In this edition of our Derby profile, we look at HELIUM, the colt from Woodbine who is trained by Mark Casse. He hopped onto the Kentucky Derby trail after winning the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) earlier this month. He was making his U.S. debut, and he defeated HIDDEN STASH and CANDYMAN ROCKET, earning 50 qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby, which moved him up to the Top 10 Leaderboard. Does he have what it takes to win the Kentucky Derby? Let's analyze his chances.
In just three races, HELIUM has already demonstrated the necessary versatility. He's able to win from the front end, or mid pack, or the rear. It'll certainly help his chances on Derby day, particularly if he can use his early speed to get good positioning and avoid being bottled up in traffic.
Yes, we've seen HELIUM pass his two-turn test at Tampa Bay Downs, even while trying dirt for the first time. And he accomplished this against a large field of twelve horses. For a horse with just three races behind him, HELIUM has checked off the basic boxes to be competitive in the Derby. But he'll need to improve on figures to outfinish the talent he'll be facing.
HELIUM's current 50 points secured his spot in the Derby, and he'll train up to it rather than targeting another prep race.
This means HELIUM will be entering the Derby off a two month layoff. Yet prior to his Tampa Bay win, he was also off for another five months. Therefore, the ambitious HELIUM will enter the Derby having raced just one time in almost seven months!
HELIUM will be relying heavily on his training program from Mark Casse. For those backing this talented colt, expect to get exceedingly generous odds on Derby day, for he's got quite the task ahead of him.
Note that even though HELIUM is lightly raced, at least he began his debut back in September, which gave him plenty of training time to develop himself. It is unlike JUSTIFY's defiance to tradition, where he didn't even debut until February of the Derby Trail.
HELIUM has been training at Palm Meadows Training Center since February. He was given about three weeks rest after his win on March 6th. It wasn't until two days ago that he resumed training and breezed 4 furlongs in 49.25, the 17th fastest of 58 over that distance. HELIUM still has all of April to sharpen his edge.
How does HELIUM stack up against the top Kentucky Derby candidates? Well, in his Tampa Bay Derby score, he achieved a superb competitive rating according to Brisnet standards
Brisnet matched HELIUM's Tampa Bay Derby effort with GREATEST HONOUR's Fountain of Youth (G2) win, and ESSENTIAL QUALITY's Southwest Stakes (G3) win. What great company to be part of!
It was quite impressive how HELIUM raced five-wide for almost the entire backside trip, and still made headway to seize the lead at the top of the stretch. This is still not the ideal style to win the Kentucky Derby, but it's promising to see him passing horses with ease, and doing it against a large field at that. It was a field of twelve that day.
One knock against his effort was that the Tampa Bay Derby field was quite weak. If we look at the horses HELIUM beat, they've yet to follow up with an impressive rebound performance. Several of them — MOONLITE STRIKE, KING OF DREAMS, AWESOME GERRY — finished off the board this past weekend.
Other foes of his are still waiting for their chance to redeem themselves: CANDY MAN ROCKET, SITTIN ON GO, HIDDEN STASH. Note that HIDDEN STASH is pointed to Saturday's Blue Grass Stakes (G1). If he wins, it'll flatter HELIUM and bring his odds closer down come Derby day.
Pedigree-wise, HELIUM will probably run faster as the distances get longer. He is by IRONICUS out of THUNDERING EMILIA, by THUNDER GULCH. His family tree is far from being without Classic-distance specialists.
He's got THUNDER GULCH as his damsire, who won the Kentucky Derby and Travers Stakes (G1). Both were run at the Classic distance, and THUNDER GULCH was ultra competitive at age three, in fact, was Champion 3-year-old in 1995. Plus he was a great shipper, just as HELIUM seems to be.
HELIUM's sire IRONICUS introduces the following champions into his bloodline: A.P. INDY, SPECTACULAR BID, SEATTLE SLEW. These are one mile and one-quarter distance champions! If HELIUM wins the Derby, it's in his genes to handle the remaining legs of the Triple Crown.
To win the Kentucky Derby, HELIUM will probably count on a forwardly-placed trip. He would need to flash his best early speed, just enough to secure position where he can relax, save ground, and come with his big run. Even though he's shown ability to run with large fields and race wide, he hasn't done this surrounded by Grade 1 and Grade 2 runners, who will go just as fast as he does when he makes his move. On paper, he needs to improve in order to be competitive in the Derby. For now, it's about checking HELIUM's work tab to make sure he's not missing any training, and then observing his past rivals to see if they improve off their previous bouts with him.