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(Photo by Eclipse Sportswire)

(Afleet Alex x Wildwood Flower, by Langfuhr)

  • Trainer: Todd Pletcher (3rd, 10th, 12th, and 17th in 2014 with Danza, We Miss Artie, Intense Holiday, and Vinceremos. Won in 2005 with Super Saver)
  • Jockey: Javier Castellano (10th last year with We Miss Artie)
  • Owned by: Alto Racing
  • Record: 3:3-0-0
  • Earnings:

    $656,028

  • Best speed figures: 110 Beyer, 115 Equibase, 105 Brisnet

Background: It’s a question that keeps coming up: can a Derby runner, particularly in this modern age of breeding for speed and precocity, break through the “Apollo curse?” No horse since Apollo in 1882 has managed to win the Kentucky Derby without having raced at age 2, and while it has maintained a stiff drought of being right every year, some have gotten close including 2012′s race with runner-up Bodemeister to mention just one. This year’s Apollo horse is the talented son of Preakness and Belmont winner Afleet Alex, Materiality, who has improved wonderfully from start to start to enter the Derby field an impressive winner of the Florida Derby (I). Entering the Derby as his fourth start and never beaten, Materiality is in it to make history.

Prep Schedule: The lighest-raced horse in the field with 3 career starts, Materiality broke his maiden at first asking going 6 furlongs at Gulfstream Park on January 11, breaking just off the leader before taking over, winning by 4 ¼ lengths. Ever precocious, his second start was his first stakes in the Islamorada Handicap going 9 furlongs– 3 furlongs longer than his debut– at Gulfstream Park. Sitting off his pacesetting stablemate Stanford– who would later be just barely bested a neck by International Star in the Louisiana Derby (II)– he took over in the stretch to win with ridiculous ease by 5 ¾ lengths. Completing the hat trick in the Florida Derby (I), he grasped an early uncontested lead and held off challenging stakes winner Upstart to leave the rest of the field behind, a victor by 1 ½ lengths.

Pedigree: Materiality keeps things kosher with some inbreeding to Northern Dancer and Nearctic, with some points of interest scattered about that makes him a little different.

Sire Afleet Alex tops many people’s lists of horses that were “woulda coulda” to win the Triple Crown after getting caught in traffic in the Derby before winning brilliant races in the Preakness and Belmont. Regarded as a respected middle market stallion just like his own sire, Northern Afleet (Afleet/Nureyev), Alex has had some mild success thus far with Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (I) winner Texas Red, G1 dirt routing mare Iotapa, Breeders’ Cup Marathon winner Afleet Again, and Hopeful Stakes (I) winner Dublin among others. Dam Maggy Hawk contributes much of Afleet Alex’s distance-getting ability throughout her family tree, starting with sire Hawkster, earner of over a million dollars with multiple G1 wins and the 12 furlong world record on Santa Anita’s downhill turf course.

Wildwood Flower has struck gold again with Materiality after her previous foal, My Miss Sophia, grabbed some attention and wins leading up to her runner-up finish in the Kentucky Oaks (I) last year. A daughter of Canadian champion sprinter Langfuhr (Danzig), Wildwood Flower was a stakes winner at 6 furlongs and G3-placed at slightly longer distance marks. Out of Phone Trick daughter Dial a Trick, she is a half sister to G2 winner Eye of the Tiger as well as a half to the dam of Travers Stakes (I) winner Afleet Express– also by Afleet Alex.

Estimated TrueNicks Rating: A Variant 3.01

Dosage Index: 2.33

Running Style: Pacesetting/just behind the pace

Pros: Speed succeeds and Materiality has shown he has that with highly competitive speed figures topped by a ruthless effort in the Florida Derby last out. 

Cons: Being the lighest-raced horse in the field carries more negatives than positives, and nobody’s entirely sure if those Florida speed figures are believable. 

Final Word: I ranked Materiality in my top 10 before his win in the Florida Derby, and despite the fact he won that race, I automatically felt like I needed to drop him out of that list after watching the race. He won, but it wasn’t the type of performance I was looking to get that showed maturity and the kind of effortless greatness necessary for such an inexperienced horse to get 10 furlongs and conquer the obstacles ahead. And despite the Afleet Alex, I am not even sure if he will get 10 furlongs after that race and then there’s the real possibility of him bouncing off that sky-high speed figure (assuming it’s real or close to accurate). Consider for exotics, not the win.

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