Friday, December 10, 2010

Early December Watch List

clip_image002The Breeders’ Cup races are in the history books and the juvenile stakes races will conclude with the Hollywood Starlet (G-1) on December 4. Between now and the first Saturday in May, countless Derby watch lists will be on every webpage, blog and Twitter page in the country. Colts that appear invincible one month will become yesterday’s news the next. Late maturing two year olds with only a few starts under their girth often jump to the top of the Derby rankings the following February or March.

Uncle Mo had an amazing two year old season. Will he continue to improve or go the way of War Pass, Johannesburg, and Arazi. They decimated their Breeders’ Cup Juvenile fields and earned Championships for their perfect seasons, but failed to replicate that form at three. Only time and racing will prove if Uncle Mo can move forward. His precocious pedigree will be a concern as he tries to carry his speed against the late maturing three year olds with pedigrees better suited for the Classics. Below are a few hopefuls that could become contenders next year.

AstrologyFrom the connections who brought us Curlin, Astrology (A.P. Indy – Quiet Eclipse, by Quiet American) has a strong stamina-oriented pedigree with breeding to get the Classic distances. He’s a half brother to Lunarpal, a G-3 winner as a juvenile and to stakes winners Lunarlady and Lunargal. Trained by Steve Asmussen, Astrology now has five starts under his girth and has never finished out of the money. After winning the Grade 3 Iroquois by an easy 2 ¾ lengths, Astrology came back to finish second to the promising Santiva in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G-2). With the exception of Super Saver, most of the colts who have run in these two races have stayed at the Grade 2 and Grade 3 level.

SanivaSantiva (Giant’s Causeway – Slide, by Smarten) has been running against decent juveniles all summer. He’s been second behind JB’s Thunder twice, once over turf and again over Polytrack. Santiva decided that going two turns over dirt was to his liking and won his maiden in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G-2). On paper, the bay colt is borderline for the Derby distance of 1 ¼ miles We know his international sire gets long-winded runners, but as a broodmare sire, Smarten hasn’t produced a winner past 1 1/8 furlongs. Smarten himself was a Grade 2 and 3 sort, and won once at 1 ¼ miles against lesser company but wasn’t quite up to the top level of competition, finishing second four times at the distance against Grade 1 horses. He also finished second twice at 1 ½ miles. Santiva is a half brother to two stakes placed runners and his unraced dam is a half sister to the Champion Sprinter Safely Kept and the multiple stakes winning sprinter Partner’s Hero. Despite his challenged pedigree, Santiva is still a colt to watch during the Derby preps. Pedigree is only one faucet and the colt could have what it takes to be a major player.

Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes

LauburuAt Aqueduct a week after the Breeders’ Cup, Lauburu (Unbridled’s Song – Goulash, by Mari’s Book) proved best by a nose over a field of well-bred maidens going seven furlongs at Aqueduct. Stumbling at the break, The Pletcher trainee moved up to press the pace, then sustained a late challenge from Break Up The Game. Lauburu cost $925,000 at the 2009 Keeneland September Yearling Sale and is owned by Michael Tabor, Mrs. Magnier, James Scatuorchio and Derrick Smith. The pretty gray colt is a half brother to five stakes horses, including two-time Champion Ashado, and her full brother Grade 1 turf stakes winner Sunriver.

Gallant in defeat, Break Up The Game (Bernardini – Pennant Champion, by Mr. Prospector) charged from the back of the pack and fought valiantly to the wire. There’s no doubt the son of Bernardini will want to go farther. Break Up The Game descends from the illustrious Phipps family broodmare band. He is a half brother to the dam of multiple graded stakes winner Interactif and his second dam is Champion Mare and blue hen Personal Ensign. Break Up The Game’s dam Pennant Champion was in the money five of seven tries, but never won a stakes race. She is a full sister to Champion My Flag and the Grade 1 winning sires Miners Mark, Our Emblem (sire of Derby winner War Emblem), Proud and True and Traditionally. Break Up The Game’s conservative trainer Shug McGaughey rarely sends his two year olds to the track ready to rumble first time out. The ones that do well in their maiden attempt generally wind up as stakes winners. Hopefully, Break Up The Game will prove to be more talented than his ¾ brothers Powerhouse (by A.P. Indy) who won one of 12 attempts and Powerhouse’s full brother A Great Team, who was in the money five of six starts but has no blacktype (stakes wins).

Lauburu maiden win

BrethrenNot quite under the radar after his recent win in an allowance race at Churchill, Brethren (Distorted Humor – Super Charger, by A.P. Indy) is a half brother to this year’s Derby winner Super Saver. Despite bolting wide from the outside post, Brethren rated professionally near the back of the pack and won going away.

Second place finisher El Grayling (El Prado (IRE) - Smokey Diplomacy, by Dynaformer) was up near the pace of the mile dirt race and came on to out-finish Justin Phillip. El Grayling has strong turf breeding top and bottom, yet his dam placed in a stakes race over the dirt, showing the influence of her damsire Relaunch. The sire of El Grayling gets winners over all surfaces and his best progeny over dirt are Madaglia D’Oro and Borrego. The pretty gray El Grayling has made six starts. After breaking his maiden on the turf going a mile, he disappointed in subsequent starts over the lawn before getting up for second place behind Brethren. Like many young horses, El Grayling shows signs of ability, but may need time to figure things out.

Justin Phillip (First Samurai – Avaknowsthecode, by Cryptoclearance) was clearly third best in this contest. Justin Phillip’s damsire and second damsire were winners at 1 ½ miles. His dam was stakes paced and Justin Phillip is a half brother to sprinter Keyed Entry who set a new track record at Gulfstream Park for 7 1/2 furlongs in 1:27.12. Two other siblings are stakes winners as well. It’s questionable how far First Samurai offspring will go, but Justin Phillip could turn out to be decent up to 1 1/16 – 1 1/8 miles.

Brethren allowance win

World Renowned - Photo: Jessica MIn California, the big news is Santa Anita’s switch back to real, live dirt. A number of horses that run poorly over Polytrack and Cushion often benefit with a switch to dirt, especially the progeny of A.P. Indy and his sons. One to watch in his first dirt attempt is World Renowned (A.P. Indy – Splendid Blended, by Unbridled’s Song). World Renowned’s dam won the Hollywood Starlet and Vanity Stakes, both Grade 1 events. Trained by John Sadler, the colt has had a steady diet of six furlong works punctuated here and there by the occasional four or five furlong work. In his maiden debut on November 28, World Renowned broke from the 3 post, was slightly rank on the inside and had to be steadied at the 5/8 pole. He wasn’t much of a factor and finished about five lengths behind the winner, Oakcrest Drive (Arch – Ascension, by Night Shift). That one’s dam was Group 2 sprinter in France and her sire produced a handful of Group 1 winners, including 1992 Hollywood Starlet winner Creaking Board and the multiple Group 1 stayer Azamour. Oakcrest Drive has strong breeding for turf and will likely remain on the synthetics or the lawn. 6 ½ furlongs in 1:16.94.

Oakcrest Drive maiden win

Shadow Warrior - Photo: Jessica MAnother son of A.P. Indy profiting from the Polytrack-to-dirt transfer was Shadow Warrior (A.P. Indy – Victory Ride, by Seeking The Gold). The George Arnold trainee gained ground to finish fourth in his debut this fall at Keeneland, then easily beat a nice field of maidens by three lengths at a mile. His dam Victory Ride was a swift sprinter/miler and won the 2001 Test Stakes (G-1) over eventual champion Xtra Heat. She’s a half sister to Hollywood Derby (G-1) winner River Flyer. Among the Grade 1 stakes winners Seeking The Gold’s daughters have produced are Dancing Forever, Majestic Warrior and Blame. Awesome Bet (Awesome Again – Ellies Moment, by Kris S) gained second and he’s another colt who will want to go longer. His dam is a stakes winning ¾ sister to Preakness and Belmont runner-up Brian’s Time.

Shadow Warrior maiden win

Royal Delta - Photo:CoglianeseShifting our focus to the fillies to watch for next year’s big races, Royal Delta (Empire Maker – Delta Princess, by A. P. Indy) stormed out of the back of the pack to win her debut by 12 lengths Belmont Park. She has the pedigree to be not only a Kentucky Oaks contender, but could be well suited to become the first Triple Tiara winner since 1993. By a Belmont Stakes winner out of a mare by a Belmont Stakes winner, Royal Delta is the second foal for her dam, a multiple graded stakes winner over turf. Delta Princess is a full sister to Grade 1 winner Indy Five Hundred and she is a half sister to the Group 1 winner Biondetti, who competed in this year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Royal Delta’s third dam Proud Delta won the Beldame and Top Flight Handicaps (both Grade 1) as well as four other stakes races over dirt.

Royal Delta maiden win

Flash Mash - Photo: Candice ChavezEqually impressive in an allowance race at the Fairgrounds on November 27 was Flash Mash (Smarty Jones – Magical Flash, by Miswaki). Now undefeated in two starts, the Chestnut miss got the best of a quarter-mile speed duel then opened up, embarrassing three other fillies by over 10 lengths at the Fairgrounds. Don’t expect that win to be a fluke. Flash Mash is a half sister to three stakes winners and one half sibling set a new track record at Woodbine for 1 ¼ miles in 2:04.69. Her dam is a half sister to multiple Grade 1 winner Magical Maiden, who is the granddam of Pappa Clem. Flash Mash has now won both of her six furlong starts in under 1:11. Her pedigree leans towards speed, so we likely won’t see her in the Kentucky Oaks, but she could be one to consider for next year’s sprints, especially the Test Stakes. The distant second place finisher to Flash Mash, Tristanme was on a previous watch list for her courageous battle against Just Louise in the Churchill Downs Debutante (G-3). Tristanme finished second by a neck in that race, but hasn’t fared well in subsequent starts.

Flash Mash allowance race

Amusing - Photo: Sheri Pitzer

Another youngster that may not aim for the Oaks, but should still be one to watch is Amusing (Distorted Humor - Cloud Break, by Dr Carter). The half sister to Champion Sprinter Lost In The Fog won in her second try at Belmont Park on Halloween. Getting the six furlongs in an average 1:11, she sat just off of the pace and took over in the stretch, going away by 1 ¾ lengths. Amusing has inbreeding to the blue hen Pocahontas and to Ribot within five generations, which is uncommon. The chestnut filly hasn’t worked back after her win, which is worrisome, but we’ll keep an eye on her anyway.

Amusing maiden win