Wednesday, November 10, 2010

In the Hoofprints of a Kentucky Derby Contender

Payson Park Training Center
Like snowbirds, promising two year old race horses head south in the fall, usually after the Breeders’ Cup. Many wind up at Palm Meadows Training Center in Delray Beach, Florida or farther north at Payson Park in Indiantown.

Iron Maidens Thoroughbreds will follow the up-and-coming colt To Honor and Serve throughout the winter and spring to give horse fans an idea of the intense preparation needed to get a horse through the Triple Crown prep races. Since To Honor and Serve is still in New York, we’ll review his bloodlines and determine if his pedigree indicates if he can go 1 ¼ miles and longer.

To Honor and Serve as a yearling
To Honor and Serve began his life on March 18, 2008 and was bred by Twin Creeks Farm, Larry Byer and Rancho San Miguel in Kentucky’s bluegrass region. The good-looking colt fetched $250,000 as a 2008 Keeneland November weanling and commanded $575,000 from Live Oak Plantation as a Keeneland September Yearling.

Sent to Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, To Honor and Serve began his career on August 4 in a seven furlong dirt maiden race at Saratoga. He found the distance a little too shot, but managed a sharp second place finish to the well regarded Astrology, who would later capture the Iroquois Stakes (G-3) at Churchill. Stretching out to 1 1/16 miles on October 2, To Honor and Serve made short work of a large field of maidens.

To Honor and Serve Maiden Win October 2, 2010

A month later while all eyes were watching Uncle Mo defeat a nice group of colts in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs, To Honor and Serve was quietly crushing an average field of two year olds in the Nashua Stakes (G-2) at Aqueduct. In the Nashua, To Honor and Serve went to the lead and never looked back. He ran a mile in 1.35.86, getting the last quarter in 23.76, while under a mild hand ride.

 Bill Mott, the bay colt’s trainer, elected to keep To Honor and Serve out of the Breeders’ Cup because of the colt’s light racing experience.
Nashua Stakes (G-2)

To Honor and Serve has a pedigree that bodes well for next year’s Classics. He is by freshman sire Bernardini out of the Deputy Minister mare Pilfer. Bernardini, a son of A.P. Indy, raced for only one year and made it count. He had the speed to win the Withers’ Stakes at a mile, the Preakness Stakes at 1 3/16 miles and proved himself to be the top three year old with victories in the Jim Dandy at 1 1/8 miles and Travers Stakes at 1 ¼ miles. In the fall, Bernardini defeated his elders in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, but his racing schedule caught up to him in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, where he finished second to Invasor. 

 At stud, Bernardini is passing his class and talent on to his offspring. Besides To Honor and Serve, the first crop sire’s progeny includes Group 1 winner Biondetti, Grade 1 winner AZ Warrior and graded/group stakes placed Theyskens’ Theory and Stay Thirsty.

Deputy Minster, Honor and Serve’s dam sire, won multiple graded stakes from five furlongs to 1 1/8 miles and was second in the Meadowlands Handicap (G-1) at 1 ¼ miles. In 1981, he earned acclaim as Horse of the Year and Champion Two Year Old Male in Canada, and Champion Two Year old Male in the USA.

Deputy Minister - Photo: Tony Leonard
Deputy Minster failed to win past 1 1/8 miles, but many of his offspring didn’t have distance limitations. He produced Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Awesome Again, Kentucky Oaks heroine Keeper Hill, Belmont Stakes winner Touch Gold and Travers Stakes winner Deputy Commander. The remarkable fillies Go For Wand Open Mind and precocious colt Dehere captured Eclipse Awards as Juveniles.

Deputy Minster was a very good sire, toping the leader board in 1997-1998, but he really distinguished himself as a broodmare sire and captured leading broodmare sire honors in 2007. The daughters of Deputy Minster have produced 82 stakes winners, including Belmont Stakes winners Rages to Riches, Jazil and Savara, Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner Halfbridled, Horse of the Year Curlin, turf star and top sire Redattore.

To Honor and Serve ‘s dam Pilfer won the 1 1/16 mile Go For Wand Stakes and placed in the Instant Racing Breeders' Cup Stakes at a mile. She raced three years with an overall record of 11-3-2-0 and earnings of $126,360. Pilfer made two starts as a juvenile, wining and placing respectively. She won one sprint, and two routes including a win over an off track. Pilfer is a half sister to the swift multiple stakes winning sprinter India. To Honor and Serve’s second dam was a stakes winner and finished second in the Grade 2 Fantasy Stakes.

To Honor and Serve’s distaff family 4-r is one of the most prolific in the breed. His fourth dam Java Moon is a blue hen (superior female) and her daughters have produced Memories of Silver and her daughter, recent Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf placed runner Winter Memories. Other branches of this family have given us Kentucky Derby winner Monarchos, international sires Dynaformer and Runaway Groom, and the great Zenyatta.

To Honor and Serve - Photo: Coglianese
To Honor and Serve is being pointed to the Remsen Stakes at 1 1/8 miles on November 27. Afterward, he will likely join trainer Bill Mott’s stable at Payson Park for the winter. On paper, To Honor and Serve has a shot to become a legitimate Triple Crown contender and so far has proven to have the talent to be competitive in next year’s prep races. Starting in December, Iron Maidens Thoroughbreds will follow To Honor and Serve’s progress at Payson Park with videos and weekly reports throughout the winter. Until then, we will post weekly reviews of other promising juveniles that may wind up on the Triple Crown Trail.