One of the more intriguing aspects of racing at Del Mar and Saratoga is the two-year-racing and the preliminary search for the industry’s next stars. Last year Preakness (gr. 1) and Haskell Invitational (gr.1) winner Lookin at Lucky and future Santa Anita Derby (gr. 1) champion Sidney’s Candy were racing at Del Mar while Kentucky Derby (gr. 1) presented by Yum! Brands winner Super Saver, Florida Derby (gr. 1) winner Ice Box and Wood Memorial (gr. 1) winner Eskendereya were racing at Saratoga. In the last 25 years or so, champions such as Secretariat, Ruffian, Affirmed, Point Given, A.P. Indy, Manila, Serena’s Song and Mom’s Command - to name just a few - have started at Del Mar or Saratoga as juveniles.
That is what makes maiden special weight races and 2-year-old stakes so special about these two tracks. With each winner, one has to wonder if they have just seen a future champion or Kentucky Derby winner.
Last year this blog latched onto a young Backtalk (photo above) after he broke his maiden at Churchill Downs in June as we were able to follow him all the way to his start in the Kentucky Derby. Backtalk finished last in the Derby, but he gave us a heck of a fun ride on the way. He was even one of the last horses to qualify for the Run for the Roses in the days just before the race. Make no mistake, I did not find Backtalk through meticulous pedigree research, work or race analysis. I stumbled upon him while writing a blog about the young stallion career of Kentucky Derby winner Smarty Jones, the sire of Backtalk.
Having admitted to my less than academic approach to picking intriguing 2-year-olds, let me tell you Hall of Fame St. Louis Cardinal Lou Brock (photo left) is my all-time favorite baseball player. That awkward transition can be explained by my intrigue with a 2-year-old first time starter in Saratoga’s eighth race Saturday. Again I assign a greater than normal significance on my name and Brock, breaking from the six post position in the 8th race at Saratoga, has my attention.
Beware there is not a long history of successful Brocks in this world. Other than Lou, the most successful Brocks in sports were 1970s-80s NFL interior line brothers Stan and Pete Brock. Quarterbacks Dieter Brock and Brock Berlin were less notable. But if the horse resembles UFC Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar (photo right), (in terms of competitiveness at least), the Asmussen camp should be happy. Whether he does it as cool as Brock Reynolds from the Young and the Restless, that remains.
All self importance aside though, Brock the thoroughbred has several notable qualities. The Steve Asmussen-trained son of leading sire Distorted Humor sold for $2,300,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Selected Two-Year-Olds in Training Sale, held at Calder Race Course near Miami in February.
Purchased by Rachel Alexandra owners Stonestreet Stables, Brock was impressive in the sale’s under-tack show working an eighth of a mile in :10-3/5 seconds. But in ten official works from May through July, he had done nothing to light up the morning work tabs. Now in his two most recent morning works in August, he seems to have come alive.
His bloodlines indicate that he may need a longer race than the six furlongs he runs Saturday in his first race. His dam, Tomisue’s Delight, won $1.2 million at the track and multiple grade 1 races at a mile or further including the Ruffian Handicap at Belmont and the 10 furlong (1-1/4 mile) Personal Ensign at Saratoga. Tomisue’s Delight is by Belmont winner and leading sire A.P. Indy and is also a full sister to 2003 Horse of the Year Mineshaft. As a broodmare, Tomisue’s Delight, who died of complications from colic in 2008, also produced multiple grade 1 winner Mr. Sidney and multiple stakes placed Save Big Money. So she had the potential to match her race record with her production as a broodmare.
Sire Distorted Humor stands for a $100,000 fee at Winstar Farm in Versailles, Kentucky and was the second leading sire in terms of total offspring earnings in 2009 with nearly $9.9 million. He is also the sire of 2003 Kentucky Derby winner Funny Cide and millionaires Flower Alley, Regal Ransom, Hystericalady, Commentator among others.
Brock is the second choice in the Saratoga morning line at 3-1 behind Stay Thirsty, the Todd-Pletcher trained second-time starter at 8-5. Ironically, Stay Thirsty sold in the same Fasig-Tipton Selected Two-Year-Old in Training Sale in Florida and had the gavel drop at $500,000 when purchased by Repole Stable. It also looks like these two are the ones to beat with co-third choices Etheeb and Heisman both at 10-1 odds.
Whether Brock wins Saturday or not (for the record I’m betting him), may be inconsequential in the long term of his racing career. Remember that Ice Box was seventh and fifth beaten more than 14 lengths in two Saratoga maiden races last year. This race may not be like Silver Charm breaking his maiden at Del Mar in 1986 or even meet the high future standards of a Dublin or Stately Victory breaking their maidens at Saratoga last year.
But for now – I got my Derby horse.