Making the Grade, which will run through the 2021 Triple Crown races, focuses on the winners or top performers of the key races, usually from the previous weekend, who could make an impact on 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.
Until the Arkansas Derby, Super Stock had shown several glimmers of potential while finishing third in a pair of graded stakes and running second in a stakes race at Churchill Downs, but he seemed unable to break through. That changed April 10 at Oaklawn Park, where he surged past Rebel Stakes winner Concert Tour and Smarty Jones Stakes winner Caddo River to post a 12.20-1 upset win in the $1 million Grade 1 stakes.
Ability: A $70,000 purchase at the 2019 Keeneland September yearling sale by Erv Woolsey and Keith Asmussen, Super Stock debuted on the grass in July 2020 at Keeneland. After a 10th-place finish on turf, trainer Steve Asmussen moved him to the main track when he has been good and consistent. In five races on the dirt in 2020, Super Stock finished second in a maiden race and won a stakes sprinting at Lone Star Park, finished third in both the Grade 3 Iroquois Stakes Presented by Ford and Grade 1 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity, and then closed out his season with a runner-up finish by a half-length to King Fury in the Street Sense Stakes at Churchill Downs. (King Fury won the Stonestreet Lexington Stakes April 10 at Keeneland.)
In three starts at one mile or longer in 2020, he earned Equibase Speed Figures ranging from 84 to 93 and Brisnet speed rating from 85 to 92. That paints the picture of a talented 2-year-old that at the time was just a cut below the best of the division.
It looked like more of the same for Super Stock in his return from a layoff of more than four months in the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes March 13 at Oaklawn, where he rallied from seventh to finish fourth, 6 ½ lengths behind runaway winner Concert Tour. There were reasons for optimism, including a new career-best 95 Equibase Speed Figure and a career-top 83 Beyer Speed Figure, but Super Stock still needed to improve significantly to join the elite ranks of this 3-year-old division.
In the Arkansas Derby, Super Stock did, in fact, elevate his game to a new level. He raced closer to the pace than he did in the Rebel while positioned in third/fourth behind a wickedly fast early pace of :22.62 for the first quarter-mile and :46.51 for the first half-mile as Caddo River was pressed by Rebel victor Concert Tour.
Super Stock was about two lengths back on the backstretch and into the final turn in the 1 1/8-mile Arkansas Derby. Under jockey Ricardo Santana Jr., Super Stock was moving really well on the final turn while keeping pace with the top two, and when Santana angled him to the outside he surged right past the leading duo for a convincing win.
There were several real positives from this performance. First, I love to see a 3-year-old identify a target (or two), go after the target on cue, and then blow past in the stretch. Second, I was encouraged that Super Stock showed more tactical speed in the Arkansas Derby in stalking a very strong pace. Finally, he improved to career-best speed figures across the board with a 106 Equibase Speed Figure, 92 Beyer Speed Figure, and 97 Brisnet rating. Super Stock made a nice jump in his second start of the year and looks like an improving 3-year-old trending in the right direction.
However, there were several factors that give me reason to pump the brakes a bit when it comes to Super Stock. In the Arkansas Derby, he had an ideal trip while saving every inch of ground from the inside post while the top two seemed to wear each other down physically and mentally. He got an ideal setup that is far less likely to happen May 1 at Churchill Downs.
Nobody in the field finished very fast with a final eighth of a mile in 13.28 seconds, slightly faster for Super Stock who was about a half-length back, and a final three-eighths of a mile in :39.67, or roughly :39.27 for Super Stock. Races with a pace that fast sometimes collapse late and it looks like that happened here.
Finally, even though Super Stock made a nice jump up in the Arkansas Derby to win the prestigious Grade 1, he still isn’t as fast right now as the best Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve contenders. He most likely will need to improve significantly again on three weeks of rest to be a serious win candidate. Sure, it happens with quality 3-year-olds in late spring, but it is not common. Usually, the best bet is for a 3-year-old to duplicate a big race with sufficient rest or to take a big step up after pairing very good races. Back-to-back breakout improvements is simply a lot to ask of Super Stock, and barring that type of follow-up his ceiling probably is a top-three finish.
Running style: The tactical speed Super Stock showed in the Arkansas Derby could be key in the Kentucky Derby in a field of 20 3-year-olds jostling for position entering the first turn. The fact that he showed the cruising speed to rate just a couple of lengths behind a fast pace is reason for optimism about his chances to work out a good trip May 1 at Churchill Downs. The last seven editions of the Derby show that it pays to be third or better after the first half-mile and it has become tougher for closers in recent years. I’m not sure Super Stock will be in the top three after the first quarter-mile, but he does have the speed to tuck in behind the leading group and work out a nice stalking trip.
Connections: The Arkansas Derby winner truly is a family affair as Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen trains Super Stock for his 79-year-old father Keith Asmussen, who owns the colt in partnership with Erv Woosley. Super Stock went to the Asmussen family’s El Primero Training Center near Laredo, Texas, after he was purchased as a yearling and learned his early lessons there. Steve Asmussen’s eldest son, Keith, rode Super Stock in his first three races and earned his first career stakes win aboard the colt in the 2020 Texas Thoroughbred Futurity at Lone Star Park.
“This horse is better than a movie, when you think about all of that,” the younger Keith Asmussen told BloodHorse after his father’s fifth win in the Arkansas Derby. “Going into the race, dad said this horse had been touting himself. I think it was the perfect description.”
Erv Woolsey is the founder of The Erv Woolsey Company, a full-service artist and brand management company that manages country music star George Strait as well as Lee Ann Womack, Davisson Brothers Band, and Kylie Frey. Woolsey also has raced in partnership graded stakes winners Lookin for Eight and Jordan’s Henny.
Steve Asmussen is a two-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer with more than 9,200 career victories since taking out his license in 1986, second only to Dale Baird’s 9,445 for the all-time top spot among North American trainers. He was inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame in 2016 and has trained Horse of the Year winners Curlin, Rachel Alexandra, and Gun Runner while amassing 63 career Grade 1 wins through April 12. Asmussen won the Preakness in 2007 with Curlin and in 2009 with Rachel Alexandra, and he won the Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets with Creator in 2016. He has finished second twice in the Kentucky Derby with Nehro (2011) and Lookin At Lee (2017). Asmussen also trains Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby runner-up Midnight Bourbon.
Ricardo Santana Jr. has ridden Super Stock in three of his eight career starts and regularly rides for Asmussen. Santana rode Tenfold for Asmussen to a third-place finish in the 2018 Preakness, his lone top-three finish in a Triple Crown race to date. Santana has won more than 1,500 races since taking out his jockey’s license in 2009, including 70 graded stakes and 17 Grade 1 races through April 12.
Pedigree: Super Stock is from the fifth crop of 2011 Florida Derby winner Dialed In, by 2003 Horse of the Year Mineshaft. Dialed In is off to a nice start at stud with Grade 1 winner Get Her Number (who finished fourth in the Arkansas Derby), 2018 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint runner-up Chalon, and graded stakes winners Gunnevera, Ms Locust Point, The Tablulator, and Mugaritz among his top runners.
Super Stock is out of the winning Closing Argument mare Super Girlie, who also produced Grade 1-placed Boujie Girl. Super Girlie won seven of 39 starts at distances ranging from three-quarters of a mile to a mile. She finished in the top three in more than half of her races.
Super Stock’s grandam (maternal grandmother), Beafleet, by Afleet, earned her lone win in 13 starts at 1 1/16 miles, while third dam (maternal great-grandmother), Leave It Be, was a graded stakes winner at 1 1/8 miles.
Overall, this pedigree offers some reason for optimism that Super Stock can excel at 1 1/8 miles although the bottom half is a bit light on class.
There are plenty of positives when viewing Super Stock as a Kentucky Derby contender as well as several reasons for caution. Given he wasn’t even really in the Derby picture a week ago, he’s come a long way in a short time and the Kentucky Derby lost some of its firepower in recent weeks with the defections of Life Is Good and Greatest Honour.