Kentucky Derby contender profile: Shotski

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

December 10th, 2019

How much horsepower can you get for $25,000?

If you’re talking about cars, not much. The average cost of a new vehicle in the U.S. has climbed past $36,000.

But if you’re talking about horsepower of the equine variety, $25,000 is occasionally enough to land you a serious Kentucky Derby (G1) contender. The unheralded Shotski sold for just $25,000 as a yearling, but with his triumph in the $250,000 Remsen Stakes (G2) on December 7 at Aqueduct, he has emerged as a genuine threat for next year’s classics.

Shotski has changed hands a few times since his jaunt through the auction ring, and is currently owned by the partnership of Wachtel Stable, Gary Barber, Pantofel Stable and Mike Karty. Under the care of Jeremiah O’Dwyer, an up-and-coming trainer who saddled his first starters in 2014, Shotski never challenged in his September 5 debut at Kentucky Downs, where he finished 10th of 12 in a 6 1/2-furlong turf sprint.

But when Shotski switched to dirt for a six-furlong maiden dash at Laurel Park on October 3, the difference was remarkable. With speed from the start, Shotski tracked the pace, took command and pulled away to win by four lengths in the quick time of 1:10.25.

Shotski took a big step up in class and distance for the October 27 Street Sense Stakes at Churchill Downs, where he ran an even race to finish fourth against a quality field. The form of his effort received a boost when third-place finisher Silver Prospector returned to upset the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2).

Shotski was initially entered to contest the Kentucky Jockey Club, but withdrew because of wet track conditions. Instead O’Dwyer aimed Shotski for the Remsen, where the colt stretched his stamina over the testing distance of 1 1/8 miles.

With jockey Luis Saez in the saddle for the first time, Shotski sprinted straight to the front at Aqueduct and carved out modest fractions of :24.26, :50.08 and 1:15.19 over a slow track. After he kicked away to a 3 1/2-length lead in early stretch, Shotski tenaciously dug deep to withstand a challenge from stretch-running Ajaaweed to prevail by a half-length in 1:54.24.

Shotski’s stamina and resilience are hardly surprising. He’s a son of Blame, who famously held off supermare Zenyatta to win the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1). He also figures to inherit stamina from his dam, She Cat, a daughter of 2006 Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes (G1) runner-up Bluegrass Cat.

Shotski’s tactical speed is an asset, but just as important is his ability to relax, a key trait for horses looking to negotiate long distances on the Road to the Kentucky Derby.

"He's a very laid-back horse, so I knew he would relax with no problem," O'Dwyer said after the race. "Luis said that he did everything right. He doesn't do any more than he's asked, but when you ask him, he's there for you.”

While no horse has pulled off the Remsen/Kentucky Derby double since Thunder Gulch in 1994-1995, eight of the last 15 Remsen winners have gone on to win grade 1 races. Whether Shotski can emulate Thunder Gulch remains to be seen, but regardless of his showing on the first Saturday in May, his victory at Aqueduct suggests he has the potential to be a high-class runner.