03/25/2013 12:19PM

Kentucky Derby Under the Radar: Titletown Five

Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography
Titletown Five has made one start this year following knee surgery and will run in Saturday's Louisiana Derby.

Titletown Five’s star has fallen over the past several weeks. Although part of the mutuel field in the first pool of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager, Titletown Five made the cut in the second leg due to his encouraging juvenile form and early season workouts.

After losing as the 11-10 favorite in his seasonal reappearance, the $60,000 Gazebo Stakes going six furlongs at Oaklawn Park on March 2, Titletown Five was dismissed at 70-1 in the second future wager and was removed as an individual entity from the third pool altogether.

It might be too early to give up on Titletown Five, however. The Gazebo was his first start since October due to surgery to remove a chip from his left knee, and he was caught in a pace dispute to boot. He’ll get an opportunity to redeem himself in Saturday’s Louisiana Derby for trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who already is firmly on the Kentucky Derby trail with Will Take Charge and Oxbow.

Bred by Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings, Titletown Five was foaled in Kentucky on March 4, 2010. He is by the stout two-time Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Tiznow, who compiled a record of 5-4-1-0 at the Kentucky Derby’s distance of 1 1/4 miles.

Not surprisingly, Tiznow has passed on his potent stamina to his progeny. His North American Grade 1 route winners are Well Armed (Goodwood Stakes, also won the Dubai World Cup at 10 furlongs), Folklore (Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies), Colonel John (Travers Stakes), Tizway (Whitney Handicap, Metropolitan Handicap), Bullsbay (Whitney Handicap), Tough Tiz’s Sis (Ruffian Handicap, Lady’s Secret Stakes), Gemologist (Wood Memorial), and Da’ Tara (Belmont Stakes).

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

Titletown Five’s dam, D’ Wildcat Speed (by Forest Wildcat), also successfully competed at longer distances. Named Horse of the Year in Puerto Rico in 2003, she prevailed at distances ranging from six furlongs to 1 3/16 miles and took the Grade 2 Rampart Handicap going nine furlongs at Gulfstream with a 106 Beyer Speed Figure.

D’ Wildcat Speed is a half-sister to D’ Court’s Speed, a multiple stakes-placed router, and stakes-placed router D’ Broken Speed.

Titletown Five’s second dam, Velvet Panther (by Pentaquod), won 31 of 55 races and was twice named champion imported older mare in Puerto Rico.

The Tiznow–Forest Wildcat breeding “nick” also has produced Katy Now, a stakes winner at one mile.

Titletown Five was purchased for $250,000 at the 2011 Keeneland September yearling auction and is owned by a partnership headed by 1956 Heisman Trophy winner and college and pro football Hall of Famer Paul Hornung of Green Bay Packers fame. Titletown Five is named after Green Bay’s nickname and Hornung’s uniform number.

The colt made his career debut in a maiden special weight going 4 1/2 furlongs at Churchill Downs on June 29. Bet to 5-2 in the loaded maiden event, Titletown Five was hustled to press the three-ply pace while outside under a very confident Leandro Goncalves.

Titletown Five was a bit late to switch leads in the stretch and finished an even third behind Maybe So (the next-out winner of the $100,000 Mountaineer Juvenile Stakes with a 79 Beyer) and Gulfport (a promising colt who earned two wins with Beyers of more than 85 before being sidelined by injury).

Titletown Five summered at Saratoga and ran twice during the boutique meeting. Racing over a sealed, sloppy track in a five-furlong maiden special weight July 27, Titletown Five pressed the pacesetting Coach A. J. but again was late to make his final lead switch and tired to fourth under the wire. The winner of that race, Park City, returned to win an entry-level optional claimer at Gulfstream with an 80 Beyer, while Coach A. J. came back to graduate in a $50,000 maiden claimer on grass with a 70 Beyer.

Lukas stretched his charge out to seven furlongs Aug. 18 in an extremely salty maiden special weight, and Titletown Five set solid splits of 22.54 seconds and 45.14 while on the rail. He seemed more comfortable swapping leads in upper stretch, but was run down in the shadow of the wire by Todd Pletcher’s Violence, a colt who would return to win the Grade 2 Nashua Stakes and the Grade 1 CashCall Futurity before being injured and retired following a runner-up performance in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes.

Titletown Five finished a length ahead of a troubled Orb, who recently burst onto the Kentucky Derby scene for Shug McGaughey with his Fountain of Youth victory.

Titletown Five’s breakout performance came at seven furlongs Oct. 28 at Churchill Downs. As usual, he broke sharply but seemed a bit green when being taken in hand in the opening strides. Still, Titletown Five cruised on the lead while racing off the rail, and he simply crushed his 11 foes while never being shown the stick.

The winning margin was nine lengths, and Titletown Five received a 98 Beyer. It wasn’t as if he was beating cream puffs, either. Runner-up Bradester returned to win two in a row with Beyers of 80 and 93 before being sidelined. Third-place finisher Proud Strike graduated with a 91 Beyer two starts later, and the seventh- through 10th-place finishers all came back to win next out.

After offseason knee surgery, Lukas planned on having Titletown Five back in the entries in March. He accomplished his goal by placing Titletown Five in the Gazebo. Titletown Five battled early while outside of the undefeated Get Happy Mister and had that one off the bridle at the quarter pole. Titletown Five made the lead in upper stretch but began to tire from his early effort and was outkicked by King Henny, who won the $100,000 Clever Trevor Stakes last November at Remington Park.

Meanwhile, Get Happy Mister tired to last. The final time, 1:12.00, compared poorly with the opening six-furlong race on the Oaklawn card that afternoon. In that event, sophomore filly conditioned claimers completed the distance in 1:11.92.

Lukas originally intended to start Titletown Five in last Sunday’s Sunland Derby but opted to give the colt one more work and rerouted him to the Louisiana Derby.

A fair analysis of Titletown Five’s abilities also would discuss the negatives. He has run only one fast race and must prove that the 98 Beyer isn’t an anomaly. Although bred for stamina, he has shown high early speed and will have to ration that pace if he is to succeed at longer distances. He’ll have to stretch out three furlongs in the Louisiana Derby, and that’s never an easy task.

Also, the Gazebo was a slow race, and one must wonder if the knee surgery took some of the starch out of the colt.

On the positive side of the ledger, Titletown Five may move forward off his seasonal debut. He has gotten much stronger with his late lead changes, does have that one big Beyer on his card, and owns excellent early speed.

With Oxbow and Will Take Charge also under the Lukas banner, Titletown Five isn’t just an under-the-radar prospect on the national scene. He’s also flying below the periphery in his own stable. We’ll know more about him after his next start at Fair Grounds.