A facile seven-and-a-half length victory by last year’s Champion Stateside juvenile, War Pass (in what was admittedly a confidence-boosting allowance race in which he started at odds of 1-20), capped a memorable day for trainer Nick Zito and owner Robert LaPenta who find themselves with two of the favourites for the Kentucky Derby.
In the previous race, the same combination saw Cool Coal Man cause a minor upset in the Grade Two Fountain of Youth Stakes; a win that put him in line to become the first winner since Thunder Gulch in 1995 to win there and then take the Kentucky Derby.
Click here to watch the Fountain Of Youth Stakes 2008.
Only Zito will know deep down which of these (or even the promising Fierce Wind whom he handles for a different owner) is the more likely to land the Roses in May (he’s hinted the two unlikely to take each other on before then and will probably run just the once before Churchill Downs), but it must be a remarkably good feeling to have a barn that contains such sophomore talent in the early part of the year.
About War Pass, Zito said: “He’s unbelievable. That’s what we wanted for him. Three weeks from now (in the Tampa Bay Derby on 15 March), it will be a little tougher.”
War Pass, of course, is a horse whose future is already known, irrespective of what happens this spring and early summer. The son of Cherokee Run has a brass nameplate being polished for him at Lane’s End Farm in Kentucky where he will stand upon his retirement.
Whether that deal, which was announced in November after his heroics in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, will have any affect on how his connections manage his campaign this year will be interesting to observe. A leading Graded-Stakes victory as a three-year-old will obviously do no harm to an already stellar Curriculum Vitae but that will not necessarily need to be the Kentucky Derby - and all the pressure such a race brings with it; especially if the barn has other stars with fewer miles on their legs and Stallion barns still to find.
Not that Cool Coal Man will struggle to find offers of a retirement home. He is by the highly desirable Lane’s End sire Mineshaft and his Fountain of Youth win was a fourth in a short career which has already seen him amass more than $300,000.
Cool Coal Man is a Lane’s End sales graduate purchased by LaPenta for $200,000 as a yearling. LaPenta thought enough of Cool Coal Man that he opted to buy back the colt for $850,000 at last year’s Fasig-Tipton breeze-up sale in Florida. The win on Sunday already makes that look like a piffling amount of loose change.
Out of the five-time winning Rubiano mare, Coral Sea, Cool Coal Man also has a half-sister of Stakes standard running this year in the shape of the Lemon Drop Kid filly, Kathleens Reel whose sister Lemon Queen was placed in France. The immediate family appears adroit at producing runners around the world (Coral Sea has produced winners in Japan and England) but it is Coral Sea’s dam, South Sea Dancer, who will be of greater interest to pedigree enthusiasts and potential stallion managers: she is a sister to Champion filly Northernette and, even more significantly, the influential sire Storm Bird.
Extract from Thoroughbred Internet