While it remains to be seen whether a Kentucky Derby winner will emerge from the field of eight young Thoroughbreds competing for the $400,000 in graded stakes earnings, in years past the Fountain of Youth has produced several winners that went on to achieve classic fame and glory – Thunder Gulch (1995), Bet Twice (1987), Spectacular Bid (1979), Kauai King (1966) and Tim Tam (1958).
Trainer Todd Pletcher will send the duo of Algorithms, the 8-5 morning line favorite, and Discreet Dancer, the 3-1 third-choice, to the starting gate. I wrote about them in my 2012 Kentucky Derby Outlook and I’m looking forward to see how well they perform. A win by either of them would not be surprising.
Undefeated in three starts, Algorithms is a speedy colt with a combined win margin of 11¼-lengths and if he 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).
One of the things I look for when evaluating classic potential 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 lightly-raced, undefeated Discreet Dancer also has good speed and he’s been impressive winning his first two starts by a combined 15¼-lengths.
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).
Lassie Dear, the fourth dam of Discreet Dancer is a Reine-de-Course mare and the second dam of Preakness Stakes (G1) Summer Squall and the Belmont Stakes (G1) winners A. P. Indy and Lemon Drop Kid. Missy Baba, the sixth dam of Discreet Dancer, is a Matriarch of the Turf.
Buckpasser, the sire 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.
Union Rags, tagged as the 2-1 morning line second-choice, is also capable of running a good race and appears to the best classic prospect that trainer Michael Matz has had since he guided Barbaro to victory in the 2006 Kentucky Derby.
However, Union Rags hasn’t raced since his narrow loss to Hansen in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Stakes (G1) and the question that remains to be answered is whether he’ll be ready to return to the winners circle off of a three-month layoff.
In his debut as a 3-year-old in the Holy Bull Stakes (G3), Hansen was soundly defeated by Algorithms who cruised to a 5-length victory. So Union Rags will need to improve his game, considerably, if he’s going to win today.
Union Rags already has enough graded stakes earnings to get into the Kentucky Derby starting gate and a win in today’s race is not necessary. He’s been working out steadily and a bullet work out on February 6 could have him primed to run a good race.
Union Rags should be competitive in today’s race and if he returns the form of his win in the Champagne Stakes (G1), he’ll be tough to beat.
A long shot I like is Casual Trick (8-1). He has the breeding to be a factor, but, he’ll also need to improve his game if he’s going to make it to the winners circle.
Like Algorithms, Casual Trick also was sired by Bernardini. Casual Look, the dam of Casual Trick, was an English classic winner of the Epsom Oaks and Red Ransom, the damsire of Casual Trick, was considered by many to be a strong contender for the 1990 Triple Crown before he was retired due to an injury.
Manila, the sire of the second dam, was the 1986 Eclipse Champion Turf Male with over $2.6 million in career earnings and the 2008 inductee into the National Museum of Racing of Hall of Fame.
General Assembly, the sire of the third dam, was a multiple graded stakes winner that finished second in the 1979 Kentucky Derby and set a new track record of 2:00.0 in the 10-furlong Travers Stakes (G1).
With some improvement, I believe Casual Trick could be competitive. Trainer Nick Zito knows how to get young colts ready for big races and a bullet work out on February 10 could have Casual Trick ready to run a good race.
Only time will tell.