New York-breds were in the Kentucky Derby spotlight last weekend at Aqueduct. Samraat recorded a commendable one-length victory in the Withers, remaining perfect in his fourth career outing, and runner-up Uncle Sigh ran well in his first start against winners.
Horses bred in the Empire State are seldom prominent along the Kentucky Derby trail -- only 12 of the 413 Triple Crown nominated horses this year were bred in New York -- and Funny Cide is the lone New York-bred to ever wear the Roses (2004). But Samraat and Uncle Sigh are obviously talented colts who merit respect at this stage.
The Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs offered no points toward a Kentucky Derby berth, but Vinceremos will get the opportunity to join the Leaderboard in his next outing. A maiden scorer second time out on January 4, the colt posted a nose win over stablemate Harpoon last Saturday and provides owner WinStar Farm and trainer Todd Pletcher with another prospect for the Kentucky Derby.
The same connections captured the 2010 Kentucky Derby with Super Saver and finished third last year with Revolutionary.
One scoring race will be offered this coming weekend, Saturday's Robert B. Lewis at Santa Anita.
After posting runaway wire-to-wire wins over restricted rivals in his first three starts, including a 16-length victory in the December 18 Damon Runyon, Samraat displayed nice versatility in the 1 1/16-mile Withers, conceding the early advantage to Uncle Sigh. The Richard Violette Jr. charge tracked the pacesetter to the completion of the far turn.
Samraat threatened to roll past Uncle Sigh in upper stretch, but that rival dug in gamely along the inside to make it interesting. The pair battled to deep stretch, with Samraat edging away late. The remaining four contestants finished well up the track.
Uncle Sigh, who was exiting a 14-length maiden score in his second career start on December 27, lost little in defeat to his more seasoned opponent.
"Hats off to both horses," Violette said. "They ran a huge, huge race today, and I think they'll show up later in the year."
"My horse isn't very experienced and I think he's really going to mature off this effort," said Gary Contessa, trainer of Uncle Sigh. "He never stopped running. I look forward to the rematch."
From the third crop of Noble Causeway, a son of Giant's Causeway who finished second in the 2005 Florida Derby, Samraat is the first graded stakes winner by his sire. There is some class in the female family -- dam Little Indian Girl is a half-sister to Grade 1 heroine Nonsuch Bay -- but broodmare sire Indian Charlie is more associated with speed than stamina.
Samraat has run well in both two-turn starts, registering a pair of 99 BRIS Speed ratings. He will be tested for class and distance going forward but as Violette summed up afterward, "We're in a good spot now."
Uncle Sigh figures to receive a dose of stamina from broodmare sire Pine Bluff, winner of the 1992 Preakness, but the bay colt is a son of the late sire Indian Charlie. It will be interesting to see how effective he can be at longer distances as well.
Violette said Samraat will probably wait for one more prep, most likely the $1 million Wood Memorial on April 5, prior to a Kentucky Derby bid. Contessa is looking forward to the March 1 Gotham for Uncle Sigh's next appearance.
Sam F. Davis
Vinceremos raced close to the pace in second for the opening five furlongs before starting to retreat on the far turn, dropping several lengths back as horses started to pass him in the 1 1/16-mile Davis. But the dark bay colt held his position along the inside and suddenly surged back into contention approaching the stretch drive, rallying to the front with a furlong remaining.
He opened up by almost a couple of lengths and appeared well on his way to an comfortable victory, but Vinceremos once again appeared to shut it down in deep stretch, allowing Harpoon, along with pacesetter Cousin Stephen and the late-running Matador, to get back into the frame at the wire.
Overlooked at 12-1, Vinceremos saved the win by a nose over the more highly-regarded Harpoon, another last-out maiden winner at Gulfstream Park for Pletcher who left the starting gate as the 9-5 second choice. A son of Tapit, Harpoon is a half-brother to speedy graded stakes winners Cuvee and Will He Shine, so there are questions surrounding his potential at classic distances.
Vinceremos earned only an 81 Speed rating when breaking his maiden by a head at a one-turn mile and followed with a 92 in the Davis. That figure isn't flattering, but the lightly-raced colt owns plenty of room for improvement from a mental standpoint after displaying the propensity to wait on horses in both wins.
"That was really amazing. It looked like he was dropping back and was done for the day, and all of a sudden there he was (in the lead)," said Ginny DePasquale, assistant to Pletcher. "You never know when they are going to step up to the plate and he obviously did at the right time."
Vinceremos is now eligible for a $1 million bonus (Sam F. Davis-Tampa Bay Derby-Kentucky Derby sweep) and should return for the Tampa Bay Derby on March 8.
As a son of Pioneerof the Nile, Vinceremos is bred on top for the Kentucky Derby, but the female family is not reassuring. Broodmare sire More Than Ready received plenty of attention last year as the sire of Verrazano, who was unplaced in both attempts at 1 1/4 miles (Kentucky Derby and Travers) and wound up competing in one-mile races by the end of his sophomore season, and Vinceremos' third dam produced champion sprinter Safely Kept.
Kentucky Derby Top 10
- Top Billing -- Fountain of Youth is next for impressive allowance winner.
- Cairo Prince -- Sensational Holy Bull scorer will wait on the Florida Derby for his final prep.
- Midnight Hawk -- Easily captured first two-turn test; Bob Baffert trainee will attempt to carry form forward in Robert B. Lewis.
- Commissioner -- A.P. Indy colt returned from lengthy layoff to defeat salty allowance field; will try stakes company in Fountain of Youth.
- Strong Mandate -- D. Wayne Lukas appears to have Grade 1 winner primed for 2014 bow in the Southwest.
- Samraat -- New York-bred colt joins list following sharp victory in Withers.
- Kristo -- Distorted Humor colt has run well twice since stretching out to two turns for John Sadler.
- Candy Boy -- CashCall Futurity runner-up could make a serious impact in the Robert B. Lewis.
- Honor Code -- Foot issues are a serious concern but late runner isn't out of the equation yet.
- Shared Belief -- Looked awesome winning the CashCall Futurity but he's never run on dirt and his status is uncertain due to foot problems.