Hence: by Street Boss out of Floating Island. Trip notes for Hence’s first three career starts can be found in the comments.
4th career start: 1 and 1/16th miles, Maiden Special Weight, Oaklawn Park
Stumbled out of the gate some to no real consequence, 2W 1st T, outside in 3rd tier on backstretch, advanced outside 4W into contention midway on the far T, took over into the stretch with momentum, drew away, quickly ducked inside and steadied to not hit the rail, nearly came to full stop, corrected, outside foe went by to take the advantage, Hence came right back to take the lead, going away at the wire. What was shaping up to be a ho-hum easy victory for Hence turned into an amazing win, given that he nearly dove into the fence late in the race and still came back to emerge victorious after ceding the lead. Much the best, an extreme understatement here for Hence.
5th career start: 1 and 1/16th miles, G3 Southwest Stakes, Oaklawn Park
Hence is the #10
2/3W midpack 1st T, behind fast pace on the backstretch while in between some, angled out 4W midway on far T, kept on evenly in the stretch, very little late. Despite securing a solid position, Hence was completely outclassed in this spot, taking a steep climb in class from a special weight to graded stake.
6th career start: 1 and 1/8th miles, G3 Sunland Derby, Sunland Park
Hence is #9
Taken back very early, outside 2W 1st T in rear, behind fast pace on backstretch, steadily gained, overland route into the far T while passing many, took on leader Conquest Mo Money rounding into the stretch with all the momentum, put that one away near the 8th pole, drew off, finished up nicely. Having been given a quality setup with a very demanding pace up front, Hence made mincemeat of this field; showing up a different horse than his prior self. Conquest Mo Money was closer to the fast pace and was better than the 3.75 length margin Hence beat him by but Hence’s sustained rally for such an extended period of this race left us amazed to know he had this kind of ability.
With a non-effort in the Southwest in his first try against winners after breaking his maiden in extraordinary fashion (watch the replay), Hence did not appear as one that fit on the Derby trail. Steve Asmussen trudged on with him, sending him to the weakest annual Derby prep stateside, the Sunland Derby, where Hence rebounded in tremendous fashion, resulting in an eye-catching win. With a new jockey and different tactics that involved taking Hence immediately off the pace to make one late run when previously he displayed a bit of tactical speed, Hence stamped himself a Derby contender in just one afternoon in New Mexico.
Outlined in the trip notes, Hence’s smashing score at Sunland Park came as a great surprise to us. Sure, he hinted his ability in his maiden victory, but he did not show any class in his previous start in the Southwest. The Sunland Derby has already solidified itself as a useful Derby, when next out Irap won the Blue Grass at 31/1 and Conquest Mo Money ran a bang up 2nd in the Arkansas Derby at 17/1. These performances have obviously validated the competent speed figures that the race has been assigned, but still, we believe that the Sunland Derby cannot be thought of as being in the same class as most of the other final Derby preps.
Hence is one that seems to be putting things together at the utmost critical time coming into the Kentucky Derby and seems likely to fall into great early position behind a fast pace at Churchill. He has matured out of his juvenile antics, including his inability to break well from the gate. Regardless, without having demonstrated huge talent prior to, his last-out win must be deemed as an outlier; an effort so large we’re dubious he’ll be able to duplicate it. In fact, Hence will have to get a combination of a dream trip and setup and still slightly improve off of his win in the Sunland Derby to win the real Derby. Since it won’t surprise us if Hence doesn’t pan out and turns up in allowance company this summer, we cannot back him under the twinspires.
Having peaked so significantly last out, expecting Hence to improve once again would be borderline cruel. With a productive trainer on his side, Hence could sneak into the bottom of our selections if he is reportedly training well throughout Derby week. For now, Hence is still a bit of an outsider to us, as you’d expect from a 10/1 winner of the Sunland Derby.