Sunday, April 21, 2013

Derby Hopeful: Overanalyze

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.

Mike Repole and Todd Pletcher have been a dynamic duo in the sport of racing over the past handful of years. Carrying the bright blue and orange silks of Repole Stable and the trademark white bridle of the Pletcher barn, many popular horses have raced for this team in recent years: Caixa Eletronica, Calibrachoa, Stay Thirsty, and Uncle Mo among them. The racing world has come to know the party atmosphere the enthusiastic Repole brings to the races, but can one even imagine how he would react to one of his horse’s winning the Kentucky Derby (GI)?

Repole has already made the trip to Louisville when he brought two colts in 2011, but it ended in great disappointment when his Eclipse champion, Uncle Mo, was scratched prior to the race and his future multiple grade one winner, Stay Thirsty, finished twelfth. But Repole has a chance to overshadow his experience at the 2011 Kentucky Derby with Overanalyze, a colt the co-founder and former president of Vitaminwater acquired for $380,000 at the 2011 Keeneland September Yearling Sale.

Overanalyze won at first asking, capturing a five-furlong maiden special weight at Saratoga in August of 2012. Making his graded stakes debut in the seven-furlong Hopeful Stakes (GII) at the Spa, Overanalyze raced off the pace but failed to fire, finishing fourth behind eventual Champion Two-Year-Old Male Shanghai Bobby.

But Overanalyze made a splash in his subsequent race, a 3 ¼-length victory in the six-furlong Futurity Stakes (GII) at Belmont Park. A rough start left Overanalyze several lengths off the leaders, trailing the field down the backstretch. However, he made a stunning rally around the far turn, going widest of all to close in on his rivals. With an impressive turn of foot, the bay colt easily coasted to his first graded stakes conquest.

Making his first start outside of New York at Churchill Downs in the Iroquois Stakes (GIII) next out, Overanalyze raced among the front-running group, though he dropped back, losing position as the field began to enter the far turn of the one-turn mile event. Traveling wide around the bend, Overanalyze seemed to have lost his momentum as the field battled down the homestretch and finished a distant third behind Uncaptured.

Returning to New York for his juvenile finale, Overanalyze took on nine rivals in the nine-furlong Remsen Stakes (GII) at Aqueduct, which would be his two-turn debut. After breaking cleanly from the starting gate, Overanalyze found a position off the leader as he raced wide into the clubhouse turn. Settling just off Delhomme, Overanalyze found himself in a comfortable position as the two-year-olds galloped into the backstretch.

As a steady pace was set, Overanalyze remained content in his stalking position before commencing his rally around the final bend. Struggling to change leads as the field turned for home, Overanalyze seemed hopelessly beaten as Delhomme began to kick clear and Normandy Invasion made a stirring rally on the outside. But he suddenly dug deep, finding more in late stretch to outfinish Normandy Invasion by a nose.

Overanalyze did not begin his sophomore campaign until March 2 in the Gotham Stakes (GIII) at Aqueduct. The colt received an easy trip, rating just off a fairly slow pace. But around the far turn, Overanalyze lost ground and remained flat in the homestretch, finishing fifth.

But a trip to Oaklawn Park for the Arkansas Derby (GI) – a race that has yielded a pair of Kentucky Derby victors and six Preakness Stakes (GI) winners – served as redemption for the colt. Breaking from the ninth gate in a field of ten, Overanalyze was forced to go wide around the initial curve, leaving him to settle several lengths off the leaders down the backside.

Given much space as he galloped contentedly down the backstretch, Rafael Bejarano put Overanalyze into a drive around the far turn and the Todd Pletcher trainee responded with a burst of speed, looming large on the outside. The colt easily took the lead as the field reached the straightaway, coasting to an effortless 4 ¼-length victory reminiscent of his Futurity win as a two-year-old.

Although the final time of 1:51.94 was the slowest final clocking of the nine-furlong Arkansas Derby since 1978, the pace was slow and thus called for a slow final time. This has been a recurrent theme along the Derby trail and therefore shouldn’t be used against Overanalyze in the Run for the Roses, as he is not the only horse that has recorded slow final times in his races.

Overanalyze’s pedigree may lean more towards short distances than long distances, but like Normandy Invasion, he runs like a horse that wants more ground. In addition, further study of his pedigree does provide more hope for his chances at classic distance than a simple glance at his bloodlines.

Overanalyze's pedigree

His late sire, Dixie Union, was never considered much of a distance horse. Most of his victories came at a sprinting distance, though he did win the nine-furlong Haskell Invitational Handicap (GI). However, the one time he attempted ten furlongs was in the 2000 Travers Stakes (GI), in which he did not rally strongly enough and finished fourth. Dixie Chatter, his multiple grade one-winning son, never won beyond a mile and one-sixteenth and Dixie Union’s brilliant grade one-winning daughter, Hot Dixie Chick, was never victorious at a distance longer than seven furlongs.

But the same distance worry was placed upon a son of Dixie Union during last year’s Triple Crown in Union Rags, who would go on to win the twelve-furlong Belmont Stakes (GI). Other offspring of Dixie Union have shown affinity for distance as well. For instance, four of his son Grasshopper’s five wins came at one mile or farther and he lost to the Kentucky Derby-winning Street Sense by just a half-length in the ten-furlong Travers. Dixie Union also sired Gone Astray, a two-time winner at nine furlongs. In fact, those two nine-furlong wins by Gone Astray came in graded stakes races in which the horse looked capable of going an extra furlong.

Unacloud, Overanalyze's dam, never raced, but has been a rather fruitful producer, foaling not only Overanalyze, but the grade one-winning Meadow Breeze, once a precocious juvenile that won up to the distance of seven furlongs. She is also the dam of the graded stakes-placed Mighty Monsoon. Although Unacloud has mainly excelled with producing sprinters and milers, her sire – Unaccounted For –won at nine furlongs twice. Not only did Unaccounted For defeat Preakness and Belmont winner Tabasco Cat in the  Jim Dandy Stakes (GII, 9F), but he also finished just a length behind the great Cigar in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (GI, 10F) prior to finishing third behind that legend as the second choice in the 1995 Breeders' Cup Classic (GI, 10F). Unaccounted For is a son of Private Account, a direct descendant of the great La Troienne - who is found in the direct tail female line of four Derby winners - that won the Gulfstream Park Handicap (GI, 10F) and the Widener Handicap (GI, 10F) and produced many distance horses, including the legendary Personal Ensign.

Overanalyze's second dam, Cloud's Ambre, only won once – breaking her maiden at six furlongs – and was principally a dam of sprinters. Her sire, Two Punch, has served as a speed influence, and her broodmare sire, Yukon, was chiefly a sire of successful milers, including Overanalyze’s third dam, the multiple stakes-winning Arctic Cloud.

Despite appearing to be rather lacking in outstanding stakes success, Overanalyze’s tail female line traces back to Muzzie II, a mare imported from Great Britain in 1931 that produced the multiple stakes-winning Shot Put – a gelding that equaled and set numerous track records at various distances, including 2 ¾ miles and 2 ¼ miles.

A Rasmussen Factor – or inbreeding to a superior female through siblings – is present in Overanalyze’s pedigree, as the colt is inbred 5 X 5 to Gold Digger through Mr. Prospector and his half-brother, Yukon. Inbreeding to Mr. Prospector himself – which is included in Overanalyze’s bloodlines with a 4 X 4 cross – has been widely successful, being present in the pedigrees of a plethora of grade/group one winners, including the routers Flower Alley, Shadow Cast, and Volponi. Inbreeding to Gold Digger has also been an effective tool in producing talented horses, including Ready’s Gal – a multiple graded stakes winner that won up to nine furlongs – and Kwik – a stakes winner that won up to fourteen furlongs.

And although Overanalyze’s genealogy may appear to be predominantly geared towards nine furlongs or less, the colt is bred on the same cross as the group stakes-winning Menhoubah, winner of the 2,200-meter (approximately 11 furlongs) Italian Oaks.

It must be pointed out that Overanalyze has never won consecutive races, having strung together a win-lose-win-lose pattern. This could be worrisome, as he is entering the Derby with a victory, but this colt also seems to be coming into his own and could certainly end this pattern  - at some point, at the very least. As for the worry his pedigree may generate regarding his distance abilities, despite the many speed influences that reside in his ancestry, he has strong support from stamina forces as well. Moreover, Overanalyze has endured wide trips in many of his races, thus traveling more ground than his rivals. He also finishes as if he would like more ground and therefore could relish the added distance in the Derby.

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