- G3 winner at 9 furlongs (Sunland Derby)
- Never worse than 2nd in 4 starts
- Trainer: Bob Baffert (Real Quiet, Silver Charm, Point Given)
- Jockey: Martin Garcia
- Owned by: Tanma Corporation
- Record: 4: 3-1-0
- Earnings: $501,800
- Best speed figures: 102 Beyer (Sunland Derby), 103 BRIS Figure (Sunland Derby), 103 Equibase
Background: 2-for-2 as a two-year-old under the banner of Triple Crown heavyweight Bob Baffert, the very athletic and good-looking Chitu pounced on his unsuspecting foes in the Sunland Derby (III) to spring into the Derby field with one of the top speed figures of the early preps, all despite the broad belief that he is distance-limited. With fellow Henny Hughes progeny Beholder wrapping up year-end honors from 2013, can Chitu continue the family success stories and give Bob Baffert another Kentucky Derby trophy?
Prep Schedule: Lightly-raced heading into the brawl, Chitu blazed home first in his 6-furlong debut at Hollywood Park on the main all-weather track, cutting between foes to win by just over a length. Twenty days later, Chitu overcame a wobbly start going 6 furlongs at Santa Anita in his dirt debut, keeping the pressure on the pacesetter before springing away and holding off ralliers to win by a half length. Two months later and a three-year-old, Chitu made his graded stakes debut in the Robert B. Lewis (II) while stretching out to 1 1/16 miles, making the lead briefly after sitting right behind the pacesetter, but was out-finished late by Candy Boy. Gaining fitness, he strode into Sunland Park 5 weeks later to take the 9-furlong Sunland Derby (III), besting stablemate Midnight Hawk by just over 2 lengths after pushing the pace once again.
Pedigree: The speed and brawn was likely bestowed upon Chitu by his sire, the golden-colored sprinter Henny Hughes who won the King’s Bishop (I) and the Vosburgh (I) back-to-back in 2006 before going on to being a surprising success at stud thanks to daughter and Eclipse Award-winner Beholder. Henny Hughes’ early and strong speed comes courtesy of sprinter sire Hennessy, who won the Hopeful (I) as a two-year-old, with some help from his damsire Meadowlake. Chitu’s dam provides some much needed stamina base; Godolphin-owned Sea Gift is by Belmont-Breeders’ Cup Classic winner and prolific distance sire A.P. Indy out of Ocean Queen, a G3 winner on middle-distance turf, sired by turf miler Zilzal.
Estimated TrueNicks Rating: N/A
Dosage Index: 2.56
Running Style: Pace pressure/pacesetter
Pros: He improved his speed figures stretching out to 9 furlongs in the Sunland Derby, which is always a promising sign, and could keep up with or crack what appears to be a potentially fast speed scenario in this year’s Kentucky Derby.
Cons: Henny Hughes comes from a line of speed, so can Chitu break that cycle and keep winning with another furlong, or is he another one-dimensional horse?
Final Word: Chitu overcame a pretty weak field in the Sunland Derby, as shown by Midnight Hawk’s repeated late-stretch losses and the continued misfires by Commissioner, and it appeared he was weakening in the stretch of that race. He was one of the most impressive looking horses on the Derby trail physically, just popping with muscle— but I take that as a signal that he is strictly sprinter and will likely not be much of a factor when he pushes past a mile and a sixteenth.