Here’s Why: Older Horses in the Shadows
By Candice Hare
While it’s easy to get caught up in ‘Derby Fever’ this time of the year, we’d be remiss if we didn’t shed some light on the ladies and the Kentucky Oaks picture. While the Kentucky Derby has a few early standouts in Upstart, Dortmund, and Firing Line, as far as the fillies are concerned, if you’re against Take Charge Brandi as an Oaks threat (spoiler alert: I am), then it becomes very tough to separate the rest.
Condo Commando showed herself to be more than just the winner of the final race called by Tom Durkin when she backed up that G1 Spinaway win with an all too easy G2 Demoiselle victory in November. With four races under her belt (three of them wins) as a two-year-old, she has a nice foundation upon which to build her three-year-old campaign, which starts this weekend in the Busher Stakes at Aqueduct. A win there may not tell us much straight away given the lack of depth in that field, but bear in mind her pedigree up-close (Tiz Wonderful o/o MGSW Yearly Report, by General Meeting) is geared towards precocity.
West Coast Belle put herself in the Kentucky Oaks picture when she began her career and undefeated three-for-three, including the G2 Golden Rod, but she no-showed in a big way in the Silverbulletday. Sure she had some trip issues when she was jostled going into the first turn, but she was unable to put in any sort of a run when riding the rail throughout after that incident. She’ll need to rebound in the Rachel Alexandra if the Kentucky Oaks is going to remain on her radar.
As far as the fillies are concerned, however, I have my eye on another daughter of Tapit: Shook Up. By top American sire Tapit and out of multiple graded stakes winner Sugar Shake, Shook Up not only has a pedigree loaded with class, but one that is beautifully balanced, as well. It also doesn’t hurt that she’s trained by Steve Asmussen, who has shown himself to have a knack with the sometimes quirky Tapit progeny.
Shook Up gets her grey, athletic build from her sire, Tapit. Her dam is G1 Santa Maria Handicap winner and daughter of Awesome Again Sugar Shake – a late developer who debuted as a three-year-old and showed her best stuff at the age of four. The class doesn’t stop there as her second dam is Skipping Around, who won the G2 Cotillion Handicap and her third dam is Ohio-bred Royal Veagess, a multiple stakes winner who won the Merry Time Stakes and Scarlet and Grey Handicap during her five-year-old campaign.
Shook Up ran once as a two-year-old, during which she showed her inexperience when appearing unfocused while running behind horses and she was very green down the stretch, and yet, she was still closing in on winner Skywarn late. While she had to settle for runner-up honors that time around, in her three-year-old debut, she crushed five other fillies by a whopping 13 ½ lengths. In her most recent start, Shook Up was rank early when boxed in behind a slow early pace set by Lovely Maria and was again green down the stretch, although not nearly as much as she was in her debut.
Speed figures wise, her most recent start was a slight regression from her big maiden victory, but that might not be a bad thing because if she’s still able to run back to that effort or improve ever so slightly off of it, she should still be well in the mix in the Rachel Alexandra.
Visually, it’s clear that while Shook Up is a standout athlete, her head and temperament can get in the way at times and it’ll be important that she mentally matures in order to progress, should she continue along the Kentucky Oaks path. While it’s easy to dismiss her after losing at a very short price in her most recent outing, know that the winner got everything her own way that day trip-wise and the form from that race has already started to work out with the fourth place finisher running a solid second after a tough trip next time out in an allowance.
With an abundance of physical abilities and a very classy pedigree that offers hope for further improvement as she ages, should Shook Up run well in the Rachel Alexandra, she could be a force to be reckoned with come the first Friday in May.
She handicaps races on her website ‘Capping with Candice and is the co-host of a weekly YouTube race preview show entitled “Down to the Wire.”
You can follow Candice on Twitter @Chare889.