Saturday June 16 was the start of the juvenile stakes races at major tracks. Hollywood Park traditionally a showcase for young talent, kicked off the first tentative steps on next year’s Triple Crown trail with the Willard Proctor Memorial and Cinderella Stakes. I know, we just finished this year’s, but it’s a long, long road and some like to get a head start.
Amarish was sent to post as the favorite of the Willard L. Proctor Memorial and he didn’t disappoint. The Jeff Bonde trainee was rank in the beginning stages of the race as his jockey Edwin Maldonado tried to rate him off of the flank of pace setter Run To Ground. Clearly, Amarish didn’t enjoy this tactic, as he pulled strongly until given his head at the top of the stretch. Once let loose, the bay gelding wasn’t challenged by the field and coasted home a 4 ½ length winner over Moreno’s Mine. Typical of a very inexperienced horse, Amarish drifted slightly from the left handed whip. His final time for the 5 ½ furlong contest was a swift 1:04.55.
AMARISH (Scat Daddy - Issues, by Awesome Again) is now undefeated in two starts. A May foal, Amarish zipped a furlong in :10.00 at the OBS March Two Year Old In Training Sale. He was purchased for $200,000 by Jerry Durant. Amarish won his maiden impressively by over seven lengths against Moreno’s Mine, getting 4 ½ furlongs in a sharp :50.98.
By the sensational young sire Scat Daddy, Amarish has the pedigree to improve with distance. His sire won his maiden, Sanford Stakes (G-2) and Champagne Stakes, but was a distant fourth behind the spectacular Street Sense in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. At three, Scat Daddy made his presence known on the Derby trail with victories in the Fountain of Youth (G-2) and Florida Derby (G-1). However, Scat Daddy could do no better than 18 in the Kentucky Derby. He sustained a tendon injury during his rough Derby trip and retired with a 9-5-1-1 ($1,334,300) racing record.
Scat Daddy is the leading second crop sire and dominated the first crop sire list last year. The son of World Champ Johannesburg is producing tough runners who like to win. Scat Daddy had his first two Classic representatives this year. His son Sunland Park Derby champ Daddy Nose Best finished an even tenth while European import Daddy Long Legs didn’t handle the dirt and was last. We don't know how far the Scat Daddy babies will run, but his progeny have been victorious up to 1 1/8 miles over dirt, 1 3/16 miles over synthetic and 1 1/4 miles over turf.
Amarish has a classy female family. His dam Issues didn’t make it to the races until she was three, but it was worth the wait. Starting out in the maiden claiming ranks, Issues won her debut and a claiming race before tackling stakes horses. Issues placed third in a listed stakes at Calder and spent the rest of her career in the allowance/optional claimer ranks. She won up to a mile over dirt and placed going longer. Issues retied with a nice 8-4-1-2 ($68,525) record. Amarish is her first foal to race. His older sister hasn’t made it to the track. Issues is a half sister to a stakes placed runner and Amarish’s second dam Darlin Echo (by Eastern Echo) placed in the Cinderella Stakes. Darlin Echo is a half sister to Jockey Club Gold Cup (G-1) hero Wagon Limit. Amarish’s fifth dam is 1979 Broodmare of the Year Smartaire, dam of Champion Juvenile Filly Smart Angle, and the G-2 stakes winners Quadratic and Smarten, sire of the top sire Smart Strike.
The Canadian bred Awesome Again, the damsire of Amarish, was a top competitor on the racetrack. A late maturing type, he earned victories in the Queen’s Plate and Whitney Handicap. As a four year old, despite a perfect season cumulating in a victory over Champions Silver Charm and Skip Away in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Awesome Again was denied an Eclipse Award.
As a broodmare sire, Awesome Again has consistently been one of the top 100 broodmare sires in the country. He’s a fairly young broodmare sire and his daughters have yet to produce a stakes winner at classic distances. Since Awesome Again is represented by six winners at classic distances, including Champions Ghostzapper and Ginger Punch, there is no reason to think that his stamina won’t transfer to his daughters’ progeny.
Amarish’s second damsire Eastern Echo adds win early speed to the pedigree. Eastern Echo, a son of the great Damascus, is best known as the sire of the top California stallion Swiss Yodeler and another son, Buddy Gil, was a long-shot winner of the Santa Anita Derby (G-1). Eastern Echo was a middling sire and broodmare sire, but one of his daughters did produce a colt by Amarish’s sire, Scat Daddy. That colt, Swag Daddy, won two New York State-bred races at a mile.
Winners of the Willard L. Proctor Memorial are generally flash in the pan sprinters who don’t progress much past their two year old season. Only three colts in the last 17 years have continued on to become graded stakes winners; Swiss Yodler, Champion Sprinter Squirtle Squirt, and 2011 Triple Crown hopeful J P’s Gusto. That being said, Amarish has the pedigree to stretch out to at least a mile to 1 1 /16 miles. He could possibly handle 1 1/8 miles in the right company, depending on how his running style evolves. Currently, he’s winning on just raw talent and should improve once he figures it all out. Amarish is a colt to keep an eye on for the upcoming Del Mar Meet.
Unlike their male counterpart runners in the Willard L. Proctor Memorial, the fillies who race in the Cinderella Stakes often continue to improve during their careers. Last year’s Cinderella Stakes heroine Killer Graces is a Grade 1 winner and is entered in Saturday’s Hollywood Oaks (G-2). Willa B. Awesome, who placed third behind Killer Graces in the Cinderella, transformed into a Santa Anita Oaks (G-1) winner and will face her rival in the Hollywood Oaks (G-2). Other Cinderella Stakes alumni include Test/Acorn star Champagne D’Oro, Princess Rooney (G-1) Champ River’s Prayer and Golden Ballet, dam of Breeders’ Cup Classic hero Drosselmeyer. Does this year’s Cinderella princess have what it takes to mature into a Grade 1 star?
Breaking from post position four in this year’s edition of the Cinderella Stakes, Miss Empire was bounced almost off of her feet by Tilde at the start. Recovering quickly, the Peter Miller trainee settled nicely at the rail behind the pace setters Awesome Annie and Awe’some Kitten. Racing as a team with Tilde down the backstretch, Miss Empire rounded the far turn, then swung to the outside and passed Awesome Annie. After bearing in from the right handed whip to bump with that rival, jockey Kevin Krigger smacked Miss Empire multiple times left handed and the filly responded by drifting to the far outside, all the while lengthening her lead. Miss Empire dominated her rivals by 4 ¾ lengths, getting the 5 ½ furlongs in 1:05.
A mid-April foal, Miss Empire completed a furlong in :10.02 at the OBS March Two Year Old in Training Sales sale. She brought $165,000 from the partnership of Barber, Barber and Tsujhara. In her debut, the young daughter of Empire Maker was off slow but made up some ground in the stretch of the 4 ½ furlong contest. She was beaten five lengths by Unusual Way, whom Miss Empire soundly beat in the Cinderella as her rival finished ninth.
MISS EMPIRE (Empire Maker - Miss Excitement, by Rajab) has a stamina oriented pedigree. Her sire, the royally bred Empire Maker, won the Florida Derby and Wood Memorial. Sent off as the favorite in the 2003 Kentucky Derby, Empire Maker was bested by Funny Cide. To be fair, the Derby favorite had suffered a foot bruise in previous weeks and likely wasn’t at his best. Skipping the Preakness Stakes, Empire Maker turned the tables on Funny Cide in the Belmont Stakes. After finishing second in the Jim Dandy, Empire Maker was unexpectedly retired to stud.
Empire Maker started off his stud career hitting seventh on the first crop sire list. Two years later, the son of Unbridled was leading third crop sire. This year, although he was sold to Japanese interests in 2010, Empire Maker leads the general sire list, in part, due to the exploits of his son, Derby/Preakness runner-up, Bodemeister. Empire Maker has given us 32 stakes winners, including last year’s Champion Three Year Old Filly Royal Delta. While his offspring win at all distances and over all surfaces, the majority of Empire Maker’s progeny are best beyond a mile and grow into their talent.
Miss Excitement, the dam of Miss Empire, was a solid allowance class runner in California. Although she won her second race sprinting on the dirt, Miss Excitement found her niche as a turf miler. She retired with a 13-3-3-2 ($103,825) record. Besides Miss Empire, Miss Excitement bore seven other foals. The most notable is the top sprinting stakes veteran Bordonaro (by Memo), whose most prestigious victories include the Ancient Title Stakes (G-1), Vernon O. Underwood (G-3), Sunshine Millions Sprint, and back-to-back wins in the Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G-3). Miss Excitement is a half-sister to a multiple listed stakes winner, otherwise, there is little blacktype in the first three generations of this distaff line. Farther back in the family, Santa Anita Derby (G-1) champ and Kentucky Derby runner-up Pioneerof The Nile (by Empire Maker) is a distant relation.
Miss Excitement’s damsire Rajab was a solid allowance class winner, however, the son of Belmont Stakes hero Jaipur placed in the Bel Air, San Fernando and San Bernardino Handicaps, all 1 1/8 mile Grade 2 contests. At stud, Rajab sired a handful of stakes winners, the best being Champion Juvenile Filly Brave Raj and the popular California sprinter Rotsaluck. Rajab’s offspring were victorious up to 1 1/8 miles. As a broodmare sire, Rajab’s daughters haven’t produced many blacktype runners. Multiple stakes winner Miss Gibson County, the aforementioned Bordonaro and stakes winner Russian Tango, dam of Grade 2 winner and sire Eurosilver are the most notable.
Hall of Fame inductee Exceller is Miss Empire’s second damsire. This great but under-rated horse beat both Affirmed and Seattle Slew in the exciting 1998 Jockey Club Gold Cup, then held at 1 ½ miles. Exceller was victorious over dirt and turf up to 14 furlongs. He brings additional stamina to Miss Empire’s pedigree.
The leggy Miss Empire has the conformation of a two-turn runner, with an angular shoulder and long, lean body. She will undoubtedly grow into her length as she matures. Even at this young age, Miss Empire has shown professionalism in rating comfortably behind horses and willingly passing in the stretch. Typical of the offspring of Empire Maker, Miss Empire dislikes the whip. Empire Maker progeny win over Polytrack at an 18% rate and are in the money 45% of the time, so Miss Empire may fare well should she run at Del Mar this summer. In any event, this filly could evolve into a top runner, especially as distances get longer and follow in the hoofprints of her more celebrated Cinderella graduates.