Wildcat Red won the Fountain of Youth Stakes in his best performance to date (Photo by Coglinese Photos/Lauren King).
Making the Grade, which will run through the 2014 Belmont Stakes, focuses on the winners of the big races, usually from the previous weekend, who could impact the next Triple Crown. We’ll be taking a close look at impressive winners and evaluating their chances to win classic races based upon ability, running style, connections (owner, trainer, jockey) and pedigree.
This week we take a closer look at Wildcat Red, winner of the Grade 2 Besilu Stables Fountain of Youth Stakes on Feb. 22 at Gulfstream Park.
I’ll be honest up front; I didn’t think Wildcat Red wanted any part of 1 1/16 miles entering the Fountain of Youth Stakes. To me, he looked like a pure sprinter on the racetrack and a quick glance at his pedigree screamed “speed.” I was wrong. In the Fountain of Youth, Wildcat Red held off General a Rod in a thrilling finish to improve to four wins and two second in six races. He has a Grade 2 win around two turns and very likely has sufficient points to qualify for the Kentucky Derby. It’s time to start taking this colt seriously, but is he a real threat for the Derby? Let’s take a look.
Sire (Father): D’wildcat
Dam (Mother): Racene, by Miner’s Mark
Owner: Honors Stable Corp.
Breeder: Moreau Bloodstock International and Winter Racing Enterprises (Fla.)
Trainer: Jose Garoffalo
Ability: Wildcat Red might be the most consistently fast horse in the 3-year-old male division outside of 2013 champion 2-year-old male Shared Belief, who has not raced this year. In four of his six starts Wildcat Red has recorded an Equibase Speed Figure or 100 or better and he’s never posted a speed figure below 90.
He showed early on that he had talent, winning his career debut by eight lengths in September at Gulfstream Park. He finished first in his final two starts of 2013 as well as a Gulfstream allowance race and the Juvenile Sprint Stakes in which he was disqualified and placed second. In his first start of 2014, Wildcat Red finished second by a head to General a Rod when stretching out to a mile for the first time in the Gulfstream Park Derby. Returned to sprinting for the Grade 3 Hutcheson, Wildcat Red dominated and then showed he was more than a sprinter in the Fountain of Youth. His 106 Equibase Speed Figure for the Fountain of Youth was a four-point career best and tied for the fastest by a 3-year-old male in 2014 with Albano and Intense Holiday.
Road to the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard
Running style: Wildcat Red consistently runs on or very close to the lead in his races but he does not appear to be a need-the-lead type. He’s just naturally faster than most of his peers. In the Hutcheson, he rated off the pace and took control at the top of the stretch. In the Fountain of Youth, speed had been holding up very well on the main track all afternoon so it made sense for Wildcat Red to use his best asset to put himself in position to capitalize on a perceived track bias. He was in front after the first quarter-mile and held off General a Rod, who dueled with him throughout the entire race. Wildcat Red is able to use his speed to gain tactical position in his races and as the distances get longer – 1 1/8 miles and 1 1/4 miles – it’s probably safe to assume Wildcat Red will be prominent early. I could see him rating a few lengths off the pace in the Kentucky Derby if another horse wants to go out early and set a blistering tempo or taking control if no other entrant wants the lead.
Previous Making the Grades
Connections: Venezuelan-born trainer Jose Garoffalo has been training in the United States since 1999. His other top runners include graded stakes winner Yaro, 5-time stakes winner Amazing Speed and multiple stakes winners Wild Speed and Fly Me Crazy. Garoffalo, who has never had a starter in a Triple Crown race, will seek his first Grade 1 triumph with Wildcat Red in the Florida Derby on March 29 at Gulfstream Park. Garoffalo picked Wildcat Red out of the 2013 OBS June sale of 2-year-olds in training for a modest price of $30,000 for Honors Stable Corp.
Honors Stable Corp. is the racing operation of Salvatore Delfino.
Luis Saez, regular rider of 2013 champion 3-year-old male Will Take Charge, rode Wildcat Red in the Fountain of Youth. He has had three different riders for his three starts this season.
Pedigree: Wildcat Red’s sire (father), D’wildcat, was a Grade 1-winning sprinter at six furlongs who also won a graded stakes race at seven furlongs and a stakes race on the turf at one mile. From seven crops age three and older, D’wildcat’s top runners in addition to Wildcat Red have been graded stakes winning sprinters D’ Funnybone and Wildcat Lily. He also is the sire of Authenicat, who won a stakes at 1 1/16 miles but was primarily a sprinter as well.
Wildcat Red’s dam (mother), Racene, adds some stamina to Wildcat Red’s pedigree. She won at 1 ¼ miles and was graded stakes-placed at 1 3/8 miles on the grass. His second dam (maternal grandmother), Vette, was unraced and his third dam (maternal great-grandmother) was a winner at a mile on the main track.
WILDCAT RED WINNING THE HUTCHESON AT GULFSTREAM IN EARLY FEBRUARY
Photo by Coglinese Photos/Leslie Martin
Wildcat Red is the only stakes winner in the first three generations of this family.
Wildcat Red gets a big dose of speed from his sire and a bit of stamina from his dam but precious little class. This is the main reason I was so skeptical of Wildcat Red early this year. He proved me wrong in that I now believe he is an elite talent, but I’m still not sold on him as a real threat in the 1 ¼-mile Kentucky Derby. However, he should be very tough in the 1 1/8-mile Florida Derby on March 29.