By Jessica Tugwell (@starryday23 on Twitter)
Hofburg is a son of Tapit, the sire of three Belmont Stakes winners, and out of a mare by Belmont Stakes winner Touch Gold. He’s a half brother to Emollient, a two-time G1 winner at 10 furlongs and a G1 winner on both dirt and turf. His second dam, multiple stakes winner Glia, was by Belmont Stakes and Breeders Cup Classic winner A.P. Indy, making Hofburg inbred 3×3 to the 1992 Horse of the Year. His third dam is the multiple G1 winner and French Champion 2-year-old filly Coup de Genie, who produced another French champion 2-year-old filly in Denebola, as well as Snake Mountain, a full brother to Glia and a graded stakes winner at 1 1/8 miles.
Hofburg traces tail-female to the great broodmare Natalma, and his fourth dam, French G3 winner Coup de Folie, was inbred 3×3 to her dam, Almahmoud, being by Halo (a half-sister to Natalma). Coup de Folie is the dam of Machiavellian, a French champion juvenile colt and sire of Dubai World Cup winner Street Cry, among others. There’s no doubt this colt is bred to relish every bit of a mile and a quarter.
The Kentucky Derby will be only the fourth lifetime start for Bill Mott and Juddmonte Farms’ Hofburg. Both he and likely favorite Justify will be trying to win the Kentucky Derby with only three career starts, attempting to replicate a feat only accomplished by the filly Regret in 1915 and Big Brown in 2008.
Unlike Justify, however, Hofburg won’t have the curse of Apollo to worry about – he debuted at Saratoga last September, breaking slowly and rating toward the rear of the field before beginning to move up with a bit of urging as they approached the turn. He made a five wide run, running awkwardly before switching leads and levelling off, beginning to make up a bit of ground when hitting his best stride at the end but failing to make a significant impact, finishing fourth by nine lengths.
He returned on March 3rd at Gulfstream Park and broke his maiden in his second career start while adding Lasix, racing midpack while four wide early on and making a nice move entering the turn. He emerged in the stretch with a clear lead, but showed a bit of immaturity as he began to stall once clear. Despite that, he held off the closing Just Whistle with relative ease to win by half a length.
Bill Mott sent the son of Tapit straight to the Florida Derby off this maiden score – a bold move for a trainer generally thought of as more conservative – and Hofburg proved his connections’ confidence was justified, closing well to be a clear second best in the race behind Audible and earning his way into the Kentucky Derby. He raced near the back again but after a half mile began to move up even before eventual winner Audible. He was passed by Audible as the field entered the turn, but had yet to be asked for run from Jose Ortiz. He tracked Audible entering the turn but was unable to accelerate with the winner. He began to get rolling, though, and once again showed a bit of immaturity as he drifted while switching leads in the lane. He was unable to make up ground on Audible, finishing second by three lengths, but finished 7 3/4 lengths ahead of third-place finisher Mississippi.
Hofburg’s biggest obstacle coming into this race is his lack of experience. He is a big, imposing colt who takes some time to hit his best stride, and in a race like the Kentucky Derby, he’s a prime candidate to end up getting in trouble and finishing fastest of all while leaving himself with too much to do. One factor in his favor is that this race appears to be full of horses with early speed, and a pace meltdown is a serious possibility, which would be advantageous to him, provided he can work up momentum without getting stopped by horses backing up into him. He is one horse that the distance is not a concern for – and as a result, I think he has a great chance of filling out your trifectas and superfectas, and being the horse that everyone is high on for the Belmont as a result. However, in a race with so many potential superstars, I don’t think he’s a likely win candidate.
photos by Holly M. Smith (@kyholmarie on Twitter)