Thursday, December 29, 2011

2012 Kentucky Derby Outlook

As the year draws to a close, it is once again time to review the pedigrees and past performances of the 2-year-old thoroughbreds to see if I can spot any that may have the potential to become a factor on the 2012 Triple Crown trail.

It’s always a daunting task, but this year the task seems especially daunting as much of my time from August to the end of November was devoted to finishing the book that Kerry Thomas, founder of the Thomas Herding Technique, and I co-authored.

Since November, I’ve been in catch up mode reviewing the pedigrees and past performances of as many young horses as possible in order to narrow my list down to a few I believe may have exceptional talent.

The pedigree is the most important tool I use to determine if a young colt has star potential. In addition, past performances and the will to win are also important factors I look at. However, my friend Kerry is better than I am at measuring the emotional conformation of a horse.

Animal Kingdom was a young colt I especially liked in my 2011 Kentucky Derby Outlook and he was my pick to win the Kentucky Derby. Other young colts of interest included To Honor And Serve, Brethren, Cal Nation and Premier Pegasus.

Unlike last year, with Uncle Mo as the clear-cut early Derby favorite, this year’s crop of 2-year-olds appears to be a group of evenly matched young horses and there are several late bloomers that ran earlier this month that could be a factor on the 2012 trail.

However, five young colts I’m most interested in and will be following in 2012 are Battle Force, Sky Kingdom, Algorithms, Consortium, and Discreet Dancer. It’s tempting to put Battle Force at the top of the list but it is a bit early for that as one never knows how these 2-year-olds will fare at the age of three.

Battle Force reminds me a lot of Eskendereya who was my favorite for the 2010 Kentucky Derby before he was sidelined with an injury.

Much like Eskendereya who was competitive as a 2-year-old, but dominant at the age of three, Battle Force, with a 1-1-1 record in three starts, has been competitive in all of his races and if he continues to move forward he could be a force to reckon with on the Derby trail.

All three of Battle Force’s previous races have been run on the turf at the distance of a mile and his times have been near the magic 1:35 mark which is what I like to see in a young colt that I believe may have classic potential.

Unlike Eskendereya who ran on or close to the lead, Battle Force has run near the back of the herd and closed with a tremendous burst of speed to be competitive. With that running style, I think that a mile is too short and Battle Force will do much better as the races get longer.

I also like the pedigree of Battle Force which is also very similar to the pedigree of Eskendereya. Both were sired by Giant’s Causeway – the 2000 Cartier Racing Awards European Horse of the Year.

As a 2-year-old, Giant’s Causeway was undefeated in three starts (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 and won from 7- to 10-furlongs.

The tail-female line of Battle Force also has a feature similar to that of Eskendereya in that all the mares going back four generations were sired by Classic Champion Thoroughbreds: Fusaichi Pegasus, Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew, Damascus and Northern Dancer.

The sires on the tail-female line of Eskendereya are Seattle Slew, Alydar, Northern Dancer and Ribot and while Alydar was not a classic champion, I count him as one when analyzing pedigrees.

The tail-female line of Battle Force is also outstanding. Royal Statute, the fourth dam, is also the third dam of both Pour Moi, winner of the 2011 Epsom Derby, and Lammtarra who won the 1995 Epsom Derby. The tail-female line descends from Echo (Family 22-b) which also produced the Kentucky Derby winners Street Sense (2007) and Count Turf (1951).

Northern Dancer, the sire of Royal Statute, is a tail-female line descendant of Almahmoud, a Matriarch of the Turf and a descendant of Emma (Family 2-d) and that line produced the Classic Champion Thoroughbreds Giacomo, Spectacular Bid, Cannonade and Northern Dancer. Almahmoud was the third dam of Cannonade and second dam of Northern Dancer.

So when you have Royal Statute in the pedigree, especially the tail-female line, you have the influence of two very powerful and influential female families.

I also like that John Shirreffs is the trainer of Battle Force. If he lives up to his breeding, Battle Force may have classic potential.

Only time will tell.

Sky Kingdom is also another young colt that I’m very interested in but he has yet to live up to my expectations. However, if he has any potential at all he could be tough on the Derby Trail next year.

He’s in the hands of Hall of Fame Trainer Bob Baffert who knows how to get young horses ready for big races and has schooled Lookin At Lucky, War Emblem, Point Given, Real Quiet and Silver Charm to victory in classic races.

Sky Kingdom is a sire-line descendant of Mr. Prospector and Baffert’s record with colts from that line is exceptional. Lookin At Lucky, War Emblem, Point Given and Real Quiet are all sire-line descendants of Mr. Prospector and since 1990, that line has dominated the Triple Crown Trail producing 10 Kentucky Derby winners: Mine That Bird (2009), Street Sense (2007), Smarty Jones (2004), Funny Cide (2003), War Emblem (2002), Fusaichi Pegasus (2000), Real Quiet (1998), Grindstone (1996), Thunder Gulch (1995) and Unbridled (1990).

Sky Kingdom’s Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile, a tool I use to measure classic potential, is a whopping 107.5 which is the highest of all 2-year-olds I’ve seen this year. Sky Kingdom almost has what I refer to as a perfect “V” pattern pedigree where the stallions of the sire line and tail-female line are Classic Champion Thoroughbreds.

Empire Maker, the sire of Sky Kingdom, won the Belmont Stakes (G1) and grandsire Unbridled won the Kentucky Derby (G1). Kingmambo, the damsire of Sky Kingdom, won the Dubai Poule D'essai Des Poulains (Group 1). Seattle Slew and Secretariat, the sires of the second and third dam, were Triple Crown winners.

The tail-female line is also pretty outstanding. Weekend Surprise, the third dam of Sky Kingdom, is a Reine-de-Course mare and the dam of Belmont Stakes (G1) winner A. P. Indy and Preakness Stakes (G1) winner Summer Squall.

Lassie Dear, the fourth dam of Sky Kingdom is also a Reine-de-Course mare and the second dam of Belmont Stakes (G1) winner Lemon Drop Kid – sired by Kingmambo.

Missy Baba, the sixth dam of Sky Kingdom, is a Matriarch of the Turf and a tail-female line ancestor of A. P. Indy, Summer Squall and Lemon Drop Kid.

Weekend Surprise, Lassie Dear and Missy Baba are tail-female descendants of Mayonaise (Family 3-l) and the Mayonaise line also produced the Classic Champion Thoroughbreds Silver Charm and Triple Crown winner Citation.

Buckpasser, the sire of Sky Kingdom’s fourth dam Lassie Dear, is a tail-female line descendant of La Troienne (Family 1-x) who was a Matriarch of the turf and an influential foundation mare of the tail-female line that produced the Classic Champion Thoroughbreds Super Saver, Smarty Jones, Go For Gin, Sea Hero, Prairie Bayou, Personality and Bimelech.

So, Sky Kingdom also has the influence of two powerful and influential female families in Lassie Dear – his fourth dam – and if he lives up to his breeding, he will be tough on the Derby Trail.

Algorithms, Consortium and Discreet Dancer appear to be late bloomers but they have the speed and pedigree to be factors on the 2012 Derby trail. While it is yet to be seen if they can be competitive at 10-furlongs, the Preakness Stakes (G1), which is a sixteenth of a mile shorter than the Derby, should be well within their range.

In just his second start, Algorithms looked impressive earlier this month, coming off of a six-month layoff, to defeat favored Consortium by one length in a 6½-furlong allowance optional claiming race at Gulfstream Park.

Traveling three-wide in third-place for most of the race, Algorithms chased the fast pace set by Seven Kind and Consortium until he rallied in the stretch to take the lead and win with a sharp final time of 1:15.51.

That’s the kind of performance I like to see in a young colt and if Algorithms is anything like his sire, Bernardini, then he shouldn’t have a problem carrying that speed to route racing – especially 10-furlongs.

Bernardini did not race as a 2-year-old but at the age of three, he was a fast colt that won races from a mile to 10-furlongs. Notable races that Bernardini won en route to becoming the 2006 Eclipse Champion Three-Year-Old Male include: Withers Stakes (G3, 8-furlongs), Preakness Stakes (G1, 9½-furlongs), Jim Dandy Stakes (G2, 8½-furlongs), Travers Stakes (G1, 10-furlongs) and the Jockey Club Gold Cup Stakes (G1, 10-furlongs).

I also like the pedigree of Algorithms. One of the things I look for when evaluating classic prospects is multiple generations of Classic Champion Thoroughbreds and Algorithms has that feature in his sire line with Bernardini, A. P. Indy and Seattle Slew. In addition, both Bernardini and Algorithms were bred on an A. P. Indy-Fappiano, Mr. Prospector nick.

Cryptoclearance, the damsire of Algorithms, was a good middle-distance runner that won the Florida Derby (G1), finished second in the Belmont (G1) and Travers Stakes (G1) and finished third in the Preakness (G1) and Jim Dandy Stakes (G2). As a 4-year-old, Cryptoclearance won the 10-furlong Budweiser-Hawthorne Gold Cup Handicap (G2).

At stud, Cryptoclearance sired Victory Gallop, winner of the 1998 Belmont Stakes (G1).

Avatar, the sire of Algorithms second dam, won the Santa Anita Derby (G1) and Belmont Stakes (G1) and finished second in the Kentucky Derby (G1).

The tail-female line of Algorithms descends from Belvoirina (Family 5-e) and that line produced Belmont winner Gallant Man (1957) and Needles, winner of the 1956 Kentucky Derby and Belmont.

So far, Algorithms is off to a good start and if he continues to move forward he will be tough on the Derby trail.

Consortium is another promising Bernardini colt but he’ll have to improve his game if he’s going to beat Algorithms.

Machiavellian, the damsire of Consortium, is a descendant of Mr. Prospector and nicks with Bernardini much like that of Algorithms damsire Cryptoclearance. Machiavellian is the grandsire of Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense and the sire of Street Cry, winner of the 10-furlong Dubai World Cup (Group 1) and the 9-furlong Stephen Foster Handicap (G1).

The tail-female line of Consortium descends from Adelaide (Family 9-h) and that line produced the Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Omar Khayyam (1917) and the Preakness Stakes (G1) winners Aloma’s Ruler (1982), Bee Bee Bee (1972) and Tom Rolfe (1965).

I really like Bernardini as a sire and would not be surprised if he got a Classic Champion Thoroughbred someday. Maybe, this could be the year.

Only time will tell.

There’s not much discreet about Discreet Dancer who won his maiden debut in flamboyant fashion by cruising to a 9¾-length victory in a sprint race at Gulfstream Park on December 3. Discreet Dancer covered the 5½-furlongs in a record time of 1:02.34 and earned a 98 Beyer Speed Figure for that performance.

Another move forward off of that effort should make Discreet Dancer competitive on the 2012 trail.

Discreet Cat, the sire of Discreet Dancer, also was a late bloomer winning his only start as a 2-year-old in a 6-furlong sprint at Saratoga Racecourse. At the age of three, Discreet Cat was a speedy colt whose best distance was at a mile but was able to stretch out and win the 8½-furlong UAE Derby.

Gone West, the damsire of Discreet Cat, adds speed and stamina to the pedigree and notable offspring include Zafonic, winner of the 1990 English 2,000 Guineas (Group 1) and Commendable, winner of the 1997 Belmont Stakes (G1).

In addition, Gone West is the grandsire of the 2008 Prix de L'Arc de Triomphe winner, Zarkava, and Smarty Jones, winner of the 2004 Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness (G1). In addition, Gone West is the damsire of Motivator, winner of the 2005 Epsom Derby (Group 1).

Much like Sky Kingdom, the tail-female line of Discreet Dancer is enhanced by the presence of Lassie Dear as the fourth dam and she adds to the distaff pedigree the important, powerful influence of La Troienne and Mayonaise.

Rounding out the top ten are and Brother Francis, Empire Way, Sabercat, Creative Cause and Howe Great.

Brother Francis is a young colt I’ve been following for some time and he, too, has not fully lived up to my expectations. I really like his pedigree but with two seconds and a third-place finish in his three previous starts, I’m beginning to wonder if he lacks the will to win. Time will tell.

Empire Way also has a nice pedigree and appears to be a late bloomer. But it remains to be seen if he will live up to his breeding. I like the way he finished strongly in the CashCall Futurity (G1) to just barely miss hitting the board. His first couple of races next year should tell the tale as to whether he will be a factor in the Derby.

Sabercat already has enough graded stakes earnings to get into the Kentucky Derby Starting gate. So it will be interesting to see the route that trainer Steve Asmussen takes to get to Louisville.

Sabercat’s sire, Bluegrass Cat, and his damsire, Forty Niner, were pretty good middle-distance runners. An interesting feature of his pedigree is that the tail-female line of both the sire and dam descend from La Troienne. Kentucky Derby winner Sea Hero also had that same feature in his pedigree.

Creative Cause is another Giant’s Causeway colt that I liked early on the trail and his third-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Stakes (G1) was no disgrace. If he continues to improve, Creative Cause should be competitive. But I’m not sure, yet, if he has classic potential.

On this side of the Atlantic, Howe Great appears to be the best son of promising first-crop sire Hat Trick while Dabirsim, undefeated in five starts, is a Group One winner in France and a Cartier Racing Awards European Two-Year-Old Champion.

Howe Great has two wins and a second-place finish in three starts to his credit and is owned and trained by the same connections that guided Animal Kingdom to victory in the 2011 Kentucky Derby.

Hat Trick has the potential to be an important sire and I’ll be watching his offspring closely.

Finally, honorable mention goes to Gnostic, Unbridled Minister, and Mistrial. All three have nice pedigrees and are working out but have yet to race. I’ll write more about them later if they show up on the trail.


  1. I will add these to my watch list Thanks for all the info

  2. Hi Calvin,

    Interesting write-up, but they always are. I was glad to see my boy, Brother Francis in your top ten. I wouldn't be too discouraged by his lack of wins, he has been running in some tough company. He also looks like he needs to fill in a bit.

  3. And giants causeway was very successful on dirt.
    Hat Trick as you know was discussed in your book with Kerry, whom
    He selected as Sire with immense potential.

  4. Darlene, Turnbackthealarm, Larry,

    Thanks for the comments and for following the blog.


    Brother Francis has been disappointing but I haven't given up on him.


    Yes, Hat Trick had one of the highest herd dynamics that Kerry had ever seen. I'm keeping close watch on his offspring.

  5. Calvin; I respect your acumen and regret not digging deeper last year with Animal Kingdom. I am at a loss as to why you do not include Union Rags on your list. I see this horse as a goofy kid, perhaps akin to a sophmore high school basketball star who hasn't caught up skills wise to his 7' frame. I see tremendous tenacity and talent in this horse. With Matz as his guide, who surely will do right by his charge, I don't see Union Rags losing to any of the 3 year olds. The older crop of horses should be much better next year, so we could have a fun autumn and fall. Have a great new year and keep up the great columns. Chicago Guy

  6. Sorry, but Empire Way is the only one that I have on my list of classic contenders. I think there are a little more than a handful with the pedigrees to have a shot. Of course, there aren't many that look at pedigrees in the manner that I do and I have a lot of people following my TC picks. Take a look for yourself.

  7. Chicago Guy,

    Thanks for the compliment and for following the blog.

    Union Rags is a fast, talented colt and if he improves as a 3-year-old, he’s on track to become one of the best runners of Dixie Union and I’ll be keeping watch of his progress.

    Dixie Union produced some nice middle-distance runners such as Gone Astray, Grasshopper and Turf War. And that’s how I view Union Rags, too - as a tough competitor in sprints, to a mile, to 9-furlongs.

    Early in the season, Union Rags was the sole speed but the addition of Algorithms, Consortium and Discreet Dancer to the trail heats up the speed battle and it should be an interesting and exciting road to the 2012 Kentucky Derby.

  8. Backstretch,

    Thanks for following the blog.

    Empire Way has the breeding to be a Classic Champion Thoroughbred and if he were to win a classic race it would not be a surprise. But so far, he has yet to live up to his breeding.

    Only time will tell.

  9. Don't forget, right now we are dealing with the precocious ones...he may be a late bloomer..and I don't think he ran badly in his first try at a distance..there are about 5-6 that I really like and am hoping one named Power makes his way to the the way, pedigree work is really time consuming isn't it...

  10. Backstretch,

    Yes, it is time consuming but it’s my passion.

    It’s always nice to meet another person who appreciates the importance of pedigrees. Keep me updated with your thoughts as we travel along the 2012 trail.

  11. What a great list, Calvin! Here's hoping for a prosperous and happy 2012 :-)

  12. Thanks Valerie, a prosperous and happy New Year to you too!

  13. Great blog, just added myself to your follow list!! Hopefully this year ALL of the top 3 year olds who are worthy get their shot in the Derby. The Factor was missing from last years, but has made a nice comeback with the win at Santa Anita!

  14. Freddy,

    Thanks for the compliment and for following my blog.

    I'm getting Derby fever. Keep my updated with your thoughts as we travel the 2012 trail.