02/22/2008 1:00AM

Juvenile sales source of real gems


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Of the 25 leading candidates for the Kentucky Derby on Daily Racing Form's Derby Watch, five sold as 2-year-olds in training last year and three more were bought back at those select auctions.

The colts on Derby Watch who sold are Court Vision, Into Mischief, Denis of Cork, J Be K, and Visionaire. And the BreezeFig gurus at DataTrack International identified three more colts on Derby Watch who also went through the sale but were unsold (El Gato Malo, Cool Coal Man, and Fierce Wind).

These eight are actually among the top 20 of the list, which means that nearly 50 percent of the highest-ranked Kentucky Derby prospects for 2008 were originally prepared for the sales of juveniles in training.

This is surprising and counterintuitive for most observers of the classics because of the general reputation of the juvenile sales. These are perceived to be the places to find blazing-fast and precocious stock who will excel during their first season of racing but who might also be somewhat limited in their distance capacity.

Kentucky Derby winner Monarchos, however, showed that the impressive performers at the 2-year-old sales can be genuine classic colts, and as the savvy consignors to the juvenile sales have continued to offer youngsters with classic potential, they have likewise drawn more participation from buyers looking for the same.

So now we find a situation where almost half the top-ranked Derby contenders are graduates of the juvenile sales.

This proportion of highly regarded Derby contenders from the sales of 2-year-olds in training is highly significant for two reasons. First, it indicates the degree of athletic potential found in the very best horses selected to go through the ring at these auctions. And secondly, it suggests that these sales of 2-year-olds in training are a powerful selection tool for racehorse buyers.

If a young horse has the natural athleticism to be ready for the juvenile sales and has the mental and physical toughness to reach such a level of fitness at an early age, thenthose traits are strong indicators that the horse possesses the qualities needed to be a successful racehorse.

This group of eight includes some colts who are already graded stakes winners and others with considerable promise of better things to come.

In this group, Court Vision (by Gulch) and J Be K (Silver Deputy) sold at the Fasig-Tipton's auction at Calder, which will hold its 2008 sale on Tuesday. In addition, Fierce Wind (Dixie Union; RNA at $300,000) and Cool Coal Man (Mineshaft; RNA $850,000) were retained by their owners after passing through the ring at the Calder sale, and Visionaire (Grand Slam) went through that sale unsold at $90,000 but brought $220,000 at the Ocala Breeders' Sales company's auction in June last year.

Into Mischief (Harlan's Holiday) sold at the OBS March sale, and El Gato Malo (El Corredor) was an RNA for $95,000 at that auction. Denis of Cork (Harlan's Holiday) was sold at Barretts March select sale.

As with most classic colts, regardless of their sales background, these began racing as 2-year-olds and really began to progress toward the end of their initial season of racing.

Court Vision was the first to strike with graded stakes success, when he won the Iroquois in October and then the Remsen in November last year, and Into Mischief was not far behind, winning the Grade 1 CashCall Futurity at Hollywood Park in December.

Court Vision, out of the Storm Bird mare Weekend Storm, is a full brother to Kipling, the sire of Breeders' Cup Mile winner Kip Deville, and to Garcia Marquez, a multiple stakes winner in Hong Kong. Selling at the Keeneland September sale as a yearling, Court Vision brought $180,000, and the handsome colt nearly doubled that when he sold for $350,000 as a 2-year-old.

Now a multiple graded stakes winner, Court Vision has earned $250,542 and would be valued at several times his juvenile purchase price on his proven ability and bright prospects.

Two others with considerable potential are Grade 1 winner Into Mischief and Grade 3 winner Denis of Cork. Both are sons of Harlan's Holiday, who was a leading freshman sire in 2007.

Although both were purchased out of March sales of juveniles in training, Into Mischief was a bit more forward with his development, winning a maiden in October. Denis of Cork won a similar race a month later.

Bill Warren purchased Denis of Cork at the Barretts March sale for $250,000, and the handsome bay is now undefeated in three starts. An unusually impressive juvenile in training, Denis of Cork showed a stride length of slightly more than 26 feet, according to statistics provided by DataTrack, and earned a BreezeFig of 70, which was one of the highest of the year.

Wayne Hughes bought the bay Into Mischief at the OBS March sale for $180,000, and he too found a jewel.

A winner twice and second twice from his four starts, Into Mischief has earned $478,800, along with accruing value as a future racing and stallion prospect.

All these classic prospects showed speed early in their training, as well as the stride length and consistency needed to carry speed a distance, and a sure bet is that there will be good prospects for next year's classics sold from the important sales of juveniles in training over the next two months.