Friday, February 22, 2013

Fountain of Youth & Risen Star Analysis/Selections

This Saturday the quest for Kentucky Derby points begins in earnest. Previous Derby preps were worth 10 points to the winner, 4 for second place, 2 for third place and 1 point for fourth place. Starting with the Fountain of Youth and Risen Star, the victor will take home not only a trophy and winner's circle photo, but also 50 points good towards a spot in the Churchill Downs starting gate on May 4. The runner-up will gain 20 points, while third place is good four 10 points and fourth will earn 5 points. The current Derby Points leaders are last year's Two Year Old Champ Shanghai Bobby and Sham Stakes winner Goldencents with 24 points. The colts will lose the top spot on Saturday. Let's review the large fields of the Fountain of Youth and Risen Star.


On paper, the Fountain of Youth appears to be the stronger of the two races. Eleven colts will run 1 1/16 miles, including CashCall Futurity (G-1) hero Violence and Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G-1) runner-up He's Had Enough, plus the Sam F. Davis victor, Falling Sky.
Shipping in from California, HE'S HAD ENOUGH was no match for Violence in the CashCall and finished nine lengths behind in fifth. Last time out in the Robert Lewis (G-2), the son of Tapit was wide and lost second place, finishing over six lengths behind the winner. conditioned by last year's winning Kentucky Derby trainer Doug O'Neil, He's Had Enough has earned six points on the Derby Trail. Read more about his pedigree here.
VIOLENCE is undefeated in three starts, including graded stakes wins on both coasts. The Pletcher trainee fired a bullet while breezing in tandem with stablemate Palace Malice, who ships to the Fairgrounds for the Risen Star. Violence has ten points on the Derby trail. Read more about his pedigree here.
FALLING SKY (Lion Heart - Sea Dragoness, by Sea Hero) wired the field in the Sam Davis (G-3) Stakes, bravely holding on by a neck, despite drifting. It was the colt's first try around two turns and the first start for his new barn. He should improve in his second start of the year and may find the Gulfstream Park track less tiring than Tampa Bay's deep surface. The son of Lion Heart is out of a stakes-placed mare by Kentucky Derby winner Sea Hero and is bred to enjoy two turns. Falling Sky's dam is a half to the stakes veterans All Giving and War Native, both sprinters.
ORB (Malibu Moon - Lady Liberty, by Unbridled) won his maiden last November by two lengths over a nice field that included Withers Stakes (G-3) victor Revolutionary. In his first start of the year, Orb came from off of the pace at Gulfstream Park to win an 1 1/8 mile allowance contest. He descends from the Phipps Family bred mare Shenanigans, dam of the legendary Ruffian. Closer up in the pedigree, Orb's second dam Mesabi Maiden won the 1 1/8 mile Black Eyed Susan Stakes (G-2) over the good mare Cara Rafaela, who would later foal Classic winner Bernardini.
CERRO (Mr. Greeley - Ballette (IRE), by Giant's Causeway) Owned/trained by the connections of Animal Kingdom, Cerro wired the field at 1 1/8 miles by 2 ½ lengths in an dirt allowance contest at Gulfstream. The Irish-bred colt is a half brother to stakes placed Sachem Spirit (by Mr. Greeley). There is little blacktype in the first two generations of Cerro's pedigree, however his third dam Sex Appeal produced the Champions El Gran Senor and Try My Best. This family also gave us Breeders' Cup Mile hero Domedriver, United Nations hero Chinchon and Japanese Group 1 winner Fusaichi Pandora. Cerro was originally set to contest the Palm Beach Stakes (G-3) on March 3 and then the Spiral Stakes (G-3) on March 23, but due to the new Derby points system, his connections decided to play it safe and give the colt two chances to earn his way to Kentucky.
MAJESTIC HUSSAR (Majestic Warrior - Distorted Blaze, by Distorted Humor) gets a chance to stretch his speed around two turns in the Fountain of Youth. He splashed his way to a 2 ¼ length victory in a seven furlong contest at Gulfstream in his last race, beating Palace Malice. Majestic Hussar's by the leading Second Crop sire. The beautifully bred Majestic Warrior has the pedigree to handle Classic distances, but unfortunately was injured before the Derby. Majestic Hussar is a half brother to Palm Beach Stakes (G-3, 9FT) hero Joes Blazing Aaron. He's also a half to multiple graded stakes placed French filly Danse Grecque. There is a smattering of blacktype runners throughout the first three generations of Majestic Hussar's distaff family and the Champion turf horse Alleged is a distant relative. Majestic Hussar should enjoy running two turns.
Last out maiden winner ELMUTAHID ( Street Cry (IRE) - Alwajeeha, by Dixieland Band) jumps into graded stakes company and tries fast dirt for the first time. Distance won't be a problem for this guy, however his pedigree is primarily turf oriented. Turf runners often do well over a sloppy track, and that was the case in Elmuthahid's last race. He is the first foal out of the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Stakes (G-1) winner Alwajeeha and is by Street Cry, the sire of Kentucky Derby Champ Street Sense and the spectacular Zenyatta. Other than his multiple stakes winning dam, Elmutahid has little blacktype in the first two generations of his distaff family. Breeders' Cup Turf winner Dangerous Midge and Jim Dandy hero Scorpion are part of this distaff line.
SPEAK LOGISTICS (High Cotton - Miss Sabrina, by Summer Squall) had to check in the stretch of the Sam F. Davis, finishing fourth behind Falling Sky. The Eddie Plesa trainee owns miler speed over stamina. He is a half to the stakes winning sprinter Megalith and his female family is littered with listed stakes horses. He has a 3X4 Rasmussen Factor inbreeding (inbred to a blue hen) to Weekend Surprise, the dam of A.P. Indy and Summer Squall.
SKY CAPTAIN (Sky Mesa - Anchors Away, by Smarty Jones) finished eight lengths behind Falling Sky and Majestic Hussar in his first start of the year, then had the misfortune of encountering Cerro next time out. The colt finished a good second, beaten only 2 ½ lengths while stretching from 6 ½ furlongs to 1 1/8 miles. Sky Captain is a son of sprinter Sky Mesa out of an unraced daughter of Kentucky Derby hero Smarty Jones. His dam is a half sister to Eight Bells, the tragic second place finisher in the 2008 Kentucky Derby. She's also a half to the multiple stakes veteran Escape Route. The second dam Away is a stakes winning sprinter. The stakes winning sire Belong to Me and the heroic stakes veteran Skipaslew are descended from this female family.
SR. QUISQUEYANO (Exclusive Quality - Royal Navy, by Polish Navy) was no match for Itsmyluckyday in the Gulfstream Derby and finished a zip code away from that rival in the Holy Bull Stakes. Sr. Quisqueyano's dam is a half to two stakes winners and a couple of stakes placed runners.
The colt with the most starts in the field (16) is also the longest shot on the board. JOSHUA'S COMPRISE (Comprise - Princess Alert, by Katowice) has been whipped by almost 70 lengths in his last five starts. He placed last year in restricted statebred races, but appears to be in deep here. His dam is a half sister to the multiple stakes winning sprinter Smokey Stover.


Track bias: Gulfstream's two turn races discriminate against horses in the outside posts due to a very short run into the first turn and the short stretch of the 1 1/6 mile races. No rain is forecast and the track will be fast.
VIOLENCE is the likely favorite. He's coming up against colts with more recent races and this is a prep for bigger and better. He could win on talent, but l think he's a vulnerable favorite. I'm not convinced that HE'S HAD ENOUGH is up to the task here. He breaks from the 9 post and the track plays against his running style. FALLING SKY is also stuck on the far outside and will have to hustle to maintain his usual pace-pressing style. He's Had Enough, Falling Sky and SPEAK LOGISTICS are coming back off of 21 days of rest. Four intriguing newcomers could have a say in the outcome of the Fountain of Youth. Breaking from the one post is ORB. He's bred for distance and earned the highest late pace speed figure of the group in his last race. He'll sit behind the pace and hopefully, will find room when the running begins. MAJESTIC HUSSAR owns the highest BRIS speed figure in the race and the second-highest late pace figure. He's bound to improve in his third start off of a layoff and is bred for two turns. He owns enough speed to grab the lead, which is a dangerous thing in 1 1/6 miles at Gulfstream. CERRO could also be on the lead or press the pace. He could be dangerous in here, so include him in your exotics. SKY CAPTAIN may be scratched. ELMUTHAHID is bred for distance and he could surprise by handling the dirt too. He may be up on the lead, but I don't think he has the early speed of the other two. Maybe he'll handle dry dirt, but I'll let him prove me wrong.
#1 ORB
#7 SKY CAPTAIN – longshot pick


The Risen Star Stakes (G-2) has attracted a full field of 15 colts, four of whom exit the LeComte Stakes. The rest of the field consists of mainly allowance and last out maiden runners. 40% rain is forecast, so there's a good chance of an off track.
OXBOW (Awesome Again - Tizamazing, by Cee's Tizzy) is the surprise LeComte Champ and could wind up leading them on another merry chase in the Risen Star. The Wayne Lukas trainee has improved in every race and has the pedigree to go long. Oxbow is a full brother to Hollywood Prevue hero Awesome Patriot and their dam is a full sister to two-time Horse of the Year Tiznow. Oxbow has the pedigree to love the mud.
GOLDEN SOUL (Perfect Soul (IRE) - Hollywood Gold, by Mr. Prospector) was three wide the entire way in the LeComte and poured it on in the stretch to get up for second, as the best of the rest. Golden Soul has the pedigree to handle classic distances. His sire, Champion Turf Horse in Canada is also the sire of BC Filly & Mare Turf heroine Perfect Shirl. Golden Soul is a half brother to Lexington Stakes (G-2) winner Quinton's Gold Rush. His second dam Lady in Silver is a French Gr.1 winner at 10.5 furlongs. Golden Soul has an average pedigree for an off track.
I'VE STRUCK A NERVE (Yankee Gentleman - Ranaway, by Cryptoclearance) was wide the whole way in the LeComte and finished an even third. It was his first time stretching out after a couple of sprint races. His dam is a half sister to the multiple graded stakes veterans K. J's Appeal and Slew Valley. I've Struck A Nerve has an average pedigree for mud.
CIRCLE UNBROKEN (Broken Vow - Baldomera, by Doneraile Court) was also wide wide the entire way in the LeComte, which was his first start since last August. He didn't do much running and finished sixth, over 16 lengths behind Oxbow. Circle Unbroken's dam was a sturdy, classy mare, earning over $300,000 in 34 starts, including stakes wins. She placed in the Valley Stream (G-3) as a juvenile and owns the only blacktype in three generations. Broken Vow is a superior mud sire.
MYLUTE demolished optional claimers by over ten lengths in his last start, which was in December. Mylute descends from a precocious female family. His half brother She Digs Me won the Sapling (G-3) and Tyro. Their dam was a stakes winning miler and second dam won a stakes at 1 1/6 miles. Despite his sprinter damsire, MyLute carries a blend of speed and stamina in his pedigree. The distance of the Risen Star shouldn't be an issue. He should handle mud as well.
PALACE MALICE (Curlin - Palace Rumor, by Royal Anthem) was second in his first start of the year, beaten 2 ¼ lengths by Majestic Hussar, who is entered in the Fountain of Youth. It was eight lengths back to the third place finisher. Palace Malice worked a bullet with his stablemate Violence, who is also entered in the FOY. Palace Malice is a member of Horse of the Year Curlin's first crop. His dam won a stakes race over turf and she is a half sister to a stakes winning sprinter. We don't know how far Curlin's offspring will want to run, but Palace Malice has plenty of stamina through his female family. His damsire Royal Anthem was a long-winded turf router whose victories include the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Handicap (1 3/16 miles) and Canadian International (1 ½ miles). Palace Malice was second over a sloppy track in his last race.
PROUD STRIKE (Smart Strike - Colonella, by Pleasant Colony) Proud Strike was an impressive 7 ½ Length maiden winner going 1 1/16 miles at the Fair Grounds in his third start. By Intermediate/Classic Chef-de-race Smart Strike out of a daughter of Kentucky Derby/Preakness hero Pleasant Colony, Proud Strike descends from a blue-blooded distaff line and is bred to relish 1 ¼ miles. He's a full brother to the multiple stakes veteran Pleasant Strike, winner of the Arlington Classic (G-3) at 1 1/6 miles over the turf. Two other full siblings, Curlinello and Desert Myth are stakes placed and a half sibling, Colonial Empress (by Empire Maker), is also stakes placed. Proud Strike traces his linage back to the Champion Handicap mare and blue hen Gallorette. This is the same distaff branch that foaled Horse of the Year Saint Liam, Irish Champion Filly Minstrella (Proud Strike's second dam), Del Mar Futurity hero Rolling Fog, and Mother Goose heroine Buster's Ready. Proud Strike has superior breeding for mud.
CODE WEST (Lemon Drop Kid - Charitabledonation, by Saint Ballado) finished second, 3 1/4 lengths behind his stablemate Super Ninety Nine in his first start of the year. Super Ninety Nine made short work of the Southwest field, winning for fun. Code West has a classic pedigree. He's a full brother to Charitable Man, winner of the Peter Pan Stakes (G-2) at 1 1/8 miles. Code West should handle mud and improve in his second start of the year. He takes the blinkers off and Baffert is 36% with that angle.
NORMANDY INVASION (Tapit - Boston Lady, by Boston Harbor) closed with a furious rush to just miss catching the more experienced Overanalyze at the wire in the 1 1/8 mile Remsen Stakes (G-2). We know that the son of Tapit will handle the distance of the Risen Star, but this is his first outing since last fall. His pedigree for mud is average.

Sam Houston shippers AGENT (Dehere - Fast N Flashy, by Grand Slam), the claimer BETHEL (Pulpit - Cunning, by Lord At War (ARG)) and HARDROCK ELEVEN (Rock Hard Ten - Stark Beauty, by Unbridled's Song) appear to be outclassed. The later may have a future on the lawn. 

DEPARTING & SUNBEAN are scratched. 


Track Bias: The Fair Grounds track is fair, horses win with all running styles. Only one colt since 2000 pulled off a LeComte/Risen Star double. Only three LeComte winners finished in the money in the Risen Star since 2000.
A full field guarantees that some of these colts won't get the opportunity to run their race. Even in a contest with few mishaps, there's bumping, going wide and lack of running room. History is against OXBOW winning the Risen Star. Lukas' other Derby hopeful Will Take Charge was a dull sixth in the Southwest after scoring a win in the Smarty Jones. I'm tossing Oxbow. Maybe I'll regret it, but that's racing.
PALACE MALICE has speed to burn. Palace Malice's is the only one with off track experience which makes him a dangerous foe. He worked with FOY favorite Violence in his last breeze. His trainer Todd Pletcher has won two of the last three editions of the Risen Star. The offspring of Midnight Lute are really hot right now. MYLUTE has shown BRIS speed figure improvement in every race and owns the second-highest late-pace figure. The drawback is that this is his first start in two months. The same can be said about NORMANDY INVASION. His works are strong and he'll be stormin' from the back of the pack. The trainers of both horses win above 20% off of a layoff. PROUD STRIKE is also on the improve and has a prep race under his girth. Breaking from the rail isn't optimal, but he appears to be a very talented colt and owns one of the best pedigrees in the field. Baffert's CODE WEST will try to emulate his stablemate Super Ninety Nine. He should be respected. 

#1 PROUD STRIKE - longshot pick