03/04/2013 3:51PM

Kentucky Derby Under the Radar: Departing

Coady Photography
Departing wins the $50,000 Texas Heritage Stakes at Sam Houston and is pointing toward the Louisiana Derby.

After an easy-as-pie triumph in the $50,000 Texas Heritage Stakes at Sam Houston on March 2, Departing will move on to bigger and better things in the Grade 2, $1 million Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds on March 30.

Unbeaten from three starts for trainer Al Stall, Departing tracked the leaders from the two path last Saturday before engaging them with a three-wide sweep on the final turn. Departing took over for good in upper stretch and extended his winning margin to 2 3/4 lengths over multiple stakes-placed performer Holiday Mischief. It was another two lengths back to three-time stakes winner Worldventurer in third.

Departing finished his final quarter-mile in 24.41 seconds while under a hand ride, completed the mile distance in 1:37.94, and received a career-best 97 Beyer Speed Figure.

“He’s a good horse and has everything put together,” Stall said after the Texas Heritage. “We know he has talent and will just see how far he can go.”

[ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY: Prep races, point standings, replays]

Departing’s sire, War Front, only competed once around two turns. In his second start, War Front finished third in a maiden special weight at one mile over the Aqueduct inner dirt.

War Front won at distances ranging from six furlongs to 1 1/16 miles (the $65,000 Princelet Stakes around one turn at Belmont), was multiple Grade 1-placed sprinting, and earned triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures in 8 of 13 races (the best a 114 when second in the Grade 2 Tom Fool Handicap at seven furlongs).

From three crops to race, War Front is represented by North American Grade 1 winners The Factor (Malibu Stakes and Pat O’Brien Stakes, both sprints), Data Link (Maker’s 46 Mile on grass), and Summer Soiree (Del Mar Oaks at nine furlongs on turf).

Departing is a half-brother to two route winners. Their dam, Leave (by multiple Grade 2 route winner Pulpit), is a full sister to Laity, a multiple stakes winner at 1 1/16 miles. Leave also is a half-sister to three-time Grade 3 winner Trip (prevailed at 1 1/16 miles) and multiple stakes-winning sprinter Joke.

The second dam, Tour (by Forty Niner), was a stakes-winning sprinter, while the third dam, Full Flight (by Full Pocket), won the listed Martha Washington Stakes going short.

A homebred racing for Claiborne Farm and Adele B. Dilschneider, Departing was foaled in Kentucky on April 1, 2010.

He made one start at age 2 in a six-furlong maiden special weight at Fair Grounds on Dec. 22. After breaking a beat slowly, Departing went up to track the fast pace along the inside and was placed in tight along the rail on the turn. The inside opened up turning for home, and Departing professionally scooted through to take over for good. Two of Departing’s vanquished rivals returned to graduate, including runner-up Ground Transport, who won his next two starts with Beyers of 79 and 81.

After the maiden win, Stall said he would stay on a conservative path with his promising youngster.

“He’s a ‘non-two,’ so that’s his game plan,” Stall said. “Everybody liked their horses in there [the Dec. 22 race]. He showed seasoning, and I’d think he got a lot out of that race the way it unfolded, with him being in the pocket and then coming through the inside; that was nice. He’ll be fine going long. I was even thinking of running him long first time out. The family, I know, stretches, so that’s a no-brainer.”

Departing did stretch out for his second appearance, an entry-level optional claimer going one mile and 70 yards at Fair Grounds. Departing broke better this time and tracked the slow pace while three and four wide throughout. He made a four-wide bid on the final turn, made the front turning for home, and widened his advantage despite drifting in a bit once clear at the furlong pole. The sixth-place finisher, General Election, returned to win the John Battaglia Memorial Stakes over the Turfway Polytrack with an 85 Beyer.

Stall was extremely pleased with Departing’s performance. “I don’t think you could ask any more for a horse in his second start, stretching out two turns, so we’re very happy with everything,” he said after the race.

Stall was now ready to try Departing against tougher competition, and he mentioned the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn and the Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds as possible destinations. After some deliberation, he opted for the Risen Star, but Departing was scratched after drawing post 14.
The Texas Heritage was Plan B, and Departing passed the test with flying colors.

A quick glance at the bloodlines gives the impression that Departing may eventually be best at eight to nine furlongs, but the way he has finished his races, albeit against lesser company, indicates that he may go a bit farther. He’s a professional performer with good tactical speed, and he changes leads beautifully. With most handicappers focusing on the “Big 23” in the recently concluded second pool of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager, Departing, with two wins around two turns (one with a huge number), in capable hands, and heading for a graded stakes, lingers as a solid “Under the Radar” candidate.