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Java's War makes a late run to win the Blue Grass Stakes in early April (Photo courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire).

Making the Grade, which will run right up until the Belmont Stakes, will focus on the winners of the big races, usually from the previous weekend, who could impact the 2013 Triple Crown. We’ll be taking a close look at impressive winners and evaluating their chances to win the 2013 Kentucky Derby based on factors such as ability, running style, connections (owner, trainer, jockey) and pedigree.

This week we take a look at Java’s War, winner of the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes on April 13 at Keeneland, who earned a starting spot in the Kentucky Derby on May 4.

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Java's War

Bay colt

Sire (Father): War Pass

Dam (Mother): Java, by Rainbow Quest

Owner-Breeder: Charles Fipke (Ky.)

Trainer: Ken McPeek

Java’s War unfurled an explosive rally in the stretch of the Blue Grass Stakes to inhale runner-up Palace Malice in the closing strides and nail down his second career stakes win and first in a graded race. The Grade 1 win earned Java’s War 100 points in the new Road to the Kentucky Derby points system, cementing a spot in the starting gate on May 4 at Churchill Downs in the first jewel of the Triple Crown.

Ability: Java’s War showed he was a precocious and talented colt early in his career. He posted a clear win in his second race in July of his 2-year-old season and followed with a stakes win in September at Louisiana Downs in his third start. Trainer Ken McPeek then challenged Java’s War with a tough test by entering him in the Grade 1 Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland for his fourth race and he responded positively with a third-place finish in a field of 13.

Java’s War closed his 2-year-old campaign with a sixth-place finish in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs.

In his 3-year-old debut, Java’s War closed willingly for a second-place finish to top Kentucky Derby contender Verrazano in the Tampa Bay Derby, beaten by three lengths in a promising season-opening race. The Tampa Bay Derby served as an ideal steppingstone for the Blue Grass for Java’s War, who stamped himself a classics contender with a visually impressive last-to-first rally.

Java’s War has proven his ability to compete with the best of his generation, however, none of his three career wins has come on a dirt track - the type of surface he will face at Churchill Downs in the Kentucky Derby in three weeks. With two wins on turf and one on the synthetic Polytrack surface at Keeneland, plus his worst career performance coming at Churchill, questions about his ability to perform at his best on the Churchill main track are legitimate. His Tampa Bay Derby runner-up finish on Tampa Bay Downs’ dirt track provides reason for optimism and, to be fair to Java’s War, the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes featured a dawdling pace that did not set up well at all for his closing style.  


Running style: Java’s War ran a bit closer to the pace as a 2-year-old but in his two races at three, he has closed from far off the pace. Part of that, as trainer Kenny McPeek explained after the Blue Grass, is a lack of early speed, but Java’s War also doesn’t do himself any favors with frequent sluggish starts.

Dead closers have experienced plenty of recent success in the Kentucky Derby. Longshots Giacomo (2005) and Mine That Bird (2009) and Street Sense (the favorite in 2007) all closed from near the back of the field to win the Kentucky Derby. In order for a closer to win, however, quite a few things must go right. A solid pace helps and usually there is plenty of speed in a 20-horse Kentucky Derby field, but more problematic for horses attempting to pass 18 or 19 horses is finding a clear path to the finish line. If a horse finding his best stride has to slow down or alter course to navigate around a traffic jam or tiring rival, it can be the difference between winning and finishing out of the top three. Sometimes the clearest path to victory means a very wide trip. In a normal race, with say seven to 10 horses, this could mean racing four or five wide on the final turn. In the Kentucky Derby, the same horse very likely would be forced at least seven or eight wide for clear sailing — maybe even more. Both Mine That Bird and Street Sense found a clear path inside, saving precious ground under masterful rides from Calvin Borel, while Giacomo closed from the middle of the track to win at 50-1 odds. 

(Click here to view the 2013 Derby Leaderboard)

Making the Grade: Govenor Charlie

Making the Grade: Lines of Battle

Making the Grade: Black Oynx

Making the Grade: Will Take Charge

Making the Grade: Hear the Ghost

Making the Grade: Super Ninety Nine

Making the Grade: Orb

Making the Grade: Verrazano

Making the Grade: Flashback

Making the Grade: Revolutionary

Making the Grade: Itsmyluckyday

Making the Grade: Oxbow

Making the Grade: Dewey Square

Making the Grade: Vyjack

Making the Grade: Goldencents

Making the Grade: Overanalyze

Making the Grade: Violence

Making the Grade: Uncaptured

Making the Grade: Shanghai Bobby

Connections: Trainer Ken McPeek finished second in the 1995 Kentucky Derby with Tejano Run and trained Sarava, whose victory in the 2002 Belmont Stakes ended War Emblem’s Triple Crown bid. McPeek has won more than 1,300 races since taking out his trainer’s in 1985. McPeek’s Atigun finished third in the Belmont Stakes in 2012.

Owner-breeder Charles Fipke finished fourth in the Kentucky Derby in 2007 with homebred Tale of Ekati, a multiple Grade 1 winner who was named for the famous Ekati diamond mine he discovered in Canada in 1991. The Ekati Mine is responsible for more than 4% of the world's diamond production. Fipke has been involved in Thoroughbred racing since 1981.

Java’s War was guided to victory in the Blue Grass Stakes by two-time Eclipse Award winner Julien Leparoux, one of five different jockeys to ride the colt in his seven-race career.

Pedigree:  Java’s War is the second 3-year-old from champion War Pass’s first crop to qualify for the Kentucky Derby based on points, following Louisiana Derby winner Revolutionary. Obviously, having two colts win major Kentucky Derby preps from the first crop of runners says quite a bit about War Pass as a sire. Unfortunately, he died in December 2010 just before the beginning of his third season at stud, and thus War Pass is represented by only two crops in the Northern Hemisphere. By Cherokee Run, War Pass was dazzling at two in 2007, winning each of his four races, including the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, en route to winning the Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old male.

Java’s War is from a robust female family with a mix of talented runners on turf, dirt, and synthetic surfaces. His dam (mother), Java, recorded both of her victories in two-turn races on grass. Java is a full-sister (same sire [father], same dam [mother]) to 1998 champion turf female Fiji and a half-sister (different sire, same dam) to Capri, a Group 2 winner on grass in France. His second dam [maternal grandmother] was Grade 1-placed on grass and a stakes winner on dirt. Other standouts from this family include turf Grade 1 winner Cacoethes; Fabulously Fast and Fabulous Notion, both Grade 1 winner on dirt; and Subordination, a multiple Grade 1 winner on grass and a Grade 2 winner on dirt. In addition to a heavy dose of class, the female side of Java’s War’s pedigree contributes quite a bit of stamina as well. The 1 ¼-mile distance should be right in Java’s War’s wheelhouse.

Mike Curry’s Kentucky Derby Top 20

1. Revolutionary

11. Goldencents

2. Verrazano

12. Java's War

3. Orb

13. Black Onyx

4. Normandy Invasion

14. Lines of Battle

5.  Vyjack

15. Palace Malice

6. Itsmyluckyday

16. Oxbow

7. Will Take Charge

17. Frac Daddy

8. Govenor Charlie

18. Departing

9. Mylute

19. Falling Sky

10. Overanalyze

20. Charming Kitten

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Haciendo El Grado: Java's War

En Español

Translated by Jose Contreras

Haciendo el Grado, que se extenderá hasta el Belmont Stakes (G1), se centrará en los ganadores de las grandes carreras, por lo general de el fin de semana anterior, quienes podrían afectar a la Triple Corona del 2013. Le estaremos dando un vistazo de cerca a los impresionante ganadores y evaluar sus posibilidades de ganar el Kentucky Derby 2013 (G1) basado en factores como la habilidad, estilo de carrera, conexiones (dueño, entrenador, jinete) y pedigree.

Esta semana le echamos un vistazo a Govenor Charlie, ganador del Sunland Derby el 24 de Marzo en Sunland Park y un contendiente para el Kentucky Derby el 4 de Mayo. 

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Java's War

Potro Bayo

Padre (Sire): War Pass

Madre (Dam): Java, por Rainbow Quest

Dueño-Criador: Charles Fipke (Ky.)

Entrenador: Ken McPeek

Java’s War desplegó una movida explosiva en la recta del Blue Grass Stakes para inhalar al subcampeón Palace Malice en los pasos finales y concretar su segunda victoria de stakes en su carrera y ganar por primera vez una carrera graduada. La victoria de grado 1 le dio a Java’s War 100 puntos en el nuevo sistema de puntos para el Kentucky Derby, consolidando un lugar en la línea de salida el 4 de mayo en Churchill Downs en la primera joya de la Triple Corona.

Habilidad: Java’s War mostró que era un potro precoz y talentoso al principio de su carrera. El logró una clara victoria en su segunda carrera en julio de su temporada de 2 años de edad y siguió con una victoria de stakes en septiembre en Louisiana Downs en su tercera apertura. Su entrenador Ken McPeek entonces desafió a Java’s War con una dura prueba al entrar en el Dixiana Breeders Futurity de Grado 1 en Keeneland para su cuarta carrera y respondió positivamente con un tercer lugar en un campo de 13 caballos.

Java’s War cerró su campaña de 2 años de edad con un sexto lugar en el Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes en Churchill Downs.

En su debut de 3 años de edad, Java’s War cerró voluntariamente para un segundo puesto detrás de el mayor contendiente al Kentucky Derby, Verrazano, en el Tampa Bay Derby, cuando fue derrotado por tres cuerpos en una prometedora carrera para empezar su temporada. El Tampa Bay Derby ha servido como trampolín ideal para el Blue Grass para la Java’s War, quien se selló como un contendiente clásico con una movida visualmente impresionante cerrando desde último hasta el primer lugar.

Java’s War ha demostrado su capacidad para competir con los mejores de su generación, sin embargo, ninguna de sus tres victorias en han sido sobre la tierra - el tipo de superficie que enfrentará en Churchill Downs en el Kentucky Derby en tres semanas. Con dos victorias en el césped y una en la superficie sintética Polytrack en Keeneland, su peor desempeño fue en Churchill,  y dudas sobre su capacidad para desempeñarse en su mejor momento en la pista de Churchill son legítimas. Su segundo puesto en el Tampa Bay Derby en la pista de tierra ofrece razones para un poco de optimismo, y para ser justos a Java’s War, el Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes contó con un ritmo lento que no se sirvio de nada bien para su estilo de cerrador.

Estilo de Carrera: Java’s War corrió un poco más cerca del ritmo a los 2 años de edad, pero en sus dos carreras a la edad de tres años, ha cerrado desde lejos el ritmo. Parte de eso, como el entrenador Kenny McPeek explicó tras el Blue Grass, es una falta de velocidad inicial, pero Java’s War tampoco se hace ningún favor con los frecuentes arranques lentos.

Cerradores han tenido mucho éxito reciente en el Kentucky Derby. Los caballos de apuesta arriesgada como Giacomo (2005) y Mine That Bird (2009) y Street Sense (el favorito en 2007) cerraron desde cerca de la parte posterior del campo para ganar el Kentucky Derby. Para que un cerrador pueda ganar, sin embargo, algunas cosas deben salir bien. Un ritmo sólido ayuda y por lo general hay un montón de velocidad en un campo de 20 caballos en el Kentucky Derby, pero lo más problemático para los caballos que tratan de pasar 18 o 19 caballos es encontrar un camino claro hacia la línea de meta. Si un caballo esta encontrando su mejor paso tiene que disminuir la velocidad o cambiar de rumbo para navegar alrededor de un atasco de tráfico o rival cansado, eso puede ser la diferencia entre ganar y terminar fuera de los tres primeros lugares. A veces el camino más claro hacia la victoria significa un viaje muy amplio. En una carrera normal, con un grupo de siete a 10 caballos, esto podría significar correr cuatro o cinco de ancho en la vuelta final. En el Kentucky Derby, el mismo caballo muy probablemente se vería obligado por lo menos siete o ocho de ancho para tener una navegación clara - tal vez aún más. Mine That Bird y Street Sense encontraron un camino claro, ahorrando un camino precioso bajo las montas magistrales de Calvin Borel, mientras que Giacomo cerro desde el centro de la pista para ganar a 50-1.

Conexiones: El entrenador Ken McPeek terminó segundo en el Kentucky Derby de 1995 con Tejano Run y ​​entreno a Sarava, cuya victoria en el Belmont Stakes de 2002 finalizó la oportunidad de la Triple Corona para War Emblem. McPeek ha ganado más de 1,300 carreras desde que sacó su licencia de entrenador en 1985. McPeek también tuvo a Atigun, quien terminó en tercero en el Belmont Stakes de 2012.

Dueño-criador Charles Fipke terminó cuarto en el Kentucky Derby de 2007 con Tale of Ekati (él también lo crió), un ganador múltiple de grado 1 que fue nombrado por la famosa mina de diamantes Ekati que él descubrió en Canadá en 1991. La mina Ekati es responsable de más del 4% de la producción de diamantes al nivel mundial. Fipke ha estado involucrado en las carreras de caballos desde 1981.

Java’s War fue guiado a la victoria en el Blue Grass Stakes por el dos veces ganador del Premio Eclipse, Julien Leparoux, uno de los cinco jinetes diferentes que han montado a este potro en sus siete carreras.

Pedigree: Java’s War es el segundo caballo de 3 años de edad de la primera cosecha del campeón War Pass en calificar para el Kentucky Derby basado en puntos, siguiendo al ganador del Louisiana Derby Revolutionary. Obviamente, tener dos potros que ganaron grandes preparaciones al Kentucky Derby de la primera cosecha de corredores dice bastante sobre War Pass como padre. Por desgracia, él murió en diciembre de 2010 justo antes del comienzo de su tercera temporada como semental, y por lo tanto War Pass está representado por sólo dos cosechas en el hemisferio norte. Por Cherokee Run, War Pass fue deslumbrante a los dos años de edad en 2007, ganando cada uno de sus cuatro carreras, incluyendo la Breeders 'Cup Juvenile, en ruta a ganar el Premio Eclipse como campeón de 2 años de edad de sexo masculino.

Java’s War es de una robusta familia femenina con una mezcla de corredores con talento en el césped, tierra y superficies sintéticas. Su madre, Java, registró sus dos victorias en las carreras de dos vueltas en el césped. Java es una hermana completa (mismo padre, misma madre) a la campeona de césped femenino de 1998 Fiji y una media hermana (diferente padre, misma madre) de Capri, un ganador de Grupo 2 en el césped en Francia. Su segunda madre [abuela materna] fue colocada de grado 1 en el césped y una ganadora de stakes en la tierra. Otros destacados de esta familia incluye el ganador de Grado 1 en el césped, Cacoethes; Fabulously Fast and Fabulous Notion, las dos ganadoras de Grado 1 en la tierra; y la Subordination, un múltiple ganador de Grado 1 en el césped y ganador de Grado 2 en la tierra. Además de una fuerte dosis de clase, el lado femenino del pedigree de Java’s War también contribuye un poco de resistencia. La distancia de 1 ¼ de milla debe estar justo al alcance de Java’s War.


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Mike Curry

A native of Philadelphia who grew up in nearby Wilmington, Del., Curry was editor of Thoroughbred Times TODAY before joining the America's Best Racing team in May 2012. He credits his grandfather for the inspiration to repeatedly sneak off to Delaware Park as a 16-year-old and the 1989 rivalry between Sunday Silence and Easy Goer for his passion for horse racing. Curry graduated from the University of Delaware in 1997 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and a concentration in Journalism. He worked for the Wilmington News Journal and was Sports Editor of the Cecil Whig before moving to Lexington in 2005.

Image Description

Mike Curry

A native of Philadelphia who grew up in nearby Wilmington, Del., Curry was editor of Thoroughbred Times TODAY before joining the America's Best Racing team in May 2012. He credits his grandfather for the inspiration to repeatedly sneak off to Delaware Park as a 16-year-old and the 1989 rivalry between Sunday Silence and Easy Goer for his passion for horse racing. Curry graduated from the University of Delaware in 1997 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and a concentration in Journalism. He worked for the Wilmington News Journal and was Sports Editor of the Cecil Whig before moving to Lexington in 2005.

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