Monday, August 1, 2011

Bernardus breaks through at Mountaineer

Most of the time, breaking maiden for a $5,000 tag is only considered "better" than not breaking maiden at all. In the case of Bernardus, the tag is still two-thirds more than the horse himself cost at auction.

The 3-year-old dark bay gelding was among my mostly bargain-seeking recommendations out of the 2010 Ocala April sale of 2-year-olds in training, where he changed hands for just $3,000 as Hip 766.

The son of Pleasantly Perfect-Aunt Dot, by Capote, showed promise at higher levels in his first two starts, finishing fourth beaten 5 1/2 for a $32,000 tag at Tampa in his debut and fourth beaten 3 3/4 for a $25,000 tag on turf at Arlington Park. But dull eighth- and fifth-place efforts on Arlington's Polytrack apparently prompted a sharp drop in class and thus Monday night's effort on the Mountaineer Park main track.

Sent off as the 6/5 top choice among the betting public, Bernardus won as though he should have been 3/5, bolting to a quick lead that widened throughout. Bernardus won by seven lengths under T.D. Houghton, despite covering 5 1/2 furlongs in a modest 1:07.40.

Bernardus was bred in Kentucky by Courtlandt Farm. He is trained by James R. Barker for Kenneth O. Smallwood. The gelding has now earned $6,270 from five starts.

I thought and still think that Bernardus has a chance to be a useful racehorse -- even when nobody else did, even though he only galloped rather than breezing at the sale, and even though he's been dropped to $5,000 at this point -- on his relative good looks and the evidence that his siblings were able to outrun the poor career of their dam, who was unplaced in her only start. Bernardus has a half-sister, Aunt Dot Dot (Gulch), who won six of 49 lifetime for $213,915. His half-brother Cassoulet (Distorted Humor) was stakes-placed and had five wins from 25 starts for $209,902. Cassoulet's full sister Global Gala only raced four times, but did break maiden among special weights at Churchill.

And this is the (distant) female family, after all, of CHRIS EVERT and WINNING COLORS.

Bernardus will not match the exploits of those famous females; 3-year-old champions and in the latter's case, one of only three fillies to win the Kentucky Derby. He might not prove to be as good as Aunt Dot Dot or Cassoulet. But for $3,000 he really doesn't really have to be.

The second maiden-breaker on the day for my "sales-tip Class of 2010," Bernardus is the 96th horse overall from that 187-horse list to become a winner; that's 51.3 percent.

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