Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Derby Hopeful: Gemologist

Following a spectacular two-year-old campaign, Super Saver started two times before the Kentucky Derby (GI), after which he was presented with the most coveted garland of red roses on the planet. The colt had provided trainer Todd Pletcher and owner WinStar Farm with their first Kentucky Derby victories. Two years later, a colt with the same connections and similar race history looks to allow them to bring home their second Derby trophy.

Gemologist’s race record, unlike Super Saver’s, is currently flawless. The bay colt debuted at Turfway Park on September 24 of his two-year-old year, setting a quick pace alongside another colt before drawing off to win the six-furlong maiden special weight over the synthetic track by 5 lengths. He made his second start in a mile and one-sixteenth allowance optional claiming at the esteemed Churchill Downs, the same track at which the Kentucky Derby is held. Though he set the pace yet again, he rated, completing the fractions in 24.65 (first quarter), 49.44 (first half), and 1:13.95 (first three-quarters). He completed the mile and one-sixteenth in an unspectacular 1:45.24, winning by two lengths.

His initial pair of races convinced his connections to enter him in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (GII) under the Twin Spires, the same race that Super Saver won dominantly in stakes record time at the conclusion of his juvenile year. Gemologist, though 1.63 seconds slower than Super Saver two years earlier, outran the highly-touted Ever So Lucky, Timely Tally, and the runner-up in Saturday’s Rebel Stakes (GII), Optimizer, to score by 1 ¾ lengths, completing the final sixteenth of a mile in 6.72 seconds.

Gemologist was given the winter off and did not return to the work tab until the beginning of February. Following three fairly lackluster works as far as time is concerned, the Todd Pletcher trainee fired two bullets before working a half-mile in 49.77 in preparation for his 2012 debut.

Though it was expected that the colt would make his first start as a three-year-old in the Rebel Stakes (GII) at Oaklawn Park on March 17, WinStar Farm “tweeted” on March 11, “Gemologist will stay in Florida. No plane for a return trip, so he would have to van back. Plus it's a five horse field instead of 14.” 

The colt made his sophomore debut in a one-mile open allowance at Gulfstream Park, facing the grade one-winning Currency Swap. The race was effortless for the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes victor. Gemologist set a steady pace before accelerating beautifully at the top of the stretch, drawing off with no asking from Javier Castellano to triumph by seven lengths. The colt improved his speed drastically from his two-year-old races, completing the one-mile race in 1:35.95 though the track was only labeled ‘good.’ The time for the one-mile contest was 2.57 seconds faster than the one-mile split in his allowance optional claiming win as a juvenile and 1.79 seconds quicker than the one-mile split in his Kentucky Jockey Club victory.  Despite no urging, Gemologist completed the final quarter of a mile in 24.69 seconds.

Gemologist is now undefeated in four career starts. Though it may discourage some that he has set the pace in every one of his races, the colt has proved that he can set a steady pace that will not cause him to become fatigued.

Tiznow, the sire of Gemologist
Photo: Terri Cage
He clearly has the pedigree that suggests Triple Crown distances will not be an issue, as he is by the two-time Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI, 10F)-winning Tiznow, who has thrown several successful distance horses, such as the Travers Stakes (GI, 10F)-winning Colonel John, the Belmont Stakes (GI, 12F)-winning Da’ Tara, the American Derby (GII, 9.5F)-winning Tizdejavu, and the Dubai World Cup (GI, 10F)-winning Well Armed.

Gemologist’s dam, Crystal Shard, also hints that the colt has plenty of stamina, as she is by Mr. Prospector, who sired the sires of the Derby winners Smarty Jones and Thunder Gulch, as well as the sires of the Belmont winners Commendable, Editor’s Note, and Jazil. Mr. Prospector was also the broodmare sire of such horses as Horse of the Year Mineshaft, who won two ten-furlong races, and Rock Hard Ten, winner of the Santa Anita Handicap (GI, 10F).

Crystal Shard, a daughter of the graded stakes winner at nine furlongs, Sulemeif, is a full sister to the multiple graded stakes-winning Withallprobability, whose longest winning distance was a mile and one-sixteenth. Withallprobability was also the runner-up in the prestigious Kentucky Oaks (GI, 9F). In addition to being the dam of Gemologist, Crystal Shard has produced the stakes-placed Perfect Cut and the stakes-winning Clear Destiny.

The cross of Tiznow and a Mr. Prospector has already proven successful at producing a distance horse. Tizaqueena, a graded stakes winner at nine furlongs, also finished second in a mile and three-sixteenths graded stakes on the grass.

It is also encouraging that Gemologist descends from female family ten, which has produced the grade one-winning distance horses Charismatic (winner of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes), Drosselmeyer (winner of the Breeders’ Cup Classic and Belmont Stakes), and Reference Point (winner of the Epsom Derby).

Not only has Gemologist matured in his speed, but his conformation has matured as well. The colt has clearly gained more muscle tone, showing more delineation in his shoulder, forearms, gaskins, and hip. Though he was certainly a talented juvenile, it seems as if he was not one of many precocious two-year-olds that do not carry their brilliance into their sophomore career. In fact, he seems to have improved drastically and looks to be an even better three-year-old than he was a juvenile.

Of course, though he has over $100,000 in graded stakes earnings, he will need to acquire more in order to be one of the twenty horses in the starting gate on the first Saturday of May. Gemologist is likely to make his final prep in the Wood Memorial Stakes (GI) on April 7, in which he could face the Champion Two-Year-Old Male of 2011 in Hansen.

Gemologist is certainly bred for the Kentucky Derby and he has a huge advantage over many top contenders for the 138th running of the prestigious race: he has already started twice over the Churchill Downs surface. This could be extremely beneficial, as could the colt’s impressive and stamina-based bloodlines and race record. Gemologist is undoubtedly a top contender for the 2012 Kentucky Derby.

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