Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Late-Blooming Three-Year-Olds

Every year, we see several impressive sophomores emerge in late winter or early spring. Often, they are too late for the Kentucky Derby (GI), but they are frequently seen in the Preakness Stakes (GI) or even the Belmont Stakes (GI). If they are not ready for the spring classics, we sometimes see them at prestigious summer or fall meets such as Saratoga and Del Mar.

We have already seen numerous talented three-year-olds that may not make it to the Derby or other Triple Crown races, but look to be forces in later races. Here are some late-blooming three-year-olds:

Cigar Street: If you want a colt with incredible bloodlines, you want a colt like Cigar Street. He is by the 2007 Kentucky Derby (GI) winner, Street Sense, and out of a half-sister to the Hall of Famer and second richest racehorse of all-time, Cigar. The colt’s dam, Arcadiana, is by the incredible broodmare sire, Deputy Minister, who ironically is the broodmare sire of the richest racehorse of all-time, Curlin. The dam of Arcadiana is of course Solar Slew, who was sold for a total of $4,945,000 in her four purchases at major sales. In addition to producing the great Cigar, Solar Slew also produced Mulca, the multiple group-winning South American champion. Through this female family, Cigar Street traces back to the Burton Barb Mare (female family two), the same mare that produced the families of the ill-fated multiple grade one-winning champion Go For Wand, the Kentucky Derby- and Preakness Stakes-winning Northern Dancer, the Australian legend Phar Lap, the Canadian Triple Crown winner With Approval, and possibly the greatest horse to ever look through a bridle in the Triple Crown-winning Secretariat.

In his debut, Cigar Street finished a troubled fifth in a six-furlong maiden special weight at Fair Grounds racecourse in early February. On March 10, the colt avenged his loss in style by winning his second start by a dazzling 13 ¾ lengths. He finished the mile and one-sixteenth maiden special weight in a final time of 1:43.75 after leading from start to finish. Surely he gave his connections – owner Jake Ballis and trainer Steve Margolis – much hope for success in bigger races down the road.

Closerwalk: This colt is also by Street Sense, who is making a name for himself as a sire. In fact, the 2007 Derby winner is currently the second-leading second crop sire. Closerwalk’s dam, Cool Pussycat, is by Tabasco Cat, the Preakness- and Belmont-winning son of Storm Cat. The cross on which Closerwalk is bred is similar to the cross that produced the multiple group stakes-winning Desert Party and the grade three-winning 2012 Derby contender Castaway. Cool Pussycat is out of a Raise a Native mare who also produced the graded stakes-winning horses Chilly Rooster and Rotsaluck, as well as the stakes-placed Cold Awakening. This is female family one, which is one of the most prolific Thoroughbred families. Horses that descend from family one include the multiple group one-winning champions High Chaparral and Snow Fairy, as well as the Hall of Famers Buckpasser, Genuine Risk, and Sword Dancer.

Following two runner-up finishes in maiden special weights at Gulfstream – one of which was against state-bred company and the other which was against open company – Closerwalk broke his maiden in his third lifetime start. Racing against Florida-breds for the second time, Closerwalk led from gate to wire to score by 2 ¾ lengths while being pursued by the drifting out Saint of Saints. He completed the seven furlongs in 1:22.67. He has already ran second against open company, so surely he will be competitive against it again in future starts.

Ender Knievel: By the leading sire of 2011 in Distorted Humor and out of an A.P. Indy mare, Ender Knievel’s pedigree is already impressive at first glance. It gets even more remarkable the more you study it. The cross of Distorted Humor with A.P. Indy mares has produced several top-class racehorses, including the grade one-winning Any Given Saturday and the grade three-winning horses Brethren, Endorsement, and Z Humor. Ender Knievel’s dam, Ender’s Sister, won three stakes and placed in five graded stakes races, including a second-place finish behind champion Ashado in the Cotillion Handicap (GII). The dam of Ender’s Sister is Gold Rush Queen, a Seeking the Gold mare who also produced the stakes-winning and graded stakes-placed Ender’s Shadow. Ender Knievel hails from female family fourteen, the same family that produced the Epsom Derby (GI)- and Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (GI)-winning Workforce, the champion and prominent sire Polynesian, the Kentucky Derby-winning Foolish Pleasure, the multiple grade one-winning Hall of Famer Skip Away, and the multiple grade one-winning Horse of the Year Invasor.

After two fifth place finishes in maiden special weights in Kentucky, Ender Knievel closed out his two-year-old campaign with a runner-up finish behind the eventual graded stakes-winning Thunder Moccasin at Gulfstream. In his sophomore debut, Ender Knievel set the pace in a one-mile maiden special weight at the same Florida track before easily drawing away from the field by 7 ¾ lengths. He could make his next start in the Sunland Derby (GIII) on March 25, which could give him sufficient earnings for the Kentucky Derby.

Flashy Dresser: With the Stephen Foster (GI)-winning Flashy Bull as his sire and the Two Punch mare Saltnvinegar as his dam, Flashy Dresser’s pedigree does not suggest that he will appreciate very long distances. However, his bloodlines give plenty of reason to believe that he will be a successful sprinter or miler. His dam is a half-sister to the black-type-placed sprinter, Covert, and a full sister to the multiple black-type-placed sprinter, Creative Tension. He descends from a slightly nondescript female family in family seven. Though this family is not as prosperous as a family like female family one or four, it has produced some talented horses, including the champions American Flag, Coaltown, Ladysman, and Lando.

Flashy Dresser debuted on March 4 in a six-furlong maiden special weight at Gulfstream Park, finding a position off the pace while advancing toward the leaders as the race progressed. He rocketed forward as the horses entered the homestretch, opening up nearly nine lengths on the field en route to victory. He certainly could have a bright future ahead of him.

Heavy Breathing: You can’t get much more attractive bloodlines than those of Heavy Breathing. He is by the prominent sire Giant’s Causeway and out the Gone West mare Takesmybreathaway, which makes Heavy Breathing a full brother to the grade one-winning Frost Giant and a half-brother to the stakes-winning Breathless Storm. Takesmybreathaway is a half-sister to the multiple stakes-winning Jet Around, the stakes-winning and group stakes-placed Mutakddim, and the grade one-placed Smooth Charmer. He is inbred to Northern Dancer and Secretariat through Storm Cat, which has produced horses such as the grade one winners Bluegrass Cat and D’Wildcat, as well as the grade three-winning Untouched Talent, who is the dam of the graded stakes-placed and 2012 Derby contender, Bodemeister. Heavy Breathing is a direct descendant of the great mare La Troienne, who is considered by many to be the most influential broodmare of all-time. Other direct descendants of La Troienne include the Kentucky Derby winners Go for Gin, Sea Hero, Smarty Jones, and Super Saver as well as the Hall of Famer Easy Goer and the multiple grade one-winning champions Mineshaft and Pleasant Tap. As if this isn’t impressive enough, he has the same third dam as Super Saver, which means from then on, he has the same dam line as the 2010 Derby winner.

Heavy Breathing made his first start on February 8, going seven and one-half furlongs over a dirt track at Gulfstream labeled ‘good.’ After settling off the pace, the chestnut colt struck to the lead at the top of the stretch before effortlessly drawing off to score by 7 ¾ lengths under Javier Castellano. He raced next in a nine-furlong allowance at Gulfstream – a distance that most three-year-olds have not covered yet. This time, he found a position closer to the lead, rating in second until the horses neared the end of the far turn. He took the lead and despite a threat from Big Screen, Heavy Breathing drew clear to a 4 ¼-length victory. He could make his next start in the Spiral Stakes (GIII) at Turfway Park on March 24, the same race that Animal Kingdom used as his final prep before his Derby triumph. Though Heavy Breathing is not Triple Crown-nominated, his connections still have a chance to nominate him for $6,000 on March 24. Hopefully they do so, as I would love to see him in the Triple Crown. After all, he is currently ranked eighth on my top ten list for the Kentucky Derby.

Paynter: Like Heavy Breathing, Paytner has an outstanding pedigree. If he was bred for one race in particular, it could very well be the Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI). His sire, Awesome Again, won the 1998 Classic and is the sire of several ten-furlong victors, including Awesome Gem (third-place finisher in the 2007 Classic), Game on Dude (runner-up in the 2011 Classic), Ghostzapper (winner of the 2004 Classic), and Ginger Punch (winner of the 2007 Breeders’ Cup Distaff). Paynter’s dam, Tizso, is a full sister to the only horse to ever win the Classic twice, Tiznow. The cross on which Paynter is bred is similar to the cross that produced the Horse of the Year Ghostzapper. He is also very similarly bred to the stakes-winning and graded stakes-placed Awesome Patriot, who is also by Awesome Again and is by a full sister to Tiznow and Tizso (Paynter’s dam). Tizso is also the dam of the graded stakes-winning Tiz West. Through Tizso, Paynter traces back to the Reine De Course mares Blue Canary and Papila, the latter of which is the dam of the champion Crimson Satan. This dam line stems from female family twenty-six, which has produced the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe-winning Trempolino and the Australian Hall of Famer Gloaming.

Paynter has only raced once, when he made his debut on February 18 in a five and one-half furlong maiden special weight at Santa Anita. After trailing the four-horse field, Paynter drew away in the stretch to win by 4 ¼ lengths, performing very professionally despite the fact that his forelock became unbraided and flew into his ear, causing him to shake his head. With any luck, Paynter will acquire sufficient graded stakes earnings in order to earn a position in the starting gate on the first Saturday of May. He is currently ranked ninth on my Derby list, after all.

Street Life: This is yet another colt by Street Sense, who is clearly becoming a very productive sire. Street Life’s dam, Stone Hope, is by the 1996 Kentucky Derby winner, Grindstone, and out of a mare who also produced Brilliant, a multiple graded stakes winner. The cross on which Street Life was produced is quite similar to the cross that produced the grade one winners Aruna, Deepak, and J.B.’s Thunder. Street Life hails from female family sixteen, a rich family that has produced the likes of the champions Authorized, Ginger Punch, Holy Bull, and Orientate, as well as the popular grade one winners Barbaro and Hard Spun.

Street Life’s debut was disappointing, as he finished eighth in a field of twelve in a six-furlong Gulfstream maiden special weight. After being shipped to Aqueduct to face easier company, the colt closed impressively to score by an easy 2 ½ lengths while drawing away in hand. He completed the mile and seventy yards in an unspectacular 1:45.20, but made a remarkable stretch run to score. His race record may not be breathtaking, but the way he covered ground in his second start was. This is a colt with talent and a pedigree to back him up.

Whinston: A colt I have followed since the beginning of his career, Stonestreet Stables’ Whinston is by Pomeroy, the multiple grade one-winning sire of successful horses such as the multiple graded stakes-winning horses Flashpoint and Pomeroys Pistol, the multiple stakes-winning and graded stakes-placed Positive Response, and the stakes-winning Mel Beach. A talented sprinter himself, Pomeroy has excelled at siring one-turn horses. Whinston’s dam, Leah’s Angel, has also produced the graded stakes-winning Expect an Angel and the multiple stakes-placed Tontine Too. Whinston descends from female family number five, the same family that produced the great champions Afleet Alex, Kona Gold, Hoist the Flag, Native Dancer, Nureyev, Pleasant Colony, Sadler’s Wells, and Seabiscuit.

Whinston was purchased as a juvenile in March of 2011 at the Barretts Equine Limited Sale of Selected Two-Year-Olds in Training as the sale-topper of $625,000. He was purchased by Stonestreet Stables of Curlin and Rachel Alexandra fame, who placed the colt in the hands of trainer Steve Asmussen. He made his racing debut in June at Churchill Downs, finishing fourth behind the impressive Brown Eyed Jozi. Defeated by Whinston in his debut was the eventual Remsen Stakes (GII) winner, O’Prado Again. Whinston started next in a five and one-half furlong maiden at Saratoga, finishing second behind the future stakes-placed horse Laurie’s Rocket. Crossing the wire behind Whinston was the eventual stakes-placed How Do I Win. Whinston was not seen again until March 10, when he made his sophomore debut at Oaklawn Park. After setting the pace, the bay colt effortlessly drew clear to win by an easy 2 ¼ lengths, completing the final eighth of the six-furlong race in 12.25 seconds. Whinston certainly has the potential to become a very profitable one-turn horse.

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