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#1 Sol the Freud and John Velazquez surge past #5 Handy Stan and Irad Ortiz Jr to bag the second race on Sanford Saturday.

#1 Sol the Freud and John Velazquez surge past #5 Handy Stan and Irad Ortiz Jr to bag the second race on Sanford Saturday.

Coming in second is still pretty sweet when you have a promising colt: Eastwood and John Velazquez.

Coming in second is still pretty sweet when you have a promising colt: Eastwood and John Velazquez.

The “sweet” exacta in the Acorn Stakes (I): Sweet Reason came out on top over Sweet Whiskey!

The “sweet” exacta in the Acorn Stakes (I): Sweet Reason came out on top over Sweet Whiskey!

I handed off my camera to Ciara Bowen (intothestretch) in my momentary sickness at the Belmont, so some of these shots are by her. Here’s Stephanie’s Kitten.

I handed off my camera to Ciara Bowen (intothestretch) in my momentary sickness at the Belmont, so some of these shots are by her. Here’s Stephanie’s Kitten.

Palace Malice turns back Goldencents to win the Met Mile (I)

Palace Malice turns back Goldencents to win the Met Mile (I)

Derby Profile #15: Intense Holiday

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Highlights:

  • G2 winner at 1 1/16 miles (Risen Star Stakes)
  • Never off the board as a three-year-old

Basics:

  • Trainer: Todd Pletcher (Super Saver, Rags to Riches, Uncle Mo) 
  • Jockey: John Velazquez*
  • Owned by: Starlight Racing
  • Record: 8: 2-1-1
  • Earnings: $551,900
  • Best speed figures: 97 Beyer (Risen Star Stakes), 99 BRIS Figure (Wood Memorial), 106 Equibase

Background: Favorites last year with their Verrazano, Starlight Racing and Todd Pletcher realign once again with their rising star Intense Holiday, a son of their recently-deceased top sire Harlan’s Holiday out of a daughter of another recently-deceased top stallion, Unbridled’s Song. While Pletcher’s string comes up lighter than usual in this year’s Derby, many have summoned around Intense Holiday after a very recent dynamite workout at Churchill Downs, giving many Derby fever about the dark bay colt.

Prep Schedule: A good eight races old, Intense Holiday kicked his career off in a late July maiden at Monmouth, lacking any headway going 5 1/2 furlongs on the dirt to finish a dusty 5th. Stretching out to a mile did the trick, as the colt took off to get the early lead and never abandoned it, winning by a comfortable 3 1/2 lengths which was cut down from 6 by second place Afleet Accompli. Upgrading to the Champagne (I) two months later, Intense Holiday could only give chase at Saratoga, finishing 5th some 8 1/2 lengths back. Shipping to Aqueduct in early November, he was able to keep up with the field in the Nashua Stakes (II) until late, holding down 4th behind Cairo Prince some 5 lengths. Springing for more ground in the 9-furlong Remsen (II), Intense Holiday went wide but had too handicapped a trip to do better than 4th, failing a mere 3 or so lengths. Returning in January to Gulfstream Park, Intense Holiday mustered a very good effort off the layoff in the competitive 1 1/16-mile Holy Bull (II), circling the field wide to get up for 3rd, but still a long ways off from winner Cairo Prince. Shipping to Fair Grounds and encountering another large field, he went wide again in his gradual rally, eventually wearing them all down to win the 1 /16-mile Risen Star (II) by a head over pacesetter Albano. Stretching back to 9 furlongs in the Louisiana Derby (II), Intense Holiday had yet another rocky trip and rallied well to be 2nd, behind romping pacesetter Vicar’s In Trouble who won by 3 1/2 lengths.

Pedigree: Void of any inbreeding in his first five generations, Intense Holiday is sired by the good Harlan’s Holiday, who was once a Derby favorite and a G1 winner multiple times at 9 furlongs. Harlan’s Holiday was well known for siring runners of multiple surface preferences, but was mainly best for young runners running from 7 to 9 furlongs. Harlan’s Holiday himself is by the G1-winning sprinter Harlan (by Storm Cat) and out of the Affirmed daughter Christmas in Aiken. His dam Intensify is by Unbridled’s Song, another favored Derby runner who was a great sire for many different types of runners, although mainly younger horses at shorter distances. Intensify is out of the G1-placed Her She Shawklit, who lends some stamina to the mix being by Wood Memorial (I) winner Air Forbes Won (by Bold Forbes).

Estimated TrueNicks Rating: N/A

Dosage Index: 3.80

Running Style: Off-the-pace, midpack

Pros: Experienced and scantly passed in the stretch, Intense Holiday popped the cork in winning the Risen Star Stakes (II) in a fashion that sets him up well preparation-wise for a similar scenario in the Kentucky Derby, where he may be forced to deal with a wider than usual trip. He has also taken a liking to Churchill, and could be progressing forward at the right time.

Cons: He won the Risen Star (II) by a small margin over a debatable foe (Albano) and has yet to really answer the class question in any of his starts. His sire/grandsire have not achieved Derby-producing success and failed in their own attempts.

Final Word: The question really boils down to how good Intense Holiday is or isn’t. He had a good race in the Risen Star (II) but I’m really wondering how fast he is and how much better (if any) he will become when asked for another furlong. In my opinion, not that much. 

Got Lucky

Got Lucky

Derby Profile #6: We Miss Artie

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(Photo by Eclipse Sportswire)

Highlights:

  • G1 winner as a two-year-old (1 1/16 mile Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland)
  • G3 winner of the Spiral Stakes (9 furlongs)
  • Will try to become the first Canadian-bred (bred in Ontario) since Northern Dancer to win the Kentucky Derby

Basics:

  • Trainer: Todd Pletcher (Super Saver, Rags to Riches, Ashado)
  • Jockey: John Velazquez
  • Owned by: Ken & Sarah Ramsey
  • Record: 8: 3-2-0
  • Earnings: $609,000
  • Best speed figures: 85 Beyer (Spiral Stakes), 93 BRIS Figure (Spiral Stakes), 100 Equibase

Background: One of last year’s best juvenile runners, We Miss Artie bounced back into the fray easily enough, conquering a wild finish in the Spiral Stakes (III) to win his way into the Kentucky Derby. Representing the other half of the Ramsey clan’s Derby dreams this year (the other being Vicar’s In Trouble, stabled with Mike Maker), he is the class half as a G1 winner and a horse who hopes to add dirt to his turf and poly aptitude.

Prep Schedule: Racing 5 times as a two-year-old, Artie was 2nd in his debut on dirt at Belmont Park, beaten some 7 lengths by stablemate All in Blue going 5 furlongs. Switching surfaces and tacking on ample ground, he broke his maiden on Saratoga’s turf going 1 1/16 miles by an impressive 3 lengths. That impression disappointed with his stakes debut in the With Anticipation (II) 2 1/2 weeks later at Saratoga, going wide and fading to 6th. Saving some energy, he won big on Keeneland’s poly next out, capturing the Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity (I) by nearly 3 lengths while closing, setting him up for big hopes in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (I), where he had a shaky start and finished a murky 7th. Returning to the turf as a 3-year-old, Artie finished a scant 2nd by a head in the 1 1/16 mile Kitten’s Joy at Gulfstream to the good Storming Inti, then switched surfaces at that track to the Fountain of Youth (II), where he mustered a mid-race move but flustered to finish 8th. Returning to poly at Turfway Park for the Spiral (III), We Miss Artie found his gear on the turn and rushed in wide in the stretch to prevail by a nose over Harry’s Holiday while reaching for 9 furlongs the first time.

Pedigree: Sire Artie Schiller was one of the top turf milers of his day, winning one edition of the Breeders’ Cup Mile (I) and several other top graded stakes such as the Maker’s Mile and the Jamaica Handicap. Artie Schiller is by the sire of sires— predominantly turf sires— in El Prado and out of the G1 winning dirt mare Hidden Light, by top turfer Majestic Light. We Miss Artie is out of Athena’s Gift, a daughter of 2001 Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus. Northern Dancer and Raise a Native pop up on both sides of Artie’s pedigree.

Estimated TrueNicks Rating: B+ Variant: 2.22

Dosage Index: 3.00

Running Style: Adaptable, chiefly closer.

Pros: There are few better riders than John Velazquez, who is booked to ride We Miss Artie off his Spiral win into the Derby. The duo may get a nice pace setup with plenty of speed looking likely to form and lots of horses trying to crowd the front of the pack. Even a poor post wouldn’t affect Artie too much.

Cons: Only 2 dirt starts, both ending badly. All of We Miss Artie’s successes came on poly with a couple of good races over grass. He also just barely won the Spiral over some very mum competition. Speed figures are also badly below par.

Final Word: Oh hell no.

Harpoon and John Velazquez

Harpoon and John Velazquez

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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