Photos courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire
For the avid horse racing fan, it’s never too early to start talking about the next Kentucky Derby (G1), and for the casual fan the sport often begins and ends with the Triple Crown races.
With that in mind, let’s get a jump on identifying the top prospects for the 2013 classics.
This blog, which will run right up until the Belmont Stakes (G1), will focus on the winners of the big races from the previous weekend who could impact the 2013 Triple Crown. So, it’s a good bet that we’ll be taking a close look at the CashCall Futurity (G1) winner in the days after that race and evaluating his chances to win the 2013 Kentucky Derby based on factors such as talent, running style, pedigree, and connections (owner, trainer, jockey).
During the weeks when there are no key races on the Derby trail, we’ll take a look back at some of the key contenders who already have shown flashes of the type of class needed to be a contender for Triple Crown glory.
So let’s get started with a couple of colts who have gotten an early jump on their peers — Shanghai Bobby (this week) and Uncaptured (next week) — the only two horses at less than 20-1 odds to win the 2013 Kentucky Derby with the Wynn Las Vegas Race & Sports Book.
Dark Bay or Brown Colt
Sire: Harlan’s Holiday
Dam: Steelin’, by Orientate
Breeder: Stonehaven Steadings (Ky.)
Owners: Starlight Racing, Susan Magnier, Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
No horse proved as much as a 2-year-old in 2012 as Shanghai Bobby. Undefeated in five starts, the talented son of Harlan’s Holiday wrapped up the Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old male when he held off He’s Had Enough by a head to win the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1). His other four wins all were clear victories (meaning he won them by at least a length), including a 5-length romp in the Champagne Stakes (G1).
With stakes wins ranging from 5 ½ furlongs to 1 1/16 miles, Shanghai Bobby was talented enough to defeat precocious juveniles sprinting in his second start in June and showed enough stamina to hold on for a win in the Breeders’ Cup after leading the race through a very fast opening half-mile. He also demonstrated the ability to rate in his Three Chimneys Hopeful Stakes (G2) win, rallying from fourth to prevail easily under regular rider Rosie Napravnik. That willingness to respond to the cues his jockey gives him to accelerate, settle, or move into a different running lane become incredibly important in the Kentucky Derby, when navigating a path through a huge 20-horse field can be as important as having the stamina to turn in a big effort at the testing distance of 1 ¼ miles.
SHANGHAI BOBBY WINNING HOPEFUL STAKES
His determination in the Juvenile and ability to shift gears when asked by his rider are strong indicators that he can continue to be a major factor as a 3-year-old. Granted, he did not finish the Juvenile with fast times through the final stages of the race, but given the amount of energy he expended in leading through a blistering opening half-mile in :45.55 and three-quarters of a mile in 1:10.28, Shanghai Bobby showed a ton of grit to hold off He’s Had Enough in a thrilling duel through the stretch.
Shanghai Bobby clearly has the talent and the running style to succeed in key 3-year-old races, so how does he stack up on pedigree?
Shanghai Bobby’s sire, Harlan’s Holiday, was a graded stakes winner at two, three and four years old with victories going 1 1/8 miles on the 2003 Triple Crown trail in the Florida Derby (G1) and Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G1). He also was a Grade 1 winner at four, winning the 1 1/8-mile Donn Handicap (G1). Harlan’s Holiday also finished in the top three in a trio of 1 ¼-mile races at the sport’s highest level, finishing second in the 2003 Dubai World Cup (UAE-G1) and Hollywood Gold Cup Handicap (G1) and third in the 2002 Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1). In short, Harlan’s Holiday was consistently excellent throughout his career in bankrolling more than $3.6 million in earnings and thrived in longer, two-turn races, like those in the Triple Crown.
Shanghai Bobby doesn’t get as much stamina from his mother’s side of the family. His dam (mother) Steelin’ did win a 1 1/16-mile non-stakes race as a 2-year-old in 2007 but her lone stakes win came sprinting. Her only other top-three finish in a stakes was a second in the six-furlong (three-quarters of a mile) Vacaville Handicap. Steelin’s father is 2002 champion sprinter Orientate. There are a handful of high-quality horses to come from the family of Steelin’, including Grade 1 winner City Band and 2010 Illinois Derby (G3) winner American Lion.
Each year, virtually every 3-year-old is questionable to be able to fire a big performance at the 1 ¼-mile distance of the Kentucky Derby. Shanghai Bobby is no different, but if the ability and good fortune are there to get him within striking distance entering the Derby stretch, don’t expect Shanghai Bobby to wither in that final furlong. His will to win is already proven.
Shanghai Bobby was purchased for $105,000 at the 2011 Keeneland September yearling sale by Frank Brothers on behalf of Starlight Racing. Coolmore associates Susan Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith purchased an interest in Shanghai Bobby prior to the Breeders’ Cup. Todd Pletcher, who won the 2010 Kentucky Derby with Super Saver and the 2007 Belmont Stakes with Rags to Riches, trains the accomplished colt.