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DRF Breeding Weekend Wrap: Animal Kingdom amazes in Dubai, major Derby preps begin
March 30 brought forth an embarrassment of riches for U.S. racing fans, as the Dubai World Cup card at Meydan Racecourse in the United Arab Emirates drew several accomplished American-based horses and the final leg of Churchill Downs’ Road to the Kentucky Derby series of 3-year-old prep races kicked off with the Group 2 U.A.E. Derby at Meydan, the Grade 1 Florida Derby at Gulfstream, and the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds.
The $10 million Dubai World Cup drew three to represent the U.S., and for the first time since 2009, an American-based horse captured the world’s richest race, as 2011 Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom powered clear at the top of Meydan’s stretch and held safe late to win by two lengths. After arguably moving too soon in February’s Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap, Animal Kingdom’s prep for the World Cup, jockey Joel Rosario kept the horse close to the pace and timed his winning move perfectly at Meydan. The powerful chestnut horse covered about 1 1/4 miles in 2:03.21 on the synthetic Tapeta surface.
Animal Kingdom introduced a particularly intriguing pedigree formula to the list of Kentucky Derby winners when he took the roses in 2011, as a son of Leroidesanimaux, the Brazilian-bred champion turf male of 2005 who stands at Hallmarc Stallions at Stonewall Farm in Ocala, Fl. He is out of a German-bred mare, Group 3 winner Dalicia, by Acatenango. His pedigree thus offers considerable appeal to the turf-oriented foreign bloodstock market, so it was no surprise when owner Team Valor sold majority interest in Animal Kingdom to John Messara’s Arrowfield Stud in Australia. Messara will stand Animal Kingdom upon his retirement, which will happen this year and possibly sooner rather than later, although a trip to Royal Ascot for a final start in June on turf is still very much an option. Animal Kingdom bankrolled a staggering $6,060,000 with the World Cup win, boosting his career earnings to $8,387,500.
Earlier on the World Cup card, Lines of Battle scored in the U.A.E. Derby to take down the first race in the final major leg of Churchill Downs’ Road to the Kentucky Derby prep series. The son of Claiborne stallion War Front earned 100 points with his 1 1/2-length win over Elleval, good for third place in the current standings. Bred by Joseph Allen in Kentucky, Lines of Battle is owned by Allen along with the Coolmore-affiliated Susan Magnier, Michael Tabor, and Derrick Smith. Trainer Aidan O’Brien sent Daddy Long Legs to the Kentucky Derby last year following his U.A.E. Derby win, and informed Daily Racing Form’s Marcus Hersh that Lines of Battle will likely make the trip to Louisville as well. He covered about 1 3/16 miles in 2:02.05 and responded well when kept to task by jockey Ryan Moore after making the lead in midstretch.
An Allen homebred, War Front retired to Claiborne after the Paris, Ky., farm bought his breeding rights in fall 2006. He won four of 13 starts from six furlongs to 1 1/16 miles and earned over $420,000 on the racetrack, but his progeny to date have shown an ability to win at longer distances and over a variety of surfaces. After the death of Pulpit last year, War Front has become Claiborne’s leading stallion at a fee of $80,000.
At Gulfstream Park, Phipps Stable homebred Orb all but guaranteed his position as a leading Kentucky Derby contender by outfinishing Itsmyluckyday to win the Florida Derby by 2 3/4 lengths. Orb backed up his come-from-behind win in the Fountain of Youth Stakes on Feb. 23 and is now the points leader in the Road to the Kentucky Derby standings with 150. He covered 1 1/8 miles in 1:50.87, earning a 97 Beyer Speed Figure, which matched his figure in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes. Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey, renowned for his patience and commitment to his horses’ own individual development, told Daily Racing Form’s Mike Welsch following the Florida Derby that the Malibu Moon colt came out of the race in excellent shape and would remain in Florida for the next two weeks before shipping to Kentucky.
Spendthrift Farm’s Malibu Moon has become one of the more popular sires of racehorses and commercial sires in North America in recent years. He finished sixth on the 2012 general sire list and is ensconced in the top ten early this year as well. Malibu Moon’s 2-year-old colt out of the Forest Wildcat mare Fashion Cat topped the Barretts March sale at $675,000 and he has followed with other six-figure juveniles at the OBS March and Fasig-Tipton Florida select sales over the past weeks, including a $625,000 filly at Fasig-Tipton. Orb is out of the Unbridled mare Lady Liberty, who has also produced multiple winner Cause of Freedom. It is the family of Grade 1 winner and sire Private Terms and current West Coast-based turf standout Suggestive Boy.
In New Orleans, WinStar Farm’s Revolutionary showed an impressive amount of determination in fighting off Mylute in deep stretch to take the Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds by a neck. In his previous start, Revolutionary swarmed past the entire field to take the Grade 3 Withers Stakes at Aqueduct with an extremely late move, earning accolades but also questions about his talent level after several of his Withers opponents failed to progress in their next starts. At Fair Grounds, the War Pass colt swept six-wide in the far turn and engaged longshot Mylute - by DRF Breeding’s Hot Sire from last week, Midnight Lute - in a spirited stretch duel. Revolutionary prevailed in a time of 1:50.28 for 1 1/8 miles, earning a Beyer Figure of 93. The colt will ship to WinStar in Lexington, Ky., for a brief freshening before heading to Churchill Downs.
War Pass, 2007’s champion 2-year-old male, died unexpectedly in late 2010 shortly after returning from standing the Southern Hemisphere season in Australia. He could be represented by two runners in the Kentucky Derby from his first of what will only be two crops to race, as Java’s War, a closing second to Verrazano in the Tampa Bay Derby, currently ranks 17th on the points leaderboard and is a probable for the Grade 1 Blue Grass Stakes on April 13.
Bred by Will Farish in Kentucky, Revolutionary sports a high-quality pedigree and should have little problem managing the Derby’s mile and a quarter distance. He is out of the A. P. Indy mare Runup the Colors, who won the Alabama Stakes and Delaware Oaks and has also produced Grade 2-placed Tafaseel and Ice Road. His second dam, Up the Flagpole, by Hoist the Flag, also won the Delaware Oaks and more importantly produced six other stakes winners in addition to Runup the Colors, including Group 1 winner and graded stakes producer Flagbird and multiple Grade 1 winner Prospectors Delite, dam of 2003 Horse of the Year and Lane’s End stallion Mineshaft.
Weekend notes: In addition to his Kentucky Derby duo of Revolutionary and likely Wood Memorial favorite Verrazano, Todd Pletcher fine-tuned what is shaping up to be a fearsome contingent for the Kentucky Oaks. Mike Repole’s Unlimited Budget, by Street Sense, remained unbeaten while taking down a third consecutive graded stakes event in the Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks. Repole bought Unlimited Budget for $475,000 from breeder Ocala Stud at the 2012 Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co. March sale of selected 2-year-olds in training. She is out of the stakes-placed Valid Appeal mare Unlimited Pleasure and is a half-sister to Grade 3 winners Jardin and Beacon Shine. Super Derby winner Outofthebox and multiple Grade 2 winner Tackleberry are other notable family members.
Even considering Animal Kingdom’s sensational win and impressive steps forward from Orb and Revolutionary, many racing aficionados reserved their highest praise for Pletcher’s other 3-year-old filly as the weekend’s top performer. Dreaming of Julia made her second start of the year in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks for owner-breeder Stonestreet Stables, and absolutely overwhelmed five foes in a 21 3/4-length romp with minimal handling by jockey John Velazquez. The A. P. Indy filly, out of multiple Grade 1 winner Dream Rush, won her first two starts as a juvenile by open lengths and also annexed the Grade 1 Frizette last fall before finishing third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. She ran second behind Live Lively in February’s Grade 2 Davona Dale at Gulfstream but dispatched that foe with ease on Saturday en route to an eye-catching 1:48.97 trip for 1 1/8 miles, good for a 114 Beyer. Dreaming of Julia’s 132 points sit behind Unlimited Budget’s 160 on the Road to the Kentucky Oaks points standings, with the Grade 1 Ashland coming up next on April 6.