By Brian Leckie (@bleck1022 on Twitter)
You may remember Golden Soul, Commanding Curve, and Lookin at Lee lighting up the exacta at 30-1+ odds in three of the last five runnings of the Kentucky Derby. What else do they all have in common? They’re all dead closers with a turn of foot that was tailor-made for the long Churchill Downs stretch. In this year’s Derby field, one runner possesses that sharp turn of foot more than any of the other closers: My Boy Jack.
With 10 total starts under his belt heading into the Derby, My Boy Jack is the most experienced horse in the field. Most of the early part of his career was spent on turf, winning the Zuma Beach Stakes at Santa Anita and running a deceptively good seventh in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Del Mar behind fellow Derby entrant Mendelssohn.
In the Sham Stakes, My Boy Jack laid closer to the early pace than usual in contrast with his usual deep closing style. The result was a third place finish 7 lengths behind McKinzie, one of the top prospects on the Derby trail before a minor injury forced him to skip the Derby.
Then trainer Keith Desormeaux boldly sent him to the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn, where he rode a severe rail bias to victory over the muddy surface (further aided by his far inside post). My Boy Jack looked to punch his Kentucky Derby ticket in the Louisiana Derby.
He closed with a powerful rush around the far turn after being 12 lengths behind, but had to go extremely wide to be put in contention. Though after closing to within a length of the leaders at the furlong pole, he proceeded to hang and could not pass them, finishing third. He was now on the outside looking in on the Derby points list.
Instead of training up to the race over a six-week period, My Boy Jack had no choice but to earn some last-minute points in a must-win situation in the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland three weeks later. Given the short stretch run of the Lexington, My Boy Jack had to start his closing kick earlier to be put into contention at the top of the lane. And while he didn’t have to go as wide this time, he still hung late in the stretch despite pulling off the victory. It was a gamble that paid off just to get him in the Derby starting gate.
The team that brought Exaggerator to a second place finish in the 2016 Derby now has another threat with My Boy Jack. The Desormeaux brothers are seeking to avenge their bridesmaid finish two years ago. Jockey Kent Desormeaux also has proven success in the Derby, winning this race three times with Real Quiet, Fusaichi Pegasus, and Big Brown. If there is any race out there where their horse can make an impact given his running style- it’s this one.
My Boy Jack is by relatively new sire Creative Cause out of Gold N Shaft by Mineshaft. Creative Cause was fifth in the 2012 Derby and third in that year’s Preakness, his final career start. ‘Jack’ comes from Creative Cause’s second crop, which can also count Significant Form (G3 Miss Grillo) as a graded stakes winner.
There is a lot of stamina on the sire side from Storm Cat and Giant’s Causeway, though the dams on that side are a bit obscure. Gold N Shaft was an unraced mare by 2003 Horse of the Year Mineshaft, out of G3 winner Gold n Delicious, who also placed in six other graded stakes including a second to My Flag in the 1996 G1 Coaching Club American Oaks. Mr. Prospector reigns supreme on both sides of the dam’s pedigree, and you can add Belmont Stakes winners Seattle Slew and A.P. Indy in Mineshaft’s sire line. While it’s unclear how much stamina My Boy Jack gets from several generations of dams, one thing is clear: class reigns.
On the Thorograph sheets, My Boy Jack has run the same “1” figure in each of his last three races. Usually you want to see horses that are looking to move forward instead of running basically the same race. But a “1” is on par with some of the other top contenders in this field. And while a jump forward could win this race, the consistency of his figures suggest a placing is more likely within reach.
Combine that with a powerful closing kick that can effectively propel horses to a trifecta or superfecta finish down the long stretch run of the Kentucky Derby, and you might have a live longshot that can spruce up the exotics.
The only concern is that My Boy Jack has had to go wide in his last couple of starts and that causes significant ground loss, combined with his tendency to hang late. But if Hall of Famer Kent can find a way to save ground and split horses, ‘Jack’ has a dangerous chance to light up the Derby superfecta.
photo by Holly M. smith (@kyholmarie on Twitter)