Friday, April 12, 2013

Blue Grass Stakes Racing Roundup

The “Road To The Kentucky Derby” comes to Keeneland Saturday where an overflow field of 15 horses has been drawn for the 89th running of the $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G1), with Divine Ambition listed as the also eligible entrant. Uncaptured, the tepid 7-2 morning-line favorite, will go the starting gate for trainer Mark Casse who also has Dynamic Sky (10-1) entered in the race.
Of the pair, I like Uncaptured the best. He showed his talent last month at Turfway Park, finishing second in his 3-year-old debut, after a four-month layoff, to Black Onyx in the Spiral Stakes (G3), boosting his record to 6-1-0 in eight career starts.
I liked Uncaptured in the Spiral. However, I didn’t like him for the win and, while I think that Uncaptured will be competitive in the Blue Grass, I don’t like him for the win in this spot either. Three other young colts I like better are Palace Malice (8-1), Java’s War (4-1) and Tesseron (50-1).
Palace Malice was running a huge race in the Louisiana Derby (G2) when he got stuck on the rail in the stretch and lost any chance of victory. Here’s the chart call:

PALACE MALICE saved ground on the first turn, made a strong middle move, moved closer while off the rail on the far turn, waited while blocked from the quarter-pole to the furlong marker, had a bunch of rivals pass him in the process, moved to the outside and lost any chance.

His 104 Brisnet E1 pace figure, and E2 figure of 114, were huge, and despite his disappointing seventh-place finish Palace Malice earned a 97 speed figure for that performance.
Palace Malice gets a jockey switch to Garrett Gomez and I’m looking for him to run a better race. His dismal finish in the Louisiana Derby (G2) is not an indicator of his talent and he has the breeding to be competitive.
His sire, Curlin, was undefeated in three starts as a 3-year-old, including a win in the Rebel Stakes (G3) and Arkansas Derby (G2), en route to a third-place finish in the 2007 Kentucky Derby (G1).
Curlin went on to win the Preakness Stakes (G1) by a head and he lost the Belmont Stakes (G1) by a head. He won numerous Eclipse awards, compiled an 11-2-2 record in 16 career starts and earned over $10.5 million dollars.
Palace Malice’s grandsire, Smart Strike, has proven to be an outstanding sire of champions and classic champions. He sired the Classic Champion Thoroughbreds Curlin and Lookin at Lucky and he’s the damsire of the 2009 Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird.
In addition, Smart Strike is the sire of numerous Canadian Sovereign Award winners: Soaring Free, Portcullis, Added Edge, Eye of the Sphynx, Gold Strike; and Smart Strike is the sire of the American Eclipse Award winner English Channel.
Royal Anthem, the damsire of Palace Malice, was an outstanding turf horse who did his best racing at 10-furlongs and further winning the Fairway Stakes, King Edward VII Stakes (Group 2) and Juddmonte International Stakes (Group 1) in England as well as the Canadian International Stakes (G1), then, Palace Malice should run better as the races get longer.
Java’s War, after a four-month layoff, looked impressive in his 3-year-old debut, finishing second to the early Kentucky Derby favorite Verrazano. Java’s War has room to improve in his second start of the season and he has the breeding to be competitive in the Blue Grass.
Java’s War is a descendant of the Cherokee Run sire line and in my July 3 blog of 2009 I noted the importance of keeping track of colts from that line when they stretch out to route racing.
Over the years, the Cherokee Run sire line has produced a lot of good middle- distance runners such as War Pass, the sire of Java’s War. Other good runners from that line include: Yonaguska, Kafwain, Sir Cherokee, During, Chelokee, Zanjero, Recapturetheglory, Musket Man and The Pamplemousse.
A recent bullet workout could have Java’s War ready to run a good race.
Despite his fourth-place finish, Tesseron looked impressive in his 3-year-old debut last February at Gulfstream Park where he finished 2¼-lengths shy of the victor, Black Onyx, who was my long shot pick in the Spiral Stakes. In the stretch run, Tesseron stalked the leaders who posted a racehorse time of 1:34.77 for the mile and a finish time of 1:40.99.
Tesseron has room to improve in his second start of the season and another move forward will make him competitive in the Blue Grass Stakes (G1).
Honorable mention goes to Balance The Books (15-1) who bombed in the Spiral Stakes (G3), but has the breeding to be competitive. If he looks good in the post parade, Balance The Books may be worth a small wager.


The winner of the Blue Grass Stakes (G1) will receive 100 points while second-place will yield 40 points, the third-place finisher will receive 20 points and the fourth-place finisher will receive 10 points. Here’s a look at the current top 20 list:

Kentucky Derby 2013 Leaderboard
(Updated April 6, 2013)

Individual Leaders ranking, total points, Trainer, Non-Restricted Stakes Earnings
1 = Orb, 150, Shug McGaughey III, $840,000
2 = Verrazano, 150, Todd Pletcher, $810,000
3 = Goldencents, 129, Doug O’Neill, $1,208,000
4 = Revolutionary, 110, Todd Pletcher, $720,000
5 = Lines of Battle, 100, Aidan O’Brien, $1,261,089
6 = Vyjack, 70, Rudy Rodriguez, $405,000
7 = Will Take Charge, 60, D. Wayne Lukas, $512,971
8 = Itsmyluckyday, 50, Eddie Plesa, Jr., $593,600
9 = Govenor Charlie, 50, Bob Baffert, $400,000
10 = Black Onyx, 50, Kelly Breen, $317,130
11 = Normandy Invasion, 44, Chad Brown, $258,000
12 = Mylute, 42, Tom Amoss, $363,365
13 = Oxbow, 36, D. Wayne Lukas, $316,000
14 = Uncaptured, 30, Mark Casse, $394,674
15 = Super Ninety Nine, 30, Bob Baffert, $308,000
16 = Java’s War, 22, Ken McPeek, $201,772
17 = Merit Man, 20, Bob Hess Jr., $357,500
18 = Den’s Legacy, 20, Bob Baffert, $325,000
19 = Falling Sky, 20, John Terranova II, $157,500
20 = Departing, 20, Al Stall Jr., $130,000


  1. Calvin,

    Who are your top 5 Derby horses after the big preps are now in the books?

  2. Anonymous,

    I'm still working on my analysis and unless things change, here are my top four:

    Lines of Battle
    Govenor Charlie

    Black Onyx or Palace Malice may round out the top five. I still have to analyze several horses.

    1. Thanks - Not very high on Orb or haven't analyzed yet?

    2. Still working on the analysis.


    1. THE GRADED STAKES FACTOR. (The horse ran in a graded stakes race as a 3-year-old before March 31.) This points out horses who have competed against tough competition early in the year at 3 and not just at the last minute in April, enabling the horse to be properly battle-tested. (Exceptions: Since the introduction of graded stakes races in the U.S. in 1973, only Genuine Risk in 1980, Sunny’s Halo in 1983 and Mine That Bird in 2009 have won the Derby without running in a graded stakes race at 3 before March 31.)

    2. THE WIN IN A GRADED STAKES FACTOR. (The horse has won a graded stakes race.) This points out horses who have shown they have the class to win a graded stakes race. (Exceptions: Alysheba in 1987, Funny Cide in 2003 and Giacomo in 2005 are the only exceptions since the introduction of U.S. graded stakes races in 1973; Alysheba in 1987 did finish first in the Blue Grass, only to be disqualified and placed third.)

    3. THE EIGHTH POLE FACTOR. (In either of his or her last two starts before the Derby, the horse was either first or second with a furlong to go.) This points out horses who were running strongly at the eighth pole, usually in races at 1 1/16 or 1 1/8 miles. By running strongly at the same point in the Derby, a horse would be in a prime position to win the roses. (Exceptions: Since 1955, the Derby winners who weren’t either first or second at the eighth pole in his or her last two starts have been Tim Tam in 1958, Carry Back in 1961, Cannonade in 1974, Gato Del Sol in 1982, Unbridled in 1990 and Sea Hero in 1993, with Canonero II in 1971 unknown.)

    4. THE GAMENESS FACTOR. (The horse’s finish position in both of his or her last two races before the Derby was no worse than his or her running position at the eighth pole.) This points out horses who don’t like to get passed in the final furlong. (Exceptions: Since 1955, the exceptions have been Venetian Way in 1960, Cannonade in 1974, Foolish Pleasure in 1975, Ferdinand in 1986, Silver Charm in 1997, Mine That Bird in 2009 and Super Saver in 2010, with Canonero II in 1971 unknown.)

    5. THE DISTANCE FOUNDATION FACTOR. (The horse has finished at least third in a 1 1/8-mile race before the Derby.) This points out horses who have the proper foundation and/or stamina for the Derby distance. (Exceptions: Since 1955, the only exceptions have been Kauai King in 1966, Sea Hero in 1993, Charismatic in 1999, Giacomo in 2005 and Mine That Bird in 2009.)

    6. THE SUFFICIENT RACING EXPERIENCE FACTOR. (The horse has had at least six lifetime starts before the Derby.) This points out horses who have the needed experience. (Exceptions: Since 1955, Grindstone in 1996, Fusaichi Pegasus in 2000, Barbaro in 2006 and Big Brown in 2008 have been the only exceptions. Grindsone, Fusaichi Pegasus and Barbaro each had made five starts before the Kentucky Derby. Big Brown had made three starts before the Kentucky Derby.)

    7. THE NO ADDING BLINKERS AS A 3-YEAR-OLD FACTOR. (The horse has not added blinkers in his or her final start at 3 before the Derby.) This seems to point out that, if a horse is good enough to win the Derby, the trainer is not searching for answers so late in the game. (Since Daily Racing Form began including blinkers in its past performances in 1987, no horse has added blinkers in his or her last start at 3 before winning the Derby.)

    8. RACED AS A 2-YEAR-OLD FACTOR. (The horse made at least one start as a 2-year-old.) (Exception: Apollo in 1882 is the only Kentucky Derby winner who didn’t race as a 2-year-old. Since 1955, horses unraced at 2 are 0 for 46 in the Kentucky Derby. During that time, the only horses to even place or show were Strodes Creek, who finished second in 1994, and Curlin, third in 2007).

    9. NOT A GELDING FACTOR. (The horse is not a gelding.) (Exceptions: Funny Cide in 2003 and Mine That Bird in 2009 are the only geldings to win the Derby since Clyde Van Dusen in 1929.)

  4. Thanks for the input on Jon White's Nine Key Kentucky Derby Factors.

  5. Calvin:

    Nice call on the Blue Grass!


  6. Thanks Alex. Hoping to bring down the superfecta this year.

  7. Calvin, superfecta or not you and your site are SUPER !!