JC / Railbird

Sovereign Default

Thursday Notes

You’ve probably heard? Zenyatta will be bred to Bernardini. If you’re into nicks, it’s a match that gets an A++ or a B+, depending on methodology. And while the most anticipated foal of the 21st century hasn’t even been conceived yet (that’ll probably happen in February, if all goes as planned), it’s apparently not too early to think of names. (Bernyatta? Zendini?) I don’t know enough about breeding to call the mating conservative or not, but from a handicapping perspective, it’s an intriguing mix of flash and substance, class and speed. Bernardini’s first-crop runners were precocious and versatile juveniles; Zenyatta was sound through a three-year career and never faltered on track.

Early Kentucky Derby favorite Uncle Mo is listed as the 128-pound highweight on the 2010 Experimental Free Handicap, announced today by the Jockey Club. That’s the highest assignment since Favorite Trick was weighted 128 in 1997.

Boys at Tosconova will miss the Holy Bull at Gulfstream on Sunday. The Rick Dutrow trainee hasn’t seemed himself since a work on January 13. Santiva will also pass on the Holy Bull. The Kentucky Jockey Cup winner, just getting back into training, could make his first start of the year in the Fountain of Youth.

Recovered from the hind ankle injury that knocked him out of Saratoga and a fall campaign, Sovereign Default returns on Saturday at Gulfstream in race five, a seven-furlong allowance for 3-year-olds over the main track that drew seven starters. The colt attracted attention after winning his well-bet debut by two lengths at Belmont Park last July 15, a maiden race that yielded two next out winners in Stay Thirsty (who followed his maiden win with a second to Boys at Tosconova in the Hopeful) and Air Support (who won the Pilgrim Stakes).

I suppose this story’s good news is that 84 past-posters weren’t able to cash.

4:30 PM Addendum: Entries are now up for Sunday’s Holy Bull and Forward Gal Stakes. As often in recent years, the potential Oaks fillies look like a more interesting bunch, with Pocahontas Stakes winner Dancinginherdreams and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies runner-up R Heat Lightning, both making their first starts since November, topping the seven-horse Forward Gal field. The Holy Bull drew nine, including Dialed In, Mucho Macho Man, and Major Gain.

Checking In

with the 2-year-olds I’m following. Smash, an impressive first-out winner at Hollywood in July, hasn’t worked since July and has had some “setbacks,” trainer Bob Baffert told Steve Andersen. “Some of them got down [to Del Mar] and had setbacks. I didn’t want to push them.” The Smart Strike colt could be sent to Belmont for the fall meet. Trainer Rick Violette reports that Sovereign Default, expected to start in Monday’s Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga, is injured and out indefinitely. Typhoon Slew, coming off a nice grass win at Ellis Park earlier this summer, finished third in the With Anticipation Stakes on Friday. The race was won by Soldat, switching from dirt to turf and exiting a second to Wine Police in a Saratoga maiden special last month. “When I asked him at the quarter-pole, whoosh! He really took off,” said rider Alan Garcia. Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said the colt could start next in the Pilgrim Breeders’ Cup at Belmont in October and would point to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. Much praise for Uncle Mo from Dick Powell: “He was remarkable … anyone that was here that day might say years from now, ‘I was there the day that Uncle Mo broke his maiden.'” If the Debutante at Del Mar holds up, next year’s top 3-year-old filly could be a Californian. The 12-horse race came up tough.

Kantharos Out

Unfortunate news: It was announced via press release Tuesday afternoon that undefeated Saratoga Special winner Kantharos suffered a career-ending sesamoid fracture in his left foreleg while galloping out after a five-furlong work over the Oklahoma training track on Monday morning. Dave Grening reports in DRF that the colt “appeared to be uncomfortable” as he was cooling out. X-rays revealed the injury.

There goes the leading 2-year-old East coast male. Farewell, Kantharos. We hardly got to know you in three races, but you sure looked promising.

Whoever wins the G1 Hopeful Stakes will head into the fall as a division leader. The race is shaping up a highly competitive affair, an interesting early test, with buzz babies such as Boys at Tosconova*, Wine Police*, and Settle for Medal likely to start on Monday. Sovereign Default is also possible for the race. A first-out winner at Belmont, Sovereign Default scratched from the Special — “I thought Sovereign Default could benefit from the three additional weeks,” said trainer Rick Violette — but he beat another likely Hopeful starter, Stay Thirsty, in that race on July 15. Stay Thirsty, second that day, returned to win a Saratoga maiden special, as did Air Support, the fifth-place finisher. Punster, third, and Dax, sixth, have both run second in their next starts.

I’m surprised there’s been so little comment on Magna’s announced Preakness 5.5 bonus, which will award $5.5 million to the connections of a horse who sweeps a series of Kentucky Derby prep races at one of the company’s tracks and then the Preakness Stakes, and seems very likely to affect the running of next year’s Triple Crown season. To be eligible, a horse must win the Robert B. Lewis or San Felipe at Santa Anita, or the El Camino Real at Golden Gate, then the Santa Anita Derby, or the Holy Bull or Fountain of Youth, then the Florida Derby. This year, Sidney’s Candy (San Felipe-Santa Anita Derby) would have been a candidate. In 2009, Pioneerof the Nile (San Felipe-Santa Anita Derby) and Quality Road (Fountain of Youth-Florida Derby) would have been eligible. It’s entirely possible that in 2011, two horses could be running for the bonus. It’s also conceivable that connections of a Santa Anita or Florida Derby winner could pass on the Kentucky Derby. Why not take a crack at $5 million with a fresh horse in a smaller field? There’s prestige, and then there’s big money.

12:50 PM Addendum: Ed DeRosa has a post today on the scheme and what it mean for Triple Crown marketing. “It was the birth of a great idea … but it may be the death of the Triple Crown series as we know it.”

*Boys at Tosconova and Wine Police worked on Wednesday at Saratoga. Steve Davidowitz and company’s Grade One Racing doesn’t have notes up for the moves yet, but previous work notes — especially for Boys at Tosconova, who worked with Pleasant Colony winner Trickmeister a couple weeks ago — are seriously good. I highly recommend the site, which is free through the Breeders’ Cup. There’s a terrific wealth of info on individual horses available.