On January 26th, the newest buzz horse of the Derby Trail was added to the “Watch List” of most all die-hard Derby fans. The Hard Spun boy from Bill Mott’s barn put on quite a show at Gulfstream as he wired a sloppy track against a field of 12 others. The name Hidden Scroll was all the talk over the past weekend and his much anticipated possible start in the Fountain of Youth on March 2nd will surely follow with short odds and a nice purse on his side. This young guy’s maiden performance in that race will surely garner a huge spotlight, leaving some of the others as side-notes.
It’s Derby Season. Every race, every workout, every replay, all scrutiny and opinions and lists everywhere revolve around the Derby. With so much emphasis placed on this one race, the “side-notes” sometimes get lost in the shuffle. What differentiates a handicapper who cashes in on his tickets between a handicapper who only sees the Derby Goal Line is one who looks past the spectacle and concentrates on the horses themselves. Bill Mott may have a potential superstar in Hidden Scroll who will most likely take a gate in the Fountain of Youth trying to secure his 50 points for a Derby start, but what is lurking in the background for Mott is an even bigger potential superstar taking a gate in a prep of his own.
Every year without fail, along the Derby Trail, there are colts who struggle to keep pace with the hotshot Derby contenders. They lose races. They win here and there. Their trainers push forward with Derby roses always on their mind. They push the horse to abandon his stamina and try desperately to speed their charges up in order to keep pace and win. You will hear pundits talk about how “distanced challenged” they are because they aren’t scoring 9f wins or they are bringing up the rear in the Derby and therefore pushed again to the side. Horses like Gronkowski, Irish War Cry, Tonalist, Palace Malice, and Union Rags, all had their shining moments and defeats, but one thing is for sure, they finally had their moment in a race that they were built for.
Every colt has his optimum and every colt has the potential to be “built for” a specific race. Until that horse steps foot in a gate that offers him his very best advantage, he usually will end up sitting quietly on the side. Percolating so to speak. He will allow his stablemates to capture the fanfare and he may end up being that side-note for a quite a while, but eventually he will have his time to shine. He may not even secure enough points for a gate in the Derby or he may be lucky enough to score just enough and squeeze into one. He may grab 10th place in the Derby and still continue to be that side-note.
But look-out. His time is coming.
Saturday, June 8th, 2019 to be exact. Yes, it’s 4 months away.
This is the day and Mott’s smoking gun is named Country House.
This Lookin at Lucky son is absolutely built for the Belmont Stakes and should he rise above and dig deep, he could put his stablemate Hidden Scroll to shame. This is the time, right now, to watch this colt closely. He may not hit it big along the way and he may need to rely on those lead speedy sprinters to have his way from the back of the pack but come Belmont Day, that race will be all about him. Hopefully, if all the stars align, this guy will take a spot in that race. It would be a shame if he sits it out as others before him did and who were so perfectly bred for that race. Those types who had the wind taken out of them along the way to get there. Solomini comes to mind here.
Sometimes a horse is just Built for a Race.
Country House – Lookin at Lucky (Smart Strike) & Quake Lake (War Chant)
Chefs: DP = 5-7-11-1-0 (24) DI = 2.69 CD = 0.67
Mares: 4-6-2-10-9 Speed = 10 Stamina = 19 Index = 0.53 Triads = 12-18-21
The numbers above are NOT Kentucky Derby numbers. His profile is a perfect example of being able to read a horses breeding and to watch every single move he makes in order to make the correct bet in both the Derby and the Belmont. Understanding and knowing a horse’s optimum and then aligning his past performances against that optimum will be a strong advantage when putting together a winning ticket. Even though this guy's number are against him for the Derby, this is one "average index colt" that has the potential to knock all the rules on their side. In that same vein, if this horse does not post even one more win along the way and he magically appears in a Belmont Stakes gate with 50-1 odds, throw his past performance sheet in the trash and bet everything you have on his nose.
Country House can run 12f without a shadow of a doubt. Obviously this means that the horse can run 10f and is not “distance challenged” in any way shape or form. If you look at the mares, you can see what optimums that they each passed down. A nine point spread between inherited speed and inherited stamina is massive and the balanced inheritance from those top chefs puts him at his best in the Belmont Stakes. The lack of inherited short early speed from both sides puts a huge disadvantage on his nose for every distance below him, however, the dynamics that are at play in each race along the way will separate him as one to grab onto and spend money on. But you must truly watch every move. His style of running mimics his numbers (especially his mares numbers) and when you see that, it means that the colt is running true to his numbers and to his form. That sign right there is brightly lit up and accents his potential going forward.
Colts who are bred like this demand speed in races below his optimum. When everything sets up for this type, they win races in such an exciting manner. Going shorter than his optimum, the speed horses out front in any given race that he enters must be the type who were not built with stamina to back them up. That is an obvious statement but one that most handicappers neglect to consult. Country House was not built for speed, he is not equipped with Chefs or Mares who passed down an enormous amount of early speed to keep up in shorter races. But he sure did prove himself something to be reckoned with so far.
On 10/6/2018, Country House was entered into a Maiden Turf race at Belmont Park. He wanted absolutely nothing at all to do with that grass. It was a perfect gift for us. We got that "turf test" out of the way early and the fact that he bombed makes it all the better going forward.
On 12/1/2018, Country House found his way from the back at Aqueduct traveling one mile to capture a Place in that race. He was fortunate to watch the two speedy leaders run out of steam and he capitalized on his good fortune. One mile is nowhere near his optimum but he showed that he can turn his jets on going shorter when the lead speed disintegrates and that he can pour it on as early as the race demands. He responded to his jockey against his hidden desire to want to cruise for awhile longer.
On 1/17/2019, Country House broke his maiden and powered home to grab an impressive win traveling 1 1/16th at Gulfstream. In this race, Country House was able to compete against the lead speed one on one while allowing Ownitifyouwantit a nice chunk of dirt ahead in the early stages. This race was a standout performance in that he proved that he can compete against speed and against bias and bypass his optimum for the glory of the wire. With a poor break to overcome as well, he showed that he was all business and understood that he was expected to be at that wire first.
Country House has shown that even though he is built for the Belmont Stakes, he is finding his way to push that 12 in his triads (12-18-21) to the side and pull from his Intermediate breeding. Speed on the lead helps a great deal but it didn’t seem to stand in his way at Gulfstream in his last. His Intermediate numbers combine to 13 points which is actually not that bad at all to compete along the way and if he continues to utilize those numbers and they keep from getting watered down from all of that stamina, this guy has serious potential, including the Kentucky Derby race as well.
These are the types of colts that demand attention as they are running through their inheritance and capturing wins that seem against their power. Country House is a serious Belmont Stakes contender and should he continue to capitalize along the way, he will be Mott’s superstar and Hidden Scroll will be a memory. It is important to keep in mind that each and every race along the way is against his breeding and he holds absolutely no advantage in any. He may falter along the way as there will be contenders pitted against him that are built for the race at hand. He will be pitted against speed horses who do have the stamina to continue on to the wire as the sprinters themselves get weeded out along the way. It may appear in those races that he is “distance challenged” because he could only grab a 6th or 7th in the race but make no mistake…
This guy is BUILT FOR THE BELMONT STAKES.