Monday, March 11, 2013

Derby Hopeful: Hear the Ghost

Derby Hopefuls feature the horses I view as the best contenders leading up to the Kentucky Derby. Each horse spotlighted in a Derby Hopeful will join the 2013 PTG Derby Hopeful roster, found on the right side of the blog. Horses will be listed in an order that corresponds to how highly I think of them, with the horse I think most highly of ranking at the top. A horse featured in a Derby Hopeful may be taken off the roster if its performances after its article are published are not up to par or if that horse is taken off the Triple Crown trail, though those articles will remain on my blog.

The Triple Crown trail is made for upsets and surprises, for dethroning top contenders. It is a place for “buzz horses.” It’s a journey made of ups and downs. It’s a path abounding with chances for underdogs to shine. It’s a rollercoaster ride, but it’s certainly among the most exciting times in Thoroughbred racing.

Hear the Ghost had his chance to shine in the San Felipe Stakes (GII) on March 9 at Santa Anita. The gelding had become a “buzz horse,” garnering much talk prior to the graded stakes event. But it wasn’t as if the Jerry Hollendorfer trainee had never shown promise.

Hear the Ghost broke his maiden at first asking, a six-furlong maiden special weight over Hollywood Park’s synthetic track. Facing ten rivals, only one of which had raced before, Hear the Ghost stalked the rapid pace set by Let Em Shine, who would win his following two starts by wide margins. Rounding the turn, Hear the Ghost cut into the large lead Let Em Shine had formed. With impressive determination, Hear the Ghost ate up ground, running down the winner with ease to coast to a 3 ¼-length victory. Finishing behind him were not only Let Em Shine, but also the eventual stakes-placed Brokered and the future impressive maiden winner Tiz the Truth.

In his three-year-old and stakes debut, Hear the Ghost settled a handful of lengths off the leader amidst a small four-horse field in the six-furlong San Pedro Stakes at Santa Anita. The gelding made a steady drive around the curve, but at the top of the stretch, it appeared as if the chestnut would not fire. Once he changed leads, however, Hear the Ghost gradually began to gain ground on the leaders, accelerating even more impressively in the final sixteenth to miss by 1 ½ lengths.

Sent off as the third choice in his subsequent start, the San Felipe Stakes (GII), Hear the Ghost faced a competitive field of seven other rivals in his first try around two turns. Among his adversaries were the graded stakes winners Flashback and Goldencents, as well as several other stakes horses. Breaking in fairly good order, Hear the Ghost immediately found a position off the leaders, rating a few lengths behind the pacesetters as the field rounded the clubhouse turn.

Flashback and Goldencents overtook Salutos Amigos down the backstretch, contesting in a blistering speed duel. Hear the Ghost remained several lengths off the lead as the two top guns set a half-mile time of 45.95 seconds, but kicked into gear around the far turn, impressively making up ground as the three-year-olds rounded the bend. The gelding swung wide under Corey Nakatani, appearing to flatten out. But as the pace crumbled, Hear the Ghost continued to grow closer to the leaders alongside Tiz a Minister. Catching Flashback in the final strides, Hear the Ghost soared under the wire to triumph by a half-length.

Though Hear the Ghost will need to prove that he does not need a fast pace that dissipates in the late stages of a race to prevail, he is certainly a very gifted colt. Though the gelding’s ancestry does not scream distance, Hear the Ghost’s bloodlines are laced with stamina influences, insinuating that classic distances will likely not be a problem for the gelding.

Hear the Ghost's pedigree

Hear the Ghost’s sire, Ghostzapper, was a successful sprinter but proved to be effective at long distances as well, as evident in his dominant victory in the 2004 Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI). The Hall of Famer has also yielded several routers, such as Ghost Cat, Ghost Honour, Hunters Bay, Mystical Star, Promo Guest, and Stately Victor.

Ghostzapper’s sire, Awesome Again, also won the ten-furlong Breeders’ Cup Classic, as well as the first leg of Canada’s Triple Crown, the Queen’s Plate, at the same distance. Awesome Again has sired an abundance of distance horses, including Awesome Gem, Game On Dude, and Ginger Punch. Hear the Ghost should inherit stamina from Awesome Again’s sire, Deputy Minister, who has appeared within the first three generations of the likes of successful routers like Curlin, Paynter, and Rags to Riches.

Out of the Coronado’s Quest mare Rehear, Hear the Ghost is a half-brother to the grade one-winning Mani Bhavan, as well as the black-type-placed Dattt Echo. Never winning beyond age two, Mani Bhavan never won at a distance longer than seven furlongs, though she was sired by a stallion that was more sprint-oriented than Ghostzapper. Dattt Echo, too, was sired by a sprinter and was primarily successful as a sprinter. However, Rehear is a half-sister to Turkappeal, who won beyond one mile several times.

Though his dam does not suggest that Hear the Ghost is a classic distance horse, especially with the presence of Coronado’s Quest – who, though he won the ten-furlong Travers Stakes (GI) over Belmont Stakes (GI) winner Victory Gallop, was mostly productive with sprinters and milers – as Rehear’s sire, Hear the Ghost may find stamina through his third dam, Silken Doll. This mare produced Juyush, a successful steeplechaser that won beyond nineteen furlongs, and the Canadian champion Silken Cat.

In addition, the sire of Hear the Ghost’s fourth dam, Buckpasser, gives Hear the Ghost hope in the distance department. A legendary racehorse and sire, Buckpasser was effective at a large range of distances and was a successful router, taking races like the Travers, Jockey Club Gold Cup, and the Brooklyn Handicap. Buckpasser can be found on the broodmare side of many prosperous distance horses, including A.P. Indy, Aptitude, Bluegrass Cat, Super Saver, and Touch Gold.

Hear the Ghost’s fourth dam, Insilca, was a terrific broodmare, producing the likes of Turk Passer, a grade one winner at twelve furlongs. Hear the Ghost is a direct descendant of the great broodmare Hildene, a Reine de Course mare and 1950 Broodmare of the Year. The mare – who went completely blind like her Kentucky Derby-winning sire, Bubbling Over – produced not only the Hall of Fame Preakness winner Hill Prince, but the champion First Landing, who was successful at classic distances and produced Derby and Belmont champion Riva Ridge, and Third Brother, who was a stakes winner at twelve furlongs. 


  1. Do you have any idea why he was gelded? He's quite the looker and I was curious.

    1. No idea! Perhaps due to behavioral issues. Vyjack is a gelding as well.