Friday, April 15, 2011

Singin’ The Blues in the Bluegrass Stakes

The Blue Grass Stakes (G-1) has been churninghorseguitar out Kentucky Derby contenders since 1911. The names of Round Table, Northern Dancer, Forward Pass, Alydar, Spectacular Bid, Holy Bull and Street Sense adorn the roll call of this prestigious race. Since the track surface was converted to Polytrack, only Street Sense, who was second in the Blue Grass, continued on to win at the highest level. This year, like the last three, a wide open field competes for the all-important graded stakes earnings. Only a couple of Bluegrass contenders might make it into the Derby starting gate, while the rest will be left singing the Blues.

Traditionally, the Keeneland main track has been speed oriented. With the switch to Polytrack, the speed bias prevailed through the Fall 2010 meet. Only one race has been contested at 1 1/8 miles over the main track this Spring. However, eight races have been held at 1 1/6 miles. So far, the track has been playing fair. 50% of pace setters/pressers have been successful with 30% wiring the field. 30% of the late pace and 20% of the one run stalkers are victorious. Giant’s Causeway is the top sire of the race, with four representatives.

JOES BLAZING AARON (Graeme Hall – Distorted Blaze, by Distorted Humor) appears toJoesBlazingAaron be the controlling speed. He’s never tried Poly, but he’s riding a two win race streak at 1 1/8 miles over the turf. While we know Distorted Humor’s offspring run over anything, Graeme Hall’s progeny are poor/average over Poly. Still, Joes Blazing Aaron must be respected here, especially if he’s allowed to dawdle on the lead.

Twinspired Photo Pat LangHis stablemate, the pretty gray TWINSPIRED (Harlan’s Holiday – Historical Drive, by El Prado) favors his damsire in looks. The definitive victor of the WEBN Stakes has been outclassed against tougher foes in his last two starts. Twinspired has a miler pedigree. His dam is a half sister to a stakes winner and stakes placed runner, but overall, this is a modest distaff family.

SANTIVA (Giant’s Causeway – Slide, by Smarten) could keep Joes Blazing Aaron honestSantivaPhotoReedPalmer on the lead. In his three year old debut in the Risen Star, he was wide the whole way but was only 1 ½ lengths from the winner Mucho Macho Man. Santiva received a career best BRIS speed figure in that race and his works are strong. Santiva is a full brother to Her Majesty, who placed in the Alcibiades Stakes and a half brother to Take Arms, Grade 3 stakes placed. The dam is an unraced half sister to the Champion Sprinter Safely Kept and the graded stakes winning sprinter Partner’s Hero. Santiva was second in last year’s Breeders’ Futurity, so he has experience over the Keeneland Polytrack. His last breeze was sharp and he should appreciate the distance.

KING CONGIE (Badge of Silver – Wise Ending, King Congie Photo Jim Lisaby End Sweep) scratched out of the Vinery Spiral with a pulled muscle. He had a nice speed figure progression in his first two races of the year, but missed training due to his injury. His second crop sire is getting winners over all surfaces and distances. King Congie has a nice blend of speed and stamina in his pedigree. His damsire was a sprinter, but his second damsire Wise Times won the Travers and Super Derby at 1 ¼ miles. King Congie’s dam was a hardy mare, entering the starting gate 52 times and winning or placing in 40 of those starts. She’s a full sister to a stakes winner and two half siblings are stakes winners. We liked King Congie in the Spiral, but the colt missed some training in the last month.

King Congie’s stablemate BRILLIANT SPEED (Dynaformer - by Gone West) was mugged by King Congie in the Hallandale Beach Stakes, finishing third by half a length. Brilliant Speed is bred to run all day. His dam was unraced, but she’s a half sister to Falls City Handicap (G-2) heroine Serenading and that one’s full sister, listed stakes winner Handpainted; This is a quality distaff family. The second dam Daijin is a stakes winning full sister to Belmont Stakes hero and sire Touch God. Additionally, she’s a half sister to Canadian Triple Crown winner With Approval. Brilliant Speed’s third dam is 1989 Canadian Broodmare of the Year Passing Mood. Brilliant Speed has a live work pattern and the pedigree to perform well over Polytrack.

Wilkinson inside photo hodgesAfter winning the LeComte, there were high hopes for WILKINSON (Lemon Drop Kid – Tasha’s Delight, by Afternoon Deelites). He came up the rail to grab the LeComte Stakes by a determined head over Pants On Fire, getting a heady ride from Garret Gomez, but the colt smacked his head against the gate in the Louisiana Derby and was never a factor. Gomez jumps ship for Joes Blazing Aaron. Wilkinson has a stamina over speed pedigree and this distance should be within his scope. The Neil Howard trainee just missed in his maiden debut over the Keeneland poly last year, so we know he can handle the surface.

It isn’t a stakes race without a horse or three entered by Todd Pletcher.

His first contender, QUEEN’SPLATEKITTEN (Kitten’s Joy – Iteration, by Wild Again), has been first or second in all four starts. Queen’splatekitten’s dam went 0 for 11 on the track and there’s no blacktype in his first two generations. He has a router’s pedigree and has experience over Polytrack and at 1 1/8 miles. The far outside post could be detrimental, but with his stalking style, he can tuck in on the rail behind the rest. Pletcher’s main man Johnny V. stays aboard.

The second Pletcher entry is SENSATIONAL SLAM (Grand Slam – Roman Romance, by SanSensational Slam Photo Crystal Jones Romano), who laid an egg in the With Anticipation Stakes last year, the only mar on his perfect record. He proved himself sprinting over dirt while winning the Fred "Cappy" Capossela Stakes sprinting over Aqueduct’s inner track in his three year old debut. Sensational Slam has a fantastic pedigree. His dam is a multiple stakes winning sprinter and he can trace his distaff family directly back to Best In Show, through her daughter Sex Appeal. Sex Appeal is a half sister to Blush With Pride, the grand dam of Rags to Riches. Sensational Slam has Rasmussen Factor inbreeding (inbred to a superior mare within five generations) to two excellent dams, the aforementioned Best In Show and Tamerett, the second dam of Gone West (who is the sire of Grand Slam). Sensational Slam is proven over Polytrack, but he is jumping from six to nine furlongs in only his second start off of a layoff.

PraetereoPletcher also entered the Stakes obligatory last out maiden winner. PRAETEREO (Giant’s Causeway – Deb’s Charm, by Silver Charm) has a stamina oriented pedigree and needed six attempts to win his maiden. Praetereo’s half sister Simply Spiteful is a listed stakes winner and his dam placed in a stakes, but only won once in six tries. There’s some quality in this family, as his dam is a half sister to Graded stakes winner Tasha’s Miracle and another half sister produced West Virginia Derby hero Concord Point. Praetereo is a winner at 1/18 miles, but was unplaced in his only try over Polytrack. His sire gets winners over Polytrack, but Silver charm is a poor damsire of poly runners.

Three more newcomers hoping to earn a trip to the Kentucky Derby are Wilcox Inn, Crimson China and Newsdad.

WILLCOX INN (Harlan’s Holiday – De Arr, byWillcoxInnPhoto Coady Gone West) has experience over poly and should handle the stretch out to 1 1/8 miles, as he has a long-winded distaff family. His sire won the Blue Grass in 2002 and his dam is a stakes placed half sister to graded stakes winning warriors Cetewayo and Bowman Mill, both winners at 1 ½ miles, as well as last year’s Beverly D. winner Dynaforce.

CRIMSONCHINA3CRIMSON CHINA (Giant’s Causeway - Parisian Affair, by Mr. Greeley) was a gaining second in the Rushaway after breaking slow over a speed favoring track. His dam won a third of her 15 starts including a listed sprint stakes. She’s a half sister to the 2002 French Champion Juvenile Elusive City.

NEWSDAD (Arch – Storm Tracer, by Pulpit) hasNewsdad - Keeneland Work - 04-10-11 a stamina oriented pedigree, but tries Polytrack for the first time. He was a gaining third behind Joes Blazing Aaron in the Palm Beach Stakes (G-3) in his first start against winners and his late pace BRIS figures are improving. Newsdad’s unraced dam is a half sister to the stakes winning milers Field Cat and Estevan. The Mott barn wins 12% of the turf to Poly angle


SANTIVA is the morning line favorite. He’s been on our watch lists ever since winning his maiden and is the class of the field. WILKINSON deserves another shot after his Louisiana Derby adventure. He’s a game horse and if he gets a decent trip, could walk away with all of the marbles. JOES BLAZING AARON appears to be the controlling speed and has a strong late kick as well. If they leave him alone through soft fractions, he’ll be under the wire before anyone notices. WILLCOX INN kept good company last year and should be sharp in his second race off of a layoff. CRIMSON CHINA may be a live longshot. He’s never been out of the money and is proven both at 1 1/8 miles and over Polytrack. Additionally, his speed figures improved in his first two starts. QUEEN’SPLATEKITTEN deserves consideration, so use him in your exotics.




#11 CRIMSON CHINA - longshot