Steve’s Sleepers: Commandperformance

This is the first of a series of columns to be posted periodically through the start of Derby Rankings in mid-January. During that time let’s all play bloodstock agent and see if we can uncover some live sleepers for next year’s Kentucky Derby before they become well-known. They would be mostly horses who are still maidens, but left a big impression in defeat. Or maiden winners that are still flying under the radar. I will look for an interesting back story regarding each horse to bring them to life so people can follow them right from the beginning. If anyone sees a horse, male or female, who fits that bill you can email me at and I will check them out. Hope you enjoy this new series. ~ Steve Haskin

Steve’s Sleepers: Commandperformance

By Steve Haskin


Whether you are a bloodstock agent or racing manager touting an under-the-radar Kentucky Derby prospect to your owner for possible purchase or just a simple journalist playing those roles, it is disheartening to “discover” a hidden talent, going out on a limb, and then seeing that horse turn into a bust. But as any racing person knows, it is going to happen more times than not. We are not risking anyone’s money here; just having fun and seeing if we can all find untapped talent, tell their story, and then following those horses hoping one or two can buck the odds and make it to the Kentucky Derby.

The first sleeper who caught my eye was a handsome gray Union Rags colt trained by Todd Pletcher named Commandperformance. If he didn’t have such an eventful trip in his career debut he probably would have won, and being trained by Pletcher and owned by the powerful team of St. Elias Stable and Mike Repole, he no longer would qualify as a sleeper. So let’s hop on his bandwagon now and tell his story and the story of his dam Smitten.

First, going back over his maiden race, he went into the six-furlong event at Saratoga on September 6 coming off two strong five-furlong works in 1:00 and change and then a half-mile drill in :47 3/5 from the gate, fifth fastest of 134 works at the distance. As soon as they crossed the finish line I knew this was a horse worth following.

Breaking from the disadvantageous inside post first time out, he was slammed into hard from a chain reaction and was bounced sideways about a dozen feet, winding up just inches from the rail. By the time Irad Ortiz was able to gather him he had one horse beat in the nine-horse field and was still down on the inside getting mud kicked in his face.

At the three-eighths pole, Ortiz eased him out a couple of paths, but he was still some six lengths behind the 5-2 favorite Don’t Wait Up, who was coming off a nose defeat to one of Pletcher’s promising colts Power Agenda.

Still bottled up in traffic turning for home, Ortiz kept waiting for a hole to open. And when none did, he hit Commandperformance three times left-handed to try to get him to the outside. But when he saw the colt was getting out too far, he switched to a right-handed whip and Commandperformance found another gear and quickly surged forward. But he was still fourth at the eighth pole with Don’t Wait Up drawing well clear of the field. Ortiz let the colt come home on his own under a hand ride and he narrowed the favorite’s four-length lead to two lengths at the wire, while finishing nearly three lengths clear of the third horse in a field strung out 25 lengths from first to last. They covered the six furlongs in a sharp 1:10 2/5 with Commandperformance closing his final eighth in a swift :12 1/5.

But what really impressed me about him was the way he shrugged off several obstacles on a muddy track in his career debut, the fluidity of his stride, the smoothness of his lead change, his turn of foot in the stretch, and how perfectly he holds his legs under him. In other words, mechanically he was flawless.

I’m not so sure he needs another maiden race, as this to me was equivalent to a victory and I saw all I needed to see to convince me he is ready to take the next step up.

Pedigree-wise, he is by Belmont Stakes and Champagne winner Union Rags, the sire of the St. Elias-Repole 3-year-old stakes winner Dynamic One. He also has the unique distinction of being inbred top and bottom to a U.S. Triple Crown winner (Seattle Slew) and an English Triple Crown winner (Nijinsky, the only horse to sweep that Triple Crown in the last 51 years).

Commandperformance, who was purchased at the Keeneland yearling sale for $220,000, is out of the Tapit mare Smitten, who was bred in Kentucky by Extern Developments. She sold as a weanling for $175,000 then pinhooked to the Keeneland Yearling Sale, where she was purchased by Rick Porter’s Fox Hill Farm for $280,000. What stands out in Smitten’s pedigree is that her dam, Hi Lili, s out of multiple stakes winner Snit, who is a daughter of Rokeby Stable’s Fit to Fight, the last of only four horses to sweep the old Handicap Triple Crown (Met Mile, Suburban, and Brooklyn Handicaps), previously won by Whisk Broom II, Tom Fool, and Kelso.

On July 27, 2011, Smitten’s half-brother J C’s Pride, by Henny Hughes, broke the track record for five furlongs at Saratoga, winning a race maiden in :56.54 by 3 1/4 lengths.

Smitten, trained by Larry Jones, was a hard-luck filly, whose career as a racehorse and a broodmare went unfulfilled, and it’s now up to Commandperformance to give her the recognition of which she was deprived.

Smitten was nothing to look at as a 2-year-old, and Jones had an array of stars in his barn at the time and paid little attention to her. But one person who fell in love with her was Jonathan Cozart, who was working for Jones as a hotwalker at the time. She became very special to him and was the horse who took the sport from a source of enjoyment to a passion for him.

Cozart eventually went to work for TVG and now also breeds Thoroughbreds. He met his wife Melissa, who works for Hermitage Farm in Goshen, Kentucky, when they both were working at Ellis Park. They have two sons ages 5 and 2.

When Smitten turned 3, she put on weight and a good deal of muscle and developed into a magnificent athlete, one who Jones started mentioning in the same breath as Eight Belles, his ill-fated filly who finished second to Big Brown in the Kentucky Derby. And he had major stakes winners Believe You Can, Joyful Victory, and Mark Valeski at the time.

Following two solid efforts in October at Keeneland and Churchill Downs in her first two starts, Smitten broke her maiden going a mile and 70 yards at Fair Grounds on December 16, 2012, demonstrating an excellent turn of foot. Jones said after the race he would point her for the Silverbulletday Stakes at the Fair Grounds, telling, “I think she learned a lot in that last race. She’s starting to be more of a push-button type of horse now. In fact, she’s improving so fast lately that she’s starting to remind me of where Eight Belles (also owned by Fox Hill Farm) was at this point in her career.”

Smitten by now had become such a major part of Jonathan and Melissa’s life they started a Facebook page for her on January 11, 2013, which has over 2,200 followers. The profile photo on the page is a painting Melissa made for Jonathan of Smitten before they started dating.

In the Silverbulletday on January 19, she broke slowly, dropped back to 10th, 13 lengths off the pace, and then unleashed a powerful five-wide move to finish third, beaten only 1 3/4 lengths. After she worked a bullet three furlongs in :34 3/5, Jones pointed her for the February 23 Rachel Alexandra Stakes. But shortly after the work she got a rusty nail stuck in her hock, causing foot issues from which she would never fully recover. Jones tried her on turf because of her breeding, but she did little running. After another poor effort in June at Churchill Downs, she was retired and sold to Russell Davis of Damara Farm.

In 2018, Smitten was bred to Union Rags and the following year, on March 23, she produced a beautiful gray colt. But about five weeks after foaling, she developed a serious case of colic and was sent to Rood and Riddle clinic for surgery, where she continued to nurse her foal. Whether it was from the stress of the surgery, she developed laminitis a few days later. When it became apparent that she could not be saved, Jim Herbener, at whose Herbener Farm she was residing, took the foal back home and put him on a nursemare. Shortly after, with all hope gone, Smitten was euthanized. She was 9 years old.

“I was devastated when I learned of her passing,” Cozart said. “I would love for her story to be told the world over. I hope her son affords her that chance.”

The colt grew into a “grand-looking individual,” according to Herbener. “I was very high on him physically and we were happy with the price he brought at the sale and who bought him.”

Destin Heath, the farm trainer at WinStar Farm where Commandperformance got his early training, remembers him well.

“I can’t forget that one,” he said. “At first he was difficult to be around. He was a very tough, high energy colt who was strong-willed. We couldn’t get to the bottom of him. You needed to have the right pony with him and put the right rider on him. But we were extremely high on him, so we were patient and worked with him. In general he was a very nice horse to be around. When we had him at the farm during breaking season he was physically impressive to look at; a man among boys who did everything with ease. I kept thinking, ‘Man, when he puts it all together.’ We had him on the Polytack here at the farm, but when we transferred him to our Keeneland barn and put him on dirt he really started to excel and climbed the ladder very quickly. We worked him with our better horses and he just did everything so easily. St. Elias had some good horses and I told their people they would be good early on, but this colt will be the one who has the more prosperous career. I thought he was the best horse in his maiden race and now the sky’s the limit.”

So, now here we are, with a young unproven horse at his first crossroads. The horse who beat him likely will be heading into stakes company. Will he follow despite being a maiden? Will he eventually make people aware of his dam, so her story can continue to be told? Or are we off base with him, making this column irrelevant? That is the fascinating aspect of early life on the Derby trail. There is no way of knowing what you have. You just keep digging for gold, looking for anything that glistens, and then hope you’ve hit the mother lode. And this colt sure did glisten.

Even if Commandpeformance doesn’t fulfill his promise for whatever reason, at least we know the story of Smitten. It is horses like her who had a profound effect on people’s lives that need to be recognized.

Photos courtesy of John Sparkman and Jonathan Cozart










Signup for the newsletter For new announcements, merchandise updates and other excitement here at, please enter your email address in the popup window. Our mailing list is never sold or viewed by anyone other than

Leave a Reply

266 Responses to “Steve’s Sleepers: Commandperformance”

  1. pro vet says:

    Im betting strong on Command performance wps……he looks like a good horse….i also like Christopher but betting the odds

  2. Bill Dawson says:

    Commandperformance is listed at 10-1 on the morning line for the G1 Champagne Stakes. I’ll go with Gunite at 4-1, but it’s doubtful he’ll remain at those odds at post time. I’m surprised to see the two maiden winners, My Prankster (5/2) and Jack Christopher (9/5) favored over Gunite. The Champagne should be a great race for the eastern colts moving forward.

  3. Bruce says:

    Betters are taking your que Eddie, The Institute is bet down to 4-5 from his 5-1 M/L. We’ll see….

  4. Dewey Hebert says:

    Hey Davids, thanks for mentioning Ribot: Parts 1 & 2. I had wanted to see some of Ribot’s races and these excellent docs on You Tube were just the ticket. I got goosebumps as I watched Ribot’s story unfold (due in part to the moving sound tracks). A true and popular champion without a doubt. European fans in the ’50s were so lucky to be able to witness one of the greatest racehorses of all time.

    It’s a shame that Federico Tesio, his brilliant breeder, did not live to see him run. Of course, Ribot would continue to enhance Tesio’s breeding legacy at stud.

    Looking forward to the Arc de Triomphe this weekend.

    • Steve Haskin says:

      I was as close to Ribot at Darby Dan as anyone and was close friends with this groom Floyd. I have tons of photo of Ribot. I wrote a feature on Floyd and Ribot back in the 70s. Floyd gave me Ribot’s bridle.

    • Davids says:

      Hi Dewey, it was sceptre who put me on to the wonderful Ribot: Pars 1 & 2 documentary. Timeless champion, who remains in the handful of truly great racehorses. It’s amazing what you can find on YouTube.

      I guess you’ve read that St Mark’s Basilica is being retired. He’ll get every chance at Coolmore so it’s up to him, they are very high on him so, wait and see. Racing Post has an informative article on his retirement.

      Usually with the Arc, an inside post is a distinct advantage and the weather has to be watched out for. I like Tarnawa but it’s wide open with many chances just hope it’s not a bog track.

      • Dewey Hebert says:

        Then it’s Sceptre I shall thank as well. I will watch Ribot: Pwrts 1 & 2 again as they were both top class productions.

        I’m sad to see St. Mark’s Basilica retire but all good things come to an end. Let’s hope he passes on some of his brilliance in the breeding shed. Au revoir, SMB.

        Anxious to see the final entries for the Arc. I always place a small bet on this classic, even though I’m not familiar with most of the contestants. Longchamps is such a beautiful venue for the Arc. It had been on my bucket list to visit for many years but I never got to go, and now it’s too late as I have mobility issues. C’est la vie!

        Speaking of Longchamps, I recently saw, for the third time, a enjoyable movie titled “A Little Romance”. Have you seen it?
        One of the scenes takes place at Longchamps where Sir Lawrence Olivier, in the role of a senior pickpocket, places bets for two underage kids who have a system that proves profitable. This is a charming lighthearted film with a sentimental ending. The cast are all well suited for their roles.


        • Davids says:

          No, I have not seen “A Little Romance” but I will soon. Thank you. I can see the charm in the trailer. I thought I had seen every Lawrence Olivier film. “The Entertainer” is my favorite Olivier film, a tour de force performance with the master actor dazzling in his range. Brilliant is an understatement.

          How sad you are now unable to visit ParisLongchamp. Do you know Chantilly? Chantilly racecourse is my favorite track of all. Stunning historic architecture, historic stables, with the beauty of a picturesque forest surrounding the complex.

          Good luck with whoever you choose for the Arc. Allez, Tarnawa!

          • Dewey Hebert says:

            Yes Davids, I must agree that “The Entertainer” is among Olivier’s best work. His acting range is amazing as he is able to immerse himself in any character.

            I am aware of Chantilly which I would say is one of the most beautiful tracks in the world, especially for its architecture.
            Chantilly would have been included had I been able to visit Longchamp.

            Tarnawa looms as the one to beat in the Arc. Bon chance!

            • Davids says:

              Dewy, don’t forget there is a wonderful warm up race before the Arc but at Newmarket on Saturday. One of my favorite races as well, the Sun Chariot Stakes, has a wonderful field with the beautiful Snow Lantern having a good chance of ‘revenge.’ Gagner ma beauté!!

              • Dewey Hebert says:

                Davids, I’ll be watching the Sun Chariot Stakes on Saturday just to get a look at Snow Lantern.

                As for the Arc on Sunday, Charlie Appleby has a strong hand in Adeyar and Hurricane Lane. I will opt for Hurricane Lane who offers a better price. He has a consistent win record and seems to be getting better. His only loss, 3rd at Royal Ascot, occurred when he lost two shoes during the race. Another horse that I fancy is Chrono Genesis from Japan. He’ll have no trouble with the soft going and is regarded as the best Japanese horse to compete in the Arc.

                Que les dieux de la course vous sourient!

                • Davids says:

                  Dewey, Hurricane Lane has a better post position than Adeyar as well. So the best of luck to you with Hurricane Sky. Chrono Genesis has a difficult post position to contend with due to course structure. Mind you, Timeform likes your three horses so you have that going for you.

                  Even so, if Tarnawa gets good position throughout there isn’t St Mark’s Basilica’s speed to deny her. Que le meilleur cheval gagne, avance Tarnawa.

                • Davids says:

                  Dewey, Snow Lantern obviously needs a break now her performance was not typical, very disappointing. On a better note, it was so pleasing seeing Art Collector win his first Grade 1 race in the Woodward Stakes. Hopefully, Art Collector is the son to replace Bernardini.

                  • Dewey Hebert says:

                    Davids, it looked like Snow Lantern was in distress in the final furlong of the Sun Chariot Stakes as the rider was easing up on her? I hope she’s okay.

                    Yes, it was good to see Art Collector deliver on his potential to be a Grade I winner. Now healthy, he seems to be getting better with each race.

                    Attention! Les Allemands ont remporte l’Arc. Brats et biere sont maintenant servis. At least we both had a good run with Tarnawa and Hurricane Lane. In review, Torquator Tasso had a good record in Germany with a record of 6-2-4-0 in Group i races. While not one of the favorites, he certainly didn’t deserve to go off at 70-1. No respect for German bred horses, I would guess?

                    Oh waiter, brats and beer for this table, please. After all, it is October Fest.

                    • Davids says:

                      Dewey, the English always undervalue non-English runners and tend to over praise their home runners. Funny thing, when it comes to football(soccer) it’s the reverse. Lol. The post position, inside, is always favorable so I expected both Tarnawa and Hurricane Lane to run well. From previous experience, the German breds are stout stayers that can handle trying conditions extremely well. I truly admire the German breeding program.

                      Keeneland next weekend, one of my favorite meets.

      • perimeister says:

        The film recommendations are much appreciated. I haven’t seen but one of Olivier’s films since I was too young and distracted to properly appreciate them — and theb was put off by the horrible adaptation of a text for his film.

    • Jiffy says:

      I too was a big fan of Ribot. I never knew him as a race horse but I loved him as a stallion. I like distance ability and his offspring almost always had it. When I try to think of full brothers who were both outstanding sires, his sons Graustark and His Majesty are the first ones that come to mind. I also read that Ribot was very temperamental, taking out light bulbs and objecting to cows grazing in a nearby meadow. Did you see that side of him, Steve?

  5. EddieF says:

    The Institute, the 2yo I mentioned last week, is entered in the Aspirant Stakes today at Finger Lakes (R8). This what I wrote about him:

    >>> One other maiden 2-year-old that impressed me was The Institute in Race 6 at Saratoga on September 2. It was a MSW (NY breds) at 5.5 furlongs.

    The Institute debuted as the 2-1 favorite, and he broke from Post 1. Trained by Horacio DePaz, this colt by Into Mischief is out of Princess Violet who won the G1 Madison Stakes (7f) and was second in the G1 Mother Goose (8.5f).

    You need to see the colt’s trip to believe it, but the chart description will give you a good idea:

    “THE INSTITUTE broke out then was corrected by the rider and hustled, showed speed on the inside of three foes, was taken up badly and checked inside of a rank foe inside the nine-sixteenth then dropped back significantly, lost around four to five lengths on the front, raced inside early on the turn then moved to the two path under a firm left-handed grip, gained passing the five-sixteenths, swung six wide into upper stretch, chased the winner under the crop while outside in the drive and missed while clear for the place.”

    With all of that, he lost by one length, and he was 1.5 lengths clear of the show horse. I’m not aware of a back story, but I’m anticipating his return. <<<

    If he finishes up the track, please disregard this post. 😮

  6. SoloSolo says:

    Happiness is the start of a new batch of columns by the inestimable Steve Haskin!. And judging by the substance and number of replies thus far, you’ve already hit this one out of the park. Thanks, Steve

  7. Ms Blacktype says:

    Steve: Since FoxSports2 cut away to a college football game, I didn’t actually see Race 6 at Belmont, but TWO sleepers finished two-three behind lights-out winner Overstep: Asymmetric, who impressed me in the walking ring, and Thrill of It, a $1,000 horse at the yearling sales. Did you catch the race, and what are your impressions?

  8. EddieF says:

    A half-brother to CODE OF HONOR debuts in Thursday’s 6th at Belmont. Sidekick (by HONOR CODE) is a Farish homebred trained by Shug McGaughey. I have a feeling he’ll be the ML favorite. 🙂

    • perimeister says:

      Johnny V. has the ride, which is a good endorsement.

      • Davids says:

        Paris Lights, a full-brother to St Mark’s Basilica, debuts at the Curragh on Sunday. Jessica Harrington is the trainer. Did you watch Saturday’s Grade 1 Cheveley Park Stakes, Tenebrism (Caravaggio) was so impressive. Inexperienced, but she flew past them. Not really sleepers. Ha ha

        • sceptre says:

          Hi David,

          Watched Paris Lights’ race this morning. Liked him in motion down the stretch. Think he’ll be fine.

          Another topic- Google -Ribot The Legend (parts one and two). Super documentary on the great horse. Confirmed what I felt about him. What a look- so much my type. What a racehorse!

          • Davids says:

            Hi sceptre, I’m just about to watch Ribot: Parts 1 & 2 for a second time, with a cup of tea. Thanks again for letting me know. Interesting call with Chrono Genesis for the Arc, I like Tarnawa as well but the draw can destroy the chances of half the field. Wait and see. Good luck, though.

            Paris Lights is definitely by Siyouni, I’m glad you liked him the next race should be more forthcoming though.

            • sceptre says:

              Sorry. Had confused him with Cougar when reviewing the results, not the race, itself.

              Hard to believe that it’s been 50 years since I witnessed Mill Reef’s Arc at Longchamp during my brief visit to Paris. I knew he was great, then, but the years since have enhanced my regard for him.

              • Davids says:

                Those dominant champions of that era have/had an extraordinary aura about them. Even as a child you sensed you were in the presence of something special. Reverend.

        • sceptre says:

          BTW: Paris Lights is a half-brother (he’s be Deep Impact).

        • sceptre says:

          Chrono Genesis for the Arc win. She’s absolutely top drawer, and the Euros are overrated.

          • Dewey Hebert says:

            sceptre, I’ve been meaning to thank you for your reference to Ribot: Parts 1 & 2. The docs were well done and increased my admiration of this great racehorse and sire. Appreciate your mentioning it.

            I also like Chrono Genesis in the Arc as well as Hurricane Lane. I’ll use them both in an exacta box. The expected soft going shouldn’t be a problem for either of them.

            Bon chance!

        • perimeister says:

          I did not, but I will get caught up at the end of this week. I see your prediction about St Mark’s Basilica has… born fruit. I will eagerly await his produce.

          It’s too early to say for sure, but a prediction of mine is in the budding stages. Have a look at the pedigree of So It Would Seem. xbtv has a video of her working for Phil D’Amato.

          • Davids says:

            Good luck with her. With that pedigree, I’m a little surprised So It Would Seem hasn’t started already.

            • perimeister says:

              So It Would Seem is scheduled to debut in a couple days. She looked ready to munch on her rivals out of the gate in that video. She and her workout partners in the video all started training in July, for whatever reason, and moved from Los Al last week, so seems likely they were aimed at debuting when Santa Anita opened. California racing opportunities seem like they are often a limiting factor too.

        • perimeister says:

          Tenebrism looked a bit green, as you say, but she inhaled that field. Once she settled into her stride, she looked better than out of the gate. Doing what she did going up an incline makes it even more impressive. I don’t have enough knowledge of the Euro courses. Yet.

    • perimeister says:

      Sidekick was a stewards’ scratch. Expect it was something like his microchip malfunctioned and he’ll be entered again soon, but how frustrating for the connections.

  9. Matthew W says:

    Nest—a filly….looked pretty green and pretty good winning her debut today at Belmont. Ducked in changing leads….won with Irad just sitting on her, a full to Idol, who can run all day….

    • EddieF says:

      She was VERY impressive, going 8.5f in her debut. I didn’t know she was a full sister to Idol. Wow! There was a nice filly at Gulfstream winning the 8.5f My Dear Girl Stakes. I’ve been following Outfoxed since she debuted in July at Saratoga for Bill Mott and was third to Echo Zulu. Then she romped by 13 lengths in the 7f Susan’s Girl at GP. Today she toyed with the field and won by 9. On to the BC!

      • Matthew W says:

        BH calls her a half— she’s a full, to Idol….I call BS on BH!

      • Matthew W says:

        RE those Florida stallion series winners—there have been MANY very impressive horses coming out of those races, for whatever reason have just not done much in the BCup…

        • EddieF says:

          There were a few who won BC races, but not recently. I think at least a half dozen FSS winners went on to win Eclipse awards.

        • perimeister says:

          I think that one thing about horses coming out of Florida – Gulfstream in particular – is that the track is so hard and fast compared to others, especially the Breeders Cup tracks, that Florida horses lack the type and depth of conditioning on the deeper surfaces that they would need to repeat their performances elsewhere.

  10. EddieF says:

    Regarding the possibility of Commandperformance jumping right into allowance or stakes company: Other than American Pharoah, has a future Derby winner in the past 50 years broken his/her maiden in a non-maiden race?

  11. Coldfacts says:


    It appears Speaker’s Corner is getting a lot of attention and might just leave the gates at a very short price. Whilst I wouldn’t be surprised if he somehow finishes ahead of Midnight Bourbon and Hot Rod Charlie. His likely starting price is pushing me in another direction.

    Brad Cox is having a great year. He will be represented in the PA Derby by Fulsome. The colt’s PPs reflects defeat of two opponents that contested the 2021 Kentucky Derby i.e., O Besos and Helium. What’s the big deal? Both finished amongst the also ran. That’s correct! But it is important to focus on where both finished and the margins.

    O Besos finished 5th by 5 1/2L. That would place him ahead of Midnight Bourbon and 3 1/2 behind Essential Quality and Hot Rod Charlie. Helium finished 7th by 10 1/2L. That would place his 2 1/4L behind Midnight Bourbon who finished 6th. Given the exploits of Essential Quality, Hot Rod Charlie and Midnight Bourbon since the KD. There is no way Fulsome should have defeated O Besos and Helium. In fact Fulsome allowed O’ Besos 2lbs in the Matt Winn.

    Some further information that some might find insignificant. Fulsome recorded his 2 graded stakes wins without Lasix and was assigned his highest Equibase figures. Of his 9 starts 6 were with Lasix. There will be no Lasix in the PA Derby. Fulsome last 5 starts have been at different tracks i.e., Kee, OP,CD, IND and PRX. He was defeated once during this series of races when he finished a dull 3rd in the Indiana Derby.

    Fulsome won his only start at Parx on a newly resurfaced dirt course. This will the first time in 6 starts that he will make 2 starts at the same location. Does he have a surface advantage over most in the field? Hard to assert. But it certainly helps.

    From a pedigree perspective his sire Into Mischief is one the hottest sire in the USA. His dam sire Distorted Humor is dam sire of Arrogate and likely BCC starter Art Collector. Fulsome’s dam Flourish is a grand daughter Nijinsky Star who is a daughter of the 1970 British TC winner Nijinsky and out of the great race mare Christ Evert.

    This colt has the pedigree and his 5 victories make him the winningest in the field. His ML of 12/1 might just be a lot longer at post time. He has tactical speed and an explosive stretch run. I have reported, you are left to decide.

    • Coldfacts says:


      Helium finished 8th by 10 1/2L. That would place his 2 1/4L behind Midnight Bourbon and Keepmeinmind who finished 6th &

      • Matthew W says:

        Cox has He’smyhoneybadger at 6-1 today, in the $275k non-graded Harrods Creek, at Churchill….recently moved to Turfway, and Turfwau workers have been winning races at other tracks, I have noticed…

  12. Bill Dawson says:

    Hey Steve

    My main focus on the 2 yr. old KD hopefuls are the colts, with little or no attention paid to the 2 yr. old fillies. However, I was awe struck by Wild Beauty winning the one mile G1 Natalma Stakes, in 1:35.08. By Frankel (undefeated in 14 starts) out of a Pivotal mare, she hit the gate at the start, was pinballed between two runners, and closed from 10th at the 1/4 pole to win going away by 2 1/4. If her connections enter her in the BC Juvenile Fillies Turf, she’ll probably go off as one of the favorites.
    It’s be quite while since we’ve seen a filly in the KD, but you never know, Wild Beauty could turn out to be a very special filly.

  13. Sharon Brock says:

    Ooh. A new Haskin series. Thank you so much Steve. Much appreciated source of horse racing knowledge. I will keep my eye on Commandperformance.

  14. Coldfacts says:

    Can extrapolation be worthwhile in the handicapping of the chances of a lightly raced entrant in the PA Derby against its more season opponents?

    Th 2021 renewal of the e PA Derby is widely regarded as a race between Midnight Bourbon and Hit Rod Charlie with the withdrawal of Medina Spirit.. But from a value perspective the returns on either isn’t for the poor. A group that I head.

    Midnight Bourbon defeated the following opponents by 5 1/2L when he broke his maiden in his 2nd start – Aktulgali, Wick, & Good First. Have any of the 3 fellow board makers featured prominently since? I cannot recall seeing any of 3 in any major race for 3YO.

    Hot Rod Charlie defeated the following opponents by 1//2L when he broke his maiden in his 4th start – Parnelli, Bolu, Scary Larry. Have any of the fellow board makers featured prominently since? Parnelli was 3rd in the Sham, 5th in the Bob Lewis, 6th in SA Derby & 3rd in the CA Derby. The other 2 board makers have been MIA.

    Speaker’s Corner defeat the following opponents when he broke his maiden in his 2nd start –

    Caddo River – 1st Smarty Jones; 2nd AK Derby G1
    Greatest Honor, -1st Holy Bull G3,1st FOYG2; 3rd FL DerbyG1
    Miles D – 2nd Curlin Stakes (Listed) 3rd Travers G1
    Borbonic – 1st Wood G2; 3rd In W V Derby G3
    Original – 3rd Kitten’s Joy G3; 3rd Woodhaven (Black Type); 1st Manila (listed)

    Midnight Bourbon and Hit Rod Charlie defeated a modest group when each broke their maiden. Both have emerged as top 5 in the division. Speaker’s Corner defeated a group from which graded, listed and black type stakes winners have emerged. Some have ben been top 3 finishers in G1 Stakes. One top 3 finishers is Miles D who in only his 4th start and 3rd in 10 months, finished only 5 1/2L behind Essential Quality and Midnight Bourbon in the Travers. .

    So can be extrapolated from all the above? Speaker’s corner whilst breaking his maiden defeated a group from which any one of five appears to be better than the collective two groups defeated by Midnight Bourbon and Hit Rod Charlie. If Midnight Bourbon and Hit Rod Charlie have emerged as top 5 colts, Speaker’s Corner should possess either equal or more ability than both.

    The conservative Bill Mott hasn’t entered Speaker’s Corner in the PA Derby as race filler. Just as Chad Brown didn’t enter Miles D as a filler in the Travers.

    Sometimes even the best extrapolations do not yield the desired results. But I am of the opinion his one has a solid foundation. But as usual reality could prove me wrong.

  15. Coldfacts says:

    This blog launces a series in which supporters are invited to highlight and/or submit under the radar 2YO as likely KD prospects. I request that I not be admonished for a bit of digression.

    Last weekend the European Charlie Appleby dispatched 5 members of his team to contest 5 stakes between the USA and Canada. Four members of his contingent won and the other a finished a respectable 4th which derailed by Pick 5. Two of Appleby’s 4 wins were achieved in 2YO stakes. Interestingly, both 2YOs were tardy at the start surrendering ground to their opponents. Both emerged open lengths winners whilst being eased before the line.

    After witnessing the performances of the 2 European bred and based 2YOs. I started to wonder if the Europeans conducted their racing primarily on dirt. Would they dominate their American counterparts in major dirt races on American soil?
    Is this really worthwhile to ponder? I think yes!

    The performances of Giants Causeway, Sakhee, Declaration of War in the Breeder Cup Classic and Johannesburg & Vale Of York in the Breeders Cup Juvenile, should give credence to any such pondering. The aforementioned horses all made their dirt debut in the two cited BC races. With Vale Of Your being the exception as his race was on All Weather. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to conclude they were all at a surface disadvantage.

    Some of the above horses were bred in America. They were purchased and taken to Europe and did their racing on turf. It should be noted that the race fay medication Lasix is not allowed. European racing. They were no reports that the American bred horse we bleeders.

    Giants Causeway, Sakhee and Declaration of War suffered narrow defeats in the BCC. Sahkee was 3 seeks removed from winning the Arc. In wining the Breeder Cup Juvenile, Johannesburg & Vale Of York defeated two undefeated American based colts who were by far the best in their division. The undefeated Officer was never off the bridle in any of his 5 wins. Looking at Lucky was likewise undefeated in 4 starts. But an opponent bred in the US and another bred in Ireland, ensure that both top American based colts exited the BCJ with
    their undefeated records didn’t remain intact

    The breeding shed in América is being flooded with stallion prospects that have made 5 to 6. Who knows what kind of performance enhancers they raced on. The over breeding of stallions is adversely affecting the gene pool. It only a matter of time when the Europeans will figure out how breed dirt horses and then the American Breeding industry will realize just how much trouble the industry is in.

  16. EddieF says:

    Steve, it may interest you to know that since 1983, nine future Kentucky Derby winners finished 2nd in their debuts. What may surprise you is that ALL of them won their next race — and won as heavy favorites. Swale, Sunday Silence, Lil E. Tee, Silver Charm, Fusaichi Pegasus, Street Sense, Super Saver, Animal Kingdom, and California Chrome. We shall see if Commandperformance (or The Institute 🙂 ) does the same.

    • Steve Haskin says:

      That doesnt surprise me. I would imagine that many horses who finished 2nd in their debut won their next start and were favored. Many times a runner-up will come back and face mostly first time starters and the public will make them the favorite.

      • EddieF says:

        Maybe someone out there has the stats on the second career race after a debut second, in particular in 2yo MSWs. My guess is that the percentage of wins may not even be 50 — certainly not 100%. Perhaps the favoritism in the second start should be expected, but maybe not as extreme as the above 9 winners. All were odds-on in the 2nd start, except for Chrome who was 6-5.

    • Coldfacts says:

      Don’t Wait Up the winner of the MSW in which Commandperformance finished 2nd, also finished 2nd on debut. His victory over Commandperformance was his 2nd and he won as the heavy favorite. He therefore fits intp the historic trend highlighted.

  17. Bigtex says:

    Steve, I look forward to following Commandperformance. The beauty of the sport can come at you from different angles and it’s not always about the horse that’s running. Now that we know Smitten, the next step definitely IS about the horse that’s running. I was a really big fan of Union Rags and felt he was the best horse of that generation but didn’t get very good rides, especially in the Derby. Hopefully, Commandperformance will will carry the torch further for his daddy. Great story as always! Great idea for series!

  18. Coldfacts says:

    Commandperformance was assigned first billing for this series. He finished 2nd on debut. There were some reservations selecting him as an under radar potential KD Prospect. This understandable as he is from the high powered barn of Todd Pletcher. If he had won, would he have been viewed as being under the radar? Highly unlikely!

    For the purpose of this series. Are winners viewed to be less likely to be under the under the radar as potential KD Prospects? Well, not all winners are alike.

    Mine That Bird broke his maiden in a maiden claimer. He was assigned an Equibase figure of 83. Was MTB consider under the radar after his win? A maiden winner on the All Weather surface at Woodbine and who was purchased for $9,200, wouldn’t have been associated with radar in the same sentence. He won the KD at 50/1

    If we can forget the possible involvement of PEDs.. Maximum Security won on debut in a maiden claimer. He was assigned an Equibase figure of 93. A maiden claiming 2YO winner, trained by J Servis and by New Year Day, would certainly be under the radar. He won the KD.

    Giacomo broke his maiden 2nd time out in a MSW. He was assigned an Equibase figure of 98. Now, that’s an excellent figure for a MSW winner over 8 1/2F. Was Giacomo view as a potential KD winner? No! He was under the radar throughout the KD preps. He won the KD at 50/1.

    In this series greater focus shouldn’t be on non-winner. Some winners are under the radar just as much as non-winners. None of the above horses were viewed as likely KD prospects after their first win. In fact, Mine That Bird enraged as the Canadian Champion 2YO and was still under the radar heading into the KD. His KD win induced a deafening silence at CD.

    Winners that are dismissed by the public are not different from appealing non-winners.

    • EddieF says:

      Thumbs down.

      • Steve Haskin says:

        His post was a waste of time because I will have under the radar maiden winners. Right now I’m just leaning toward maidens but never said it will only horses who havent won. In fact. one of those sleepers I have was third in the Hopeful Stakes, Kevin’s Folly. No one knows much about him and he was well beaten but he looks like a Derby horse to me.

        • Nelson Maan says:

          Kevin’s Folly was my paddock pick for the Hopeful… he looks amazing. We only need to see his physique to gather he is a Derby horse indeed. Looking forward to your Sleepers in the coming weeks.

          Impressive how Distorted Humor is still throwing excellent runners after 20 crops and 28 years of age.

  19. Amy Hurley says:

    Excellent feature, Steve. I look forward to future installments, so we not only know which potential sleepers to keep an eye on for next year’s Derby trail, but learn their fascinating backstories as well. Great idea.

  20. pro vet says:

    About Medina Spirit……..
    I have been telling you……he IDLES…..does not want to pull away……he never looks great in works…..i still don’t understand why they go to lead…..these horses do better with a target…….
    I don’t think we know how good he is yet….he is not putting full effort………yes he has been winning on lead, because he has seen the other horses………one day, he will face a horse that quits……he is vulnerable of getting nailed late…

    • Coldfacts says:

      “these horses do better with a target”

      Medina Spirit had a target in the San Felipe and S A Derby. He was defeated by 8L and 4 1/4L respectively. Was his targets in the aforementioned races out of reach?

      “I don’t think we know how good he is yet”

      Is the full potential known for all comprising in this 3YO crop?

      Medina Spirit has contested 7 stakes to date. He won 3 and was defeated by combined 18 1/2L in 4. How many races does it required before a reasonably accurate assessment can be made of a horse’s potential?

      ” he has been winning on lead, because he has seen the other horses”

      You really need to take some time and revisit your statement above. You are likely to realize that you are suggesting that Medina Spirit experiences blindness when he not on the lead. Surely that was not your intent. But one never knowns with your wild and incomprehensible assertions.

    • Discoparttner says:

      I’ve noticed a lot of horses idle when they pull even, they don’t want to pass, almost seems like they want to stay even, in a pack. Idling on the lead is less common and the jockey can correct that, they have a harder time getting them to pass when they want to stay in the pack.

      • Matthew W says:

        There’s a Cali horse named Farquar…has talent but when he makes the lead he pulls himself up—Ferdinand was like that, Shoe needed to time his move, which he did, in the ’87 Classic—barely! They’re bred to race but are herd animals….

      • pro vet says:

        Horses idle when they can’t see the others………they get scared……i would call the ones YOU brought up as HANGERS… isn’t the same thing really

  21. Steve Haskin says:

    As if the story of Smitten didnt have a sad enough ending, I spoke to Jim Herbener on several occasions for the story and about having to put Smitten down and putting Commandperformance on a nursemare. The day after I spoke to him last he passed away. Very sad.

  22. Nelson Maan says:

    Hola Steve ! Great initiative to keep your followers engaged in periodic conversations about early Derby prospects.
    Your observations about Commandperformance’s debut are spot on. He is certainly primed to win next out and from there he will very likely be one of Pletcher’s best cards in the Derby trail… the story about Smitten just adds another layer of allure.

    The 220K they paid for Commandperformance looks like a big bargain already.

    You have said it all about Commandperformance’s pedigree and the only comment I have is that Tapit not only has emerged as a great sire of sires but he is also giving sings of becoming a prolific broodmare sire as well.

    Talking about sleepers, I like Mac’s Time’s 7 furlong win at Ellis 16 days ago. The son of Not this Time out of Free Money by Street Sense overcame a slow start to win with a display of great tenacity. You ought to like how he withstood a sturdy pressure every meter of the race and still being able to fend off all challengers in the last yard.

    Along with Derby victor Street Sense, the the great A.P. Indy, Seeking the Gold and also (coincidentally) Fit to Fight in his female side provide him with license to excel at 1 ¼ mile.

    I admire the perseverance of the Albaugh Family and Dale Romans in pursuing Derby glory. Their first shot was in 2012 with Cozetti; but the son of Cozzene did not pass the Arkansas Derby test.

    Then came Brody’s Cause (7th in the Derby) and Unbridled Outlaw in 2016 and J Boys Echo who was 15th in 2017 Derby. The gifted Not This Time was perhaps their most promising Derby horse ever but had to be retired after his second place in the 2016 BC Juvenile.

    Their hopes were high with Free Drop Billy in 2018 but the son of Union Rags could not replicate his 2-year-old success. He finished 16th in the Derby.

    A big prospect was no other than Dennis’ Moment who turned to be one of the greatest anticlimaxes a horseman can experience.

    This year Albaugh’s Sitting on Go has been a disappointment after his Iroquois win.

    The Albaugh Family is always procuring pedigrees for the Classic distances and Mac’s Time fits the bill. I would like to see their perseverance being answered next year… will Mac’s Time be Romans time?

    “A winner is just a loser who tried one more time”
    George M. Moore Jr

    • Ms Blacktype says:

      Wonderful post on the Derby quest of the Albaughs and Dale Romans, Nelson. I’ll definitely check out Mac’s Time and wish him good luck!

      • Nelson Maan says:

        Thanks Ms BlackType !

        Dale Romans’ stats show that he will likely have a horse in the Derby next year but winning it is a very different challenge though.

        Anyways, as Steve said, there is no feeling better than identifying the talent of young unproven horses early and follow them in their quest for glory…!

    • Steve Haskin says:

      I liked Mac’s Time’s race, but I’m looking beyond winners right now and my next sleeper could very well be a horse from that race who hasnt even finished in the money yet. Now that is what I call a sleeper. Stay tuned on that one.

      • Nelson Maan says:

        Thanks for the reply Steve… good to land on the definition to follow here.

        I was looking for any young horse who has not raced more than two times at maiden levels and has not competed in any graded race.

        I then should narrow it to non winners for the time being …

        • EddieF says:

          Nelson, I knew you’d figure it out eventually. 😉 I’m going out on a limb to say that the 2022 Derby winner will not debut until November 1 at the soonest.

          • Nelson Maan says:

            You may be right. I will put my bet on September or October latest.

            That is the motivation of this forum … pinpointing Derby material rather early and relying on many watching eyes is a captivating exercise indeed!

    • Davids says:

      Nelson, for a second I thought you were quoting the brilliant Australian jockey, George Moore. One of the most gifted jockeys I’ve seen and, on retirement, went on to be an ace trainer with numerous premierships. Highly intelligent as well.

      • Nelson Maan says:

        Hi Davids… Politicians could be intelligent as well…lol

        Did you see George Moore in person riding in the 60’s or as a trainer in the 80’s?

        • Davids says:

          No, in person during 1970, 1971 in Australia. He was just as brilliant in his twilight years as a jockey. Around the tracks, everyone spoke about him in reverential terms. His training dominance was in Hong Kong.

        • Davids says:

          Nelson, I laughed out loud reading that “Politicians could be intelligent.” Most of my parents friends were either diplomats, politicians, or those interconnected in the oil industry. Ruthless and disingenuous I’d put above intelligence. Ha ha

  23. Coldfacts says:

    Being a longshot hunter I was on the hunt again in the Iroquois. I must admit some of the entrants were new to me and consequently extensive research of their PPs was in order. Whilst reviewing the PPs of Tough To Tame, I was force to make him my longshot pick but not based exclusively on his PPs and pedigree, but rather his eye catching physical appearance .

    Many would consider me crazy to find favor in a colt sired by Speightster out of a Tiger Ridge mare. Further, he is trained by Christopher Davis and his resume reflected two 5F starts on the All Weather surface at Arlington Park and a 5 1/2F
    start at Indiana Grand. To add to my craziness Tough To Tame was defeated by 12 1/2L on debut and broke his maiden by 1/2L. He was much better the 2nd time winning over 5 1/2F by3 1/2L.

    A colt with a modest resume reflecting 3 starts with none beyond 5 1/2F, had to be considered misplaced in the 8 1/2F Iroquois. But he made such an exceptional appearance and displayed great athleticisms. I had to dive further into his pedigree.

    His sire Speightster who was trained by Bill Mott won his first 3 starts in very fast times, including the G3 Dwyer. But was unplaced in his 2nd stakes appearance which proved to be his last. He was assigned Equibase figures of 100,102 & 107 for his first 3 start. A lightly raced stallion with those kind of speed figures fits perfectly into my love boat. His dam was modest with 16 start with 2 wins.

    Tough To Tame’s pedigree is unfashionable but his physical appearance reflect everything race horse. I could hardly find a fault. He ran to his looks and finished a determined 2nd. He would have won if not for the fact that he refused to rate kindly for his rider on the back stretch. The brakes had to be applied several times be his rider. The colt was very ranked and refused to yield to it rider commands. I concluded he would have nothing left for the stretch. But alas, he was vey resolute in the stretch was catching the eventual winner when the winning post intervened.

    Tough To Tame is no ordinary colt. He is all race horse. His modest pedigree and relatively unknown trainer, suggest, that despite his Iroquois effort he is under the radar. But I consider him one to follow.

    • Matthew W says:

      I bet Tough to Tame across the board, and during the race I thought he had zero chance, he was fighting the rider hard for at least 1/2 mile–then he keeps coming–time wasn’t fast, but I thought he was the standout from the race…also it would be great for an Arlington horse to win the Derby!

    • pro vet says:

      but the race was slow……….

      • Matthew W says:

        It was, I know…..the filly went 1 1/5 seconds faster….still….when a horse is that rank and fights that hard….they usually pack it in….he might improve a bundle…

  24. Matthew W says:

    If its true, that Medina is staying home….Hot Rod looks tough to beat on Sat…