Blue Grass at Keeneland; Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn

Apr 12th, 2012 | By TrackSide View | Category: Iron Maidens

HoweGreat275webLaurie Ross
Iron Maidens Thoroughbreds

Bluegrass Stakes – Race 11 – Keeneland – 3-year-olds going a mile-and-an-eighth – post time: 5:18 p.m. CDT

In the five years since the Blue Grass Stakes has been contested over Polytrack, only one horse, Street Sense, has finished in the top three in the Kentucky Derby. The 2011 Juvenile Champ Hanson proved his affinity for Polytrack in the early stages of his career, but he’ll receive a distance test in the Bluegrass Stakes.  HANSEN  has the pedigree to handle 1 1/8 miles.

Hanson enjoyed a win in the Gotham Stakes after pressing the pace.  He may try that tactic in the Bluegrass.  SCATMAN  last seen finishing a tiring third in the Rebel Stakes after making the entire pace, may find himself on the lead again in the Bluegrass. The son of hot second crop sire Scat Daddy won his maiden over the Keeneland surface, so like Hansen, Scatman will find himself tested for distance. He hasn’t been successful past six furlongs and to complicate matters, he’s stuck in the far outside post.

Highly touted DULLAHAN (Even the Score – Mining My Own, by Smart Strike) is a half-brother to Kentucky Derby shocker Mine That Bird. Unlike his older sibling, Dullahan likes the Polytrack. He scored a surprise victory in the Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity last year to win his maiden.  Dullahan was a fast closing second in the 1 1/8 mile Palm Beach Stakes over turf in his three year old season debut. There’s no doubt that he’ll handle the distance and track, making Dullahan a legitimate threat to the top horse, Hansen.

HOWE GREAT (Hat Trick – Ginger Sea, by Western Winter) is less than four lengths shy of being undefeated. He won the Palm Beach Stakes at 1 1/8 miles in his last start, but this will be his first foray onto Polytrack. The son of second crop sire Hat Trick has handled dirt and turf, and there’s no reason to think he won’t handle synthetics.  His sire has winners over all surfaces and his offspring should improve with maturity and distance.

Two Derby winners are receiving no respect from the morning line. PROSPECTIVE (Malibu Moon – Spirited Away, by Awesome Again) battled through the stretch to score in the Tampa Bay Derby by 3/4 length.  He has the pedigree to run all day and won the Gray Stakes (G-3) at Woodbine, so he should handle Keeneland’s Polytrack.

Louisiana Derby shocker HERO OF ORDER (Sharp Humor – Ocean Sprite, by Ocean Crest) barely held on by a half-length in the 1 1/8 mile race.  The son of second crop sire Sharp Humor has miler speed over stamina pedigree. Hero of Order was third over the Keeneland Polytrack in his debut.  He may try to take them all of the way on the lead again, but it’s doubtful that he’ll be able to pull off another shocker against this well-regarded field.

GUNG HO (Kitten’s Joy – Glory Dancer, by Honour and Glory) stumbled at the start of the Spiral Stakes in his three year old debut, but fought bravely finishing only a half-length behind the winner.  He’s proven over Polytrack and has the pedigree to handle 1 1/8 miles. 

RUSSIAN GREEK (Giant’s Causeway – Sand Dollar, by Grindstone) has the pedigree to run all day, but threw a surprising clunker in the Spiral Stakes, winding up over nine lengths behind the winner.  Although he has a strong, classy distaff family, at this point, Russian Greek’s class is suspect, as he’s been out of the money in both graded starts. He recently switched to the barn of Gennadi Dorochenko, who pulled a fast one winning the Louisiana Derby with Hero of Order.

POLITICALLYCORRECT (Kitten’s Joy – Exceedexpectations, by Tale of the Cat) was five wide in the Gulfstream Park Derby in January, but returned to score over optional claimers in a sprint.  His sire’s offspring do well over the Keeneland Polytrack and Politicallycorrect owns a recent strong bullet move over the Keeneland surface.

EVER SO LUCKY (Indian Charlie – Bally Storm, by Summer Squall) tuned up with a so-so run in the Swale Stakes, passing tired horses to finish a non-threatening third.  He has the pedigree to handle 1 1/8 miles and his sire is a good producer of Polytrack runners. Ever So Lucky has been working well over the Polytrack.

HEAVY BREATHING (Giant’s Causeway – Takesmybreathaway, by Gone West) a full brother to Suburban Stakes (G1) hero Frost Giant, disappointed in his Polytrack debut in the Spiral Stakes, tiring in the last quarter to finish over four lengths behind the front runners.  Heavy Breathing has the stamina to handle the distance, but his sire and damsire’s offspring usually don’t care for Polytrack.

MIDNIGHT CROONER (War Chant – Midnight Kiss, by Groom Dancer) is a full brother last year’s Santa Anita Derby victor Midnight Interlude.  The lightly raced colt blew away a maiden field at Golden Gate, and then finished an even third on the lawn in the Pasadena Stakes. His sire has a few winners over Polytrack, but overall, they prefer dirt and turf.

HOLY CANDY (Candy Ride – Spooky Minister, by Deputy Minister) won his maiden in his last start.  His full sister Holloween Candy handles all surfaces, but she’s a sprinter.  The offspring of Candy Ride are best up to 1 1/16 miles, but he does have a few winners at 1 1/8 miles. Holy Candy should handle Polytrack and the distance may be at the top of his range, but he’s taking a huge leap in class.


Track bias:  It’s still early in the meet and the track appears to be playing fair.

Eight of the 13 entrants like to be on or pressing the pace. That’s a lot of speed.  Two colts, HOWE GREAT and HERO OF ORDER have been successful at 1 1/8 miles, while DULLAHAN was second and closing at the distance. The question on everybody’s mind is whether HANSEN will carry his speed.  He’s already assured a post in the Kentucky Derby, but will need to answer the distance question.  His low odds don’t make him enticing and there are others in here that should relish the extra real estate.  GUNG HO might be one to consider for the exotics. He’s making his second start off of a layoff and his late speed figures fit.

3    PROSPECTIVE – longshot 

Gulfstream Park file photo
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Arkansas Derby – Race 11 – 3-year-olds going a mile-and-an-eighth – post time: 5:45 p.m. CDT

Five horses in the last 11 years have used the Arkansas Derby as a springboard to victories in Triple Crown races.  Last year’s victor was the morning-line favorite for the Kentucky Derby, but Archarcharch was injured during the Churchill headliner. 

Five horses exit the Rebel Stakes (G2), the precursor to the Arkansas Derby.  SECRET CIRCLE ( Eddington – Ragtime Hope, by Dixieland Band) will attempt to emulate Lawyer Ron and Smarty Jones, who swept all three Oaklawn preps, the Southwest, Rebel and Arkansas Derby.  There’s no doubt that Secret Circle is fast and tenacious, but his sire’s progeny have not been successful in this country past 1 1/16 miles.  There’s always a first time and Secret Circle’s distaff line carries stamina.

The well-bred  OPTIMIZER  stormed down the stretch to just miss catching the tiring Secret Circle in the Rebel. The son of English Channel had been a disappointment on dirt up to that point.  Optimizer is bred to enjoy distance and improve with maturity. Did we see the light bulb go on?

The buzz horse of the Arkansas Derby is Secret Circle’s stablemate, BODEMEISTER (Empire Maker – Untouched Talent, by Storm Cat).  The lightly raced colt slightly lost focus in the San Felipe Stakes (G2) in his last start, but was only a half-length off of Creative Cause.  That one came back to be beaten barely a nose in the Santa Anita Derby (G1).  There are talented stakes winners sprinkled throughout Bodemeister’s pedigree and there’s no doubt that he should enjoy going long. Baffert takes the blinkers off of the talented colt.

ISN’T HE CLEVER (Smarty Jones – Sharp Minister, by Deputy Minister) grabbed the lead at the top of the stretch in the swiftly run Sunland Derby, but couldn’t hold off the determined Daddy Nose Best. Still, Isn’t He Clever finished more than seven lengths in front of the third placed horse. The colt gets a jockey change and takes the blinkers off.

The pretty gray COZZETTI (Cozzene – Lemon Drop Cello, by Lemon Drop Kid) made a mild bid for third place in the Tampa Bay Derby. It’s doubtful that he was cranked for his first effort of the year and he should improve with time and distance.   

STAT (Unbridled’s Song – Di’s Time, by Gilded Time) should be cranked for his graded stakes debut.  The pretty gray colt is a half-brother to two stakes placed runners and his dam was a good mare, winning the Correction Handicap and placing in two graded stakes. Stat is borderline for 1 1/8 miles. His sire gets plenty of stakes winners at the distance, but Stat is a little light on stamina through his distaff line. Still, he’s been working forwardly and one should never discount a Pletcher horse.

Stat’s stablemate,  RACONTEUR (A.P. Indy – Miss Kate, by Storm Cat) has no lack of endurance in his pedigree. He’s a three-quarter brother to stakes winner Katerbug. Their dam is stakes placed. She’s a half-sister to multiple G1 winner Clear Mandate, who won from a mile to 1¼ miles.  Another half-sister Dream Scheme is a G2 winning miler. The second dam Dream Deal won the Monmouth Oaks (G1, 9F). This distaff family produced Belmont Stakes hero Crème Fraiche.  Raconteur had a rough trip in the Gotham, but came back two weeks later to win the Private Terms Stakes at Laurel. He’ll receive a major class test in the Arkansas Derby.

JAKE MO made a modest run to grab fourth place in the Rebel last time out, passing tired horses. He doesn’t appear to have the speed to compete, but he’s a steady runner and could clunk up for a piece of it.

NAJJAAR  (Jazil – Hasheema, by Darshaan) is bred to run all day and the late-running colt should enjoy the extra real estate.  He’s slowly maturing, but disappointed in the Rebel, winding up sixth.

ATIGUN and last year’s Delta Jackpot winner SABERCAT  showed nothing in the Rebel Stakes. To be fair, Sabercat was making his first start off of a long layoff. He’ll have to improve by over six lengths to have a chance here.


Track bias:  Only three races have been carded at the Arkansas Derby distance of 1 1/8 miles.  Two races were won by mid-pack runners and one went wire to wire.

BODEMIESTER has the pedigree and speed to win here. They may try to rate him off of his stablemate SECRET CIRCLE who is at a disadvantage, distance wise. ISN’T HE CLEVER takes the blinkers off and with the right trip, could surprise them. The two pretty gray horses, STAT and COZETTI could also have a say in the outcome. Both should improve and will be sitting close to the pace.  I’m not convinced that OPTIMIZER is the real deal, but if he duplicates his Rebel yell, watch out!


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