Making the Grade, which will run through the 2020 Belmont Stakes, focuses on the winners or top performers of the key races, usually from the previous weekend, who could impact the 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.
Shotski earned a breakthrough victory Dec. 7 in the Grade 2 Remsen Stakes when he led from start to finish en route to a half-length win. The $25,000 purchase at auction as a yearling has steadily improved into a 2020 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve hopeful. He earned 10 qualifying points for next May's classic with his Remsen win.
Ability: After a disappointing career debut on the grass in September at Kentucky Downs, Shotski competed on the main track in his second race Oct. 3 at Laurel Park and powered to a four-length win in the three-quarter-mile sprint.
From there, trainer Jeremiah O’Dwyer tested him against stakes competition and he finished fourth, beaten by 2 ¼ lengths, at 21.80-1 odds in the one-mile Street Sense Stakes Oct. 27 at Churchill Downs. He earned an 89 Equibase Speed Figure for his maiden win and improved to a 95 while stretching out in distance for the Street Sense, which was an encouraging sign in defeat.
Shotski battled bravely in the stretch in that race after making a nice bid on the turn. He was a little slow changing leads in the stretch but leveled off nicely once he did. He was flattered when the third-place finisher from that race, Silver Prospector, came back and won the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes Nov. 30 at Churchill.
The Grade 2 Remsen Stakes Dec. 7 was next for Shotski, who was sent off at 8.80-1 odds in the 1 1/8-mile race, the lowest odds of his career to date but still a longshot.
For the first time in his career, Shotski went right to the front and set the pace through an easy half-mile in :50.08. He opened a commanding 3 ½-length lead in early stretch and held off deep closer Ajaaweed to prevail.
Shotski improved to a 97 Equibase Speed Figure in his first start around two turns and an 86 Beyer Speed Figure, a solid but unspectacular figure for a 2-year-old in December. Brisnet was more optimistic with a 98 speed rating that was three points better than Thousand Words earned for winning the Los Alamitos Futurity the same weekend.
He’s been largely overlooked so far in his career, but I think that would be a mistake going forward with Shotski, who has shown steady growth as he’s stretched out in distance. However, it does look like he’s going to need to make a big jump to join the elite members of this crop, and I think it’s fair to be skeptical of the quality of competition he faced in the Remsen.
Shotski also set an easy pace and still finished relatively slowly with a final eighth of a mile in 13.14 seconds and his final three-eighths of a mile in :39.05, according to Equibase. Trakus data was exactly the same for the final three-eighths.
There are some very encouraging signs when evaluating Shotski and likewise some reason for concern, which is not unusual when evaluating Kentucky Derby prospects during their 2-year-old seasons.
Running style: In three starts on dirt, Shotski has been effective pressing the pace
in his debut, stalking the pace in the Street Sense, and setting the pace in the Remsen. He’s been quite adaptable to date and has relaxed early, and that versatility should be a nice asset. I expect he’ll press/stalk in future races when there is more early speed but continue to try to gain good tactical position early.
Adam Wachtel is the son of prominent New York racehorse owner Ed Wachtel and has been going to the races since he was 10 years old. Wachtel Stables campaigned in partnership with Barber and WinStar Farm 2016 Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Tourist, and he and Barber raced in various partnerships other standouts such as Grade 1 winners Channel Maker, Ron the Greek, and Sharla Rae.
Former MGM executive Gary Barber is the co-founder of Spyglass Entertainment and now the CEO of Spyglass Media. Spyglass Entertainment produced motion pictures such as “Seabiscuit,” “Memoirs of a Geisha,” “The Insider,” and “The Sixth Sense.”
Barber is best known in racing circles as the owner of Preakness winner War of Will, Canadian classic winners Wonder Gadot and Lexie Lou, and Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint winner Belvoir Bay.
Pantofel Stable earned its first Grade 1 win this season with Spiced Perfection, a filly it owns in partnership with Wachtel Stable and Peter Deutsch. Spiced Perfection won the Grade 3 Go for Wand Handicap on the same card as the Remsen Stakes at Aqueduct.
Trainer Jeremiah O’Dwyer started out as a jockey in Ireland and England before coming to the United States and galloping horses for Al Stall Jr. He subsequently worked with trainers Bill Mott, Michael Matz, and Andrew McKeever before going out on his own and earning his first win with Aleutian Queen Sept. 27, 2014. O’Dwyer earned his first career stakes win Jan. 19, 2019 with Needs Supervision in the Silverbulletday Stakes. Shotski’s Remsen score was the first in a graded stakes for the trainer.
Shotski has had three different riders in his four starts.
Pedigree: Shotski is from the sixth crop of 2010 champion older male Blame, who amassed nine wins, two seconds, and two thirds in 13 starts. Blame defeated previously unbeaten Zenyatta to win the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic. He won five graded stakes at 1 1/8 miles or longer and is a solid source of class and stamina. Blame’s top runners to date include 2017 French Oaks winner Senga, Grade 1-winning sprinter Marley’s Freedom, and Grade 1 winner Fault.
She Cat, by Bluegrass Cat, is the dam (mother) of Shotski and multiple graded-stakes-placed winner Colonist, whose three wins came at a mile or 1 1/16 miles. She Cat was winless in four career starts.
Shotski’s grandam (maternal grandmother) is stakes winner Fortune Pending, by Fortunate Prospect. Fortune Pending posted three wins, including the 1 1/16-mile My Dear Girl Division of the Florida Stallion Series, and three seconds from eight starts. Fortune Pending produced graded stakes winner Palmeiro and multiple stakes winner and multiple stakes producer Slews Final Answer.
Based upon pedigree, I probably would not upgrade or downgrade Shotski’s chances to be effective at 1 ¼ miles. I don’t think it would be pedigree that holds him back, but his bloodline is also not one that jumps off the page as especially powerful when it comes to stamina and class.