By Brian Leckie (@bleck1022 on Twitter)
Promises Fulfilled is projected to be one of the longest shots on the board in the Kentucky Derby. He’s also likely to head straight to the lead (as if the Florida Derby didn’t foreshadow that likelihood). A select few may tab him to go wire-to-wire as they don’t see any other true need-the-lead types to put sharp pressure on him in the early stages of the race. But that may not be such a wise idea…
Promises Fulfilled won his first two races, a maiden special weight and an allowance, before placing a game third in the ultra-key Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs. He joined three other graduates from that race in taking their respective second-round Derby preps by stealing the Fountain of Youth in wire-to-wire fashion. That race looks even more impressive when you consider he wired the field from post 10 in a 1 1/16 race at Gulfstream Park, a distance in which the field has an extremely short run into the first turn. He also defeated two-year-old champion and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Good Magic in that race, who rebounded to take the Blue Grass Stakes in his next start. However, up to then his early leads had rarely been challenged. A chink in the armor was badly exposed in the Florida Derby when Luis Saez on Strike Power decided to engage Promises Fulfilled through a 21 4/5 quarter and a half mile in 46 2/5. Promises Fulfilled tired to finish dead last and showed that he is a bonafide need-the-lead type. In fact, he’s the only horse in the Derby field that has had the lead at each of the first two calls in every start.
The Derby pace normally figures to be quicker than expected given the size of the field and the nature of the race itself, and I can easily see Promises Fulfilled leading the field through a half mile around 46 3/5. That’s not going to be easy to hang onto for a mile and a quarter, especially when you consider his pedigree. His sire, 2011 Preakness winner Shackleford, was a very good miler/middle distance horse with a ton of heart that usually carried his speed beyond his preferred distances. The dam, Marquee Delivery, showed versatility when it came to racing on different surfaces. The damsire, Marquetry, raced several times over a mile and a quarter including a win in the Grade 1 Hollywood Gold Cup. However, his progeny have been most successful primarily at sprint distances (including Breeders’ Cup Sprint winners Artax and Squirtle Squirt) and in races up to 1 1/16. This factor may prove critical for Promises Fulfilled down the stretch of the Derby after carving the early fractions.
Trainer Dale Romans, the all-time leader in wins at Churchill Downs, is still searching for that elusive Derby victory. He has zero wins from twelve starters in the Derby, though Paddy O’Prado in 2010 and Dullahan in 2012 did earn him third-place finishes. Romans also trained Shackleford, Promises Fulfilled’s aforementioned sire, who finished fourth in the 2011 Derby. Corey Lanerie, 10-time leading rider at Churchill, has assured the mount while Robby Albarado, who rode Promises Fulfilled in the Florida Derby, lands on Romans’ other mount, Free Drop Billy. Despite his success at Churchill and having over 4,000 wins in his career, Lanerie has had only three Derby mounts, including a second-place finish last year with Lookin at Lee.
While Promises Fulfilled has landed a very capable jockey, and while both trainer and jockey have had outstanding success over the local strip, given his running style and middle-distance pedigree, it’s going to be one tall task once they hit the quarter pole and the stalkers begin to pounce.
photos by Holly Smith (@kyholmarie on Twitter)