Kentucky Derby 2002: The Return of Johannesburg (part 2)

Continued from part 1

As for Saarland, the big, rangy son of Unbridled out of Versailles Treaty is still very green and has a lot of learning to do. But boy is he going to love going a mile and a quarter. In the Remsen, he kept trying to duck in throughout the stretch run. After narrowly avoiding bumping with Silent Fred on his inside, he leaped back onto his left lead, and in doing so, appeared to spook Silent Fred, who ducked wildly to his inside and completely lost his action. But Saarland kept coming and threw in a solid final eighth in :12 2/5 to nail Nokoma a few jumps from the wire.

The main question with Saarland is whether his has the speed and brilliance. The thinking here is that once he gets his act together, and that should come with maturity, he'll be a major force to reckon with. He is quite presence out there, and as he showed in the Remsen he has the size to intimidate his opponents, much as Point Given did this year.

Silent Fred might be worth keeping an eye on. The son of Louis Quatorze made a strong, wide rally on the far turn and was moving very well in the final furlong until he got freaked out by Saarland. He's just lucky he wasn't hurt and that there was no one inside him. But if he hadn't lost his action, he would have have finished right there with the first two. Considering he was coming off a maiden victory, he should only get better. With High Star's strong showing in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes, it gives Nick Zito, who also has Governor Hickel, Crimson Hero, Mighty Gulch, and the $900,000 yearling Father Steve, some promising 3-year-olds to look forward to.

After Repent's victory in the Kentucky Jockey Club, an impressed Michael Tabor said just prior to the replay, "Let's watch this guy again. That certainly makes the Breeders' Cup a good race."

Repent looked to be in good shape down the backstretch, but then was taken to the inside on the sloppy track and ran right smack into a trap. After checking briefly, he had nowhere to go around the entire far turn. After straightening into the stretch, jockey Tony D'Amico tried to slip through on the rail, but got shut off by the tiring pacesetter Sky Terrace. He then steered Repent outside Sky Terrace, but that hole quickly closed and he was forced to yank his horse back to the inside and pray. Fortunately, there was now an opening and Repent shot through, out-closing Iroquois Stakes runner-up Request For Parole and High Star.

In D'Amico's defense, he was merely following instructions, as McPeek told him the rail was the place to be, and to try to save as much ground as possible. "That was the longest three-eighths I've ever been involved in," McPeek said. "It may have been an ugly win, but 99 out of a 100 horses in those circumstances would have been beaten. This is a very special horse. Tony came back shaking his head. He said every decision he made turned out to be the wrong one. When this horse switches lead, he shifts gears forward and takes off. He almost moves too quickly. He just threw himself into that hole.

"We'll send him to the farm for a little while and give him some down time, then bring him to Gulfstream around the first of the year. He'll train at Gulfstream, but I'll point Harlan's Holiday to the big races there, and aim for the Louisiana Derby with Repent. Fair Grounds is much more conducive to his style than Gulfstream."

If you're looking for a solid Kentucky Derby horse, you won't find a more attractive prospect right now than Repent. The son of Louis Quatorze has already shown he has a powerful closing kick, can make several runs in a race, can overcome adversity, can handle the slop, likes Churchill Downs, and with his 1.50 dosage index, should run all day. Not to mention being trained by Kenny McPeek, who was second in the 1995 Kentucky Derby with Tejano Run. McPeek, who also trains Iroquois winner Harlan's Holiday, is one of those trainers who looks ready to bust out. And does he have a score to settle with Tabor, who deprived him of glory in the Kentucky Derby with Thunder Gulch and the Breeders' Cup Juvenile with Johannesburg.

On Sunday, Nov. 25, Jimmy Jerkens sent out the highly promising Iron Deputy to a 4-length victory in the six-furlong Huntington Stakes at Aqueduct. The son of Silver Deputy made a big run on the turn, then drew off to win comfortably in 1:10 1/5. He's has now won two races by daylight and was beaten a head in his career debut.

A $45,000 yearling purchase at the Fasig-Tipton Ky. July sale, Iron Deputy has a pedigree that suggests sprinting will not be his game, which makes his victory all the more impressive. Jerkens, however, wasn't surprised that he came out running at shorter distances, as he's not a long-bodied staying type, and he did show a lot of lick out of the gate when he was being schooled. Pedigree-wise, Silver Deputy has sired several top-class distance horses, such as Silverbulletday and Queen's Plate and Prince of Wales winner Archers Bay. The dam, Femme de Fer, is a French-bred, with classic influences throughout her pedigree. Femme de Fer's broodmare sire Dictus is the sire of Zalataia, who defeated John Henry in the 1 1/2-mile Oak Tree Invitational. Zalataia is the dam of Fraise, winner of the Breeders' Cup Turf.

Iron Deputy will remain in New York over the winter and point for the Count Fleet and Whirlaway Stakes, at a mile and 70 yards and 1 1/16 miles, respectively.

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