DERBY CONTENDER: Flameaway

By Jessica Tugwell (@starryday93 on Twitter)

One of four Kentucky Derby contenders this year for the late Scat Daddy, Flameaway has been very consistent in his nine career starts for owner John Oxley and trainer Mark Casse, who teamed up last year with two-year-old champion Classic Empire to finish 4th in the Kentucky Derby. His 70 Kentucky Derby points put the Sam F. Davis winner 10th on the leaderboard.

Flameaway began his career with a debut win at Woodbine before taking the Skidmore Stakes at Saratoga in his second career start. He was a disappointing 6th in the Iroquois, where he was never comfortable after being behind and between horses for the first time in his career. He returned to take the off-the-turf in the Dixiana Bourbon Stakes, where he stalked outside of horses in the clear and was green in the stretch but managed to get up for the victory in a three-horse photo finish. He was 8th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf behind Mendelssohn, but was beaten only 3 1/4 lengths in a respectable effort.

He began his three-year-old season with a front-running win in the 7 1/2 furlong Kitten’s Joy Stakes on the turf at Gulfstream Park. He showed his trademark tenacity in the win, taking heat every step of the way and even being headed in the lane but fighting back on the rail to prevail by a neck in a blanket finish. Mark Casse switched the colt to the dirt for the Sam F Davis, where he set the pace and was passed by odds-on favorite Catholic Boy in the stretch, but came back and dueled gamely to prevail by half a length in the end.

In the Tampa Bay Derby, he showed a bit more maturity, relaxing quite well in third on the outside. Coming into the stretch, he was fanned wide and once again showed some greenness, drifting in and out as he continued to chase pacesetters World of Trouble and Quip. Once he leveled off and got going, though, he came with a late surge to get up for second behind Quip.

Most recently, Flameaway was seen finishing a game second to Champion Two-Year-Old Good Magic in the Blue Grass. He was kept company on the lead by 69-1 shot Arawak for the first half mile of the race, and was immediately confronted by Good Magic when Arawak began to back up. Good Magic took the lead at the top of the stretch, but Flameaway refused to yield, continuing on gamely but unable to catch the winner.

1M2A4116 flameaway

Flameaway training on the Churchill Downs main track. Photo by Holly M. Smith

Some people have raised distance questions with Flameaway based on his Blue Grass finish; while he kept on, he looked to be a fairly tired horse, finishing up the final 3/8ths in :38.62. However, his female family has some significant stamina influences that suggest perhaps 1 1/4 in within his capabilities. Flameaway is out of a mare by Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus, and his second dam, Rose of Tara, is a half-sister to multiple G1 winner and 1 1/2-mile Irish Derby winning filly Salsabil, herself the dam of G2 Knickerbocker winner Sahm and G3 winner Bint Salsabil, who was second in the 1 1/4 mile Prix de la Nonette (FR-G3). Another daughter, Alabaq, was a stakes winner at 1 1/4 miles and G2 placed at 1 1/2 miles.

Rose of Tara is also a half-sister to Spirit of Tara, who was second in the 1 3/8 mile Blandford Stakes (IRE-G2) as a three-year-old. She produced multiple stakes winner Akarem by Kingmambo, who was third in the 1 6/8 mile Curragh Cup (IRE-G2), 1 1/4 mile G3 winner Echo of Light (by Dubai Millenium), and 1 1/2 mile stakes winner Tocco d’Amore (by Raven’s Pass).

Overall, Flameaway is a consistent, talented runner who doesn’t give up in a fight. That said, post position and pace scenario will be key for him. If he ends up behind horses, I think it’s likely that he quits the way he did in the Iroquois. However, if he’s outside of the other primary speed and can be allowed to stalk without getting dirt in his face, I think there’s a good chance he’ll be a part of the fray coming into the stretch. He may be a cut below some of the exceptional talent in this year’s field, and I believe his chances of winning are relatively low, but if it comes down to a battle in the lane, you can rest assured that Flameaway will not yield without a fight.

photos by Holly M. Smith (@kyholmarie on Twitter)

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