses.

 

His sire, Stephen Got Even, is by A.P. Indy, out of a Cox’s Ridge mare who finished third in the Gazelle Handicap (gr. I) and whose dam was a graded stakes winner and second dam a half-sister to the top-class Lord Avie.

 

I Want Revenge’s dam, Meguial, second in the group I Argentine Oaks and Argentine 1,000 Guineas, is by the grade II-placed Roy, who was the leading sire in Chile for nine consecutive years and also the leading sire in Argentina. In all, he sired 125 stakes winners. Meguial’s broodmare sire, Fitzcarraldo, finished second, third, and fourth in the Argentine Triple Crown, in which the first and third legs are run on dirt, and was the leading sire of stakes winners in 1992. Fitzcarraldo’s sire, Cipayo, won the Argentine 2,000 Guineas and the group I Gran Premio Montevideo. Fitzcarraldo’s broodmare sire, Vervain, won the group II King Edward II Stakes at 1 1/2 miles at Royal Ascot. Vervain’s sire, Crepello, won the English Derby and 2,000 Guineas and was the champion sire in England in 1969 and champion broodmare sire in 1974. Vervain’s dam, Verbena, finished second in the 1 1/2-mile Ribblesdale Stakes (Eng-II) at Royal Ascot. Finally, Meguial’s third dam, Media Sombra, is by Seductor, winner of the last two legs of the Argentine Triple Crown, the Gran Premio Jockey Club and Gran Premio Nacional.

 

So, as you can see, this pedigree is pure stamina, with enough brilliance to win Guineas in Argentina and Great Britain. For breeders looking to get away from all the inbreeding in the sport, I Want Revenge is a complete outcross, mixing classic horses from Argentina and England with names like A.P. Indy, Seattle Slew, Secretariat, Mr. Prospector, Fappiano, and Blushing Groom.

 

The Gotham could turn out to an important prep for the Kentucky Derby this year if I Want Revenge can use it as a springboard to the Wood Memorial and the Derby.

 

Adding some spice to the Gotham

 

While all eyes will be focused on I Want Revenge, Imperial Council, and the battling New York-breds, Haynesfield   and Mr. Fantasy, there is another interesting colt who could be ready for a bust-out performance. Peachtree Stable’s Masala, named after an Indian hot sauce, has been the quintessential pro from the day he was born, and has always done everything the right way.

 

The son of Lion Heart has a win, a second, and third in three career starts, and is coming off an excellent runner-up performance against Take the Points in a one-mile allowance race at Gulfstream, in which he broke slowly, moved up to mid-pack, and then closed well off slow fractions to be beaten two lengths on a speed-favoring track, while finishing seven lengths ahead of the third horse.

 

His Beyers have climbed from a 75 to an 89 to a 90, and should continue to improve. There is rain in the forecast for Friday and Saturday, and Masala broke his maiden by 2 3/4 lengths on a muddy track at Aqueduct last November. He is one to watch at a price.

 

His trainer Todd Pletcher also will be represented by Starlight Partners’ Naos, another son of Lion Heart who won his career debut impressively over this same Aqueduct inner track in December. Following a bad performance and a bad trip in the Jimmy Winkfield Stakes, he went to Philly Park, stretched out to a mile and 70 yards in allowance company, and drew off to a comfortable 3 1/4-length victory, defeating Mike Trombetta’s highly regarded Casa d’Oro. He’s been working very well over the Belmont training track.

Redemption Friday

That's pretty much what Friday's 1 1/8-mile allowance race at Gulfstream is, with a number of once-promising 3-year-olds -- Well Positioned, Atomic Rain, Idol Maker, Stately Character, and Copper Cascade -- all attempting to rebound off poor performances. Two new and fascinating faces are the Smarty Jones   colt Chef, an impressive maiden winner in his career debut, and the Peruvian import Al Khali -- who is now a WinStar/Pletcher horse, and who is coming off a bullet five-furlong work in :59 4/5 at Palm Meadows. The son of Medaglia d'Oro   has won his last two in Peru.

Speaking of redemption, on Saturday at Gulfstream, Nicanor gets another shot in a seven-maiden race.

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


Copyright © 2014 The Blood-Horse, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

SUBSCRIBE to The Blood-Horse magazine TODAY!