Indiana Grand stakes plays for Saturday, July 13

A total of six stakes races with combined purses exceeding $1 million headline a huge day of racing at Indiana Grand. I tabbed a few contenders who look to be worth a play in the very competitive events.

RACE 9 – Indiana Derby (G3)

The headliner attracted 11 and the horses to beat drew widest in the field. With very little early speed toward the inside of the race, I will give ALWAYSMINING (#6) (8-1) a chance to return to his winning ways. Five-time stakes victor tired when chasing swift fractions in the Preakness (G1) two prior, and he hung around through the finish going a one-turn route in the Easy Goer Stakes at Belmont Park most recently when third. The Kelly Rubley charge has a chance to lead this field early and perhaps steal it under jockey Julian Pimentel.

RACE 8 – Indiana Oaks (G3)

Deep edition of this race attracts an overflow field of 14 for the 1 1/16-mile affair. I am not sure that SUNDAYSATTHBEACH (#4) (8-1) can beat the whole cast in her stakes debut, but I do like the way the Brendan Walsh trainee is progressing in preparation of the affair. The daughter of Medaglia d’Oro has earned BRIS Late Pace figures of 101 and 106 in her two most recent showings, and if things fall into place, she could be a late presence in this spot at a price that will drift up higher than the morning-line number.

RACE 6 – Warrior Veterans Stakes

Nine will travel 1 1/16 miles on the green in a very talented field for the level. DOT MATRIX (#8) (4-1) was a convincing winner of the race in 2018 and, judging by his latest, looms large in hopes of defending his title. The Brad Cox pupil went last-to-first with a rush in his seasonal bow at Churchill Downs over a decent field last out. The New York-bred son of Freud should get an honest pace to rally into with Shaun Bridgmohan on board.

RACE 5 – Mari Hulman George Memorial

A field of 10 fillies and mares will go 1 1/16 miles in this affair. I have a liking for SHE’S PRETTY LUCKY (#4) (8-1) in her return to the dirt. The Eddie Kenneally charge is four-for-six on a fast surface and has the ability to give the top guns in the cast a serious run with her top performance. The Lookin at Lucky four-year-old has a hint of class and should be fit and ready with Declan Cannon aboard.

PHOTO: Alwaysmining (c) Maggie Kimmitt/Maryland Jockey Club

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Pedigree fun facts for 2019 Preakness

The dozen contenders expected in Saturday’s Preakness (G1) bring notable pedigrees into the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown.

Although none is by a Preakness winner, three are grandsons of champions who’ve figuratively hoisted the Woodlawn Vase.

Win Win Win boasts that both of his grandsires, Sunday Silence and Smarty Jones, are Kentucky Derby (G1) winners who added the Preakness. His sire, Japanese champion Hat Trick, is by Hall of Famer Sunday Silence, who prevailed in the 1989 epic over Easy Goer. (Hat Trick has two more Preakness victors close up on his dam’s side, Codex [1980] and Hall of Famer Damascus [1967].) Win Win Win’s broodmare sire, Smarty Jones, ran away from his 2004 rivals by a Preakness record margin of 11 1/2 lengths.

Bernardini, hero of the 2006 edition marred by the breakdown of Barbaro, factors in the second generation of two contenders. Local star Alwaysmining is by Bernardini’s son Stay Thirsty, and Owendale is out of a Bernardini mare.

Bernardini’s sire, Hall of Famer A.P. Indy, is in turn by 1977 Triple Crown sweeper Seattle Slew and out of a mare by 1973 Triple Crown legend Secretariat. A.P. Indy is also a direct male-line ancestor of Bourbon War (by Tapit) and Signalman (by General Quarters, a son of Sky Mesa). Coincidentally, all three contenders from this sire line are new shooters.

A.P. Indy’s influence is visible on the dam’s side as well, beyond the link to the aforementioned Owendale. A.P. Indy appears as the broodmare sire of presumptive favorite Improbable and perhaps the biggest outsider of the group, Market King.

Improbable, by City Zip, is one of three representatives of the Mr. Prospector sire line. Mr. Prospector was in turn the grandson of Preakness winners Native Dancer (1953) and Nashua (1955). Ironically, both Hall of Famers had suffered Kentucky Derby upsets.

Bodexpress is by Bodemeister, who was just caught by a neck in the 2012 Preakness, denied again by I’ll Have Another in a reprise of their Derby finish. As a son of Empire Maker, Bodemeister hails from the same branch of “Mr. P” as 2015 Triple Crown star American Pharoah. The speedy stakes firster Warrior’s Charge is a son of Munnings, a scion of the Gone West branch via Speightstown.

Five contenders descend from the sire line of Hall of Famer Northern Dancer, the 1964 Derby and Preakness victor (who was out of a Native Dancer mare).

Three come by way of Storm Cat. Anothertwistafate is from the final crop of Scat Daddy. The sire of 2018 Triple Crown champion Justify, the late Scat Daddy has the distinction of being the only sire in the line-up already responsible for a Preakness winner. The other two Storm Cat-line descendants are both by Into Mischief – Owendale and Market King, each bred along a similar pattern with their dams hailing from the A.P. Indy line as described above.

War of Will, by Danzig’s son War Front, is out of a Sadler’s Wells mare and therefore closely inbred (3×3) to Northern Dancer. Laughing Fox likewise has both parents from the Northern Dancer line, and in fact his pedigree sports four crosses of Northern Dancer within five generations. By Union Rags, himself a son of the Dixieland Band stallion Dixie Union, Laughing Fox is out of a mare by Storm Cat’s son Stormy Atlantic.

Looking purely at the matrilineal descent, Laughing Fox and Improbable trace to the same family number 16-h with Ornament (sister to unbeaten 1886 English Triple Crown winner Ormonde) as their common ancestress. Laughing Fox descends from Ornament’s all-time great daughter, Sceptre, who won four English classics.

While Improbable springs from a different daughter, this branch includes such American champions as Chateaugay, the 1963 Derby and Belmont (G1) hero who was second in the Preakness, and Little Current, who rebounded from the 1974 Derby to turn the Preakness/Belmont double. A more recent classic performer on Improbable’s page is Hard Spun, the 2007 Derby runner-up and Preakness third.

War of Will and Market King, bred by the Niarchos Family’s Flaxman Holdings from different families, are each related to outstanding European milers. War of Will’s dam is a half-sister to French and Irish highweight Spinning World, hero of the 1997 Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1), and Market King’s granddam is European champion and dual classic winner Divine Proportions.

Bourbon War is the first foal from star filly My Conquestadory. By the Sadler’s Wells-line sire Artie Schiller, My Conquestadory beat the boys in her career debut in the Summer (G2) at Woodbine and came right back to take the Alcibiades (G1). Her mating with Tapit gives her resulting foal, Bourbon War, inbreeding to both A.P. Indy and Mr. Prospector.

Anothertwistafate is out of a half-sister to such Juddmonte celebrities as French classic winner Nebraska Tornado, Group 2 victor Burning Sun, and Grade 3 scorer Mirabilis (herself the dam of Group 3 hero Monarchs Glen). Anothertwistafate’s pedigree offers a fascinating pattern: his granddam, Grade 2 winner Media Nox, is bred on a similar Mr. Prospector/Nijinsky II cross as his paternal granddam (Scat Daddy’s dam) Love Style so he is accordingly inbred to those patriarchs.

Owendale’s family has produced three Grade 1 winners in the past decade or so, from his “uncle” Great Hunter and Mor Spirit to champion filly Stellar Wind, victorious in six Grade 1s.

Signalman sports inbreeding to Danzig, but perhaps his most significant duplication is of Broodmare of the Year Weekend Surprise, through her sons A.P. Indy and Honor Grades. That’s the “Rasmussen Factor” of doubling up on a superior female. Weekend Surprise herself reflected the Rasmussen Factor, with a close repetition of Somethingroyal, dam of Secretariat and Sir Gaylord.

Alwaysmining also claims that pedigree angle, albeit at a further remove that reinforces the duplication of noted matron Cequillo found in his own dam, What Will Be. The details are in the following paragraph, but the short version is that three closely related mares by Dr. Fager – Killaloe (dam of Fappiano), Demure (dam of Quiet American), and Consequential – all appear in his five-cross pedigree.

Alwaysmining’s third dam, Consequential, is by Dr. Fager and out of Cequillo, making her a three-quarter sister to Killaloe, the dam of Fappiano. As a result, when Consequential’s daughter was bred to Anees, a grandson of Fappiano, the resulting foal – What Will Be – was inbred to the closely related mares Killaloe and Consequential. Alwaysmining’s sire, Stay Thirsty, added another layer to this pattern because his sire, Bernardini, is out of a mare by the intensely inbred Quiet American. Being by Fappiano and out of Demure, yet another three-quarter sister to Killaloe, Quiet American is himself inbred to Dr. Fager (3×2) and Cequillo (4×3).

Finally, as a barometer of their far-reaching influence, Northern Dancer and Mr. Prospector factor in the pedigrees of all 12 Preakness contenders. Secretariat appears in all but one, and Seattle Slew is present in all but three. War of Will lacks both, while Warrior’s Charge and Win Win Win are missing “Slew.”

Photo of the Woodlawn Vase (c) Cecilia Gustavsson/Horsephotos.com

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Projected cast for 2019 Preakness: How the Middle Jewel is shaping up

For the first time since 1951, the principals from the Kentucky Derby (G1) are all absent from the Preakness (G1). But if the Middle Jewel doesn’t lend itself so much to a “rematch” story line, Saturday’s classic in Baltimore is giving a few Derby competitors a fresh playing field versus several up-and-comers.

Leading the cast is Improbable, who aims to give Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert a record eighth Preakness. The 4-1 post time Derby favorite, he crossed the wire in a fairly even fifth (promoted to fourth via the disqualification of Maximum Security). That was the second straight sloppy track that the big chestnut encountered, following his runner-up effort to Omaha Beach in the Arkansas Derby (G1).

Despite the fact that he was beaten only a length by the early Kentucky Derby favorite at Oaklawn, I didn’t get the sense that Improbable was in love with the slop. To me, he gave off the vibe of one tolerating it and plowing through on class. Then again, the blinker experiment had him all at sea from the beginning of the Arkansas Derby anyway, so I could be misreading or over-interpreting it. In any event, the blinkers-off Improbable did not really pick up in the slop at Churchill as he was beaten a shade over three lengths, and he’s manifestly better than that.

If the advance forecast holds, Improbable stands to get a fast surface at Pimlico, and we could well see him back to his best. The City Zip colt remains capable of the brute power he showed in last fall’s Street Sense and Los Alamitos Futurity (G1).

War of Will would like a word with Maximum Security after the fracas on the Derby far turn, but until he gets that opportunity, the Mark Casse trainee at least deserves a clean trip in the Preakness. While we’ll never know exactly how much the interference cost him, War of Will maintained his contending position for a long way before fading to eighth (elevated to seventh). And the immediate postrace quotes suggested he just got tired. Casse relayed what jockey Tyler Gaffalione had told him: “if he could have gotten him to relax a little he thought he would finish a little better.”

Indeed, War of Will had every right to feel it that last furlong even if he hadn’t been hampered or raced too keenly in the early going. Remember his awkward steps at the beginning of the Louisiana Derby (G2), where he lost his action and never factored in ninth? He got virtually nothing out of his final Kentucky Derby prep, six weeks ahead of the first Saturday in May. So War of Will had not had a proper race since his Risen Star (G2) victory back on…February 16.

Thus War of Will’s pattern of races – but not his overall profile – reminds me of Bravazo last year. Bravazo also won the Risen Star, got nothing out of a bizarre trip in the Louisiana Derby, ran a sneakily-good sixth behind Justify in the Churchill slop, moved forward a light year at Pimlico, and almost upset the Triple Crown winner. War of Will has the same entitlement to improve off the Derby, along with the advantage of being a naturally more brilliant performer than Bravazo.

The other two exiting the Derby are Win Win Win and Bodexpress. Win Win Win, who brought exotics appeal in the wake of a troubled but hard-charging second in the Blue Grass (G2), raced far back early at Churchill and got no closer than 10th (officially placed ninth). The Mike Trombetta pupil is eligible to return to his prior form, but still needs to step up to become a win threat. Bodexpress, part of the collateral damage on the Derby far turn, is still a maiden albeit one with a respectable level of form for Gustavo Delgado. Runner-up to Maximum Security in the Florida Derby (G1) two back, the Bodemeister colt aims to become the first to break his maiden in the Preakness since Refund (1888).

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The historical trends strongly favor Derby alumni winning the Preakness, but the 2019 Triple Crown trail hasn’t exactly gone according to script. This is just the type of year for a new shooter to defy the stats.

The most logical place to look is among the “bubble” horses who might have been a tad unlucky not to make the Derby field, and Bourbon War is Exhibit A. Trained by Mark Hennig, the Tapit blueblood brings the rich vein of Florida form that stood up well in the Derby. Bourbon War was a closing second to Code of Honor in the Fountain of Youth (G2) and fourth in the Florida Derby, where he had no chance given the race shape benefitting the front runners. (Saturday’s Peter Pan [G3] is an additional data point, with Fountain of Youth alum Global Campaign prevailing.)

Sometimes my penchant for counterfactuals can lead me astray, but just as a thought experiment, what if Bourbon War had been in the Wood Memorial (G2) instead of the Florida Derby? Isn’t there a reasonable chance he gets more points at Aqueduct than at Gulfstream (all he needed was a third in the Wood)? And gets in the Derby? In that alternate universe, Bourbon War might have brought a stronger resume into Baltimore. At a minimum, the talented colt is adding blinkers for the Preakness and figures to get an honest pace.

The “what-if” game applies to Marylander Alwaysmining in a slightly different way. He’s compiled a six-race winning spree capped by the Federico Tesio – a Preakness “Win and You’re In” – without venturing into Derby scoring races. Yet he’s turned in Brisnet Speed figures in the high 90s of late, implying that he would have been competitive had connections attempted Derby preps. Trainer Kelly Rubley’s patient game might prove wisest in the end, as Alwaysmining enters the biggest test of his life riding a wave of confidence. And he’s not without some collateral form, having beaten Win Win Win in the Heft last December. His defeat of Gray Magician, the future UAE Derby runner-up, in the Miracle Wood is less compelling but still noteworthy. A front runner in the first five races of his current skein, Alwaysmining proved he could stalk and pounce in his 11-length demolition job in the Tesio.

Bubble list veteran Signalman has perhaps the most gnawing what-might-have-been for his connections. Had they entered as an also-eligible, he would have drawn into Derby 145 upon the scratch of Haikal. Signalman had scored his signature win in last fall’s Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) in similarly sloppy conditions at Churchill, following a third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) over the same track. The same points don’t promise to carry over to Pimlico. Moreover, Signalman has yet to perform up to his 2018 form, most recently finishing third in the Blue Grass. He’ll have to move forward markedly third start off the layoff for Ken McPeek.

Owendale has the look of a rapid improver after capturing the Lexington (G3) with a monster circling move. The proverbial light bulb came on one start too late, unfortunately, to make the Derby. The Brad Cox trainee had made no impact in his stakes debut in the Risen Star, winding up eighth behind War of Will and promoted Kentucky Derby winner Country House. Although not as gaudy as the Gulfstream form, the Risen Star has its own graduate success stories, with Plus Que Parfait going on to take the UAE Derby (G2) and Mr. Money garnering the Pat Day Mile (G3). In hindsight, there was no disgrace to being unplaced in the Risen Star, and Owendale’s dynamic breakthrough at Keeneland came at the expense of several Derby trail veterans.

Chief among them is “bubble” horse Anothertwistafate. After dominating the El Camino Real Derby – the first “Win and You’re In” for the Preakness – on his home Tapeta at Golden Gate Fields, Anothertwistafate met with disadvantageous trips in his ensuing Derby points races on dirt. In the Sunland Park Derby (G3), Cutting Humor was already launching his winning move by the time Anothertwistafate could angle out, and his rally fell a neck short. Nevertheless, Cutting Humor had been summarily dismissed by Bourbon War in a Gulfstream allowance, so on a literal reading of form, Anothertwistafate has a gap to close with him.

Anothertwistafate’s gap with Owendale isn’t merely hypothetical, but actual, from his 1 3/4-length defeat in the Lexington. Although Anothertwistafate was temporarily in traffic, he did cut the corner into the stretch once clear, and it would be rash to claim he’d have outfinished Owendale. That said, Anothertwistafate didn’t have an ideal scenario on the turnaround. Marooned at Sunland when he couldn’t return to Golden Gate due to an EHV-1 positive back home, the Blaine Wright trainee actually worked in New Mexico before shipping again to Keeneland. Now Anothertwistafate not only has better spacing between races going into the Preakness, but he’s also been training in the friendly confines of Golden Gate. The son of Scat Daddy (sire of Justify) can put a better foot forward at Pimlico.

Like Anothertwistafate and Alwaysmining, Laughing Fox prevailed in a Preakness “Win and You’re In,” in his case the inaugural Oaklawn Invitational. But unlike them, Laughing Fox also competed in a major Derby prep, the Arkansas Derby, and finished a creditable fourth. Although Omaha Beach and Improbable were in a race of their own that day, Laughing Fox was only a length off the third-placer – Country House.

Trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, the flashy Union Rags colt had a productive meet in Hot Springs. Laughing Fox won two straight, including a Presidents’ Day allowance in a time comparable to the Southwest (G3) later on the card, before a troubled seventh in the Omaha Beach/Game Winner division of the Rebel (G2). Then he resumed his upward curve, and last out rallied stoutly to beat some useful sorts in the nine-furlong Oaklawn Invitational. The broad parallel is with Owendale, if without quite the same panache.

Oaklawn has produced two more Preakness contenders, both longshots. Warrior’s Charge, a stablemate of Owendale from the Cox barn, came to hand too late for a Triple Crown nomination. So Ten Strike Racing and Madaket Stables must stump up $150,000 to supplement the Munnings colt, who will make an audacious stakes debut off maiden and entry-level allowance romps. Warrior’s Charge promises to contribute to the pace after both wire jobs in solid time.

Hall of Fame trainer and six-time Preakness winner D. Wayne Lukas pitched Market King onto the list Sunday. A distant third in Omaha Beach’s Rebel, he retreated to 11th after a wide trip in the Blue Grass. If you’re trawling for positive talking points, he’s a Niarchos Family-bred blueblood (like War of Will), bred on a similar cross to Owendale (Into Mischief over A.P. Indy), and training forwardly.

Preakness Starting Gate (c) Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club

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An early look at the 2019 Preakness “new shooters”

As has become more often the case in recent years, “new shooters” will outnumber Kentucky Derby (G1) participants when the field for the $1.5 million Preakness (G1) takes to the track at Pimlico on May 18.

Following the defections of Derby winner Country House and runner-up Code of Honor, the number of horses considering wheeling back in two weeks currently stands at three: Improbable, War of Will, and Bodexpress.

The last time a Derby winner skipped the Preakness was in 1996, when Grindstone exited the Churchill Downs classic with a career-ending injury. The last time none of the top three finishers in the Derby ran in the Preakness was way back in 1951.

In the last 50 editions of the Preakness, since 1969, new shooters have won the Preakness a mere eight times, which is not a great percentage. However, if lacking the requisite class to win the blanket of Black-Eyed Susans, they can’t be entirely discounted from finishing second or third. Fifteen new shooters have completed the Exacta and 18 have completed the Trifecta in the Preakness during that span. The last time new shooters occupied the top three slots in the Preakness was in 1982, a race passed by Derby winner Gato del Sol.

Here are quick thoughts on the seven new shooters currently under consideration:

Alwaysmining will be the sentimental choice among the Maryland faithful as he’ll seek to become the first Free Stater to win the Preakness since Deputed Testamony in 1983. Connections never caught a whiff of Derby Fever, which has been to the gelding’s benefit as he’s reeled off six wins in a row, many by open lengths. The Preakness, obviously, will be a much more stringent task despite the absence of many high-profile names, but we don’t really yet know how good this one is.

Anothertwistafate didn’t quite make the Derby cut on points after second-place finishes in the Sunland Park Derby (G3) and Lexington (G3), though he could have made the field if he had entered due to the late scratches of Omaha Beach and Haikal. However, connections felt that after the Lexington a five-week break was necessary and that their best shot at a classic would come in Baltimore. No argument here. His run in New Mexico was solid, and note he encountered early trouble in the Keeneland race. Intriguing contender.

Bourbon War has the benefit of having run in what turned out to be two of the key Kentucky Derby preps. He was a close second to Code of Honor in the Fountain of Youth (G2), and then fourth behind Maximum Security in the Florida Derby (G1). A day after seeing what transpired at Churchill Downs, connections re-thought their initial plans of running in the May 11 Peter Pan (G2). Given the evidence in his three stakes attempts thus far, he’s dependent on a fast pace.

Laughing Fox, fourth in the Arkansas Derby (G1) behind Omaha Beach, Improbable, and Country House, rallied to win last Saturday’s $300,000 Oaklawn Invitational, a “Win & You’re In” prep for the Preakness, by a neck. He’s another who does his best running late, but at the moment seems a cut below most of these on this list.

Mr. Money impressively captured the Pat Day Mile (G3) on the Kentucky Derby undercard, suggesting one-turn races might be more his strong suit. Wide trips hurt in the Risen Star (G2) and Louisiana Derby (G2), and he was eight lengths adrift of stablemate By My Standards in the latter when more than twice the price at 50-1.

Owendale shook off a bad eighth behind War of Will and Country House in the Risen Star to win the Lexington by nearly two lengths over Anothertwistafate, making a big move into contention around the far turn and motoring home through the short stretch. He’s really come on in recent months and can be in the mix with a repeat of his latest.

Signalman won the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) and placed in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) last season, but a poor try in the Fountain of Youth left him behind the eight-ball on points and he missed what was thought to be the Derby points cutoff when finishing third in Blue Grass (G2). The Preakness marks the third start of his form cycle and distance is absolutely not an issue for this son of General Quarters. Remains a tad suspect from a speed rating perspective, but wouldn’t dare leave him out of the exotics.

Click here for current Brisnet past performances of current Preakness contenders

 

Owendale photo (c) Wendy Wooley/EquiSport Photos

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