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Derby Watch: Suddenbreakingnews making headlines
Sam F. Henderson isn’t a newshound, says he doesn’t have the television on news channels 24/7, and there’s certainly nothing in the pedigree of a horse by Mineshaft out of an Afleet Alex mare that has any connotation to news. He just liked the name – Suddenbreakingnews.
On Saturday, from Hot Springs, Ark., to Odessa, Texas, and on out to Portland, Ore., those with the closest interest in Suddenbreakingnews will be hoping he stops the presses with a victory in the Grade 2, $900,000 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park and continues his march toward the Kentucky Derby on May 7 at Churchill Downs.
Suddenbreakingnews comes off a rousing victory in last month’s Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn, where he rallied from last to first in a 14-horse field. That gave him three wins and three seconds in six starts and stamps him as one of the elite prospects for both the Rebel and next month’s Arkansas Derby.
“You don’t get horses like this very often,” Henderson, 78, said via telephone from Odessa, where he lives. “I’ve had a lot of stakes horses that have done well, but I’ve never had one like this.”
Henderson, nicknamed Sonny as a child, has had good success over five decades with both Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses and is still active with both breeds. He was an immediate success with Quarter Horses. The first horse he bought, Dream Rocket – purchased as a yearling when he was just 27 years old – ended up competing in the 1966 All-American Futurity. Later, Henderson in partnership stood that horse’s stallion, the influential Rocket Bar.
Henderson has finished second twice in the All-American Derby, in 1975 with Jet Comanche, who was in a dead heat for second while beaten by a nose, and in 1983 with Bartendress, who was interfered with and was moved up to second via disqualification after finishing third. Jet Comanche was the champion 3-year-old gelding of 1975, and Bartendress was the champion 3-year-old filly of 1983.
His other highly accomplished Quarter Horse was Watch A Native, who won the 1976 Kansas Derby.
With Thoroughbreds, Henderson’s best runner may have been the speedy Matching, a multiple stakes-winning mare in the early 1980s whom Henderson bred and then privately sold. He also bred and sold Icy Morn, a local legend in the Southwest in the mid-1990s, when she won 20 of 39 starts while racing primarily in Arkansas, New Mexico, and Texas.
Henderson, who has interests in oil and gas as well as cattle, backed off for a while, battled health problems, and five years ago got married for the fourth time.
Henderson said of his wife, Helen, “I ran and played with [her] when we were little kids, but I didn’t see her for 50 years.
“One day, she came into my office, and I said, ‘I know you,’ ” he said. “We’re cut from the same ilk – all Scotch-Irish, raise cattle, grew up on horseback. The last five years have been the best of my life.”
With a new wife and newfound good health, Henderson said, “I decided that now that I’m feeling good, I had to do something.”
He dived back into racing with a handful of Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses. Henderson said one of his favorite Thoroughbred trainers from years ago was Don Von Hemel, and through mutual acquaintances, he was able to place his runners with Von Hemel’s son Donnie K. Von Hemel.
Suddenbreakingnews was purchased as a yearling for $72,000. Henderson said he “had a hell of a time trying to name horses.” He liked the name Breaking News, but that was rejected by The Jockey Club, owing to two Thoroughbreds having been granted that name in this country since 1995. Henderson’s office manager, Janice Redding, suggested Suddenbreakingnews. There were no other horses with that name, and it was approved.
Once Suddenbreakingnews started running, his name caught the attention of Molly Young, a reporter for The Oregonian, the major newspaper in Portland. Young recently has covered such heavy material as the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. But she’s not a disinterested bystander in Suddenbreakingnews. Her grandfather is Don Von Hemel, and her uncle is Donnie K. Von Hemel. Her mother, Pam, is Don’s daughter, Donnie K.’s sister.
“I never wanted to go into racing,” Young said from her office at The Oregonian, where she has worked for five years since graduating from the University of Nebraska. “I always wanted to go into journalism.
“When this horse was relatively young, I saw one of his races and thought the name was ironic,” given her line of work.
Henderson had no idea his trainer had a niece in the news business. But he’ll take whatever good-luck charms he can find.
“He’s the best horse I’ve ever had,” Henderson said. “He’s a blessing. My wife says the Lord sent him to you.”
Gotta love English... Great article once I got past the 'purchased a yearling when he was 27 years old' made me giggle
I should have included the mention that SBN was climbing (greenly) the first eighth of a mile of the SW undoubtedly reacting to the kick-back. The only other pundits I have seen note this were Bernier and Illman in their stakes review video (well done, gents). First of all, how many times do you see a 3yo colt climbing early while well back of a 14-horse field (in a stakes race, no less) and go on to win going away like a good thing? Suffice to say, it's not only rare to see that but when evaluating this colt's chances for improving and running faster, I view it as a positive indicator (potentially) particularly if the horseman is a good one and make no mistake, if it is fixed he figures to run more professionally and faster. My point is that it's unlikely that the SW was SBN's peak performance. On the contrary.
I think Watchmaker's opinion is understandable, re the Southwest, but to me there were two races within therace, the race that SBN ran, and the race everyone else ran. It's the latter race where I agree with Watchmaker. But in my view, SBN has to be viewed entirely separate - he was in a class by himself. SBN's turn of foot is not something to poo-poo, I think it's electric. He was coming off a layoff where his previous highest Beyer was mid-70s. So, right away it's obvious he moved forward physically off the slight freshening (93 Beyer), which is a good thing, in my book. In his prior race, when he lost to Discreetness by a nose, he got totally shut-off in mid-stretch. He was easily the best in that race (3 lengths in my est) and SBN came back in the Rebel to prove it, even as Discreetness in the interim essentially flattered him in winning the Smarty Jones at 9-1. SBN was, I believe, 10-1 m/l in the SW, and was bet-down to 4-1, although he was coupled with a stablemate, who it's hard to believe was the recipient of that support from the public, his previous race was highly disappointing, and he ran to that in the SW. I believe SBN got strong inside support and ran to it, which is another thing I like to see, because more often than not, that wiseguy support does not match the output. If I'm wrong about this colt, I think we'll see it this weekend. He figures to go favored, albeit at 7-2 or so. Baffert's shipper is one with obvious ability, and given the lack of fast horses in this division this season, being lightly-raced is not a bad thing, at all. The opposite is true. He broke his MSW the right way. But the step up in class here is not insignificant, either, but I do view him, at this preliminary point, as the main danger. Discreetness should not be thrown out, imo, if you play the trifecta. Of the speed horses coming out of the SW, I thought the 5th place finisher, who set the pace, was the most interesting, because he actually galloped-out past SBN, which I thought noteworthy at the time. I have no idea if he's running here, actually. I can't think of his name off the top of my head. But he was never beaten all that much, relatively speaking. And he's lightly-raced, in fact that may have been his first 2-turn race (I think it was). If he's running here, I'd include him in my exactas and tris as a longshot possibility. If he's running elsewhere I'd give him a good look, shortening or otherwise.
The track bias will be the inside. Baffert sells tickets.
Great closing speed could end up with the roses if he can get a clear lane
This horse has that great closing speed. I he gets a clear lane this colt could be in the Roses
This horse is special. I've been analyzing horses for longer than I can remember, but colts with this kind of ability come along very rarely. He has a turn of foot that covers ground so quickly that he makes up lengths in the blink of an eye. It is the kind of move that many times proves decisive in a race like the Kentucky Derby,
The most exciting horse is the fast closer. More recently Kobe's back, Greenpointcrusader, Brody's Cause and the aforementioned SuddenBreakingNews I love love them all, especially Zenyatta, but let's not forget the west coast filly Book Review, and my Dad's favorite Silky Sullivan.