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TDN Derby Top 12, Presented by WinStar Farm: February 5


Catholic Boy I Sarah Andrew

By T. D. Thornton

This past weekend’s stakes action was anchored by three Road to the GI Kentucky Derby points races, including one already at nine furlongs this early in the year. But the top-ranked Triple Crown hopefuls in the rankings are still largely biding their time, with three of the first four on this week’s list still awaiting 2018 debuts. Expect the plot to thicken as the pace quickens later this month.

1) CATHOLIC BOY (c, More Than ReadySong of Bernadette, by Bernardini)

O-Robert V. LaPenta & Madaket Stables. B-Fred W. Hertrich III & John D. Fielding (KY). T-Jonathan Thomas. Sales History: $170,000 RNA yrl KEEJAN ’16. Lifetime Record: MGSW, 4-3-0-0, $314,000.
Jan. 22 TDN Top 12 Rank: 1
Last Start: 1st, GII Remsen S., AQU, Dec. 2.
Accomplishments Include: 1st, GIII With Anticipation S., SAR, Aug. 30.
Next Start: GIII Sam F. Davis S., TAM, Feb. 10
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 10

Catholic Boy now has two Tampa Bay Downs workouts under his belt in preparation for this Saturday’s 2018 debut there in the GIII Sam F. Davis S. His Sunday half-mile breeze in :49.20 (19/66) saw him parked outside of an unraced workmate, and the bay son of More Than Ready (Southern Halo) clearly wanted to break away on the far turn but was ridden with restraint until allowed to edge away in hand nearing the wire before galloping out in 1:02 20 for five furlongs. In this era of light seasoning for Triple Crown candidates, a subsequent start in the GI Florida Derby on Mar. 31 could be part of a concise two-race game plan leading up to the GI Kentucky Derby. It’s worth noting that even though his connections have obviously aimed to familiarize Catholic Boy with the sandy Tampa surface by working and stabling him there this week, the track often plays differently (i.e., souped up) on big stakes days (last year track records for 1 1/16 miles were established on both the Davis and GII Tampa Bay Derby cards). This colt’s stock got a sizable boost this past weekend when Avery Island (Street Sense), the beaten fave who ran second behind Catholic Boy in the GII Remsen S., methodically dismantled the GIII Withers S. field at Aqueduct. But who-beat-whom comparisons can only carry a Derby candidate so far, and the truer test of advancement from age two to three will be Catholic Boy’s ability to build off an already-demonstrated willingness to fight through adversity while reeling in A-level rivals over expanding distances of ground. It was announced Monday that Sol Kumin joined Robert LaPenta as a minority co-owner of Catholic Boy (click here for the story).

2) GOOD MAGIC (c, CurlinGlinda the Good, by Hard Spun)
O-e Five Thoroughbreds & Stonestreet Stables. B-Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings (KY). T-Chad Brown. Sales History: $1,000,000 yrl KEESEP ’16. Lifetime Record: GISW, 3-1-2-0, $1,216,600.
Jan. 22 TDN Top 12 Rank: 2
Last Start: 1st, GI Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, SA, Nov. 4.
Accomplishments Include: 2nd, GI Champagne S., BEL, Oct. 7.
Next Start: Aiming for GII Fountain of Youth S., GP, Mar. 3
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 24

The newly crowned 2-year-old Eclipse Award winner is edging closer to his 2018 debut after breezing five-eighths in 1:01.10 (3/28) at Palm Meadows Training Center on Saturday, his third timed morning move of the season. Trainer Chad Brown is targeting the Mar. 3 GII Fountain of Youth S. for the million-dollar KEESEP colt’s first sophomore start, and it is a question mark how the competition for that next Gulfstream stakes will shake out considering the winner of Saturday’s GII Holy Bull S. isn’t a lock to run back in the Fountain of Youth and the horses who ran 2-3-4 in the Holy Bull all looked like they needed the race from a seasoning perspective. Good Magic’s mystique as a one-win champion is only going to deepen in the coming weeks thanks to his planned late arrival on the 3-yer-old scene. His four-month gap between starts will rank as one of the longest layoffs we’ll see this year among Top 12 contenders, with only Bolt d’Oro (Medaglia d’Oro) attempting a prep schedule with similar spacing. A responsive, keen stalker when last seen drubbing the GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile field, it will be intriguing to see how this son of Curlin (Smart Strike)’s running style develops as he matures, especially if his prep races will be at Gulfstream, where a premium is often placed on early speed.

3) MCKINZIE (c, Street SenseRunway Model, by Petionville)

‘TDN Rising Star’ O-Karl Watson, Michael Pegram & Paul Weitman. B-Summer Wind Farm (KY). T-Bob Baffert. Sales History: $170,000 yrl KEESEP ’16. Lifetime Record: GISW, 3-3-0-0, $270,000.
Jan. 22 TDN Top 12 Rank: 3
Last Start: 1st, GIII Sham S., SA, Jan. 6
Accomplishments Include: 1st, GI Los Alamitos Futurity, LRC, Dec. 9
Next Start: Possible for either GII San Felipe S., SA, Mar. 10 or GII Rebel S., OP, Mar. 17
Equineline PPs. Caulfield on McKinzie.
KY Derby Points: 20

This $170,000 KEESEP Street Sense (Street Cry {Ire}) colt is maintaining fitness while awaiting a next start that has yet to be decided by trainer Bob Baffert (“I’ve got a lot of options. I won’t know until I get closer.”) The odds-on guesses are that the ‘TDN Rising Star’ goes in either the GII San Felipe S. at Santa Anita Mar. 10 or the GII Rebel S. at Oaklawn Park one week after that. On Saturday he worked a :49.40 half (38/65), wearing down a maiden 4-year-old workmate after spotting that sparring partner 1 1/2 lengths. McKinzie right now has a tenuous hold atop the SoCal division of sophomores, and that ranking is described as “tenuous” only because of the deep crush of Santa Anita-based competition lining up behind him. Although the progression of Derby-caliber colts is rarely as linear as their connections wish it would be, each one of McKinzie’s three races so far has been demonstrated capable, measured advancement. His GI Los Alamitos Futurity company line is the one that stands out based on the three-way stretch fight with Instilled Regard (Arch) and Solomini (Curlin). But on the minus side, his Jan. 6 GIII Sham S. score produced a next-out beaten stakes favorite, Shivermetimbers (Shanghai Bobby), who ran a lackluster seventh in Saturday’s underwhelming renewal of the GIII Lewis S.

4) BOLT D’ORO (c, Medaglia d’OroGlobe Trot, by A.P. Indy)
O-Ruis Racing. B-WinStar Farm (KY). T-Mick Ruis. Sales History: $630,000 yrl FTSAUG ’16. Lifetime Record: MGISW, 4-3-0-1, $576,000.
Jan. 22 TDN Top 12 Rank: 4
Last Start: 3rd, GI Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, SA, Nov. 4
Accomplishments Include: 1st, GI Del Mar Futurity, DMR, Sept. 4; 1st GI FrontRunner S., SA, Sept. 30.
Next Start: Aiming for GII San Felipe S., SA, Mar. 10
Equineline PPs. Caulfield on Bolt d’Oro.
KY Derby Points: 14

Sophomore plans are starting to crystallize for the runner-up (some might say “beaten favorite”) in the juvenile male Eclipse Award voting. Since the last installment of the Derby Top 12, Bolt d’ Oro has posted his first two published morning moves of the year, breezing solo and without being asked over three furlongs Jan. 27, then stretching to four furlongs for another solo tour of the track Feb. 2. “He did it easy,” owner/trainer Mick Ruis said after Friday’s :48.40 (7/45) half mile, after which “Bolt” galloped out five furlongs in 1:01. The jockey for his next start has been solidified, with Javier Castellano committing to the mount in the GII San Felipe S. on Mar. 10, replacing Corey Nakatani. This $630,000 son of Medaglia d’Oro (El Prado {Ire}) had a stranglehold on the SoCal 2-year-old division until he was upended by a poor start and a six wide trip in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. But in the last three months the West Coast-based 3-year-olds have progressed more as a group than those in any other geographic region, so it’s likely that Bolt will face a stern test for his comeback in five weeks. That 1 1/16 miles start in the San Felipe, plus the nine-furlong GI Santa Anita Derby Apr. 7, could serve as his only two springboard races leading up to a start in Louisville on the first Saturday in May.

5) INSTILLED REGARD (c, Arch--Enhancing, by Foresty)
O-OXO Equine LLC. B-KatieRich Farms (KY). T-Jerry Hollendorfer. Sales history: $110,000 RNA yrl KEESEP ’16, $1,050,000 2yo OBSMAR ’17. Lifetime Record: GSW & GISP, 5-2-2-1, $228,000.
Jan. 22 TDN Top 12 Rank: 5
Last Start: 1st , GIII LeComte S., FG, Jan. 13
Accomplishments: 2nd, GI Los Alamitos Futurity, LRC, Dec. 9
Next Start: Probable for GII Risen Star S., FG, Feb. 17
Equineline PPs. Caulfield on Instilled Regard.
KY Derby Points: 14

It was never any secret that this $1.05 million OBSMAR Arch (Kris S.) colt is a sharp-looking physical specimen with a deep pedigree. But we needed to see his tactical early prowess and commanding late turn of foot in his 3 3/4-length GIII Lecomte S. score to establish that Instilled Regard belongs with the upper crust of the division at this juncture of the season. It appears as if he’ll make a return trip to New Orleans for the Feb. 17 GII Risen Star S., which could scare away some outliers from other circuits whose connections might also be considering a ship to the Fair Grounds. There are different ways to assess Derby hopefuls on this list (especially at this time of year), but among the ranked contenders in this week’s Top 12 version, I’d have to rate this colt highest in terms of the horse I think has the most upside potential once his fitness level is acutely honed. Instilled Regard has that “scary good” presence about him, and trainer Jerry Hollendorfer will aim to fully develop and unleash it.

6) AVERY ISLAND (c, Street Sense-Kinda Spicy, by A.P. Indy)
O-Godolphin Racing. B-Godolphin (KY). T-Kiaran McLaughlin. Lifetime Record: GSW, 5-3-1-0, $365,332.
Jan. 22 TDN Top 12 Rank: 12
Last Start: 1st, GIII Withers S., AQU, Feb. 3.
Accomplishments Include: 1st, GII Nashua S., AQU, Nov. 5.
Next Start: Uncommited
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 14

After six years as a 1 1/16 miles winter Derby prep and decades elsewhere on the New York calendar as a mile fixture, the Withers S. offered Classics hopefuls a rare nine-furlong graded stakes opportunity in early February this past Saturday, and Avery Island made the most of it. His two-length score was not flashy, but it exuded a sense of accomplishment that might be likened to the rumbling of thunder that signals a powerful storm is in the pipeline. This strapping son of Street Sense (Street Cry {Ire}) broke running, willingly allowed a 34-1 speedster to dart around him and secure the lead, and looked comfortable on the backstretch coasting several paths off the rail while another rival edged up to his inside. The Godolphin homebred was asked for a measured move to seize the lead three-eighths out, responded to rousing at the head of the lane, then kept chugging along to widen the gap in methodical, responsive fashion. “He’s just learning to enjoy himself out there,” said jockey Joe Bravo. “He just relaxed. He just got better and stronger going down the lane. I opened up early around the turn. The quicker he goes, the better he is, but I didn’t want to turn it into a sprint.” Added trainer Kiaran McLaughlin: “It looked like he was push-button, so it was great that he switched off that quick and then switch back on.”

7) MOURINHO (c, Super Saver-Sandi’s Ready, by More Than Ready)
‘TDN Rising Star’ O-Phoenix Thoroughbred III. B-WinStar Farm (KY). T-Bob Baffert. Sales history: $30,000 yrl KEESEP ’16; $625,000 2yo OBSMAR ’17. Lifetime Record: 4-2-2-0, $154,360.
Jan. 22 TDN Top 12 Rank: 7
Last Start: 1st, Smarty Jones S., OP, Jan. 15
Next Start: Uncommited
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 10

Trainer Bob Baffert is well aware that ‘TDN Rising Star’ Mourinho isn’t going to be freewheeling on the front end cutting fast fractions as the distances get longer and the competition gets tougher. This $625,000 OBSMAR (pinhooked for $30,000 KEESEP) colt won as he pleased against four overmatched rivals in the Jan. 15 Smarty Jones S. at Oaklawn. The only time in that race that Mourinho faced a tactical challenge (getting position into the first turn), he was easily able to out-hoof that sent-for-the-lead rival. In two Santa Anita workouts since, Baffert has trained Mourinho without blinkers going a non-taxing three-eighths, then last Thursday with blinkers back on he tracked $400,000 OBSAPR maiden stablemate Show Time Rocket (Into Mischief) from several lengths behind for five-eighths before pulsing past at the wire and continuing solo for another furlong to register a bullet 1:12.60 (1/4) for six furlongs. The son of Super Saver (Maria’s Mon) could return to Hot Springs for the GIII Southwest S. Feb. 19, but considering Baffert’s affinity for biding his time with stakes decisions, that’s only an educated guess at this point.

8) AUDIBLE (c, Into MischiefBlue Devil Bel, by Gilded Time)
O-WinStar, China Horse Club & SF Racing. B-Oak Bluff Stables LLC (NY). T-Todd Pletcher. Sales histroy: $175,000 FTNSAR yrl; $500,000 FTFMAR 2yo. Lifetime Record: 4-3-0-1, $287,720
Jan. 22 TDN Top 12 Rank: N/A
Last Start: 1st, GII Holy Bull S., GP, Feb. 3.
Next Start: Possible for Florida Derby, GP, Mar. 31
Equineline PPs.
Kentucky Derby Points: 10

Audible debuts on the Derby Top 12 off a 5 1/2-length shellacking (99 Beyer) of the Holy Bull S. Saturday at Gulfstream Park. He broke alertly, dueled between rivals into the first turn, edged back behind those pacemakers to stalk confidently, commenced a solid bid midway around the far bend, then clicked into a nice overdrive gear when confronted on even terms by Free Drop Billy (Union Rags) at the quarter pole. Jockey Javier Castellano kept the $500,000 FTFMAR New York-bred to task when the colt started looking around a bit and saw the tire marks on the damp track, but this son of Into Mischief (Harlan’s Holiday) seemed to have no problem stretching out from three one-turn races. The lack of serious, prolonged confrontation from the three well-regarded entrants who ran 2-3-4 behind Audible (plus the fact that the speedsters who set the pace meekly retreated to last and next-to-last) means we have to regard the race as a whole with a touch of skepticism, but trainer Todd Pletcher definitely has a base to build upon moving forward. “I love the way he came over here and handled everything,” he said. “He was perfect in the paddock, post parade, gate–all those little intangibles that really help with horses that are pointing for big days.”

9) PRINCIPE GUILHERME (c, Tapit–Aubby K, by Street Sense)
‘TDN Rising Star’ O/B-Three Chimneys Farm (KY). T-Steve Asmussen. Sales History: $600,000 wlg FTKNOV ’15. Lifetime Record: 3-2-1-0, $101,800.
Jan. 22 TDN Top 12 Rank: 8
Last Start: 2nd, GIII Lecomte S., FG, Jan. 13
Next Start: Possible for GII Risen Star S., FG, Feb. 17.
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 4

At this early stage of the Triple Crown season, every Derby Top 12 list needs at least one horse whose raw potential exceeds his on-track accomplishment in stakes races. This $600,000 FTKNOV Tapit (Pulpit) colt owns a monster maiden win over the Churchill Downs strip and a near-effortless shredding of a two-turn Fair Grounds allowance field at 2-5 odds (18 lengths combined margins of victory). Principe Guilherme chased a powerhouse winner in Instilled Regard when 3 3/4 lengths behind that rival in the Lecomte S. But the effort likely represented more of a positive learning experience than it might appear on paper, because it was an attempt to balance this colt’s natural quickness and high-torque acceleration with a dose of rateable patience, which could be a potent combination when blended with his distance-centric pedigree. This ‘TDN Rising Star’ worked five furlongs in 1:01.40 (8/37) at the Fair Grounds Monday morning.

10) SOLOMINI (c, Curlin-Surf Song, by Storm Cat)
O-Zayat Stables LLC. B-Glenna R. Salyer (KY). T-Bob Baffert. Sales history: $270,000 KEESEP yrl. Lifetime Record: MGISP, 4-1-2-1, $472,000
Jan 22 TDN Top 12 Rank: N/A
Last Start: 3rd, GI Los Alamitos Futurity, LRC, Dec.9.
Accomplishments Include: 2nd, GI Frontrunner S., SA, Sept. 30; 2nd, GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, DMR, Nov. 4
Next Start: Uncommitted
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 14

Solomini slipped off the last Top 12 list when he was leapfrogged by several January stakes winners while simultaneously spiking a temperature that briefly knocked him off his training schedule. But considering that his star-crossed company lines include a pair of seconds to the top two juvenile Eclipse Award vote-getters and the fact that he finished three-quarters of a length ahead of (but was disqualified behind) McKinzie and Instilled Regard, he belongs inside the Top 12. Trainer Bob Baffert is attempting to nudge him toward maturity and a yet-to-be-determined next start, and a :48.60 half-mile workout at Santa Anita on Saturday (19/65) put him back on the path to afternoon engagement. He needs to overcome the greenness he displayed when he hit the front and couldn’t sustain his lead in the stretch of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, and expected seasoning from age two to three will go a long way toward rectifying a similar loss of focus that contributed to his disqualification in the Los Alamitos Futurity.

11) FIRENZE FIRE (c, Poseidon’s Warrior–My Every Wish, by Langfuhr)
O/B-Mr. Amore Stables (FL). T-Jason Servis. Lifetime Record: GISW, 7-4-1-0, $589,100.
Jan. 22 TDN Top 12 Rank: 10
Last Start: 2nd, GIII Withers S., AQU, Feb. 3
Accomplishments Include: 1st, GI Champagne S., BEL, Oct. 7; 1st, GIII Sanford S., SAR, July 22; 1st, Jerome S., AQU, Jan. 13.
Next Start: Possible for GIII Gotham S., AQU, Mar. 10
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 24

I can’t state with confidence that Firenze Fire looks cut out to be a 10-furlong horse, but you have to give him credit for shouldering tough assignments square-on and putting up a fight against some of the heavier hitters in the division. The ace in his past performance cut, of course, is his GI Champagne S. score last autumn over eventual 2-year-old champ Good Magic, and his connections have previously stated that the only two poor races in his six-race career coincided with the colt not feeling right (cough before the GI Hopeful S. fourth; fever prior to Breeders’ Cup seventh). He closed into a dawdling pace to eke out a win in the Jan. 13 Jerome S., and in Saturday’s nine-furlong Withers he was an all-out second behind the up-and-coming (and more physically imposing) Avery Island. Firenze Fire’s connections have indicated a desire to remain on the New York prep path to Louisville, and that will mean a decision about whether or not to cut back to a mile for the GIII Gotham S. Mar. 10 prior to considering the nine-furlong GII Wood Memorial four weeks later.

12) FREE DROP BILLY (c, Union RagsTrensa, by Giant’s Causeway)
O-Albaugh Family Stables LLC. B-Helen K. Groves Revokable Trust (KY). T-Dale Romans. Sales history: $200,000 KEESEP yrl. Lifetime Record: GISW, 6-2-3-0, $495,220.
Jan 22 TDN Top 12 Rank: N/A
Last Start: 2nd, GII Holy Bull S., GP, Feb. 3.
Accomplishments Include: 1st, GI Breeders’ Futurity, KEE, Oct.7; 2nd, GI Hopeful S. Sept. 4.
Next Start: Uncommited
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 14

Free Drop Billy latches onto the Derby Top 12 rankings this week with a long list of hopefuls nipping at his heels for placement on the main body of this list. His 2018 debut on Saturday was capable enough–this $200,000 KEESEP colt fought to attain a contending position in the Holy Bull S. and was on even terms with winner Audible at the quarter pole–but it reads more of a “work in progress” effort than a powerful, breakthrough try. “He ran hard. He tried hard. The winner was tough,” said jockey Luis Saez. “Maybe after the layoff he got a little tired, but he tried. I think he’ll be ready for his next start.” His juvenile past performances signal that Free Drop Billy is a player at the graded stakes level, because if you forgive his inexplicable ninth (beaten 29 1/4 lengths) in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, he owns two wins and a pair of close seconds against solid competition, including a four-length triumph in the GI Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland.

On the Bubble (in alphabetical order)
Ax Man (Misremembered): Half to champ Indian Blessing aims for GII San Vicente.
Choo Choo (English Channel): Won Cal Derby as fave; back working at GGF.
Combatant (Scat Daddy): Back working at OP for Asmussen.
Copper Bullet (More Than Ready): ‘TDN Rising Star’ idle since Spa with five FG works.
Enticed (Medaglia d’Oro): Beaten fave, no punch in Holy Bull.
Exclamation Point (Concord Point): Classic Empire half won OP 6f MSW debut.
High North (Midnight Lute): Cox says “90% sure” for Southwest.
Hollywood Star (Malibu Moon): Soph debut on Sat. in Davis at Tampa.
Lombo (Graydar): Wired GIII Lewis S. on Saturday.
Marconi (Tapit): ‘TDN Rising Star’ started slow, closed OK in Withers.
Mask (Tapit): Undisclosed setback to cost this ‘TDN Rising Star’ two weeks training.
Montauk (Medaglia d’Oro): ‘TDN Rising Star’ back working at PBD.
Nero (Pioneerof the Nile): Bullet on Fri. in prep for San Vicente.
Noble Indy (Take Charge Indy): 2-for-2 ‘TDN Rising Star’ likely for stakes next.
Restoring Hope (Giant’s Causeway): MSW winner at 4-5 for Baffert on Fri
Retirement Fund (Eskendereya): 2-for-2 ‘TDN Rising Star’ could try Risen Star.
Sporting Chance (Tiznow): GI Hopeful S.-winning ‘TDN Rising Star’ goes next in Southwest.
Strike Power (Speightstown): 2-for-2 ‘TDN Rising Star’ could stretch out in GP stakes.
Tiz Mischief (Into Mischief): Third, but no big kick in Holy Bull.
Untamed Domain (Animal Kingdom): Might try dirt in Tampa Derby.
Vouch (Yes It’s True): Decent third behind Catholic Boy, Avery Island.
World of Trouble (Kantharos): Recent romp by 13 3/4 lengths in Pasco at Tam.
Zulfikhar (Bodemeister): ‘TDN Rising Star’ to make stakes debut in San Vicente.

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