Steve Haskin's Derby Report: Mission Impossible? (2/4/2002)

Steve Haskin's Derby Report: Mission Impossible? (2/4/2002)
Photo: Benoit Photo
Came Home came home first in the San Vicente.
Your mission, Jim, should you decide to accept it, is to infiltrate Paco Gonzalez' heavily armed fortress and slip Came Home a major dose of stamina builder. As much as we'd love to accomplish that mission and get this talented colt all the way to Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May, we can't help seeing all those sprinters and milers staring out at us from his pedigree.

Can a son of Gone West, out of a Clever Trick mare, whose broodmare sire is Full Out, find happiness on the Kentucky Derby trail? You sure wouldn't think so, at least not much beyond the one-mile San Rafael Stakes. But Came Home is such a classy little horse, who can duke it out or lay off the pace and blow 'em away in the stretch, as he did in Saturday's San Vicente Stakes. And his dosage index of 4.00 does just barely qualify him as horse who can get 1 1/4 miles in May. We can hope all we want that he keeps making his way toward Louisville one step at a time, but the bottom line is we have no idea what each longer race will bring. So, let's just enjoy this colt while we can.

The San Vicente in general did little to move anyone up the list of Derby contenders. In fact, it did just the opposite, as the other two big horses, Werblin and Popular, could only finish third and fourth, respectively, both of them feeling the draft caused by the maiden Jack's Silver blowing by them. As for Popular, it looks as if the speed in his pedigree, combined with his running style, has won out over his stamina.

Jack's Silver is a half-brother to Jamaican Rum, and he sure looked like his brother coming down the stretch. Trainer Jim Cassidy likely will try to get him to break his maiden in the San Rafael Stakes. We've seen a number of maidens run well in stakes in Southern California, so it's best not to make too big a deal over this, from a positive or negative standpoint. Werblin, who just got nailed by the runner-up, ran a good race, considering it was only his third career start and he fought it out on the lead the whole way. He's a good-looking, racy chestnut with a lot of speed and ability, but he's going to have to learn to rate off the pace if he's going to be a serious Derby contender.

Meanwhile, over at Gulfstream, they're probably still trying to pull the legs of all the horses who ran on Saturday out of the quagmire they had sunk into. We can't remember seeing a major racetrack that deep and slow. The Nick Zito-trained Straight for Gin, for example, broke his maiden by 3 3/4 lengths after getting his opening three-quarters in 1:17 4/5. He passed the mile marker in 1:43 1/5 and completed the 1 1/16 miles in 1:49 3/5. It was like that all day.

In the featured Hutcheson Stakes, we again learned very little, if anything, regarding the Derby picture, as even-money favorite Maybry's Boy (4th) basically was spinning his wheels trying to close from last on that deep track, while the highly touted Axis (10 lengths farther back in 5th) stopped badly.

The game winner, Showmeitall, has now finished first or second in seven of his eight career starts, although he was disqualified to third in one of those races. Apparently beaten on the rail by Monthir, who was about four paths outside him, the son of All Gone battled back to snatch victory right on the wire. The final time for the seven furlongs was 1:26.

Derby horse? Once again, who knows? He did break his maiden for a $50,000 claiming tag for Manny Tortora first time out, and he did stop to a walk in the one-mile Iroquois Stakes at Churchill Downs, his only venture outside of Florida. While his pedigree doesn't exactly scream 1 1/4 miles, he does have a 2.16 DI, and his sire is by Fappiano, out of the Buckpasser mare Squander. But as of now, he is virtually all speed.

While the winner is doubtful to come back in two weeks for the Fountain of Youth, Maybry's Boy likely will show up for the 1 1/16-mile race on Feb. 16. Mark Hennig was happy with Monthir's performance, but is not sure what his plans are for the son of Gulch. We still don't know what this hard-knocking colt's best distance is.

At Turfway Park Saturday, the consistent Request for Parole drew clear in the final furlong to win the one-mile WEBN Frog Stakes in 1:36 4/5. As of now, the son of Judge T C looks to be the clear division leader at Turfway.

The one race last week that had a good shot of producing a legitimate Derby horse was a one-mile allowance race at Santa Anita Wednesday. But that turned into a strange one as well, with the late-charging gray Pelirrojo outclosing the favored Raven Power and Azillion, who was making his first start in America. Two of Bob Baffert's promising youngsters, True Monarch and Puerto Banus, were out of the money.

Pelirrojo is an almost-white son of Flying Continental, out of the Cozzene mare La Fresa, who traces to racing's quintessential closer Silky Sullivan in her third generation. He was calm and relaxed before the race, but was always alert. In general, he made a very attractive appearance. He broke outward at the start, as many horses in the outside post have a tendency to do, but when the running started, he came between horses smoothly and wore down a stubborn Raven Power, who ran a bit greenly turning for home. The surprise was Azillion, although the son of Alzao had turned in a couple of eye-catching works this year. In his last start in England, he galloped over Lingfield's all-weather dirt track, winning a one-mile race by 5 lengths. In Wednesday's race, put in a good move passing the three-eighths pole and kept running strongly through the stretch, finishing in a three-horse photo. His rider, Kent Desormeaux, put his whip away in the final stages and didn't persevere with him, letting him finish on his own.

Trained in America by Bob Hess, Azillion definitely has a pedigree that will carry him just about any distance. Alzao's pedigree is vintage Raymond Guest breeding, being by Sir Ivor, out of Pocahontas, the dam of Tom Rolfe and Chieftain. Azillion's dam, Olivia, is an Irish-bred mare by stamina specialist Ela-Mana-Mou. He is inbred 4x4, top and bottom, to Sir Gaylord, and you certainly have to like his 1.13 dosage index. This is an intriguing colt who bears watching.

Another Hess-trained 3-year-old, National Park, ran a solid race in Saturday's Turf Paradise Derby, but couldn't catch the 4-5 favorite Captain Squire, who held on for a one-length victory in a sharp 1:41 3/5 for the 1 1/16 miles.

Continued...

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