02/25/2013 12:57PM

Kentucky Derby Under the Radar: Power Broker

Barbara D. Livingston
Power Broker is working toward his 3-year-old debut for trainer Bob Baffert.

Bob Baffert has won the Kentucky Derby three times and is one of the more popular figures in Thoroughbred racing. Year in and year out, his 3-year-olds undergo intense scrutiny.

This year’s crop has already been under the media’s microscope as Baffert-trained sophomores Flashback (Robert B. Lewis), Super Ninety Nine (Southwest), and Shakin It Up (San Vicente) all earned graded stakes victories.

Code West, Den’s Legacy, and Manando, while perhaps not Baffert’s first string, made their presences felt with placings in graded events.

Tiz the Truth, Govenor Charlie, and Curly Top are waiting in the wings, recent maiden winners around two turns with potential.

Baffert’s big horse may still be in the barn, however. Power Broker, unraced since a fifth-place performance in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, recently returned to the work tab and has avoided much publicity. In fact, the Grade 1 winner failed to crack the 23 individual betting interests in Pool 1 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager.

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

Power Broker’s fans can take heart from the fact that recent Derby winners Animal Kingdom, Big Brown, Street Sense, and Super Saver all didn’t begin their 3-year-old campaigns until March. Being idle at this point of the season isn’t necessarily a dagger blow to a competent Derby hopeful.

Bred by Jamm Ltd., Power Broker was foaled in Kentucky on Feb. 15, 2010, and sold to Gary and Mary West the following September for $360,000.

Power Broker’s sire, Pulpit, won at distances ranging from seven to nine furlongs, earned triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures in all six lifetime appearances and prevailed in the Grade 2 Blue Grass Stakes at 1 1/8 miles and the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes at 1 1/16 miles.

At stud, Pulpit is represented by North American Grade 1 winners Rutherienne, Corinthian, Ice Box, Purge, Stroll, Sky Mesa, Tapit, and Mi Sueno. The Pulpit–Wild Again cross that produced Power Broker also has engendered Grade 1 Forego Stakes winner Pyro.

Power Broker’s dam, Shop Again (by Wild Again), took the $50,000 Ada Stakes going six furlongs at Remington Park and is a three-quarter sister to Trappe Shot, the hero of the Grade 2 True North Handicap at six furlongs. Shop Again also is a half-sister to Miss Shop, a millionaire who took down the Grade 1 Personal Ensign Stakes at 1 1/4 miles, stakes-winning sprinter Bought in Dixie, and Grade 2-placed sprinter Bulling. This is the female family of multiple Grade 2 winner Lay Down.

Power Broker was sent to Baffert for his early training and distinguished himself so well in his morning trials that he was considered one of the stable’s leading young lights even before his career debut.

Therefore, it was a disappointment when Power Broker finished fourth as the 7-10 favorite in his career debut over the Del Mar Polytrack on July 28. Racing with a shadow roll, he broke outward in the six-furlong heat and was outsprinted while tracking the pace three and four wide. Power Broker failed to switch leads in the stretch but gave a decent gallop out after the race had concluded. The third-place finisher, Title Contender, another Baffert trainee, returned to graduate with a 90 Beyer.

Eighteen days later, Baffert moved Power Broker to turf for a one-mile maiden special at Del Mar. The colt showed improved speed with the addition of blinkers and was hustled along to set an uncontested early pace through a first quarter in 22.44 seconds. Power Broker backed down the pace to the half and completed four furlongs in 47.37. He was confronted turning for home, though, and tired in the stretch, finishing third.

Undeterred by Power Broker’s two chalky defeats, Baffert entered his charge in the $100,000 Oak Tree Juvenile Turf at one mile over Del Mar grass Sept. 5. After being bumped at the start, Power Broker was involved in a speed duel with eventual fourth-place finisher Buckleberry Grey. The pair rattled off splits of 22.36, 45.70, and 1:10.34 before Power Broker assumed control in midstretch. The early effort took its toll late, and Dry Summer, the horse who defeated Power Broker in the debut try July 28, rallied to neck Power Broker on the wire.

Competing for the fourth time in two months, Power Broker, despite still being a maiden, attempted the Grade 1 FrontRunner Stakes on Sept. 29. That was the colt’s first start on dirt, and he relished the surface. Racing over a speed-favoring track, Power Broker was three wide around both turns while prompting the pace. He took over turning for home and drew off impressively, despite being late to make his final lead change. Power Broker received a 90 Beyer for the win, along with 10 Kentucky Derby qualifying points. Two of the FrontRunner also-rans (Carving and Gabriel Charles) returned to win stakes races.

“I was really high on this horse before we went to Del Mar,” Baffert said after the FrontRunner. “I thought he was a top horse. He let me down when he ran down there, and I was a little disappointed. Then he came back, and he didn’t work that well. Then he worked really well the other day. I was thinking of putting him on the grass. After that last race, I switched him up. It worked out.”

Sent off as the second choice when racing without Lasix in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile over a speed-favoring track, Power Broker did not have an easy trip after breaking from the far outside post. Floated five wide going into the first turn, Power Broker ended up in midpack, and he may prefer to race closer to the pace. Power Broker moved up four wide on the backstretch but ended up seven off the rail turning for home. He was in with a chance at the furlong pole, but didn’t switch leads and flattened out late.

“That was a huge disappointment,” Baffert stated after the Breeders’ Cup. “He was outside (post 9 in a nine-horse field) to start, but I thought he’d be up close. He was eight wide all the way, and he never switched leads. He’s still green, but we learned a lot from the race, and it will help us down the line. His race was just like Point Given’s Derby (where he disappointed as the favorite in 2001). He’ll be fine, though. He’s a good horse. He’s just got to be ridden differently.”

After the Breeders’ Cup, the decision was made to rest Power Broker for the remainder of his 2-year-old season to give the colt a chance to fill out physically. The plan all along was to return to the races in March, and Power Broker has worked twice since Valentine’s Day.

He still has a good deal to learn, as he has a tendency to break sideways from the gate, and he’ll likely have to master his lead changes if he is to successfully compete with the better 3-year-olds in the country. Still, there is no denying his speed, pedigree, natural talent, and connections. With another couple of works under his belt, Power Broker should be ready to set foot on the Derby trail.