Because the Top 30 list took up a great deal of Monday’s column, we’ll go double duty this week and catch up on some updates and ramblings and look at the Risen Star Stakes.
On the pedigree front, are you tired of all the inbreeding in racing, especially through Mr. Prospector and Northern Dancer? Well there are a couple of prominent horses this year who are that rare outcross that you’d think would be attractive to breeders and infuse some fresh blood into the game.
And then we come to the rarities. One of the true outcrosses is I Want Revenge, who’s got a little bit of everything. His sire, Stephen Got Even, is a son of A.P. Indy, so we’ve got the Seattle Slew line up top. His dam, Meguial, is an Argentine-bred by the U.S. bred Roy, a son of Mr. Prospector’s son Fappiano. The tail-female family in the first four generations is all Argentine, with the exception of fourth generation stallion, the English-bred Vervain. Of his eight tail-female fifth-generation parents, five are English-bred and three are Argentine-bred.
I Want Revenge is a true international horse, his pedigree consisting of top-class blood from three continents. He’s a beautiful horse to watch in action, and with his pedigree he has a great deal of appeal as a stallion. You have to go back to his tail-female eighth generation to find inbreeding to Hyperion, and he actually has a far-removed Rasmussen Factor (RF) back there, being inbred to the English mare Lackaday.
The other is 2-year-old champ Midshipman, whose sire, Unbridled’s Song, traces to Mr. Prospector through Fappiano and Unbridled, His dam, Fleet Lady is by Seattle Slew’s son Avenue of Flags, out of a mare by Roberto (by Hail to Reason). The third dam is by Prince John. His fifth generation consists of four stallions or mares from France, three from England, and two from Ireland. The Unbridled’s Songs seem to need a good stout female family to get their offspring 10 furlongs and Midshipman has just that with influences like Roberto, Hail to Reason, Prince John, Buckpasser, Princequillo, and Poker.
There is another horse that needs mentioning and that is Chocolate Candy, who is a male outcross, being inbred only to the great broodmare Alanesian, dam of Hollywood Gold Cup winner Princessnesian, Boldnesian (paternal great-grandsire of Chocolate Candy’s dam Crownette), and Herbalesian (paternal granddam of Chocolate Candy’s sire Candy Ride). Although Candy Ride is Argentine-bred, his blood is mostly American. The interesting aspect of Chocolate Candy’s female family is that his second dam, In Memory, is a half-sister to Affirmed, by Alydar.
So, perhaps what we need in this country is a heavy does of sturdy, sound South American blood, with small doses of French and/or English blood to go with our own major influences – and no inbreeding. That’s what you get from I Want Revenge and Midshipman, and pretty much from Chocolate Candy, who many breeders should be attracted to because of his inbreeding only to Alanesian, making him a combination outcross and RF (Rasmussen Factor).
McPeek Rolls with the punches
Having horses taken away from him is nothing new for Kenny McPeek, and it certainly isn’t the end of the world. There are few trainers as resilient as McPeek, who always seems to bounce back tougher than ever. So, when Lansdon Robbins took one of McPeek’s leading Derby candidates, Danger to Society, away from him this week, McPeek shrugged it off as best he could and focused on his other 3-year-olds.
In 2002, McPeek won the Florida Derby (gr. I) and Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) with Harlan’s Holiday and then had him taken away from him and given to Todd Pletcher following a seventh in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) and a fourth in the Preakness (gr. I). So what does McPeek do? He comes right back and wins the Belmont Stakes with the 70-1 shot Sarava. He then has Sarava taken from him and proceeds to nearly pull off the Travers Stakes (gr. I) with Repent and win the Spinster Stakes (gr. I) with Take Charge Lady.
When McPeek went into temporary retirement in 2006, he unknowingly gave up two major stars whom he had picked out at the sale – Curlin and Einstein.
He returned with a brand new farm in Kentucky and rebuilt his stable, winning the $1-million Boyd Gaming’s Delta Jackpot (gr. III) with Birdbirdistheword. Last year, he won the Darley Alcibiades Stakes (gr. I) with Dream Empress, who also finished a fast-closing second to Stardom Bound in the Bessemer Trust Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr.I).
Now McPeek loses Danger to Society to Rick Dutrow following a disappointing effort in Saturday’s Holy Bull Stakes (gr. I). McPeek said he is “clueless” why the horse ran so poorly. And he is equally as clueless why the horse was taken from him off the one bad race following two victories in as many starts.
“Dutrow has been (Robbins’) go-to guy for a long time,” McPeek said. “We will be fine. I’m more motivated than ever.”
So, it’s time for McPeek to bounce back once again, and once again he could have the weapons to do so. Theregoesjojo, brilliant allowance winner at Gulfstream, was forced to miss this Saturday’s Risen Star Stakes (gr. III) with a slight lung infection, but he is scheduled to breeze Saturday and likely is headed for the Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II). Undefeated Free Country will breeze in company with Theregoesjojo and will run the following week in the Sam F. Davis Stakes (gr. III) at Tampa. McPeek also has the promising maiden winner More Than Willing, who will run in either an allowance race or the Rebel Stakes (gr. III) at Oaklawn next. Finally, there is Fitzaslew, who was just nailed on the wire in a Gulfstream allowance race last Friday after battling head-and-head on the lead most of the way.
McPeek is looking to reach for the moon with Dream Empress, preparing her to for a run in the English Oaks (Eng-I) at Epsom.
One thing about McPeek; he may get knocked down at times, but don’t ever count him out.
Imperial Council getting closer to debut
Imperial Council, whose return against winners for the first time has been eagerly awaited, is getting closer to that day, turning in his first five-furlong breeze Tuesday, in which he went in 1:02 4/5 over the deep Payson Park track. No one wants to advertise an allowance engagement for fear of the race not filling, so just keep an eye on the Gulfstream entries in the next couple of weeks. The only one in the book with his conditions is at 6 1/2 furlongs, and there’s no reason why that shouldn’t fill considering the sparseness of allowance sprints at that time of the meet.
If this colt is to make noise on the Derby trail it’s time to get started, and if he makes his debut at 6 1/2 furlongs that will give him a lot to do after that with a big stretch-out and no margin of error. Knowing trainer Shug McGaughey, who has never been one to wear rose-colored glasses, it won’t take much for him to pull the plug on the Derby.
Other notable works include a sharp :58 4/5 bullet drill at Hollywood Park by Square Eddie and a bullet five-furlong breeze in 1:00 2/5 by Poltergeist at Oaklawn.
Rising stars at Fair Grounds Saturday
Saturday’s Risen Star Stakes (gr. III) has something for everyone, with 13 horses entered, many of whom have a legitimate chance to make a big name for themselves on the Kentucky Derby trail.
Friesan Fire, winner of the LeComte Stakes (gr. III), and Kentucky Jockey Club (gr. II) runner-up Giant Oak likely will vie for favoritism, but there are plenty others to choose from who could score at a decent price.
Two horses compromised by the draw are Au Moon, third in the LeComte, who drew the outside post, and last year’s Futurity Stakes (gr. II) runner-up Flying Pegasus, who breaks just inside him in post 12. Flying Pegasus looks to have a great deal of ability, finishing well clear of Friesan Fire and just behind Charitable Man in the Futurity, but hasn’t run in five months and will have to use his speed to get a decent position early. The same applies to Au Moon, an improving colt who also will have to show speed from the far outside. He set most of the pace in the LeComte, but tired a bit in the final furlong.
If you wish to toss the favorites in a 13-horse field and the two outside horses, that leaves several who could be live on the board.
There is a good possibility that Indygo Mountain, sixth in the LeComte after a hellish trip, will get played, based on his reputation and his 5-2 odds in the LeComte. Despite getting beat a dozen lengths, this son of A.P. Indy could very well bounce back with a huge effort if he gets a decent trip from the 2-post. Fans still will remember his scintillating victory in a mile maiden race at Churchill Downs, in which he drew off to win by 6 1/4 lengths in 1:35 2/5. That was one of the most impressive maiden scores seen last year, and judging by the manner in which he did it, he still could be a major player.
He’s had nothing but hard luck since, having an allowance race canceled due to a freak snowstorm in New Orleans, and then missing the same race again a week later with a bruised hoof. Breaking from the outside in the LeComte, he smashed hard into the side of gate, bobbled slightly, and dropped well out of it in last. He seemed lost after that and never put in a run. He has a tendency to cock his head to the outside turning for home, so he’s still probably a bit green. It will be interesting to see how he recovers from that last race.
Uno Mas and Dumar from the Steve Asmussen barn both have showed they can run, but Uno Mas, who easily defeated Friesan Fire two races back, has to bounce back from a disappointing fourth in the LeComte, in which he showed little. If that was just an off day and he runs back to his two previous races, he will be dangerous. Dumar is consistent, has a good closing kick and a strong pedigree, but needs to get a bit faster. Asmussen also sends out recent maiden winner Soul Warrior for Zayat Stables.
Larry Jones sends out yet another talented 3-year-old in It Happened Again, who defeated some solid horses in the seven-furlong Triple Sec Stakes at Delta Downs, earning a 93 Beyer. Nick Zito makes a rare appearance at Fair Grounds with Nowhere to Hide, who just held on to break his maiden at Calder last out. In five starts, he’s never been worse than fourth and has finished in the money in four straight.
In other Derby news:
Kiaran McLaughlin is pointing his exciting, undefeated New York-bred Mr. Fantasy, a half-brother to graded stakes winner Tin Cup Chalice, to the Gotham Stakes (gr. III) March 7, with the speedy Taqarub heading to the Fountain of Youth (gr. III) Feb. 28 and A.P. Cardinal to the Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Feb. 14. McLaughlin also is awaiting the arrival of last year’s Futurity (gr. II) winner Charitable Man, who has been in training in Ocala.
When WinStar Farm’s Mr. Hot Stuff broke his maiden last Sunday with an explosive stretch run, he earned a 95 Beyer, the same number his full-brother Colonel John earned winning the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I). Trainer Eoin Harty said the colt was a big dummy, and then the light went on overnight. The way the colt blew past his opponents from last and opened up by “a furlong” in the gallop-out suggests he’s finally discovered how to be a racehorse. Watch out for this one.
Bobby Frankel is giving Brother Keith another shot in the Robert Lewis (gr. II) after his debacle in the San Rafael (gr. III), in which he blew the first turn. The son of Johar worked five furlongs in :59 2/5 and could be a serious pace factor if he wakes up and runs to his ability.
Arlington-Washington Futurity (gr. III) winner and Breeders’ Futurity (gr. I) runner-up Terrain, who had been ill, has not worked since Jan. 10. That’s 25 days since his last work. And he's already missed the Risen Star.
Checklist, who finished fifth as the 3-5 favorite in an allowance after stumbling soon after the start, spread a shoe, that looked like it was "bent in half," in the race, but fortunately came back sound and could be pointed for another allowance race.