- By this time last year, at least three two-year olds had already created some excitement. Haskin had already proclaimed First Samurai as a potential Triple Crown winner. Really. Henny Hughes won his first three in scintillating fashion before running into First Samurai at Saratoga. And Stevie Wonderboy was spectacular in his last-to-first win in the Del Mar Futurity. Even Discreet Cat had people talking off his single maiden win at Saratoga.
This year, unless I'm just wearing my East Coast blinkers and I'm missing something out west, nobody seems to have anyone looking ahead to the first Saturday in May. I wonder if the Derby winner has even run yet. Without conducting exhaustive research, my guess would be that history suggests that he (or she) has. Barbaro made his debut on Oct 7; Giacomo first ran on July 15; Funny Cide on Sept 8. (Smarty Jones didn't debut until November 9.)
If the Derby winner has run, it beats the hell out of me who it is, though I did like Great Hunter's effort in the Breeders Futurity at Keeneland. Circular Quay had a bit of a buzz, due to his late closing style; but he was sent off at 2-5 in his two-turn debut, oh man! Great Hunter lost all momemtum and had to drop back behind a tiring horse approaching the turn. "Stopped cold," said Victor Espinoza. But the jock was able to move him outside, and even though Circular Quay had already started to roll, Great Hunter was able to recover quickly enough to maintain an edge on the favorite, even forcing him wide on the turn (and bumped him, according to the racechart). "The turn of foot he has was unbelievable." [Lexington Herald-Reader] Circular Quay finished OK for second, but was not getting to the winner at all.
Great Hunter is a Pennsylvania-bred (oh man, not the Pennsylvania thing again); he's by Aptitude out of a Zenith, a stakes-winning daughter of the Fappiano stallion Roy. For Aptitude, a second year sire standing for $20,000 at Juddmonte, it's his third stakes winner, all this year. It may, or may not, be worth mentioning that Great Hunter prepped for the race on the Cushion Track surface at Hollywood Park.
The win temporarily moved up the stock of the West Coast juveniles Horse Greeley and Walter favorite Principle Secret; but both got beat the next day in the Norfolk, as you know if you read Walter's recap of the race. I don't have much to add, except to second the observation that Stormello seemed to be moving better in the stretch than Principle Secret, yet the latter was able to keep the margin close. It was definitely a credible performance by both in their two-turn debuts, but I think that Great Hunter was the best juvenile I saw this weekend.
Stormello had run third behind Great Hunter and Horse Greeley in the Del Mar Futurity, but Kent Desormeaux flew back specifically for this race.
"I told Mr. Currin that he was going faster under the wire than he was at the start of the race," Desormeaux said of finishing third in the Del Mar Futurity. "I knew he would love two turns. He showed a lot of determination and heart today." [LA Times]Stormello is by Stormy Atlantic, out of a Carson City mare. It's the tenth stakes winner, third graded, of the year for the stallion.