The Inaugural TDN Derby Top 12, Presented by WinStar Farm

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Catholic Boy | Sarah K. Andrew

By T. D. Thornton

The second Monday in January doesn’t have much in common with the first Saturday in May–with the exception that the inaugural TDN Derby Top 12 has arrived to herald the coming of the seemingly far-off Triple Crown season. The initial sophomore rankings, as a whole, are based on 2-year-old form. But there’s a speculative element built into the equation, because the goal isn’t to create a pecking order entirely reliant on what these newly turned 3-year-olds did last year. Instead, the idea is to polish off the crystal ball and project forward how these still-developing horses will blossom over the next 117 days until it’s post time for the GI Kentucky Derby.

1) CATHOLIC BOY (c, More Than ReadySong of Bernadette, by Bernardini)
O-Robert V. LaPenta. 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.
Last Start: 1st, GII Remsen S., AQU, Dec. 2.
Accomplishments Include: 1st, GIII With Anticipation S., SAR, Aug. 30.
Next Start: Possible for GIII Sam F. Davis S., TAM, Feb. 10
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 10
Catholic Boy’s versatility over different surfaces, his willingness to fight through adversity, and his ability to reel in solid stakes rivals at nine furlongs all combined to earn him top billing on the initial TDN Top 12 list of 2018–even though two horses ranked behind him are the ones who’ll be vying for the juvenile championship honors. This colt began his career on turf largely because of a lack of two-turn summer dirt races for 2YOs, and his Grade III grass score at Saratoga was remarkable for the fact that he looked hopelessly blocked yet kicked clear decisively. His ground-saving fourth in the GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (beaten only 1 1/2 lengths) left the impression that Catholic Boy has a very high comfort level with being covered up and/or pinned down near the rail, and that race essentially served as a prep for transitioning effectively to dirt. In the GII Remsen S., Catholic Boy once again stalked mid-pack, and when he emerged from mild traffic to commence a measured bid three furlongs out, it was clear he had the leaders at his mercy even though he was not set down for a drive until turning for home. After a month of gearing down at Bridlewood Farm in Ocala, he should soon be set for a series of works that lead to a possible 2018 debut in the GIII Davis S. at nearby Tampa Bay Downs.

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.
Last Start: 1st, GI Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, SA, Nov. 4.
Accomplishments Include: 2nd, GI Champagne S., BEL, Oct. 7.
Next Start: Possible for GII Fountain of Youth S., GP, Mar. 3
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 24
At this point in the season, Good Magic’s maiden-breaking 11-1 upset in the GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile represents the chief enigma in terms of getting a good read on the juveniles who were most highly rated going into that championship race. Was his stalking, responsive, drawing-away win merely the tip of the iceberg in terms of what we might expect moving forward into 2018? Or do you make the case that the solid favorite in that race, Bolt d’Oro (Medaglia d’Oro), endured such a brutal trip that he never attained a contending position, thus depriving both colts of a truer test of their abilities? You certainly can’t say that this million-dollar KEESEP colt hadn’t been keeping good company prior to his Breeders’ Cup win: Good Magic debuted as the odds-on favorite in a maiden race on the GI Travers S. undercard at Saratoga, and off that decent second-place try he stretched out to a one-turn mile in the GI Champagne S. and got beat only half a length by an impressive winner while striding out three lengths clear of a next-out Grade II winner. He’s been freshened on the farm for the past two months; TDN‘s Bill Finley reported on Sunday that owner Bob Edwards said Good Magic is being pointed to the GII Fountain of Youth S. at Gulfstream Mar. 3.

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.
Last Start: 1st, GIII Sham S., SA, Jan. 6
Accomplishments Include: 1st, GI Los Alamitos Futurity, LRC, Dec. 9
Next Start: Uncommitted
Equineline PPs. Caulfield on McKinzie.
KY Derby Points: 20
Each one of this ‘TDN Rising Star’s three races so far has been an exercise in measured progression, building from a seven-furlong debut score to a two-turn Los Alamitos stakes win (via disqualification), and then a primed-to-pounce victory on Saturday going a mile in the GIII Sham S. In that 3 1/2-length win, McKinzie tracked the action three wide and about three lengths off the lead until 3 1/2 furlongs out, then was nudged along into closer contention prior to getting light encouragement at the top of the lane to peel away with ease from the all-out 14-1 pacemaker. McKinzie raced with blinkers removed for the first time in the Sham, which might have contributed to jockey Mike Smith’s push-button handling. “He looks great today,” trainer Bob Baffert told the Santa Anita notes team on Sunday. “Now I can sort of ease off him a little bit, find two spots–it could be here, it could be out of town–I don’t know yet.”

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.
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
For the better part of three months last summer and autumn, Bolt d’Oro was putting together one of those “man against boys” past performance blocks that can lead to juvenile championship honors and top spot in the pecking order for the Triple Crown classics. Then the starter sprung the latch for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, the undefeated 7-5 favorite bobbled and got fanned six wide into the clubhouse bend, and “Bolt” has essentially been trying to catch up to his own previously unblemished image ever since. Should we write off that trip-troubled third-place championship race over his home track and consider it a one-time aberration of form? Or was his failing to seriously contend against the strongest field he’d ever faced a signal that his period of dominance had already peaked? On Sunday, Bolt galloped at Santa Anita, four days after missing his first scheduled work since the Breeders’ Cup and undergoing a nuclear scan to assess what may be a pulled muscle. Owner/trainer Mick Ruis said his star colt “was a little stiff and off [from training] for three days because we wanted to be really careful and sure nothing was wrong.” He added that Bolt won’t make his anticipated 3YO debut in the seven-furlong GII San Vicente S. on Feb. 10 and will now aim for the GII San Felipe S. at 1 1/16 miles on Mar. 10 instead.

5) ENTICED (c, Medaglia d’OroIt’s Tricky, by Mineshaft)
O-Godolphin Racing. B-Godolphin (KY). T-Kiaran McLaughlin. Lifetime Record: GSW & GISP, 3-2-0-1, $213,880.
Last Start: 1st, GII Kentucky Jockey Club S., CD, Nov. 25.
Accomplishments Include: 3rd, GI Champagne S., BEL, Oct. 7.
Next Start: Aiming for GII Holy Bull S., GP, or GIII Withers S., AQU, both Feb. 3
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 12
Enticed asserted himself as a top-tier threat with a no-nonsense win in the Nov. 25 GII Kentucky Jockey Club S. that imparted a sense he might still have a few more gears that are not yet fully developed. Against a well-matched field of 13 rivals while making his first start around two turns (and under the lights), Enticed broke running, was unafraid to mix it up when in tight between foes on the clubhouse turn, then achieved a prominent first-flight placement on the backstretch run while snugly held. He responded with a six-wide rally off the turn when urged for run 2 1/2 furlongs out, then leveled off with good intensity after getting challenged one furlong from the finish. Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin has a Feb. 3 target picked out for Enticed’s 3-year-old debut, although whether that start is in the GII Holy Bull S. at Gulfstream or the GIII Withers S. at Aqueduct remains to be seen.

6) PRINCIPE GUILHERME (c, Tapit–Aubby K, by Street Sense)
‘TDN Rising Star’ O-Three Chimneys Farm. B-Three Chimneys Farm (KY). T-Steve Asmussen. Sales History: $600,000 wlg FTKNOV ’15. Lifetime Record: 2-2-0-0, $61,800.
Last Start: 1st, Allowance Optional Claiming, FG, Dec. 16
Next Start: Entered in GIII LeComte S., FG, Jan. 13
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 0
Will the devastating ease with which Principe Guilherme won his first two career tries (by a combined 18 lengths) be eclipsed by what he might do once he finally faces a stern challenge? He is the only member of the season-opening Top 12 to debut on this list without stakes experience, but this ‘TDN Rising Star’ will get his shot when he starts favored in Saturday’s GIII Lecomte S. at Fair Grounds. In his seven-furlong maiden debut at Churchill, this Tapit colt was somehow let go at 7-1 in the betting, yet displayed sharp natural speed, seemed to relish getting hooked (and then swatting away) early challengers, and responded zealously to vigorous stretch rousing (even while remaining on his left lead in the run to the wire). Principe Guilherme’s second career start was a near-effortless dismantling of a two-turn Fair Grounds allowance field at 2-5 odds in which he was hand-ridden home by 11 3/4 lengths. His stakes debut got a touch more interesting when the Lecomte was drawn, as Principe Guilherme landed in post 12 and will have to be tactically nimble considering there is no shortage of speed drawn to his inside.

7) FIRENZE FIRE (c, Poseidon’s Warrior–My Every Wish, by Langfuhr)
O-Mr. Amore Stables. B-Mr. Amore Stables (FL). T-Jason Servis. Lifetime Record: GISW, 5-3-0-0, $449,100.
Last Start: 7th, GI Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, SA, Nov. 4.
Accomplishments Include: 1st, GI Champagne S., BEL, Oct. 7; 1st, GIII Sanford S., SAR, July 22.
Next Start: Jerome S., AQU, Jan. 13
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 10
Firenze Fire spiked a fever but was not deemed ill enough to scratch from the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, and if you are willing to accept that explanation for his lackluster seventh-place finish, he certainly belongs with the division’s heavy hitters based on his Saratoga and Belmont stakes form. His Champagne win was particularly powerful, both in terms of how he won and what the horses behind him did in subsequent starts. Firenze Fire broke alertly, rated willingly, and accelerated smoothly a half mile out, then looped 11 rivals to finish with good energy into a solid pace. Champagne runner-up Good Magic upset the Juvenile four weeks later, and third-place finisher Enticed improved enough to win the Kentucky Jockey Club S. on Nov. 25. Firenze Fire’s connections are plotting a New York route to Louisville on the first Saturday in May; their colt had been installed as the even-money favorite for the canceled Jan. 1 Jerome S. that will be rescheduled for this Saturday, and he is expected to be similarly favored in the redrawn version of the race.

8) MASK (c, Tapit–Hidden Expression, by Yonaguska)
‘TDN Rising Star’ O-Lane’s End Racing. B-Gainesway Thoroughbreds (KY). T-Chad Brown. Sales History: $685,000 yrl KEESEP ’16. Lifetime Record: SW, 2-2-0-0, $105,760.
Last Start: 1st, Mucho Macho Man S., GP, Jan. 6
Next Start: Uncommitted
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 0
The sight of completely composed 7-5 favorite Mask gliding off the turn under a hand ride while the jockeys aboard the second-and third-favorites in Saturday’s Mucho Macho Man S. were flailing and driving several widening lengths behind him was enough in and of itself to get this lightly raced (2-for-2) potential powerhouse onto the Top 12 list ahead of other candidates who have deeper seasoning. Beyond what Mask showed on the track, his steady, focused state is what trainer Chad Brown and jockey Javier Castellano were raving about after the 6 1/4-length tally. “The horse has always trained like he was something special,” Brown said post-race. “Very professional. Second start, he handled himself perfect in the paddock.” Added Castellano: “The most important thing is he’s got such a good mind and is mature with everything he does.” Exiting this one-turn mile win, Brown said the next challenge for this ‘TDN Rising Star’ will be a two-turn affair that has yet to be decided.

9) TIZ MISCHIEF (c, Into Mischief–Indivia, by Tiznow)
O-Frank L. Jones, Jr. B-T/C Stable (KY). T-Dale Romans. Sales History: $55,000 yrl KEESEP ’16. Lifetime Record: GSP, 4-1-2-0, $88,000.
Last Start: 2nd, GII Kentucky Jockey Club S., CD, Nov. 25.
Next Start: Aiming for GII Holy Bull S., GP, Feb. 3
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 4
Tiz Mischief won a trip-troubled maiden-breaker going 1 1/16 miles at Keeneland last autumn, but his second-place try when getting pipped at the wire by a head bob in the Kentucky Jockey Club S. is the race that truly put an exclamation point on his 2YO campaign. Breaking from post 12, he commendably wove his way through traffic (avoiding the aftershocks of a spill on the clubhouse turn) before engaging and picking off most of the field on the backstretch run, then he decisively knifed between rivals three-eighths out. He cut the corner off the turn like a pro, had to shift off the heels of a tiring rival nearing the furlong marker, then split foes late to barrel home on just about even terms with No. 5-ranked Enticed (and galloping out past that winner after the wire).

10) AVERY ISLAND (c, Street Sense-Kinda Spicy, by A.P. Indy)
O-Godolphin Racing. B-Godolphin (KY). T-Kiaran McLaughlin. Lifetime Record: GSW, 4-2-1-0, $215,332.
Last Start: 2nd, GII Remsen S., AQU, Dec. 2.
Accomplishments Include: 1st, GII Nashua S., AQU, Nov. 5.
Next Start: Aiming for GII Holy Bull S., GP, or GIII Withers S., AQU, both Feb. 3
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 4
Big, long-striding Avery Island completes a two-colt tandem of Godolphin-owned and -bred candidates within the initial Top 12 rankings. Both this prospect and No. 5-ranked Enticed are currently based at Palm Meadows with trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, and the idea is to race one in New York and the other in Florida for two Derby points races on Feb. 3. Avery Island put together breakthrough efforts when winning a pair of one-turn route races by 10 combined lengths at Belmont (MSW) and Aqueduct (GII Nashua S.) last autumn, then capped off his juvenile season with a solid second behind top-ranked Catholic Boy when favored in the nine-furlong Remsen S. He was a composed stalker while on hold inside amid mild traffic in the early stages, then seemed to run only in spots (while taking dirt to the face). He lacked an explosive late kick to polish off the performance, but this colt stayed on well enough to believe he belongs with the division’s top dozen at this early juncture of the rankings.

11) SOLOMINI (c, Curlin–Surf Song, by Storm Cat)
O-Zayat Stables. B-Glenna R. Salyer DVM (KY). T-Bob Baffert. Sales History: $270,000 yrl KEESEP ’16. Lifetime Record: MGISP, 4-1-2-1, $472,000.
Last Start: 3rd, GI Los Alamitos Futurity, LRC, Dec. 9
Accomplishments Include: 2nd, GI Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, SA, Nov. 4; 2nd GI FrontRunner S., SA, Sept. 30.
Next Start: Uncommitted
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 14
Solomini rates a spot within the initial Top 12 rankings, but it’s unclear at this nascent stage of the season whether or not he’s solidly entrenched at this level. His company lines seem stronger than his actual on-track efforts, which to date include: 1) A lugging-in maiden sprint win; 2) Back-to-back, open-length seconds in the wakes of Good Magic and Bolt d’Oro, the two top juvenile Eclipse Award finalists, and 3) Finishing three-quarters of a length ahead of fellow Baffert trainee McKinzie in the GI Los Alamitos Futurity, only to have his number taken down via debatable disqualification. In that Los Al stakes, Solomini broke running, seemed to lose touch a bit down the backstretch, re-engaged on the far turn while four wide off the bend, then gained better focus the longer and deeper he got into the drive. McKinzie’s rebound win on Saturday in the Sham S. certainly flattered Solomini’s form. But Solomini–a grinder type of racehorse–is going to have to authoritatively take the next step to advance his own placement in the Triple Crown pecking order.

12) HOLLYWOOD STAR (c, Malibu Moon–Hollywood Story, by Wild Rush)
‘TDN Rising Star’ O-Albaugh Family Stables. B-George Krikorian (KY). T-Dale Romans. Sales History: $550,000 yrl KEESEP ’16. Lifetime Record: MGSP, 4-1-2-0, $116,520.
Last Start: 6th, GI Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, SA, Nov. 4
Accomplishments Include: 2nd, GII Saratoga Special S., SAR, Aug. 13; 2nd, GIII Iroquois S., CD, Sept. 16.
Next Start: Uncommitted
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 4
With the Derby still four months away, is there a huge talent gulf between the No. 12-ranked horse and the hordes of others who could be considered legitimate “On the Bubble” candidates? Not really. But in compiling this list, it can be a bit of a treasure hunt trying to come up with an under-the-radar colt who isn’t getting much hype. Hollywood Star’s sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile came after jockey Joel Rosario dropped him straight down onto the rail from post 12, and he was so far out of touch that the ground he gained in beating half the field is more impressive than the running line seems. And in the Sep. 16 GIII Iroquois S., this ‘TDN Rising Star’ wove through the pack to settle into stalk mode, split foes entering the far turn, then chipped away at the lone leader’s margin before finishing second and galloping out well past the winner. On Saturday, Hollywood Star had his first breeze at Gulfstream after spending some time unwinding on the farm in Lexington.

On the Bubble (in alphabetical order):

Arrival (Tapit): Much better-than-looks wide bid in CD stakes.

Ax Man (Misremembered): Baffert monster MSW winner.

High North (Midnight Lute): Brushed loose foe, rallied in CD stakes.

Marconi (Tapit): ‘TDN Rising Star’ aired in 9f Aqu MSW.

Montauk (Medaglia d’Oro): ‘TDN Rising Star’ won debut by 11 1/4 lengths.

Noble Indy (Take Charge Indy): Big-debut winner in GP allowance on Thursday.

Sporting Chance (Tiznow): GI Hopeful S.-winning ‘TDN Rising Star’ targets OP stakes.

Tap Rap Strike (Tapit): Bad stumble, then prolonged Remsen bid.

Tricks to Doo (Into Mischief): Coasted by 7 1/4 lengths in Tampa stakes.

Vision (Orb): Baffert to stretch out this Los Al sprint winner.

Vouch (Yes It’s True): Keen stalker was 3rd in Remsen.

Zulfikhar (Bodemeister): July ‘TDN Rising Star’ nears stakes debut.

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