“The sun shines bright in my Old Kentucky Home” – are you ready? Standing in the infield near that winner’s circle that is only used once a year. Feeling the sun on your back and watching it reflect on the long green grass stalks in the turf course. That sun baking on the main track making it faster and faster as the day goes on. For eighteen lucky simsters that will be their dream Friday night. Of course it will continue with the gates of the Bluegrass Derby opening wide and their horse charging down the stretch to win. For one of them that dream will come true.
#1 Outback Calyx Owned By VYZ Stables 18/1
Pedigree: Outback Calyx is a scratchbred son of Deep Impact x A.P. Indy x Mr. Prospector. It is interesting to see how well Deep Impact foals run over the dirt in the sim. They of course have opportunities to run over a dirt course in Japan but those are generally considered inferior races. A.P. Indy needs no introduction as a stamina source. The regally bred son of Seattle Slew out of a Secretariat mare won the Belmont and Breeders’ Cup Classic in 1992. Mr. Prospector has been an ancestor of many Derby winners lead by his son Fusaichi Pegasus.
Outback Calyx is the first of two entrants from the powerful barns of kyogle (he and Henry Kestar are running under different master stables but have the same overall ownership). He began 2019 with a listed run going 9.5f, a distance many in this field have yet to run. He ran second that day after coming from midpack. He moved a little early in that race, coming near the front in the stretch before getting a bit leg weary towards the end. The effort was enough to move him into the 8.5f Sleepy Fan Stakes where he again started midpack but never gain a lot of traction moving forward and finished third. With a little more time off he returned in the California Derby (G1) at 9f and he dropped significantly farther back in the field – eleventh at the first call before making one huge run to get up and win by a head. He ran his first triple digit speed that day with a 107. Kyogle says “Outback Calyx had a more standard preparation, running solid lead-ups before winning the California Derby to secure a start. His concern: In 20 years, I’ve had three previous Derby runners. They all gained starts via a Derby Prep. They all underperformed in the Derby, and they all retired with the Derby Prep as their career highlights. I hope this one can turn the tide, but there’s always that feeling of Déjà vu “.
#2 Seattle On Ice Owned By Baggio Stables 24/1
Pedigree: Seattle on Ice is another scratchbred in a field full of mare-bred horses. He’s a son of Keen Ice, most famous for defeating American Pharoah in the Travers Stakes. He also won the Suburban at 10f and was third in the Breeders’ Cup Classic behind Arrogate and California Chrome. Keen Ice is a son of Curlin out of and Awesome Again mare, making him inbred to Deputy Minister 3×3. Keen Ice’s branch of the family tree has been a little idle recently but further back in his pedigree you can find grade one winners Verrazano, Somali Lemonade and Harmonzie, Serra Lake, as well as grade two winners El Padrino, Al Khali and Japan. Seattle on Ice has Seattle Slew as a DS. He of course needs no introduction and will add a lot of stamina to this pedigree. Dixieland Band is the DDS and the son of Northern Dancer was generally consider a sire of speedsters although his best son at stud was Dixie Union who sired Belmont Stakes winner Union Rags.
Owner Baggio is a seventeen year veteran of this game. He’s taken down the Middle Jewel before but never had any luck in the Bluegrass Derby. He says “I would love to add the Derby to my bucket list. And if not? I’m humbled just to be here.” He describes Seattle on Ice as a horse most of us simsters have had around the barn at one point or another a good race / bad race runner. And early in Seattle On Ice’s career that may have been true. But looking at his three year old runs I’m willing to take a stand and say this horse is just now maturing and figuring it all out. He won his 2019 debut in a one mile allowance going wire to wire in a four horse field. After that he says “We decided to point for The St Vincent in California at a furlong less and BOOM…you guessed it, Seattle took the night off finishing 12th out of 14. Okay!!! “ I think it is questionable whether the horse just didn’t run a good one or if the jump up in class and down in distance may have just confused him. The decision was made to stretch him back out and he had his “good” race in the 8.5f G2 Moises Alou Cap. He again took the lead from the start albeit against a much bigger twelve horse field. He kept a measured distance between himself and the rest of the field and held on for the win. Charging hard at the end was fellow Bluegrass Derby entrant Telah. Bagggio felt that Seattle on Ice was going to continue his form with a bad race but he decided to “throw caution to the wind” and enter New York’s Derby Lock Prep the Wooden Indian (G1). To the surprise of his connections Seattle On Ice had his running shoes on that day! He broke from the gate in second and battled for the lead for the first half before leaving the pacesetter behind and entering the stretch in the lead. He got a little leg weary down the stretch and was eventually passed by Outback Caldron and then Got Them All but Seattle On Ice ran a very strong race for his ‘bad form’ start and came back with a 104 speed. Baggio said “We all sat down and decided that if he trains well, and he has, we’d enter him in the Sim Derby. So, here we are. If he gets a decent PP and gets out of the gate clean, with his GOOD race due up, WHO KNOWS? “ He added this to his competition “I know this game can bring you to your knees.( Been there OFTEN) So, never get too high and never get too low. Remember; There’s a million ways to lose a race, but only one way to win. Good luck all! “
#3 The Glaive Owned ByTheoc Stables 14/1
Pedigree: The first son of Arrogate to make the Bluegrass Derby field so there are high hopes for this sire to represent his famous young sire. The Glaive comes from quite a backend. He is based on the graded placed hemare Mosasaurus, a son of Bernardini x Street Cry. Mosasaurus did his best running around nine furlongs. He tried 9.5 and 10f on a few occasions and he did not have the kick he would show at the lower distance. Mosasaurus was a son of Barden Bella, the 2015 Champion Older Dirt Mare. She was a router but in her division the biggest races are run between 8-9f. She only had one c
chance to run 10f and she ran poorly but her pedigree (Street Cry x Storm Cat x Seattle Slew) suggests she might have gone farther given the opportunity. Aside from Mosasaurus she produced a full brother to him, Shinsuke who was second in the California Derby back in 2017. He did make it to the Bluegrass Derby but finished thirteenth over an off track.
The Glaive is one of a select few horses in this field that has gone 9.5f already – and he’s done it twice. His first two three year old starts came in listed races at that distance. He came from the back of the field in each (twelfth and eleventh place respectively) to storm home and win by open lengths. His first race he ran a strong 97 speed but it was his second start in March where he jumped up to a 106 speed. A 106 by itself would be very competitive against this field but you all know that two listed wins does not enough points for the Bluegrass Derby make. No trainer Theoc decided that The Glaive should make his graded debut in the G1 Corkscrew Stakes, a Derby Lock Prep. The field assembled included two graded winners and four other listed winners with a number of the other runners either graded or stakes placed. This was a Derby Lock, everyone was giving it their best shot. The Glaive dropped back to fourteenth in the field and was barely moving early on. The regally bred Telah was the favorite and he was sitting fifth early on before swiftly moving up to take the lead heading into the stretch. At that point The Glaive was still in eighth, five lengths behind the new winner but he dug deep and closed quickly to get up to win by a half length. He ran a 110 speed in that spot and the hope is he doesn’t bounce off that big number in the Bluegrass Derby. Telah earned enough points to make the field too so there will be a bit of a rematch going on as well.
#4 Kash Back Bonus Owned By Kashbarn Stables 20/1
Pedigree: A son of Ghostzapper, Kash Back Bones is a scratchbred with A.P. Indy x Nijinsky II as his backend. Much like real life, in the sim Ghostzapper babies have a slight preference for dirt and another slight preference for routing. But they can pretty much do anything. The cross of Ghostzapper over A.P. Indy has produced four grade one winners, and with A.P. Indy’s sire Seattle Slew three more. Interestingly Ghostzapper and Nijinsky II have teamed up to produce champion K’s Masterpiece and another grade one winner. On paper this colt should be able to run all day.
One of two entries from the stables of Kashbarn (a stable group owned by the Black Type Bugler’s Editor Roxyken) Kash Back Bonus earned his spot with a heartbreaking head loss in the California Derby (G1) Derby Lock Prep. He’s well accomplished this year with wins in two nine furlong races, an allowance and a listed. Kash Back Bonus did not shy when stepping way up in company. He raced near the midpack mark early on, stepping things up around the far turn and then turning on the afterburners. Unfortunately for Kash Back Bonus, Outback Calyx came from a little farther back with a bit stronger kick. While taking nothing away from that colt he did have prior graded experience. Kashbarn had this to say “ I wasn’t thinking much of a Derby run for him but when I pushed him into a route in January and he loved it with a nice pop in speed numbers with the win, I had to test him further. He ran next time in a listed stake and got another win and flew into the 100′s in speed. I took a gamble with a shot in the California Derby. He ran extremely well and came from off the pace to take the lead in the stretch only to lose by a nose to Outback Calyx, who I give credit to for a good late effort.” Kashbarn has only had one previous Derby starter and that one failed to hit the board. With two running this year he is tremendously excited.
#5 Telah Owned By Dixiedotco Stables 11/1
Pedigree: With so many fine pedigrees in this race none may be better than that of Telah. He is by the world class sire War Front out of Hall of Famer Final Exit. Final Exit was by Dynaformer x Seeking the Gold. She herself achieved Hall of Fame status through her amazing racing career but she was also able to propel her dam Heaven’s Gate to the same status. Final Exit was one of four graded stakes winners for her dam who also produced three listed winners. Final Exit is best remembered for her win against males in the Middle Jewel Stakes. That race came just two weeks after she was a heartbreaking second in the Bluegrass Oaks. She went on to win the Breeders’ Bowl Distaff as a three year old and overall won six grade one races. Final Exit is showing not to be a slouch in the breeding shed herself. Her first foal was a filly by Distorted Humor named Ancient Astronaut. Ancient Astronaut was a grade two winner and multiple times grade one placed including a second in the Equinics and a third in the Breeders’ Bowl Distaff. Final Exit’s second foal was a filly by Giant’s Causeway who much preferred turf and though only a listed winner she earned over $400,000. Her four and five year old foals have so far been disappointing but with a grade three winner Telah she seems to be back on track. Dixiedotco reports that this is a third generation homebred. He says TELAH stands for “the evolutionary level above human. “The name is a reference to something pertaining to the Heaven’s Gate cult, who were famous very briefly back in the 90′s, as are the names of all my homebreds tracing back to Heaven’s Gate. As you can imagine, that’s a lot of horses. I’m running out of names…” says Dixie.
Telah had a strong enough juvenile campaign to gain entrance to the Breeders’ Bowl Juvenile. In his only off track run he finished a solid sixth after closing from eleventh. He was off until the G3 Giant Slayer Classic in January of this year. The Giant Slayer was no hum-drum affair. 2018 Champion Two Year Old Turf winner My Awesome King was making his dirt debut there. My Awesome King had only lost once in his championship campaign and the question most punters were asking before the race was could he win on dirt. Telah was well respected at the windows as the second choice in the race and in the end it just came down to running styles. The champ sat just off the early pace and got first run but Telah came from seventh to run My Awesome King to within a a quarter length of the win. Telah was shown next in the G2 Moises Alou Cap at 8.5f. He sat a little closer to the pace in this race and made a nice closing effort. He finished third behind Seattle On Ice whom he will face in this spot but he was beaten from second by only a quarter of a length. His most recent start saw him move up to 9f in the Corkscrew Stakes and he was even closer to the lead early on, briefly taking control in the stretch before being worn down by The Glaive. He only lost by a half length again, showing his tenacity and he ran a big speed of 109 in that race. Dixiedotco says “As for the horse himself, he’s an extremely consistent sprt who hasn’t regressed as the distances have increased. That gives me confidence he can handle the 10f. I also like that he’s pretty versatile. He’s not a horse that has to come from way back, and has enough speed to sit close if the pace isn’t overly fast. Everything has gone according to plan this year, although not getting a win isn’t ideal. But he’s fired in every race and has improved at each step. I also think he’s at the right number of races both this year and overall, such that he still has room to move forward but also enough experience that he can realistically be competitive with the top of his class.”
#6 Moonlite Run Owned By Oldmoonfarms Stables 23/1
Pedigree: Moonlite Run is a gelded son of Dortmund, who is perhaps most famous for running in the shadow of American Pharoah as a three year old when they were both trained by Bob Baffert. Dortmund has yet to sire a graded winner in two sim crops but Moonlite Run is really trying hard to get there for him. He’s a scratchbred with Indian Ridge x Mining as the backend. Indian Ridge is a turf influence and generally one geared for speed. Mining was a very speedy son of Mr. Prospector. Looking at this pedigree it doesn’t scream 10f. Some bright spots though, Dortmund did finish third in the Kentucky Derby and he is by Kentucky Derby winner Big Brown. Way back in his pedigree Dortmund also has Damascus in his pedigree and Mining is out of a Buckpasser mare. If anything Big Brown exemplifies how pedigree is sometimes only names on a piece of paper. It’s true in real life and true in the sim.
Moonlite Run has the fewest wins of any horse in the field as he is still eligible for a NW3L but the gelding has really been thrown to the wolves in his short career and acquitted himself well. He was twice grade one placed as a two year old including a third behind Henry Kestar and Into Being Nice in the Movieland Futurity (G1). This season he’s had only two runs. He debuted in February with a fourth in the G3 Scam won by Awesome Saintly with Into Being Nice again second. These are all horses showing up in the Bluegrass Derby field which is something many of the other starters can’t say. Many of them looked for easier spots before their final preps. Moonlite Run ran his final prep in the All Saints (G1) Lock Prep and finished second behind Big Wong. He ran his first triple digit speed of a 103 that day. He comes from way back (he was fourteenth early in the All Saints Derby) so he’s going to need some luck getting through a twenty horse field. Don’t worry about the number of wins, nobody else has been running against as many good horses recently.
#7 Got Them All Owned By Gerque Stables 16/1
Pedigree: Got Them All is by Violence, a sire who entered stud both in the sim and in real life with modest expectations. He was a son of Medaglia D’oro who had impressed on the racetrack but his career had been cut short by injury. As is wont to happen his first foals impressed both in the sales ring and later on the racetrack. While he has never had an announced boost his stats began improving around 2017 (hit to sim fans he’s currently available for about 150 credits). Got Them All is out of the Grade Two winning mare Chippewa. She’s by Forestry x Mr. Prospector. Chippewa did her best running in dirt sprints and earned over $500,000 in her twenty four start career. She only has three foals older than Got Them All of which one was a stakes winner. That was the Zensationsal mare Pigs In Zen. She also was at her best in sprints although she only tried one route in her career.
Got Them All has more starts (14) than any other horse in the field. Believe it or not he was actually available for a Mcl tag of $75,000 in his second start and then again for $100,000 in his third, where he broke his maiden. That was followed by a $150,000 NW2L run which he also won. Did you all catch that? You had three, three chances to claim a Bluegrass Derby starter! In his two year old finale Got Them All won a seven furlong listed with a 97 speed. At that point he had never even routed despite running eleven races as a baby. He returned in January to try an 8f listed where he closed well to finish second by a length. He improved his speed to a 100 and Gerque decided to give him a try in a graded stakes. Next came the G3 Gary Asher Memorial at 8.5f. He again broke midpack and while he closed reasonably well he finished behind two horses who had significantly more graded experience than Got Them All. A month later Got Them All was entered in the Wooden Indian (G1) Derby Lock and after falling back to ninth early he closed ground like a maniac to win going away by almost two lengths. He ran a career best 107 speed and beat fellow Derby entrant Seattle on Ice who ran third. Second place finisher Outback Caldron was the first also-eligible for the Derby as well.
#8 Cry Me Some Gold Owned By JMADM Stables 10/1
Pedigree: Scratchbred son of Giant’s Causeway x Street Cry x Strike the Gold. This is an interesting pedigree. This is of course Giant’s Causeway’s final crop of three year olds in the game and he is well represented in this race. He’s already got 398 foals to race as of this writing and will likely go past 450 when 2019 three year old breedings are complete. Street Cry is the leading DS in the game as of right now and his foals can do just about anything in terms of distance and surface. Interestingly the cross between Giant’s Causeway and Street Cry yielded only three grade one winners, Cry Me Some Gold included, but Giant’s Causeway always did very well with Mr Prospector and his sons and grandsons. Cry Me Some Gold’s DS is a sim favorite, Strike the Gold. In real life Strike the Gold was a terrible sire who was shipped off to Turkey at a relatively young age. But “Goldie” as he was called by trainer Nick Zito was a fan favorite and has been heavily used in the sim. Even though he is not a top name DDS he is probably better than other stallions from small foreign markets.
Cry Me Some Gold has six wins from nine starts and has only been off the board once. He has the classic profile of a horse who is making incremental leaps every time he hit the track while facing pretty stiff competition every time out. He won his first listed going 8.5f in October. He returned to run in the Club Stakes over the Kentucky track. The 8.5f race saw him start in thirteenth before the rest of the field felt the whoosh of him flying by them to grab the lead and win by two lengths. In second there was Invincible Emperor whom he meets again today along with four other current or future graded stakes winners. Cry Me Some Gold took three months off after that win and JAMADM decided to take the Florida route to the Bluegrass Derby. He made his debut in the Fountain of Ute, a 9f G2 where he broke last and stayed there a little too long. He may have just needed the race off the layoff but he finally started to pick up his feet in time to finish second to Yankee Pharoah in the race. He ran a 107 speed that day, improving off the 103 he ran in the Club Stakes. He returned five weeks later for the local Derby – Lock, the Florida Derby (G1). This time he was significantly closer to the front early on sitting n ninth and then moving up to seventh by the second call. At the stretch call Cry Me Some Gold was already in second, albeit by five lengths but his powerful closing kick saw him catch Giant’s Kash to win by a quarter length with a 110 speed.
#9 What Ever Ya Like Owned By Tenpoint Stables 15/1
Pedigree: Son of Union Rags out of the stakes winning mare Deputy Cat. Deputy Cat was by Deputy Minister x Storm Cat. She loved the dirt, winning over it sixteen times in her fifty six race career but she was an out and out sprinter. She has produced a number of major winners prior to What Ever Ya Like but has never produced a serious router. Her best foal so far is the Quality Road horse Buzzing Quality. Buzzing Quality won the Breeders’ Bowl Sprint in 2017 on his way to being crowned a champion that year. Deputy Cat also produced a grade one winner by Tapit named Fade Back to Black. She won the seven furlong Dell Computer Debutante in her two year old season. Deputy Cat has produced listed winning sprinters by Ghostzapper and Supah Blitz as well.
What Ever Ya Like may be one of the unluckiest horses in the sim (if you could say that about a Bluegrass Derby runner). He won a G3 last season before running second in both the 8f Sparkling Wine (G1) and the Breeders’ Bowl Juvenile. He lost each of those races by under a length. He added a second in the ASR Championship Day behind Above Threshold and another second behind Forest Whitaker in the G1 Vermont is 4 Lovers at 9f. What Ever Ya Like made his final start in the G1 Sand Castle Derby (G1) Lock Prep. He started in sixth place early but was generally flat footed, starting a length and a quarter behind the leaders and eventually finishing in fifth beaten only 3 ¼ lengths. He did manage to pick the hardest of the Derby Locks to run in. Of the horses that finished ahead of him were Above Threshold, My Awesome King and Forest Whitaker. This colt will have to show that killer instinct to get to the wire first.
#10 Forest Whitaker Owned By Frontyard Stables 24/1
Pedigree: By Take Charge Indy this colt is out of a Mausalama x Sillery mare Hot Forest. Despite the definite turf preference in her pedigree, Hot Forest won thirteen starts from forty five and hit the board in another twenty one with almost all of her races coming on the dirt. She did her best running between ten and twelve furlongs which should give her son some stoutness in that last furlong. This is the only interesting foal she’s dropped to date.
As mentioned above Forest Whitaker’s last start came in the most contentious Derby Lock of the year, the Sand Castle Derby. He closed from thirteenth to finish third behind fellow Derby entrants Above Threshold and My Awesome King with another entrant, What Ever Ya Like back in fifth. He won a sprint listed in just his second start as a two year old and was graded placed routing in his juvenile season. He started 2019 with a 9.5f listed win coming from last to win by two lengths in a nine horse field. He ran a career best 97 speed there. Then came his first grade one try and he blew the doors off the Vermont Is 4 Lovers at nine furlongs. He started in thirteenth and didn’t really even start his run until the stretch call but that run was huge. He ran a 102 speed there.
#11 Invincible Emperor Owned By Rockriver Stables 12/1
Pedigree: Son of I Am Invincible out of Holy Roman Emperor x Fappiano mare Storm Emperor. Storm Emperor was a pure sprinter, winning only once in thirteen attempts over a route. Although Holy Roman Emperor was a turf miler by Danehill, his damside certainly has a dirt element to it as he is out of L’on Vite a daughter of Secretariat and Fanfreluche. Storm Emperor’s damsire is Fappioano who is a huge dirt influence (and a speed one at that) while her DDS is Storm Bird, another that might bend slightly turf but can be a big dirt influence as well. Which just leaves Invincible Emperor’s sire I Am Invincible. The Australian powerhouse was given a boost starting in January 2018 (a plug for checking Mike’s annual ratings notes) but still is largely a turf influence. Nevertheless this is the sim and anything is possible.
Jimj (owner of Rockriver Stables) expressed how lucky he feels to have a Derby runner. His last Derby contender came in 2007 with Breeders’ Bowl Juvenile winner Degoldenstorm. Invincible Emperor has consistently worked his way up the class ladder. A listed winner at two he closed his year with a second place finish in the G2 Club Stakes here in KY. Jimj says “I am a firm believer that Mike includes a class factor in horse creation and when the horse continued to improve when upped to graded level last November and continued to improve I thought he might be a good one.” That race became something of a key race when the winner Cry Me Some Gold went on to win the Florida Derby and earn himself a spot in the Bluegrass Derby. Invincible Emperor was given time off before returning in the G3 Club Stakes where he closed from tenth to be fourth. He was obviously in need of that race because he came back with a solid win in the G2 Land’s End. He sat a little closer to the pace but the field was not as strong as the Club Stakes had been. Still he ran a 105 speed and earned a G2 badge. Invincible Emperor was entered back in the Arkansas Derby (G1) Lock Prep and ran his eyeballs out to get second by only half a length. In that start Invincible Emperor was back in midpack and got first run at the leaders but Awesome Saintly came from next to last with a huge run and Invincible Spirit did not have a chance to fight back. Jimj goes into this spot with cautious optimism “If he can get the extra 1/8 mile with another jump in SP he should represent the Dixon stable quite well in the race.“
#12 Awesome Saintly Owned By Zapspride Stables 13/1
Pedigree: Son of Ghostzapper out of the stakes winning mare Saintly Dunkirk. She was by Dunkirk out of the Stakes Winning Kingmambo mare Queenly Saint. Saintly Dunkirk is a half sister to grade two winner Saintmeister by Bodemeister who was on last year’s Derby trail but who earned his biggest victory in the Liar Stakes at eight and a half furlongs. Saintly Dunkirk never ran beyond nine furlongs but she did well enough to earn over $500,000 in her career, mostly in races between 8-9 furlongs. Awesome Saintly is a fourth generation Zapspride bred horse. He had this to say about the family “ The foundation mare was one I claimed in the early days of my Sim tenure. She was never a great runner, but She’s A Saint had a decent breeding and I splurged and bred her to Kingmambo producing Queenly Saint. She never broke the graded ranks, but was a 30% winner, and was to become one of my best broodmares. Her daughter Saintly Dunkirk was a multiple stakes winner. Ghostzapper looked like a good cross for her and here we are.
Zapspride describes Awesome Saintly’s two year old campaign of one of slowly working his way up the conditions His last two starts of the season came in listeds where he finished first and then third. He jumped straight onto the Derby Trail running in the G3 Scam Stakes at 9f in February. He only had to run against competition like Breeders’ Bowl winner Into Being Nice and multiple G1 placed two year old Moonlite Run there – both of whom have progressed well enough to earn themselves berths in the Bluegrass Derby. This late running colt took the Scam in style. Zapspride describes it this way when I gave him a shot at graded ranks, he took his first in style, and I thought “maybe this one has a shot”. Awesome Saintly returned in the G2 Felipe Alou Stakes and completely bounced, He showed none of the midpack speed that had won him the Scam. He just did not fire that day. Possibly the drop down in distance to 8.5f didn’t help him or as is common he just put forth a bigger effort in the Scam than he showed. Zapspride said “I thought his quest was done at that point. I figured I had nothing to lose though by entering the final Derby Lock. That was the Arkansas Derby (G1) and when the gates opened Awesome Saintly looked like he was a cooked horse. He was back in thirteenth early on which is where he had been in the Felipe Alou. Then suddenly something clicked and Awesome Saintly started passing horses left and right. To Zapspride’s amazement he came from way off the pace to win at the wire. Zapspride concludes “ I think he has a shot. The loss in CA came at a shorter distance, and I think he can make the distance here. He went straight from Groggy to sharp after the Arkansas Derby, and remained there through the Derby entry process. I think he wants this race. I’m just hoping he can make a good showing. My last entry (first) barely squeaked in on the basis of his seconditis at every level, and ran a mediocre Derby. I think Awesomely has a better chance here, and I won’t write anything off until he takes his shot. I’m keeping my fingers crossed through race time!! “
#13 My Awesome King Owned By Stockswami Stables 12/1
Pedigree: Champion 2yo Turf of 2018, My Awesome King has already equaled the feats of his accomplished mother. By Awesome Again this colt is out of Queen Kam. By King Kamehameha x Dubawi it was a natural fit that Queen Kam made all her starts on turf. In her career she won three grade ones including one at ten furlongs but the turf classic distance of twleve furlongs seemed just a touch out of her grasp. Along the way she added three grade twos and earnings over $2,000.000. Her first foal was also a grade one winning millionaire by Sepoy. Named King Kam Sepoy he was that type of sim unicorn who won grade ones on both dirt and turf. After a two year old career which saw him finish third in the Breeders’ Bowl Juvenile Turf (he raced exclusively on turf as a two year old), King Kam Sepoy switched to the dirt in the Wooden Indian no less and romped by almost two lengths. He earned his spot in the Bluegrass Derby but finished poorly before rebounding to win the Eddie Haskell with a 114 speed. His only other start on dirt saw him finish eighth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic over a good track. As a four year old this year he added the grade one Road Kill Mile. It will be interesting to see how his 2019 progresses. Queen Kam has a two year old by American Pharoah who was unplaced in his first start.
My Awesome King has lived up to his name in every start of his career. He’s never been worse than second in eight starts with six coming on the turf and two starts on dirt. After winning the Two Year Old Turf Championship My Awesome King was entered in his first dirt race in January, the G3 Giant Slayer Classic. On the turf he had tractable speed and that was on display in the Giant’s Slayer. He sat in second most of the way around the track before easing to the front in the stretch and winning by one quarter length. He ran a 104 speed, a career best which was interesting considering the switch to the dirt. He came back to make his final prep in the G1 Sand Castle Derby Lock. My Awesome King came out of the gate with a similar amount of speed he usually brings to a race but this time it saw him back in seventh rather than second or third. He was pushed back a bit before leveling off and finding himself in second entering the stretch. Unfortunately he didn’t quicken enough and ran second behind Above Threshold. He’s going to have a similar problem in this spot – he may break as well as he does but conceivably he could be back in the second half of the field within a few strides. He’s got the class to deal with all situations and it will be hard to write him off.
#14 Yankee Pharoah Owned By Naskippy Stables 17/1
Pedigree: Yankee Pharoah is a son of American Pharoah x Unbridled x Seattle Slew. How can you go wrong with two Triple Crown winners on the ends and a Derby/Breeders’ Cup Classic winner in the middle? One thing I like about this colt is that he is inbred to Unbridled. Unbridled is the great-grandsire of American Pharoah through Unbridled’s brilliant Belmont Stakes winning son Empire Maker. Unbridled is one of the best sources of Fappiano in the breeding world today. Fappiano was a miler son of Mr. Prospector but in the stud game he passed along a great deal of stamina to his progeny. Male descendants of Fappiano include Real Quiet and Candy Ride and through a daughter he is represented by Bernardini, just to name a few.
Yankee Pharoah is one of three Derby entrants representing the Only Stayers Residency, a fact that his owner naskippy is proud to point out. Naskippy will have been playing this game for three years as of May 7th and this is his second Bluegrass Derby runner. Yankee Pharoah started off his career slowly but naskippy believes he just needed longer distances to excel. He made a big improvement last fall when he won a listed stakeds going 8.5f in his 2018 finale. Naskippy had enough faith in him to try him in the grade three Legoaland in January where he finished third. Moving up to a g2 at 9f, Yankee Pharoah roared down the stretch of the Fountain of Ute to win with a 109 speed. He tried to duplicate that run five weeks later at the same track when he lined up for the 9f Florida Derby (G1). The deep closer was just run off his feet that day. He was further behind at every call than he had been in the Fountain of Ute. He may have just needed to bounce that day after improving so much in the Fountain of Ute. Naskippy said “A very disappointing run for such an accomplished horse. “ In therms of what to expect his trainer said “Yankee Pharoah is a deep closer and will need a jockey that can get out a heavy whip to make him fire from the back of the pack to get him in contention. He has the breeding to go the distance and has shown he has the goods to win if he fires like he did in the Fountain Of Ute.”
#15 Into Being Nice Owned By 4Nighthawk Stables 15/1
Pedigree: By Into Mischief out of U R Not Nice. U R Not Nice is a grade two winning daughter of Street Cry x Dynaformer. She was the only stakes winner for her dam but so far has produced three stakes winners prior to Into Being Nice. Into Being Nice did her best running in marathons. She was grade one placed going two miles and a grade three winner at fourteen furlongs but her biggest win came at ten furlongs in a grade two when she was a four year old. She never started as a two year old but showed promise as soon as she hit the racetrack.
Into Being Nice is the second juvenile champion in the field, but he is the more typical one as he won the Breeders’ Bowl Juvenile and ran in the traditional dirt preps (the other champion is My Awesome King who won the championship on turf last season). Into Being Nice finished his juvenile season with a second in the Movieland Futurity G1 behind Henty Kestar. He remained in California and returned two months later to run second again in the G3 Scam behind Awesome Saintly. He’ll face both of those foes in the Derby as both have gone on to do well through the season. 4Nighthawk felt that Into Being Nice had run some big races and didn’t need to face a hard field in his prep for the Bluegrass Derby. In early March he was entered in a listed going 9.5f and he won that race with ease while running a 102 speed. This colt has been last or next to last in all of his recent races. There is no questioning his class and the extra time off plus an easy listed win might just be the trick to getting this colt to the Derby winner’s circle.
#16 Giant’s Kash Owned By Kashbarn Stables 12/1
Pedigree: Giant’s Kash is the first foal out of the grade one winning War Front x A.P. Indy mare Kash O’War. She herself was a scratchbred but the combination of War Front and A.P. Indy has been a potent one in the game. A graded placed two year old, she won her first three races at age three which included the grade one Vermont is 4 Lovers at nine furlongs. She went on to run in the Bluegrass Oaks where she finished a solid fourth after closing from nineteenth. Later in her career she tried distances up to 11.5f and was stakes placed at that distance. Her second foal is by Awesome Again and that colt is already a winner.
The second of the two Kashbarn entrants is Giant’s Kash. Kashbarn generally tends to ‘tag’ his horses in their names and what luck that not only does he have two runners in the Derby but both are ‘Kash’ runners as well. This colt had an interesting two year old campaign. He broke his maiden at first outing in a route and then dropped down to sprints where he went three for three. He closed 2018 with a win in a 7.5f listed and came back just over a month later to win a nine furlong listed event. In both of those runs he sat about midpack before launching his winning bids. He made his graded debut in the Florida Derby (G1) Derby Lock Prep. It was a salty field to take on with Fountain of Ute (G2) winner Yankee Pharaoh and that race’s runner up Cry Me Some Gold both coming back for more along with All Cat No Hattle who had been third in the Fountain of Ute but was a strong 3rd in the Breeders’ Bowl Juvenile. Giant’s Kash found himself farther back than typical in that race, he was eleventh at the first call but as is his wont he steadily wove through traffic before finding some clear running room at the end. He came flying but Cry Me Some Gold was already struck for home and he held on by a dwindling half length. Kashbarn had this to say about this colt “He’s been a great late runner and is very eager to win. He has exceeded expectations winning his first 5 races and it was a bit of a leap to jump into the Florida Derby out of a pair of listed stakes. The win streak ended but finishing second was fantastic and a little more distance, I’m sure he would have beat Cry Me Some Gold. We get that distance this time, so watch out!” He added “I’m extremely excited to have this very rare opportunity to have a pair of runners in the big event The field is excellent with a pair of Eclipse winners packed in and multiple million dollar winners. Of the two I have, my thinking is that Giant’s Kash is the better of the two however Kash Back Bonus keeps improving so I’m not gonna rule him out. “
#17 Big Wong Owned By Bizalls Stables 15/1
Pedigree: Scratchbred gelding by Nyquist x Pleasant Colony x Sir Ivor. Sire Nyquist and damsire Pleasant Colony were both Kentucky Derby Winners. Nyquist is too young to have babies race yet, but Pleasant Colony tended to produce runners who wanted a great deal of ground. Sir Ivor had both speed and stamina and was named Horse of the Year in both Great Britain and Ireland in 1968. He produced similar foals, such as Santa Anita Handicap winner Bates Motel. Overall this pedigree should take Big Wong ten furlongs.
According to his connections Big Wong was named for a Chinese restaurant in Last Vegas. I’m sure Bizalls is hoping that’s a lucky spot come Saturday! Big Wong has one of the best records of the Derby runners this year with seven wins in eight starts. He ended 2018 with a one mile listed stakes that he won comfortably. He sat off the pace in the thirteen horse field, biding his time in third before being turned loose and set down for the homestretch drive. About six weeks later he made his graded stakes debut in Louisiana where he took on the grade three Risen Star Stakes. He was favored that day and coming from the five hole he made all the running and he did it the hard way with another colt challenging him every stride. Around the final turn Big Wong started to edge clear and he held his advantage over the closers through the stretch and to the wire. He returned to the same track and same distance for the All Saints Derby (G1) a Derby Lock Prep. This time he was content to sit in third early on before overtaking the leaders and holding off the closers, in this case Moonlite Run who came from last early on to try and catch Big Wong. If there is a chink in his armor it’s that he’s never gone beyond a mile and a sixteenth. That lack of bottom may show as the Derby field reaches the stretch call.
#18 Henty Kestar Owned By Tulloch Stables 19/1
Henty Kestar is a son of Giant’s Causeway out of the mare Finke Starlets. Finke Starlets (by Awesome Again x Sea the Stars) won her only listed going 8.5 furlongs but she was second or third in a number of others, all at or near a mile. If I had to guess she was likely retired last year to be bred to Giant’s Causeway after his death was announced. She had started last year with a 108 speed in a listed and could have gone on to bigger and better things. But I guess she did she’s got a runner in the Bluegrass Derby! Her 2019 foal has a pretty nice sire himself in American Pharoah. Perhaps one to watch next spring. Kyogle, who owns the Tulloch master stable had this to add “Henty Kestar would be the fairytale. He traces back half a dozen generations to Eureka (by Storm Cat), a GP SW who was one of the first horses I bred in the game. “
Henry Kestar had a great two year old season. He was second in his debut then strung together a four race win streak. The last two races were wins in an 8f listed and then his graded debut in the Movieland Futurity (G1). Kyogle says “When he won the Movieland Futurity he became my first ever 2yo G1 winner. I knew that didn’t bode well for the Derby, so I went scouring the record books. I concluded that, with very few exceptions, the good young horses had done plenty of racing at a very high level.” Kyogle decided to not take the traditional route to get to the Derby. He already had enough points to gain a spot in the starting gate. Kyogle game him a bit of time off after the Movieland and he returned in a 9f allowance race with jockey instructions not to go to hard on him. He won the Movieland by coming with a run from eighth but in the allowance he found himself sitting second in what was only a six horse field. His second and most recent three year old start came in the G3 Chicago Derby again, with a lowered jockey score. He finished a solid third and ran his second triple digit speed of 104. Kyogle says of his unconventional leadup “His 3yo form isn’t inspiring, but he’s done what was asked and I sure hope he doesn’t provide more ammunition for the anti-Juvi brigade. “
#19 All Cat No Hattle Owned By Pleasanttap Stables 17/1
Pedigree: All Cat Not Hattle is one of several runners produced by an End of Year Champion. In this case the son of Tale of the Cat was produced by the Bernardini x Mr. Prospector mare First Degree Bern. First Degree Bern was the Champion 3yo Filly of 2014. That year saw her win both the Bluegrass Derby and the Breeders’ Bowl Distaff. Her first foal, a filly by Tiznow was a graded placed stakes winner. She did her best running around nine furlongs although she was third in an allowance going 12f. First Degree’s Second Foal was a horse by Broken Vow who perhaps even exceeded his mother’s accomplishments. He also was named a champion and he earned almost $6,000,000. He was a Grade One winner at two but really blossomed at three. On the Triple Crown trail, Low Fidelity finished strong seconds in both the Bluegrass Derby and the New Yorker, then later in the year was second in the Breeders’ Bowl Classic. He won or placed in a number of other graded stakes throughout his career. All Cat No Hattle has a year older sister by Lookin At Lucky who was undistinguished in her career and a two year old brother by Union Rags who is already a winner.
All Cat No Hattle raced last year on the Bluegrass Derby undercard. He was a winner of the G3 Television Stakes at 5f. It is not often you see a horse so precocious end up in the big race a year later. He had one other G3 win last year, this time going a mile. He was second in a G1 before running third in the Breeders’ Bowl Juvenile. After seven two year old starts trainer Pleasanttap decided to ease up on his colt and he gave him over three months off. All Cat No Hattle returned in the G2 Fountain of Ute where he ran fifth early on before making a brief middle move that saw him get up to third for a while before fading in the stretch behind Yankee Pharoah and ending up fifth. His only other start this year came in the G1 Florida Derby. He broke well and started in third. Early leader Sneaky Spirit LV ran away from the field and used his high cruising speed to open up early. All Cat No Hattle was third but he was over five lengths behind the winner. He never really got moving, ending up in fifth about five lengths behind. There’s no telling what will happen in the Bluegrass Derby and some horses really pop in that third start off a layoff.
#20 Above Threshold Owned By Handshobby Stables 10/1
Pedigree: This son of Tapit is based on Mo Pye Mo Problems, a hemare with quite a story. The horse by Uncle Mo x Storm Cat was bred by the powerful stables of Lord Pye. He is a half brother to grade one winner Holy Bulb (Street Cry) who won the one mile Equinics division for three year old dirt fillies, although she may have been better as a sprinter. She went on to produce multiple grade one winning router The Bulb Factor and a grade three winner by Tapit named Tap Tap Tapping. He won a G3 going 8.5f and also ran in the Middle Jewel and the New Yorker as a three year old. Another half sister to Mo Pye Mo Problems was bred to Tapit and produced a sprinter. Mo Pye Mo Problems was an immature young horse. As a three year old he was sprinting on the dirt and he was dropped to a $20,000 NW2L in March. Scorehobby scooped him up and developed him into a top notch older runner. He was second in two grade two events including on race he lost by a heartbreaking half length and was a winner of two listed stakes.
This is Handshobby’s first Derby entrant in over twenty years of game play. He explains that “Above Threshold” is a cycling term that means you are going at a pace above the maximum you can maintain for an hour, or as he sasy “really, really hard”. Certainly Above Threshold knows the meaning of going really really hard. He made his stakes debut in the ASR Championship Day going 8.5f on December 29th. Sitting in fourth early Above Threshold was pulling hard and was moving up on the backside before exploding to the lead around the turn and cruising to the wire with a 2 ½ length victory. The race was a twenty horse field restricted to ASR runners, and ASR is a pretty competitive residency so he didn’t beach a group of slouches. He ran a huge for a 2yo 106 speed in that spot. Handshobby was so impressed he said “The ASR Championship win was when I started planning for a possible Derby run. Seeing him run a 106spf as a 2-year old against some really stiff competition convinced me he had a real shot.” Handshobby felt that he had two different paths to get his colt to the Bluegrass Derby – running a more conventional graded stakes path or giving his colt more time between starts and pinning his hopes on a big Derby Lock run. He chose the latter path and so far it has worked out. Above Threshold annihilated a listed field in February and then came back to win the Sand Castle Derby going wire to wire with a 107 speed. That makes him four for four in routes but the twenty hole may blunt his early speed. Handshobby says about his chances “I think Above Threshold has a legit shot to win, as he has beat some strong horses with room to spare. I do realize that the Derby field is a whole other beast, but he should be able to stay out of trouble with his early pace and has run well both on the lead and sitting just off the front.” Of the threats he sees in the field he mentioned the late running trio of Cry Me Some Gold, The Glaive and Giant’s Kash.
Good luck to all of the runners and congrats to the connections for making it into this Classic race.