Racing Roundtable: Pool 1 of KDFW, first-crop sires, and top turf female

November 14th, 2023

This week the Roundtable looks back at the results of Pool 1 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager (KDFW), explores first-crop sires with promising progeny, and debates the winner of the Eclipse Award for top turf female, potentially the most contentious award of the season.

Pool 1 of the KDFW closed on Nov. 2 ahead of the Breeders' Cup. What were your initial thoughts on the results?

James Scully: Will focus upon a sharp trio of last-out maiden winners for Brad Cox. Air of Defiance (33-1), runner-up to Fierceness in his career debut, received support in Pool 1 following a six-length romp at Keeneand over about seven furlongs. By Quality Road, the $400,000 colt received a 95 Brisnet Speed rating. Nash (68-1) was offered in Pool 1 following a runner-up finish to Booth at six furlongs, and backers were thrilled to see the Medaglia d’Oro colt come back to graduate by a 10 1/4-length margin going 1 1/16 miles at Churchill Downs. The promising talent netted a 97 Speed figure. Rocketeer (58-1), a Curlin colt, established himself as one to watch when opening his racing career with a smashing four-length score at Keeneland, netting an 87 Speed rating in the about seven-furlong test.

Vance Hanson: The first KDFW pool closed in advance of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, and the eventual dominant winner of that race, Fierceness, started as the fourth individual choice, despite doubts about his long-term prospects following a poor run in the Champagne (G1). However, Derby history suggests that it's generally best to look beyond the major two-year-old stakes winners, which is why the mutuel field tends to be so heavily backed, even with 38 individual entries to choose from these days. There were plenty of other underlay choices in the first pool, among them the seemingly exposed Seize the Grey (37-1) and the three-year-old filly option (61-1).

Ashley Anderson: I was surprised to see Dornoch close at 19-1 for Danny Gargan after opening at 60-1. I suspect him being a full-brother to last year's Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Mage enticed bettors to back him, but I don't think his resume warrants 19-1 at the close of Pool 1. The Good Magic colt finished second in his first two starts, one of which was the Sapling S., before he broke his maiden at third asking when stretching out to 1 1/16 miles at Keeneland. I need to see more before I buy into the two-year-old.

Same with Agate Road for Todd Pletcher. The Quality Road son has been racing on the turf in his last three but did win on debut in a one-mile maiden special weight scheduled on grass but moved to the dirt at Saratoga. He most recently finished fifth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) but was bet down from 99-1 to 49-1 ahead of his most recent start.

I certainly expect the price of Fierceness, who closed at 29-1, to drop further after he romped to a 6 1/4-length victory in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) as well as the price on Nash, who broke his maiden by more than 10 lengths at Churchill over the weekend.

Among the first-crop sires each of us are profiling for TwinSpires Edge, do any progeny stand out to you so far? 

JS: Flameaway got off to a fast start at stud, and his progeny are distinguishing themselves early on turf. Dreamfyre captured the six-furlong Sorrento (G3) on dirt, but she’s switched to turf for her last two, recording a win in the Surfer Girl (G3) and an unplaced finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1). Freedom Principle appears headed for turf off back-to-back wins over maiden and stakes rivals on Gulfstream’s Tapeta. Blue Eyed George, Julias Dream, and Wine Collector exit respective turf allowance wins at Keeneland, Del Mar, and Laurel Park. Flameaway, who stands for a $20,000 fee at Darby Dan in 2024, is one of the few promising young U.S. stallions not standing at Spendthrift.

VH: The filly offspring of my sire, 2019 champion male sprinter Mitole, have been more prominent to date. The standout among them has been the Kenny McPeek-trained V V's Dream, who dominated the Pocahontas (G3) at Churchill Downs in September by more than eight lengths. She also finished a good second in both the Debutante S. and Alcibiades (G1), but ran a below-par third in the Rags to Riches S. after taking a pass on the Breeders' Cup. We might see her again in the Golden Rod (G2). 

Mitole's most exciting colt is the Keeneland graduate Booth, who won by more than five lengths on Oct. 7 for the same connections as his sire. The half-brother to Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) winner Bright Future earned a 98 Brisnet Speed rating and is expected to contest next week's Ed Brown S. at Churchill. So far, the offspring of Mitole have had little trouble adapting to all varieties of surfaces and track conditions.

AA: The first-crop sire I am profiling this season is Vino Rosso, currently the leader in progeny earnings by first-crop sires in North America, and he has a potential Kentucky Derby contender in The Wine Steward, who closed at 40-1 in Pool 1 of the KDFW. Out of a To Honor and Serve mare, The Wine Steward was 3-for-3 to start his career before he was beaten just a half-length by Locked in the Breeders' Futurity (G1) at Keeneland. Locked was the post-time favorite in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) and finished third to stablemate Fierceness, while The Wine Steward scratched from the race the day of and was installed as an 8-1 choice on the morning line. I see a ton of potential in the Mike Maker pupil going forward. 

As for the fillies by Vino Rosso, Cap Classique just won her third start from as many tries for trainer Brittany Russell and beat Brad Cox runner Deboisblanc in the Smart Halo S. at Laurel last weekend. The two-year-old broke her maiden on turf when racing 5 1/2 furlongs at Colonial Downs and then won an allowance optional claimer on dirt at the same distance before triumphing in her stakes debut. Russell said she may target the Dec. 30 Gin Talking S. at seven furlongs next.

Aside from those two, Vino Rosso also produced Bob Baffert runner Wine Me Up, second in the American Pharoah (G1), and Dancing Groom, 135-1 in Pool 1 of the KDFW, and has seven maidens scheduled to race over the course of this week, including two at Churchill Downs.

Many of the Eclipse Awards appear to be locked up, but there may be some contention in the voting for top turf female. Who do you think should receive the award?

JS: A top performer overseas, Inspiral distinguished herself by recording a fine win over Warm Heart in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1), and it’s difficult to separate the competition. I detest arbitrary rules for voting: Inspiral meets the qualifications for the Eclipse Award and would join a lengthy list of international winners with only one U.S. start.

VH: With the exception of War Like Goddess, who wasn't a factor in the Breeders' Cup Turf (G1), the John Gosden-trained Inspiral defeated every noteworthy domestic contender for the title in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf. In Italian simply didn't stay the mile and a quarter, while Didia and Fev Rover both fared poorly finishing near the back of the field. There is plenty of precedent for a European one-and-done winning an Eclipse off a single U.S. race, Goldikova and Ouija Board being notable examples this century. This is a situation that warrants the rewarding of one of Europe's top fillies of recent seasons.

AA: Inspiral will likely get the award after beating Warm Heart in the Filly & Mare Turf. She faced Group 1 or Grade 1 company all season and finished with a 5-3-1-0 record, including victories in the Chariot S. (G1) at Newmarket and Prix Jacques Le Marois (G1) at Deauville. Mawj may have gotten the award had she been able to beat the boys in the Breeders' Cup Mile (G1), but the three-year-old filly fell short by a nose, handing her the only loss of her season from five starts, but she faced lighter competition than Inspiral earlier in the year and needed the victory in the Breeders' Cup to potentially put her over the Frankel filly in the voting.