Please provide a valid email address.


Black Onyx photo courtesy of Pat Lang/Turfway Park

Making the Grade, which will run right up until the Belmont Stakes, will focus on the winners of the big races, usually from the previous weekend, who could impact the 2013 Triple Crown. We’ll be taking a close look at impressive winners and evaluating their chances to win the 2013 Kentucky Derby based on factors such as ability, running style, connections (owner, trainer, jockey) and pedigree.

This week we take a look at Black Onyx, winner of Saturday’s $550,000 Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati Racing Spiral Stakes.

 red white blue Bar

Black Onyx

Dark Bay or Brown colt

Sire (Father): Rock Hard Ten

Dam (Mother): Kalahari Cat, by Cape Town

Breeders: CloverLeaf Farms II (Ky.)

Owners: Sterling Racing

Trainer: Kelly Breen 

Black Onyx entered the Spiral Stakes with no stakes experience and therefore no points in the new system used to determine the field for the Kentucky Derby. So the Spiral was much more than just a key race for Black Onyx on the path to the Kentucky Derby, it was THE race for the Rock Hard Ten colt. He made the most of the opportunity with a convincing 1 ½-length win worth 50 points in the new Derby points system and a spot in the starting gate for the first jewel of the Triple Crown on May 4 at Churchill Downs.

Ability: Black Onyx did not make his debut until October 2012 and, like his sire, he might just be a late-developing colt who needed some time to grow into his body and mature physically and mentally. He showed some ability in his debut with a runner-up finish at Belmont Park in a 1 1/16-mile race and came back to easily prevail in his second race going one mile at Aqueduct in November. His race following that win was a clunker in which he was beaten by 19 lengths, but back-to-back wins on the turf at Gulfstream in February and in the Spiral proved that one poor performance was not indicative of Black Onyx’s ability.

If you draw a line through the one bad race, Black Onyx has shown steady improvement in his career, improving his Equibase Speed Figure in the other three races before winning his stakes debut. It can be difficult to gauge the ability of a 3-year-old whose only pre-Derby stakes experience is on a synthetic surface, but recent history suggests the Spiral winner should be respected in the Kentucky Derby. Animal Kingdom used a Spiral win to prep for his Derby win in 2011 and 2012 Spiral winner Went the Day Well finished fourth last year in the Derby. The big concern when looking at the Spiral has to be that the early pace was leisurely and still the winner did not finish fast. Black Onyx completed the last three-eighths of a mile in about 38 ½ seconds with the final eighth of a mile in a sluggish 13.62 seconds. That is a legitimate cause for concern.


Running style: Black Onyx has a consistent running style as he has rallied from off the pace in each of his five career starts. In his second start, an easy win, he was a bit closer to the front than in his other races but overall his tactics have been pretty much the same so far in his career. In the Spiral, jockey Joe Bravo was concerned early that he might not be handling the synthetic surface as well as he had adapted to dirt and turf, but he settled into a nice, comfortable gallop through the first half-mile that left him plenty of gas in the tank when he launched his winning rally with three-eighths of a mile to go.

Black Onyx appears to have some tactical speed, meaning that he is not a deep closer who drops way out of it and makes one, big run. Instead, Black Onyx has enough early speed to put himself in solid position to strike when his jockey asks him to accelerate. In a 20-horse field like the Kentucky Derby, which will be Black Onyx’s next race, attempting to win from off the pace means navigating through traffic and hoping for a little racing luck.

(Click here to view the 2013 Derby Leaderboard)

Making the Grade: Will Take Charge

Making the Grade: Hear the Ghost

Making the Grade: Super Ninety Nine

Making the Grade: Orb

Making the Grade: Verrazano

Making the Grade: Flashback

Making the Grade: Revolutionary

Making the Grade: Itsmyluckyday

Making the Grade: Oxbow

Making the Grade: Dewey Square

Making the Grade: Vyjack

Making the Grade: Goldencents

Making the Grade: Overanalyze

Making the Grade: Violence

Making the Grade: Uncaptured

Making the Grade: Shanghai Bobby

Connections: Trainer Kelly Breen won the 2011 Belmont Stakes with Ruler On Ice, after which he made “New York, New York” the song his mobile phone played for callers waiting to connect with him. Breen is a talented and colorful trainer who enjoys a round of golf and is buddies with actor Joe Pesci. Black Onyx will be Breen’s fourth Kentucky Derby starter.

Black Onyx is owned by Sam Herzberg’s Sterling Racing. Herzberg met Breen at the 2011 Louisiana Derby, which Breen won with Pants On Fire, and has long been a friend of Black Onyx’s jockey Joe Bravo. Bravo and Herzberg used to play poker together regularly and attend Miami Heat basketball games together. Herzberg, a Miami resident, purchased Black Onyx for $125,000 at the 2011 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale of selected yearlings.

“Jersey” Joe Bravo has had two previous mounts in the Kentucky Derby. A New Jersey native, Bravo began riding Quarter Horses at the age of 13 and took out his jockey’s license in 1987. A perennial leading rider at Monmouth Park, Bravo in 2004 won that track’s signature race when he guided Lion Heart to victory in the Haskell Invitational Stakes. Bravo has won more than 4,800 races in his career and his mounts have earned more than $135 million.

Pedigree: Black Onyx is from the fourth crop of 2004 Preakness runner-up Rock Hard Ten, a behemoth of a horse who was a Grade 1 winner at seven-eighths of a mile and 1 ¼ miles. Grade 1 winner Nereid and multiple graded stakes winner Doubles Partner are Rock Hard Ten’s best runners to date and both recorded their most important wins on grass. While Rock Hard Ten was a force on the main track, he hails from the Roberto sire line that is better known for its standouts on turf than dirt.

Black Onyx’s dam [mother] posted two of her three career wins on grass. She has produced four winners from as many starters to date, including Francois, a stakes winner on the synthetic surface at Arlington Park; and Quality Council, who placed in a Grade 2 race on the dirt at Aqueduct.

Black Onyx’s second dam (grandmother) is a full sister (same sire [father], same dam [mother]) to 1995 Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Desert Stormer. Other notable members of Black Onyx’s maternal family include Grade/Group 1 winners Better Lucky and White Moonstone and graded stakes winner Sahara Gold.

Mike Curry’s Kentucky Derby Top 20

1. Itsmyluckyday

11. Oxbow

2. Revolutionary

12. Noble Tune

3. Shanghai Bobby

13. Uncaptured

4. Verrazano

14. Palace Malice

5. Orb

15. Govenor Charlie

6. Vyjack

16. Mr. Palmer

7. Hear the Ghost

17. Black Onyx

8. Normandy Invasion

18. Code West

9. Flashback

19. Overanalyze

10. Will Take Charge

20. War Academy

red white blue Bar

Haciendo El Grado: Black Onyx

En Español

Translated by Jose Contreras

Haciendo el Grado, que se extenderá hasta el Belmont Stakes, se centrará en los ganadores de las grandes carreras, por lo general de el fin de semana anterior, quienes podrían afectar a la Triple Corona del 2013. Le estaremos dando un vistazo de cerca a los impresionante ganadores y evaluar sus posibilidades de ganar el Kentucky Derby 2013 basado en factores como la habilidad, estilo de carrera, conexiones (dueño, entrenador, jinete) y pedigree.

Esta semana le echamos un vistazo a Black Onyx, ganador del $550,000 Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati Racing Spiral Stakes.

red white blue Bar

Black Onyx

Potro Bayo Oscuro o Cafe

Padre (Sire): Rock Hard Ten

Madre (Dam): Kalahari Cat, por Cape Town

Criadores (Breeders): Cloverleaf
Farms II (Kentucky)

Dueño (Owner): Sterling Racing

Entrenador: Kelly Breen

Black Onyx entró en el Spiral Stakes sin experiencia en carreras de stakes y por lo tanto no tenia puntos en el nuevo sistema utilizado para determinar el campo para el Kentucky Derby. Así que el Spiral Stakes era mucho más que una carrera clave para Black Onyx en el camino hacia el Derby de Kentucky, era LA carrera para el potro de  Rock Hard Ten. Él hizo lo mejor de la oportunidad que tenia con una contundente victoria de 1 ½ cuerpos valuada con 50 puntos en el nuevo sistema de puntos del Derby y un puesto en la puerta de salida para la primera joya de la Triple Crown el 4 de mayo en Churchill Downs.

Habilidad: Black Onyx no hizo su debut hasta octubre del 2012 y al igual que su padre, él podría ser un potro de desarrollo tardío que necesitaba un poco de tiempo para crecer en su cuerpo y madurar físicamente y mentalmente. Mostró cierta habilidad en su debut con un segundo puesto en Belmont Park en una carrera de 1 milla y 1/16 y volvió a prevalecer fácilmente en su segunda carrera de una milla en Aqueduct en noviembre. Su carrera después de esa victoria fue decepcionante y fue derrotado por 19 cuerpos, pero victorias consecutivas en el césped de Gulfstream en febrero y en el Spiral demostraron que esa decepcionante salida no era un indicativo de la capacidad de Black Onyx.

Si se dibuja una línea a través de la carrera mala, Black Onyx ha mostrado una mejora constante en su carrera, mejorando su figura de velocidad Equibase en las otras tres carreras antes de ganar su Stakes debut. Puede ser difícil determinar la capacidad de un caballo de 3 años de edad, cuyo única experiencia antes del Derby es en una superficie sintética, pero la historia reciente sugiere que el ganador del Spiral debe ser respetado en el Kentucky Derby. Animal Kingdom utilizo el Spiral como preparación para su victoria del Derby en 2011, y en 2012, el ganador del Spiral, Went the Day Well, acabo en cuarto lugar el año pasado en el Derby. La gran preocupación cuando se mira a el Spiral tiene que ser que el ritmo inicial que fue tranquilo y el ganador no terminó rápido. Black Onyx completó los último de tres octavos de milla en unos 38 segundos y medio con el octavo final de una milla en un lento tiempo de 13.62 segundos. Esa es una legítima causa de preocupación.

Estilo de Carrera: Black Onyx tiene un estilo consistente ya que ha cerrado desde fuera de ritmo en cada una de sus cinco carreras. En su segunda salida, una victoria fácil, estuvo un poco más cerca de la parte delantera que en sus otras salidas pero en general sus tácticas han sido más o menos lo mismo en lo que va de su carrera. En el Spiral, jinete Joe Bravo le preocupaba temprano en la carrera de que talvez no estaba igual de comodo en la superficie sintética así como él se había adaptado a la tierra y el césped, pero se instaló en un galope agradable a través de la primera media milla que le dejó suficiente gas en el tanque cuando lanzó su movida ganadora con tres octavos de milla por recorrer.

Black Onyx parece tener algo de velocidad táctica, lo que significa que no es un cerrador profundo que desciende a la salida y que hace una gran movida. En cambio, Black Onyx tiene la velocidad suficiente para ponerse en una sólida posición para atacar cuando su jinete le pida que acelere. En un grupo de 20 caballos como el Kentucky Derby, que será la próxima carrera Black Onyx, tratar de ganar desde atras significa navegar a través del tráfico y tener la esperanza de un poco de suerte.

Conexiones: El entrenador Kelly Breen ganó el Belmont Stakes en 2011 con Ruler On Ice, después de lo cual él hizo "New York, New York", la canción que su teléfono móvil tocara para llamadas de espera. Breen es un entrenador talentoso y colorido que disfruta de una ronda de golf y es amigo con el actor Joe Pesci. Black Onyx será el cuarto caballo que Breen mande al Kentucky Derby.

Black Onyx es propiedad de Sterling Racing de Sam Herzberg. Herzberg conocio a Breen en el Louisiana Derby de 2011, que Breen ganó con Pants On Fire, y ha sido amigo durante mucho tiempo del jinete de Black Onyx, Joe Bravo. Bravo y Herzberg jugaban póker juntos con regularidad y asistian a partidos de baloncesto del Miami Heat. Herzberg, residente de Miami, compró a Black Onyx por $125,000 dólares en la venta Fasig-Tipton Saratoga del 2011.

"Jersey" Joe Bravo ha tenido dos montas anteriores en el Kentucky Derby. Un nativo de Nueva Jersey, Bravo comenzó a montar caballos cuarto de milla a la edad de 13 años y sacó su licencia de jinete en 1987. Un jinete líder en Monmouth Park, Bravo, en 2004, ganó la carrera classica de esa pista cuando dirigio a Lion Heart a la victoria del Haskell Invitational Stakes. Bravo ha ganado más de 4,800 carreras en su carrera y sus montas han ganado más de $135 millones de dólares.

Pedigree: Black Onyx es de la cuarta cosecha del subcampeón del Preakness de 2004, Rock Hard Ten, un gigante caballo que fue ganador de grado 1 en siete octavos de milla y en una milla y cuarto. Grado 1 ganadora Nereid y múltiple ganador de stakes Doubles Partner son de los mejores corredores que Rock Hard Ten ha tenido hasta la fecha, y ambos registraron sus triunfos más importantes en el césped. Mientras que Rock Hard Ten era una fuerza en la pista principal, el es de la línea de su padre Roberto que es más conocido por sus destacados en el césped que en la tierra.

La madre de Black Onyx publico dos de sus tres victorias en el césped. Ella ha producido cuatro ganadores de el mismo numero de corredores hasta la fecha, incluyendo Francois, un ganador de Stakes en la superficie sintética en Arlington Park, y Quality Council, quien llego en un segundo lugar en una carrera de grado 2 en la tierra en Aqueduct.

La segunda madre de Black Onyx (abuela) es una hermana (mismo padre y misma madre), de el ganador del Breeders’ Cup Sprint de 1995, Desert Stormer. Otros miembros notables de la familia materna de Black Onyx incluyen los ganadores de Grado / Grupo 1 Better Lucky y White Moonstone y la ganadora de Stakes, Sahara Gold.


Image Description

Mike Curry

A native of Philadelphia who grew up in nearby Wilmington, Del., Curry was editor of Thoroughbred Times TODAY before joining the America's Best Racing team in May 2012. He credits his grandfather for the inspiration to repeatedly sneak off to Delaware Park as a 16-year-old and the 1989 rivalry between Sunday Silence and Easy Goer for his passion for horse racing. Curry graduated from the University of Delaware in 1997 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and a concentration in Journalism. He worked for the Wilmington News Journal and was Sports Editor of the Cecil Whig before moving to Lexington in 2005.

Image Description

Mike Curry

A native of Philadelphia who grew up in nearby Wilmington, Del., Curry was editor of Thoroughbred Times TODAY before joining the America's Best Racing team in May 2012. He credits his grandfather for the inspiration to repeatedly sneak off to Delaware Park as a 16-year-old and the 1989 rivalry between Sunday Silence and Easy Goer for his passion for horse racing. Curry graduated from the University of Delaware in 1997 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and a concentration in Journalism. He worked for the Wilmington News Journal and was Sports Editor of the Cecil Whig before moving to Lexington in 2005.

Sponsors & Partners

  • FoxSports1
  • Autism Speaks
  • NBC Sports
  • Logo 6
  • Saratoga
  • Santa Anita
  • CBS Sports
  • Monmouth
  • Keeneland
  • Gulfstream Park
  • Del Mar
  • Belmont Park
  • Arlington Park
  • OwnerView