If winning the Manitoba Derby was based solely on the company you kept, Master Lightning would be tough to beat.
The royally-bred stakes-placed son of Bluegrass Stakes-G1 winner Pulpit had been running competitively against the best 3-year-olds in North America until July 9, 2014, when he was dropped into a $75,000 optional claimer. He was promptly nabbed out of that race by top local owner-breeder Phil Kives of K-tel International fame and his partner Danny Gargan.
Master Lighting wasn't quite good enough to keep pace with recent Jim Dandy-G2 stakes winner Wicked Strong as a 2-year-old, but he was beaten only four lengths by that elite rival in the Remsen Stakes-G2 at the Manitoba Derby distance of 1 1/8-miles.
More recently, Master Lightning he was beaten only 8 1/2-lengths by multiple graded stakes winner Samraat in the Gotham Stakes-G3 at Aqueduct before finishing third in the Mr. Light Stakes on the turf at Gulfstream Park going a mile. Other names you might recognize in Master Lightning's running lines include graded stakes-winners Honor Code, Cairo Prince and Uncle Sigh.
Phil Kives has won the Manitoba Derby twice, with Plenty Chilly in 1991 and Northernprospector in 1996. Trainer Shelley Brown, currently third in the standings, is one of the best young trainers we've seen in these parts in a long time, and was the first female trainer to win the training title here in 2012. Leading rider Paul Nolan is trying for his third straight Downs riding title.
Offspring of Pulpit have earned over $60 million. He also happens to be the grandsire of 2014 Kentucky Derby-G1 and Preakness-G1 winner California Chrome and 2014 Belmont-G1 winner Tonalist.
Seasoned and classy, beware.