OLDSMAR — A watershed year put WinStar Farm on an island.
Two wins in the Triple Crown series, an Eclipse Award and being the only North American owner to surpass $5 million in earnings in 2010 isolated the Versailles, Ky., operation from others.
The WinStar watch is on again.
Brethren, whose half-brother Super Saver won the 2010 Kentucky Derby, is WinStar's latest contender. The undefeated Kentucky homebred makes his 3-year-old debut today in the Grade III $225,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs. A field of 10 has assembled for the track's first Kentucky Derby prep (Race 10, 4:25 p.m.). The Festival Preview Day 12-race card includes the Grade III Endeavour and the Florida Oaks, two $125,000 turf events for females.
WinStar is unbeaten in the 1 1/16th-mile Sam F. Davis, with wins by Rule (2010), Any Given Saturday (2007) and Bluegrass Cat (2006). Brethren, who will be ridden by Ramon Dominguez, lacks one attribute of that trio: stakes experience. He joined the party late after being severely cut in a stall accident, getting stitches and a 30-day layoff. Five-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Todd Pletcher began working with the colt in August.
Brethren has made up for lost time, winning a 6-furlong maiden sprint at Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y., and a 1-mile allowance test at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky. The latter was on the undercard of the Grade II $150,000 Kentucky Jockey Club, a 1 1/16th-mile stakes won the previous year by Super Saver
"We like to run our 2-year-olds in (the Jockey Club)," said Elliott Walden, WinStar president, CEO and racing manager. "But Brethren ran so fast going 6 furlongs (1 minute, 8.88 seconds), we were concerned going from 6 furlongs to 1 1/16th miles. Todd felt the 1-mile allowance race suited the whole program a little better."
Brethren, a son of Distorted Humor, and Super Saver have the same dam, the A.P. Indy mare Supercharger. Both parents reside at WinStar. Brethren has spent the winter at Palm Meadows Training Center in Boynton Beach, in Super Saver's former stall.
Super Saver started his 3-year-old campaign last year at Oldsmar, finishing third in the Tampa Bay Derby then two months later breaking Pletcher's 0-for-24 streak at the Kentucky Derby. He is now a stallion at WinStar, which secured the Eclipse Award for top owner with a Belmont Stakes win by Drosselmeyer.
"For us, Tampa has been a great stepping-stone to the 3-year-old year," Walden said. "The racetrack is very safe, and it gives a great foundation. … (Brethren is) our best 3-year-old and really our only chance to go to Kentucky. So from that standpoint, he's carrying the mail."