Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Derby Hopeful: Algorithms

In 2011, I posted “Juvenile Spotlights” about two-year-olds I had followed since early on in their careers. Now that it’s 2012, everyone’s focus is on the Kentucky Derby. Some horses from past Juvenile Spotlights will be featured, as well as additional horses on the Derby trail.

Algorithms is ranked highly on several Kentucky Derby (GI) lists, including mine, on which he is currently ranked third behind Union Rags and his stablemate, Discreet Dancer. After all, he is undefeated in three starts and in his most recent start, the Holy Bull Stakes (GIII), he defeated the 2011 Champion Two-Year-Old, Hansen.

Algorithms made his debut at Belmont Park on June 3, 2011, sitting just off the leader before taking the lead around the far turn. Under Javier Castellano, the Todd Pletcher trainee handily put away a field of four other horses by 5 ¼ lengths in an impressive final time of 57.55 for five furlongs.

He did not return to the races until six months later, when he made his final juvenile start in an allowance optional claiming event at Gulfstream Park going six and one-half furlongs. He settled well under Castellano, running in third before digging deep in the stretch to defeat the highly regarded Consortium by one length in 1:15.51.

Algorithms ran against graded stakes company for the first time on January 29 in the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream, taking on the undefeated champion Hansen, who stumbled out of the gate before setting blazing fractions. Over a sloppy track, Algorithms found himself in third for much of the backstretch. He quickly gained ground around the far turn, effortlessly taking the lead at the top of the stretch. He continued on from there, crossing the wire 5 lengths ahead of the others in 1:36.17 according to the Teleview Racing Patrol timer at Gulfstream Park and in 1:35.09 according to Trakus.

His pedigree definitely suggests that distance will not be a problem. His sire is the 2006 Champion Three-Year-Old Male, Bernardini, a son of the Belmont Stakes (GI, 12F)- and Breeders' Cup Classic (GI, 10F)-winning A.P. Indy. After winning a one-mile maiden special weight, the Withers Stakes (GIII, 8F), the Preakness Stakes (GI, 9.5F), the Jim Dandy Stakes (GII, 9F), the Travers Stakes (GI, 10F), and the Jockey Club Gold Cup (GI, 10F) by a combined 40 lengths, Berardini finished a good second in the Breeders' Cup Classic at Churchill Downs. In his first crop, Bernardini has sired six group or graded stakes winners, including Stay Thirsty - winner of the Jim Dandy and Travers - and To Honor and Serve - winner of the Cigar Mile (GI). Bernardini is currently the leading North American sire by earnings for 2012 and not only did he land twenty-fourth on the leading sires list for 2011, but he also was the leading second-crop sire of 2011.

Algorithms' dam, Ava Knowsthecode, finished third in the Senorita Stakes (GIII, 8FT) as a three-year-old. She has also produced the winner of the Woody Stephen Stakes (GII, 7F) in Justin Phillip, the winner of the Hutcheson Stakes (GII, 7.5F) and the Deputy Minister Handicap (GIII, 6.5F) in Keyed Entry, and the winner of the I Take All Stakes (8.5F), Miami Mile Handicap (GIII, 8F), and the Elkwood Stakes (8F) in Successful Mission. Though the mare has not yet produced a horse that has won a stakes at a distance longer than a mile and one-sixteenth, the fact that her sire is Cryptoclearance - sire of the Belmont Stakes-winning Victory Gallop, the Prince of Wales (9.5F)-winning Cryptocloser, and the Breeders' Cup Classic-winning Volponi - and her dam is a black-type-winning and producing mare by the winner of the Santa Anita Derby (GI, 9F), the Belmont Stakes, and the San Luis Rey Stakes (GI, 12F) in Avatar, Algorithms has plenty of potential for routing from his dam side.

In addition, Algorithms is a direct descendant of the Reine De Course mare Qurrat-Al-Ain, who produced a Reine De Course mare in Queen of Shiraz. Qurrat-Al-Ain is the second dam of Gallant Man, a Hall of Fame inductee who won the Belmont Stakes and Travers Stakes.

Not only does Algorithms come with impressive performances on the track and a solid pedigree, but he has very correct conformation as well. He has a very sleek build, possessing a long, thick neck that ties in well to his powerful, sloping shoulder. The angle of his shoulder allows him to be easily divided into thirds, therefore making him very well-balanced. His strong croup is long and round, which aids in the propulsion of his hind legs. He is also quite structurally correct, having short, strong cannon bones and angular pasterns.

Algorithms has everything you could want in a Kentucky Derby contender. With his obvious talent on the racetrack, auspicious pedigree, and commendable conformation, there is no doubt that he is a top contender for the 138th running of the Kentucky Derby.

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