The TDN Derby Top 20, Presented by WinStar Farm, May 3

|

Magnum Moon | Coady photo

By T. D. Thornton

The final several days prior to the GI Kentucky Derby can seem like a longer wait than the six-month prep season that preceded it. Here are the final TDN Top 20 rankings after an entertaining and intriguing buildup to the first Saturday in May:

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: GISW, 4-4-0-0, $1,177,800.
Apr. 17 TDN Top 20 Rank: 1
Last Start: 1st, GI Arkansas Derby, OP, Apr.14.
Achievements: 1st, GII Rebel S., OP, Mar. 17.
Equineline PPs. Caulfield on Magnum Moon.
KY Derby Points: 150
Undefeated ‘TDN Rising Star’ Magnum Moon commandeers the top-ranked spot in the final Derby Top 20 rankings because he possesses the right blend of to-date accomplishments combined with the highest potential upside for continued progression. Even though he’s a May 9 foal who didn’t debut until January, this $380,000 KEESEP Malibu Moon colt has impressed with sharp natural quickness, tactical in-race adaptability, and a willingness to engage and swat away challengers while handling different racing surfaces and pace scenarios at progressively longer distances. If his stalking style results in Magnum Moon being in contention at the head of the lane, I’m looking forward to seeing what type of stretch run he will be able to produce when fully unleashed and focused on the finish. “Focused” is the key word there, because Magnum Moon has drifted in the stretch in each of his last two Oaklawn preps. But I’m willing to gamble that he can overcome that sign of inexperience in the heat of battle (and because he is unlikely to be clear by open lengths and gawking about like he was in previous starts). Post 16 in the auxiliary gate is a minor concern, and it is slightly troublesome that Magnum Moon has yet to face A-level sophomores (the only horses he beat in the Oaklawn stakes that have gone on to enter the Derby are ranked 15th and 19th on this list). But those legitimate questions will also cause his price to drift slightly above his morning line of 6-1, adding a sweet bit of value to Magnum Moon’s overall encouraging profile.

2) 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. 17 TDN Top 20 Rank: 3
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.
Equineline PPs. Caulfield on Bolt d’Oro.
KY Derby Points: 104
Bolt d’Oro is the “now” horse in this year’s Derby, and his edge in experience–plus the fact that he is known as an unruffled, composed horse who does not waste his pre-race energy–is what nudges him past arch-rival Justify (Scat Daddy) in the final Derby Top 20 rankings. This $630,000 FTSAUG Medaglia d’Oro colt put together near-championship form at age two, and his eye-catching win via disqualification off a long vacation in the most impressive Derby prep stretch battle of the spring (the GII San Felipe S.) shows he can slug it out with the division’s best. Owner/trainer Mick Ruis made a shrewd decision in not having “Bolt” throttled hard to engage in a “battle before the war” when chasing Justify in the GI Santa Anita Derby, and this colt’s relentless, pace-pressing presence means he’ll be looming just behind the front of the Derby pack for most of the race, while the stamina influences in his pedigree should embolden Bolt for a stern stretch kick. As for concerns, Bolt hasn’t crossed the finish wire first since Sep. 30, and he has had well-documented gate issues that have cost him coveted early positioning in previous races. But every potential Derby winner must smooth out a few flaws along the way, and Bolt d’Oro is positioned better than most in this field to strike a resounding blow in his third start off an extended layoff.

3) 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. 17 TDN Top 20 Rank: 2
Last Start: 1st, GI Santa Anita Derby, SA, Apr. 7
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 100
‘TDN Rising Star’ Justify has the makings of a crop-defining phenom based on the power trio of performances he’s treated us to in his rapid rise through the ranks, going from unraced maiden to Grade I winner in a span of only 48 days. He’s dazzled the racing world with three triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures, has the services of America’s best big-money rider, Mike Smith, and is conditioned by Triple Crown- and four-time Derby-winning trainer Bob Baffert. This undefeated $500,000 KEESEP Scat Daddy (Johannesburg) colt owns a huge, powerful stride and carries himself like he knows he belongs at the top of the pecking order, making it appear as if the sky is the limit. But at some point, a reality check is required, and even though Justify has the look of a horse who could end up dominating his division by year’s end, his task on Derby day is much more daunting than it appears to be–especially considering he’ll be an overzealously backed favorite. Justify has yet to face significant pace pressure, repeated multi-horse attacks, a field larger than seven, a demanding stretch drive, or even the experience of shipping and racing away from his home track at Santa Anita. In the grand scheme of things, Justify does merit a hefty dollop of long-term respect. But as for his chances on Saturday, the advice here is decidedly contrarian, because the Derby hurdle is incredibly high at far too short a price on this proposition.

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.
Apr. 17 TDN Top 20: 4
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
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 100
This $3 million KEESEP Scat Daddy colt figures to be the lowest-priced European-based starter in the history of the Derby, and Mendelssohn deserves that honor considering he legitimately has the best chance to win compared to all the previous foreign-based horses who have shipped stateside for the Run for the Roses. But I wonder if bettors are going to go overboard with regard to his blowout 18 1/2-length, track-record win in the G2 UAE Derby, which objectively rates as an aberration because it came on a on a speed-favoring track against below-par competition. More important to me is the professionalism Mendelssohn displayed when winning from post one against a solidly matched GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf group last autumn, plus the fact that his older sister is the four-time American dirt champion Beholder (Henny Hughes). Mendelssohn has plenty of early lick, but I don’t necessarily envision him as one of the horses who will be battling for the Derby lead. Rather, an ideal scenario would be for him to pressure the pace not too far off the early gunners, and as the only Derby entrant to have won beyond nine furlongs (the UAE Derby was 1 3/16 miles), he should have more than enough left late to be a factor in whatever stretch drama unfolds.

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. 17 TDN Top 20 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.
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 134
Before an exact campaign had been mapped out for the 2-year-old Eclipse winner, the game plan was to have Good Magic peak in his third start off a winter break. Even though this $1 million KEESEP Curlin colt’s beaten-fave third in the GII Fountain of Youth S. was hardly the season-starting springboard many expected, trainer Chad Brown meticulously had Good Magic ready with a rebound win in the GII Blue Grass S. Judging by his subsequently impressive track work at Churchill, Good Magic appears poised to advance another step forward in the Derby. But will “another step” be good enough? The answer to this question hinges on how you perceive his Blue Grass victory. An optimistic read is that Good Magic carved out a sweet stalking spot from an outer post, advanced at will, then withstood a prolonged stretch tussle. A more skeptical read takes into account that Good Magic benefited from a favorable pace duel, then only had to wrestle one of the tiring frontrunners into submission while the onrushing third and fourth-place finishers both got hampered by trip trouble. Either way, Good Magic will likely go off as the fifth betting choice in the Derby, which is right about where he belongs–a potential value play as a solid contender, but not a dominant standout.

6) 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: MGSW, 10-3-3-2, $645,145.
Apr. 17 TDN Top 20 Rank: 8
Last Start: 1st, GIII Lexington S., KEE, Apr. 14.
Accomplishments Include: 1st, GIII Southwest S., OP, Feb. 19; 1st, Zuma Beach S., SA, Oct. 9
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 52
My Boy Jack creeps up a couple of spots within the final Top 20 rankings purely because his development into a relaxed, one-run closer (he was always a closer; the “relaxed” part didn’t evolve until February) is highly appealing in a Derby that is thick on paper with speed and stalkers. Of all the horses who will start north of 20-1 odds, I believe he’s got the best chance of orchestrating a stretch-storming upset. This $20,000 KEESEP Creative Cause has a pedigree that portends stamina, and his foundation of nine straight route races eclipses the number of starts (at any distance) for almost every other horse in the race. “Jack” has been reported to have bounced back alertly and energetically after his now-or-never qualifying points-clinching try in the GII Lexington S., and it’s notable that he’s a reliable mudder if the track comes up wet on Derby day.

7) 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. 17 TDN Top 20 Rank: 6
Last Start: 1st, GI Florida Derby, GP, Mar. 31
Accomplishments: 1st, GII Holy Bull S., GP, Feb. 3.
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 110
Audible rolls into Louisville off a four-race winning streak, rising from the New York-bred maiden ranks to consecutive open-length graded stakes wins. The exclamation point on his prep-race campaign was a GI Florida Derby score, and the winner of that race has gone on to win the Kentucky Derby in each of the last two years and in five of the last 12. This $500,000 FTFMAR son of Into Mischief has been well served by being able to pick a spot not too far off the lead, settle, and then make one confident run when cued to quicken. But its not evident how deeply this colt has had to dig when kicking into overdrive for his stretch runs, because in the GII Holy Bull S., and again in the Florida Derby, Audible’s chief challengers had already wilted (or failed to fire) by the time the real running started. The Kentucky Derby is a difficult spot to find out for the first time what a horse is capable of in a stretch fight at an elite level. But if you believe Audible has been precisely honed to peak on Derby day, his speed figures and progression arc both indicate he’s not too far off of what the top-ranked contenders are capable of delivering.

8) INSTILLED REGARD (c, Arch–Enhancing, by Forestry)
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, 7-2-2-1, $294,000.
Apr. 17 TDN Top 20 Rank: N/A
Last Start: 4th, GI Santa Anita Derby, SA, Apr. 7
Accomplishments: 1st, GIII Lecomte S., FG, Jan. 13
KY Derby Points: 29
Equineline PPs
Two weeks ago, Instilled Regard wasn’t even considered a Derby candidate. Now he pops up at No. 8 in the rankings after barely sneaking in on qualifying points. This $1.05 million OBSMAR son of Arch attains this advanced placement purely because he’s my “leap of faith” Derby long shot. Instilled Regard flashed huge promise back in December and January. Then he ran an uninspiring fourth as the beaten fave in the GII Risen Star S., got seven weeks off, and resurfaced in the Santa Anita Derby, where his stalking style was a total mismatch in a short field that featured a heavy favorite coasting home unpressured. Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said back in March that Instilled Regard is better suited to racing in larger fields, and this relatively fresh colt’s athleticism should allow him to snag a competitive midpack position from post 15. Instilled Regard is reportedly far more focused in his pre-Derby workouts, and I’m willing to bet he’ll outrun his odds, similar to how 40-1 Battle of Midway (Smart Strike) ran third for Hollendorfer in last year’s Derby.

9) 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. 17 TDN Top 20 Rank: 7
Last Start: 1st, Louisiana Derby, FG, Mar. 24.
Equineline PPs. Caulfield on Noble Indy.
KY Derby Points: 110
Since bounding away to an 8 3/4-length debut win, ‘TDN Rising Star’ Noble Indy has pretty much handled everything thrown his way through limited opportunities (just four lifetime starts). Even the lone defeat on his record in his first stakes start was a useful learning experience (third in the GII Risen Star S.), because this $45,000 KEESEP Take Charge Indy colt rebounded with blinkers added to next win the GII Louisiana Derby. That victory was impressive in that Noble Indy showed an ability to commandeer a forward early position after bouncing off the side of the gate, then was resilient enough to claw back the lead after being double-teamed in the long Fair Grounds stretch. But the strength of that Louisiana Derby field was softer than nearly all of the subsequent nine-furlong preps, and it also has to be noted that winners of the Louisiana Derby have a poor historical record in the Kentucky Derby, with only Grindstone (1996) and Black Gold (1924) managing to win both. Noble Indy will have to deliver an outsized, over-the-top performance to come up with a 1-2-3 Derby finish from post 19. But he will be a double-digit overlay who gets totally ignored in the betting, so if you’re seeking a value-oriented overachiever, there is some upside here.

10) 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. 17 TDN Top 20 Rank: 9
Last Start: 1st, GII Wood Memorial S., AQU, Apr. 7.
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 107
Vino Rosso has had five lifetime races, but it was really only after his aggressively won GII Wood Memorial S. that he emerged as a legit Classics contender. His three winter races at Tampa Bay Downs–a maiden win at 1-20 odds; two stakes routes in which he never was a major presence–now look like a detour to the Twilight Zone considering how well this $410,000 KEESEP Curlin colt finally put it all together in New York, where his performance finally equaled his Derby-trail hype. A change of tactics–rallying from nine lengths off the action instead of stalking much closer–contributed to Vino Rosso looking much more in his element in the Wood, and it’s notable that jockey John Velazquez committed to this mount despite (presumably) also having the call aboard two other Todd Pletcher trainees he had won with (Audible and Noble Indy). This colt could be a chief beneficiary of a Derby pace meltdown if all of the projected speed on paper actually materializes, but Vino Ross will still have to out-hoof history to wear a blanket of roses on Saturday: In the past 37 years, only Fusaichi Pegasus (2000) and Pleasant Colony (1981) have pulled off the elusive Wood-Derby double.

11) 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. 17 TDN Top 12 Rank: 11
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.
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 44
Even though he’s a chestnut, Free Drop Billy rates as the proverbial Derby “dark horse.” This late-running May 3 foal could be blossoming at the right time, but to accept that assessment you have to look past his up-the-track flop in last year’s Breeders’ Cup and his pair of underwhelming in-the-money efforts in 2018 prep stakes in Florida and New York. This $200,000 KEESEP Union Rags colt’s Blue Grass S., however, could end up being a much-better-than-it- looks tightener for the Derby. In that Apr. 7 race, “Billy” got caught three wide into the first turn, was shuffled back five-eighths out, then regained a fluid three-wide momentum on the far turn before spinning into the lane in the six path. He was motoring home nicely when sideswiped by a veering-out rival a sixteenth from the wire, and ended up getting elevated from fourth to third via DQ. If Free Drop Billy can relax somewhere near the back behind a hot Derby pace, he has the potential to once again wind up for a prolonged bid. It’s not difficult to envision him charging hard in the final two furlongs when a number of spent rivals are likely to be packing it in.

12) 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. 17 TDN Top 20 Rank: 12
Last Start: 2nd, GI Florida Derby, GP, Mar. 31.
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 40
This Tapit homebred out of a Touch Gold mare isn’t as much of an outlier as his odds might indicate. You can’t see it in his past performance lines, but go back and watch the replay of the Florida Derby when Hofburg was parked widest off the turn yet never looked discouraged when giving chase to a much more experienced winner in Audible. That display of tenacity was not only admirable, it was exceptional considering Hofburg had never started beyond the maiden ranks. Trainer Bill Mott isn’t known as a horseman who is gung-ho to be represented in the Derby every year. In fact, he hasn’t had a starter in the race since 2009, which could be a tipoff that he thinks Hofburg truly merits a chance against the top of the crop.

13) 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. 17 TDN Top 20 Rank: 10
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.
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 70
Flameaway’s best races have all been on or near the lead, and his post draw of four for the Derby really puts the pressure on him to gun for the front. Confirmed speedster Promises Fulfilled is drawn to Flameaway’s direct inside and tactical specialists Audible and Justify loom not too far away outside. But this $400,000 FTSAUG Scat Daddy overachiever has gamely withstood heated pace pressure in several of his prep races, and he put up tenacious resistance when second to Good Magic in the Blue Grass S., even after getting softened up in a speed duel. Flameaway admirably handles any type of racing surface (wins over fast dirt, firm turf, mud, slop, and synthetic), and if you pick apart his company lines, he’s already beaten Vino Rosso and was only 3 1/4 lengths off the well-regarded Mendelssohn in the Breeders’ Cup. I’m still not entirely convinced Flameaway is a bona fide Derby win threat. But he’s also more likely than many in here to keep on fighting long after you expect him to crack.

14) ENTICED (c, Medaglia d’OroIt’s Tricky, by Mineshaft)
O/B-Godolphin (KY). T-Kiaran McLaughlin. Lifetime Record: MGSW & GISP, 6-3-1-1, $595,680.
Apr. 17 TDN Top 20 Rank: 13
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
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 103
You don’t hear much debate about whether Enticed will be able to get 10 furlongs or if he will like the Churchill Downs footing. We know he’s a big-striding Medaglia d’Oro colt with a stamina-centric pedigree, and his most visually impressive race was a Louisville win in the Nov. 25 GII Kentucky Jockey Club S.. Instead, the chief Derby unknowns here center on whether Enticed will be nimble enough to make his own breaks once he starts winding up for a big run. His three prep stakes in 2018 are a mixed bag: A beaten-fave fourth in the GII Holy Bull without apparent excuse, an under-wraps win in the one-turn mile GIII Gotham S. in which his only stretch challenger was a spent 35-1 pacemaker, and a capable second in the Wood Memorial after being bumped soundly twice by winner Vino Rosso. A bet on Enticed on Saturday is essentially a wager that he’s got several more dimensions we haven’t yet seen. Yet even then, the race’s pace and positioning would also have to unfold in fortuitous fashion for him to win.

15) 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, 6-1-3-2, $752,000
Apr. 17 TDN Top 20 Rank: 15
Last Start: 3rd, GI Arkansas Derby, OP, Apr. 14
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
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 54
Solomini won on debut at Del Mar last September but hasn’t visited the winner’s circle since, and he picks a tough spot to try and shake his reputation of being an “it’s always something” near-misser. He displayed greenness when he hit the front but couldn’t sustain his lead in the stretch of the GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, then he lost his focus (and got demoted from a win via DQ) in the GI Los Alamitos Futurity. In a pair of preps at Oaklawn, this $270,000 KEESEP Curlin colt got caught in tight with an inside trip in the GII Rebel S., then gave up too much real estate when parked wide in the GI Arkansas Derby. Still, Solomini has never finished out of the top three in his six-race career, and his grind-it-out efforts have yielded seconds and thirds in the wake of some pretty tough winners (Magnum Moon, Bolt d’Oro, Good Magic). But until he produces a powerhouse finish that indicates he can compete on level terms with the division’s best, Solomini rates as more of a menace to snag a minor share than a credible win proposition at 30-1.

16) 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. 17 TDN Top 20 Rank: 17
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.
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 54
Bravazo’s positives: 1) Nice foundation of seven straight races at a mile or longer; 2) Second in his only career Grade I try at 47-1 odds; 3) Broke his maiden by open lengths over the Churchill strip. His negatives: 1) Lack of consistency; 2) Subpar speed figures; 3) Inexplicably poor final prep (eighth beaten 21 1/4 lengths) combined with a six-week gap into the Derby. This Awesome Again (Deputy Minister) homebred has run some decent races when forcing the issue or pressing from just off the pace. But with the glut of speed drawn to his inside, it’s conceivable he could attempt to settle a touch farther back in the field and try to muster up a “take your best shot” rally that puts him in contention turning for home.

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. 17 TDN Top 20 Rank: 16
Last Start: 9th, GI Florida Derby, GP, Mar. 31
Accomplishments: 1st, GII Fountain of Youth S., GP, Mar. 3.
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 52
As the innermost-drawn speed horse in the Derby, Promises Fulfilled faces the prospect of the pesky Flameaway directly to his outside applying immediate pressure and the lightly raced front-end force Justify also gunning for the lead from gate seven. There are plenty of other pressers and stalkers drawn outside, but the best shot for this $37,000 KEESEP son of Shackleford to avoid being a “sacrificial” pace component would seem to be to try and win the race into the first turn while hoping a few of the other forwardly placed contenders encounter chaos. Under that scenario, it’s plausible that Promises Fulfilled could be able to slow down the tempo while saving ground up front, similar to how he led a large field deep into the homestretch over this same Churchill strip in his Kentucky Jockey Club S. third-place try last November. But more likely than not, this colt won’t have an easy go on the front end on Saturday, and we already saw what happens when Promises Fulfilled blazes too fast too early against top-level competition (ninth, beaten 35 lengths in the Florida Derby).

18) LONE SAILOR (c, Majestic Warrior-Ambitious, by Mr. Greeley)
O-GMB Racing. B-Alexander-Groves-Matz, LLC (KY). T-Thomas Amoss. Sales history: $120,000 yrl KEESEP ’16. Lifetime Record: GISP, 8-1-3-1, $334,237.
Apr. 17 TDN Top 20 Rank: 19
Last Start: 2nd, GII Louisiana Derby, FG, Mar. 24
Accomplishments: 3rd, GI Breeders Futurity S., KEE, Oct. 7
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 42
Lone Sailor seemed in his element romping to an 11-length victory in the mud over seven furlongs last September at Saratoga, but this $120,000 KEESEP Majestic Warrior colt picks a tough spot seeking lifetime win number two after six consecutive route attempts since then. He’s been second, beaten by a head and a neck in two of his stakes tries, including runner-up honors in the Louisiana Derby after he wrested control of the lead inside the final furlong but couldn’t stave off re-rallying favorite Noble Indy. His company lines are dotted with the names of a handful of other Derby starters, but they too are also likely to be double-digit long shots on Saturday. A wet track theoretically helps Lone Sailor’s chances, but don’t assume an affinity for Spa mud equates to liking Louisville goo.

19) COMBATANT (c, Scat Daddy–Border Dispute, by Boundary)
O-Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC & Willis Horton Racing LLC. B-Paget Bloodstock. T-Steven Asmussen. Sales history: $320,000 yrl KEESEP ’16. Lifetime Record: MGSP, 7-1-3-1, $388,550.
Apr. 17 TDN Top 20 Rank: N/A
Last Start: 4th, GI Arkansas Derby, Apr. 14
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 32
Combatant is winless since his maiden score last Oct. 29, although it is a mild plus that his lone victory came over the Churchill strip. He always seemed on the cusp of punching through to top sophomore contention while decently backed on the Remington/Oaklawn prep path this winter and spring, but his résumé chronologically reads three seconds, a third, and a fourth during that time frame. Still, this $320,000 KEESEP Scat Daddy colt has never been beaten by more than 4 1/2 lengths for all the money, and Combatant has the advantage of racing at a mile or longer in all seven of his lifetime starts. Note that trainer Steve Asmussen last year conditioned 33-1 bomb Lookin At Lee (Lookin At Lucky) to an upset second in the Derby. Like Combatant, that long shot also hadn’t won a race in over six months.

20) FIRENZE FIRE (c, Poseidon’s Warrior–My Every Wish, by Langfuhr)
O/B-Mr. Amore Stables (FL). T-Jason Servis. Lifetime Record: GISW, 9-4-1-0, $669,100.
Apr. 17 TDN Top 20 Rank: 18
Last Start: 4th, GII Wood Memorial S., AQU, Apr. 7
Accomplishments: 1st, GI Champagne S., BEL, Oct. 7; 1st, GIII Sanford S., SAR, July 22.
Equineline PPs
KY Derby Points: 39
With a sprint-oriented pedigree and a past-performance block heavy on 2-year-old success but light on recent accomplishments, Firenze Fire already figured to be the longest shot in the Derby. But drawing the dreaded rail post seals the deal that this Poseidon’s Warrior (Speightstown) homebred will go off as the highest-priced wagering proposition in the race. After twice running fourth in a pair of not overly difficult Derby preps in New York, Firenze Fire now has to figure out how to hit the proverbial “reset” button in the most formidable race of his career. He won two graded stakes at double-digit odds and beat the likes of Good Magic, Enticed, and Free Drop Billy last summer and autumn. But those past glories are now not as close as they might appear in the rear-view mirror, underscoring the fact that Firenze Fire is in very deep on Derby day.

Also Eligible:
Blended Citizen (Proud Citizen): Blended Citizen would need another horse to scratch by 9 a.m. Friday to draw into the Derby as an also-eligible. He added blinkers and got a rail run into slow pace to win his first stakes race at Turfway, then encountered stretch traffic when gaining mildly late in the Blue Grass S. His sire, Proud Citizen (Gone West) ran a surprise second at 23-1 odds when stalking an unpressured pace in the 2002 Derby.

 

Not a subscriber? Click here to sign up for the daily PDF or alerts.