Monday, April 25, 2011

Sophomore Spotlight: Lex and Jerome Wrap-ups

--Brian DiDonato

We saw two pretty nice performances turned in by three-year-olds in Saturday’s Lexington and Jerome, but only one of those runners has the potential to have an impact on the Triple Crown series.

Derby Kitten, who gave by far his career best performance in the Lexington in his Polytrack debut, is very unlikely to run as well if he contests the Preakness or Belmont (he won’t make the Derby on graded earnings, and isn’t under consideration for that event). He was beaten 27 1/2 lengths in his only start on the conventional stuff (in To Honor and Serve’s large-margin maiden breaker) and his sire, Kitten’s Joy (El Prado {Ire}), has passed along his surface preference to virtually all his progeny. America’s Champion Turf Horse of 2004 and half-brother to the very good MGISW turf mare Precious Kitten (Catienus) has had all his success in the breeding shed with turf and synthetic runners. Of Kitten’s Joy’s top eight purse money earners who have raced in the U.S. and/or Canada, five have tried dirt. Only one, William’s Kitten, got a win. Those five runners, which include Derby Kitten (bear with me if I confuse two of the Kittens at some point), have an overall record of 14-1-1-4 on the dirt. There are some nice races for three-year-olds in the coming months on turf and synthetic, and Mike Maker and the Ramseys would be best served by pointing Derby Kitten to one of those events.

Derby Kitten Runs Away With the Lexington (c) EquiSport
Runner-up Prime Cut had a fairly neutral trip in the Lexington. He was close to an average pace, which was probably not optimal, but not as blatantly detrimental based on the way the track was playing Saturday as it would have been on Bluegrass day. His performance wasn’t quite up to par with his winning run at Fair Grounds, and Prime Cut was a big question mark on the Polytrack, so it’s difficult to draw any conclusions from his Lexington. He’ll probably run better back on dirt next time, so we’ll label his performance Saturday as “inconclusive.” Favored Silver Medallion had a very easy pocket trip, and had no excuse. He just came up empty, and might have been feeling the effects of a short turnaround from the Santa Anita Derby.

Adios Charlie Re-Rallies in the Jerome (c) EquiSport
With just a sprint maiden win on his resume prior to the Jerome, Adios Charlie emerged as an interesting, late-developing sophomore in a crop that has continued to disappoint. He was up on a moderate pace and figured to like the slop, but the $400,000 OBSMAR juvenile purchase showed a level of determination that is rarely seen from lightly raced runners stepping up into graded stakes to battle back and win going away. The 98 Beyer Speed Figure Adios Charlie received equaled the figures Archarcharch and Nehro earned in the Arkansas Derby, and exceeded the numbers earned by winners of the other major final preps. The stamina of progeny of 1998 Derby show horse (and favorite) Indian Charlie was a hot topic after Uncle Mo romped in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, but concerns over Adios Charlie’s ability to get the Preakness or Belmont distance seem minimal. Indian Charlie’s best daughter Fleet Indian won the 10-furlong GII Delaware H. and GI Personal Ensign S. by a combined 10 lengths and, as discussed in my preview of the race, Adios Charlie receives a significant amount of stamina from his dam’s side. His mother Teak Totem (Northern Afleet), a stakes winner over a mile on grass who never went beyond 1 1/8 miles, is a full-sister to the admittedly average, but seemingly stout GI Gulfstream Park Turf H. winner Teaks North (he also hasn’t gone beyond 1 1/8 miles, but he gives the impression of a horse who could run longer). The Teak siblings are halves to Wooden Phone (Pick Up The Phone), a Grade II winner at nine-furlongs who was second in the GI Santa Anita H. at 1 1/4 miles. Adios Charlie isn’t Triple Crown nominated, but he might catch the other members of his generation at a perfect time if co-owners Stan Hough and Robert Sahn decide to pony up the late supplemental fee for a tilt in the Preakness or Belmont.

Runner-up Astrology had a soft trip in the Jerome, saving ground throughout, and was more the beneficiary of very advantageous circumstances than anything else. His connections should stick with their original plan to keep him out of the Derby, as he did not give the impression of a horse who will fire anything competitive in two weeks considering all the setbacks he has already endured this year. Justin Phillip made a very big, and very premature move, and understandably tired in the end. The seven-furlong Woody Stephens on the Belmont Stakes undercard seems like the perfect next spot.  

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