04/28/2015 2:13PM

Kentucky Derby: Breeze times vary for juvenile sale grads

Barbara D. Livingston
Stanford breezed a furlong in 9 4/5 seconds during the under-tack preview of the 2014 Barretts March sale, making him the fastest in the category among this year's Derby contenders.

The Kentucky Derby is contested at a mile and a quarter, but many of this year’s contenders had to first prove their mettle across a single furlong.

Of the 24 horses still under Derby consideration through April 28, 10 were offered at auction during a 2-year-olds in training sale last year.

Part of the auction process during that section of the Thoroughbred sale calendar is the under-tack show, or breeze show, in which the juveniles turn in a public workout for potential buyers to analyze. Many factors are taken into consideration when assessing a horse’s performance at a breeze show, including movement, length of stride, breathing, and the gallop-out after crossing the finish line. The most basic factor measured, however, is time.

The overwhelming majority of 2-year-olds offered at auction breeze one furlong, an eighth of a mile, during the under-tack show, especially earlier in the year during the select sales. As the calendar moves into the open sales of the late spring and early summer more offerings can be seen breezing two furlongs, or a quarter mile.

While every horse and situation is unique, there is a correlation between faster times during the under-tack shows and a higher average sale price in the ring. The drop-off in average price between a horse that breezes a furlong in :10 flat and :10 1/5 seconds is significant. Adding another tenth of a second continues the precipitous decline, and a breeze time of :10 3/5 will relegate most horses to the lower-middle market.

The same cannot be said, though, for fast breeze times leading to on-track success, especially in the Kentucky Derby.

I’ll Have Another, winner of the 2012 Derby breezed one furlong in :10 2/5 seconds during the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co. spring 2-year-olds in training sale. While faster than a horse will have to run in almost any racing scenario, I’ll Have Another’s time was solid, but not blazing for a major under-tack show. He sold for $35,000.

Big Brown, the 2008 Derby winner, covered two furlongs in :21 1/5 seconds at the Keeneland April 2-year-olds in training sale, two ticks off the fastest time of the day, then hammered for $190,000.

This year’s Derby field features eight horses that breezed one furlong at auction, and three who covered two furlongs. One horse, War Story, breezed once at both distances in separate sales.

The fastest worker among the group at an eighth of a mile was Louisiana Derby runner-up Stanford, who covered the distance in :9 4/5 seconds prior to last year’s Barretts March select 2-year-olds in training sale. The effort tied him for the third-fastest one-furlong breeze during a major juvenile sale in 2014.

To watch a video of Stanford’s breeze at the Barretts March sale, click here.

Stanford, a son of Malibu Moon out of the Distorted Humor mare Rosy Humor, was consigned as agent by King’s Equine and was purchased by trainer Todd Pletcher as agent for $550,000.

Stanford’s progression into a graded stakes-placed runner at two turns came as a pleasant surprise to Raul Reyes, owner of King’s Equine, who expected the colt’s quick acceleration to translate into his racing style.

“When he was a 2-year-old, he looked like a very good sprinter, but we didn’t know if he could start running that long,” Reyes said. “He looked like a very good sprinter and he worked really fast during the breeze show. After he won several times, he surprised me a little bit that he’s been able to run that long, that well. Now we’re thinking he’s got a chance. He proved us wrong.”

Multiple Grade 1 winner Carpe Diem tied for the highest price for a 2-year-old in training at North American auction last year, going to Stonestreet Stables for $1.6 million at the OBS March select 2-year-olds in training sale.

The son of Giant’s Causeway, out of the Unbridled’s Song mare Unbridled Dreams, was one of four contenders for this year’s Derby to breeze a furlong in :10 1/5 seconds, joining Dortmund, Metaboss, and Ocho Ocho Ocho. Carpe Diem was consigned by Northwest Stud.

To watch a video of Carpe Diem’s workout prior to last year’s OBS March sale, click here.

"For a Giant's Causeway, he's got a lot of speed," said trainer Todd Pletcher. "It showed in his debut, when he ran 5 1/2 furlongs and was able to win from the rail first time out and beat that horse Ready for Rye, who's a pretty nice horse as well. He's got speed, high cruising speed, and the ability to carry it a distance."

Sunland Derby winner Firing Line was the fastest of the Kentucky Derby’s juvenile sale graduates at two furlongs, covering the distance in :20 1/5 seconds at last year’s Keeneland April sale, tying him for the auction’s second-fastest effort at the distance.

To watch Firing Line’s performance in the Keeneland April under-tack show, click here.

Firing Line, a colt from the first crop of sire Line of David, out of the Hold for Gold mare Sister Girl Blues, was consigned by Eddie Woods, agent, and was purchased by Ben McElroy as agent for $240,000.

Risen Star Stakes runner-up War Story was the slowest worker amongst the Derby contenders at both distances. The Northern Afleet colt, out of Pulpit mare Belle Watling, first breezed one furlong in :10 4/5 seconds at last year’s OBS March sale before finishing under his reserve with a final bid of $58,000. He was offered again at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2-year-olds in training sale, where he went a quarter mile in :22 2/5 seconds and sold to Harry Rosenblum for $51,000.

- Additional reporting by Nicole Russo