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.
Concert Tour delivered a memorable performance in the Grade 2 Rebel, outsprinting Smarty Jones Stakes winner Caddo River to the lead and then overwhelming seven opponents in a 4 ¼-length runaway victory. The Street Sense colt improved to 3-for-3 in his career and added to Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert’s impressive lineup of 2021 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve contenders. Let’s take a closer look at Concert Tour.
Ability: Concert Tour showed ability from the moment he sprung out of the starting gate for his career debut Jan. 15 at Santa Anita Park as he seized command from longshot Sensemaker entering the first turn while under firm restraint. He opened a clear lead entering the stretch in the three-quarter-mile sprint and shook free to win by 3 ½ lengths as the even-money favorite.
Concert Tour earned a 100 Equibase Speed Figure, a 94 BrisNet speed rating, and an 88 Beyer Speed Figure, so it was clear from his debut this was a fast colt.
Baffert next decided to test Concert Tour against graded stakes competition while keeping him in a one-turn race in the Feb. 6 San Vicente Stakes, a Grade 2 at seven-eighths of a mile. It was a move that had been effective a year ago with highly regarded Nadal.
Concert Tour rallied from off the pace to collar stablemate Freedom Fighter in the stretch of a half-length victory in which he drifted late but prevailed by half a length. While the win was not as impressive visually as his debut and the victory was not flattered when Freedom Fighter ran fourth in the Grade 3 Gotham Stakes March 6, Concert Tour took a step forward from a speed-figure perspective with a 106 Equibase Speed Figure, 94 Beyer Speed Figure, and 97 BrisNet rating.
Given that he had rallied from off the pace in the San Vicente, most expected Concert Tour to settle behind front-running Smarty Jones Stakes winner Caddo River in the 1 1/16-mile Rebel in his first try around two turns March 13 at Oaklawn. Instead, regular rider Joel Rosario sent him right to the front and the duo opened a clear lead through a measured half-mile in :47.53. Concert Tour had plenty of fuel in reserve when Caddo River challenged on the final turn and powered away to a four-length lead in early stretch en route to a dominant victory.
Concert Tour earned a 105 Equibase Speed Figure, 95 BrisNet rating, and 94 Beyer figure as he essentially paired speed figures in his first try stretching out in distance, a positive sign to say the least.
He will continue following the San Vicente-Rebel-Arkansas Derby path used by Baffert for Nadal in 2020 when Concert Tour makes his final Kentucky Derby prep April 10 in the Arkansas Derby.
While he is not as fast on paper as stablemate Life Is Good, Concert Tour probably now rates as Baffert's top Kentucky Derby contender after the San Felipe Stakes winner was sidelined with a hind-end injury following a March 20 workout.
Concert Tour has fluid running motion and significant room for improvement with only three starts under his belt. It would not surprise me if he takes another step forward in the Arkansas Derby and establishes himself as the Derby favorite. In fact, Concert Tour probably belongs in the top tier as it stands right now folling the defection of Life Is Good.
Running style: We watched Concert Tour utilize his speed to gain tactical position in the Rebel Stakes, one race after rallying from off the pace to win the San Vicente. His high-cruising speed is a valuable asset and the versatility to press and pounce or control the tempo adds another dimension.
Tactical speed has been especially effective in the Kentucky Derby as I’ve mentioned in multiple editions of Making the Grade this year. The 3-year-old who crossed the finish line first in each of the last seven editions of the Derby was third or better after the opening quarter-mile. That includes Maximum Security, who was disqualified in 2019.
Connections: The mention of champion Maximum Security serves as a segue to owners-breeders Gary and Mary West, who thought they had won the 2019 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve only to watch it slip away after a controversial disqualification that elevated Country House to first and placed Maximum Security 17th. In addition to Maximum Security, the Wests also have campaigned champions Game Winner and West Coast as well as Grade 1 winners New Year’s Day, Book Review, and Power Broker. New Year’s Day won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile for the Wests in 2013 and Game Winner duplicated the feat in 2018.
The Wests made their fortune in the telecommunications industry and now operate West Health as well as the Gary and Mary West Foundation.
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert has a terrific contingent for the 2021 Kentucky Derby , even with the loss of Life Is Good to an injury. Baffert still has San Felipe runner-up Medina Spirit, Rebel winner Concert Tour and runner-up Hozier, and Los Alamitos Futurity winner Spielberg. A four-time Eclipse Award winner as outstanding trainer and a Hall of Famer, Baffert has won 16 Triple Crown races (six Kentucky Derbys) throughout his career, including Triple Crown sweeps by American Pharoah in 2015 and Justify in 2018.
Joel Rosario has won more than 3,000 races since taking out his jockey’s license in 2003, including 503 stakes wins and 305 graded stakes wins through March 15. Rosario won the Kentucky Derby in 2013 on Orb and has two victories in the Belmont Stakes: Tonalist (2014) and Sir Winston (2019).
Pedigree: Concert Tour is by Street Sense, the 2006 champion 2-year-old male and 2007 Kentucky Derby winner. Street Sense’s top runners include McKinzie and Maxfield, Grade 1 winners on dirt going around two turns. Street Sense also is the sire of 2021 Jerome Stakes winner Capo Kane among 83 lifetime stakes winners through March 15. He has 37 group or graded stakes winners from 10 crops ages 3 and older.
Concert Tour is out of the winning Tapit mare Purse Strings. Her lone win in 12 starts came at three-quarters of a mile but she finished second twice at 1 1/16 miles and second three times at one mile. His grandam (maternal grandmother), My Red Porsche, was winless in seven starts, but her half-sister My White Corvette was a multiple graded-stakes-placed stakes winner who produced 2008 champion 2-year-old filly Stardom Bound.
At first glance, I thought this had the potential to be a top 1 ¼-mile pedigree – and there are absolutely some reasons for optimism – but I don’t look at Concert Tour as the type who should be able to run all day just based upon pedigree. Street Sense as his sire and Tapit as his broodmare sire help, but there is not an abundance of class or stamina on the bottom half of the pedigree.
I don’t expect Concert Tour to have any trouble stretching his speed to 1 1/8 miles for the Arkansas Derby, but the jury is out on whether he can excel at 1 ¼ miles on May 1.