Friday, September 26, 2014


The Front Runner Stakes (formerly the Norfolk) offers a guaranteed spot in the starting gate of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile for the victor. The race is also a Kentucky Derby qualifying race, meaning the winner receives ten points towards entry into the Derby.

The 1 1/16 mile Grade 1 event is comprised of four colts who exited the Del Mar Futurity, the first and second place finishers in the Oak Tree Juvenile Turf and four last out maiden winners. Let’s review the field.

TEXAS RED (Afleet Alex - Ramatuelle (CHI), by Jeune Homme) jumps up in company after winning his maiden last time out at a mile over the Del Mar poly. His speed figures have improved in every start. He’s out of a stakes placed mare who is a half to two Chilean group winners.

LORD NELSON (Pulpit - African Jade, by Seeking the Gold) cost $340K as a yearling and ran like it in his debut in July beating Del Mar Futurity runner-up Calculator by a length. Baffert kept the colt out of the Futurity and has sent the son of Pulpit out for a few months of consistent breezes. Lord Nelson’s second dam is Argentinean Champion MISS LINDA. Santa Margarita Invitational winner MISS MATCH is part of this female family. Despite his strong morning works, Lord Nelson is jumping from five furlongs to two turns and doesn’t have the benefit of a recent race.

SKY PREACHER (Sky Mesa - My Dear Lady (ARG), by Mutakddim) recorded a maiden win when switched to the lawn and was ½ a length shy of the win in the Oak Tree Juvenile Turf in his last start. Both races were at a mile. Was it the distance or surface that boosted his performance? Sky Preacher is a full to the stakes winner SKY HIGH LADY, whose victories came over the turf and Polytrack. Their dam is an Argentinean Group winner over the turf at classic distances.

DADDY D T (Scat Daddy - Issues, by Awesome Again) beat Sky Preacher by ½ length in an exciting blanket finish in the Oak Tree Juvenile Turf. The Sadler colt has worked well over the Santa Anita dirt, but most of Scat Daddy’s babies prefer turf and polytrack to dirt. That being said, Daddy D T is a full brother to Willard L. Proctor winner AMARISH, a winner over dirt and poly, but not turf.

RED BUTTON (Distorted Humor - Skipping Around, by Skip Trial) won his second start, which was a maiden race at Del Mar. He showed absolutely nothing in the Del Mar Futurity, finishing a zip code behind American Pharoah. Red Button is a half brother to the Grade 1 winner SUGAR SHAKE (Awesome Again) and stakes placed Explosive Heat (Touch Gold). Despite the colt’s swift works at Santa Anita, the Glatt barn is 0-23 in stakes races.

REFLECTED STAR (Eskendereya - Retool, by Gone West) was no match for Lord Nelson in their debut and faded after flashing some early speed. The son of freshman sire Eskendereya came back a month later to beat maiden claimers at Del Mar. Reflected Star should show improvement with distance and a switch to dirt but Eskendereya’s offspring will be later developing types. Reflected Star’s dam is a half to the graded stakes winners LE BERNARDIN and TAITTINGER ROSE. His third dam is BC Juvie fillies heroine TWILIGHT RIDGE.

AMERICAN PHAROAH (Pioneerof the Nile - Littleprincessemma, by Yankee Gentleman) led every step of the way to score a decisive 4 ¾ victory in the Del Mar Futurity. He’s recorded two sharp breezes over the new Santa Anita dirt for Baffert. His dam is a half to the graded stakes winners MISTY ROSETTE and STORM WOLF. His second dam EXCLUSIVE ROSETTE is a stakes winner.

CONQUEST PANTHERA (Kitten's Joy - Lastofthsummerwine, by Sky Mesa) was a $475K yearling and showed it winning his debut by 1 ½ lengths over the Del Mar poly. By turf star Kitten's Joy, Conquest Panthera has a pedigree better suited to the lawn and polytrack. His second damsire Boundary won on the dirt, but was a better sire of turf horses. This colt must be gorgeous, because there is little blacktype in his female family to warrant his huge price tag. His dam is a half sister stakes winner SONG WARRIOR and to a Russian stakes winner. Conquest Panthera’s third dam is Test heroine CLEF DARGENT.

SKYWAY (Sky Mesa - Bedside Manner, by Dr. Blum) won the Best Pal Stakes but weakened after going wide the entire way in the Del Mar Futurity. He did his best to check in fourth, beaten 13 lengths. Skyway is a half to multiple stakes winner AVA K. (Dixie Union). Skyway has a sprinter’s pedigree and may find the 1 1/6 miles at the top of his distance range. He has a good/bad race cycle and worked a last out bullet at Santa Anita

CALCULATOR (In Summation - Back to Basics, by Alphabet Soup) has been slow to put it all together. He was a surprise second in the Del Mar Futurity at long odds and it was another 8 + lengths back to the third place finisher. Calculator’s unraced dam is a half to the stakes veteran turf sprinter ATTICUS KRISTY, his full sister stakes winner FIERY DANCER and to Lexington Stakes hero DISTORTED REALITY. This is the distaff family of Preakness champ SHACKLEFORD and his Grade 1 winning sister LADY JOANNE. Calculator should appreciate two turns and a switch to dirt. He worked a bullet before his last race and also in preparation for the Frontrunner.


It’s anyone’s guess how the new track surface will play at Santa Anita. In one day of racing, speed appears to be holding, as the first races were won either on the lead or horses sitting a few lengths from the front.

American Pharoah and possibly Sky Preacher and Skyway appear to have the most speed. American Pharoah posted a triple digit speed figure in his last performance, a 19 point jump. He could simply run away from them here, but he could also regress slightly. I dismissed Calculator in the Del Mar Futurity, but this is a colt showing all signs of improvement. Sky Preacher has hit the board in three of four starts. Not sure if he’ll handle the dirt at this level of competition, but he’s worth a look. Texas Red is also showing improvement and should benefit from a surface change. If Kenty D. can hustle him out of the gate from that one post, he could hit the board. An intriguing longshot is Red Button. He bombed in the Futurity, but his speed figures aren’t that bad and he has two really good works at Santa Anita. I don’t see him winning it, but he could spoil the party at huge odds.




#5 RED BUTTON – longshot pick.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Iroquois Stakes Kicks Off Derby Points

Churchill Downs Fall The Grade 3 Iroquois Stakes is a highlight of Churchill Downs opening day for the fall meet. This is the first race of the Kentucky Derby qualifying events, with points distributed as follows - the winner will earn 10 points, 4 for second, 2 for third and 1point for fourth.

None of the past winners of the Iroquois Stakes have had influence on the three Triple Crown races, although the 1983 third place finisher At The Threshold was also third in the Kentucky Derby. The 2012 Iroquois third place runner Overanalyze won the Arkansas Derby. Some of the previous winners, Court Vision, Harlan’s Holiday and Capt Candyman Can became Grade 1 winners.


Mr Z 2 This year’s 1 1/6 mile contest is headed by MR Z, runner-up in the Sanford and Saratoga Special. He faces eight other colts. Mr Z should love the extra distance. He’s a tough colt who doesn’t know the meaning of quit. He’s the one to beat. He’s bested Iroquois entrants Hashtag Bourbon and Cleveland Sound.



Hashtag Bourbon  HASHTAG BOURBON (Super Saver - Waltzing With Deb, by Robyn Dancer) won the Mountaineer Juvenile by over four lengths, but was beaten 3 ¾ lengths in his debut by Mr Z. The son of hot sire Super Saver should also enjoy running longer distances. Hashtag Bourbon is a half to 2002 Arkansans Derby runner-up Wild Horses (Saint Ballado) and stake placed Waltzing With Blue (Malibu Moon). The Keller Gordon trainee was forced to go wide in both starts, but draws post one in the Iroquois.


Both Mr Z and Hashtag have raced over the Churchill dirt. LUCKY PLAYER (Lookin At Lucky - Janetstickettocats, by Storm Cat) won his debut at Churchill and then finished fourth in the Bashford Manor Stakes. He was on the wrong end of a photo finish, beaten a neck in the Prairie Meadows Juvenile Mile in his last start.

Cleveland Sound CLEVELAND SOUND (More Than Ready - Twilight Service, by Horse Chestnut (SAF)) was all over the place in the Sanford Stakes. He was behind a wall of horses going five wide on the turn, then ducked down to the inside. He did manage to make up ground despite this and was beaten a nose for third. He adds Lasix and gets a jock switch.


The rest of the field appears up against it. DEKABRIST was soundly beaten by 23 lengths just last week in the Hopeful at Saratoga. HOLY FRAZIER has three starts at a mile under his girth, all over the Ellis Park lawn. He won his maiden last out, but was beaten previously by DANNY BOY. That one is a half to Arlington Classic hero Meal Penalty. Both Holy Frazier and Danny Boy have dirt-oriented pedigrees, and could hit the board.

Two others are coming off of maiden victories. BOLD CONQUEST (Curlin - One for Jim, by Distorted Humor) won the dog fight by a head in his last race at Saratoga. After finishing second at 5 ½ furlongs, the colt added a furlong and got the job done. Sprinting isn’t his game, he should love the extra distance and he’s had two strong post-race breezes.

THE GORILLA MAN (After Market - War Indian, by Indian Charlie) beat maidens by ½ length at Ellis Park last time out. In his debut which was over the lawn, he finished three lengths behind Holy Frazier after having to steady. He faces a deeper field here.


MR Z has faced :21 and change early fractions in each start, but has the ability to rate. LUCKY PLAYER and CLEVELAND SOUND may also vie near the lead. HASHTAG BOURBON draws the rail, but he’ll likely take back. If he stays out of traffic, he could come running at the end. CLEVELAND SOUND could have earned a graded stakes placing with a better ride last time out. He gets a jock switch and could play the spoiler’s role. BOLD CONQUEST had a strong debut for Assmusen. Joel Rosario rides and he could also be tough.

#2 MR Z



#6 CLEVELAND SOUND – longshot pick