Sire: Distorted Humor
Dam: Charmed Gift (A.P. Indy)
Trainer: Shannon Ritter
Jockey: Robby Albarado
Career Record: 4-2-1-1
Graded Earnings (rank): $400,000 (#10)
Running style: Presser / Speed
It's difficult to get a firm grasp on how this colt really wants to run when he's only had four races in his career. His first race at Churchill last fall was a flop and he clearly wasn't ready to win at that point. A trainer switch and the addition of blinkers made his second start a much better effort (this time at the Fair Grounds). He finally broke through when he led wire-to-wire in a maiden race at Oaklawn. After that he proved to everyone he could stalk when he won the Grade 3 Sunland Derby by sitting just off of the early pace set by Conveyance and then powered by the favorite to win going away. At a minimum, we know he can stalk.
How he got to the Derby: With zero graded earnings to his name prior to the race, the Sunland Derby proved to be Endorsement's ticket to Kentucky. He's been training at Keeneland since winning that race on March 28th.
What has to happen for him to win: Endorsement's chances of winning the Derby hinge on how much control he's willing to cede to jockey Robby Albarado. I think it's clear this colt is going to be up near the front but probably not fighting for the lead. If he's tugging and pulling the rider early on, he's probably toast. If he's able to settle into a nice gallop...watch out.
I think this horse is a lot like Eskendereya: high cruising speed, ability to stalk, quick turn of foot when asked. And like Esky, this colt will probably have to deal with a little more adversity than he saw at Sunland. However, I do like the fact that he had a couple of rough outings in his first two maiden races. While that probably won't compare to the twenty horse free-for-all in the Derby, Endorsement fans can hope he received some kind of education from those races.
I've got Endorsement as my co-fourth choice on the odds line with Sidney's Candy and Noble's Promise. I'd like to have put him a little higher up on the board but his inexperience may make this a tough task for him. Remember how difficult it was for the lightly raced Curlin to win the Derby - it's tough race to win if you are inexperienced. On the other hand, this colt might have the biggest upside of any horse in the Derby, and that includes Eskendereya. If he had a few more starts under his belt and had put in at least one other effort as good at his Sunland win, I'd have him as the clear third choice behind Esky and Lookin At Lucky. But, unfortunately, we only have this one race to go off of.
Regardless of the odds that I've set, I think we might see Endorsement go off between 10/1 and 15/1 on Derby day, as there are just too many other names that I think will take up bigger percentages of the pool that afternoon. We might even see something as high as 20/1, but I think that only happens if the crowd really pounds both Esky and Lucky. If you like Endorsement (and I do), that's not a bad thing at all.
There's not much to knock on the pedigree side: a son of Distorted Humor out of an A.P. Indy mare...there should be enough stamina in that mix for the Derby.
Key race: Grade 3 Sunland Derby
Food for thought: If Endorsement were to win the Kentucky Derby, do you think the Sunland Derby would be elevated to Grade 2 status next year?
The thing to really notice about Endorsement's win in the Sunland is how much horse Robby Albarado had as they were moving on the turn - he's the definition of sitting chilly. On the opposite side, you know Conveyance is in trouble when Martin Garcia sets him down for a drive before they even get into the stretch. Conveyance is being asked for everything he's got by the top of the stretch, while Endorsement is just being shaken up and kept to task as he cruises by the leader. Very smooth race for Endorsement.