03/05/2012 2:14PM

Kentucky Derby 2012: Under the Radar - Daddy Nose Best

Vassar Photography
Daddy Nose Best (inside) outfinishes Lucky Chappy to win the El Camino Real Derby.

With his victory in the Grade 3 El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate on Feb. 18, Daddy Nose Best became the first 3-year-old male in 2012 to win a graded stakes at nine furlongs on the main track.

Of course, the El Camino Real Derby was contested over a Tapeta racing surface, a far cry from Churchill Downs dirt. Daddy Nose Best has yet to win from two dirt starts, but those losses occurred sprinting as a juvenile and Daddy Nose Best improved greatly after trainer Steve Asmussen opted to stretch out over a distance of ground.

Daddy Nose Best was foaled in Kentucky on March 3, 2009. The bay colt was a $34,000 buyback as a weanling at that year’s Keeneland November auction, but sold for $35,000 the following September to Bob and Cathy Zollars.

The sire, Scat Daddy, was a talented colt. A son of undefeated juvenile champion Johannesburg, Scat Daddy won both the Grade 2 Sanford and Grade 1 Champagne Stakes as a 2-year-old of 2006 for trainer Todd Pletcher. The following year, Scat Daddy stamped himself as a Kentucky Derby contender following victories in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes and Grade 1 Florida Derby. In the final start of his career, Scat Daddy finished a disappointing 18th in the Kentucky Derby. Scat Daddy prevailed at distances ranging from 5 1/2 furlongs to 1 1/8 miles, and his top Beyer Speed Figure was the 99 from the Florida Derby.

The leading freshman sire of 2011, Scat Daddy’s first crop progeny include Shared Property, winner of the Grade 3 Arlington-Washington Futurity at a mile on Polytrack. Other graded/group winners from the crop are Daddy Long Legs (Royal Lodge Stakes, mile on turf) and Finale (Summer Stakes, mile on turf).

Daddy Nose Best’s dam, Follow Your Bliss, is by Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes winner Thunder Gulch. Follow Your Bliss never raced on dirt. She was winless from 12 lifetime starts, with 11 tries on grass and one on Polytrack. Her best finish was a runner-up effort at one mile on turf.

Follow Your Bliss’s other foal to race, Money Included, won at 1 1/16 miles on dirt at Santa Anita.

The second dam, the Pine Bluff mare Follow the Money, won the Grade 2 Dahlia Handicap at Hollywood and the Grade 3 Violet Handicap at the Meadowlands. Both of those races were run at 1 1/16 miles on turf.

Although Daddy Nose Best failed twice on dirt at Churchill Downs last year, he did face some quality competition in those maiden races. In his career debut at 5 1/2 furlongs on June 9, Daddy Nose Best finished second behind Exfactor, a gray colt who returned to win the Grade 3 Bashford Manor Stakes at Churchill and the Super Bowl Stakes at Fair Grounds. Daddy Nose Best was four lengths clear of Dullahan, the eventual winner of the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland. The fourth finisher from the maiden race, Unlimited Power, came back to graduate at Ellis Park.

Daddy Nose Best was then sent away favored in a six-furlong event, but he tired badly in the faster division of maiden special weights at that distance July 3. The winner of that race, Big Blue Nation, came back to finish third in the Grade 1 Hopeful, while the runner-up, Lockout, is now Grade 3-placed in Canada. Third-finisher Sabercat would go on to win the Garden State Stakes as well as the Grade 3 Delta Downs Jackpot. Dullahan was fifth that afternoon.

Asmussen shipped Daddy Nose Best to Saratoga for the summer racing season, and he immediately stretched the colt out in distance while switching surfaces to turf. On July 30, Daddy Nose Best ran a solid second in a maiden special weight at 1 1/16 miles despite breaking from the far outside post in the field of ten. Ridden by Julien Leparoux, Daddy Nose Best was in behind runners on the far turn, but angled out in upper stretch and made up three lengths from the stretch call to the wire.

Daddy Nose Best again drew way outside in a similar spot on Aug. 27, but he took advantage of a quick pace to graduate over Shkspeare Shaliyah, a colt who would come back to win two in a row, including the Grade 3 Pilgrim Stakes at Belmont. The 10th-place finisher, Tiger Walk, returned to graduate on dirt at Laurel and has finished third and fourth in the Grade 3 Withers and Grade 3 Gotham, respectively, in 2012.

Daddy Nose Best shipped to Woodbine for his first start against winners in the Grade 3 Summer Stakes, contested around a one-turn mile on grass. Compromised by a slow pace, Daddy Nose Best still rallied for third behind victorious Finale.

Following a sixth-place finish in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, Daddy Nose Best wheeled back in three weeks to win his entry-level allowance condition at a two-turn mile on grass at Churchill Downs. The beneficiary of a perfect ground-saving, pace-tracking trip, Daddy Nose Best eased three deep turning for home en route to a 3 1/4-length score.

Shipped to Southern California with the rest of Asmussen’s ‘A’ team, Daddy Nose Best finished fifth as the 9-10 favorite in the Eddie Logan Stakes at Santa Anita on New Year’s Eve. As in the Breeders’ Cup, Daddy Nose Best was a bit keen in the early portion of the race.

Asmussen won the 2011 El Camino Real Derby with Silver Medallion, who prepped for his score with a victory in the Eddie Logan, and he sent Daddy Nose Best to Northern California in an attempt to replicate the feat with another runner that had earned his stripes on grass.

Daddy Nose Best, ridden again by Leparoux, saved ground from his inside post while just behind the early leader. He was in some traffic on the far turn, but angled out three wide to split rivals turning for home. He faced a stiff challenge from Lucky Chappy at that point, and those two raced as a team for the final quarter-mile, with Daddy Nose Best winning by a whisker in a thrilling finish.

Daddy Nose Best rated more kindly in the El Camino Real Derby than he did in both the Eddie Logan and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. He has ability, but there are logical questions to ask concerning his Derby chances. Will he transfer his good synthetic and turf form to dirt? His last two wins came at the expense of excellent trips. Can he overcome adversity against top competition? Hopefully, we’ll find out the answers to some of those questions in the Santa Anita Derby, although a start in the Spiral Stakes on Polytrack can’t be ruled out completely.

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