The Brock Talk

Monday, November 29, 2010

Derby Notice Served

Just as everyone became comfortable with Breeders’ Cup top two finishers Uncle Mo and Boys of Toscanova being the standouts from this 2-year-old crop, To Honor and Serve wins the grade 2 Remsen Stakes and is at least making room for himself on the Derby trail. While To Honor and Serves' the two-length margin of victory over runner-up Mucho Macho Man in the grade 2 Remsen Stakes at Aqueduct Saturday may not have been eye-popping, the ease at which the son of Bernardini raced wire-to-wire and the 1:50.3 time has turned some heads. It was the fastest time for the 1-1/8 mile Remsen since Java Gold’s 1:49.60 in 1986 and was more than 2.80 seconds faster than Dixie City's grade 2 Demoiselle Stakes win a race earlier. Believe It set the Remsen Stakes record in 1977 with his time of 1:47.80.

There is also the tradition of the Remsen as a producer of Derby winners and runners among the top of the sophomore class. Although it has been since Go For Gin in 1994 and Thunder Gulch in 1995 since a Remsen winner also took the Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands, Remsen winners also include 1992 Preakness (gr. 1) winner Pine Bluff, 2006 Haskell Invitational (gr. 1) winner Bluegrass Cat and 2007 Wood Memorial (gr. 1) winner Nobiz Like Shobiz more recently. Kentucky Derby winners Pleasant Colony (1980), Northern Dancer (1964), Carry Back (1960) and Johnstown (1938) also won the Remsen Stakes as 2-year-olds.

Trainer Bill Mott said after the Remsen that To Honor and Serve will be pointing toward the first Saturday in May at Churchill Downs and will soon travel to the Hall of Fame trainer’s barn at the Palm Meadows training center in Florida for a Winter base.

Along with his victory in the grade 3 Nashua at Aqueduct, it is likely To Honor and Serve will be weighted within 10 pounds of the top weighted 2-year-old male in the 2010 Experimental Free Handicap, with the likely high weight being assigned to Uncle Mo. To Honor and Serve has a nice low dosage index of 2.38, so he is likely going to be a dual qualifier for those that take note of such things.

To Honor and Serve is regally bred, by young sire Bernardini, currently the second leading freshman sire in the country with more than $1.2 million in progeny earnings. Bernardini is by sire of sires A.P. Indy and as a runner, became the first horse since Damascus in 1967 to win the Preakness, Travers (gr. 1) and Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. 1) in the same year before finishing second to Invasor in the 2006 Breeders’ Cup Classic.

To Honor and Serve is equally classy on the bottom side of the pedigree with both first dam Pilfer, by Deputy Minister; and Misty Hour, by Miswaki, stakes winners. He also has plenty of Buckpasser, Northern Dancer and Mr. Prospector throughout both the top and bottom lines of his family so distance does not appear to be a genetic challenge for To Honor and Serve. He has had promise from a very young age apparently as he sold for $250,000 at the 2008 Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale and then $575,000 as a Keeneland September yearling.

Be cautious that it remains very early to be touting the 2011 Kentucky Derby winner. After all, the 2010 CashCall Futurity at Hollywood Park remains as the final grade 1 race for 2-year-olds open to colts and geldings on the calendar.

But To Honor and Serve has certainly stepped up on the medal stands among his divisional leaders and looks to be the contenders when the Triple Crown trail resumes early next year.


John Califano said...

I was smitten by To Honor and Serve before I even saw him race and waited anxiously for the Remsen. I certainly liked what I saw, then shortly afterward, I also took a look at his bloodline. I loved not only that he is by Bernardini, but the inbreeding to Northern Dancer, Mr. Prospector, and Buckpasser, delights me to no end.

I think To Honor and Serve is a beautiful bred racer that should love the classic distance, and then some.

Unknown said...

I'm always kind of a fan of the Bill Mott Derby prospect each year anyway, so I'm sure To Honor and Serve will stay high on my list for a while as well. Could be a very good crop of 3-year-olds next year so I'm looking forward to the CashCall Fut. to see if California can muster a hopeful.

John Califano said...

Yes, Bill Mott. The fact that To Honor and Serve is in his barn makes the horse all the more appealing. It would be great to see Mott win his first Derby with this horse.

I've got Derby fever already and it's not even December yet.

Anonymous said...

To Honor and Serve was visually very impressive in the Remsen I thought, everything looked so easy for him.
One thing is for sure, there is no lack of speedy youngsters this year. If their speed holds up going a distance it should be interesting to see if any records fall next year.

I'm still more impressed overall with Uncle Mo and a bigger fan of his (I'm a sucker for speed-balls), but this colt looks like a serious player.


ThoroFan Handicapper's Corner said...

I'm fortunate to live near Payson Park where To Honor And Serve will be spending the winter after his min-vacation. I've already met him and he's a very curious, intelligent, well-mannered colt. Once he arrives back at Payson, I'll be giving weekly reports on his progress, including videos of works, etc. on my blog. Brock, I hope you can follow him as well.