Friday, January 9, 2009

It's a Free Country

A few horses really caught my attention this week, and are worth the in-depth look.

Kenny McPeek sent out two colts this weekend that ran well to win nine-furlong allowances and both remain undefeated. The first, Free Country, ran a gutsy race to win his allowance. He ran his last 1/8 about a length faster than Danger to Society won his race, but the latter was throttled down in the process. Free Country is a son of Big Country, a colt that I once met up-close-and-personal while working barn crew at Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital. He was a giant horse who was built like a class act. This was no surprise, considering his father was A.P. Indy and his mother was Flanders. I had, a few months prior on Thanksgiving Day weekend, seen him fail to break his maiden at Churchill, despite being bet odds-on. Something was amiss while racing, so he was retired after a record of 13-2-1-2. Then, for one reason or another (a mistake), Overbrook Farm sold him at the 2004 Keeneland Sale, where he was purchased for $120,000 and now stands at Bona Terra Farms in Georgetown, Kentucky.

Free Country has the scope and stride of his sire, but he has the dark look of his mother's side. Smyrna, his dam, is by Wild Again out of Baldski mare, Baldski's Holiday. The latter was a four-time Canadian stakes winner, winning 10 of 30 starts and nearly $300,000. She also is a really smart cross of Baldski, Nijinsky II's speediest son, out of a Ribot/Pia Star cross. Ribot is the epitome of staying class, on top of a world-record setting miler in Pia Star (also the grandsire of brilliant stakes winners Matty G and Star of Cozzene, who both excelled at 8-10 furlongs). This female side is perfectly balanced with speed and staying power. It also has very little, if any, tendency toward sprinting. This horse is a real player, if he is brilliant enough. Perhaps my favorite thing about him is the way he made a way to win in both his races. At Churchill he veered through horses with a great deal of steam, and was not afraid to be maneuvered throw traffic in the mud. At Gulfstream (while making a giant jump from six to nine furlongs), he sat behind horses and darted through a hole on the rail. He has the Wild Again "bulldog" mentality, it seems, with a stride-out that reminds me of Seeking the Gold (Flanders' sire, who was no slouch in a fight, himself).

Kenny McPeek's other colt, Danger to Society, appeared a more impressive winner, but the feeling here is that his field was slightly less accomplished. I believe he is equally as talented, though, and runs like a horse with a lot of room for improvement. Danger to Society also has a fantastic pedigree. He was bred by Starlight Stables that later sold his mother, Elrose, for $1,250,000 at Keeneland November, in 2007. Starlight also campaigned his multiple Grade 1-winning sire, Harlan's Holiday, who was originally trained by the talented McPeek. Danger to Society seems to have more natural speed, or is simply more comfortable sitting closer to the pace, than his stablemate. He is also a half to the gritty turf mare, Super Freaky, who won two turf stakes and $400,000 in the process. The gritty most likely part comes from the fact that their dam, Elrose, is a half sister to the toughest horse of my time, Silver Charm, who was nearly impossible to beat eye-to-eye.

A third horse that caught my eye this week was the Fair Grounds filly, Flying Spur. By Giant's Causeway, out of four-time Grade 1-winner Lakeway, this filly looks like a true runner. Bill Mott has definitely been taking his time with this one, and I loved they way she lowered her head and ran away from her field, recording a winning Beyer of 94 for the mile event. That is the same number Stardom Bound recorded in her Breeders' Cup score two months ago. Interesting. Do not be surprised if this Mike G. Rutherford homebred has something to say about the end of year champions of 2009.

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