Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The critical difference

There is plenty of advice on offer to the Thoroughbred buyer and breeder, but not all of it is equal in value. This agency has been delivering bottom line results to its clients for over a decade, including one of this year's highlights in helping produce a sales prospect who tied for the fastest work time at the Keeneland April sale.


Another highlight was seeing runners who were either purchased or produced with the assistance of this agent fill out the top four spots in this year's running of the Frances Genter Stakes at Canterbury Park.

Watching clients' runners and their respective buying/breeding programs reach their full potential is what drives this agent. If you can appreciate the critical difference a key advisor could play in developing your stable, I invite you to contact me.

David M. Miller
starofthenorth1 (at) gmail.com

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Building trust and a new life: Brenda & Zetta

Brenda Rick has been a dear friend since my early days as a bloodstock agent. We first met when she was caring for the mares and foals for the late Carl Backes and it was Brenda whose quick thinking and steady hand helped safely deliver Maywood's Jill (Fit to Fight - Hurry Hurry by Fast Play) from what could have a disastrous foaling.

Over the years Brenda has found homes for a lot of retired Thoroughbreds to which she was connected and it was her willingness to take on a special project in One for Zetta (Ballado Chieftan - Zachs World by Distinctive Pro) that will leave me forever in her debt. Named after the late Zetta Loose, an assistant trainer I first met on the Canterbury Park backstretch 16 years ago, One for Zetta showed promise as a racehorse but failed to handle the demands of morning training at the track despite the best efforts of several trainers who worked to help her become accustomed to the work of a Thoroughbred racehorse. When the Grevelis Racing Partnership came to the unfortunate conclusion that Zetta would not be a viable race prospect, Ted and I looked to Brenda to help us find the occasionally temperamental filly a suitable home.

Brenda's own words serve best in telling Zetta's story:


While heartwarming stories are always a good read, not all true stories are that way. So it is with horse racing. Not always is it a run for the roses. Sometimes the wildflowers are just as beautiful and the story is almost as sweet - if not just a little more unpredictable and exciting.

Roses are beautiful and predictably elegant. Everyone loves them. BUT a meadow full of wildflowers is breathtaking in its untamed beauty. Each blossom a unique find. It is our uniqueness that makes us special and such is the way with Zetta.

If our ultimate goal is happiness then there is nothing wrong with a run through the wildflowers instead of a run for the roses, if you are so inclined.

August 25th, 2010 Zetta and I embarked on a journey together. While I anticipated I'd be the teacher I rapidly learned that I would be the student as well.

Training usually comes with lists and goals and hopefully accomplishments and gold stars. In the years of working with Thoroughbreds I have learned that each is unique and one training schedule doesn't always work. You need to be flexible.

Therefore after 3 months of planning and trying to follow some sort of agenda I had to throw it way. This was going to be different. That does not mean that it hasn't been rewarding.

Together Zetta and I traveled through a troubled year. Ironically not for her -- for me. Zetta was to me by project, my focus, the one thing I was depending on in a year full of uncontrollable situations. Only she wasn't playing by the rules. She was loving life.

I would love for nothing more than to tell you she is working at a certain level in dressage, or jumping at X height but I can not tell you that. What I can tell you is that in the last year the two of us have learned more about trust, patience and lack of control than I believe either of has learned in our lifetimes to this point.

Zetta is unlike any other horse I have ever worked with and this is not a bad thing. I know that she was suppose to run like the wind.... and I know she can, just not around the oval that she was expected to run. Things like confinement and restraint are not acceptable in Zetta's world. Why? Does it really matter? At the track it did.

I tried for a long time to figure out why and came to the conclusion that it didn't really matter. Not now. What mattered most is the animal in front of me. What Zetta needed most in the beginning was to trust me. What I needed most (and didn't realize) was to be trusted. Confidence was in short supply with us. It is now the base of our relationship. When I thought we were struggling to make any kind of headway I soon realized that we had gone miles. Some accomplishments can't be measured with gold stars but with the willingness to just exsist together without fear.

Zetta is a wildflower. She moves WITH the wind. And it is breathtaking to behold.

In all reality the struggles that I faced over the last year slowed down the progress that could have been forced on her and so you may say that things happen for a reason. I believe now that she was better off with the slower progress. I might not be chasing the wind on her back right now but I know that as we move forward now we are doing so with a base of trust and confidence in each other and about ourselves.

Zetta's goal is to enjoy life and in watching her quest for that, and working with her I found that this isn't such a bad plan. She has always made me smile - everyday. Even through the tough times. If she were a human she would have struggled with daily life because of the labels that would have been placed on her. That is sad since I think we should all make our quest one of finding joy in life and maybe with just a little of the reckless abandon she uses on a daily basis.

Zetta will contribute to the racing world one day! When the time comes, she has fabulous genes that she will pass on to her offspring. Not just her parentage but her way of being as well. Her zest for life, her lack of fear and her undying determination will serve her young well. AND it serves her well too.

Like her mother Zetta is intrigued by children. When they are around she gravitates to them and looks for their attention. It is only something I have recently observed. They are safe. She hasn't quite got the grace and patience with them yet that her mother has but I do believe that she will have the same effect that I watch with Zach. Will she serve on day as a therapy horse... maybe. But for now she is my project and I am hers. Together we are moving forward and soon instead of side by side it will be together as a team. Together with trust, patience and confidence we move into the next year and what a great way to be.

In the beginning it was my intention to try to help find Zetta a home off the track. I needed another horse like...... well actually, in the end, I actually did need her and I hope in the long run she needed me as well.

Thank you guys for your trust in me and your confidence in Zetta's new life. We will prove you made a great choice.

photo courtesy of Abby Erickson (photo's of Zetta are hard to get since she seems to want to be next to me instead of posing for the camera. I promise better will follow. Abby was just a little to young to hold her)

~ Brenda Rick

Monday, August 15, 2011

Video: Two of Saturday's winners

A short video of Cape Blanco (Ire) and Treasure Beach (GB) returning to the barn after their first morning's look at Arlington Park on Friday. Wait for the classic doubletake at the end from the Daily Racing Form scribe who discovers that there is another guy in Chicago who also gets up early in the morning to look at a good horse.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Video: Wigmore Hall (Ire) Pachattack, Mission Approved

Watched all three put in short blowouts around the dogs on the Arlington Park turf Thursday morning. Wigmore Hall (Ire) kicked up his heels a bit when returning to his shedrow, something that was noted in his behavior last year, but he gave an overall good impression that he is ready for Saturday's assignment. Mission Approved didn't get a time for his outing but his easy gallop suggests he has acclimated to the conditions on a turf course that is fairly kind to front end placements when the rails are placed in the five path. The going was listed as yielding by Arlington management Thursday but could be described as good in spots around the course.

Mission Approved


Wigmore Hall (Ire)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Video: Zack Hall (Fr), Pachattack

Was out out early this morning and caught ZACK HALL (FR) and PACHATTACK making their respective preparations for the Arlington Million and Beverly D. Stakes.

ZACK HALL (FR) is a solid bodied sort if lacking a bit in stature and gives the impression of a pure staying type. He wasn't asked for much in his two rounds over the main track this morning but gave an overall good impression that he has handled the demands of a Transatlantic flight.

PACHATTACK looked the picture and the video capture displayed was of her return to her shedrow after galloping under a pull around the Arlington main track. Her readiness was particularly striking in light of her bullet work just three days prior. Still not entirely convinced her form on grass matches her form on the Arlington synthetic surface but her energy suggests she will be a significant factor when the battle is joined somewhere on the far turn at Arlington Park Saturday.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


To even a casual observer of the racing scene at Canterbury Park in 2003, the results of that season's Horse of the Meet balloting seemed more than somewhat askew when it was determined that Skip Maas' She's Scrumpy had been denied what seemed her rightful title to Canterbury Park Horse of the Year honors at the end of her 3-year old racing season. A dominating winner over her own crop when winning the Minnesota Oaks that season, She's Scrumpy also convincingly bested older rivals in the Princess Elaine Stakes and returned to beat older mares in the Minnesota Distaff Classic Championship to cap the season with three consecutive stakes victories.

The wheels turn slowly, but the injustice of the 2003 season came right for She's Scrumpy's owner when her daughter A She's Adorable returned to the track that saw her dam's stellar performances echoed with a dominating triumph in the Lady Canterbury Stakes, the meet's traditional centerpiece event.

Trainer Joey Ruhsam had selected She's Scrumpy for owner Maas from the Minnesota yearling sale in 2001. This writer had enjoyed the good fortune to inspect the daughter of Squadron Leader when invited to step into She's Scrumpy's stall one morning at Prairie Meadows when visiting Ruhsam's shedrow in 2003. Watching A She's Adorable and Jimmy Graham firing through the stretch this past Sunday brought that visit with She's Scrumpy immediately to mind, as the daughter of Johar bears a better than fair resemblance to her remarkable dam.

~ Memory is a paradise out of which fate cannot drive us.

Alexandre Dumas

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Frances Genter Superfecta

Very excited to see the win streak continue for Polar Plunge (Successful Appeal - Shakopee by Evansville Slew) who is now undefeated in three starts and whose mating was planned by yours truly. For the record, Star of the North Bloodstock either acted as mating consultant or assisted in the purchase of the top four finishers in today's Frances Genter Stakes.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Tuesday morning at Arlington

Willcox Inn out for a gallop this morning at Arlington Park

If there is a better way to spend your free time in the morning other than hanging over a rail somewhere with a cup of hot coffee and some binoculars, I haven't found it.


Friday, June 10, 2011

2011 Belmont Pedigree Analysis

Each of the American Classic races that comprise the Triple Crown have played a role in shaping the breed of Thoroughbred that can be found on racecourses all over the world. But it is "The Test of the Champion" that perhaps has made the largest impact on the progression of the breed and continues to be ruled by its strongest representatives.

That pattern can be demonstrated in an examination of the past winners in the previous 142 runnings of the Belmont Stakes.

A closer examination of the pedigrees of Belmont winners over the last several decades demonstrates the much decried loss of staying power in American Thoroughbred pedigree is being overstated. The best of the breed win the Belmont Stakes; While not every winner since 1967 proved a world beater in the stallion ranks, the ones who made the strongest contribution to the American Thoroughbred breed in the last five decades were also winners of the Belmont Stakes.

You can also view the full chart at this link.

Are there patterns that appear in the previous list that might help select this year's winner? One pattern that has been mentioned in previous versions of this analysis has pointed up the fairly high correlation between the number of individual Belmont Stakes winners in the pedigrees of subsequent winners of the Belmont Stakes. One other pattern found in the list of winners is the outcrossed pedigrees of the winners relative to the remaining field. Here is a breakdown of this year's Belmont Stakes field with the salient pedigree facets noted.

You can also view the full chart at this link.

The biggest challenge presented in analyzing pedigrees of a Classic field is attempting to predict just which parts of a Thoroughbred's pedigree will be displayed when the runners have yet to be subjected to the test. Drosselmeyer and Summer Bird provide examples of runners who were not near certainties to stay the twelve furlongs, but each demonstrated they had inherited the necessary elements in their respective makeups to survive the Belmont test.

The 2011 Belmont Stakes field presents a similar challenge in that the picture of who will stay and who will not is not so nearly black and white. What follows will be a brief summary of the respective pedigrees of the starters and comparisons to the profiles of the list of previous Belmont Stakes winners.

Master of Hounds - There's a lot to like about the son of Kingmambo, who appeared to be making steady progress in the Derby while racing in what was arguably the worst part of the track. The sire is already represented by a Belmont winner in Lemon Drop Kid and broodmare sire Sadler's Wells is known for his influence in producing some of the breed's best performers and a number of top class stayers. The most prominent feature in Master of Hounds pedigree is the fairly forward pairing of the closely related Sadler's Wells and Nureyev. Some other runners who carried duplications of the important matriarch Special proved to be better middle distance turf performers than pure stayers -- Henrythenavigator and Numerous Times come to mind -- but the presence of Le Fabuleux and Sicambre on his damline tip the scales in assessing Master of Hounds' chances.

Stay Thirsty - A second generation descendant of Belmont winner A.P. Indy, Stay Thirsty carries twelve individual Belmont Stakes winners in the first seven generations of his pedigree, the most of any starter in this year's renewal. Descends from Bruce Lowe Family 4-c which produced 1946 Belmont Stakes winner Assault. His form going into the Belmont is less than ideal but his pedigree makes Stay Thirsty a "must use" in any of your gimmick bets in the Belmont Stakes.

Ruler on Ice - A son of the brilliant Roman Ruler produced from a Saratoga Six mare, Ruler on Ice won't make anyone's list of obvious stayers in this year's Belmont, but shouldn't necessarily be thrown out completely when fashioning your tickets. Dam Champagne Glow carries a strain of Bruce Lowe Family 9-h in third dam Seminole Girl through her sire Chieftain in addition to nine individual Belmont Stakes winners in Ruler on Ice's pedigree, which makes him at least an exotics contender.

Santiva - Finished sixth in what might be remembered as the most important photo finish for fifth in this year's Kentucky Derby depending on tomorrow's outcome. Santiva crossed the wire noses apart while between Master of Hounds and Brilliant Speed, arguably his best performance since winning the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes last season. A son of Giant's Causeway, he carries some staying influences but not as many as the remaining field. It should be noted that Tabasco Cat is the only descendant of Storm Cat to win the Belmont Stakes. It should also be noted that Santiva possesses one of the more outcrossed pedigrees in this year's Belmont field, a decidedly positive factor in previous runnings.

Brilliant Speed - A shade smaller than the typical Dynaformer, Brilliant Speed's five, six, then eight wide run into the stretch at Churchill Downs has piqued the interest of more than a few backers as his steady late run suggests an ideal staying type. It should be noted that the Hail to Reason sire line has not been represented with a Belmont Stakes winner since Temperence Hill's victory in 1980. The presence of ten individual Belmont Stakes winners in his first seven generations and the prominent representation of important Belmont pedigree influences Secretariat and Deputy Minister in his pedigree add to his lustre. A descendant of the immediate family of Belmont Stakes winner Touch Gold, Brilliant Speed appears to emulate that Classic winner's physical type. The biggest question concerning Brilliant Speed's chances in the Belmont Stakes will be the tactics employed by the brilliant rider Joel Rosario, who is relatively unfamiliar with the unique challenges presented in twelve furlong contests at Belmont.

Nehro - Another second generation offspring of Belmont Stakes winner A. P. Indy, Nehro gave a very good account of himself in the Derby and would figure to benefit from the five weeks' rest since that contest. Carrying ten individual Belmont Stakes winners in his pedigree and a prominent strain of Lowe Family 9f in damsire Afleet, Nehro has but one pedigree facet that his backers must factor in assessing his chances: His 3x3 duplication of Mr. Prospector - a pattern not found in any of the list of previous Belmont winners.

Monzon - Like the remaining field, can not be dismissed out of hand as he is sired by a Belmont Stakes winner in Thunder Gulch and carries seven individual Belmont winners in his pedigree. A 3x3 duplication of Mr. Prospector in his pedigree suggests he is one of the runners less likely to stay the mile and a half.

Prime Cut - The principle sires found in his pedigree -- Bernstein, Stravinsky and Apalachee -- would not suggest a runner with staying qualities, but the presence of eight individual Belmont winners in his first seven generations must also be weighed in assessing his chances. Prime Cut carries a 4x4 duplication of Round Table, which suggests staying qualities but is not a pattern that has registered success in this Classic event.

Animal Kingdom - The relatively low presence of Belmont Stakes winners in his pedigree does not preclude the Derby winner from staying the twelve furlongs of the Belmont Stakes. It would be hard, in fact, to imagine a runner produced from a mare by Acatenango whose second dam is Dancing Brave could be anything but a stayer. The history of the Belmont Stakes favors runners with outcrossed pedigrees. It should be noted that no sire line descendant of Blushing Groom has won the Belmont Stakes, but until this year no Blushing Groom descendant had yet captured the Derby either.

Mucho Macho Man - The bullet morning drills and the added presence of jockey Dominguez should give any of his detractors pause, but the fact that his only wins have come at the distances of something less than nine furlongs suggests Mucho Macho Man is not a pure stayer. The lanky colt's closest duplication in pedigree is the 4x4 doubling of Mr. Prospector which is somewhat offset by the paired influences of Grey Dawn II. His overall makeup suggests he will be found out somewhere on the far turn of the Belmont Stakes.

Isn't He Perfect - A son of Breeders' Cup Classic winner Pleasantly Perfect, Isn't He Perfect carries Belmont winners Affirmed and Conquistador Cielo fairly close up in his pedigree and his dam Reciclada is inbred to the important Classic influence of Sir Ivor in a 3x5 pattern. Oddly enough, runners from the Ribot* sire line appear to have performed to something less than their afforded opportunity in the Belmont Stakes with the last representative to prevail being Colonial Affair in 1993. His form doesn't help his case.

Shackleford - Demonstrated that the pattern described as the "Northern Dancer Derby Bounce" continues to hold sway as yet another representative of the sire line to bounce back to winning form in the Preakness. Shackleford appears to have a decided tactical advantage in this year's renewal of the Belmont Stakes as no apparent pace threats have been entered against him. But can he stay twelve furlongs? A perusal of the list of previous winners underscores the important influence of Fappiano in recent runnings of the Belmont Stakes and the relative lack of performance of Storm Cat in this storied fixture. Eight individual Belmont Stakes winners in his first seven generations and his relatively outcrossed pedigree suggest Shackleford will indeed find on the far turn at Belmont though he will have company when the field turns into the straight.

The Selections:

1st - Brilliant Speed

2nd - Stay Thirsty

3rd - Shackleford

4th - Animal Kingdom

5th - Master of Hounds

6th - Santiva

Saturday, June 4, 2011

A Sweep (of sorts)

I am no longer in Minnesota but it's fun to watch some of the horses that were produced during my stay there, including tonight's three race win sweep where Star of the North Bloodstock either assisted with the purchase of the winner or planned its mating.

(Off: 9:01 Next Post: 9:24) Surface: Dirt
6 Furlongs | 3 Year Olds And Up | MAIDEN CLAIMING ( $10,000 ) | State Bred

1 Town Victory S. Stevens $5.80 $3.60 $2.60
2 Dos Angels Warrior D. Dugas $8.80 $6.00
10 Ballados Prospect W. Arroyo $7.80

Times in 5ths: :224 :464 1:00 1:134

Times in 100ths: :22.92 :46.97 1:00.03 1:13.82

Winning Trainer: Biehler Michael | Owner: Malkerson Stables, LLC
Unplaced horses listed in order of finish.
Also ran: Jolicoeur, Avengeit, The Third Guy, Blue Thunder, Launch N Luke, Sir Ghazi, Doctor Run Run, Ransom Free and The Reconciler
$1 Exacta (1-2) Paid: $16.70, $1 Trifecta (1-2-10) Paid: $86.70, $1 Superfecta (1-2-10-5) Paid: $1,149.10, $1 Pick 3 (1/4/7-1/4-1) 3 Correct Paid: $27.60 Pick 3 Pool $1,903.00

(Off: 9:29 Next Post: 9:53) Surface: Dirt
6 1/2 Furlongs | 3 Year Olds And Up | CLAIMING ( $5,000 ) | Open

8 Tahkodha Bill L. Keith $18.20 $7.80 $4.60
7 Robbos Courage R. Eikleberry $4.00 $3.40
2 Bullya J. Rivera $4.00

Times in 5ths: :222 :454 1:112 1:182

Times in 100ths: :22.57 :45.80 1:11.56 1:18.46

Winning Trainer: Hanson Victor | Owner: Weber Janet
Unplaced horses listed in order of finish.
Also ran: Alex's Tomcat, Serengeti Storm, He's No Piker, Arena Negra and Aferds Code Red
$1 Exacta (8-7) Paid: $25.80, $1 Trifecta (8-7-2) Paid: $106.80, $1 Superfecta (8-7-2-5) Paid: $223.80, $1 Pick 3 (1/4-1-8) 3 Correct Paid: $91.40 Pick 3 Pool $1,425.00

(Off: 10:00 Next Post: 10:20) Surface: Dirt
6 Furlongs | 3 Year Olds And Up | MAIDEN SPECIAL WEIGHT | State Bred

4 Good Guy Larry R. Eikleberry $19.20 $8.20 $6.40
11 Victory Sled S. Stevens $6.00 $3.80
7 Ghost Skier P. Nolan $3.40

Times in 5ths: :222 :46 :59 1:131

Times in 100ths: :22.56 :46.05 :59.18 1:13.23

Winning Trainer: Scherbenske Percy | Owner: Mattson Peter
Unplaced horses listed in order of finish.
Also ran: Erv the Banker, Distinctive Saint, Somerset Mariton, Dean Doesn't Know, Supreme Ghost, Mischief Mo, Big Cheer, Rocket Wrench and Aurorin Shot
$1 Exacta (4-11) Paid: $50.00, $1 Trifecta (4-11-7) Paid: $234.20, $1 Superfecta (4-11-7-2) Paid: $656.90, $1 Daily Double (8-4) Paid: $64.60 Daily Double Pool $923.00 , $1 Pick 3 (1-8-4) 3 Correct Paid: $130.20 Pick 3 Pool $1,691.00

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

2011 Kentucky Derby Pedigree Analysis

"So wishing to make this study in a practical manner, I decided to limit my investigation to a single race -- the most important one."

~ Federico Tesio - Breeding the Racehorse

I first begin my annual Kentucky Derby pedigree analysis as a short newsletter to close friends about 20 years ago. In 1996, the newsletter had morphed into a column detailing the observed performance of various sire lines in the recent history of the Kentucky Derby that was first published in Jack Werk's Owner-Breeder.

The subject was revisited in 1998 in a column published during my tenure with Daily Racing Form, wherein the strike rate performance of various sire lines was updated. I have since seen in print some references to "The Northern Dancer Derby Bounce" and "The Curse of Damascus" -- concepts that first appeared in that DRF article. While those observations about sire line performance might not have been appreciated in all corners, they became a part of the growing trend wherein discussions about Thoroughbred pedigree did not immediately move to the concept of "Dosage" but rather genetic inheritance.

In the years that have ensued I have submitted some updates to that work, though my own focus has admittedly strayed from mere observation of sire line performance. Attempting to predict inherited traits in a hybrid species prior to subjecting the object of the experiment to a true test of its inherited abilities is exactly what makes the outcome of the Kentucky Derby such a difficult contest to forecast.

As has been written in this space in years past, "The Crucible in Louisville" also defies prediction in that the exacting conditions of this contest are transformative in their nature; In so many renewals of the Derby the winner of the contest seems somehow different from the horse who entered the gate when he returns to be unsaddled.

The underlying idea of the article first published in Owner-Breeder remains unchanged: Over the course of several generations subjected to the same testing standards, one can observe the (rather marked) rise and fall of any number of sire line dynasties. Runners who carry the influence of Raise a Native and his sire Native Dancer in tail male descent (that is to say the sons, grandsons and great great grandsons) have continued to outperform their relative opportunity in the Kentucky Derby. Proof of that pattern can be found in the chart below which details the pedigree of every Derby winner since 1966, when Native Dancer's son Kauai King first captured the Roses -- a trend that continues to this day.

You can also see the full chart at this link.

The continued dominance of the Raise a Native/Native Dancer sire line coupled with the repeated success of a few broodmare sires and various female families makes for engrossing study but doesn't guarantee predictive value. The Roberto sire line had been well represented in the Derby but had a pronounced lack of success in the years prior to Barbaro's popular win in 2006. Giacomo's victory in 2005 provided a similar reversal in form for runners who descended from the sire line of Rough 'n Tumble.

Some trends from this chart that continue to hold their form are worth noting:

* Since 1984, no tail-male offspring of Bold Ruler or his grandson Seattle Slew have won the Kentucky Derby.

* In the last 40+ years, a tail-male descendant of Northern Dancer has won the Derby only four times and no runners descending from the Storm Cat sire line have ever captured the Derby.

* No runners descending in tail-male from either In Reality or Blushing Groom have yet to win the Kentucky Derby.

You can see the entire chart at this link.

Which runner has the best pedigree profile match to the previous Kentucky Derby winners?

Two runners in this year's field descend from the Raise a Native sire line in this year's renewal but each has form that suggests that the history of the Kentucky Derby will take a new direction in 2011.

4) Master of Hounds - A grandson of Mr. Prospector, he presents an intriguing profile in that he carries a duplication of the important matriarch Special. That pattern is found in a number of accomplished turf performers, the most notable example would be the memorable El Condor Pasa. Master of Hounds carries the important staying influences Le Fabuleux and Sicambre on his damline which would indicate he should make a sustained effort in what should prove a taxing renewal provided he can make the adjustment to negotiate the Churchill Downs surface.

3) Shackleford - A runner loaded with important Derby winning influences in that he carries Pleasant Colony and Unbridled in important positions in his pedigree. Descends in his sire line from Storm Cat and from an extended female family known for its precocity which offer some mixed signals as to his chances to win the Derby. Shackleford also carries an important duplication of Aspidistra and her presence tips the scales in assessing his chances to survive the Derby test.

2) Archarcharch - Runners who carry the influence of the important matriarch La Troienne on each side of their pedigree have enjoyed some notable successes in the Kentucky Derby, though in Archarcharch's case, we find her presence duplicated in the 7th and 10th generations. Three duplications of War Admiral in the female families of Arch and Woodman only strengthen his chances.

1) Comma to the Top - Can a grandson of Indian Charlie get 10 furlongs? That's the question Comma to the Top will be trying to answer when he leads the field on the far turn at Churchill Downs. A good gate horse, he figures to get a forward placement and possibly employ stalking tactics, much like Super Saver did last year. That isn't the only similarity Comma shares with last year's Derby winner, who also descends from the important matriarchy of La Troienne. That family's continued influence in renewals of this Classic seem to make themselves evident under the most testing circumstances and this analyst takes the position that the additional presence of Halo, Seattle Slew and multiple duplications of Princequillo and Round Table in his pedigree will also be weighed when his improbable win in the Derby is registered.

Good luck.