As we get closer to the Triple Crown, more and more names are popping up on the Kentucky Derby radar. But like every year, there are some horses hidden behind the top contenders. This year, one such horse is Z Dager, a colt owned by Zayat Stables and trained by Steve Asmussen.
The son of Mizzen Mast only has three starts under his belt but has already shown he can get farther than the sprint distances, winning his maiden at a little over a mile at the Fair Grounds on December 15
So far, Z Dager may be best known for his performance in the G3 LeComte Stakes, where he finished second to Mr. Bowling after having to navigate around a wall of horses in the stretch before he could really run. While the colt’s trainer was a little worried about the horse’s performance, he still sees lots of room for improvement.
“I was a little concerned that he didn’t get by [Mr. Bowling]...because we’re talking about him as a potential Derby horse. I’m a little concerned that he won’t go farther than a mile-and-an-eighth right now. With that being said, it’s only his third start. He has room to improve,” Steve Asmussen said.
While distance may be a concern until he stretches out, the colt’s bloodlines suggest he has the potential to go farther. Damsire Wavering Monarch won the 1982 Haskell Invitational.
Z Dager’s sire Mizzen Mast only made two of his 11 starts on the dirt, winning at both seven furlongs and 1-1/8 miles. However, he did finish second on the turf at 10-furlongs in the Longchamp.
Z Dager has put in two works at the Fair Grounds since the LeComte Stakes, going four furlongs in 52.60 seconds nine days after the race and five furlongs in 1:01.80 on Feb. 6. The colt is aiming to stretch out just a little bit longer in the 1-1/16 mile G2 Risen Star Stakes on Feb. 25.
While the colt only has $35,000 in earnings for the Kentucky Derby, Steve Asmussen and Zayat Stables finished second behind Animal Kingdom last year with Nehro, a colt that didn’t break his maiden until Feb. 20 or see a stakes race until March 26.
“We plan on giving him the opportunity to get to the [Kentucky Derby]. If they are good enough, they’ve got time,” Asmussen said.
Asmussen and Zayat are already a step ahead with Z Dager. If the colt can get the distance, Z Dager could be a real threat when it comes to the Triple Crown this year.
And if the Triple Crown doesn’t work out for the horse, there may be a back-up plan for his connections.
“If the Triple Crown thing doesn’t work out [he may try the turf],” Asmussen said with a chuckle.
All quotes in this article came from an interview with the author.