Prior to The Jockey Club's adoption of more stringent rules about reusing the same names for Thoroughbreds, one noted stallion actually had two stakes winners in the same decade who bore the same name, though the younger was given the suffix "II" to distinguish him from his elder and much superior namesake. Who was the sire and who were his two "name's the same" sons?
TJ's back on top! The 1917 Brooklyn Handicap featured 1914 Kentucky Derby winner Old Rosebud, 1915 Derby winner Regret and 1917 Derby hero Omar Khayyam but was won by Borrow. The 1918 Bowie Handicap featured 1916 Derby winner George Smith, Omar Khayyam and 1918 Derby champion Exterminator in a 1-2-3 finish.
You know you're sitting pretty in American racing when your second-string colt for the Kentucky Derby--Presented by Yum! Brands (USA-I) is an undefeated graded stakes winner with an impeccable pedigree. That's the situation for Shadwell Stable, whose Shagaf joined his stablemate Mohaymen in the Derby picture with a smooth win in the Gotham Stakes (USA-III) yesterday.
A tall, elegant colt who looks the part of a Classic contender, Shagaf is unquestionably bred to get the Derby distance. His sire Bernardini won the 2006 Preakness Stakes (USA-I) and Jockey Club Gold Cup (USA-I) and was beaten only a length by the brilliant Invasor in the 2006 Breeders' Cup Classic (USA-I). On the dam's side, Shagaf has Belmont Stakes (USA-I) winners Tabasco Cat and Temperence Hill as the sires of his second and third dams, while Unbridled's Song provides a welcome dash of speed as the maternal grandsire. The female family is classy and deep: Shagaf's dam Muhaawara is a stakes winner, her dam Habibti is a multiple Grade I winner and a Grade II producer, Habibti's dam Miss Sobriety is a half sister to 1995 Kentucky Oaks (USA-I) and Canadian Oaks winner Gal in a Ruckus, and Miss Sobriety's dam Quillummo is a half sister to three stakes winners and to the great Canadian foundation mare No Class.
Shagaf's innate talent was displayed in the Gotham, but so were the reasons why he is not Shadwell's top hope. While he has good early speed, he is more of a grinder than is Mohaymen and does not quite have the same fluid ability to change pace. He also appeared to be reluctant to move up on the inside while he was taking kickback, though this tendency may improve with seasoning. Still, it's not something you want to see heading into the Derby, where having to deal with close quarters and kicked-up dirt are routine.
Another issue is the slow closing time and final time. To Shagaf's credit, he made his winning move against a rail bias, but it still took him about 34 seconds to run the final 5/16 of a mile, suggesting that his victory owed more to a gassed front-runner and superior stamina than to a real closing kick. The final time of 1:45.90 was over 4/5 of a second slower than 5-year-old mare Mei Ling's time while winning the Heavenly Prize Invitational Stakes two races earlier on the same card, and Mei Ling, while a nice mare, has never had any pretensions of being a potential Grade I horse.
Shadwell racing manage Rick Nichols has gone on record as saying that Shagaf is "pretty much in the same league with" Mohaymen on basic ability. If this is the case, the Wood Memorial (USA-I) on April 9 should be pretty much at Shagaf's mercy, while Mohaymen has a much sterner task ahead if the expected showdown with Nyquist in the Florida Derby (USA-I) materializes. My feeling is that Shagaf may still need more time to mature and may be a better bet for the Belmont Stakes than the Kentucky Derby, but if both colts come through their final Derby preps with flying colors, look for the entry to be a heavy favorite to gain the first Kentucky Derby victory for the Maktoum family.
Going into the Santa Ysabel Stakes (USA-III) today, there were only two mysteries to be cleared up: how large a minus show pool there would be with Songbird among the entries, and why on earth enough rivals showed up to make show betting an issue, given the hash that Songbird has been making of the Southern California fillies.
The latter mystery is still alive and well, but the former is not. Those entities that permitted show betting lost a total of US$158,462 to meet the minimum required payoff on Songbird, who went off as close to a sure thing as racing ever sees. After she broke cleanly from the gate, the only question was how much she would win by. Her final margin of 3-3/4 lengths could easily have been much larger as the daughter of Medaglia d'Oro turned in what was essentially another paid workout.
After today's performance, fans will undoubtedly be howling even louder for Songbird to take on the boys in the Kentucky Derby---Presented by Yum! Brands (USA-I). Nonetheless, trainer Jerry Hollendorfer and owner Rick Porter remain firm that the filly's next target will be the Santa Anita Oaks (USA-I), followed by the Longines Kentucky Oaks (USA-I) if all goes well.
It's true that there is only one Kentucky Derby. But there is also only one Songbird, and there is no particularly good reason to throw her in against the colts in any one particular race. Because of their refusal to cave in to "Derby fever," Hollendorfer and Porter have the luxury of not being tied to a particular schedule. Would they be disappointed if something came up and their star filly had to miss the Kentucky Oaks? Sure, but probably not the way they would be if the Derby was at stake. After all, Songbird has no stud value to protect; she's probably already worth as much as a broodmare prospect as she ever will be. Will it prove her worth against this year's males any less if she waits until the major late summer races to take a shot at them? Not really, and summer and fall are historically better times for fillies to go up against males.
In the meantime, Songbird still has a couple of talented rivals who may make her run to the 3-year-old filly championship more than an academic exercise. Cathryn Sophia remains on course for an Oaks showdown while dispatching her Eastern rivals with ease to equal Songbird's, and Polar River added the UAE Oaks (UAE-III) to her UAE One Thousand Guineas (UAE-III) score, handling Argentine Group I winner Vale Dori convincingly although her margin wasn't big. Like Songbird, both fillies have one more stop penciled in on their schedules before the Kentucky Oaks (USA-I), with Cathryn Sophia most likely headed to the Gulfstream Park Oaks (USA-II) and Polar River slated for a showdown with males in the UAE Derby (UAE-II). If both come through as expected, we'll be in for a rare treat in the Kentucky Oaks: three unbeaten sophomore fillies of rare ability staking their claims to the crown.
On two occasions during the 20th century, three Kentucky Derby winners confronted each other in a stakes race. In one race, none of the three Derby winners involved won; in the other, they finished 1-2-3. Name the races and the three horses involved in each.
I'm Avalyn Hunter, an author, pedigree researcher and longtime racing fan.