Saturday, April 28, 2012

Derby Hopeful: Went the Day Well

He’d only raced four times and he’d never won on dirt. His final prep for the Kentucky Derby (GI) had come in a race that wasn't exactly known for producing Kentucky Derby winners and his trainer was dubbed solely a turf trainer. Against all odds, Animal Kingdom proved doubters wrong and came home with a victory in the Run for the Roses.

A year later, a colt with the same connections and same final prep for the Derby, the Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes (GIII), is looking for the roses. His name is Went the Day Well. And he just may be several steps ahead of where Animal Kingdom was going into the Kentucky Derby.

Went the Day Well began his career in England, making his first start in September at Haydock Park. Though he did not win the race, he ran such a remarkable second that Barry Irwin, CEO and founder of Team Valor International, soon purchased both the colt and his dam. Following another runner-up performance in England, this time at Leicester, Went the Day Well was shipped across the pond to Graham Motion’s stable in the United States.
Went the Day Well – a New York-bred – made both his American and sophomore debut in February at Gulfstream Park in a nine-furlong maiden special weight over dirt. Breaking sluggishly, the bay colt raced wide off the leaders before making a respectable rally to finish fourth behind the future grade one-placed Teeth of the Dog and the eventual stakes-placed Dynamical.

The Graham Motion trainee broke his maiden next out in a mile and one-sixteenth dirt maiden special weight over the same track. Rating off the pace, Went the Day Well was maneuvered to the outside around the turn before drawing off to win by 1 ¼ lengths.

With much confidence invested in the colt, Team Valor and Motion sent Went the Day Well to the Spiral at Turfway Park, which was, of course, the same race that Animal Kingdom had used as a springboard to his Derby victory. Sent off as the third choice in a field of twelve, Went the Day Well was forwardly placed before splitting horses around the far turn. He surged to the lead before jockey John Velasquez – who rode Animal Kingdom to Derby glory – made the colt change his leads prior to the pair easily drawing away from the rest of the field to win by 3 ½ lengths. With his victory, he defeated  the winners of one graded stakes and four ungraded stakes altogether, as well as runners that had placed in two graded stakes and four ungraded stakes all in all.

Irwin expressed that he was less surprised by Went the Day Well’s impressive Spiral victory than he was by Animal Kingdom’s. He has also let it be known that he is extremely confident in this colt. I believe Irwin has plenty of reason to have plenty of trust in Went the Day Well, due to the colt’s obvious racing talent and his notable pedigree.

The sire of Went the Day Well is Proud Citizen, a winner of the Coolmore Lexington Stakes (GII) at a mile and one-sixteenth who also finished second in the Derby and third in the Preakness Stakes (GI). Proud Citizen is by Gone West, the grandsire of 2004 Derby and Preakness winner Smarty Jones, and out of a direct descendant of the great mare Natalma – the dam of 1964 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner, Northern Dancer. Proud Citizen is the sire of the 2008 Champion Three-Year-Old Filly, Proud Spell, as well as two other talented three-year-olds this year, the Larry Jones trainees Believe You Can and Mark Valeski.

Tiz Maie’s Day, a daughter of the great racehorse and sire Tiznow, is out of the graded stakes-winning runner-up finisher in the 1989 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI), Sweet Roberta. This makes her a half-sister to the stakes-winning Jah and the multiple stakes-placed Ontario-bred Sweet Breanna. At fifteen years old, Tiznow is fairly new to the broodmare sire standings, but his grandsire, Relaunch was a very successful broodmare sire, being the damsire of the champions Ghostzapper and Forever Together, as well as the grade one victors Ad Valorem, City Zip, House Party, Negligee, Passing Shot, Pure as Gold, Starrer, and Stellar Jayne.

Went the Day Well’s sixth through ninth dams form a string of Reine De Course mares, beginning with the 1927 Irish Oaks winner, Cinq a Sept, who was later imported to the United States, where she foaled the granddam of Went the Day Well’s sixth dam, Imperatrice. Imperatrice, a stakes winner, was purchased by Meadow Stud, where she foaled the 1973 Broodmare of the Year, Somethingroyal – dam of the great Secretariat. Went the Day Well’s fifth dam, Speedwell, is similarly bred to Secretariat, being by his sire, Bold Ruler, and out of his granddam, Imperatrice.

Went the Day Well has likely inherited much stamina from his third dam, Candy Bowl, who is a daughter of Majestic Light. A son of the Derby- and Preakness-winning Majestic Prince, Majestic Light was a multiple grade one winner capable of winning at a mile and one-half. Went the Day Well’s strong dam line stems from female family two, which, of course, yielded the great champion Secretariat. However, it has produced many more great horses than just Secretariat. Other members of this prolific female family include the greats Cigar, Go for Wand, Northern Dancer, and Phar Lap.

This morning, the colt worked 1:01 flat for five furlongs in what trainer Graham Motion expressed was one of the best works Went the Day Well has ever turned in. Who also turned in a spectacular workout a week before the Derby? Animal Kingdom did.

This Team Valor candidate may be overshadowed by bigger names, but it would be no surprise to see Went the Day Well carry the red and green silks of Team Valor International across the Churchill Downs finish line en route to a Kentucky Derby victory for the second consecutive year. A lightly raced competitor, Went the Day Well possesses the pedigree of a horse meant for success. He is a horse well worth paying attention to.

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