©2014 Calvin L. Carter. All rights reserved.
The “Road to the Kentucky Derby” takes us to Keeneland Race Course Saturday where, in what appears to be a wide-open race, Carpe Diem and Hashtag Bourbon head a field of 12 young Thoroughbreds as the 4-1 morning-line co-favorites in the 101st running of the $500,000 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity Stakes (G1). Bold Conquest and Conquest Tsunami are the co-second choice at 9-2 odds. Post time for the race is 5:08 p.m. ET.
A win by any of those four would be no surprise. But, I’ll be looking elsewhere for a long shot upset in the Breeder’s Futurity.
Two long shots I like in this race are Keen Ice (15-1) and Firespike (12-1) who both overcame difficulty in their last race to get up for the win.
Favored in his last race, Keen Ice ran mostly in the middle of the herd and was in third place at the top of the stretch, eight lengths behind the front runners, when he made a big move in the final strides to capture the win. Here’s the chart call and video of the race:
KEEN ICE settled in hand, moved up between rivals through the turn, split horses a furlong out, finished with a rush and was up in the final jump.
That’s the kind of performance I like to see in a young colt that is running on the Derby Trail and, if he lives up to his breeding, he should enjoy the stretch out in distance.
Curlin, the sire of Keen Ice, is a sire-line descendant of the Mr. Prospector Ancestral Herd and he’s bred on a nick with Deputy Minister who’s an influential descendant of the Northern Dancer Ancestral Herd. Keen Ice, out of the Awesome Again mare, Medomak, is also bred on that same nick.
Curlin was a Classic Champion Thoroughbred who, for many years, was the all-time leading money earner but is now ranked second with $10,501,800 in earnings. Curlin won the 2007 Preakness Stakes (G1), finished second in the Belmont Stakes (G1) and he was third in the Kentucky Derby (G1). In addition, Curlin won the Breeders' Cup Classic (G1), Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1), twice, Dubai World Cup (G1), Stephen Foster Handicap (G1), Woodward Stakes (G1), and the UAE Jaguar Trophy Handicap.
Another move forward off of his maiden win will make Keen Ice competitive in the Breeders’ Futurity.
Firespike, also favored in his last race, was in seventh place in the stretch run and he bulled his way through traffic to get up for the win. Here’s the chart and video:
FIRESPIKE took up residence in mid-pack, was rated in the two path while keeping an eye on the front runners, swung about four wide into the stretch, altered course towards the inside shortly afterwards, was forced to steady off another's heels at the eighth pole, got taken in hand a sixteenth later, once more off the heels of a rival, altered course to the outside gaining a usable racing lane, split rivals late, finished strongly once safely through opening to win in the final stages, crossing the wire under a brisk hand ride.
Firespike showed a lot of grit in that race to capture his maiden win by a neck and, he too, has the breeding to be competitive in the Breeders’ Futurity.
Flower Alley, the sire of Firespike, was a good middle-distance runner that won Travers Stakes (G1), Lane's End Stakes (G2) and Jim Dandy Stakes (G2) as a 3-year-old. At stud, Flower Alley sired the Kentucky Derby winner I’ll Have Another, and Firespike’s grandsire, Distorted Humor, sired the Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness Stakes (G1) winner Funny Cide and the Belmont Stakes (G1) winner, Drosselmeyer.
I look for Firespike to be competitive in the Breeders’ Futurity.
Tough Customer (6-1) comes into this race off of an impressive 5½-length maiden win at Churchill Downs on September 26. While it remains to be seen if Tough Customer can step up in class, the way he won his maiden debut and his breeding suggests that he should be competitive.
Giant’s Causeway, the sire of Tough Customer, was undefeated in three starts as a 2-year-old (all at 7-furlongs) – winning the Group 3 Futurity Stakes and the Group 1 Prix de la Salamandre Stakes. As a 3-year-old, Giant’s Causeway was 6-4-0 in 10 starts, winning from 7- to 10-furlongs, and he was the 2000 Cartier Racing Awards European Horse of the Year.
Arch, the damsire of Tough Customer, also was a good 3-year-old that won the 10-furlong Super Derby and the 9½-furlong Fayette Breeders' Cup Stakes (G3). In addition, Arch sired Blame, winner of the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) and Eclipse Champion Older Male, and he also sired the 2006 Canadian Horse of the Year Arravale.
Finally, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Carpe Diem, Bold Conquest, Conquest Tsunami, Hashtag Bourbon or Mr. Z become a factor in rounding out the exotics.
Under the tiered-point system implemented by Churchill Downs to determine Kentucky Derby eligibility the winner of the Breeders’ Futurity will receive 10 points 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.
2014/2015 KENTUCKY DERBY LEADERBOARD
Individual Leaders ranking, total points, Trainer
1. Lucky Player, 10, Steve Asmussen
1. American Pharoah, 10, Bob Baffert
2. Bold Conquest, 4, Steve Asmussen
2. Calculator, 4, Peter Miller
3. Hashtag Bourbon, 2, Kellyn Gorder
3. Texas Red, 2, Keith Desormeaux
4. Danny Boy, 1, Dale Romans
4. Lord Nelson, 1, Bob Baffert