WinStar Farm’s promising 3-year-old homebred colt Cal Nation, who missed by a nose in his first try against winners, will point for the Jerome Handicap (gr. II) with a possible eye toward the May 21 Preakness Stakes (gr. I), according to racing manager Elliott Walden.
Cal Nation had the lead for most of the stretch in a one-mile allowance race March 19 at Gulfstream Park before being caught at the wire by stablemate Dance City. The narrow defeat did not deter the connections of the son of Distorted Humor , who romped by nearly eight lengths in his Feb. 5 debut.
“He came out of the race good,” Walden said. “We were a little disappointed with the outcome at first but (Dance City) came out of a mile and eighth race and was a little fresher. I think Johnny (Velazquez) was maybe a little too overconfident in the ride too.
“We’ll look at the Jerome and see what happens after that. He could go to the Preakness off of a race like that, just like Bernardini did.”
When Bernardini won the Preakness in 2006 he prepped in the Withers (gr. III) at Aqueduct. That race has been taken off the Aqueduct calendar this year and was replaced by the $150,000 Jerome, which had previously been run in the fall at Belmont Park. The one-turn, one-mile race will be run at Aqueduct for the first time on April 23 after being idle in 2010.
Walden said they kept open the possibility that Cal Nation would have an opportunity to make it to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), but that plan had to be altered after a pair of allowance races failed to fill at Gulfstream in early March and the colt was forced to wait for last weekend’s contest.
“He’s a really good horse and tremendous stallion prospect. We want to do right by him,” Walden said.
WinStar still has one legitimate Derby threat with Brethren . Also by Distorted Humor and half brother to last year’s Derby winner Super Saver, Brethren suffered his first career defeat in the March 12 Tampa Bay Derby (gr. II) when finishing third as the 1-2 favorite. It came only a month after Brethren destroyed the field in the Sam F. Davis (gr. III) over the same track.
The loss was a little discouraging for WinStar, but not totally unexpected.
“We’ve now had three horses win the Sam Davis and then lose the Tampa Bay Derby—Bluegrass Cat (2006), Any Given Saturday (2007), and now Brethren,” Walden said. “And we’ve had four grade I winners come out of the Tampa Bay Derby—Menifee (1999), Bluegrass Cat, Any Given Saturday, and Super Saver . We hope Brethren can be the fifth.
“Tampa Bay has been very good to us. We know the surface can be a little quirky, but we’ve had success coming out of there. Brethren had a fairly contested first quarter from an outside post. From the sixteenth-pole to the wire he was about three lengths back. He gave way, he didn’t stop. That can happen at Tampa. It didn’t deter us.
“We’re still leaning toward the Arkansas Derby (gr. I, April 16), but we might also take a look at the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I, April 9).”
Walden said Ramon Dominguez would keep the mount on Brethren, if they go the Arkansas route.