Ready to see the debut of an expensive (and exciting) racehorse? Then you have a lot to look forward to this week.
A slew of competitive special weights for 3-year-old girls are scheduled for the coming days at Santa Anita and Fair Grounds. Among the entries are two of the most expensive horses sold at auction last year. Surely we will see a future bet winner (or two or three) in action?
Let’s check out half a dozen of the hottest sophomores making their debut this week.
Santa Anita Race 7: Maiden Special Weight (1 1/16 miles, 6:38 PM EST)
No. 5 Kerouac
Family Tree: Uncle Mo–Walk Close, by Tapit
Purchase Price: $420,000
Coach: Bob Baffert
It’s easy to see why Kerouac sold for $420,000 as a yearling. He is sired by the champion and successful stallion Uncle Mo (the sire of 2016 Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist) out of the Tapit mare Walk Close, formerly the dam of 2019 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile runner-up Anneau d’Or.
Kerouac showed speed in the morning for trainer Bob Baffert, finishing his morning preps with a bullet half a mile from the Santa Anita starting gate in 47.6 seconds. The fact that Baffert wins just 14 percent, with runners debuting more than a mile or more, is a potential red flag. But the Baffert, West Coast champion followed this path, and the presence of leading jockey Flavien Prat (a 36 percent winner in Santa Anita this match) is encouraging.
Santa Anita Race 8: Maiden Special Weight (six furlongs, 7:00 PM EST)
No. 2 Vittoro
Pedigree: Liam’s Map-Super Buggy, by Grand Slam
Purchase price: N/A
Coach: Bob Baffert
It’s safe to say that Vittoro was bred to be brilliant. The Bob Baffert intern is a son of the impressive Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner Liam’s Map out of the Grand Slam mare Super Buggy, formerly the dam of 12-time winning sprinter Chief Cicatriz.
Vittoro didn’t put together such a flashy workbook as stable mate Bletchley Park (see below), but he blew a quick five furlongs from the Santa Anita starting gate in 59.2 seconds on January 3. Jockey Juan Hernandez finishes in the top three 78 percent of the time if you ride for Bob Baffert, so don’t forget Vittoro – he can definitely challenge for a spot in the trifecta.
No. 8 Bletchley Park
Pedigree: Nyquist–Spinning Wheel, by Smart Strike
Purchase price: $2.6 million
Coach: Bob Baffert
Of all the 2-year-olds in training sold at North American auctions in 2021, none brought a higher price than Bletchley Park. The son of Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist was sold for $2.6 million after a 9.8 second gust of wind.
Bletchley Park was produced by Spinning Wheel, a half sister of 2014 Preakness runner-up Ride On Curlin. Bletchley Park has put together an excellent piece of work, culminating in five furlongs from the Santa Anita starting gate in a one-minute flat, so expectations are certainly high for his debut. The presence of jockey John Velazquez (driving 10-for-15 for Baffert over the past two months) adds to its appeal.
Fair Grounds Race 9: Maiden Special Weight (six furlongs, 4:54 PM EST)
No. 1 strong quality
Pedigree: Quality Road-Tiz So Sweet, by Tiznow
Purchase Price: $500,000
Coach: Mark Casse
Strong Quality, bought for half a million dollars as teats, trains like a serious racehorse at Fair Grounds. On January 2, he clocked a half mile in 47.6 seconds. On January 9, he threw five furlongs from the gate in 59.2 seconds. And last Saturday he clocked another half mile in 48.4 seconds.
Conditioned by Mark Casse (a 15 percent winner with debuting runners), Strong Quality is a son of four-time Grade 1 winner Quality Road, who sired 13 percent winners from novice starters. All signs point to Strong Quality having the potential to live up to its name.
No. 3 fold
Pedigree: Quality Road–Stormy Welcome, by Storm Cat
Purchase price: $1.5 million
Coach: Dallas Stewart
Bletchley Park may have been the most expensive 2-year-old in training to be sold at a North American auction in 2021, but Vinco wasn’t far behind, finishing third with a $1.5 million price tag. Since 2000, Dallas Stewart has won at a 9 percent rate with starters. But in 2021 Stewart hit the best of his career at 23 percent with debuting runners, so there’s a good chance Vinco will be ready for a strong performance from the start. He’s put together some solid workouts (including five furlongs in 1:00.4 seconds at Fair Grounds last Friday) and picks up hot jockey Brian Hernandez, so fire Vinco at your own risk.
no. 7 savage
Pedigree: Violence-Brinkley, by City Zip
Purchase Price: $410,000
Trainer: Steve Asmussen
Ferociously, a son of Grade 1 CashCall Futurity winner Violence (who sired an outstanding 17 percent winners over starters), was produced by stake-placed sprinter Brinkley. This is a race focused on speed, so Ferociously thinks he’ll appreciate sprinting six furlongs on his debut.
An expensive $410,000 gain for a yearling, Ferociously fired up quick workouts for trainer Steve Asmussen marked by a bullet five furlongs from the starting gate in 59.8 seconds. Hot jockey Joel Rosario has been named to ride, making Ferociously a key contender for the debut win.