Tuesday, November 29, 2011

It's Never Too Early to Have a Derby Horse

--Brian DiDonato

With the 2011 racing season mostly wrapped up, it’s time to shift focus back to the soon-to-be 3-year-olds who will find their way onto the Triple Crown trail. The Derby horse profile is pretty well-established at this point. You’re generally looking for an individual with 2-year-old foundation--but not too much--who gives the impression that he still has room to improve and mature in the coming year. A stout pedigree is a must, and the more under-the-radar at this point, the better for bragging rights and future wagers.

With all that in mind, my early, sure to change six times (it already has once) Derby horse is GII Remsen S. fourth-place finisher Done Talking (Broken Vow).

Owned by Midlantic-based Skeedattle Stable and trained by Hamilton Smith, the bay is out of the Dixieland Band mare Dixie Talking, who was a Maryland-bred stakes winner going long at two in 2004 and a winner of the seven-furlong GIII Cicada S. the following season in her final of four career starts. Dixie Talking, who also produced a 2-year-old stakes winner of last year, is out of Gin Talking (Allen’s Prospect), a four-time stakes winner at nine furlongs who annexed the 2000 GIII Anne Arundel S. by four lengths. She was also second in a 10-furlong handicap.

Done Talking’s sire, Broken Vow (Unbridled), was a MGSW at 1 1/8 miles and Grade I-placed at 1 1/4 miles. His top earner to date is Unbridled Belle, a pure router who was a GSW and MGISP at 1 1/4 miles and a GISW at 1 1/8 miles. His other top progeny include Sassy Image, a MGISW sprinter this year who proved she could handle a route of ground when taking the GIII Pocahontas S. and GII Golden Rod S. in 2009; GISW sprinter/miler Cotton Blossom; MGSW turf router Interactif, who was second in the 10-furlong GII Virginia Derby; GII Kentucky Jockey Club S. winner Private Vow; Canadian MGSW Matt’s Broken Vow, winner of the 1 3/8-mile Canadian Derby; and, most recently, this past Saturday’s winner of the nine-furlong GIII Fred W. Hooper H. at Calder, Jimanator.

Done Talking’s pedigree suggests he should have no problem with Classic distances, and his performance on the track further supports that notion.

After finishing up well to be third sprinting on debut at Delaware in August, Done Talking filled the same slot, beaten eight lengths by a runaway winner who set an average pace on a loose lead, trying an extended mile Sept. 10 (video). He traveled greenly for much of that race, found himself in tight several times, and never gave the impression that he would hit the board before figuring it all out far too late and running on for a piece.

Backed down to 4-5 when returning in a similar spot Oct. 18, Done Talking finally broke through despite another eventful trip (video). Last from the gate, he was guided to the rail by Rosie Napravnik and briefly moved up to travel in a perfect stalking position in third. He got a bit keen at that point, however, and Napravnik wrangled him back to last behind a pace that was absurdly slow--21 points below par early on the Moss Pace Figure scale. It appeared on the far turn as if Done Talking was floundering a bit, but he tipped out as they straightened and, after a brief bobble, leveled off nicely to score geared down by 1 3/4 lengths.

Done Talking overcame a similarly slow pace to take a one-mile allowance at Parx Nov. 7 by the same margin in his final prep for the Remsen (video). Odds-on choice Yourhonorandglory (Lawyer Ron), who was coming off a 7 3/4-length graduation tally, controlled the pace and opened up a three-length advantage turning for home, but he could not hold off the resolute rally of Done Talking, who came home a full second faster than the chalk. Yourhonorandglory did appear to be struggling with the trip late, but he returned to score as the 3-2 choice going slightly farther back at Parx Monday, earning a 78 Beyer.

Let go at 21-1 in the Remsen, Done Talking again found himself too far back off glacial early splits--this time 11 points below par according to Moss (video). Still in dead last at the head of the lane while full of run, he weaved his way through horses to come up just a length short. The bay covered his final furlong in :11.97--very fast for a 2-year-old going nine furlongs for the first time--and significantly quicker than winner O’Prado Again (El Prado {Ire})’s come-home time of :12.32.

Done Talking earned a 78 Beyer Speed Figure for his Remsen--certainly nothing off the charts--but he has gotten progressively faster in each of his races despite
less-than-perfect set-ups/trips. There’s no reason he can’t continue to improve and get faster, plus it’s not like this year’s 2-year-olds have been running many big figures. He’s a progressive sort that should appreciate 10 furlongs--now he just needs to earn his way into the starting gate for the first Saturday in May.

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