Kentucky Derby contender profile - Country Grammer

July 21st, 2020

Six years ago, a late-maturing colt named Tonalist burst into the spotlight with an upset victory in the 2014 Belmont Stakes (G1). While he came to hand too late to compete in the Kentucky Derby, Tonalist raced with success for another 1 1/2 years, retiring with four Grade 1 wins to his credit.

Now Tonalist’s son Country Grammer has burst onto the scene in a similar manner, showing steady improvement with time and maturity. And thanks to the postponement of the 2020 Kentucky Derby, Country Grammer will have a chance to win the race his sire missed.

Bred by Scott Pierce and Debbie Pierce, Country Grammer was produced by Arabian Song, a daughter of the Grade 1-winning sprinter/miler Forestry. While this combination theoretically adds a dose of speed to Country Grammer’s pedigree, the bay colt is clearly taking after his sire when it comes to distance proclivities.

Country Grammer sold for just $60,000 as a yearling, but evidently made a better impression as a 2-year-old in training, bringing $450,000. Racing in the colors of Paul P. Pompa—co-owner of 2008 Kentucky Derby winner Big Brown—Country Grammer debuted running a mile on turf at Belmont Park last fall, running evenly to finish fourth while beaten just two lengths by the pacesetters in a speed-favoring race.

Trainer Chad Brown subsequently elected to try Country Grammer on dirt, and the result has been a series of steadily-improving performances. After breaking his maiden by 3 1/4 lengths racing 1 1/8 miles at Aqueduct, Country Grammer took things easy, with his lone start over the winter producing a fifth-place effort in the Feb. 29 Fountain of Youth (G2). This was a deceptively strong effort, as Country Grammer rallied after a poor start to miss the runner-up spot by half a length.

Country Grammer finally returned to action in a 1 1/16-mile allowance race on June 4 at Belmont, finishing third in a fast time, and then relished an opportunity to stretch back out over 1 1/8 miles in the July 16 Peter Pan (G3) at Saratoga. Under a perfect ground-saving ride from jockey Irad Ortiz, Country Grammer battled tenaciously to win the Road to the Kentucky Derby prep race by a neck in 1:49.79, securing 50 Kentucky Derby qualification points.

With his 2-for-2 record racing 1 1/8 miles, it’s clear distance isn’t an issue for Country Grammer. He’s improving with every start and still has plenty of upside considering how lightly he’s been raced. The way he’s progressing, Country Grammer figures to follow his sire and peak during the summer and fall, just in time to vie for victory in the Kentucky Derby.

The Kentucky Derby returns to Churchill Downs on Saturday, Sept. 5.