The “Road To The Kentucky Derby” runs through the Bluegrass State today where Uncaptured will go to the starting gate as the 3-1 morning-line favorite in the 42nd running of the $550,000 Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati Racing Spiral Stakes (G3) at Turfway Park in Florence, Kentucky.
Uncaptured has not raced since winning the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs last November. However, with seven starts as a 2-year-old and an impressive 6-0-0 record, Uncaptured has the foundation that could, perhaps, make him competitive in today’s race. Another plus is that since his return to training in February, Uncaptured has fired a bullet in practically every workout and his last workout was one mile conditioner on March 12.
While Uncaptured is a talented colt, the one concern I’ve had is that the finish times in most of his races have not been as fast as what I’d like to see in a colt training for classic competition. However, if Uncaptured takes another step forward or repeats his form as a 2-year-old, I look for him to be competitive. But, I’m not too keen on him for the win.
Three long shots I like in this race are Balance The Books (7-2), General Election (12-1) and Black Onyx (10-1).
Trainer Chad Brown must have a lot of confidence in the potential of Balance The Books to be competitive stretching out to 9-furlongs in his debut as a 3-year-old. And it appears that Brown has had confidence in him from the beginning. With a 2-1-1 record in four starts on the turf, Balance The Books has already shown his talent to be competitive running over a route of ground.
In his maiden debut last August, Balance The Books finished second in an 8½-furlong race. He followed that performance with a win in the With Anticipation Stakes (G2) and Bourbon Stakes (G3), both at 8½-furlongs. His worst performance was a third-place finish in the one mile Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Stakes (G1).
As a 2-year-old, Balance The Books showed more brilliance in stakes route racing than his sire, Lemon Drop Kid, who’s best performance was a first-place finish in the one-mile Belmont Futurity Stakes (G1) and a second-place finish in the 8½-furlong Champagne Stakes (G1).
As a 3-year-old, Lemon Drop Kid finished third in the 9-furlong Peter Pan Stakes (G2) en route to a first-place finish in the 12-furlong Belmont Stakes (G1).
Seeking The Gold, the damsire of Balance The Books, made only one start as a 2-year-old, easily winning his maiden-debut by 12 lengths in December of 1987. He came back as a 3-year-old in January with another easy win by 4½-lenghts in his season debut at Gulfstream Park. He followed that performance with another win in an allowance stakes, a win in the Swale Stakes and a second place finish in both the Gotham Stakes (G2) and Wood Memorial Stakes (G1) en route to a seventh-place finish in the 1988 Kentucky Derby (G1).
Seeking the Gold went on to finish his 3-year-old racing season with victories in the Peter Pan Stakes (G2), Dwyer Stakes (G1) and the Super Derby (G1). He finished second in the Haskell Stakes (G1), Travers Stakes (G1), Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) and the Metropolitan Handicap (G1).
I look for Balance The Books to be competitive in today’s race, and any improvement over last year’s form will make him tough to beat.
Winstar Farm’s General Election is a colt I profiled in my 2013 Kentucky Derby Outlook and I’ve been looking forward to see him stretch out to 9-furlongs. He comes into this race with a 2-1-0 record in four starts including a win in the John Battaglia Memorial Stakes at Turfway Park on March 2.
General Election has the breeding to be competitive in today’s race. His sire, Harlan’s Holiday, was a tough competitor on the Derby trail who was 4-2-0 in six starts as a two year old winning the Iroquois Stakes (G3), Miller Genuine Draft Cradle Stakes, Cleveland Kindergarten Stakes and the Hoover Stakes.
As a 3-year-old, Harlan’s Holiday finished second in the Holy Bull Stakes (G3) and Fountain of Youth Stakes (G1). He followed up with a win in the Florida Derby (G1) and Blue Grass Stakes (G1) and went into the 2002 Kentucky Derby as the 6-1 favorite but finished seventh in a field of 18.
Kingmambo, the damsire of General Election, was a Classic Champion Thoroughbred in France and winner of the classic Poule d'Essai des Poulains (Group 1). At stud, Kingmambo sired the notable champion thoroughbreds Lemon Drop Kid, El Condor Pasa, King Kamehameha, Henrythenavigator, Archipenko, Campanologist and Alkaased.
Maison Close, the second dam of General Election, was a stakes winner and the fourth dam, Madelia, was undefeated in four starts and a classic winner of the French 1,000 Guineas. General Election’s tail female line traces back to Hilarity (Family 1-p) and that line produced the Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness Stakes (G1) winner Pensive (1944). The tail-female line also is reinforced by the Classic Champion Thoroughbreds Kingmambo, Spectacular Bid, Northern Dancer and Caro.
It remains to be seen if General Election has any classic potential. A win in the Spiral Stakes (G3) would be a step in the right direction.
Black Onyx, a fast colt of Rock Hard Ten, has shown good speed on dirt and turf, and he comes into today’s race with a 2-1-0 record in four starts. Last November, Black Onyx won a one mile dirt race in 1:36.22 and he won his last race on the turf in racehorse time of 1:40.99.
A repeat of those performances will make Black Onyx a tough competitor in the Spiral Stakes (G3), and a recent bullet workout on March 15 has him ready to run a good race at a good price.
Honorable mention goes to My Name Is Michael (10-1) who’s coming into today’s race off a third-place finish in the Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3), and he has room to improve in his second start of the season. Trainer Bill Mott knows how to condition horses for big races, and a recent bullet workout could have My Name Is Michael ready to run a good race.
Under the new scoring system implemented by Churchill Downs to determine eligibility for horses to enter the Derby starting gate, the winner of the Spiral Stakes (G2) will receive 50 points while second-place will yield 20 points, the third-place finisher will receive 10 points and the fourth-place finisher will receive 5 points. Here’s a look at the current top 20 list:
Kentucky Derby 2013 Leaderboard
(Updated March 16, 2013)
Individual Leaders ranking, total points, Trainer, Non-Restricted Stakes Earnings
1 = Will Take Charge, 60, D. Wayne Lukas, $512,971
2 = Vyjack, 50, Rudy Rodriguez, $405,000
3 = Orb, 50, Shug McGaughey III, $240,000
4 = Verrazano, 50, Todd Pletcher, $210,000
5 = Hear The Ghost, 50, Jerry Hollendorfer, $195,400
6 = Oxbow, 36, D. Wayne Lukas, $316,000
7 = Flashback, 30, Bob Baffert, $180,000
8 = Goldencents, 29, Doug O’Neill, $758,000
9 = Shanghai Bobby, 24, Todd Pletcher, $1,731,000
10 = Java’s War, 22, Ken McPeek, $201,772
11 = Den’s Legacy, 20, Bob Baffert, $325,000
12 = Falling Sky, 20, John Terranova II, $157,500
13 = West Hills Giant, 20, John Terranova II, $89,000
14 = Code West, 20, Bob Baffert, $80,000
15 = Dynamic Sky, 13, Mark Casse, $289,168
16 = Speak Logistics, 11, Eddie Pleasa, Jr., $52,500
17 = Itsmyluckyday, 10, Eddie Plesa, Jr., $393,600
18 = Overanalyze, 10, Todd Pletcher, $308,381
19 = Uncaptured, 10, Mark Casse, $292,374
20 = Super Ninety Nine, 10, Bob Baffert, $218,000
For Derby fans that like statistics, here’s a look at current list of Kentucky Derby qualifiers, their sire line and damsire line.
Mr. Prospector Sire Line, Damsire Line
Elnaawi, Mr. Prospector/Northern Dancer
Will Take Charge, Mr. Prospector/Northern Dancer
Palace Malice, Mr. Prospector/Northern Dancer
Code West, Mr. Prospector/Royal Charger
Since 1990, the Mr. Prospector sire line has produced the most Derby winners with a total of 11. Of those 11, the Fappiano branch has produced the most with a total of 4 winners. The Mr. Prospector/Northern Dancer nick has been the most successful with 3 winners. The Mr. Prospector/Royal Charger nick produced one Derby winner. Of the current qualifiers, Will Take Charge is the only descendant of Fappiano.
Northern Dancer Sire Line, Damsire Line
Itsmyluckyday, Northern Dancer/Bold Ruler
Shanghai Bobby, Northern Dancer/Nasrullah
Speak Logistics, Northern Dancer/Northern Dancer
Falling Sky, Northern Dancer/Northern Dancer
Vyjack, Northern Dancer/Northern Dancer
Den’s Legacy, Northern Dancer/Northern Dancer
Goldencents, Northern Dancer/Mr. Prospector
Ive Struck a Nerve, Northern Dancer/Mr. Prospector
Uncaptured, Northern Dancer/Royal Charger
West Hills Giant, Northern Dancer/Royal Charger
Oxbow, Northern Dancer/Man O’ War
Overanalyze, Northern Dancer/Damascus
Since 1990, the Northern Dancer sire line has produced 3 Derby winners with the damsire line of those winners descending from Northern Dancer, Royal Charger and Ribot. Broodmare descendants of Northern Dancer have produced 5 Derby winners.
Bold Ruler Sire Line, Damsire Line
Dynamic Sky, Bold Ruler/Mr. Prospector
Orb, Bold Ruler/Mr. Prospector
Super Ninety Nine, Bold Ruler/Mr. Prospector
Flashback, Bold Ruler/Mr. Prospector
Since 1990, the Bold Ruler sire line has produced no Derby winners.
Nasrullah Sire Line, Damsire Line
Revolutionary, Nasrullah/Bold Ruler
Since 1990, the Blushing Groom, Nasrullah sire line has produced one Derby winner and that was Animal Kingdom in 2011.
Since 1990, 413 horses have entered the Derby starting gate.
Of those 413, 111 (27 %) were descendants of the Mr. Prospector sire line. Of those 111, 29 (26%) finished in the top four.
Of those 413, 104 (25%) were descendants of the Northern Dancer sire line. Of those 104, 21 (20%) finished in the top four.
Of those 413, 75 (18%) were descendants of the Nasrullah sire line. Of those 75, 15 (20%) finished in the top four.
Of those 413, 37 (9%) were descendants of the Royal Charger sire line. Of those 37, 12 (32% finished in the top four.
Royal Charger sire line descendants have a better percentage of finishing in the top four and the colt on this year’s trail that is a descendant of Royal Charger is Verrazano.