TDN Top Triple Crown Contenders

TDN Derby Top 20 for April 10

Now that the big “power weekend” of coast-to-coast nine-furlong preps is behind us, the GI Kentucky Derby rankings have solidified enough to graduate from the top 12 in the division to the top 20. To illustrate how much has changed in the past three months, the two highest-rated prospects currently occupying the No. 1 and No. 2 rankings hadn’t even made their racing debuts when this feature was first published for the season, and the colt now clocking in at No. 4 was considered an overseas-based turf specialist. Please note that the rankings below are independent from the “Road to the Derby” points leaderboard that Churchill Downs will use to determine starting berths; that list can be accessed here.

1) MAGNUM MOON (c, Malibu MoonDazzling Song, by Unbridled’s Song)
‘TDN Rising Star’ O-Robert E. & Lawana L. Low. B-Ramona S. Bass, LLC (KY). T-Todd Pletcher. Sales history: $380,000 yrl KEESEP ’16. Lifetime Record: GSW, 3-3-0-0, $577,800.
Apr. 3 TDN Top 12 Rank: 2
Last Start: 1st, GII Rebel S., OP, Mar. 17.
Next Start: GI Arkansas Derby, OP, Apr. 14
Equineline PPs. Caulfield on Magnum Moon.
KY Derby Points: 50

Magnum Moon retains the top spot on this week’s Top 12 because I’m betting that he’ll deliver the most impressive performance of all the nine-furlong preps in Saturday’s GI Arkansas Derby. This three-for-three ‘TDN Rising Star’ made quite an impression in his stakes debut over the same Oaklawn surface when winning the Mar. 17 GII Rebel S., and he stands apart from other lightly raced contenders based on his determined, level-headed professionalism and what appears to be a still-developing tactical ability to put himself into a prominent position while responding to more aggressive handling when called upon to do so. Want more reasons to like this $380,000 KEESEP Malibu Moon colt’s chances? He imparts an in-race grace under pressure that belies his May 9 foaling date, he’s handled three very different dirt racing surfaces while stretching out in distance each time, he’s run some fast-figure races (without looking all-out when doing so), and has a solid pedigree that stamps him as a stayer capable of carrying speed. Trainer Todd Pletcher is holding a loaded hand with four Kentucky Derby contenders ranked within the top eight on this list, but the gamble here is that he’s saving the biggest and best breakthrough for last.

 

2) JUSTIFY (c, Scat DaddyStage Magic, by Ghostzapper)
‘TDN Rising Star’ O-China Horse Club, Head of Plains Partners LLC, Starlight Racing & WinStar Farm. B- John D. Gunther (KY). T-Bob Baffert. Sales history: $500,000 yrl KEESEP ’16. Lifetime Record: GISW, 3-3-0-0, $666,000.
Apr. 3 TDN Top 12 Rank: 5
Last Start: 1st, GI Santa Anita Derby, SA, Apr. 7
Next Start: GI Kentucky Derby, CD, May 5
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 100

By the time the field ran a furlong and crossed under the finish wire for the first time in Saturday’s GI Santa Anita Derby, you got a sense that Justify would have things his own way on the lead without pressure from his main rival, Bolt d’Oro (Medaglia d’Oro). And once they hit the backstretch through splits of :23.96 and :47.85, it was clear that this undefeated $500,000 KEESEP Scat Daddy colt was as good as gone. It’s no small feat to go from unraced maiden to Grade I winner in a span of 48 days, and the ease with which Justify stretched out to nine furlongs means he didn’t have an overly demanding race four weeks ahead of the Kentucky Derby. But this ‘TDN Rising Star’ hasn’t had the opportunity yet to show us what he can do when having to withstand multiple in-race attacks, and I need to see that before granting him kingpin status. While I agree that Justify’s ability ceiling is incredibly high and that he’s the most likely candidate to eventually be the dominant horse in his division, that’s different from confidently backing him as the favorite in a wild 20-horse field going 10 furlongs in front of 150,000 screaming fans after never having shipped away from his home track before. So for now I’ll treat Justify with a hefty dose of long-term respect while taking a slightly contrarian position against him in the short run.

 

3) 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, 6-4-1-1, $1,016,000.
Apr. 3 TDN Top 12 Rank: 2
Last Start: 2nd, GI Santa Anita Derby, SA, Apr. 7
Accomplishments Include: 1st, GI Del Mar Futurity, DMR, Sept. 4; 1st GI FrontRunner S., SA, Sept. 30. 3rd GI Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, SA, Nov. 4; 1st GII San Felipe S., SA, Mar. 10.
Next Start: GI Kentucky Derby, CD, May 5
Equineline PPs. Caulfield on Bolt d’Oro.
KY Derby Points: 104.

Owner/trainer Mick Ruis and jockey Javier Castellano made a shrewd decision to not hustle this $630,000 FTSAUG Medaglia d’Oro colt out of the gate to engage in a merciless pace battle with front-running Justify, in effect trading not winning the battle (Santa Anita Derby) for the greater good of having a fresher, fitter horse for the overall war (Kentucky Derby). Bolt d’Oro had just exited an exhausting, demanding GII San Felipe S. four weeks earlier, he didn’t need to win on Saturday to rack up Derby qualifying points, and he heads to Louisville without having yet shown the world the “100%” effort that Ruis has been saying that his star colt is capable of unleashing. If you want to nitpick, it’s true that “Bolt” hasn’t crossed the finish wire first ahead of any other horse since Sep. 30, and the last time he raced in a large field (Breeders’ Cup) his issues out of the gate cost him early positioning and the race. But from a training/management perspective, the bet here is that Ruis will have him peaking at the right time on the first Saturday in May.

 

4) MENDELSSOHN (c, Scat DaddyLeslie’s Lady, by Tricky Creek)
O-Michael B. Tabor, Mrs. John Magnier & Derrick Smith.
B-Clarkland Farm (KY). T-Aiden O’Brien. Sales history: $3,000,000 yrl KEESEP ’16. Lifetime Record: GISW, 7-4-1-0, $1,961,137.
Mar. 27 TDN Top 12: N/A
Last Start: 1st, G2 UAE Derby, MEY, Mar.31
Accomplishments: 1st, GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, DMR, Nov.3; 2nd, G1 Darley Dewhurst S., NEW, Oct. 14
Next Start: GI Kentucky Derby, CD, May 5
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 100.

This $3 million KEESEP Scat Daddy colt heads stateside to the Derby justifiably ranked as having the best chance to win the race compared to all the previous foreign-based horses who have attempted that difficult task. I’m putting more emphasis on the fact that he’s A) a half-brother to four-time female American dirt champion Beholder (Henny Hughes) and B) already demonstrated that he can handle counter-clockwise, tighter-turn United States racing (winning from post one in the GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf) than I am on his 18 1/2-length blowout win in track-record time the GII UAE Derby (which I rate as an aberration on a speed-favoring track against questionable competition). Mendelssohn is quick from the gate but does not necessarily need the lead to win, and I envision him as a stern stalker who can force the Derby pace from a few lengths back while still having enough stamina in reserve to stick around late and make things interesting.

 

5) GOOD MAGIC (c, CurlinGlinda the Good, by Hard Spun)
O-e Five Thoroughbreds & Stonestreet Stables. B-Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings (KY). T-C Brown. Sales History: $1,000,000 yrl KEESEP ’16. Lifetime Record: Ch. 2yo, GISW, 5-2-2-1, $1,855,000.
Apr. 3 TDN Top 12 Rank: 5
Last Start: 1st, GII Blue Grass S., KEE, Apr. 7
Accomplishments Include: 1st GI Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, SA, Nov. 4.; 2nd GI Champagne S., BEL, Oct. 7.
Next Start: GI Kentucky Derby, CD, May 5.
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 134

Good Magic’s rebound in Saturday’s GII Toyota Blue Grass S. was exactly what he needed to deliver in order to remain a legitimate upper-crust Derby threat. Just as importantly, the effort wasn’t so overly taxing that it’s going to derail his development. Overcoming post 10 in a 14-horse Blue Grass, this million-dollar KEESEP Curlin colt always appeared in the hunt while stalking in fifth, then edged up methodically to a dueling duo on the far turn. One pacemaker cracked while the other fought on determinedly, and Good Magic was able to strong-arm the no-quit Flameaway (Scat Daddy) as they raced together through the final furlong, with Good Magic looking like he still has room to improve. Because of his elite status as an Eclipse Award winner and Breeders’ Cup victor, there was considerable pressure on Good Magic to perform at an impeccably high level earlier in the year, and I have to admit I view him in more of a positive light now that I’ve seen him recoup and regroup after appearing short and punchless in his 2018 debut. Not being the horse with the proverbial “target” on his back seems to suit him, and he’ll be a slightly under-the-radar danger in Louisville.

 

6) AUDIBLE (c, Into MischiefBlue Devil Bel, by Gilded Time)
O-WinStar, China Horse Club, Head of Plains Partners, Starlight Racing. B-Oak Bluff Stables LLC (NY). T-Todd Pletcher. Sales history: $175,000 FTNSAR yrl ’16; $500,000 FTFMAR 2yo ’17. Lifetime Record: MGSW, 5-4-0-1, $882,920.
Apr. 3 TDN Top 12 Rank: 4
Last Start: 1st, GI Florida Derby, GP, Mar. 31
Accomplishments: 1st, GII Holy Bull S., GP, Feb. 3.
Next Start: GI Kentucky Derby, CD, May 5.
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 110

Audible has now won four straight races, stepping up all the way from New York-bred maiden company to a Grade I winner’s circle. A narrative that goes something like “he’s a little lackadaisical but delivers when it counts” is shaping up to be his storyline heading into the Kentucky Derby. But is that a legit characterization of this $500,000 FTFMAR son of Into Mischief? It was no secret that Audible’s workouts leading up to his GI Xpressbet Florida Derby romp made him appear a little disengaged, and there was a point about five furlongs out in that race where he dropped back noticeably. Yet jockey John Velazquez never panicked, and Audible sparked to life and rolled home with the outcome never in doubt. So Audible has proven he can deliver a sustained, powerful bid, but he has also capitalized on favorable pace circumstances and/or no-shows by well-regarded rivals in achieving those last two wins. He’ll need to assert in Louisville that he is focused enough to make his own breaks–i.e., establishing a prime stalking spot in a chaotic 20-horse field–so he can be in position to fire authoritatively down the lane.

 

7) NOBLE INDY (c, Take Charge Indy–Noble Maz, by Storm Boot)
O-WinStar Farm LLC & Repole Stable. B-WinStar Farm LLC. T-Todd Pletcher. Sales history: $45,000 RNA yrl KEESEP ’16. Lifetime Record: GSW, 4-3-0-1, $691,600.
Apr. 3 TDN Top 12 Rank: 8
Last Start: 1st, Louisiana Derby, FG, Mar. 24.
Next Start: GI Kentucky Derby, CD, May 5
Equineline PPs. Caulfield on Noble Indy.
KY Derby Points: 110

Noble Indy is unlikely to land atop many handicappers’ lists as the “likeliest winner” of the Kentucky Derby, but it wouldn’t be a stretch to say he might wind up as the most tantalizing overlay in the betting in terms of actual ability versus perceived odds. This $45,000 KEESEP Take Charge Indy colt gives the impression that he’s still in development mode but figuring it out fast. When Noble Indy was third in the GII Risen Star S. after getting roughed up a bit at the break, jockey John Velazquez was confident afterward that the try was useful because he “wanted to give him a good schooling and see how he reacted.” With blinkers added for his next start, the GII Louisiana Derby, it was evident that this ‘TDN Rising Star’ learned his lesson, because Noble Indy responded by re-rallying when headed in the long Fair Grounds stretch, putting away two competitors with a late surge before galloping out smartly.

 

8) VINO ROSSO (c, CurlinMythical Bride, by Street Cry {Ire})
O-Repole Stable & St. Elias Stable. B- John D. Gunther (KY). T-Todd Pletcher. Sales history: $410,000 yrl KEESEP ’16. Lifetime Record: GSW, 5-3-0-1, $620,500.
Apr. 3 TDN Top 12 Rank: N/A
Last Start: 1st, GII Wood Memorial S., AQU, Apr. 7.
Next Start: GI Kentucky Derby, CD, May 5.
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 107

Vino Rosso has been poised for a breakout performance for several months now, and he finally put it all together on Saturday with an off-the-pace, foul-claim-surviving rally in the GII Wood Memorial S. This $410,000 KEESEP Curlin colt seems to have found his niche rallying from farther back rather than pressing the pace a bit closer like he did in his four previous starts, but I am hesitant to take his Wood victory at face value because it came up on paper as the weakest of Saturday’s nine-furlong preps and featured an overly ambitious lone pacemaker setting up the race for closers by laying down :22.96 and :46.69 solo splits. Jockey John Velazquez has now ridden three of trainer Todd Pletcher’s four recent graded-stakes Derby prep winners (Audible, Noble Indy and Vino Rosso), and numerous reports indicate he is sticking with Vino Rosso in Louisville.

 

9) FLAMEAWAY (c, Scat DaddyVulcan Rose, by Fusaichi Pegasus)
O-John Oxley; B-Phoenix Rising Farms (ON). T-Mark Casse. Sales history: $150,000 yrl KEEJAN ’16; $400,000 yrl SARAUG ’16. Lifetime Record: MGSW, 9-5-2-0, $704,834.
Apr. 3 TDN Top 12 Rank: 12
Last Start: 2nd, GII Blue Grass S., KEE, Apr. 7
Accomplishments: 1st, GIII Bourbon S., KEE, Oct. 8; 1st, GIII Sam F. Davis S., TAM, Feb. 10.
Next Start: GI Kentucky Derby, CD, May 5
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 70

Flameaway isn’t the type of horse who catches your eye based on his past performances or his speed figures. But there’s something genuinely admirable about the way he handles pressure on the lead, doesn’t back down from a fight, and takes to any type of footing (with wins on fast dirt, firm turf, mud, slop, and a synthetic surface). He’s now earned consecutive Grade II seconds in the Tampa Derby and Blue Grass S., and this $400,000 FTSAUG Scat Daddy colt is learning enough to put it all together sometime soon, perhaps at an inflated mutuel in the Derby. Scrutinizing Flameaway’s company lines, it’s noteworthy that he’s already won a race over No. 8-ranked Wood Memorial S. winner Vino Rosso (in the Feb. 10 GIII Sam F. Davis S.), and in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf last autumn, Flameaway was beaten only three lengths by Mendelssohn, the No. 4 horse on this week’s list.

 

10) QUIP (c, Distorted HumorPrincess Ash, by Indian Charlie)
O-Winstar Farm LLC, China Horse Club International & SF Racing LLC. B-WinStar Farm LLC (KY). T-Rodolphe Brisset. Lifetime Record: GSW, 4-3-1-0, $282,800.
Mar. 27 TDN Top 12 Rank: N/A
Last Start: 1st, GII Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby, TAM, Mar. 10.
Next Start: GI Arkansas Derby, OP, Apr. 14
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 50

Quip’s connections scratched him out of the Blue Grass two days prior to the race to reroute this ‘TDN Rising Star’ to Saturday’s Arkansas Derby. The move allows this son of Distorted Humor to take aim at a Grade I race after upsetting the GII Tampa Bay Derby at 19-1. This is a colt whose three wins from four starts all came when he was either on the lead or forcing the pace (he was farther back and steadied when seventh in his lone defeat, the key-race GII Kentucky Jockey Club S.), and he could be an intriguing proposition if he runs right to the front at Oaklawn in his second start back off a winter layoff, carving out sensible fractions to try to stay the distance in a race where nine furlongs will be an open question for every entrant.

 

11) 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 ’16 yrl. Lifetime Record: MGISP, 4-1-2-1, $472,000
Mar. 27 TDN Top 12 Rank: 12
Last Start: 2nd, GII Rebel S., OP, Mar. 17
Accomplishments Include: 3rd GI Los Alamitos Futurity, LRC, Dec.9; 2nd GI Frontrunner S., SA, Sept. 30; 2nd GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, DMR, Nov. 4
Next Start: GI Arkansas Derby, OP, Apr. 14.
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 34

It’s now or never for Solomini on Saturday. He’s currently parked in 19th place on the Derby qualifying system, but more important than the points, he has not had an official win since his maiden debut Sep. 2 and is in need of a truly sharp performance in the Arkansas Derby to build momentum for any sort of viable Classics bid. He always seems on the cusp of a breakthrough effort, but is gaining a reputation as an “always something” horse. He lost focus when he hit the lead in the Breeders’ Cup, got DQ’d in the stretch of the GI Los Alamitos Futurity, and had his momentum stifled when caught on the heels of a rival motoring off the turn in the Rebel S. His company lines are replete with higher-ranked Derby hopefuls–Magnum Moon, Bolt d’Oro, Good Magic–and Solomini is maybe one race away from potentially finding his own sweet spot to prove he’s on level terms with those contenders.

 

12) ENTICED (c, Medaglia d’OroIt’s Tricky, by Mineshaft)
O-Godolphin Racing. B-Godolphin (KY). T-Kiaran McLaughlin. Lifetime Record: MGSW & GISP, 6-3-1-1, $595,680.
Apr. 3 TDN Top 12 Rank: 9
Last Start: 2nd, GII Wood Memorial S., AQU, Arp. 7
Accomplishments Include: 1st, GII Kentucky Jockey Club S., CD, Nov. 25; 3rd, GI Champagne S., BEL, Oct. 7; 1st GIII Gotham S., AQU, Mar. 10
Next Start: GI Kentucky Derby, CD, May 5
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 103

Enticed survived some heat-of-battle bumping in the stretch run of Saturday’s Wood Memorial and might have had his number elevated had the race been in a jurisdiction where the stewards are a little more trigger-happy with disqualifications. He settled as the leader of the main body of the field behind a breakaway pacemaker and then fended off eventual winner Vino Rosso as best as he could as the beaten fave. I still have this Medaglia d’Oro colt’s big stretch run in the Nov. 25 GII Kentucky Jockey Club S. etched in my mind as the epitome of what Enticed is capable of on his best day, but he hasn’t truly stamped himself as a “Wow!” horse while taking a path of least resistance (the New York preps) to the Derby. Enticed has unquestionable ability to crank up for long, sustained runs, but as a big-framed colt he can be thrown off his game by anything that gets in his way, and being roughed up while pinned down on the rail in the Wood did not exactly look like something that emboldened him, either.

 

13) 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 ’16. Lifetime Record: GISW, 8-2-3-2, $625,220.
Apr. 3 TDN Top 12 Rank: N/A
Last Start: 3rd, GII Blue Grass S., KEE, Apr. 7
Accomplishments Include: 1st, GI Breeders’ Futurity, KEE, Oct.7; 2nd, GI Hopeful S. Sept. 4.
Next Start: Possible for GI Kentucky Derby, CD, May 5
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 44

Everyone will focus on how badly Free Drop Billy lost his momentum late in the lane when Sporting Chance (Tiznow) ducked out and cut him off, but he also overcame positional trouble earlier in Saturday’s Blue Grass S. that should not go unnoted. He was three wide on the first turn, got shuffled back a bit when trying to pick a spot about five-eighths out, regained a fluid stride on the far turn when again giving up ground three wide, and was chugging home pretty well after spinning six deep into the stretch before having to slam on the brakes a sixteenth from the wire. He wasn’t going to catch Good Magic for the win, but second place was in play, and getting moved up from fourth to third via DQ did double his Derby qualifying points from 10 to 20, which could end up being significant.

 

14) MY BOY JACK (c, Creative CauseGold N Shaft, by Mineshaft)
O-Don’t Tell My Wife Stables & Monomoy Stables LLC. B-Brereton C. Jones (KY). T-Keith Desormeaux.
Sales History: $14,000 RNA wlg KEENOV ’15; $20,000 yrl KEESEP ’16. Lifetime Record: GSW, 9-2-3-2, $525,145.
Apr. 3 TDN Top 12 Rank: N/A
Last Start: 3rd, GII Louisiana Derby, FG, Mar. 24
Accomplishments Include: 1st, GIII Southwest S., OP, Feb. 19; 1st, Zuma Beach S., SA, Oct. 9
Next Start: GIII Lexington S., KEE, Apr. 14
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 12

My Boy Jack will attempt to slip back into Derby relevance via Saturday’s GIII Lexington S. at Keeneland according to a Daily Racing Form report. It’s the last chance to grab qualifying points on the calendar, and this $20,000 KEESEP Creative Cause colt is currently ranked 20th on the preference list. He needs to prove he wasn’t just a mudlark when ripping away to 4 1/4-length GIII Southwest S. win at Oaklawn back in February, and his last-to-first attempt in the Louisiana Derby wasn’t a bad effort considering he was third and beaten less than two lengths. Should he qualify for the Derby, he’ll be a sneaky-dangerous type of contender, especially if the projected speed horses all decide to fight it out on the front end.

 

15) HOFBURG (c, Tapit-Soothing Touch, by Touch Gold)
O/B-Juddmonte Farms Inc. (KY). T-Bill Mott. Lifetime Record: GISP, 3-1-1-0, $227,950.
Apr. 3 TDN Top 12 Rank: N/A
Last Start: 2nd, GI Florida Derby, GP, Mar. 31.
Next Start: Possible for GI Kentucky Derby, CD, May 5.
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 40

This Tapit homebred for Juddmonte Farms mustered up an encouraging try when ambitiously spotted in the Florida Derby off a maiden win and just two previous starts. It’s always an eye-opener when trainer Bill Mott opts for such a lofty goal with a relatively inexperienced young horse, and Hofburg was widest off the bend for home in Florida Derby yet never looked discouraged when giving chase to a much more experienced winner in Audible. Should his connections decide on a Kentucky Derby start (Hofburg right now is 17th on qualifying points) this is the sort of colt who could be capable of a bombs-away showing while totally ignored in the betting.

 

16) COMBATANT (c, Scat Daddy-Border Dispute, by Boundary)
O-Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC & Willis Horton Racing LLC. B-Paget Bloodstock. T-Steve Asmussen. Sales history: $320,000 yrl KEESEP ’16. Lifetime Record: MGSP, 6-1-3-1, $338.550.
Apr. 3 TDN Top 12 Rank: N/A
Last Start: 3rd, GII Rebel S., OP, Mar. 17.
Next Start: GI Arkansas Derby, OP, Apr. 14
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 22

Combatant has been plying his trade at Oaklawn this winter, racking up a series of second- and third-place finishes while close behind a handful of well-meant winners. As a result, you can’t discount his chances entirely in the Arkansas Derby, but he’s hardly the type of horse you run to the windows to back with zeal because this $320,000 KEESEP Scat Daddy colt doesn’t have any obvious excuses for not punching through to the next level. He’s been drawn in posts nine and ten for his last two route attempts; perhaps a better gate assignment will up his chances on Saturday. Stamina shouldn’t be an issue–he’s the only horse within the Top 20 to have made every single start of his career (six of ’em) at a mile or longer.

 

17) PROMISES FULFILLED (c, ShacklefordMarquee Delivery, by Marquetry)
O-Robert J. Baron. B-David Jacobs (KY). T-Dale Romans. Sales history: $37,000 yrl KEESEP ’16. Lifetime Record: GSW, 5-3-0-1, $337,280.
Apr. 3 TDN Top 12 Rank: N/A
Last Start: 9th, GI Florida Derby, GP, Mar. 31
Accomplishments: 1st, GII Fountain of Youth S., GP, Mar. 3.
Next Start: Possible for GI Kentucky Derby, CD, May 5
Equineline PPs.
Kentucky Derby Points: 52

You have to respect trainer Dale Romans’s “live by the sword, die by the sword” reasoning in explaining away how Promises Fulfilled got cooked in the Florida Derby duel that resulted in his last-place finish. Romans is on record as saying he’s going to draw a line through that performance, see how the colt rebounds, and if all is well, start him in the Derby while not trying to mess with this $37,000 KEESEP son of Shackleford’s main asset, which is speed on the lead. Promises Fulfilled figures on paper with Derby-caliber colts based on his previous allowance and stakes form, but don’t make the mistake of thinking he’ll face any less pace pressure in Louisville. A win and a decent third over the Churchill strip are also in his favor.

 

18) BRAVAZO (c, Awesome AgainTiz o’ Gold, by Cee’s Tizzy)
O/B-Calumet Farm. T-D. Wayne Lukas. Lifetime Record: GSW & GISP, 8-3-1-1, $436,528.
Apr. 3 TDN Top 12 Rank: N/A
Last Start: 8th, GII Louisiana Derby, FG, Mar. 24.
Accomplishments: 1st, GII Risen Star S., FG, Feb. 17; 2nd, GI Breeders’ Futurity, KEE, Oct. 7.
Next Start: GI Kentucky Derby, CD, May 5
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 54

Bravazo’s first two starts in 2018 produced wins by a neck and a nose, with his GII Risen Star S. upset at 21-1 odds being the focal point on his resume. He was subsequently backed to second-favoritism in the GII Louisiana Derby off the strength of those victories, but was pasted by 21 lengths, finishing eighth after lugging out on both turns. Still, the 54 points he’s garnered are enough to rank him tenth in terms of qualifying for a starting spot in Louisville. Bravazo was second in his only career Grade I stakes try last October at 47-1 odds at Keeneland, and it’s worth mentioning that he did break his maiden by open lengths over the Churchill strip last September when pressing the pace in a one-turn mile.

 

19) RUNAWAY GHOST (c, GhostzapperRose’s Desert, by Desert Gold)
O/B-Joe Peacock. T-Todd W. Fincher. Sales history: $240,000 RNA yrl KEESEP ’16. Lifetime Record: GSW, 7-4-2-0, $563,510.
Apr. 3 TDN Top 12 Rank: N/A
Last Start: 1st, GIII Sunland Derby, SUN, Mar. 25.
Next Start: GI Kentucky Derby, CD, May 5.
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 50

Whenever a horse qualifies for the Derby via the New Mexico prep-race series, a “lovable long shot” story seems destined to follow (think Mine That Bird at 50-1 in 2009). How can you not root for a one-horse stable headed by an octogenarian owner/breeder whose Ghostzapper homebred got bid up just shy of a $250,000 RNA at KEESEP and the gent refused all subsequent offers to sell? Runaway Ghost is now four-for-seven lifetime and has more than doubled his auction asking price in earnings, with his GIII Sunland Derby score amassing him 50 qualifying points, currently good for a 13th-place eligibility ranking.

 

20) GRONKOWSKI (Lonhro {Aus}-Four Sugars, by Lookin At Lucky)
O-Phoenix Thoroughbred Limited. B-Epic Thoroughbreds LLC. T-Jeremy Noseda. Sales history: $75,000 wnl KEENOV ’15; $67,415 yrl TATOCT ’16; $404,492 2yo TATBRE ’17. Lifetime Record: 6-4-1-0, $135,644.
Apr. 3 TDN Top 12 Rank: N/A
Last Start: 1st, 32red Burradon S, NEW, Mar. 30.
Next Start: GI Kentucky Derby, CD, May 5
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: Qualified via European Road to the KY Derby

After Gronkowski earned his way into a Derby berth by winning the European Road to the Kentucky Derby points battle last week, the predominant wise guy chatter about him centered on how his presence will skew the Derby betting by a few percentage points. Here’s a horse who should legitimately go off north of 60-1 odds, but because he shares a name with a well-known, highly animated professional football player who is likely to attend the Derby and get substantial media coverage, you can expect casual stateside money to pound his price below 20-1. Gronkowski has never run on dirt nor beyond a mile, and he won the Burradon S. at Newcastle by settling towards the back of the pack and rallying late for a 1 1/4-length, driven-out victory.