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Have I mentioned lately how much I love Bayern?

Have I mentioned lately how much I love Bayern?

The Admiral

The Admiral

Derby Profile #17: Chitu

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Highlights:

  • G3 winner at 9 furlongs (Sunland Derby)
  • Never worse than 2nd in 4 starts

Basics:

  • 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.

Yeah I kind of love Kobe’s Back now…

Yeah I kind of love Kobe’s Back now…

Derby Profile #1: Hoppertunity

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Highlights:

  • G2 winner at 1 1/16 miles
  • G1-placed at 9 furlongs
  • By a G1 winner out of a G1 producer from a great dam line
  • High percentage connections shipping, Triple Crown races

Basics:

  • Trainer: Bob Baffert (Silver Charm, Game On Dude, Real Quiet)
  • Jockey: Mike Smith
  • Owned by: Watson, Karl; Pegram, Michael E.; Weitman, Paul
  • Record: 5: 2-1-0
  • Earnings: $610,720
  • Best speed figures: 100 Beyer (Rebel Stakes), 100 BRIS Figure (Rebel Stakes), 105 Equibase

Background: A good young horse who managed to become the latest of Bob Baffert’s to ship well into the Midwest ranks, Hoppertunity improved in the ability and luck department to score a surging win in the Rebel Stakes (II) at Oaklawn, edging graded winners Tapiture and Strong Mandate to establish himself as one of the top Derby prep horses in the region. Trainer Bob Baffert and co-owner Mike Pegram are no strangers to Triple Crown success having campaigned Real Quiet together to a near-Triple Crown.

Prep Schedule: Hoppertunity was regarded as a quality runner when making his 7-furlong debut in January at Santa Anita Park; despite running 5th to his ultra talented stablemate Bayern, the colt made up ground late going wide into the stretch. Sent off at 6-1 his next try, Hoppertunity broke his maiden going away at a mile with a much better trip, winning by 3 lengths. Jumping into stakes competition, Hoppertunity shipped to the Risen Star (II) at Fair Grounds 3 weeks later while stretching out a half furlong, but missed the board by a length while getting crowded in heavy traffic on the turn. Turning back 3 weeks later to the Rebel (II) and getting Mike Smith to ride him at Oaklawn, Hop found his stride late, making up 6 lengths in the stretch to win by a half length. Back in California 3 weeks later, he made a valiant bid in the Santa Anita Derby (I) in his first try at 9 furlongs, but was second best to California Chrome, defeated by about 5 while beating the rest of the field by at least 3 lengths.

Pedigree: Hoppertunity combines a lot of great genetics into one solid yet overlooked family tree. Sire Any Given Saturday has not done much a stallion, with the bulk of his progeny doing best on the grass with Hoppertunity being his best U.S. runner to date. Any Given Saturday, a son of classic horse producer Distorted Humor and out of the A.P. Indy mare Weekend in Indy, ran well at 9-10 furlongs with his major wins being the 9-furlong Haskell (I) and Brooklyn Handicap (II) while finishing 8th in the Derby. The Danzig influence is reaffirmed again in his dam side with the Unaccounted For daughter, Refugee, who also produced the very talented G1 winner Executiveprivilege, with Danzig siring her dam Polish Maid, who is out of the super filly Davona Dale.

Estimated TrueNicks Rating: A++ Variant: 11.11

Dosage Index: 2.64

Running Style: Off-the-pace

Pros: Hoppertunity is backed by serious connection power, as trainer Bob Baffert has won 10 Triple Crown races including 3 Kentucky Derby wins, one of which was with the owners’ Real Quiet. Jockey Mike Smith has been on fire this spring snapping up graded stakes despite the odds, and he himself has a stellar record with the Triple Crown races having won each of them once and won the Belmont last year with Palace Malice. Hoppertunity comes from a strong distance family, and his backers proclaim that this horse will thrive with even more ground as a late-improving horse.

Cons: Hoppertunity faces a steep challenge from the Apollo curse as a horse who has never run as a two-year-old, making his first start on January 4 of this year. He is the only horse in the field countering this issue.

Final Word: Not really urged in the Santa Anita Derby, Hoppertunity seemed to store something in the tank off his last start, which he didn’t need to win off that Rebel (II) victory. Despite having no experience as a two-year-old, Hoppertunity hasn’t shown his greenhorn side to anyone and comes from a strong racing family who has done little but excel given the opportunity (pardon the pun) for more ground, and has been able to separate from the bunch late in the game. A strong underdog play, I am a complete believer that Hoppertunity’s best will shine through at the 10-furlong stage— however good that “best” may be, is still unknown.

Breeders’ Cup Classic Profile #12: Paynter

Basics:

(Awesome Again x Tizso, by Cee’s Tizzy)

  • Trainer: Bob Baffert
  • Jockey: Martin Garcia
  • Owned by: Zayat Stables
  • Career Record: 10:4-4-0
  • Earnings: $1,101,924

Vital Stats:

  • 2013 Record: 4:1-2-0
  • 2013 accomplishments: G1-placed Awesome Again Stakes
  • Santa Anita record: 3:1-1-0
  • TrueNicks rating: A++ Variant 36.14
  • Dosage Index: 2.75
  • Highest Equibase Speed Figure of 2013: 119 (down from last year’s 123)
  • Lost last prep - Awesome Again Stakes by 4 1/4 lengths

Summary: One of the best stories to emerge from horse racing, Paynter made a dramatic recovery from his bout of severe, nearly-fatal sickness following his awesome Haskell (I) win last year to return to the winner’s circle this year. Since that point of return, things have been dodgy for the horse that Bob Baffert declared was even better than Bodemeister as he prepares for the biggest race of his life against other horses.

Prep Schedule: After a long recuperation period, Paynter returned a big favorite to Hollywood Park in a June allowance race, rolling from wire-to-wire to win the 7-furlong warmup by 4 1/2 lengths. Six weeks later, he went straight into the 1 1/16 mile San Diego Handicap (II) at Del Mar, where he fell victim to a pressured pace and tried to come on again late but fell short to Kettle Corn, who bested him by a short half length. He picked a bad day to ship to Saratoga for the Woodward (I), arriving on a simply ghastly rainy day on a sloppy-sealed course, where he lunged, hit the gate, stalked from 3-wide all around, and then faded in the mud, 4th by 7 1/4 lengths. Shipping back to Santa Anita, Paynter found his footing again, stalking the leaders before going 5-wide into the Awesome Again Stakes (I), but was outgamed by a better-tripped Mucho Macho Man, who defeated him by 4 1/4 lengths.

Physique: Another textbook Awesome Again boy, Paynter is long-bodied, sturdy, and with a reaching, efficient stride. His shoulder is nice and strong to match that huge heart of his.

Pedigree: Easily one of the best pedigrees in the field, Paynter is by 1998 winner Awesome Again, who himself is one of the best dirt route sires around and featuring five-star lineage himself. Paynter’s dam Tizso is a full sister to 2000 & 2001 Classic winner Tiznow— another dynamite classic distance sire— and a half sibling to the dam of Preakness winner Oxbow, who is a 3/4 brother to Paynter. Tizso also produced G3 winner Tiz West.

Running Style: Pacesetter or just behind the pace

Pros: Potential monster in the making and a past monster the more ground he was handed, Paynter has the potential to improve off that Awesome Again prep— which actually wasn’t a horrible race for him!— and with another furlong he could unveil his true potential. The pace may also setup favorably for him as a horse who comes from behind the speed.

Cons: He has yet to show quite the same electricity he had as a three-year-old and may even be somewhat ill-prepared for this specific race given his non-race in the Woodward two races back. Classic contenders usually display some pizazz leading in.

Final Word: It’s no question that the horse to beat this year is Paynter’s stablemate Game On Dude, and Paynter is currently about a light year away from being on even terms with Dude in terms of form and fitness. I won’t completely dismiss— I think he’s a very good horse— but probably not ready for this race right now. I think it would take a really badass workout to change my mind at this point.

Breeders’ Cup Classic Profile #3: Game On Dude

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Basics:

(Awesome Again x Worldly Pleasure, by Devil His Due)

  • Trainer: Bob Baffert (Silver Charm, Lookin at Lucky, Point Given)
  • Jockey: Mike Smith
  • Owned by: Diamond Pride LLC, Lanni Family Trust, Mercedes Stable LLC and Schiappa, B.
  • Career Record: 27:15-5-1
  • Earnings: $5,602,158

Vital Stats:

  • 2013 Record: 5:5-0-0
  • 2013 accomplishments: Undefeated in 5 starts, winner of 3 G1 10-furlong races
  • Win and You’re In winner: Pacific Classic
  • Santa Anita record: 8:7-0-0
  • TrueNicks rating: D Variant 0.22
  • Dosage Index: 3.29
  • Highest Equibase Speed Figure of 2013: 122 (unchanged from last year)
  • Sire Awesome Again won this race
  • Won last prep [10-furlong Pacific Classic by 5 1/2 lengths]
  • Trainer has won 7 Breeders’ Cup races, closest to Classic win came in 2011 when Game On Dude was 2nd to Drosselmeyer
  • Aims to be the first gelding to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic
  • Aims to be the oldest horse (age 6) to win

Summary: Will the third time prove to be the charm for Game On Dude? In 2011 he was second. Last year he was a [poorly tripped] seventh. He has had a different jockey for each of his three runnings, and each time presented himself as a beast keen to perform. This year, Bob Baffert has changed a few things, like keeping the gelding home in California and without a September prep race in hopes of having him fresh off the layoff. It’s worked before, but can the Dude finally pass the test?

Prep Schedule: Undefeated this season, Dude kept his head up after the Classic, winning the 2012 Native Diver (III) by 1 1/2 lengths going wire-to-wire on Hollywood’s polytrack. He kicked the year off right in the 9-furlong San Antonio (II), romping by 5 1/2 lengths over 3 rivals. A month later, he turned heads in the Santa Anita Handicap (I), winning the 10-furlong classic by nearly 8 lengths over a good field. Not slowing down, he shipped cross-country for the Charles Town Classic (II) 6 weeks later, going wire-to-wire in a hard-fought victory with questionable glue-on shoes, defeating rival Clubhouse Ride by a half length. Taking a break, he returned to Santa Anita a few months later as a fresh horse, running again from wire-to-wire to beat Kettle Corn in the 10-furlong Hollywood Gold Cup (I) by a length. Second off the layoff, he was at his best yet in the Pacific Classic (I), wowing the crowd with a dominant 8 1/2 length over a strong field.

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Physique: While not the most visually impressive horse standing still, Dude’s biggest asset is his efficiency; he coasts over the ground while others are trying their best to keep within touching distance. His consistently good stride is his biggest plus.

Pedigree: Sire Awesome Again won the Breeders’ Cup Classic in 1998 in one of the strongest fields (in my opinion) in memory, then went on to sire one of the most impressive winners of the race in Ghostzapper as well as many other accomplished distance-goers including Paynter, Awesome Gem, and Oxbow.

Running Style: Likely pacesetter, usually goes wire-to-wire in victory

Pros: Speed succeeds, and Game On Dude has it in volumes and is arguably the best horse on the home turf of Santa Anita, and he is having his best year ever to date. Baffert is brushing him up for a big effort here, and he picks up the winningest Breeders’ Cup rider Mike Smith.

Cons: The Classic this year looks full of speed already with Fort Larned, Game On Dude, possibly Graydar, and others looking for that lead or just off of it. It has also been disputed that Dude hasn’t faced much apart from the same old foes he’s already bested all year, leaving him vulnerable to more competitive invaders from the east.

Final Word: Due to be the favorite once again this year, Game On Dude is in his element as he was the past two runnings and is keen to get it right this year as he contends for a possible Horse of the Year title. While he goes wire-to-wire and has speed to burn, Mike Smith could likely get this horse to relax on the lead early once again and try to set up coasting fractions— who in the past has wanted to mess with the Dude on the lead anyway— before trying to run away with it. Try and catch him!

I never rooted so hard for a horse to lose. In the 144th Belmont, Union Rags came hard and late to wear down the courageous lead held by Paynter, who missed the win by a head much to my joy and jubilation. It wasn’t too long after that when the world was rooting him on to win the battle for his life, and that time, he prevailed. Paynter is obviously a special horse and he is my current interest to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic in the fall should he climb back to his old form. Today he races again for the first time since wiring the Haskell (I), at Hollywood Park at 4:13 PST going 7 furlongs, also his first race over all-weather.

I never rooted so hard for a horse to lose. In the 144th Belmont, Union Rags came hard and late to wear down the courageous lead held by Paynter, who missed the win by a head much to my joy and jubilation. It wasn’t too long after that when the world was rooting him on to win the battle for his life, and that time, he prevailed. Paynter is obviously a special horse and he is my current interest to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic in the fall should he climb back to his old form. Today he races again for the first time since wiring the Haskell (I), at Hollywood Park at 4:13 PST going 7 furlongs, also his first race over all-weather.

Oaks Octet #6: Midnight Lucky

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(Midnight Lute x Citiview, by Citidancer)

  • Trainer: Bob Baffert (Plum Pretty, Coil, Silverbulletday)
  • Jockey: Rafael Bejarano (6th last year on Hard Not To Like)
  • Owned by: Watson, Karl; Pegram, Michael E.; and Weitman, Paul
  • Record: 2:2-0-0
  • Earnings: $153,600
  • Best speed figures: 94 Beyer, 106 Equibase

Background: The silver bullet from the west, Midnight Lucky fills the shoes her colt stablemates couldn’t shipping out race-ready to Churchill Downs. The lightest-raced of the field, “Lucky” has some historic hurdles to clear as a filly who never raced at 2 and comes into the fray with just 2 starts to her credit. Can this speedball improve enough to catch some of the other girls?

Prep Schedule: Unraced at 2, Midnight Lucky fired a warning shot at Santa Anita in February while smashing her 6 1/2 furlong maiden by 7 1/4 lengths in a public workout. Regrouping a month later in New Mexico, Lucky followed the hoofprints of Baffert’s last Oaks winner Plum Pretty in scoring impressively in the Sunland Oaks (II) while stretching out another 2 furlongs with ease: her win margin was an easy 8.

Pedigree: Part of two-time Breeders’ Cup Sprint (I) winner Midnight Lute’s impressive first crop, Midnight Lucky draws speed and routing capability from her sire through the exceptional three-year-old routers Real Quiet and Deputy Minister, his damsire. Lucky’s dam is Citiview, a Maryland-bred daughter of Citidancer and a full sister to G1 winner Hookedonthefeelin, who produced multi-G1 winner Pussycall Doll, very closely related to Lucky being by Real Quiet. 

Estimated TrueNicks Rating: A++ Variant: 46.54

Running Style: On the pace

Pros: Full of ability makes Lucky a very hot pick fresh off of 2 winning starts. She has the ability to make a big peak effort here on her third start with connections that are very familiar with the winners’ circle.

Cons: She takes a big class jump here and will be tested in a race that offers plenty of speed already. Burnout?

Final Word: If you asked me about her before the analysis, Midnight Lucky was playing a few others to be my top pick of the Oaks. But I have reconsidered slightly after soaking in the details. By family alone, while she is very impressive, the best her cross has had to offer is huge success but at shorter distances. Asking her to leap to a 9-furlong G1 win is asking too much of her family history as well as her experience in a race that will destroy her via Beholder duel. She’s going to be a good horse, but not here.

I’m just super duper creative today and wanted to DOODLE my Arkansas Derby (I) pick today, seeing as I picked Bodemeister last year and Archarcharch the year before. This colty is listening to some off-screen instructions on how to make an Oxbutt out of Oxbow. (Fantastic original art by me)

I’m just super duper creative today and wanted to DOODLE my Arkansas Derby (I) pick today, seeing as I picked Bodemeister last year and Archarcharch the year before. This colty is listening to some off-screen instructions on how to make an Oxbutt out of Oxbow. (Fantastic original art by me)

Going to the Thoroughbred races, keeping "track" of the memories. Obsessively providing a comprehensive and personal glance at the sport of kings through original photography, handicapping analysis, editorials, and much more.

Tracks visited: Calder, Saratoga, Belmont, Suffolk, Aqueduct.


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