04/01/2013 10:52AM

Kentucky Derby Under the Radar: Super Ninety Nine

Barbara D. Livingston
Super Ninety Nine, the winner of the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes on Feb. 18, will run in Saturday's Santa Anita Derby.

It’s easy to get caught up in the “flavor of the week” mentality as it pertains to Kentucky Derby prospects. A big prep victory lights up chat rooms, blogs and social-media outlets. A big prep hero often is hailed as the next Derby king.

Until the next big prep, when another coronation ensues.

Conversely, a 3-year-old who disappoints in a Derby-points race, no matter how strong his previous form, is sent to the back of the line by many handicappers and racing fans.

That was the fate of Super Ninety Nine following his disappointing fifth-place finish in the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park on March 16. Listed at 47-1 in the Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool 1, Super Ninety Nine was co-favored on the Pool 2 morning line with Verrazano following his romp in the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes on Feb. 18. Super Ninety Nine went off at 17-1 in Pool 2, and the exacta combination of Super Ninety Nine over the mutuel field produced the lowest will-pay combination.

Then, the Rebel disaster occurred, and Super Ninety Nine was excluded from Pool 3, a move that seemed a bit uncharitable considering the colt is a graded stakes winner and one of only three 3-year-olds, along with Verrazano and Itsmyluckyday, with two triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures in 2013.

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

Bred by Northwest Farms, Super Ninety Nine was foaled in Kentucky on April 10, 2010.

Super Ninety Nine’s sire, Pulpit, won at distances ranging from seven to nine furlongs, earned triple-digit Beyers 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.

A half-brother to five-time stakes winner Elusive Horizon, a filly who enjoyed success at distances ranging from five to nine furlongs, Super Ninety Nine is out of Exogenetic (by Unbridled’s Song), an unraced three-quarter sister to two-time Grade 1-winning router Exogenous.

The second dam, a multiple sprint winner by Phone Trick, is a half-sister to stakes-winning sprinter T. V. Countess (the dam of Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner Countess Diana) and multiple stakes winner Count on a Change. The third dam is multiple-stakes-placed Count On Kathy (by Dancing Count).

Super Ninety Nine sold for $200,000 at the 2011 Keeneland September yearling auction and was purchased by Susan Chu’s Tanma Corp. for $260,000 after breezing a furlong in 10 seconds last June at the Ocala Training Center.

Sent to trainer Bob Baffert, Super Ninety Nine made his career debut in a seven-furlong maiden special weight at Santa Anita on Oct. 7, 2012.

Racing with Lasix, blinkers and a shadow roll, Super Ninety Nine showed good early speed. He pressed the favored Quietasacat through fractions of 23.05 and 46.36 seconds before taking over turning for home. He swapped leads a couple of times in the stretch when a bit green but had enough to fend off runner-up Shakin It Up, a colt who returned to graduate with an 86 Beyer for Baffert.

Super Ninety Nine would have been one of the favorites for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint but was scratched after being cast in his stall and suffering scrapes to his stifle and forehead.

He missed three days of training but returned in the Grade 3 Hollywood Prevue Stakes at seven furlongs over the Cushion Track on Nov. 22. Super Ninety Nine tracked the leaders from the outside, eased four wide turning for home and finished evenly behind gate-to-wire winner Really Mr Greely, a Baffert-trained juvenile who benefited from a speed bias.

Three runners returned to win from the Hollywood Prevue, including third-place finisher Shakin It Up, who scored in the Grade 2 San Vicente Stakes with an 86 Beyer. Super Ninety Nine disappointed in his juvenile finale, an entry-level allowance race going six furlongs at Santa Anita on Dec. 28. He tracked the pace from the inside, was a bit late to make his final lead change, and never made a strong impression when fourth to the crack sprinter Distinctiv Passion, a colt who came back to grab the listed San Pedro Stakes with a 93 Beyer.

Baffert stretched Super Ninety Nine out in distance for his first start at 3, and the colt responded with a career-best performance in an entry-level optional claimer at Santa Anita on Jan. 31. Hustled from the gate by Rafael Bejarano, Super Ninety Nine pressed the leader from the outside, took over with five-sixteenths of a mile to run, and drew away nicely despite flashing his tail a bit in late stretch.

Super Ninety Nine ran eight furlongs in 1:35.11, received a 100 Beyer, and was flattered when the runner-up, Code West, returned to finish second by a nose in the Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes with a 94 Beyer. Also, sixth-place finisher Persuasive Paul came back to take the Turf Paradise Derby with a 77 Beyer.

Baffert shipped Super Ninety Nine to Oaklawn for the Southwest, and the colt relished a sealed, speed-favoring, sloppy track. Bejarano sent him right to the front, they set the pace along the inside, and drew away by 11 1/4 lengths. Super Ninety Nine received a 102 Beyer while beating two next-out winners.

Super Ninety Nine broke from the outside in the 11-horse Rebel and assumed a forward position tracking loose leader Title Contender. He made the front after five furlongs but was soon swamped by challengers and couldn’t muster a strong response in a discouraging effort.

It may be too early to give up on Super Ninety Nine after one poor race, but he has obstacles to overcome. With only 10 Kentucky Derby qualifying points in his hip pocket, Super Ninety Nine likely needs a first- or second-place finish in Saturday’s Santa Anita Derby to make the lineup at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May.

He must prove to his detractors that he can handle 1 1/8 miles, as his best race at 1 1/16 miles came over a wet track. Although blessed with early speed, he often needs to be ridden hard to get into the race during the initial quarter mile.

Once a highly touted runner, Super Ninety Nine has fallen off the radar. A good performance Saturday puts him right back on many Kentucky Derby lists.