Tuesday, April 30, 2013

2013 Kentucky Oaks Field Analysis

The Kentucky Derby (GI) garners far more attention than its sister race, the Kentucky Oaks (GI). Held on the Friday before the Derby, the "Lilies for the Fillies" features the best three-year-old Thoroughbreds fillies around. The 2013 field for the classic race is among the best group of fillies seen in years and should provide for a thrilling race that will beautifully commence the classic season for sophomore Thoroughbreds.

Last year's edition of the race saw jockey Rosie Napravnik avenge her narrow loss in the 2011 renewal with a victory aboard Believe You Can. With this triumph, the young rider became the first female jockey to win the historic race. In recent years, the race has produced many different types of finishes, from Rachel Alexandra's 20 1/4-length annihilation of her rivals in 2009 to Blind Luck's spine-tingling nose victory in 2010. With the brilliant field aligned for this year's running, the one hundred thirty-ninth Kentucky Oaks could be the Oaks of a lifetime.

Featured below are all of the fillies slated to run in the 2013 Kentucky Oaks, along with descriptions of their pedigrees, racing records, final preparations, and my opinions of them. The fillies are simply listed in post position order.

1. SILSITA: Sired by champion Macho Uno and out of a multiple black-type-placed Wild Again mare, Silsita should have no difficulty winning at a mile and one-eighth.

Silsita narrowly won her debut at Calder last November before making her first two starts of 2013 in allowance optional claiming company at Gulfstream Park, finishing fourth and third. She then contested over Turfway Park’s synthetic surface for the Bourbonette Oaks (GIII), gamely winning by a nose.

With more than two weeks of training at Churchill under her belt, Silsita has certainly become acclimated to the track, but in her final work, she was clearly outworked by one of her stablemates, Unlimited Budget.

Although Silsita has the potential to run a big race, she seems to be facing too tough of competition here.

MIDNIGHT LUCKY: Although her sire, Midnight Lute, was a champion sprinter, he has already produced a nine-furlong winner from his first crop – which Midnight Lucky is a member of. Her dam line hints at speed but will be sufficient in allowing her to be successful at a mile and one-eighth.

A dominant winner of her debut earlier this year at Santa Anita, Midnight Lucky was again an easy winner in her second start, the Sunland Park Oaks – in which she set a new track record for a mile and one-sixteenth over a very fast track.

Midnight Lucky turned in one of the most talked-about works of the week between Oaks and Derby horses, going 59.60 for five furlongs in her second Churchill Downs breeze. Working in company with the graded stakes-placed ridgling Code West, the gray filly made him look inferior, easily outrunning him to complete the final quarter of her work in just over 22 seconds. It was clearly one of the most impressive final preparations from an Oaks or Derby horse.

Though this filly is very lightly raced and the level of her brilliance is unknown, she could certainly serve as one of the most competitive fillies in this field of talented females. She has obviously taken to the track well and is ready for the race of a lifetime. Read about Midnight Lucky in greater detail in my article “
Oaks Contender: Midnight Lucky.”

3. BEHOLDER: Although her sire, Henny Hughes, was a terrific sprinter, his immediate sire line has produced many talented distance horses. A half-sister to the grade one-winning sire Into Mischief, Beholder stems from the same tail female line as Kentucky Derby victor I'll Have Another.

Voted the 2012 Eclipse Champion Two-Year-Old Filly, Beholder formed a rivalry with Executiveprivelege, losing to that filly in her debut and in her third start, the Del Mar Debutante Stakes (GI). But after a dominant Santa Anita allowance win, Beholder got revenge when it counted most, defeating Executiveprivelege by a length in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI). Beginning her sophomore campaign with a runner-up effort in the Santa Ynez Stakes (GII), Beholder then captured a pair of consecutive grade ones, including the Santa Anita Oaks (GI).

Beholder’s final work for the Oaks did not take place at Churchill Downs, but rather her home track of Santa Anita, where she turned in a seven-furlong drill in 1:27.80. She has had time to gallop over the Louisville track and has appeared very comfortable in the mornings.

Beholder is among the classiest in this tough field and although she may appear to have distance limitations, her pedigree hints that she can carry her speed over nine furlongs. Read about Beholder in greater detail in my article “Oaks Contender: Beholder.”

Photo by Terri Cage

4. UNLIMITED BUDGET: This filly has already won at nine furlongs and her pedigree also supports her in the distance department. A daughter of Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense, Unlimited Budget is out of a stakes-placed daughter of Valid Appeal – a stallion that produced many nine furlong winners.

Heading into the Oaks with a flawless race record, Unlimited Budget has handled every test thrown in her direction perfectly. A graded stakes winner in New York as a two-year-old, Unlimited Budget won both of her graded stakes preps at the Fair Grounds this year.

In her final work for the Oaks, the Todd Pletcher trainee put away fellow Oaks entrant Silsita, coasting to a 59.60-second five-furlong breeze in her third work over Churchill Downs’ oval. She handled the track very well, seeming to be very comfortable with the surface.

This filly has not done anything wrong to date and shows no signs of breaking that pattern. Read about Unlimited Budget in greater detail in my article “Oaks Contender: Unlimited Budget.”

5. SEANEEN GIRL: A daughter of Spring at Last - a grade one winner at nine furlongs - and an Afternoon Deelites mare, Seaneen Girl stems from the same tail female line as the grade one-winning Farma Way.

A dominant winner of a maiden claiming event at Woodbine in her debut, Seaneen Girl returned to the claiming ranks after a poor finish in the Ontario Debutante Stakes. Even in the two claiming races she contested in after that effort, Seaneen Girl couldn't garner a win. Nonetheless, she returned to stakes company, finishing second in the Mazarine Stakes (GIII) prior to traveling to Churchill Downs, where she captured the Golden Rod Stakes (GII) as the longest shot in the field. Her only start to date as a three-year-old was a third-place performance in the Fair Grounds Oaks (GII) behind Unlimited Budget and Flashy Gray.

Seaneen Girl has had weeks of preparation over Churchill Downs’ dirt oval and in her final work for the Oaks, the small chestnut filly turned in a good half-mile breeze with Rosie Napravnik aboard.

The filly is very lightly raced this year due to a foot bruise, which could be worrisome, but she has trained somewhat well. However, she seems in over her head against this stellar group.

By the grade one-winning Majestic Warrior – a son of A.P. Indy – and out of a stakes-placed Catienus mare, Princess of Sylmar should successfully stretch out to nine furlongs, a distance she has already ran second at.

Beginning her career at Penn National, Princess of Sylmar won at second asking prior to shipping to Aqueduct, where she won three consecutive races by a combined 19 3/4 lengths, including the Busanda Stakes and Busher Stakes. Her final race before the Oaks resulted in a runner-up finish behind Close Hatches in the Gazelle Stakes (GII), in which she was bested by 3 1/4 lengths.

Princess of Sylmar has recorded two workouts at Churchill Downs and has appeared rather flat in these half-mile breezes, although her most recent work showed improvement from her first drill below the twin spires.

Although talented, Princess of Sylmar may be outclassed in this field.

A daughter of Storm Cat's son Pure Prize and a Key to the Mint mare, Pure Fun is bred for distance.

She began her career in maiden claiming company and didn't break her maiden until her fourth start, a one-mile maiden special weight at Kentucky Downs. Seventh in the Jessamine Stakes (GIII) at Keeneland in her subsequent start, Pure Fun turned in a pair of good allowance performances in Kentucky, including a 9 1/4-length victory in a one-mile event at Churchill Downs. Shipped west to Hollywood Park, Pure Fun won the Hollywood Starlet Stakes (GI) to close out her juvenile campaign. Third in the Bourbonette Stakes (GIII) at Turfway Park in her initial start as a three-year-old, Pure Fun then faced males in the Lexington Stakes (GIII), finishing seventh.

This Kenny McPeek hasn’t turned in an official work since before the Lexington, when she worked five furlongs at Keeneland. But she has galloped very well over the track, getting over Churchill’s dirt oval powerfully.

Pure Fun may be a grade one winner, but the others' talent certainly may outshine her, especially considering that the filly's confidence may be harmed by her poor performance last out. However, to her advantage is a previous win over Churchill Downs’ surface and an obvious affinity for it.

DREAMING OF JULIA: This filly is by Belmont Stakes (GI, 12F) and Breeders' Cup Classic (GI, 10F) winner A.P. Indy, one of the most influential sires in recent years. Her dam is the multiple grade one-winning sprinter Dream Rush, thus allowing her to descend from the same tail female line as Hasty Matelda.

Dreaming of Julia was one of the most impressive juvenile maiden winners at Saratoga last summer (landing herself on my watch list) and followed up that win with a dominant victory in the Meadow Star Stakes at Belmont Park. Following a game victory in the Frizette Stakes (GI), the Todd Pletcher trainee was shipped west to Santa Anita Park for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI), in which she suffered the first loss of her career, finishing third. Beginning her three-year-old campaign with a runner-up effort in the Davona Dale Stakes (GII), Dreaming of Julia turned in a monster performance in the Gulfstream Oaks (GII), demolishing her opponents by 21
3/4 lengths. Although the field behind her was small, it was a tough group of fillies, including Emollient – who would go on to win the Ashland Stakes (GI) by an ample margin.

The filly has had several weeks to become acclimated to Churchill Downs’ surface and in her most recent work, an easy 51-second half-mile breeze, Dreaming of Julia appeared very comfortable. She is not the most attractive mover, but neither was her sire and he was clearly an extraordinary racehorse.

The cross of speed and stamina on which Dreaming of Julia is bred on suggests that the nine-furlong journey of the Oaks should not be an issue for her and her breathtaking victory in the nine-furlong Gulfstream Oaks has already confirmed that. She has trained well up to the Oaks and has several weeks over Churchill’s tricky surface to her advantage. Considering she has faced perhaps the toughest competition of any other Oaks entrant and has showed the greatest brilliance of any of these fillies, Dreaming of Julia is my top selection for this tremendous race, though she is not the only incredibly gifted filly in the contest. Read about Dreaming of Julia in greater detail in my article “Oaks Contender: Dreaming of Julia.”

Dreaming of Julia
Photo by Terri Cage

9. ROSE TO GOLD: A filly I have followed since the early stages of her career, Rose to Gold is a daughter of a grade one-winning son of A.P. Indy in Friends Lake and out of an unraced Tabasco Cat mare. Her bloodlines imply that Rose to Gold should flourish with added distance.

This filly has had a unique career, having never competed outside of stakes company. Winner of a pair of stakes at Calder by a combined 26
1/2 lengths in the first two starts of her career, Rose to Gold gave the worst performance of her lifetime in her third start, the Alcibiades Stakes (GI) at Keeneland, in which she finished twelfth of fourteen. However, it wasn't a matter of being outclassed; she simply did not have an affinity for the synthetic surface. Culminating her juvenile year with a win in the Delta Downs Princess Stakes (GIII), the $1,400 bargain began 2013 with a runner-up effort in the Martha Washington Stakes at Oaklawn Park. Her two final starts before the Oaks resulted in two graded stakes victories at Oaklawn Park, which she captured by a total margin of 7 1/4 lengths.

With her jockey and Churchill Downs specialist Calvin Borel aboard, Rose to Gold’s final work was one of the most notable of the week. Going a half-mile in 47.80 seconds, Rose to Gold got over the track very well, exhibiting an obvious liking to Churchill’s surface.

She is among those that have displayed sheer brilliance and also turned in one of the most impressive works of the week. Rose to Gold may be considered an underdog by many, but I view her as one of the top contenders in this deep field.

Sired by young sire Flashy Bull, Flashy Gray was a $775,000 purchase at the 2012 Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale as part of Dolphus Morrison’s dispersal. Flashy Bull was a grade one winner at nine furlongs and the sires that line this filly's dam line imply distance, including What a Pleasure, Hill Rise, Princequillo, and Johnstown.

After playing the role of runner-up in her debut at Keeneland, Flashy Gray dominated a maiden special weight at Churchill Downs by 10 ¼ lengths. Making her sophomore debut in an allowance optional claiming at Gulfstream, Flashy Gray easily defeated her rivals by 4 ¾ lengths.  Flashy Gray followed up these wins with a pair of runner-up finishes in the Honeybee Stakes (GIII) and Fair Grounds Oaks (GII).

Flashy Gray has put in one work at Churchill Downs in preparation for the Oaks, seeming to like the surface as she outworked her workmate to complete five furlongs in 1:01.

Flashy Gray's price will be inflated due to her losing her past two starts. However, the filly’s former owner, Dolphus Morrison, declared Flashy Gray to be “the best racehorse I’ve owned.” Morrison of course owned spectacular Oaks winner Rachel Alexandra. Difficult competition awaits Flashy Gray, but if she's as good as Morrison stated, she could surprise many. Furthermore, she has to her advantage a win over the track.

Yet another filly I have followed since her maiden triumph, Close Hatches is a daughter of young sire First Defence, a grade one-winning sprinter by Unbridled’s Song. This filly is out of a Storm Cat mare that is a direct descendant of Reine de Course mare and 1982 Broodmare of the Year Best in Show, who produced Kentucky Oaks winner Blush with Pride. Close Hatches is thus from the same family as the Belmont Stakes (GI)-winning siblings Jazil and Rags to Riches, as well as the champion Peeping Fawn. Therefore, this is the same tail female family as the great broodmare Better Than Honour.

A lightly raced filly, Close Hatches won her debut by 7 furlongs in a Gulfstream Park maiden special weight. Her second start came in a mile and one-sixteenth allowance optional claiming at the same track, which the Bill Mott trainee won by 1
1/4 lengths under a hand-ride. Traveling to New York for the Gazelle Stakes (GII), Close Hatches captured her final prep race by 3 1/4 lengths.

Close Hatches, who trained at Churchill Downs as a two-year-old, has posted two works below the twin spires to prepare for the Oaks. Like her stablemate Flashy Gray, Close Hatches got over the track very well.

Close Hatches clearly doesn't know how to lose, but she will need to bring her A-game to win against a field of this caliber.

Oaks Contender: Beholder

A filly has not won both the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI) and Kentucky Oaks (GI) since Silverbulletday completed the feat in 1999. Last year, only one filly that contested in the Juvenile Fillies even ran in the Oaks. But this year, champion two-year-old filly Beholder – who captured the premier race for female juveniles – will compete for the garland of lilies.

Photo by Terri Cage

Fourth in her debut behind future grade one winner and rival Executiveprivilege, Beholder broke her maiden in the midst of the Del Mar meet, capturing a five and one-half-furlong maiden special weight by an easy 3 ¼ lengths. Entering grade one company for her third start, Beholder again lost to Executiveprivilege – this time by just a nose in the Del Mar Debutante Stakes (GI). The Richard Mandella trainee had given the undefeated filly the biggest test of her career to date.

After an 11-length demolition of a six-furlong allowance over the dirt at Santa Anita, Beholder’s connections pondered whether the filly should run in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint against males, or the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI) – in which she would face stiffer competition and go the longest distance she had raced at yet.

They chose the Juvenile Fillies. Turning the tables on Executiveprivilege, Beholder led from start to finish prior to digging deep in the homestretch to repel her rival’s rally, winning by one length in a thrilling display of determination.

Making her sophomore debut in the Santa Ynez Stakes (GII), Beholder sat off the pace and despite garnering a narrow advantage around the far turn, Beholder struggled to outduel a rival down the lane and was overtaken in the final stages of the race, finishing second.

But the champion did not stay away from the winner’s enclosure for long. In her subsequent start, the Las Virgenes Stakes (GI) – which has been won by a pair of Kentucky Oaks winners in the past six years –, Beholder returned to setting the pace, receiving an easy trip around the track to win by a commanding 3 ¾ lengths. Going a mile and one-sixteenth for the first time since the Breeders’ Cup, Beholder made her final prep for the Kentucky Oaks in the Santa Anita Oaks (GI), in which she again was given an easy lead, winning the grade one event by 2 ¾ lengths.

It is no secret that Beholder is a speedy filly, but can she hold that speed over nine furlongs? Her pedigree suggests she can.

Beholder's pedigree
From pedigreequery.com

Beholder is a daughter of brilliant sprinter Henny Hughes, who never won beyond seven furlongs. As a sire, he has primarily produced sprinters, although he has sired Welcome Dance – a stakes winner at nine furlongs, the distance of the Oaks. Henny Hughes is a son of Hennessy – another horse who excelled at short distances. But Hennessy produced many distance horses, including Silver Tree – a graded stakes winner that was victorious up to ten furlongs; Inglorious – a classic winner at ten furlongs; Half Hennessy – a group one winner at 2,400 meters (about twelve furlongs); Wiseman’s Ferry – a graded stakes winner at nine furlongs; Orchard Park – a graded stakes winner that won up to ten furlongs; and Toasted – a graded stakes winner that won up to eleven furlongs. Hennessy is a son of the late, great sire Storm Cat, who produced many distance horses, including
After Market, Bluegrass Cat, Cat Thief, Giant’s Causeway, Good Reward, Storm Flag Flying, and Tabasco Cat.

Stemming from a rich female family, Beholder is out of the black-type-winning Leslie’s Lady, who has also produced Into Mischief – a grade one winner that has sired 2013 Kentucky Derby (GI) contenders Goldencents and
Vyjack. Leslie’s Lady is a daughter of Tricky Creek – a graded stakes winner at nine furlongs.

The granddam of Beholder is sired by Stop the Music, who won the Dwyer Stakes when it was contested at ten furlongs. A son of champion Hail to Reason, Stop the Music sired an abundance of distance horses, including Alla Breva, Missy’s Mirage, Sing Sing, and Temperence Hill. The filly’s fourth dam is a daughter of the great Sea-Bird II, who is considered one of the best Thoroughbred racehorses to ever live. Sea-Bird II – or simply Sea Bird – won many prestigious distance races, including the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (GI) and the Epsom Derby (GI).

Beholder’s fifth dam is the multiple stakes-winning Patelin, a charm to have in a horse’s tail female line. The black mare was a daughter of the Reine de Course mare Pontivy and thus a direct descendant of the additional Reine de Course mares Golden Apple, Lou Lanier, and Thorn Apple, as well as the influential British-bred mare Gallopade. Kentucky Derby victor
I’ll Have Another, too, is a direct descendant of Pontivy through Patelin, as he and Beholder share the same dam line beginning with their fourth dam. Triple Crown winner Affirmed and Derby winner Mine That Bird also descend from the Gallopade line.

The Kentucky Oaks field has shaped up to be an incredibly competitive race, featuring numerous very talented fillies. Which one will take home the lilies is a gamble, but it is no secret that Beholder is among the classiest competitors in the race.

Beholder winning the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies
Photo by Terri Cage

Monday, April 29, 2013

Derby Hopeful: Black Onyx

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 Spiral Stakes (GIII), which has been contested under various names, is a rather underestimated prep race when it comes to the Kentucky Derby (GI), considering it has produced two Derby victors. In recent years, horses like 2011 Derby champion Animal Kingdom, 2007 Derby runner-up Hard Spun, and 2012 impressive fourth-place finisher Went the Day Well used the Turfway Park Derby prep as a launching pad for the first Saturday in May. How will it set up this year’s Spiral winner, Black Onyx?

A dark-colored colt with a contrasting white blaze, Black Onyx made his first two starts in races that had originally been scheduled for the turf but were instead held over fast dirt tracks. The colt was second in his debut at Belmont Park in October of his two-year-old campaign and although he was defeated by 6 ¼ lengths in that start, he was clearly second best, finishing 6 ½ lengths ahead of the third-place finisher. A month later, the colt broke his maiden going one mile at Aqueduct, sitting off the pace before drawing away to an easy 2 ¼-length victory.

Black Onyx’s 2013 season began with a loss in a mile and one-sixteenth allowance optional claiming event over Gulfstream Park’s dirt surface. But a start in a race of the same level at the same track and the same distance – but on turf – saw the colt make his second lifetime trip to the winner’s circle. Coming from off the pace, Black Onyx rallied to win by 1 ¼ lengths, besting a field that included the stakes-placed and future graded stakes-placed Redwood Kitten, the future stakes winner Crop Report, and the graded stakes-placed Tesseron.

Making his graded stakes debut in the Spiral over the Polytrack surface at Turfway Park, Black Onyx raced mid-pack and on the outside throughout the race. Racing several paths off the rail down the backstretch, Black Onyx appeared prepared for a big rally as the field approached the far turn. The Kelly Breen trainee reached the front at the quarter pole and despite racing on the incorrect lead throughout the first portion of the homestretch, Black Onyx repelled any threats from other horses down the lane, winning by a comfortable 1 ½ lengths.

Black Onyx's pedigree
From pedigreequery.com

Rock Hard Ten, the sire of Black Onyx, was a versatile racehorse, winning over a range of seven to ten furlongs. Winner of the mile and one-quarter Santa Anita Handicap (GI), Rock Hard Ten was second in the 2004 Preakness Stakes (GI) behind Smarty Jones. A large percentage of Rock Hard Ten's progeny is made up of graded stakes performers, including those that have won at ten furlongs: Capital Plan, Nereid, and Utopian. Rock Hard Ten is a son of Kris S, who has proven to be a top stamina influence. Sire of numerous distance horses – such as Arch, Kicken Kris, Kissin Kris, Kudos, Prized, Roberto, Soaring Softly, Symboli Kris S, and Whitmore's Conn – Kris S has served as the grandsire - on either the top or bottom side of the pedigree - of Breeders' Cup Classic (GI, 10F) winners Blame and Zenyatta, as well as the additional distance horses Arravale, Delightful Kiss, and Pine Island. Rock Hard Ten’s dam is the group one-winning mare Tersa, who is a half-sister to Kentucky Derby victor and Belmont Stakes (GI) runner-up Gato Del Sol.

Black Onyx's dam, Kalahari Cat, earned $106,760 on the track, where she only won up to a mile. Her greatest success has certainly come as a broodmare, as – in addition to Black Onyx – she has produced the stakes-winning Francois and the graded stakes-placed Quality Council. Kalahari Cat is a daughter of Cape Town, who finished fifth in the 1998 Kentucky Derby, in which he was beaten by less than 4 lengths and made a slight late gain in the final stages. At stud, Cape Town sired the multiple grade one-winning champion Bird Town, as well as graded stakes winners Cape Hope and Capeside Lady. Although his progeny principally have principally encountered success at or below nine furlongs, he has produced the group one-winning Venezuelan, Dubai Queen, who won at 2,000 meters (approximately a mile and a quarter). Cape Town is a result of the mating between Seeking the Gold – a grade one winner at ten furlongs – and a daughter of Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew named Seaside Attraction, who won the Kentucky Oaks (GI) and went on to be a spectacular broodmare, producing not only Cape Town, but also the multiple grade one-winning champion Golden Attraction and the group/graded stakes-winning horses Cape Canaveral and Red Carnival.

The granddam of Black Onyx is Desert Stormette, who produced the stakes-winning Desert Gold – who won up to nine furlongs. Desert Stormette is a daughter of the late, great sire Storm Cat, who produced many distance horses, including After Market, Bluegrass Cat, Cat Thief, Giant’s Causeway, Good Reward, Storm Flag Flying, and Tabasco Cat. Notably, Black Onyx’s third dam is a daughter of the great Damascus, won two legs of the Triple Crown (the Preakness and Belmont), as well as several other distance races, including the Jockey Club Gold Cup, the Travers Stakes, and the Brooklyn Handicap. Damascus holds this same position in the pedigree of fellow Derby contender Orb. Black Onyx’s fourth dam – a daughter of Canadian Triple Crown winner New Providence – produced Canadian champion Sound Reason (who won the first leg of Canada’s Triple Crown, the ten-furlong Queen’s Plate Stakes).

Black Onyx could certainly enter the Derby as a rather unnoticeable candidate, but he is bred to be successful at classic distances and has shown talent from the beginning. He may run greenly at times and may have faced easier competition than many other contenders, but he is a gifted horse that should not be completely overlooked. 

Derby Hopeful: Goldencents

Trainer Doug O’Neill and the young, rather unknown jockey Mario Gutierrez teamed up to win last year’s Kentucky Derby (GI) after capturing the Santa Anita Derby (GI). Approaching this year’s Run for the Roses, the scene is quite similar for O’Neill. But this year, he will place Kevin Krigger’s saddle upon the back of Goldencents. Like I’ll Have Another, Goldencents won the Santa Anita Derby. Like Gutierrez, Krigger – though more well-known than Gutierrez was – has the chance to let his name shine at the pinnacle of the sport.

Near the end of the Del Mar’s meet, which has been known to unveil future superstars, Goldencents turned in one of the most impressive maiden victories of the summer at the Southern California track. The favorite in a field that had only one experienced runner, Goldencents led from start to finish, galloping to a 7 ¼-length triumph. As if the winning margin wasn’t remarkable enough, the final time for five and one-half furlongs – 1:02.79 – was only .09 seconds off the track record.

Shipping to New York for the Champagne Stakes (GI), Goldencents set the pace of the prestigious one-mile event but was overtaken by future Eclipse Champion Two-Year-Old, Shanghai Bobby. The next month, Goldencents broke through with his first graded stakes victory in the Delta Downs Jackpot Stakes (GIII). Serving as the pacesetter once again, the bay colt never looked back as he led the field from start to finish, winning the race by 1 ¾ lengths.

Goldencents made his three-year-old debut in the Sham Stakes (GIII) at Santa Anita Park, facing just four rivals in the one-mile event. Rather than leading his opponents, Goldencents tracked the pace set by Manando prior to running all out to surpass that competitor in the stretch, winning by 1 ½ lengths.

The poorest performance of Goldencents’ career to date came in the San Felipe Stakes (GII). Although it appeared as if the colt would press the pace set by Salutos Amigos, he rushed to the front down the backstretch, entering a speed duel with Flashback. He heartily tried to stay in the competition for victory but faded in the final stages to finish fourth.

Goldencents avenged his loss next out in a more important race, the Santa Anita Derby. Sitting just off Super Ninety Nine throughout the nine-furlong contest as quick fractions were posted, Goldencents was forced to be restrained by Krigger to avoid going to the front too early. Near the end of the far turn, Goldencents surged forward as Flashback loomed on his outside, gamely digging in to hold off that rival throughout the backstretch, warding off Flashback to win by 1 ¼ lengths in a good final time of 1:48.76.

Goldencents' pedigree
From pedigreequery.com

Goldencents is a member of his sire’s, Into Mischief, first crop. Into Mischief was a grade one-winning juvenile, taking the mile and one-sixteenth CashCall Futurity (GI), but was kept out of the Derby due to injury and only raced three times – each start at seven furlongs – as a sophomore. Into Mischief has proven himself in the breeding shed with his first crop, as he is also the sire of the graded stakes-winning and grade one-placed Derby contender Vyjack and the multiple black-type-winning filly Sittin at the Bar.

The sire of Into Mischief, Harlan’s Holiday, won at nine furlongs on four occasions, but after triumphs in the Florida Derby and Blue Grass Stakes (GI), the son of the grade one-winning sprinter Harlan finished seventh in the Run for the Roses. However, he did place in several ten-furlong races, including runner-up efforts in the Dubai World Cup (GI) and Hollywood Gold Cup (GI). As a sire, Harlan’s Holiday has predominantly flourished with sprinters and milers, though he has sired the likes of Willcox Inn – winner of the American Derby (GII, 9.5F) – and Denis of Cork – runner-up in the Belmont Stakes (GI, 12F) and third-place finisher in the Kentucky Derby.

Goldencents' dam, Golden Works, is sired by Banker's Gold, who won up to nine furlongs but was primarily a sire of sprinters. The colt's multiple stakes-winning granddam is a daughter of Bold Ruckus, a horse who is known for speed, although he did sire Canadian classic winner Kiridashi.

Goldencents' family is lined with sprinters, although the sire of his fourth dam is Hidden Treasure, a horse who, despite excelling as a sprinter, won several distance races, including the Breeders' Stakes - the final race of Canada's Triple Crown, contested at twelve furlongs. The distance influences become less scarce as you look more deeply into Goldencents' pedigree. Following alongside his tail female line, you will encounter the likes of Daumier - the winner of several Italian classics, including the St. Leger Italiano at a mile and three-quarters - and Triple Crown champion Count Fleet.

Goldencents will need to rely on his talent to win the Derby, as he is bred to have a distance limit of nine furlongs. He certainly has a will to win – as well as a trainer who knows how to win – and will try his hardest to fight for triumph. Distance is a question for Goldencents, but heart is not.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Derby Hopeful: Will Take Charge

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.

Will Take Charge is as royally bred as they come, being not only sired by a champion and top sire, but also being out of a grade one-winning dam of a grade one victor. But even bloodlines so rich do not guarantee they will produce a talented racehorse. However, it has worked for Will Take Charge.

A $425,000 yearling purchase, Will Take Charge is not only beautifully bred, but he is also an absolutely stunning individual. Displaying impressive muscularity, the colt is a breathtaking blaze-faced chestnut with three stockings. But despite his remarkable pedigree and good looks, the colt’s career got off to a rough start – literally. Breaking hesitantly from the gate in his debut at Saratoga, the powerfully-built colt went on to finish fifth.

But a trip to Keeneland in the fall of 2012 saw Will Take Charge capture his first victory as he closed to win by a length in a seven-furlong maiden special weight over the Polytrack. His losing ways returned, however, when he finished last of thirteen in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (GII) at Churchill Downs. In spite of an enviable, rail-skimming trip, the colt was simply outrun.

Shipping to Remington Park for the Springboard Mile Stakes, the D. Wayne Lukas trainee contested the pace before finishing second to a 128-1 longshot, Texas Bling, to close out his juvenile campaign. But Will Take Charge avenged this loss in his sophomore debut approximately six weeks later, defeating Texas Bling by a neck in the Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn Park after tracking the pace.

Still, Will Take Charge had not said goodbye to sound losses. In his following start, the Southwest Stakes (GIII), the colt was defeated by 18 lengths. However, it must be pointed out that this race was contested over a sloppy track he did not take to and the winner – a horse that relished the mud – won the race by 11 ¼ lengths.

Given a chance to redeem himself next out in the Rebel Stakes (GII), Will Take Charge was a bit green leaving the gate but settled in well mid-pack. Using his powerful strides to catch up to the leaders around the far turn, Will Take Charge swung wide as the field turned for home to maneuver traffic. It initially appeared as if the colt would merely hang on the outside, but he kicked into gear just outside the final furlong, gaining ground on his stablemate,
Oxbow, and surpassing him to win by a head. Although the time for the race was very slow, the colt’s determined rally was certainly noteworthy.

Rather than using one more prep race for the Kentucky Derby, Lukas chose to train this horse up to the Derby. This certainly raised an abundance of questions, but you cannot overly criticize a Hall of Fame trainer that has won four Derbies. Furthermore, Will Take Charge has trained powerfully over Churchill Downs surface and seems to take to it better than he did as a two-year-old.

Will Take Charge's pedigree
From pedigreequery.com

A son of popular stallion Unbridled's Song, Will Take Charge's sire was fifth in the 1996 Kentucky Derby, bested by about four lengths, and never won beyond nine furlongs. Although his offspring have principally been successful at nine furlongs or less, he has produced a handful of horses that have won at ten furlongs or more, such as Octave - who won the Coaching Club American Oaks (GI, 10F); Grey Song - who won the VRC St. Leger Stakes (GIII, 14F); and Political Force - winner of the Suburban Handicap (GI, 10F). The very prosperous sire has also yielded the ill-fated Derby runner-up Eight Belles and Belmont Stakes (GI, 12F) second-place finisher Dunkirk.

Unbridled's Song is a son of Derby and Breeders' Cup Classic (GI, 10F) champion Unbridled, who produced numerous distance horses, including Banshee Breeze, Empire Maker, Grindstone, Niigon, Smuggler, and Unshaded. Unbridled's Song's broodmare sire is Caro, a leading sire who won several long-distance races, including the mile and three-quarter Prix Dollar (GII), and sired a wealth of successful routers.

Will Take Charge's dam is the multiple grade one-winning Take Charge Lady, who won up to nine furlongs. Another son of this mare left his mark on the Derby trail last year:
Take Charge Indy won the nine-furlong Florida Derby (GI) but finished a disappointing nineteenth in the Run for the Roses, but was discovered to have endured an injury that required surgery.

The sire of Take Charge Lady is Dehere – a son of Deputy Minister, a strong stamina influence. A Canadian Hall of Famer, Deputy Minister has appeared within the first three generations of numerous distance horses, including
Curlin, Paynter, and Rags to Riches. He was a tremendous broodmare sire, producing the dams of many talented distance horses, including the multiple group one-winning Kane Hekili and Sarava, winner of the 2002 Belmont.

The sire of Will Take Charge's granddam is Rubiano, who – although he was a champion sprinter – is a son of Fappiano, the sire of not only Unbridled, but the additional distance horses Cryptoclearance and Defensive Play, as well as the sire of near-Triple Crown winner Real Quiet, Quiet American.

Notably, Will Take Charge's third dam is a daughter of Blushing Groom. A winner of several championship honors as both racehorse and sire, Blushing Groom excelled as a miler but produced many distance horses, including Nashwan, Rainbow Quest, and Runaway Groom - all of which were grade/group one winners at ten furlongs or more. But perhaps Blushing Groom's greatest success came as a broodmare sire, as he is the sire of the dams of a wealth of grade/group one winners, including those that have been victorious at ten furlongs or beyond: Awesome Again, Flute, Haafhd, and Mezzo Soprano.

It is also worth noting that brilliant distance horse and Derby victor Swaps is the sire of Will Take Charge's fourth dam. Swaps produced Derby and Belmont winner Chateaugay, as well as the additional distance horses Primonetta and Tradesman.

Will Take Charge’s pedigree is somewhat on the fence regarding the stamina, but should be sufficient in carrying him over classic distances. Perhaps more worrisome is his inconsistency, his poor finish in his only start at Churchill Downs, and the fact that he is merely training up to the Derby. However, he is trained by one of the most successful trainers in the history of racing and has trained very well beneath the twin spires in the time he has spent there preparing for the Run for the Roses. Will Take Charge will need to give the best effort of his life to be victorious in the Kentucky Derby, but he should not be forgotten or ignored, especially due to his versatility and power.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Derby Hopeful: Mylute

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.

Mylute, or at least his scheduled rider for the Kentucky Derby (GI), could mark a pivotal point in horse racing history. If the colt wins the Run for the Roses, Rosie Napravnik will become the first female rider of all-time to win the Derby, much like she became the first female jockey to capture the Kentucky Oaks (GI) last year.

Although the colt was defeated by 9 ¼ lengths in his debut – a five and one-half-furlong maiden special weight – behind the eventual graded stakes-winning Circle Unbroken, his second career start came in stakes company. Competing against six rivals in the Prairie Gold Juvenile Stakes, Mylute suffered a very poor trip but was able to rally to finish second, beaten by just a neck.

A return to the maiden special weight level resulted in Mylute’s first win. Traveling six furlongs over Arlington Park’s all-weather track, the dark gray colt found a spot just behind the leaders and ran very keenly, requiring restraint from his rider. Boxed in around the far turn, Mylute found room to run as the curve gave way to the homestretch. Striking to the lead authoritatively, the Tom Amoss trainee appeared to play around once he took the lead, but managed to win by a rather comfortable 2 ¼ lengths.

After a disappointing fifth-place effort in his graded stakes debut, the Arlington-Washington Futurity (GIII), Mylute shipped south to Louisiana, where he would spend his winter. Making his Louisiana debut at Delta Downs in the Jean Lafitte Stakes, Mylute faced a tough opponent in the graded stakes-winning Bern Identity, who would go on to outfinish Mylute despite the latter’s late gain.

The toughest test of Mylute’s juvenile campaign came in his following start, the Delta Downs Jackpot Stakes (GIII), in which he took on four horses that had won or would go on to win graded stakes, as well as a Breeders’ Cup winner. As usual, Mylute flashed very little early speed, racing at the rear of the field before beginning to rally down the backstretch, gaining ground on the adversaries ahead of him. Midway through the far turn, the colt had advanced to second, but the early beginning to his run and his wide trip around the curve of the bullring track put a dent in his momentum, leaving him to finish third behind future Santa Anita Derby (GI) victor

Heading to post one last time as a two-year-old, Mylute faced a small field in an allowance optional claiming event going a mile and seventy yards at the Fair Grounds near the end of December. Sent off as the second choice behind
General Election, a horse who was coming off a dominant maiden victory at Churchill Downs and would later go on to be a graded stakes-placed stakes winner, Mylute raced wide but showed his supremacy, effortlessly winning by 10 ¾ lengths.

Given approximately two months away from the races, Mylute made his juvenile debut in the Risen Star Stakes (GII). Rank as the horses entered the backstretch, the dark charcoal-colored colt raced along the rail just off the pacesetters. At the top of the stretch, Mylute appeared to be competitive, offering up a fight, but weakened in the late stages, finishing seventh. Despite a beautiful trip that gave him several chances to take the lead, the colt had lost, although he was less than four lengths behind the winner at the finish.

Perhaps it was the removal of blinkers, or maybe he had disposed of the rust he had collected during his time off, but Mylute redeemed himself next out in the Louisiana Derby (GII). Taking on a difficult competitor in the favorite, the graded stakes-winning
Revolutionary, Mylute broke fairly slowly, joining the horses near the back of the pack as the three-year-olds raced past the stands for the initial time. Traveling wide throughout, Mylute swung to the very far outside around the far turn, continuing to race down the middle of the stretch as the horses galloped down the lane. The colossal horse drew even with the top betting choice, appearing to briefly get ahead of Revolutionary, only to be outdueled by the Todd Pletcher trainee, losing by just a neck.

Mylute’s race record resembles a scatter plot, but the colt has finished in the top three in seven of his nine starts. He is a hard-trying athlete and although his pedigree is suspect for ten furlongs, a handful of distance influences can be traced in his bloodlines.

Mylute's pedigree
From pedigreequery.com

At first glance, Mylute's pedigree appears geared toward speed. His sire, Midnight Lute, was never victorious beyond seven furlongs, but he did miss winning at a mile and one-sixteenth by just a nose and was less than two lengths away from winning at nine furlongs in his only try at that distance. Trainer Bob Baffert – who conditioned the two-time Breeders’ Cup Sprint (GI) champion – always believed the horse would be a top ten-furlong runner, but setbacks always kept Midnight Lute from chasing lofty goals set for him. Considering Mylute is a member of Midnight Lute’s first crop, not many statistics exist regarding the champion sprinter’s ability to sire routers. However, he has produced Govenor Charlie – winner of the nine-furlong Sunland Derby (GIII) – and
Midnight Lucky – victress of the mile and one-sixteenth Sunland Park Oaks.

Midnight Lute’s ability to sire distance horses is enhanced by his sire, Real Quiet. A horse who missed winning the 1998 Triple Crown by a scant margin, Real Quiet produced the likes of Wonder Lady Anne L – a grade one winner at ten furlongs – and Bull Ranch – a stakes winner at eleven furlongs. Midnight Lute’s dam, Candytuft, is a daughter of Dehere – a son of Deputy Minister, a strong stamina influence. A Canadian Hall of Famer, Deputy Minister has appeared within the first three generations of numerous distance horses, including
Curlin, Paynter, and Rags to Riches. He was a tremendous broodmare sire, producing the dams of many talented distance horses, including the multiple group one-winning Kane Hekili and Sarava, winner of the 2002 Belmont.

Although his sire was a champion sprinter, the bottom side of Mylute’s pedigree provides more cause for worry regarding his long distance abilities. His dam, the black-type-winning Stage Stop, did not win beyond one mile and neither did her sire, top southern stallion Valid Expectations. Her 2009 colt, She Digs Me, was a graded stakes-winning sprinter that never even attempted to race beyond six furlongs.

The first stamina influence on the dam side of Mylute's pedigree is the sire of the colt's granddam: Strike the Gold. A Kentucky Derby winner and Belmont runner-up, Strike the Gold - a son of "Triple Crown runner-up" Alydar - was sent to Turkey after finding little success in the American breeding industry.

The sire of Mylute’s fourth dam is Hawaii, Horse of the Year in South Africa and a winner of numerous long-distance races, such as the United Nations Handicap and the Man O’ War Stakes. A significant note regarding Mylute’s pedigree is the presence of the great racehorse and sire, Ribot, as the sire of Mylute’s fifth dam. A horse who won up to 3,000 meters (about fifteen furlongs), Ribot won a wealth of prestigious distance races, including the Gran Premio del Jockey Club, the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (twice), the Gran Premio di Milano, and the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes.

Mylute's consistency and stamina may form a huge question mark, but his talent is undeniable. Despite the few and far between stamina influences in his ancestry, Mylute appears to draw strength from those that do exist. Furthermore, to his advantage is his experience, which many of the horses he will face in the Derby lack.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Derby Hopeful: Java's War

Java's War is a cherished Thoroughbred, as he is among one of just a limited amount of crops sired by champion War Pass, who tragically died at the age of five. In fact, Java’s War was his first winner, winning a maiden special weight over Ellis Park’s turf course last July. Since then, he has proven to be one of the late sire’s best progeny, alongside fellow Derby contender Revolutionary.

Prior to becoming War Pass’ initial offspring to capture a race, Java’s War was fifth in a five-furlong turf maiden special weight at Churchill Downs. The added three-eighths of a mile in his following start were to the colt’s benefit, allowing the bay colt to kick clear to a 1 ¾-length triumph.

Sent to Louisiana for his stakes debut, the Sunday Silence Stakes over Louisiana Downs’ turf course, Java’s War faced a tough opponent in the highly-touted
Brown Almighty, who was coming off an easy win in the Sunny’s Halo Stakes, contested over the same grass oval. Away rather slowly from the gate – which would become his trademark –, Java’s War progressively gained ground on the frontrunners with a rail-skimming trip. By the time the field had commenced their run into the far turn, Java’s War had upgraded to a position among the first half of the field. He swung wide as the two-year-olds turned for home, using powerful strides to close in on Brown Almighty, surging past that rival to score by a neck.

Java’s War made his first start away from the turf on a rather similar surface – the Polytrack at Keeneland – in the Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity (GI) in his subsequent race. Rating off the pace between horses, Java’s War found himself behind a barrier of horses rounding the far turn but, when angled to the outside, began to close in on the leader. However, with a furlong of the race remaining, the rivals to both sides of him – Pataky Kid and Dynamic Sky – drifted toward him, squeezing him and thus harming his momentum. But Java’s War managed to finish third, bested by just 1 ¾ lengths.

Transferring to the dirt for his juvenile finale, Java’s War took on twelve rivals in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (GII) at Churchill Downs. The race was essentially over for the colt from the beginning, when he broke slowly from the rail post, ahead of only one rival as the field entered the first bend. He improved his position down the backstretch, closing the gap between himself and his rivals as he raced on the outside. Remaining very wide around the far turn and down the lane, Java’s War flattened out in the homestretch, crossing the wire sixth.

The Kenny McPeek trainee made his three-year-old debut in the Tampa Bay Derby (GII), competing against the highly regarded, undefeated
Verrazano. Away from the gate very snaillike yet again, Java’s War was the trailer by an abundance of lengths as the field headed into the clubhouse turn. Although he appeared to have no chance down the backstretch as he lagged behind by double-digit lengths, Java’s War made up remarkable ground on the rest of the field, passing all but three horses by the middle of the final curve.

Going wide around the far turn, the colt set his sights on the drawing-away Verrazano, effortlessly gaining ground on him despite running greenly. Although Verrazano was an easy winner of the race, the rally Java’s War had made was breathtaking, as he had made up a plethora of lengths within a short amount of time. His final quarter-mile of 25.02 seconds was the third-fastest final two furlongs of any Derby prep of the season recorded by Trakus.

Java’s War’s final prep for the Derby resulted in a return to Keeneland’s Polytrack for the Blue Grass Stakes (GI). The colt again left the gate very sluggishly, hesitating and thus being left several strides behind his thirteen competitors. Again double-digit lengths behind the leaders, Java’s War seemed hopelessly beaten early on down the backstretch, racing several lengths off even the nearest adversary. After a half-mile, the colt finally began to grow closer to the rest of the field and at about the three-eighths pole, he kicked into gear, passing his closest rivals.

Maneuvered to the outside by Julien Leparoux, Java’s War raced incredibly wide as the field turned for home. But this did not deter his impressive rally; powerfully, the bay grew closer to the front, passing multiple rivals as he determinedly chased the frontrunners. Achieving what seemed to be the impossible, Java’s War got up in time, overtaking
Palace Malice by a neck to take the winner’s purse of $450,000.

Java’s War had traveled more ground than the majority of his rivals in the Blue Grass and his final two furlongs of 24.01 was the fastest of any last quarter-mile recorded by Trakus during the 2013 Derby prep season.

Java's War's pedigree
From pedigreequery.com

Java’s War’s pedigree should assist him in traveling a route of ground over dirt. The colt’s sire – the late, undefeated champion juvenile War Pass – won up to a mile and one-sixteenth but came within a half-length of winning at nine furlongs. War Pass was a result of the mating between Cherokee Run, a champion sprinter who produced nearly fifty black-type winners, and a black-type-placed Mr. Prospector mare, Vue. Though this side of Java’s War’s pedigree implies that he is limited to short distances, the bottom side of the colt's pedigree provides much greater distance implications.

Out of the British-bred Java, a mare who won up to ten furlongs, Java's War is a half-brother to Coffee Bar, a stakes-placed runner at nine furlongs that won up to a mile and a sixteenth. Java's sire is Rainbow Quest, a European champion that proved brilliant over long distances, winning many prestigious races over a route of ground, including the 2,400-meter (approximately 1 1/2 miles) Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. At stud, Rainbow Quest was outstanding, producing more than 100 stakes winners - many of which won at the group level. He sired a wealth of grade/group one winners that were victorious at ten furlongs or beyond, including Colour Vision, Croco Rouge, High and Low, Millenary, Nedawi, Quest for Fame, Rainbow Dancer, Raintrap, Saumarez, Spectrum, Sunshack, and Urgent Request. Rainbow Quest has also proven to be a spectacular broodmare sire, producing the dams of the group one-winning distance horses Look Here and Spanish Moon – both of which won at twelve furlongs.

Java’s War’s granddam, Island Jamboree, was a multiple stakes-winning miler that was also graded stakes-placed. A daughter of Explodent, Island Jamboree was a terrific broodmare, foaling the multiple grade one-winning champion turf female Fiji, who won at ten furlongs twice, and the multiple group stakes-winning Capri, victorious at 2,400 meters on numerous occasions.

Java’s War's third dam is a daughter of Wing Out, a successful distance horse that won or placed in several long distance events, including a trifecta of grade ones. The colt's fourth dam, Careless Notion, was a fantastic broodmare, producing the grade one-winning Cacoethes, who won multiple mile and one-half races, as well as the additional grade one winner Fabulous Notion and the stakes-winning Margaret Booth.

The sire of Java's War's fifth dam is Nasrullah, a champion who won the prestigious Champion Stakes at ten furlongs. He has been very influential in the ancestry of the Thoroughbred and as a sire, he sired numerous distance horses, including Nashua - who won the Preakness and Belmont after finishing second in the Derby; Bold Ruler - Preakness victor and sire of Triple Crown winner Secretariat; Bald Eagle - a champion that excelled in route races; Belmont champion Jaipur; and an impressive abundance of other brilliant distance horses.

The main worry regarding Java's War's chances in the Kentucky Derby pertains to the questions about his ability to break sharply. In his past few starts, Java's War has left the gate very slowly, which could be detrimental in the Derby. However, he has left the gate well in the past. In addition, there may be doubts regarding his affinity for Churchill's dirt due to his sixth-place effort in the Kentucky Jockey Club over the Louisville oval last fall. But that number is deceiving, as Java's War turned in a better performance in that race than one may think. He could easily become underrated and surprise many on race day with a superb performance.