LOUISVILLE, Ky. — With every stride taken by Advice, Hold Me Back and Mr. Hot Stuff in the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, WinStar Farm president Doug Cauthen can step back into the past.
There, he sees homebreds Any Given Saturday and Bluegrass Cat, both largely responsible for allowing the Versailles, Ky., operation to be the only owner with multiple starters in the Derby since 2006.
Each won the Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs and Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park in Oceanport, N.J., before retiring to stud. Bluegrass Cat is one of six stallions at WinStar, and Any Given Saturday is with Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum's Darley global group.
"Bluegrass Cat became a $20 million horse and (Any Given Saturday) even more because we sold him," Cauthen, 46, said. "Those two were the return that made us the functional farm that led us to keeping horses like these three we have in."
Cauthen said Hold Me Back, which was 15-1 on Thursday, gives WinStar owners Kenny Trout and William Casner the best opportunity to win their first Derby. Advice and Mr. Hot Stuff are 30-1. Fifteen of the trio's 18 career starts have been on synthetic surfaces, each with different conditioners.
Two colts have stakes wins: Bill Mott-trainee Hold Me Back (at Turfway Park in Florence, Ky.) and Todd Pletcher-conditioned Advice (at Keeneland in Lexington, Ky.). Mr. Hot Stuff is coming off a third-place effort behind Derby entrant Pioneerof the Nile in the Santa Anita Derby for trainer Eoin Harty.
WinStar's top Derby finish has been Bluegrass Cat's second to Barbaro in 2006. It did breed 2003 winner Funny Cide, son of WinStar senior stallion Distorted Humor.
"Hold Me Back has just strengthened up and seems to becoming more of a man," said Cauthen, whose brother Steve rode the last Triple Crown winner, Affirmed, in 1978. "Advice ran awfully well in the Lexington, so we felt like he earned his way. Mr. Hot Stuff is trying to mature, and he's halfway through the process. He was 2 lengths within Pioneerof the Nile, a horse who's got tons of experience and plenty of maturity."
Mr. Hot Stuff, who has raced exclusively in California, is sired by WinStar stallion Tiznow, elected to the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame on April 20. Another Tiznow son, Well Armed, jump-started the farm's year with a 14-length victory in the $6 million Dubai World Cup on March 28. That prize vaulted WinStar into first place in world purse earning at $5,070,685.
"We're very thankful and blessed," Cauthen said. "I thank God for helping us get some results like this. We buy and breed. We sold two other horses (Beethoven and Haynesfield) that could have made it to the Derby. We'd love to keep them all, but we just can't. We have to generate enough cash flow to keep the doors open"
WinStar will have an active Saturday with Court Vision, 13th in the 2008 Derby, facing Einstein in the Grade I Woodford Reserve Turf Classic. Today, new Kentucky men's basketball coach John Calipari has been invited to the WinStar suite to watch super filly Rachel Alexandra in the Grade I Kentucky Oaks and standout mare Zenyatta in the Grade II Louisville Stakes.
Said Cauthen: "What a weekend."