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Kentucky Derby 2015 Contender Khozan Trying to Outrun History

Kentucky Derby 2015 Contender Khozan Trying to Outrun History: The so-called Apollo Curse is an apparently legitimate threat in the racing world. In 1882, the three-year-old colt Apollo, the namesake of the curse, won the Kentucky Derby without racing at age two. As of yet, no other Derby contender has been able to accomplish Apollo’s seemingly insurmountable feat. In 2012, Bodemeister was the closest to breaking the curse when he finished second behind I’ll Have Another. Before that, Curlin finished third in the 2007 Kentucky Derby behind Street Sense and Hard Spun before winning the Preakness Stakes.

Kentucky Derby 2015 Khozan

Jockey Javier Castellano heads for the winner’s circle following Khozan’s 12 ¾-length romp in the fifth race at Gulfstream Park on Sunday, February 24, 2015.
Photo: Leslie Martin, Coglianese Photos

This year, one of the colts that is looking to brave the Apollo Curse is Khozan. A product of royal breeding, Khozan is two-for-two thus far in his brief three-year-old career. After winning his seven-furlong maiden race by almost four lengths, Khozan became the talk of the backstretch as an early Kentucky Derby contestant. With initial thoughts of letting him run in the Fountain of Youth, trainer Todd Pletcher instead opted to send him in a one-mile allowance optional claiming event. This was certainly a smart move by Pletcher, as the colt won that second start more easily and impressively than his first. After being bumped at the start, Khozan ran comfortably on the front end before taking command at the three-quarters pole and never looking back. When Khozan crossed the wire, he was all alone, almost 13 lengths ahead of the rest of the field.
“Unbelievable. That’s what we live for with the horses,” jockey Castellano said.

The 1-⅛ mile Florida Derby could be the next spot for Khozan as he follows a blueprint similar to the one Pletcher used last season with Constitution, who also broke his maiden and won an allowance at Gulfstream before winning Gulfstream’s signature event.

Khozan is not only a star in the making – he is literally bred to be a star. His sire, dam, and damsire were all graded stakes winners, and his damsire was even inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame in 2000. Khozan is by Distorted Humor and out of the A.P. Indy mare Delta Princess who has also produced Grade 1 winner Crown Queen and multiple Eclipse Award winner Royal Delta.

In his own time, Distorted Humor was a consistent graded stakes winner and was Grade 1 placed. He debuted in 1996 as a three-year-old and would be a consistent graded stakes runner but failed to win a graded event that year, although he did finish second in the Grade 2 King’s Bishop, Jerome Handicap, and Fayette Stakes. In 1997, Distorted Humor only raced half the year, but in that time he won the Salvator Mile (G2) and placed in the Philip H. Iselin Handicap (G2) and Kentucky Cup Classic Handicap (G3). Returning at age five, Distorted Humor blossomed. He won the Commonwealth Breeders’ Cup Stakes (G2), Churchill Downs Handicap (G2), and the Ack Ack Handicap (G3) and placed in the Cigar Mile (G2), a race in which he had finished fifth two years prior. Retired to stud in 1999 for an initial stud fee of $12,500, he instantly became a hit when in his first crop he produced near Triple Crown winner Funny Cide. He now stands at WinStar Farm in Kentucky for a whopping fee of $100,000.

Delta Princess was also a graded stakes winner in her career. Racing from 2001-2005, Delta Princess was a decent runner and consistent performer, winning six stakes races, three of which were graded. She won her three graded stakes at two different tracks before retiring at the end of 2005. The breeding shed is where Delta Princess really established her name in the racing world, producing G2-placed Empire Way, G1-placed Carnival Court, and multiple graded stakes winners Crown Queen and Royal Delta. Unfortunately, Delta Princess was euthanized in 2014 due to health problems.

Broodmare sire A.P. Indy provides a huge contribution to Khozan’s promising future. A.P Indy debuted in 1991 as a two-year-old and won three of his four starts, including the Grade 1 Hollywood Futurity. As a three-year-old, A.P. Indy was nearly undefeated, but his record was blemished by a third-place finish and an off-the-board placing in a race he competed in after a layoff. Undefeated leading up to the Kentucky Derby, the son of Seattle Slew scratched the morning of the race due to a bruised foot. He then targeted the Preakness but also skipped that race. After preparing with a victory in the Grade 2 Peter Pan Stakes, A.P. Indy proved that he was among the best of his class when he won the Belmont Stakes. Even after a third-place finish in his Breeders’ Cup Classic prep race, the Jockey Club Gold Cup, A.P. Indy was the favorite for the Classic. He proved successful and prevailed by two lengths, closing out his racing career with championship honors as both the Champion Three-Year-Old Colt and Horse of the Year. Retired to Lane’s End, A.P Indy demanded $50,000 for his first season, but he eventually excelled enough as a stallion to warrant a stud fee of $500,000 at his peak.

Khozan is bred to not only be successful but to be successful at the classic distances. If he can make the Kentucky Derby and break the curse of Apollo, he will have rightfully lived up to both his pedigree and high purchase price of $1,000,000 at last year’s Fasig-Tipton Florida sale. Owners Al Shaqab Racing have not had a Kentucky Derby winner yet, and Khozan may be the horse to get them there. The owners’ U.S. Racing Advisor Brad Weisbord especially thinks that Khozan could be something out of the ordinary.

“…I rarely get nervous before a race,” Weisbord said. “We had Sandiva and Mshawish here a few weeks back in races, and I was fine, but this horse could be very, very special. He has the pedigree, the speed, the talent. Hopefully, he stays sound and we go for a good ride with him.”

Only time will tell if Khozan can continue his winning ways, but as of right now, he has as good of a chance as any to keep improving towards a prominent win in the Florida Derby and success along the Triple Crown campaign.

*Source: Gulfstream Park Press Release