Disarm In the Derby
This time of year, we’re often asked by our non-racing industry friends who we believe is going to win the Kentucky Derby. This year, for the first time, we will have a truly vested interest in the outcome thanks to the continued support of our friends at Wasabi Ventures Stables & Stallions, and some very good luck (which is always much-needed in this industry). For the 2023 Derby, our pick is the Winchell Thoroughbreds-owned, Steve Asmussen-trained Disarm — and the “truly vested interest” bit is due to the fact that we purchased Disarm’s full-sister, Gun Slingin, on behalf of Wasabi back in November.
At the time of the Keeneland November Sale, Disarm had not run or been on the worktab in the three months since breaking his maiden impressively by 6 lengths on the Whitney undercard at Saratoga, a performance which had earned him TDN Rising Star honors. But, despite the layoff, the impression of that effort stuck with us, as did the comments of David Fiske about Disarm in the TDN’s “Second Chances” feature prior to his win. So, when we came across Gun Slingin in the catalog for the November sale, we immediately tabbed her as one to inspect and hopefully pursue for Wasabi.
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Even though Disarm only showed up as a maiden winner on Gun Slingin’s catalog page, their dam, a $300,000 yearling by the multiple leading sire Tapit, had already produced the stakes winner and G3-placed Tap Daddy (who went on to be a champion and local G1 winner in Venezuela) as well as the multiple stakes-placed Total Tap (by Candy Ride, the sire of Gun Slingin’s and Disarm’s sire Gun Runner). With a plethora of additional stakes winners under her third dam, and knowing that there was another Gun Runner full-brother born in 2022 to come for her dam (who had then been bred to the exciting first-year stallion Silver State for 2023), we believed that Gun Slingin was a viable candidate for Wasabi’s broodmare band no matter what, depending on her price — especially since she is a good-sized, relatively correct mare who could run a little bit (although she was unplaced in all five of her starts, she finished 4th in four maiden special weights at Churchill and the Fair Grounds, so she was not completely without ability). And then obviously, if Disarm could come back to the races and live up to that early potential, it would increase her value by a potentially significant amount, depending on just how well he performed.
Clearly we were not the only ones that saw the potential in Disarm, as Gun Slingin ended up being the most expensive broodmare purchase ever by Wasabi when we were the winning bidders for her at $77,000 in November. Her purchase came amid a $196,000 spending spree on that day alone, as part of a plan to upgrade the overall quality of their broodmare band with an eye to being able to support a higher caliber of stallion in the future. We picked the proven young sire Liam’s Map as her first mate, and luckily she caught on a single cover this past February, just days after Disarm made his return to the races at Oaklawn.
With the winner facing no early pace pressure on his way to a wire-to-wire win, Disarm was a clear 2nd in that one mile allowance race — which we viewed as a perfectly acceptable comeback effort. He hooked another paceless field when making his stakes debut the following month in the G2 Louisiana Derby, and again ran on strongly to be 2nd behind a wire-to-wire winner.
That Louisiana Derby placing earned Disarm 40 points towards the Kentucky Derby, which would have been enough to make the field in pretty much any other year. But the way things played out this year, that total left him on the outside looking in after the final round of major preps. So his connections, who continued to publicly voice their confidence in the horse generally and his suitability for the Derby specifically, opted to run Disarm back in the G3 Lexington Stakes in an attempt to secure sufficient points to ensure he could run in the Derby. Needing to run 1st, 2nd or 3rd to make that happen, Disarm made a big middle move and then was encouraged to do just enough to hold 3rd behind a pair of horses with no Derby aspirations.
Some commentators will knock Disarm for that 3rd-place finish, but from where we sit it was a perfect prep; he was always going to be up against it shortening up from 1-3/16 miles to 1-1/16 miles, especially at a short-stretched track like Keeneland. And you wouldn’t want him to run his best race with just three weeks until the ultimate goal of the Kentucky Derby — as it was, Disarm paired up his lifetime top Beyer Speed Figure of 90 in that race despite all of the reasons why it was not an ideal spot for him, and it is not difficult to envision him being able to show the improvement necessary to run the triple-digit Beyer it will likely take to win the Derby.
Disarm showed that the Lexington did not take much out of him with a strong breeze at Churchill Downs earlier this week, just nine days out from that race. And with his connections being veterans who have been to the Derby several times before and will surely be back again, there is no reason to jam him into this race if they did not feel truly confident that he could run a competitive race.
All of which is why Disarm is our pick for the 2023 Kentucky Derby, at what should be a nice price.
Wet Paint the Oaks Pick
Obviously having a full-sister to a Kentucky Derby contender is an exciting position for us to be in with Wasabi, but we also have a very strong rooting interest in this year’s Kentucky Oaks. And whereas Disarm will be a bit of a long shot in the Derby, our Oaks pick is the likely favorite, Wet Paint.
As mentioned above, heading into that Keeneland November Sale last year we had been tasked with finding mares that would help Wasabi upgrade its broodmare band. To do so, we targeted young mares from good families that were still being cultivated by top breeders, in the hopes that those families would continue to produce good horses related to the mares that we would acquire, much like how buyers would swarm around mares being sold by the Phipps family 20-30 years ago. By targeting mares from the top-class homebred programs like Godolphin, Juddmonte and Coolmore, we believed that Wasabi would put itself in position to reap rewards down the road, even if there was no obvious, specific candidate to immediately improve the page like with Disarm in the case of Gun Slingin.
So when we purchased Floral Hall on behalf of Wasabi for $25,000 at that November Sale, we were impressed simply with the depth of her family and encouraged by the fact that her first dam took up the entire catalog page, with several of her sisters having already produced black-type foals and still in production. We liked that she was pregnant on an early cover to a solid stallion in Frosted, who had sired Floral Hall’s stakes-winning half-brother Cave Hill and who was from the same Pulpit sire-line that had produced the other good horses Skylighter and Meru on the page.
Similarly, we targeted Frame of Mind (whose dam, Lady Lavery, is a half-sister to Floral Hall) for Wasabi at the Fasig-Tipton February Sale because of how much we liked this family in general — although between November and February, Wet Paint had appeared as an update on the page thanks to her victory in Oaklawn’s Martha Washington Stakes.
Even with that new black-type from Wet Paint appearing on the page, we were still more excited about the potential of Frame of Mind’s 2YO half-brother by Into Mischief when Wasabi acquired Frame of Mind for $15,000 (and that was a large part of the reason that we picked Highly Motivated as her first pairing in the breeding shed).
Shortly thereafter, though, Wet Paint added a win in the G3 Honeybee, and then brought her 3YO record to three-for-three when she scored in the G3 Fantasy Stakes. She now heads the Kentucky Oaks leaderboard with 170 points, is the #1-ranked filly on Bill Finley’s Oaks Top 10 list in the TDN, and will be favored to give trainer Brad Cox his third win in the race’s last six runnings — and she is now the most exciting thing happening under the first and second dam, respectively, of two young broodmares owned by Wasabi.
Which is plenty of reason for us to hope that she continues her unbeaten sophomore streak on the First Friday in May.