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Updated on 09/17/2011 2:30PM
DRF Derby Edition: Kentucky Derby contender profiles
- Pedigree Profiles By LAUREN STICH
ACTION THIS DAY
Strengths: A fast developer, he landed the upset victory in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile in just his third career start. This colt is in the very capable hands of trainer Richard Mandella, who nearly broke the $10 million mark in earnings last year. He was upset in his 3-year-old debut and a disappointment in his subsequent starts. A sore back has been attributed for the regression in form for his last two outings. He has since been treated by a chiropractor as well as an acupuncturist, and then had a bullet drill at Churchill in preparation for the Derby. Has the pedigree to go the distance, and his best is yet to come.
Weaknesses: No Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner has won the Derby. His readiness is questionable, considering his disappointing last two starts, and skeptics of alternative treatments will doubt that he has recovered quickly enough from back problems to enable him to perform well at the top level.
Strategy: This off-the-pace runner doesn't have a good deal of speed. He will undoubtedly get an honest pace to chase, but must avoid traffic problems that might hamper his closing move.
Value: He has fallen off the radar screen with the recent disappointments and will probably go off at higher odds than he was in the Derby Future Wager pools. If you believe in the back treatment and believe that Mandella can get him geared up again, he's an interesting play at a solid price.
- Elliot Safdie
Sire Line: The late Kris S. is by the superior stamina influence Roberto (by Hail to Reason), a champion at 2 in Ireland. Roberto's sons include Brian's Time, Darby Creek Road, Dynaformer, Lear Fan, Red Ransom, Silver Hawk, and Kris S. Kris S. is not limited to siring only grass runners. In addition to champion turf female Soaring Softly and Breeders' Cup Turf winner Prized, Kris S. is the sire of champion 3-year-old filly Hollywood Wildcat, Kissin Kris, Brocco, You and I, Arch, Adonis, and notable current 3-year-olds Tiger Hunt, Rock Hard Ten, and Royal Assault. The Hail to Reason sire line has produced Kentucky Derby winners Proud Clarion (1967), Sunny's Halo (1983), and Sunday Silence (1989). Strodes Creek (1994) and Captain Bodgit (1997) finished second, and Bold Reason (1971) and Sanhedrin (1977) finished third.
Female Family: Najecam was stakes placed four times. Second dam Sue Warner was unraced, but the third dam, Bitty Girl, by European champion miler Habitat (a half-brother to Northfields), was an English champion.
Pedigree Pattern: Action This Day is bred to go long on turf and was not meant to be at his best on dirt at age 2. His dam is by Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe winner Trempolino. Action This Day is one of the horses in the Derby bred to relish the 1 1/4 miles, but it may ultimately be on grass.
Strengths: Birdstone exhibited special talent in his first outing, a Saratoga debut romp that had his connections dreaming Derby. He did little to dash those hopes in his Grade 1 Champagne win over stakes winner Chapel Royal before trainer Nick Zito bypassed the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and wrapped up his campaign. He's among the best of his generation on his day and owns a pedigree suitable for the task at hand. His sire, Grindstone, won the Derby in 1996 in his sixth career start (which Birdstone hopes to do) and his half-sister Bird Town upset the Oaks last year. Connections are a positive as Zito saddled Derby winners Strike the Gold and Go for Gin, and new rider Prado led the nation in victories in 1997, 1998, and 1999. Birdstone impressed with a 58.40-second breeze at Churchill.
Weaknesses: The Lane's End Stakes was supposed to be a stroll in the park for Birdstone, the 3-5 favorite. But he didn't mount a rally in the race, won by 16-1 Sinister G. After that debacle, Birdstone got sick and proceeded to miss his final Derby prep and lose his Eclipse-winning jockey Jerry Bailey to Wimbledon. Birdstone must buck the history that says only two prep races are insufficient while also attempting his toughest task off his worst effort. He also has yet to reach the 100 Beyer Speed Figure plateau.
Strategy: Birdstone is most effective as a stalker, so a controlled Derby pace might help his chances. Prado may be wise to find a spot four of five lengths off expected pacesetters Lion Heart, Smarty Jones, and Pollard's Vision in the opening stages. Positional speed is a part of the package on Birdstone's best day, and that weapon will likely prove vital if he is to outrun his odds in the Derby.
Value: Birdstone has been displaced by stablemate The Cliff's Edge as Zito's top hope. Those holding Pool 1 Future Wager tickets at 12-1 and Pool 2 at 13-1 are likely holding underlays. He'll probably start at 30-1 or higher.
- Paul Malecki
Sire Line: While Grindstone won the 1996 Kentucky Derby and his sire, the 1990 Derby winner Unbridled, are strong stamina influences, the truth is Grindstone and another son of Unbridled, Unbridled's Song, are speed influences. None of their offspring has shown aptitude for 1 1/4 miles.
Female Family: It's a high-class female family cultivated by C.V. Whitney. Fourth dam Honey Dear produced Ashland Stakes winner You All, who in turn produced multiple stakes winner Hush Dear. Bred to Storm Bird, Hush Dear produced Dear Birdie, who was stakes placed on turf. Dear Birdie is an exceptional broodmare, producing last year's 3-year-old filly champion Bird Town, stakes-placed Mountain Bird, and Birdstone.
Pedigree Pattern: Grindstone is a speed influence and unless he is bred to a mare by an established stamina influence, is unlikely to get a runner who would be at his best at 1 1/4 miles. Birdstone's damsire is Storm Bird, the sire of 1990 Derby runner-up Summer Squall and Storm Cat, but usually adds more brilliance than stamina to a pedigree.
Strengths: There are things to like about Arkansas Derby runner-up Borrego. First, he is a son of El Prado, known as the sire of Medaglia d'Oro, winner of over $5.7 million in purse money and such Grade 1 races as the Donn, Whitney, and Travers and runner-up in each of the last two Breeders' Cup Classics. Secondly, Borrego is out of a daughter of 1991 Kentucky Derby winner Strike the Gold, so he can handle 1 1/4 miles. Third, in years past it was a must for Derby contenders to have raced 1 1/8 miles at least twice, and Borrego is one of only seven in the field who have done so this year. You have to like the way he was making up ground on Smarty Jones at Oaklawn and that subsequent Illinois Derby winner Pollard's Vision finished behind him in Louisiana. This colt has gotten better with each race this year. He finished the last eighth of a mile of his work on Sunday in 12.40 seconds. Note he finished his last eighth of a mile in the Arkansas Derby faster than other Derby rivals finished in their final prep races.
Weaknesses: Detractors will say he has yet to run in a Grade 1, and as a stakes-placed horse he is bucking tradition by attempting to be the first horse since Alysheba to make the Kentucky Derby his first stakes win. (Alysheba was DQ'd from first in the Blue Grass.)
Strategy: As a stalker, his running style will be flattered by the quick pace that almost always develops in the Derby. A clean trip with him four to six lengths off the early leaders should set him up to fire off the best race of his life.
Value: He will likely be overlooked at the windows, even though he has one of the field's best Beyer Figure. Backers will to get him at 15-1 or 20-1 or higher. With all the stamina in his pedigree makeup, it is easy to include him in the exotics, as he should be accelerating in the last eighth of a mile and it would not be a surprise to see him wear the roses.
- Bill Howard
Sire Line: Getting the "big" horse makes a stallion, and while El Prado was doing well at stud, it was Medaglia d'Oro who put him on the map. A champion 2-year-old in Ireland, El Prado is by the world's greatest turf stallion, Sadler's Wells, a son of Northern Dancer, the memorable 1964 Derby and Preakness winner. Northern Dancer's huge effect on the Triple Crown began with his son Danzig, whose two sons Stephan's Odyssey and Chief's Crown finished second and third in the 1985 Derby. Northern Dancer's son Nijinsky II sired Ferdinand, the 1986 Derby winner, and Nijinsky II's son Sportin' Life sired 1987 Derby runner-up and Belmont winner Bet Twice. Summer Squall, a grandson of Northern Dancer, ran second in the 1990 Derby and won the Preakness.
Female Family: Escutcheon is one of the great names in Thoroughbred pedigrees and is found in Borrego's pedigree as his seventh dam.
Pedigree Pattern: With El Prado on top and 1991 Derby winner Strike the Gold on the bottom, Borrego is certainly bred to handle 1 1/4 miles.
Strengths: He comes off a game win in the Santa Anita Derby, one of the primary preps for this race. Among the recent Santa Anita Derby runners to have won the Derby are Winning Colors, Sunday Silence, Silver Charm, Real Quiet, Ferdinand, and Charismatic. Castledale is trained by Jeff Mullins, the hottest trainer in Southern California, recent winner of the Santa Anita training title, and a man who now has a better feel for this race. He brought last year's Santa Anita Derby winner Buddy Gil here, finishing sixth. The pedigree helps, too - Castledale's sire was an Arc de Triomphe winner and European Horse of the Year, and his bottom side has stamina as well. It's encouraging that while there were concerns about how Castledale came out of the Santa Anita Derby win, he's responded with big works since and a full-speed-ahead approach by Mullins.
Weaknesses: He has had just two races this year, and as has been well documented, that strategy hasn't worked well in terms of winning the Derby. Then there's the question of his Santa Anita Derby win itself - he ran so well that day but so poorly the time before, in the San Rafael. Which race is the real deal?
Strategy: His best races both here and in Europe have come when he settles early then blasts home, but he's not a deep closer. In fact, he's shown some tactical speed, and even in the Santa Anita Derby he was in the hunt by the quarter pole and still able to finish.
Value: The large field and competitive nature of the Derby means almost everyone will have appeal at the windows. How many times has the Santa Anita Derby winner flown in as far under the radar as this colt has? At odds of 12-1 or so, seemingly on the upswing, having handled dirt, and from a hot barn with pedigree power, he's certainly got appeal.
- Michael Hammersly
Sire Line: Castledale is from the second crop of Peintre Celebre, a champion at 3 in France whose short career was highlighted by a truly spectacular performance in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. His first crop included German Derby winner Dai Jin and French Derby runner-up Super Celebre. Peintre Celebre is by one of the world's great turf sires, Nureyev.
Female Family: Like so many unraced mares who are well bred, Loujou was bred to a highly promising young stallion and produced Santa Anita Derby winner Castledale. His second dam, the stakes winner Secretarial Queen, is a half-sister to Tisab, John Alden, and Nicosia. This female line also produced Saggy, the sire of 1961 Derby winner Carry Back.
Pedigree Profile: By Peintre Celebre out of a Silver Hawk mare (stamina over stamina), Castledale is bred to be at his best at 1 1/4 miles and well beyond - particularly on turf. In addition, his second dam is by Secretariat, another stout influence. The fact that he transferred his good turf form to dirt makes him dangerous at the Derby distance, while others will be floundering.
Strengths: Displayed early in career that he is most comfortable racing from just off the early pace, and owns sufficient tactical speed to gain early position. The kick displayed in the nine-furlong Florida Derby victory should set him up well for the 10-furlong Kentucky Derby, especially considering his superb classic-distance pedigree. Much-maligned Florida Derby is now the key race of the Kentucky Derby prep season, having produced Blue Grass Stakes winner The Cliff's Edge and Wood Memorial winner Tapit.
Weaknesses: Typically the Derby winner will have run a 105 or better Beyer sometime during his 3-year-old prep season, while Friends Lake's career-best 99 Beyer occurred toward the end of his 2-year-old campaign. Earned a low Beyer and very slow come-home times for the Florida Derby. By not racing in April, he is bucking a trend that has existed since Needles won the 1956 Derby. In the last 50 years, only 30 horses have attempted the Derby off just two 3-year-old preps and only one horse (Sunny's Halo, 1983) was victorious. Acted wildly in the paddock prior to the Holy Bull, so keeping a cool head among the large Derby crowd is a huge concern.
Strategy: After breaking among the lead pack in the Florida Derby, he fell nearly nine lengths back with three furlongs remaining, but kicked home like a fresh horse, holding off a fast-closing The Cliff's Edge. Sitting in midpack early, with a similar closing kick, could be a winning move.
Value: At 22-1 in Future Wager Pool 3, he's the Rodney Dangerfield of his generation, getting no respect for his Florida Derby triumph over both the Wood Memorial and Blue Grass winners. If you're backing The Cliff's Edge or Tapit, he's a must use on the exotic tickets and at 15-1 or better should be a win bet.
- Art Gropper
Sire Line: A.P. Indy, by the revered 1977 Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew, would have been favored in the 1992 Derby but was scratched on the morning of the race. He returned to win the Belmont and Breeders' Cup Classic. He was the leading stallion in the U.S. last year, with his offspring led by Horse of the Year Mineshaft. His first crop yielded Pulpit, who finished fourth while injured in the 1997 Derby.
Female Family: Antespend won 10 of 24 starts, including the Del Mar Invitational Oaks, Santa Anita Oaks, and Las Virgenes Stakes. Friends Lake is her third foal and only stakes winner. His second dam, Auspiciante, raced five years in Argentina and North America, winning 8 of 32 starts, including the Matriarch and Ramona stakes and Beverly Hills Handicap on turf.
Pedigree Pattern: While foaled in New York, Friends Lake has a Kentucky pedigree. A.P. Indy, known as a stamina influence, also gets some very fast horses, such as Old Trieste, A.P. Assay, and With Ability. Antespend inherited her speed from her sire, 1985 Derby winner Spend a Buck, and Friends Lake does have tactical speed. Strongly bred for the Derby distance.
Strengths: Having started 15 times, Imperialism has raced more than any other Derby starter. Since being turned over to 21-year-old trainer Kristin Mulhall early this year, he has won 2 of 3 starts, with the one loss coming in a roughly contested Santa Anita Derby. That afternoon he made a bold rail rally to nearly reach the leaders, but was checked in the closing 70 yards when Rock Hard Ten drifted into his path. Third across the wire, he was moved up to second upon the disqualification of Rock Hard Ten. Santa Anita Derby runners-up have a favorable history in the Derby. Most recently, Real Quiet and Silver Charm won in 1998 and 1997.
Weaknesses: During a key six-furlong workout in 1:17.40 on April 22, Imperialism had to ease back after champion Azeri unexpectedly broke off for a workout in front of him. Daily Racing Form timed his final three furlongs in a moderate 38.32 seconds. The chief criticism is his lack of early speed. As part of a full field in the Derby, Imperialism will need a skilled ride and a fortunate trip to rally past all the traffic.
Strategy: His best hope is to fall back to his customary position at the back of the pack, and hope the early fractions are honest. If the fractions are quick - as they were when he won the San Rafael with a last-to-first rally - he could challenge if able to avoid a wide or otherwise troubled journey.
Value: With Mulhall shooting to become the youngest Derby-winning trainer ever, she and Imperialism have understandably received their share of headlines. This seemingly will knock down the price on Imperialism a bit. Given the Lexington Stakes victory of Quintons Gold Rush, who ran fourth in the talent-laden Santa Anita Derby, Imperialism deservedly rates as a contender. Odds of 15-1 or higher would be attractive.
- Byron King
Sire Line: Langfuhr was a late-blooming sprinter-miler by Danzig. Stakes placed at 3, he became Canada's champion sprinter at 4, a year when he won the Vosburgh Stakes and Forego Handicap. At 5, he won his most important race, the Metropolitan Handicap. His first crop yielded Imperial Gesture, and his second crop included last year's one-two finishers in the Queen's Plate, Wando and Mobil. Danzig's son Pine Bluff won the 1992 Preakness and a grandson, Sea Hero, won the 1993 Derby.
Female Family: Bodhavista did not win (in four starts) but has produced two stakes winners. Her first foal, White Beauty, was a multiple stakes winner on turf. Bodhavista is a half-sister to stakes winners Paulrus and Grande Dame. Imperialism's second dam, Fia, was stakes placed four times.
Pedigree Pattern: Sprinter Langfuhr has proven that he can get horses capable of winning at 1 1/4 miles, and damsire Pass the Tab adds stamina. Imperialism is inbred 3x4 to Northern Dancer, usually an indicator of turf ability, and Imperialism has indeed shown talent on grass. While not a true 1 1/4-mile dirt horse, Imperialism could get a minor share in Louisville.
Strengths: Winning experience over the Churchill soil is one of the many plus marks for Limehouse. His race in the Blue Grass was deceptively good, when he was forced to race inside of pacesetting Lion Heart. Atypically, the surface did not appear to favor the front-runners or the inner paths that day, and perhaps that was the reason Lion Heart remained off the rail during the entire backstretch run. Limehouse has not really run a bad race except for last summer's Hopeful, when he was sent for the lead in what turned out to be a bitter pace battle. His best game is stalking from close range, and if he can somehow obtain such a trip in this big field, he could prove a major force.
Weaknesses: He has won only one route race and that was the Grade 3 Tampa Derby. His best Beyers come up short, although he has been more consistent than the majority of the field. Jose Santos has been aboard only once and that may not have provided him with enough time to familiarize himself with this colt's personality and preferences.
Strategy: A stalking trip within three or four lengths of the pacesetters would be best for Limehouse, who has to avoid traffic trouble in the Derby's early cavalry charge.
Value: With 20 betting interests, it is nearly impossible to predict the flow of money in this year's Derby, but Limehouse will receive some serious respect in light of his solid showing in the Blue Grass behind The Cliff's Edge (one of the likely betting choices) and Lion Heart (one of the primary speeds). If you believe the Blue Grass was superior to most of the recently run prep races, then you must use all three of these runners as a team in your exotic wagering plans.
- Jim Kachulis
Sire Line: Grand Slam was a major 2-year-old, winning the Champagne and Futurity stakes. At 3, he won the Peter Pan and placed in six stakes, including a second to Reraise in the Breeders' Cup Sprint. He also finished second to Old Trieste in the 1 1/8-mile Swaps Stakes. Grand Slam's runners are characterized by speed and quality, and his first crop of 3-year-olds last year included Breeders' Cup Sprint winner Cajun Beat, plus stakes winners Strong Hope, Grand Hombre, and Alke. By world-class sire Gone West (by Mr. Prospector), Grand Slam's versatile runners are successful on dirt, turf, and wet tracks.
Female Family: Dixieland Blues did not win her lone start, but that did not prevent her from becoming a stakes producer. Her second and third dams, Blue Jean Baby and Jones Time Machine, were stakes-winning sprinters.
Pedigree Pattern: Grand Slam's offspring are blessed with high speed but have proven to be effective up to 1 1/8 miles. With additional speed from damsire Dixieland Band and second damsire Mr. Prospector, Limehouse will only be a pace factor in the Derby.
Strengths: Lion Heart is one of the most talented members of his generation. Undefeated at 2, he won the Hollywood Futurity, which has produced five Derby winners, most recently Real Quiet. He has been impressive in defeat this season, losing the San Rafael and Blue Grass by narrow margins after disputing a fast pace in both. His career-best Beyer of 110 is one of the highest in the field, while his lowest Beyer in five career starts is a 96.
Weaknesses: Like several in the Derby field, Lion Heart is attempting to buck what is widely perceived as a prerequisite to winning the Derby - running in at least three previous races at 3 - coming into the race off only two starts as a 3-year-old. The only horse to have won the Derby off fewer than three starts in recent decades was Sunny's Halo in 1983, who won both of his preps. Lion Heart did not win either of his. Perhaps the more serious concern is that Lion Heart has not yet been able to set a relaxed pace in any of his races.
Strategy: Lion Heart knows no other way of running. He will be in the first flight, if not in the lead, at the first call and for as long as he is able to sustain his speed. Mike Smith may try to harness that speed, but whether that is possible, or practical, will not be known until the race is under way.
Value: Lion Heart, who has been favored in all but one of his races, will start at the highest price of his career in the Derby. Concerns about his ability to get 1 1/4 miles will drive some of his past supporters away. But considering the gap between him and The Cliff's Edge was small in the Blue Grass, it would make sense to re-evaluate him if the gap in the win pool is wider than common sense suggests it should be. His talent level seemingly makes him a must-use in exotics.
- Vance Hanson
Sire Line: Tale of the Cat was a gifted sprinter-miler who won the King's Bishop at 3 and finished second at 1 1/8 miles in the Whitney Handicap behind Awesome Again. He was expected to be a sire of sprinter-milers and has not disappointed. In addition to Lion Heart, his notable runners include Be Gentle, Whoopi Cat, and Feline Story. He is by Storm Cat, the world's most successful and expensive stallion, who sired Preakness and Belmont winner Tabasco Cat.
Female Family: Satin Sunrise, a minor stakes winner, was a throwback to the iron horses of yesteryear, winning 23 times from an amazing 78 starts in six years of racing. She has also produced Florida Oaks winner French Satin, and the next dam, Logic, was also a stakes winner. This line produced Revoked, a major stakes winner and sire.
Pedigree Pattern: With the Northern Dancer line on top and Mr. Leader and Naskra on the bottom, this is a strong pedigree for turf. Speed influence Tale of the Cat gets a stamina boost from Mr. Leader and Naskra, but Lion Heart's brilliance will diminish with each furlong beyond one mile, and while this quality front-runner will be a major pace factor in the Derby, he is not a win candidate at 1 1/4 miles.
Strengths: Has never been off the board, and tries to repeat the second-off-the-layoff pattern that resulted in his 100 Beyer win in the Sham Stakes. May not have been ready when forced to rally against a speed-favoring track in the Wood Memorial, but should be fit on Derby Day for Bobby Frankel.
He's a lightly raced runner with tons of potential. Worked nicely at Churchill Downs on Tuesday and appears to handle this surface very well. Has already conquered nine furlongs, and he has plenty of stamina influences in his female family. Should stay the demanding Derby distance.
He has kept top company throughout his North American campaign. He chased Read the Footnotes in the Remsen last November and has been very competitive with St Averil, Tapit, and Eddington.
Weaknesses: He has settled for second in 4 of his 7 races, and one must wonder if he has the killer instinct necessary to win a race like the Derby. Even in his Sham win, he was all out in the final furlong to beat Borrego and Preachinatthebar.
The Beyer for the Wood Memorial came back pretty low, and he must run faster to win.
He hasn't shown much explosiveness in his races and may have to show a quick turn of foot to get himself into contention when he turns for home.
Strategy: Has tactical speed and should sit a nice stalking trip, about five to eight lengths off the early lead. He figures to be gearing up on the final turn and shouldn't be too far off the leaders when they swing into the stretch.
Value: Figures to take some money based on the Frankel factor alone, but his Beyers don't jump off the page, and he should provide some value. Odds of 12-1 seem fair, but may be best played on the bottom of exotic wagers.
- Dan Illman
Sire Line: Grand Slam won the Champagne and Futurity Stakes as a 2-year-old. At 3, he won the Peter Pan Stakes and placed in six stakes, including a second in the Breeders' Cup Sprint. Grand Slam's runners have speed and quality, and his first crop of 3-year-olds last year included Breeders' Cup Sprint winner Cajun Beat, and stakes winners Strong Hope, Grand Hombre, and Alke. Grand Slam's current 3-year-olds include Limehouse, Master David, and Fire Slam. By world-class sire Gone West (Mr. Prospector), Grand Slam's runners are successful on dirt, turf, and wet tracks.
Female Family: Nadra, a daughter of Sadler's Wells and champion French filly Bint Pasha, never won in seven starts in England, but she produced stakes-placed Ardent Passion and Master David. Second dam Bint Pasha was one of Affirmed's best runners, winning the Prix Vermeille, Yorkshire Oaks, and Pretty Polly Stakes. This female line traces to Man o' War's daughter Judy O'Grady, who was the dam of major stakes winner Snow Goose and Blue Denim.
Pedigree Pattern: Grand Slam adds speed to the classic strains of Sadler's Wells, Affirmed, and Graustark, who are the sires of Master David's first three dams. Master David should be competitive at 1 1/4 miles, but he is definitely bred to be superior on grass.
Strengths: This Richard Mandella-trained colt was able to get second in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile last year behind stablemate Action This Day, and his off-the-pace effort suggested he'd be able to handle the longer distances of the Triple Crown races. The race also proved that the big-crowd atmosphere in Louisville won't spook him. Both of his two-turn tries this year have earned triple-digit Beyers, and he'll enter the Derby off a going-away, open-lengths win in which the runner-up had 11 lengths on the rest of the bunch. His style should keep him in close range of the front-runners and help him from encountering the traffic problems that figure to plague the late runners in a race with such a large field.
Weaknesses: He has never won a stakes and enters this off an unusual pattern of prep races - three allowance races, one of which was on turf. Although his pedigree includes a classic winner on the top side, it still appears as if he'll be better suited to middle distances. He has beaten absolutely nothing of quality this year, and his main claim to fame is a second in a slow Grade 1.
Strategy: Probably best suited to sit behind the leaders early and possibly inherit the lead when they begin to tire from their pace efforts. He could be in an enviable spot as they turn for home, while the closers attempt to weave through traffic to run him down, which they probably will.
Value: Lack of a true favorite in here will keep him from being completely overlooked, but it's reasonable to expect a price in the 30-1 range. At that price, he's certainly worthy of exotic consideration.
- Steve Grabowski
Sire Line: Old Trieste died in a paddock accident before his first crop reached the races last year. Old Trieste had more speed than any son of A.P. Indy. Unfortunately, he left his race on the track in a pre-Derby work, when he sizzled six furlongs in 1:10 only days before the race. After setting a wicked pace in the 1998 Derby, Old Trieste had nothing left, but went on to score major victories in the Swaps (by 12 lengths over Grand Slam) and, at age 4, in the Californian Stakes. Although runners by A.P. Indy are bred to run long, this is not the case with Old Trieste, whose runners have inherited his speed.
Female Family: A member of a very productive stakes-producing female line over successive generations, Musical Minister was a winner of only $47,000 and is the dam of two stakes-placed runners, River God and Minister Eric. But Musical Minister is a half-sister to stakes winners Pico Teneriffe, Salmon Ladder, Capote's Prospect, and Areed Al Ola. Third dam Aladancer was one of Northern Dancer's first stakes winners, and stakes winners Viscosity, Vigliotto, Run Softly, and Latin American descend from this line. Aladancer is also a half-sister to Naval Orange, the dam of Cryptoclearance.
Pedigree Pattern: The Old Trieste-Deputy Minister-Mr. Prospector cross is slanted more toward speed than stamina, and this is a pedigree that is suspect at 1 1/4 miles.
Strengths: Has been improving steadily this year. Beat allowance N1X company with a 98 Beyer going 1 1/16 miles in his second start as a 3-year-old. Stepped up in class in the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby and made a premature move into a much stronger pace than the one he had stayed close to in that allowance win. He grabbed a clear lead turning for home and tired late to finish third. The raw fractions in the Illinois Derby have led some to believe he benefited from a slow pace, but those splits were mostly a function of the track playing slowly that day and are much quicker than most handicappers realize. He is coming up to this race the right way and can win at large odds if he continues on the upswing.
Weaknesses: When he went 1 1/8 miles in the Illinois Derby, some pointed to his sire, Carson City, as a reason why he wouldn't get the distance. They were proven wrong. The tip-off came in his quick come-home time in his 1 1/16-mile allowance win, but most pedigree experts aren't attuned to come-home times.
Strategy: Although he led throughout in the Illinois Derby, he doesn't need to have the early lead. That will be a good thing if the pace is quick. He is a better horse now than he was in the Louisiana Derby, so he can rate five or six lengths behind the leaders and figures to deliver a stronger, more sustained kick. If the fractions turn out to be milder than expected, he has the tactical speed to adapt.
Value: He is a late-developing horse, so he is not yet a household name. Despite his well-known trainer, he should offer generous overlaid odds across the board and in the exotics.
- Steve Klein
Sire Line: Carson City was one of Mr. Prospector's fastest sons, and is strictly a source of high speed. Carson City's best offspring are stakes-winning sprinters such as State City, City Zip, Carson Hollow, Cuvee, Lord Carson, Five Star Day, and Boone's Mill. Ormsby was able to stretch his front-running speed to nine furlongs as an older horse, but Carson City's runners are best up to 1 1/16 miles.
Female Family: He is a stakes winner primarily because of his exceptional female family, which has been producing the highest quality stakes winners over many generations. Etats Unis is a full sister to stakes winner Bowman Band, and second dam Hometown Queen is a half-sister to Viviana, who is the dam of Sightseek, Tates Creek, and Special Rate. Third dam Nijinsky Star is a half-sister to 3-year-old filly champion Chris Evert, who is the dam of champion 2-year-old Chief's Crown. Kentucky Derby winner Winning Colors descends from this female line.
Pedigree Pattern: The males in the pedigree dictate the surface and distance preference, and the dam and her tail-female family are all about racing class. Despite the staggering class of his female family, Pollard's Vision has distance limitations because of Carson City. The presence of stamina influences Pleasant Colony and Nijinsky II may help him get 1 1/8 miles, but Pollard's Vision will not be at his best at 1 1/4 miles.
Strengths: Has kept some good company, losing to the likes of probable second choice Smarty Jones (three times) and probable first choice The Cliff's Edge (once). His closing style is the preferred choice for this race, and his form is improving. He won as a 2-year-old. His last race Beyer Speed Figure of 102 was a new top. Distance breeding is solid, as sire El Prado was a Group 1 winner in Ireland. Pro Prado's dam is Mama's Pro, who won over $116,000 in her five route starts, and $435,000 overall.
Weaknesses: Lone stakes win came in a minor sprint at Oaklawn. Pro Prado has chased some good horses, but has never threatened any of them. Trainer Robert Holthus has had two Derby starters, Our Trade Winds (13th in 1972) and Proper Reality (fourth in 1988). Jockey John McKee has yet to ride in the Kentucky Derby. April 22 work did not impress.
Strategy: Sit back and try to save some ground. He's just not good enough to beat these unless he gets a very good trip with little or no lost ground. With that said, some of the top runners will have to disappoint just for this colt to have a realistic chance to hit the board. He's proven on an off track, so it might help level the playing field if it rains.
Value: He'll be a huge price, around 40-1. If able to land in the exacta, trifecta, or super it will pay a ton. If Smarty Jones wins and this guy finishes four lengths back (average losing distance so far), then there is a high probability that he hits the board. That's a big if. Best guess? Mid-pack.
- Scott Ehlers
Sire Line: Getting the "big" horse makes a stallion, and while El Prado was doing well at stud, it was Medaglia d'Oro who put him on the map. A champion 2-year-old in Ireland, El Prado is by the world's greatest turf stallion, Sadler's Wells, who is a son of Northern Dancer, the memorable 1964 Derby and Preakness winner. Northern Dancer's huge effect on the Triple Crown began with his son Danzig, whose sons Stephan's Odyssey and Chief's Crown finished second and third in the 1985 Derby. Northern Dancer's son Nijinsky II sired Ferdinand, the 1986 Derby winner. Sportin' Life, a son of Nijinsky II, sired 1987 Derby runner-up and Belmont winner Bet Twice. Summer Squall, a grandson of Northern Dancer, ran second in the 1990 Derby and won the Preakness. Male-line descendants of Northern Dancer include Mane Minister, third in the 1991 Derby; 1993 Derby winner Sea Hero; 1999 Derby and Preakness winner Charismatic; Cat Thief, third in the 1999 Derby; and Impeachment, third in the 2000 Derby.
Female Family: Mama's Pro was a non-graded stakes winner at 2, 3, and 4. Second dam Mama Cielo was stakes placed and is a half-sister to stakes winner Bianca D.
Pedigree Pattern: El Prado adds needed stamina to a female family that includes numerous speed influences, such as Proper Reality, Conquistador Cielo, and Danzig, but 1 1/4 miles may be longer than he wants to go in top company.
QUINTONS GOLD RUSH
Strengths: Quintons Gold Rush was quite impressive winning the Lexington Stakes, posting his best Beyer Speed Figure of 102. In a full field of quality horses, he ran near the front early and took over with a charge down the lane. He also easily handled Wimbledon in a maiden special weight at Santa Anita in his second career start. He now races for one of the top barns in the country, and, judging from his steady improvement, one would have to assume he only gets better.
Weaknesses: The Lexington is his only graded stakes win. He has only one start at 1 1/8 miles and he gave up the lead in that race, making him suspect at the Derby distance. He also lacks experience, with only five career starts, and will find himself heavily pressured with his forward running style.
Strategy: His early turn of foot should set him up for good position going into the first turn. If he can settle just off likely pacesetters Lion Heart, Smarty Jones, and Pollard's Vision down the backstretch and make his move just out of the turn, he may have a shot to get up for part.
Value: It's doubtful he will get a lot of respect at the windows off his Lexington win, and he should be long odds. With concerns that he won't get the distance, he will be overlooked by many. Still, he has the potential to be any kind of horse and would be worth considering in exotics play.
- Kim Nelson
Sire Line: Young sire Wild Rush (Wild Again) was a good 3-year-old, but blossomed into a top miler at age 4, winning the Carter Handicap, Kentucky Cup Classic, and Metropolitan Handicap. His current crop of 3-year-olds include last year's Canadian 2-year-old champion, Judiths Wild Rush, as well as Wimbledon, Hollywood Story, and Stellar Jayne. Wild Rush's sire, Wild Again, won the inaugural running of the Breeders' Cup Classic and has had a remarkable career at stud, with such notable runners as Canadian champion Wilderness Song, Canadian champion Free at Last, Sarava, Milwaukee Brew, Shine Again, Elmhurst, Wild Event, and Vicar.
Female Family: Hollywood Gold (Mr. Prospector) is a daughter of prominent turf stakes mare Lady in Silver, who inherited her turf ability from her sire (Silver Hawk) and damsire (Lorenzaccio).
Pedigree Pattern: Sire line (Wild Rush-Wild Again-Icecapade) leans more to speed than stamina, and while Wild Again and some of his sons were able to win over 1 1/8 miles, it was either as late-maturing 3-year-olds or as older runners. Damsire Mr. Prospector adds more brilliance, and the stamina of Silver Hawk is not enough to make Quintons Gold Rush a bona fide threat at 1 1/4 miles.
READ THE FOOTNOTES
Strengths: Perhaps his greatest single asset lies in the fact that he is a naturally fast racehorse with a terrific tactical gear that helps him adapt to any pace scenario. He is capable of running well from both on and off the pace, and will be able to handle anything that is thrown at him through the opening half-mile. That Beyer Speed Figure of 113 he earned for winning the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth back in February has held up as the top Beyer Figure of any 3-year-old coming into the Derby. He earned that figure off a 2 1/2-month layoff, and he enters the Derby as a fresh horse as well.
Weaknesses: He has made only two starts as a 3-year-old and has been geared up for the Derby off workouts after making his last start in the Grade 1 Florida Derby over a month and a half ago. Another stumbling block may be that he will be ridden by Robby Albarado for the first time after having Jerry Bailey in five of his last six races.
Strategy: His excellent positional speed allows him the luxury of being able to adjust on the fly, so it will be up to Albarado to judge the early pace and assist this colt in finding the most comfortable spot through the opening stages. He shouldn't find himself too far back early on unless a wildly fast pace scenario develops.
Value: This year's Kentucky Derby is bettor-friendly, and if you hold a firm opinion on a prospective winner you should be pleased with the price that will be offered. This colt will be no exception. His price averaged out at 17-1 for all three Kentucky Derby Future Wager pools, and anything in the neighborhood of 15-1 on race day would be acceptable.
- Brian Pochman
Sire Line: Smoke Glacken was a champion sprinter, and while his runners usually have their sire's speed, some have proven to be tough competitors up to 1 1/8 miles. Smoke Glacken got his speed from his sire, Two Punch (Mr. Prospector); his damsire, Magesterial (Northern Dancer); and his second damsire, King Emperor (Bold Ruler).
Female Family: If a broodmare is from a high-class tail-female family, it matters little what she accomplished on the track. The first, second, and third dams here were not winners, but all became stakes producers. Baydon Belle produced Read the Footnotes, second dam Vague Prospect produced a stakes winner, and third dam Prospector's Fire produced champion Fire the Groom and Group 1 winner Dowsing. Fire the Groom is the dam of Stravinsky, a 3-year-old champion in England and last year's leading freshman sire in the United States. Read the Footnotes's fourth dam is the foundation mare Native Street, one of the best fillies of the 1963 foal crop, which included the 1965 co-Horse of the Year, Moccasin, champion Lady Pitt, Priceless Gem, and Marking Time (the dam of champion Relaxing and second dam of champion Easy Goer).
Pedigree Pattern: There is no doubt that Al Nasr and especially Vaguely Noble add staying power to the speed of Smoke Glacken, but it is unlikely that Read the Footnotes will be as brilliant at 1 1/4 miles as he has been up to 1 1/8 miles.
Strengths: With his 6-for-6 record, Smarty Jones is trying to become the first unbeaten Derby winner since Seattle Slew in 1977. Getting here with a flawless resume is an accomplishment, even if he has yet to compete in a Grade 1 race. He is also among the fastest of the Derby starters. Three times he has earned triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures, led by a 108 in the Rebel and a 107 in a muddy Arkansas Derby. Most of his opponents have not earned more than one triple-digit Beyer Figure.
Weaknesses: His bloodlines suggest his flaws could become exposed at a classic distance. His other weakness is from a class perspective. In achieving his perfect record, he has raced in only one graded race: the Grade 2 Arkansas Derby. That prep has not been as productive as races like the Wood Memorial, Lexington, or Illinois Derby in recent years.
The 2003 Arkansas Derby winner, Sir Cherokee, missed the Derby because of an injury, and the previous three winners of that race - Private Emblem, Balto Star, and Graeme Hall - all finished in the rear half of the Derby pack. The best recent Derby performance by an Arkansas Derby winner was Victory Gallop, who ran second to Real Quiet in 1998.
Strategy: The logical strategy for regular rider Stewart Elliott is to place him in a comfortable tracking position. Leaving the final turn is when Smarty Jones must launch his move. He will likely need to establish some distance from the late runners if he is to outrun his short-distance pedigree.
Value: In part because Elliott and trainer John Servis are not as well known as other connections with runners in the field, the price on Smarty Jones is expected to be start at around 6-1. He would be an overlay if his odds drifted to 8-1 or higher.
- Byron King
Sire Line: Elusive Quality set a world record on the turf for one mile (1:31.63) when he won the Poker Handicap at 5, and also established a track record for seven furlongs on dirt in an allowance at Gulfstream Park at 4. Young stallions Elusive Quality and Grand Slam are two major reasons why Gone West (Mr. Prospector) is now considered a sire of sires. Off to a blazing start with his first crop of 2-year-olds in 2002, Elusive Quality has had his stud fee rise from $7,500 to $50,000.
Female Family: The first two dams of Smarty Jones, I'll Get Along and Cowboy Cop, were stakes winners out of a stakes winner, Don't Worry Bout Me. Smarty Jones's fourth dam, Bases Full, was one of five stakes winners out of Striking, a granddaughter of La Troienne, the greatest broodmare in the history of the sport. The 1965 Kentucky Derby runner-up, Dapper Dan, comes from this fabled female family, as does last year's Horse of the Year, Mineshaft.
Pedigree Pattern: It is easy to see where Smarty Jones gets his speed and class. With Elusive Quality as his sire and being out of a mare by a sprint champion, Smile (In Reality), Smarty Jones is also inbred three times to the brilliant Bold Ruler. The class of his female family has enabled him to get 1 1/8 miles, but he will find 1 1/4 miles beyond his scope.
Strengths: We know that St Averil can run fast. He easily handled Master David in the Santa Catalina in January with a 102 Beyer Speed Figure, then earned another triple-digit Beyer when he finished a game second in the San Felipe. Although he faltered badly in the Santa Anita Derby, he had every right to regress after those two big-figure runs, and may be set for a "bounce-back" effort in the important third start of his form cycle on Derby Day. St Averil has winning juvenile experience, and was Grade 1-placed behind Lion Heart in the Hollywood Futurity last year. St Averil, a $500,000 yearling buy, has a classy pedigree, as his first four dams all earned black type. By top sire Saint Ballado, he should handle the added distance.
Weaknesses: St Averil never seemed comfortable in the Santa Anita Derby. He was four wide going into the first turn, and he never ran a step, finishing sixth. It will take a strong leap of faith to throw out that race. He has had some problems with his feet since that debacle, and has been training in egg bar shoes during the last few weeks. St Averil must deal with shipping cross-country for the first time in his career, and must improve by leaps and bounds off his dreadful recent performance. He seems like a grind-it-out type of runner, and may need to show a stronger burst to propel himself into contention.
Strategy: St Averil is probably most comfortable when allowed to settle off the pace. He figures to be in midpack or toward the rear of the field on the backstretch, and will be hoping for a hot pace up front. If the pace is fast, he may make his presence felt down the long Churchill stretch.
Value: He'll certainly offer more value than in the Santa Anita Derby, and deservedly so. Odds of 20-1 or so seem fair on his chances to grab the roses.
- Dan Illman
Sire Line: Stakes winner Saint Ballado (Halo) did not have the raw talent of his flashy champion full brother Devil's Bag, but Saint Ballado turned out to be more successful at stud. Saint Ballado's offspring were typified by their high speed, and he sired his best runner, Captain Bodgit, in his very first crop. Captain Bodgit was the only runner by Saint Ballado who was competitive at classic distances. The majority of his runners are milers with exceptional speed, such as Sister Act, Flame Thrower, Straight Man, Yankee Victor, and Ashado.
Female Family: By 2-year-old champion Lord Avie, Avie's Fancy was a superior grass filly, winning such races as the Matchmaker Stakes and seven other stakes. The next dam, Fancy Pan, was also a stakes winner of $237,000.
Pedigree Pattern: Lord Avie gives Saint Ballado much-needed stamina, but this is still a dubious pedigree at 1 1/4 miles on dirt. Saint Ballado, Lord Avie, and especially the presence of Paavo (Hawaii) as the second damsire suggest St Averil may be best on turf.
SONG OF THE SWORD
Strengths: His tactical speed is an important edge given the size of this field, as he should be able to gain early position. He comes off some solid races, having run second in the Illinois Derby, when he was at a tactical disadvantage chasing the loose-on-the-lead Pollard's Vision after encountering trouble on the first turn. He was closing nicely last out in the Lexington, and just missed second. His career-best Beyer Speed Figure, perhaps not coincidentally, came in the Illinois Derby at 1 1/8 miles, the farthest he has gone in five races.
Weaknesses: He has never won in a field of this quality. More importantly, he had no racing experience as a 2-year-old, so he is looking to buck a trend that stretches back to 1882. His best Beyer Figure to date was a 103, so he would almost certainly have to run a career-best figure to win this race. His latest Beyer broke a string of ascending figures, which could indicate he peaked two back in the Illinois Derby. He has won 3 of 5, but the wins came against maidens and allowance types, and he comes into the Derby without a stakes win.
Strategy: He made a long, sustained run in the Lexington but was unable to get to the eventual winner, Quintons Gold Rush. Scorching fractions are very possible in the Derby, which means a more patient ride is required. Expect him to take back off the pace and try to make a run on the turn and sustain that bid to the wire.
Value: Let's face it: It's a 20-horse field, and trips are going to play a huge factor in the outcome of the Derby once again. He will be a long price, and his versatility and the likelihood of a quick pace could mean he works out a nice trip. His Beyers have been steady and this crop of 3-year-olds has not distinguished itself. At 30-1 and up, this is a horse to consider.
- Kenny Peck
Sire Line: Unbridled's Song was one of the best horses of his generation, and there is no doubt he would have accomplished much more if not for physical problems. He has turned out to be a popular stallion, and his runners are known for their speed. Oddly, while Unbridled's Song and Grindstone are by a stamina influence, Unbridled, they are classified as brilliant influences as their offspring have thus far been best up to 1 1/8 miles.
Female Family: Song of the Sword's fifth dam, Aesthete, is a half-sister to Attica, the dam of England's 1968 Horse of the Year, Sir Ivor, who won two-third of England's Triple Crown - the 2000 Guineas and Epsom Derby. Sir Ivor also finished third in the St. Leger, second behind Vaguely Noble in the Arc de Triomphe, and won the Washington D.C. International.
Pedigree Pattern: With Unbridled's Song, Crusader Sword, and Valid Appeal as the three stallions most prominent in his pedigree, Song of the Sword is bred for speed and has distance limitations.
Strengths: Raw ability, connections, upside, and stamina stamp Tapit as the horse to beat in this year's Derby. A bold statement, or fact? Let's break it down. Tapit's Laurel Futurity win was one of the most, if not the most, visually impressive performances of any 2-year-old last year. His Wood Memorial win was against the bias while the horse was not at 100 percent. Tapit is a closer, a style that often is effective in the Derby. There is enough pace to keep things honest up front. Connections of Michael Dickinson and Ramon Dominguez are excellent. Simply put, Dickinson can do what other trainers can't. Must we remind you of Da Hoss? Tapit's upside is scary, as we've yet to see his best. Distance breeding from both sides of the family. Tapit is his dam's first foal.
Weaknesses: Tapit has only two preps this year, and historically, that is weak. He has yet to run fast enough to win, as he lacks a triple-digit Beyer Speed Figure. Connections have yet to train or ride a Kentucky Derby starter.
Strategy: The pace of the race looks quick. Tapit is a closer, and he'll want to save as much early ground as possible before he starts to pick off runners on the backside. He has a good turn of foot - much like what we saw in the Wood Memorial, where he went from 11th to midpack by the far turn and then was four lengths back at the top of the stretch.
Value: We'll keep this simple. At 8-1 or better, he's value in the win pool. If third choice or higher, then all exotics look tempting. There are 380 exacta combinations for this year's Derby (20 x 19), compared with 132 in a typical 12-horse field. Or, there are 379 losing combinations and only one winning one.
- Scott Ehlers
Sire Line: A member of A.P. Indy's first crop, Pulpit exploded onto the scene at 3, winning his maiden debut, an allowance, and the Fountain of Youth. He then finished second in the Florida Derby behind Captain Bodgit, followed by a facile victory in the Blue Grass Stakes. He finished a gallant fourth while sustaining a career-ending injury in the Kentucky Derby, and is beginning to flourish as a stallion. Other noted runners by Pulpit are Sky Mesa, Essence of Dubai, Stroll, Special Rate, and Lucky Pulpit.
Female Family: A female family of incredible quality. Tap Your Heels won a restricted stakes and is a half-sister to sprint champion Rubiano. Tapit's second dam, Ruby Slippers, is a half-sister to Glitterman and Marine Brass. His third dam, stakes winner Moon Glitter, is a full sister to Relaunch and a half-sister to stakes winner Belle O' Reason.
Pedigree Pattern: With a balance of speed (inbred 3x4 to Mr. Prospector), stamina (Unbridled is his damsire and Nijinsky II is his second damsire), and high class, Tapit's pedigree has no limitations and is well-suited to 1 1/4 miles.
THE CLIFF'S EDGE
Strengths: The leading earner in this Kentucky Derby field, The Cliff's Edge was good as a 2-year-old, winning back-to-back graded stakes at Churchill Downs, but he is getting even better as a 3-year-old. He has improved with each race this year and appears to be nearing his peak form. This son of Gulch has the best last-race Beyer Figure in the field for his win in a major Derby prep, the Grade 1 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland. Trainer Nick Zito is looking for his third Kentucky Derby win. He won his first Derby with Blue Grass winner Strike the Gold in 1991, and it has been 10 years since Go for Gin took home the top prize on a sloppy Churchill Downs track in 1994. The Cliff's Edge has had two 1 1/8-mile races coming into the Derby. The trip is going to make all the difference for The Cliff's Edge, and it is worth noting that he has stayed closer to the pace in previous starts at Churchill Downs than at any other track. He's also 2 for 2 going a route on this oval. Shane Sellers has ridden The Cliff's Edge in all eight of his races and has ridden in every Derby since 1990, with the exception of 2001 and 2002, when he was overcoming an injury.
Weaknesses: Though The Cliff's Edge has been off the board only once in his career, the jump from a 90 Beyer Figure in the Florida Derby to a 111 in the Blue Grass indicates that he may be vulnerable to a bounce in the Kentucky Derby. His previous high was a 101 in the Iroquois, and he came back with a 94 to win the Kentucky Jockey Club in his last start as a 2-year-old.
Strategy: There is plenty of pace in this race, and with a good break, The Cliff's Edge is capable of getting a decent position and tracking the pacesetters in the early stages. He has been running like a closer, but he has some speed and does not need to come from way out of it.
Value: Though he figures to be one of the favorites due to the Blue Grass win, the high Beyer Figure, and his connections, favoritism figures to be a generous price this year. Expect him to go postward at odds anywhere from 7-2 to 5-1.
- Kristin Sadler
Sire Line: Gulch (Mr. Prospector) was a champion sprinter-miler, but with offspring such as Thunder Gulch, the 1995 Kentucky Derby, Belmont, and Travers winner; Nayef, a multiple Group 1 winner at 1 1/4 miles and a 3-year-old champion in England; and Super Derby winner Wallenda, he has proven that his horses can be successful at 1 1/4 miles.
Female Family: A classy Elmendorf Farm female line. Zigember never won in four starts, but the next dam, Red Ember, was a multiple stakes winner on turf. The third dam, Everglow, was unraced, but in addition to Red Ember, she produced stakes winner Comedy Act and Empty Nest, the dam of King's Nest.
Pedigree Pattern: The presence of Danzig, Crimson Satan, and Jacinto would suggest this is a pedigree tilted toward speed, but since the very beginning, Gulch not only outran his sprinting pedigree - he won the Wood Memorial and was second in the Woodward Stakes and Whitney Handicap - but also became something of an anomaly as a sire of stayers. The Gulch-Danzig cross is a pattern for grass, as well.
WIMBLEDON - SCRATCHED
Strengths: He has already proven effective against the upper crust of his division, winning the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby in grand style. It was his first race against winners, first try in a stakes, and the first time he had ever shipped, and he passed that test with flying colors. It also doesn't hurt to be trained by Bob Baffert, who has won three of the last seven Kentucky Derbies (Silver Charm, Real Quiet, War Emblem) and had one other near-miss (Cavonnier). It's also a big shot in the arm that Jerry Bailey, the best jockey of this generation, opted to ride Wimbledon over a couple of promising candidates (Read the Footnotes, Quintons Gold Rush).
Weaknesses: As good as Wimble-don's effort was in the Louisiana Derby, that's how dull he was in his last race, the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby. He made a mild move on the far turn as if he were going to threaten, but then died on his run. Was he not fit enough? Did he not care for the track? Or, was his Louisiana Derby the fluke and this dud the real deal?
Strategy: One reason it may have taken Wimbledon a while to win his maiden is that his connections were tinkering with his style. He apparently doesn't want to be rushed, and his Louisiana Derby is a good blueprint for what they figure to attempt here. That is, Bailey will likely let him settle, use his acceleration to get into the race by the far turn, and then rely on that extra kick and talent to take him home.
Value: If you believe in Wimbledon, he offers considerable appeal. After all, his Louisiana Derby stamped him as one of the early Kentucky Derby favorites. All it would have taken to make him the favorite here was a good race in the Santa Anita Derby. Since that didn't happen, his bandwagon has emptied faster than you can say Javier Santiago. That, coupled with a competitive, full field, likely means odds of around 15-1, and if someone had told you during the second week of March that you could get such a price, you wouldn't have believed him.
- Michael Hammersly
Sire Line: Young sire Wild Rush (Wild Again) was a good 3-year-old, but blossomed into a top miler at age 4, winning the Carter Handicap, Kentucky Cup Classic, and Metropolitan Handicap. His current crop of 3-year-olds includes last year's Canadian 2-year-old champion, Judiths Wild Rush, as well as Wimbledon, Hollywood Story, Stellar Jayne, and Quintons Gold Rush. Wild Rush's sire, Wild Again, won the inaugural running of the Breeders' Cup Classic and has had a remarkable career at stud, with such notable runners as Canadian champion Wilderness Song, Canadian champion Free at Last, Sarava, Milwaukee Brew, Shine Again, Elmhurst, Wild Event, and Vicar.
Female Family: Wimbledon is the third foal and first stakes winner out of Strawberry Clover, who won four of 27 starts. Strawberry Clover is a half-sister to Mining Burrah, winner of the Coaltown Breeders' Cup, Gravesend, and Sporting Plate handicaps.
Pedigree Pattern: Wild Rush on top, combined with Darn That Alarm, Princely Pleasure, and Green Ticket, suggest that Wimbledon will be at his limit at 1 1/8 miles.