The “Road to the Kentucky Derby” takes us to the Blue Grass State Saturday where an overflow field of 16 young Thoroughbreds have been entered in the 100th running of the $400,000 Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity Stakes (G1) at Keeneland racetrack. Post time for the race is 4:55 p.m. Eastern time.
After that race, the road takes us northeast to the Empire State where nine young Thoroughbreds have been entered in the 143rd running of the $500,000 Foxwoods Champagne Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park. Post time is 5:46 Eastern time.
Under the new tiered-point system implemented by Churchill Downs last year, the winner of the Dixiana and Champagne will receive 10 points apiece, while the second-place finisher will receive 4 points, the third-place finisher will receive 2 points and 1 point will be awarded to the fourth-place finisher.
DIXIANA BREEDERS’ FUTURITY
Trainer Tom Amoss will send Kendalls’ Boy to the starting gate as the lukewarm 4-1 morning line favorite. Kendall’s Boy is stepping up in class and comes into the race off of a 5¼-length victory at Churchill Downs on September 13.
Jockey Garrett Gomez picks up the mount while regular rider Rosie Napravnik is in New York to ride a long shot I like in the Champagne Stakes (G1) – Grand Arrival.
If Kendall’s Boy repeats the performance of his last race, he could be competitive in the Dixiana. But, I’m not too keen on him for the win.
A long shot I like is Conquest Titan (6-1) who comes into the Dixiana off of a 5¼-length win in the 7-furlong Swynford Stakes at Woodbine. I especially like his pedigree.
His sire-line Ancestral Herd influence descends from Fappiano which has been the most productive branch of the Mr. Prospector Ancestral Herd on the Triple Crown Trail. Three of the stallions on the sire line – Birdstone, Grindstone and Unbridled – were Classic Champion Thoroughbreds and that is a powerful influence in the pedigree.
Mineshaft, the damsire of Conquest Titan, was an outstanding route racer who won races such as New Orleans Handicap (G2), Ben Ali Stakes (G3), Pimlico Special Handicap (G1), Suburban Handicap (G1), Woodward Stakes (G1) and the Jockey Club Gold Club Stakes (G1).
The tail-female line of Conquest Titan is reinforced with the Classic Champion Thoroughbreds Kingmambo and Seattle Slew – winner of the 1977 Triple Crown.
Conquest Titan is owned and trained by the same winning connections of My Conquestadory, the brilliant winner of the Darley Alcibiades Stakes (G1) on the Friday opening card at Keeneland.
Conquest Titan is one of the best-bred colts in this field and, if he lives up to his breeding, he’ll be competitive in the Dixiana.
Trainer Doug O’Neill ships Rum Point (8-1) in from California for the Dixiana. He’s stepping up in class and he’s never ran in a route race. But, his pedigree indicates that Rum Point should run better as the races get longer.
Malibu Moon, the sire of Rum Point, is the sire of the 2013 Kentucky Derby winner Orb. Rum Point’s grandsire, A.P. Indy, and great grandsire, Seattle Slew, were Classic Champion Thoroughbreds and the Ancestral Herd descends from the Bold Ruler Ancestral Herd which dominated the Triple Crown Trail during the decade of the 1970’s.
Quiet American, the damsire of Rum Point, sired the Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness Stakes (G1) winner Real Quiet. And the tail-female line is the same Ancestral Herd that produced the Classic Champion Thoroughbreds A.P. Indy, Lemon Drop Kid, Summer Squall and Silver Charm.
If he lives up to his breeding, Rum Point should be competitive in the Dixiana.
General Jack (5-1) comes into the race off of a 3-length win in the Shakopee Juvenile Stakes at Canterbury Park and with Giant’s Causeway as his sire, he has the breeding to be competitive.
A recent bullet work out could have General Jack ready to run a good race.
Hall of Fame Trainer D. Wayne Lukas will send the 5-2 morning-line favorite Strong Mandate to the starting gate. Strong Mandate comes into the race off two impressive wins at Saratoga where he broke his maiden by 4½-lengths on August 17 and followed that performance with a powerful stretch run over a sloppy track in the 7-furlong Hopeful Stakes (G1) to win by a commanding 9¾-lengths.
Aside from his maiden debut, Strong Mandate has been dominant in his last two sprint races and his breeding indicates that he will get better as the races get longer.
Tiznow, the sire of Strong Mandate, did not race as a 2-year-old. And it took him three tries as a 3-year-old before he finally broke his maiden in impressive style with an 8½-length romp running 8½-furlongs in a maiden special weight at Hollywood Park.
Unlike Strong Mandate, Tiznow was not successful in sprint racing but he was an outstanding router who won 10-furlong Super Derby (G1) by six lengths and the Santa Anita Handicap (G1) by five lengths.
The most notable 10-furlong wins of Tiznow came in the 2000 Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) where he defeated the European champion Giant’s Causeway by a neck. In 2001, Tiznow defended his title of champion in Breeders’ Cup Classic when he defeated the European invader and formidable winner of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, Sakhee, by a nose.
Deputy Minister, the damsire of Strong Mandate, is a proven broodmare sire of the Belmont Stakes (G1) winners Sarava (2002), Jazil (2006) and Rags to Riches (2007). In addition, Deputy Minister also is the sire of the Classic Champion Thoroughbreds Awesome Again and Touch Gold. And he’s the grandsire of Preakness Stakes (G1) winner Oxbow.
So far, Strong Mandate has been brilliant in sprint racing and an extension of that brilliance to route racing will make him competitive on the Kentucky Derby Trail. I look for Strong Mandate to be competitive in the Champagne Stakes (G1).
At 8-1 morning-line odds, Grand Arrival looks like an interesting entry. He comes into this race off of an impressive 6¼-length victory at Saratoga in a 7-furlong maiden race over a sloppy track.
Trained by Nick Zito, Grand Arrival has been working out good at Saratoga, firing two back-to-back bullet works outs. And he has the breeding to be competitive at this distance.
Harlan’s Holiday, the sire of Grand Arrival, 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.
The tail-female line of Grand Arrival is reinforced by the Classic Champion Thoroughbreds Grindstone, Unbridled, Damascus and Sword Dancer.
Zito knows how to get horses ready for big races. Jockey Rosie Napravinik, a tough competitor who rode Grand Arrival in his previous two starts, retains the mount in the Champagne, and I look the pair to be competitive.
Honor Code, the 3-1 morning-line second choice, showed early brilliance in his maiden debut, coming from dead-last, 23-lengths behind the leaders, to win the 7-furlong sprint by an impressive 4½-lengths over a sloppy track at Saratoga. Honor Code is stepping up in class, but, if he repeats the performance of his maiden win, he’ll be competitive in the Champagne Stakes.
His sire, A.P. Indy, broke his maiden on his second attempt by 4-lengths, running 6½-furlongs at Santa Anita Park. He followed that brilliant run with a victory in a one mile allowance race and capped off his 2-year-old racing season with a narrow win by a neck in the 8½-furlong Hollywood Futurity Stakes (G1).
As a 3-year-old, A.P. Indy won his season debut in the one mile San Rafael Stakes (G2) and followed that with a 1¾-length win over Bertrando in the Santa Anita Derby. On Kentucky Derby day, A.P. Indy was scratched with a sore hoof, but finished his racing season with wins in the Peter Pan Stakes (G2), Belmont Stakes (G1) and Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1).
The tail-female line of Honor Code is pretty good with the stakes winners Serena’s Cat, Serena’s Tune and, most notably, Serena’s Song, an outstanding multiple graded-stakes winning filly, who compiled a 18-11-3 record in 38 starts with $3,283,388 in career earnings.
Debt Ceiling (10-1) is another interesting long shot who comes into the race with a 4-0-0 record in five starts. He’s stepping up in class, but has the breeding to be competitive at this distance.