Watch Me Go in the Winner's Circle after the Tampa Bay Derby.

Watch Me Go in the Winner's Circle after the Tampa Bay Derby.

Tom Cooley Photography

Watch Me Go Enters Derby Watch

Focuses spotlight on sire West Acre, from the immediate family of Tale of the Cat.

By Alan Porter

An expectation that the Tampa Bay Derby (gr. II) would see a grandson of Forty Niner stamp his credentials as a Kentucky Derby prospect was fulfilled, but not in the way most anticipated. The previously undefeated 1-2 favorite Brethren —under a confident ride—turned for home with the lead. However, he’d been pressed hard for much of the way by the unheralded Crimson Knight—claimed for just $16,000 on his previous out—and with a furlong to run, there was little to choose between Brethren, Crimson Knight, and the looming Watch Me Go. Perhaps due to his early efforts, Brethren was the first to yield, leaving Watch Me Go to wear down a stubborn Crimson Knight in the last few strides (VIDEO).

Watch Me Go, who was dispatched at 43-1 for the Tampa Bay Derby, had also faced Brethren on his previous start, finishing third in the Sam F. Davis Stakes (gr. III). This was Watch Me Go’s first try outside of sprint distances, and for a horse who has developed into a classic prospect he’d shown more speed and precocity than the norm, making his debut May 22 in a 4½-furlong maiden at Calder, scoring by 1½ lengths. At that point, his connections felt they might have something special, but Watch Me Go’s progress was halted by minor shin problems that necessitated some time off at the farm. He returned to action in August, running fourth to Gourmet Dinner in both the Dr. Fager and Affirmed divisions of the Florida Stallion stakes series. Dropped back to 5½ furlongs for a Calder allowance event, Watch Me Go confirmed his speed with a 2½-length win. Returned to stakes company, he was then fourth in the Birdonthewire Stakes and fifth in the Inaugural Stakes. He began this year with an eight-length tally in a 6½-furlong allowance/optional claiming contest at Tampa Bay, his only other outing before the Sam F. Davis. Although he’d been five lengths in arrears of Brethren that day, his connections felt that he would progress a lot from what was his first two-turn effort.

Brethren is by Forty Niner’s outstanding sire son Distorted Humor —and as we’ve hinted, Watch Me Go is also by a son of that horse, albeit a somewhat less well-known one. Watch Me Go is owned and bred by Gil Campbell, who stands Watch Me Go’s sire, West Acre, at his Stonehedge Farm South near Ocala. Bred by Claiborne Farm, West Acre was unraced but his pedigree attracted Campbell. By Forty Niner, West Acre is out of graded stakes winner Narrate, making him a similarly-bred half sibling to the Frizette Stakes (gr. I) victress Preach, dam of Pulpit, and to Yarn, the dam of Tale of the Cat  and English juvenile highweight Minardi and granddam of Johannesburg, champion 2-year-old in Europe and the U.S. Preach and Yarn are both by Mr. Prospector, the sire of Forty Niner.

With relatively little support from outside mares either in quantity or quality, West Acre has sired 11 stakes winners from his first 10 crops. Prior to Watch Me Go, the best have been Ivanavinalot, heroine of the Bonnie Miss Stakes (gr. II) and three other stakes, and Speak Easy Gal, who took the Orchid Stakes (gr. III). In addition to Watch Me Go, West Acre’s current 3-year-old crop includes Cathy's Crunches, a three-time stakes winner and graded stakes performer who was third March 13 in the China Doll Stakes, and Blue Eyed Sweetie, who took the Lindsay Frolic Stakes and Brave Raj Stakes at Calder.

Campbell said that he always had an intuitive feeling that West Acre would be suited by Deputy Minister mares, and that he’d been acquiring them whenever possible. Campbell’s instincts are clearly pretty sharp, as the formula has produced Watch Me Go and Ivanavinalot (also bred by Campbell), while the horse’s other graded scorer, Speak Easy Gal, is out of a mare by Victory Speech, a son of Deputy Minister.

Campbell purchased Watch Me Go’s dam, Sabbath Song, for $25,000 at the 2001 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky November Adena Springs sales. The unraced mare had previously produced two foals. The first, O C’s Legacy, a son of Friendly Lover, failed to place in seven starts, but the second, Sirona Gold, a daughter of Gold Case, proved to be a hard-knocking type, winning six races and $212,550 in Canada and the U.S., but without earning black type. At the time of her purchase, Sabbath Song was carrying Lucky Paco, a son of Lucky Lionel who went on to win three times and place in a Puerto Rican graded contest. After producing a 2003 Golden Missile filly that died before she could start, and missing the following year, Sabbath Song dropped her first West Acre offspring in 2005, a filly named Asgoodasshelooks, who won three times and was third in a turf stakes at Calder. Sabbath Song was barren the next two years before foaling Watch Me Go in 2008.

Sabbath Song is half sister to Eclipse Handicap (gr. III) victress and prolific Canadian stakes winner Blitzer; to Diamonds Galore, a multiple stakes-winning turf sprinter who took third in the Keeneland Nunthorpe Stakes (EngI) on foray to England;  to 2-year-old turf stakes winner Cozy Star; and to winning mare Marfietta, dam of Canadian sprint stakes scorer Marvellous Silver. The second dam, Sirona, who won the Ontario Damsel Stakes and equaled a track-record for 6½ furlongs at Woodbine, was out of Sweet Road, a minor winning daughter of Nearctic (to whom Sabbath Song is inbred 4x3). Sweet Road’s dam, L’Arriviste, set a course record for seven furlongs on turf at Fort Erie. She never produced a winner of note, but daughter Regent’s Honey (by Vice Regent, a grandson of Nearctic and the sire of Deputy Minister), became dam of the stakes winners Mufattish, Regal Dreamer, Three Card Willie, and Shaxi Fortune. Behind this, the female line is a French one, Watch Me Go’s fifth dam being Selina II, an imported daughter of the great sire Sicambre, from a Boussac family that also produced Champion Stakes and Irish Two Thousand Guineas winner Hugh Lupus and outstanding Argentine sire Timor.

In addition to being the result of a successful cross, Watch Me Go also has an interesting pedigree pattern here, as West Acre is out of a mare by Honest Pleasure, and Watch Me Go’s second dam is by Irish Stronghold. Both of these horses are products of a cross of the Bold Ruler line over English Derby winner Tulyar, and a similar combination (mostly involving Irish Stronghold’s brother Irish Castle) is found in at least six other stakes winners, including grade I scorer Mi Sueno.