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First Sole Volante. Now Ete Indien. In short order, trainer Patrick Biancone has not one, but two graded stakes-winning prospects for the Kentucky Derby.
Maybe so, but Biancone said he’s not ready to start counting his Derby starters.
“Slow down. Slow down. We’re not there yet,” said Biancone, who hasn’t been in the Kentucky Derby since 2005 and finished second in 2004 with Lion Heart. “It’s still a long time to go and they have a race before them.”
Ete Indien’s gate-to-wire jaunt to victory in the Fountain of Youth (G2) on Feb. 28 at Gulfstream Park put him at the top of the qualifying points standings with 54 for the May 2 Kentucky Derby. Sole Volante, winner of Tampa Bay Downs’ Sam F. Davis (G3), will enter the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) on Saturday with 10 points and is in a position to strengthen his chances for a trip to Churchill Downs.
Biancone said that Ete Indien – Indian Summer in French – came out of his win in the Fountain of Youth in good shape. Though Biancone said his plans for the colt are fluid, he made it clear that the Florida Derby (G1) on March 28 at Gulfstream is where he would prefer to run the son of Summer Front next.
“I’m waiting to see how he works, but what would be my wish is to keep him around here,” Biancone said. “He’s a colt and you want to win a Grade 1. With the new changes there, are only three Grade 1 possibles before the Derby. One is the Santa Anita Derby. One is the Arkansas Derby. And the third one is the Florida Derby. The Florida Derby would be closer to us.”
The schedule does give Biancone some flexibility in deciding what to do next with Ete Indien. There are four weeks between the Fountain of Youth and the Florida Derby, five weeks to the Santa Anita Derby and six to the Arkansas Derby.
“What we hope,” Biancone said, “is that he will recover well, will work well and will improve enough to run in the Florida Derby.”
Biancone purchased the Kentucky-bred Ete Indien for $269,640 in France at the May 2019 Arqana 2-year-old sale. He is a partner in the colt with Linda Shanahan, Sanford Bacon, Dream With Me Stable, Horse France America and D P Racing. Ete Indien sold for $80,000 as a yearling at Keeneland.
While Ete Indien and Sole Volante came out of different 2-year-old sales for far different prices – Sole Volante cost $20,000 – both are members of the first crops of their sires, have pedigrees that suggest they are likely suited for turf and made the first two starts of their careers on grass. Ete Indien is by Summer Front, a four-time graded-stakes winner who was Grade 1-placed five times. Sole Volante is by Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Karakontie.
Regardless of their pedigrees, Biancone said he typically gives his young horses a couple of starts on grass because he feels it puts less stress on their young legs. Later, he may give them a try on dirt.
“I don’t buy horses because they are dirt or turf or whatever,” he said. “I buy the ones I like. I don’t care. I’m not specific on the brands. If you ask me to choose between Cartier and Hermes, both are good, you know what I’m saying?”
Ete Indien used his speed to win his dirt debut, a one-mile optional claimer on Dec. 20 at Gulfstream. From there, he went to the Holy Bull (G3) on Feb. 1, where he led the way early on and finished second to Champagne (G1) winner Tiz the Law, a rival he may face again in the Florida Derby. Ete Indien finished 11 ½ lengths in front of the third-place finisher, Toledo.
In the Fountain of Youth, starting from the outside in the field of 10 – a tough post at 1 1/16 miles at Gulfstream – Ete Indien quickly made the lead under Florent Geroux and rolled to a 8½-length victory.
After the Fountain of Youth, Biancone offered a comment that explained the aggressive strategy in the race that also serves his approach with putting Sole Volante and Ete Indien on the dirt.
“At one stage of my life I was playing poker and what you say: No gamble, no future?” he said. “You have to gamble a little bit to have a future, and I think that horse was the perfect horse to do it.”
Award-winning writer Mike Kane has been covering racing on a regular basis for print, radio, television and on-line properties since 1980.
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