Monday, January 31, 2011

Zito "Dialed In" - Derby Top 21 for January 31st

In what has so far been the best performance of the new year, DIALED IN came storming down the stretch from off the pace, to win the Holy Bull Stakes yesterday by a widening 1 & 1/2 lengths. With only a Maiden win on his resume, the Mineshaft colt impressively dispatched the field of accomplished 3 year olds, including Gourmet Dinner, Sweet Ducky, and favored Mucho Macho Man.

Dialed In (Mineshaft) wins the Holy Bull. (Photo: Joe Ganley/EquiSport Photos)

Trainer Nick Zito had originally entered Dialed In in an Allowance two weeks earlier, but scratched due to sloppy conditions. The jump straight into Stakes company is unusual for a Maiden winner.
 “He’s very special," Zito said. "I’ve never had a horse do this, go from a maiden special race to jump up and win a race like the Holy Bull.

Ridden patiently by Julien Leparoux, Dialed In spotted the field 10 lengths down the backside before angling in at the far turn. He made his move coming out wide in the turn, collecting rivals in his wake. "Nick told me just to leave him alone and drop to the rail and that’s what I did" Leparoux recounted. "He said just to be patient. When I asked him, he really ran on well. This is obviously a very nice horse.”

The long time partnership between Owner Robert LaPenta and Nick Zito has produced serious Derby contenders in the past, including last year's Ice Box, and War Pass before that. “There’s a long way to go, but this certainly puts him on the Trail," said LaPenta. "Nick did an incredible job training this horse up to this race, getting him ready and not rushing him. This had to be one of Nick’s best training jobs.”

Others making the Top 20 this week:

Veteran trainer Neil Howard has a couple of up and coming colts getting noticed in New Orleans.

MACHEN (Distorted Humor) improved to 2-for 2 with an impressive Allowance win at Fairgrounds January 30th. The 3-year-old now has sights set on the Derby Trail with a possible next start in the Risen Star Febraury 19th. "It was only his second start and, it's funny, he's got a great demeanor, but these three-year-olds, they're still kind of young and they're looking around," Howard said. "They're not completely smooth yet. I think all of that will subside away."

Howard's deep stable also includes WILKINSON (Lemon Drop Kid). Garrett Gomez rode the colt to a rail skimming victory in the Lecomte Stakes at Fairgrounds January 22. “He’s still learning how to run but he pays attention,” said Gomez. “Neil just told me to have confidence in this horse so I did.”

The "WORD". Top 20 (or so) Kentucky Derby Trail

Rank Horse (Sire)
1 UNCLE MO (Indian Charlie)
2 TO HONOR AND SERVE (Bernardini)
3 DIALED IN (Mineshaft)
5 TAPIZAR (Tapit)
6 COMMA TO THE TOP (Bwana Charlie)
7 SANTIVA (Giant's Causeway)
8 STAY THIRSTY (Bernardini)
9 JAYCITO (Victory Gallop)
10 WILKINSON (Lemon Drop Kid)
11 JP'S GUSTO (Successful Appeal)
12 ROGUE ROMANCE (Smarty Jones)
15 SWEET DUCKY (Pulpit)
16 MUCHO MACHO MAN (Macho Uno)
17 BRETHREN (Distorted Humor)
18 SOLDAT (War Front)
19 THE FACTOR (War Front)
20 MACHEN Distorted (Humor)
21 ELITE ALEX (Afleet Alex)
22 CASPER'S TOUCH (Touch Gold)

That's it for now.. mw

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Asmussen's Road to Derby Leads Through California

STEVE ASMUSSEN likes the dirt.
Prompted by the switch back to a conventional dirt racing surface, Asmussen brought a string of promising youngsters to train for the winter at Santa Anita Park for the first time.

Tapazar, Garrett Gomez up, wins the Sham Stakes 1.15.2011 (Photo: 1/1000th @ iso 200, f/4, 300mm. Alex Evers/EquiSport Photos)
 TAPIZAR (Tapit), lived up to his billing for Asmussen as a Derby contender, by dusting the field in the Sham Stakes (G3), January 15th at Santa Anita. The colt set blazing fractions, in his gate to wire romp, :22 3/5, :45 1/5 and 1:08 4/5 for the first 6 furlongs. He drew away from the field in the stretch to win by 4 lengths, posting a 1:40 1/5 for the mile and sixteenth.

Tapazar, Garrett Gomez up, wins the Sham Stakes 1.15.2011 (Photo: 1/2000th @ iso 640, f/7.1, 40mm. Alex Evers/EquiSport Photos)
 Asmussen confessed afterwards, "I was very concerned when they put up the (fractional) times, but honestly, if I wouldn't have looked up at the board, I wouldn't have been. I thought he was away from the gate very kindly. I watched the break; he broke on his feet but he wasn't being extremely aggressive."
Steve Asmussen is enjoying success at Santa Anita. (Photo: 1/640th @ iso 320, f/7.1, 200mm, Matt Wooley/EquiSport Photos)
 "I think the race track's just yielding extremely fast times", the trainer went on to say. "His work the other morning indicated how sharp he was right now, that :47 and change (:47 1/5 for a half-mile on Thursday). We want him to be handy, and I think now, keeping him healthy, if he can go far enough, and keep improving with the distances, are the questions we have."
"The horse gives us a lot of confidence in that he can do more. He's talented, but there's a lot of kid to him, a lot of playfulness in him", Asmussen concluded. 

ASTROLOGY, the promising AP Indy colt, is another Asmussen charge who has been training well at Santa Anita. After an impressive win in the Iroquois, he finished a game second to Santiva in the Kentucky Jockey Club S.

Astrology, Garrett Gomez up, wins the Iroquois Stakes 10.31.2010. (Photo: 1/1600th @ iso 640, f/8, 200mm, Matt Wooley/EquiSport Photos)

“(Astrology) is a beautiful horse; tons of pedigree," Asmussen said after the Iroquois. "This is a very important 2-year-old win. He just needs to get to the next step. This will help, he’s got a ton of ability. He is very impressive to train, he’s got a beautiful big stride, but I think he can do better.”

The new dirt seems to be good so far for Steve Asmussen, he and assistant Scott Blasi have a string of 30 at Santa Anita. My guess is that the road to Louisville winds through the hills of Southern California for this stable.

Here's the rest of "The Derby Word" for January 16th, 2011.

Rank Horse (Sire)
1 UNCLE MO (Indian Charlie)
2 TO HONOR AND SERVE (Bernardini)
4 TAPIZAR (Tapit)
5 COMMA TO THE TOP (Bwana Charlie)
6 SANTIVA (Giant's Causeway)
7 ROGUE ROMANCE (Smarty Jones)
8 BRETHREN (Distorted Humor)
10 JP'S GUSTO (Successful Appeal)
11 STAY THIRSTY (Bernardini)
13 MUCHO MACHO MAN (Macho Uno)
14 MOUNTAIN TOWN (Cape Town)
15 THE FACTOR (War Front)

More later.. mw.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Two Top Oaks Fillies

Jubilation. From Julien Leparoux. Wow!
The usually reserved jockey flashed a celebratory fist pump while coasting to an easy win in the Grade 2 Golden Rod aboard KATHMANBLU at Churchill Downs November 27th. One could not help but think that the filly had just stamped her ticket for the 2011 Oaks. And Julien knew it.

Kathmanblu (Bluegrass Cat) Julien Leparoux up, wins The Golden Rod Stakes at Churchill Downs 11.27.2010. Owner Five D Thoroughbreds and Wind River Stables, Trainer Kenny McPeek (1/2000 @ f/3.2, iso 1000, 300mm. Photo: Matt Wooley/EquiSport Photos)
  Said Leparoux after the race, "She broke good; she was very relaxed laying third. And when I asked her she finished very good." The daughter of Bluegrass Cat opened up a slight lead coming out of the turn after stalking the leaders down the back stretch, and cruised home by 8 lengths. Leparoux went on to say "I don’t know how good she can be. I think she is a very good filly on the turf. And she proved today she can run on the dirt, too. We’ve got options.”

Trainer Ken McPeek got in on the excitement about Kathmanblu as well, “She is now a big time Oaks prospect. She’s not a big filly; she is a little compact filly, and as the months go on she has gotten better and better. I’ll think she will keep going as a 3-year-old."
As for the filly's future, "We will probably put her on the shelf for a while" McPeek said. "At this point, we will take her to Gulfstream for the winter and take it one day at a time. She probably won’t run until late February or early March. I like to have two races in them before the Oaks.”

AWESOME FEATHER should be on everyone's list of top Oaks prospects after a nice win the the Breeder's Cup Juvenile Fillies November 5th at Churchill Downs. The likely Eclipse Award winning daughter of Awesome of Course improved her record to 6 for 6.

Awesome Feather (Awesome of Course), Jeffrey Sanchez up, wins the Juvenile Fillies for Stanley Gold and owner Jacks or Better Farm at Churchill Downs 11.05.2010 (1/1000 @ f/4, iso 1000, 200mm. Photo: Matt Wooley/EquiSport Photos)

 Sold at Auction a few days after the Breeder's Cup for $2.7m, look for Awesome Feather to race in 2011 under the colors of Adena Springs. “I just hope she carries on,” said new owner Frank Stronach, who described Awesome Feather’s 2 1/4-length Breeders’ Cup victory as “pretty impressive.”

Originally campaigned by the breeder, Fred Brei, of Jacks Or Better Farm in Florida, Awesome Feather's selling price "was enough to make me smile. It wasn’t much over the reserve," Brei said. Explaining his reason to go ahead with the planned sale of the filly, Brei said, “We don’t race much out of Florida. And when it comes to going up North, where certainly she belongs in the grade Is that will be coming up when she’s a 3-year-old, it’s just best for the filly and best for us that she’s in somebody else’s hands."

Look for Awesome Feather to show up in late February at Gulfstream Park in the early Oaks preps.

More later.. mw.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

"Up & Comers" on the Derby Trail

Happy Birthday to all of the Derby contenders! Everybody turned 3 on New Year's Day!
Okay, for that matter, all thoroughbreds had a birthday on January 1st.

The Kentucky Derby is still 4 months away, and now it's time to separate the pretenders from the contenders. Already, a few runners are assured a spot in the starting gate for this May's "Run For The Roses" based on current earnings, but a few are just now making their presence known.
One promising now 3 year old, in particular, is certain to be a factor.

The Factor, Rafael Bejarano up, breaks his maiden at Santa Anita Park 12.26.2010. Alex Evers/EquiSport Photos
 A Bob Baffert trainee, "The Factor", may have made the biggest slash coming into the New Year. Running under the colors of part owner George Bolton, The Factor broke maiden at Santa Anita the day after Christmas in track record setting fashion. The son of War Front posted an eye popping 102 Beyer figure. Baffert said of the colt after the race, "He didn't even take a deep breath". 
Baffert admitted the colt's name was inspired by Bill O'Reilly's Fox News program.
Look for The Factor to move right into Stakes company to get started on the Derby Trail.

Another Up & Comer, To Honor and Serve, proved much the best in winning the Remson Stakes, November 27 at Aqueduct.

To Honor and Serve, John Velazquez up, wins the Remsen Stakes at Aqueduct 11/27/10Jessie Holmes/EquiSport Photos
Trained by Bill Mott for Live Oak Plantation, the Bernardini colt came into this race off of a 4 length win in the Grade 2 Nashua Stakes November 6th. Said Mott after the Remson, "I thought in the Nashua it looked like he won a little easier, but this was another eighth of a mile. Being in a two-turn race might have been slightly confusing to him. As with any horse like him, we’ll nominate him for everything in case there’s a hiccup anywhere.”

One more 3 year old to make note of is Brethren. A half brother to last year's Derby winner Super Saver,  the colt won an Allowance at Churchill in convincing fashion November 27th.

Brethren, Garrett Gomez up, wins an allowance at Churchill Downs 11.27.2010 Wendy Wooley/EquiSport Photos.
A son of Distorted Humor, and owned by Winstar Farm, Brethren coasted to an easy win under Garrett Gomez for trainer Todd Pletcher. “He came out of (the race) in excellent shape. I thought that was a big effort from him from an outside post,” Pletcher said. “He veered out a little bit at the start but was able to put himself in a good position and kicked on turning for home. All in all, I though it was a pretty impressive race.”

Here is the rest of the "Derby Word" for the New Year. A lot will shuffle between now and the first Saturday in May as the Real Contenders make themselves known.

Rank Horse (Sire)
1 UNCLE MO (Indian Charlie)
2 COMMA TO THE TOP (Bwana Charlie)
3 TO HONOR AND SERVE (Bernardini)
5 SANTIVA (Giant's Causeway)
6 JB'S THUNDER (Thunder Gulch)
7 THE FACTOR (War Front)
8 ROGUE ROMANCE (Smarty Jones)
9 BRETHREN (Distorted Humor)
10 JP'S GUSTO (Successful Appeal)

And on the Distaff side, a look at the Oaks Fillies that have shown promise.

Rank Horse (Sire)
1 KATHMANBLU (Bluegrass Cat)
2 AWESOME FEATHER (Awesome of Course)
4 MORE THAN REAL (More Than Ready)
9 A Z WARRIOR (Bernardini)
10 FASTATION (Valid Expectations)

More later... mw