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 make an 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.
The 2020 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve trail chugged through Oklahoma Dec. 15 for the Remington Springboard Mile, and Shoplifted closed from off the pace before holding off Answer In to prevail by a head. Grade 1-placed earlier this year, Shoplifted earned his first career stakes win and 10 points toward qualifying for next year’s Kentucky Derby. How does he stack up against his peers? Let’s take a closer look.
Ability: Shoplifted posted a dominant debut win in a 5 ½-furlong sprint July 27 at Saratoga Race Course and earned a 96 Equibase Speed Figure for the 4 ½-length runaway victory. The competition then got harder, much harder.
The bay Into Mischief colt, an $800,000 purchase as a 2-year-old at auction, made each of his next three starts in Grade 1 races with varying levels of success.
He finished a well-beaten second in the Runhappy Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga before running fifth in the American Pharoah Stakes and seventh in the TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, both at Santa Anita Park. His Equibase Speed Figures for that trio of races ranged from 82 to 87, nine to 14 points off the figure he earned in his debut.
My concern heading into the Remington Springboard Mile was distance, because on paper it seemed like this colt was less effective the longer the race. Case in point: he was beaten by 9 ¾ lengths and 14 lengths in his two tries around two turns in the American Pharoah and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, respectively.
In hindsight, perhaps class was more the culprit than distance.
Shoplifted stalked the pace from sixth of 11 in the Remington Springboard Mile, racing within 2 ¼ lengths of the lead through a half-mile in :47.75. Rather than falling farther behind in the third quarter-mile as he had in his previous two starts as the opposition really accelerated, Shoplifted was able to make up ground on a :25.59 quarter-mile and finished his final eighth of a mile in a strong 12.18 seconds to prevail.
The 106 Equibase Speed Figure was 10 points better than his previous best and he also earned a new top Beyer Speed Figure of 87.
Shoplifted’s Springboard Mile was much more in line with his Saratoga results. There was quite a bit of work done to the main track at Santa Anita leading into the Breeders’ Cup in an effort to make it safer, and it’s possible that Shoplifted simply did not adapt well to that surface. It’s also possible that the Grade 1 races were too much too soon for Shoplifted, and since then he’s matured both physically and mentally leading to an improved racehorse come December.
My hunch is that it’s some combination of all of those factors. The quality of competition at Remington was significantly lower than Shoplifted had faced in previous starts, certainly in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, and he is starting to put things together late in his 2-year-old season. Still, Shoplifted needs to make a significant jump to compete with the elite members of this class of soon-to-be 3-year-olds.
Running style: Shoplifted has rallied from off the pace in each of his five career starts and I think the stalking Springboard Mile trip probably is an ideal setup for him to run his best. Shoplifted was a little bit faster than usual leaving the starting gate at Remington and settled in comfortably on the backstretch. He made a nice, wide rally and finished fast (:12.18 final eighth of a mile).
Robert and Blythe Clay founded Three Chimneys Farm in Midway, Ky., and built it into one of the premier stud farms in Central Kentucky. In November 2013, the Borges-Torrealba family acquired a controlling interest in Three Chimneys Farm. The Clays’ son Case remains at Three Chimneys as chief commercial officer.
Cheyenne Stables raced Grade 1 winner Mastery and campaigned in partnership 2011 Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile winner Caleb's Posse. The racing operation is named for Dobson’s hometown of Cheyenne, Okla. Dobson is a managing partner in the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder franchise.
LNJ Foxwoods is the racing operation of Larry, Nanci and Jaime Roth, a parents-daughter team that ventured into Thoroughbred ownership in 2012. Jaime Roth runs the family stable, which in 2019 earned its first Breeders’ Cup victory when Covfefe won the Filly and Mare Sprint.
Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen trains Shoplifted. Asmussen trained two-time Horse of the Year Curlin, 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra, and 2017 Horse of the Year Gun Runner and is a two-time Eclipse Award winner as outstanding trainer. Asmussen has won the Preakness twice with the aforementioned Curlin (2007) and Rachel Alexandra (2009) and won the Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets with Creator in 2016. He has two runner-up finishes in the Kentucky Derby.
Ricardo Santana Jr. has ridden Shoplifted in three of five starts. Santana rides regularly for Asmussen and won the 2019 Breeders’ Cup Sprint for him in November aboard Mitole. Santana finished third in the 2018 Preakness Stakes aboard the Asmussen-trained Tenfold. A native of Panama, Santana has amassed a career-best $16.5 million in purse earnings this season and is on pace to establish a new single-season record for victories.
Pedigree: Shoplifted is from the eighth crop of Grade 1 winner Into Mischief, who posted three wins and three seconds in six starts in 2007-’08. Into Mischief is the sire of two-time Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner Goldencents, 2019 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint winner Covfefe, 2018 Xpressbet Florida Derby winner Audible, multiple Grade 1 winner Practical Joke, and Canadian champions Conquest Enforcer and Miss Mischief. When considering his ability to sire Derby hopefuls, several other Into Mischief runners enjoyed success on the Triple Crown trail, including 2019 Preakness third-place finisher Owendale, 2017 Southwest Stakes winner One Liner, 2014 Louisiana Derby winner Vicar’s in Trouble, and 2013 Gotham Stakes winner Vyjack.
While certainly not considered a major stamina influence as a sire, Into Mischief has proved quite versatile, and he is from a top-class family himself as a half-brother (same dam, different sire) to four-time champion Beholder and to $2 million earner Mendelssohn. He’s a terrific stallion who is the leading general sire of 2019 by more than $4 million in progeny earnings through Dec. 17 and very capable of siring elite two-turn racehorses.
Shopit, by Yes It’s True, is the dam (mother) of Shoplifted. Shopit’s lone win in 19 career starts came in a three-quarter-mile sprint. Shoplifted is her first stakes winner from five starters, all winners.
Shoplifted’s grandam (maternal grandmother), Shop Here, by Dehere, won two of seven starts at distances of 5 ½ and seven furlongs. She produced Grade 2-placed stakes winner Fifth Avenue. Shop Here is a half-sister (same dam, different sire) to Grade 1 winner Miss Shop, Grade 2 winner Trappe Shot, and two other stakes winners, including Shop Again, the dam of Grade 1 winner Power Broker.
Based on pedigree, the 1 ¼-mile Kentucky Derby distance appears to be a tall order for Shoplifted, but as we’ve seen in recent years, great horses frequently outrun their pedigrees.
Of course, Shoplifted has a long way to go to become great. For now, he’s a promising 2-year-old with much to prove to become a top 2020 Kentucky Derby hopeful.