The TDN Derby Top 12 for Feb. 21


Good Magic | Horsephotos

By T. D. Thornton

With favorites losing five of the last six Road to the GI Kentucky Derby points races, this week marks a subtle shift in the TDN Top 12 rankings. Yet even as well-meant contenders meet defeat, their spots in the rankings haven’t entirely been commandeered by long-shot winners of those races. Instead, the forefront of the list remains anchored by sophomores who have yet to debut in 2018. This coming weekend is a quiet one on the 3-stakes scene. But circle the weekends of Mar. 3 and 10 as the first major “shaking out” in terms of which horses either solidify their status or fail to live up to the pre-Derby hype.

1) 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.
Feb. 6 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: GII Fountain of Youth S., GP, Mar. 3
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 24
The GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner and Eclipse Award 2-year-old champ edges up to the top slot in this week’s rankings despite being one of only three horses within the current Top 12 who have yet to start in 2018. Thus, his ascension to kingpin status at the 74-day mark to the Derby is as much about the speculative promise of what might be in the pipeline as the impressive (but limited) dossier of credentials Good Magic assembled in three starts as a juvenile. Gulfstream’s Mar. 3 GII Fountain of Youth S. is the target for this million-dollar KEESEP colt’s first sophomore start, and trainer Chad Brown has been working this efficient mover in company with the 5-year-old MGSP Economic Model (Flatter) the past two Saturdays at Palm Meadows. This son of Curlin (Smart Strike) was parked on the rail with outside pressure from his older mate in both of those morning moves, with the most recent in-hand work resulting in a clocking of 1:01.45 (3/20). If Good Magic sticks to Brown’s stated schedule and manages to win the Derby with only two 3-year-old starts, he will be adding to the less-is-more prep trend: Between 1984 and 2006, horses with only two sophomore preps were a collective 0-for-38 in the Derby. But since then, horses with exactly two 3-year-old preps have won the Derby an attention-getting eight times (2007-12 and 2015-16).

2) 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.
Feb. 6 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
‘TDN Rising Star’ McKinzie continued his meticulously planned march toward Louisville with an in-company bullet six furlongs in 1:12.60 (1/18) at Santa Anita Saturday under Drayden Van Dyke. Undefeated in three starts (with one win via DQ), this $170,000 KEESEP Street Sense (Street Cry {Ire}) colt boasts a solid racing foundation built on a seven-furlong debut score, a two-turn stakes win that featured a prolonged battle through the long Los Alamitos stretch, and a sharp, pace-pressing victory over a mile in the GIII Sham S. Blinkers were removed for McKinzie’s last start, and the equipment change appeared to contribute to push-button response when cued to quicken by jockey Mike Smith. Trainer Bob Baffert has him under consideration for either the GII San Felipe S. at Santa Anita Mar. 10 or the GII Rebel S. at Oaklawn Park Mar. 17. Baffert has won two of the past three runnings of the San Felipe and six of the last eight renewals of the Rebel. McKinzie’s form got a mild flattering on Monday when 8-1 upsetter My Boy Jack (Creative Cause) followed up his third-place Sham S. try with a win in the GIII Southwest S. at Oaklawn Park.

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, 4-3-0-1, $576,000.
Feb. 6 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: GII San Felipe S., SA, Mar. 10
Equineline PPs. Caulfield on Bolt d’Oro.
KY Derby Points: 14
Bolt d’Oro will likely get the last at-bat, so to speak, in terms of being the final horse who has been consistently ranked inside the Derby Top 12 to make his 2018 debut. Last summer and autumn, this $630,000 son of Medaglia d’Oro (El Prado {Ire}) ran up the score in “man against boys” fashion, throttling overmatched West Coast foes with three wins in his first three career tries. Now he’s aiming for the Mar. 10 GII San Felipe S. for his sophomore debut, which will represent a gap of 127 days between starts since his debacle of a trip when third in the Nov. 4 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Trainer Mick Ruis’s winning percentage with horses off longer than 90 days hovers around the 14% mark, but the conditioner has been running uncharacteristically cold of late with a 1-for-28 record so far in 2018. The gifted bay worked five furlongs Tuesday morning in 1:10/20 (7/18) at Santa Anita, and next Monday morning Bolt d’Oro is scheduled to partner with jockey Javier Castellano, who has been named as his new afternoon rider and will fly in specifically to work the colt six furlongs from the gate.

4) 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.
Feb. 6 TDN Top 12 Rank: 6
Last Start: 1st, GIII Withers S., AQU, Feb. 3.
Accomplishments Include: 1st, GII Nashua S., AQU, Nov. 5.
Next Start: Uncommitted
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 14
It will be interesting to see where Avery Island resurfaces on the Derby trail following his nine-furlong GIII Withers S. win at Aqueduct Feb. 3. The New York preps this year are scheduled in such a manner that the next graded route for 3-year-olds in New York, the GIII Gotham S. on Mar 10, cuts back to a one-turn mile, and longer races, not shorter attempts, better fit the running style of this strapping, Godolphin-owned-and-bred son of Street Sense (Street Cry {Ire}). Taking into account the colt’s affinity for Aqueduct (two wins and a second there from three starts), trainer Kiaran McLaughlin could skip the Gotham and wait for the GII Wood Memorial on Apr. 7. But that would create a 64-day gap between starts, with another four-week gap until the Derby. So another option would be to aim for a Florida prep (Avery Island is stabled at Palm Meadows) at either Gulfstream Park or Tampa Bay Downs. This brawny, long-striding colt’s physical tools are already apparent; his mental makeup is the part that will be this winter and spring’s work-in-progress project so the two attributes are in sync at the right time come the first Saturday in May.

5) CATHOLIC BOY (c, More Than ReadySong of Bernadette, by Bernardini)
O-Robert V. LaPenta & Madaket Stable. B-Fred W. Hertrich III & John D. Fielding (KY). T-Jonathan Thomas. Sales History: $170,000 PS yrl KEEJAN ’16. Lifetime Record: MGSW, 5-3-1-0, $354,000.
Feb. 6 TDN Top 12 Rank: 1
Last Start: 2nd, GIII Sam F. Davis S., TAM, Feb. 10
Accomplishments Include: 1st, GII Remsen S., AQU, Dec. 2.; 1st, GIII With Anticipation S., SAR, Aug. 30.
Next Start: Uncommitted
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 14
Catholic Boy’s 2018 debut was a “sideways” effort at best, and although it cost him the top ranking he had held in the TDN Derby Top 12 since the season started, it hardly derailed him from the Derby path. The GIII Sam F. Davis S. at Tampa Bay Downs Feb. 10 was a conservative launch point for this More Than Ready colt, and it represented his chance to build off of the proven ability at nine furlongs he displayed in his 2017 finale. But the 7-10 favorite was three wide on both turns over the sandy, often-tricky Tampa surface while tracking lead-loving overachiever Flameaway (Scat Daddy), and when jockey Jose Lezcano sent Catholic Boy after that speedster at the quarter pole, the power punch we saw in the GII Remsen S. (and other 2-year-old tries) never materialized, with Catholic Boy bearing in late under right-handed encouragement. Trainer Jonathan Thomas, who initially purchased Catholic Boy privately for $170,000 after the 2016 KEEJAN sale, said it’s now “important to not panic or try to force the issue,” explaining that no firm plans have been set for a next start beyond indicating that he and the colt’s current owners might be eyeing just one more Derby prep. Catholic Boy shipped back to his home base of Bridlewood Farm in Ocala after the race.

6) 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
Feb. 6 TDN Top 12 Rank: 10
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: Possible for either GII San Felipe S., SA, Mar. 10 or GII Rebel S., OP, Mar. 17
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 14
Solomini certainly lays claim to the “way better than it looks” past performance block of this bunch. His 1-2-1 record from four starts doesn’t exactly leap off the page, but he actually crossed the finish wire first (and was demoted two spots via DQ) in one of those stakes efforts, and a skimming of his company lines reveals the likes of Good Magic, Bolt d’Oro and McKinzie, all of whom are rated higher on this week’s version of the Top 12. Yes, you can make the argument that this $270,000 KEESEP colt was pasted by open lengths in his tries against Good Magic and “Bolt,” and that he’s displayed a lack of focus in several of his stretch runs. But this Apr. 29 foal will enter his 2018 debut with three months of spacing between starts at ages two and three, and trainer Bob Baffert seems confident that this son of Curlin can hang with the division’s heavy hitters so long as the colt makes expected mental maturity adjustments. Solomini fired a Saturday bullet at Santa Anita in anticipation of his yet-to-be-revealed March start, drilling :59.40 for five furlongs (1/57) while in company with recent maiden-breaking filly (and $500,000 KEESEP purchase) Cognitive (Uncle Mo). Regular rider Flavien Part was aboard for that morning move, which was the fastest of the day for five furlongs by more than two full seconds.

7) 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 history: $175,000 FTNSAR yrl; $500,000 FTFMAR 2yo. Lifetime Record: 4-3-0-1, $287,720
Feb. 6 TDN Top 12 Rank: 8
Last Start: 1st, GII Holy Bull S., GP, Feb. 3.
Next Start: GI Florida Derby, GP, Mar. 31
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 10
Trainer Todd Pletcher confirmed last week that the 3-for-4 Audible will try to parlay his runaway 5 1/2-length win in the GII Holy Bull S. at Gulfstream on Feb. 3 into a GI Florida Derby win there on Mar. 31 without another prep start in between. “We were expecting him to run well [in the Holy Bull]. We liked the way he fit in the race and the way he was training, but I think the final outcome exceeded even our expectations,” Pletcher told Christie DeBernardis of the TDN. In the past 20 years, only three horses–Dialed In (Mineshaft) in 2011, Hal’s Hope (Jolie’s Halo) in 2000, and Cape Town (Seeking the Gold) in 1998–have pulled off the difficult Holy Bull/Florida Derby double. But in three of the past four years, Pletcher trainees using other prep paths have all won Florida Derbies, so it’s safe to say he has a grasp on what it takes to win that race. Audible’s confident ability to switch from stalk mode into a deft overdrive gear when confronted at the head of the lane in the Holy Bull ranks as a definite plus for this $500,000 FTFMAR New York-bred. But the fact that three well-regarded entrants in that race never truly fired their “A” efforts makes it a bit of a conundrum when trying to figure out just how much of Audible’s breakout performance was attributable to his own prowess versus how much his competitors’ subpar efforts made the task all the more easier for him.

8) 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.
Feb. 6 TDN Top 12 Rank: 12
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: Aiming for GII Fountain of Youth S., GP, Mar. 3
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 14
Free Drop Billy could be looming somewhat under the radar as the next Top 12 candidate to run a breakthrough race. This $200,000 KEESEP son of Union Rags could go next in the Mar. 3 GII Fountain of Youth S., where he will be expected to improve off his even-paced second in his 2018 debut behind rip-away winner Audible (who will not be contesting that next Gulfstream prep). Free Drop Billy’s juvenile record features nothing but wins and seconds–except for that glaring, inexplicable drubbing of nearly 30 lengths in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. That loss has confounded even his connections, but trainer Dale Romans sees no reason to dwell on it, and it may well prove to be an uncharacteristic throwout as his colt progresses. “Billy” breezed :48.13 at Gulfstream on Sunday for four furlongs (9/69), and his form benefitted from a slight company-line uptick over the weekend when Bravazo (Awesome Again)–the horse who ran second to Billy in the GI Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland–upset the GII Risen Star S. at Fair Grounds at 21-1 odds.

9) 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, 6-2-2-1, $244,000.
Feb. 6 TDN Top 12 Rank: 5
Last Start: 4th, GII Risen Star S., FG, Feb. 17
Accomplishments: 1st, GIII LeComte S., FG, Jan. 13; 2nd, GI Los Alamitos Futurity, LRC, Dec. 9
Next Start: Uncommitted
Equineline PPs. Caulfield on Instilled Regard.
KY Derby Points: 19
I’m inclined to believe Instilled Regard’s lackluster fourth in Saturday’s GII Risen Star S. is not indicative of his true ability and that it shouldn’t cause him to drop off the Top 12 rankings entirely. This $1.05-million OBSMAR Arch colt was deservedly favored at 7-5 and appeared primed to pounce with a no-excuses stalking trip behind two longshot pacemakers. But, as jockey Javier Castellano explained, “those two horses never came back to me at all. I had the same trip as I did [in the colt’s 3 3/4-length GIII Lecomte S. score Jan. 13]. He relaxed behind horses and I looked for that kick, but he never gave it to me today. He felt good and healthy but unfortunately today wasn’t the day.” Perhaps the two cross-country shipping experiences from California to Louisiana played an unseen negative role in the colt’s failure to fire, but that’s pure speculation at this point. Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, when reached by phone Monday afternoon, said Instilled Regard shipped back to him “perfect.” But the Hall-of-Fame conditioner opted not to comment when asked for his assessment of the race.

10) 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.
Feb. 6 TDN Top 12 Rank: 11
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
Firenze Fire is the sole New York-stabled Derby candidate within the Top 12 at this juncture of the season, and if he stays on that path he’ll soon face increased competition from shippers from other jurisdictions who perceive the remaining Aqueduct preps as easier pickings. On the plus side, this Poseidon’s Warrior homebred has demonstrated an admirable, grind-it-out, style that has allowed him to overachieve in spots where the competition has been tough and/or he’s been up against the grain of the way the pace has unfolded in his races. On the concerning side (at least from a Triple Crown perspective), his pedigree is slanted toward sprinting on both sides, and he’s yet to win a two-turn race. Still, this colt’s only two off-the-board finishes came in races where he was later documented as being ill (cough before the GI Hopeful fourth; fever prior to Breeders’ Cup seventh), and the fact that he has run no worse than second in his five other starts has to count for something in a season when more lightly raced prospects keep sliding off the Classics grid.

11) FLAMEAWAY (c, Scat DaddyVulcan Rose, by Fusaichi Pegasus)
O-John C. Oxley. B-Phoenix Rising Farms (ON). T-Mark Casse. Sales History: $150,000 yrl KEEJAN ’16; $400,000 yrl FTSAUG ’16. Lifetime Record: MGSW, 7-5-0-0, $434,834.
Feb. 6 TDN Top 12 Rank: N/A
Last Start: 1st, GIII Sam F. Davis S., TAM, Feb. 10
Accomplishments Include: 1st, GIII Dixiana Bourbon S., KEE, Oct. 8; 1st, Kitten’s Joy S., GP, Jan. 6
Next Start: GII Tampa Bay Derby, TAM, Mar. 10
Equineline PPs. Caulfield on Flameaway.
KY Derby Points: 10
Flameaway cracks the Top 12 this week off a gutsy, overachieving turf-to-dirt win in the GIII Sam F. Davis S. at Tampa Bay Downs, a race in which he both spoiled the 2018 coming-out-party for highly rated Catholic Boy and caused his connections to reconsider their previous decision not to make him an early Triple Crown nominee. This trim, athletic colt carries himself confidently while leading under pressure–his turf score in the Kitten’s Joy S., which he won by a neck in a six-way photo, is actually a better example than the Davis wire job–and this $400,000 FTSAUG colt also gets merit points for being the only Top 12 contender to have won so far over “fast” dirt, turf, mud, and synthetic surfaces. There are tons of options with this Ontario-bred son of Scat Daddy ( Johannesburg), but trainer Mark Casse wasted no time in committing Flameaway to a return engagement in the Tampa Bay Derby Mar. 10. It’s important to note, though, that Tampa’s two graded Derby preps are both carded at 1 1/16 miles, so we’ll have to wait and see if a potential future start at nine furlongs is in the offing to give us an indication that Flameaway can carry his speed over anything approaching Classics distances.

12) 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, 8-2-3-1, $425,145.
Feb. 6 TDN Top 12 Rank: N/A
Last Start: 1st, GIII Southwest S., OP, Feb. 19
Accomplishments Include: 3rd, GIII Sham S., SA, Jan. 6; 1st, Zuma Beach S., SA, Oct. 9
Next Start: Uncommitted
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 12
A California shipper won Monday’s GIII Southwest S. at Oaklawn Park by open lengths, but it wasn’t the one who was heavily favored to do so. While speedster Mourinho (Super Saver) faltered under stretch pressure at 6-5 odds, the 8-1 deep closer My Boy Jack bided his time from well back and benefitted from a ground-saving gift trip and a sealed muddy surface that he appeared to relish. Jockey Kent Desormeaux, riding for his trainer brother Keith, said the way that this $20,000 KEESEP colt conserved his energy compared to his last effort (third to McKinzie in the GIII Sham S.) was the difference maker. “He was absolutely off the bridle [and] galloped to that quarter pole where I had to slow him down and start biding my time, trying to pick a path for him,” the rider said. “The track’s consistency is like peanut butter, and I’m telling you their feet go into that ground and it’s trying to suck their shoes off. It’s pretty sticky.” This son of Creative Cause (Giant’s Causeway) still has yet to win on a fast dirt track or against A-level Triple Crown competition. But he did finish just three lengths off the winner in the GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. Plus, his affinity for both grass and sticky-type mud makes you think he’ll be the sort of horse who is not likely to “need” a certain type of footing underneath him to fire his best shot. As we saw in 2017, this can be a huge deal on Derby Day if the track comes up wet.

On the Bubble (in alphabetical order)
Bravazo (Awesome Again): Prevailed for Calumet/Lukas in Risen Star at 21-1, but top two faves failed to fire in that race.
Combatant (Scat Daddy): OK second in mud-mired Southwest for Asmussen.
Copper Bullet (More Than Ready): GII Saratoga Special-winning ‘Rising Star’ plots comeback for Asmussen; bullet move Feb. 12.
Enticed (Medaglia d’Oro): Beaten fave in Holy Bull; too talented as a 2YO not to consider in another 3YO prep.
Exclamation Point (Concord Point): OP-based half to Classic Empire could stretch out off 6F MSW debut score.
Hollywood Star (Malibu Moon): ‘Rising Star’ never looked entirely comfortable when fourth in Davis at Tampa; could be sleeper in second start of year.
Justify (Scat Daddy): ‘Rising Star’ on SA debut with Feb. 18 MSW win after “brilliance in the morning” per Baffert.
Kanthaka (Jimmy Creed): Gotham at Aqueduct next for Hollendorfer-trained GII San Vicente S. winner.
Lombo (Graydar): San Felipe next for ambitious wire-to-wire GIII Lewis S. winner.
Magnum Moon (Malibu Moon): 2-for-2 colt dubbed ‘Rising Star’ off near-track-record TAM allowance route last Thursday.
Marconi (Tapit): The longer the better for this ‘Rising Star’ off Withers third.
Mourinho (Super Saver): ‘Rising Star’ caved as fave in Southwest, but sticky mud could have been issue.
Noble Indy (Take Charge Indy): Per jockey Velazquez, Risen Star third was “good schooling” for this ‘Rising Star.’
Quip (Distorted Humor): 2-for-3 2-year-old ‘Rising Star’ training at FG but could resurface in Gotham or Tampa Derby.
Restoring Hope (Giant’s Causeway): Recent MSW winner for Baffert could soon take stakes plunge.
Snapper Sinclair (City Zip): Beaten a nose at 41-1 in perplexing renewal of Risen Star.
Storm Runner (Get Stormy): Fountain of Youth next for Romans trainee.
Strike Power (Speightstown): 2-for-2 ‘Rising Star’ could aim for two-turn test.
Tiz Mischief (Into Mischief): Nice 4F breeze (3/68) Sunday looking to rebound off so-so third in Holy Bull.
Untamed Domain (Animal Kingdom): ‘Rising Star’ turfer could get crack at dirt in Tampa Derby.
Vino Rosso (Curlin): Pletcher trainee galloped out past top two when third in Davis S.
World of Trouble (Kantharos): Romped by 13 3/4 lengths in Jan. 20 Pasco at TAM but unworked since.

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