TDN Derby Top 12 for April 14

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Tiz the Law | Ryan Thompson

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Instead of “My Old Kentucky Home,” the new theme song for GI Kentucky Derby aspirants is now “Time Is On My Side” by the Rolling Stones. This week’s rankings represent a reshuffling of the pecking order in light of the Derby’s new Sept. 5 race date.

1) TIZ THE LAW (c, ConstitutionTizfiz, by Tiznow)
O-Sackatoga Stable. B-Twin Creeks Farm (NY). T-Barclay Tagg. Sales History: $110,000 yrl ’18 FTNAUG. Lifetime Record: MGISW, 5-4-0-1, $945,300.
Last Start: 1st GI Curlin Florida Derby, GP, Mar. 28
Accomplishments Include: 1st GI Champagne S., 1st GIII Holy Bull S., GP, Feb. 1, 3rd GII Kentucky Jockey Club S., CD, Nov. 30
Next Start: Uncommitted
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 122.

With a 4-for-5 race record and a pair of commanding graded stakes prep wins under his belt to start 2020, Tiz the Law was well honed to handle the difficult burden of Derby favoritism going 10 furlongs on the first Saturday in May. Instead, the connections of this $110,000 SARAUG Constitution bay will hit the pause button and try to map out a game plan that aims for re-peaking in late summer. Although “Tiz” regressed a touch in terms of Beyer Speed Figures from the GII Holy Bull S. (100) to the GI Curlin Florida Derby (96), he showed nice tactical improvement by managing to carve out a cleaner-than-usual trip after running himself into pockets of trouble in his previous three stakes attempts. In the Florida Derby, Tiz broke fluidly, enjoyed clear sailing three wide into the clubhouse bend, stalked energetically, and powered past the pacemakers at will, leaving the impression that his stamina reserves had not been fully tapped. Will he end up prepping for the Derby at Saratoga? If so, he’s undefeated there–but you won’t get him at 7-2 in the betting like last August, when he broke his maiden against New York-breds.

2) HONOR A.P. (r, Honor Code–Hollywood Story, by Wild Rush)
O-C R K Stable LLC. B-George Krikorian (Ky). T-John Shirreffs. Sales History: $850,000 yrl ’18 FTSAUG. Lifetime Record: GSP, 3-1-2-0, $122,200.
Last Start: 2nd GII San Felipe S., SA, Mar. 7
Next Start: Possible for GI Arkansas Derby, OP, May 2
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 20.

Among the Top 12 contenders, Honor A.P. might benefit most from the Derby’s delay. This $850,000 FTSAUG Honor Code ridgling broke his maiden impressively by 5 1/4 lengths in start number two at Santa Anita last October, but his 2020 campaign got stalled because of a January foot bruise. Coming off a five-month layoff in the GII San Felipe S., this John Shirreffs trainee ran a crackerjack second behind loose-on-the-lead Authentic (Into Mischief), leaving last year’s 2-year-old champ Storm the Court (Court Vision) and top-ranked (at the time) contender Thousand Words (Pioneerof the Nile) in his wake before galloping out on even terms with the 98-Beyer winner. Honor A.P. is possible for the GI Arkansas Derby (he had been aiming for the non-carded GI Santa Anita Derby), but there is no immediate rush to accrue Kentucky Derby qualifying points with the likelihood that additional qualifiers are going to get added once tracks nationwide are back up and running.

3) MAXFIELD (c, Street SenseVelvety, by Bernardini)
O/B-Godolphin LLC (KY). T-Brendan Walsh.
Lifetime Record: GISW, 2-2-0-0, $354,412.
Last Start: 1st GI Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity, KEE, Oct. 5
Next Start: Uncommitted
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 10.

Maxfield is another contender who had the traditional Derby calendar against him, but will now get the gift of an extra four months to properly recover from ankle chip surgery back in November. His last race is now more than six months in the rear-view mirror, but his 5 1/2-length clock-cleaning of the GI Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity field at Keeneland Oct. 5 still resonates as the most impressive juvenile stakes race from last fall. This Street Sense homebred settled willingly, deftly wove through the pack, then bounded outside and swooped past seven horses between the three-eighths and quarter poles before opening up big in the stretch under light encouragement. After wintering at Palm Meadows for trainer Brendan Walsh, “Max” is now stabled at Keeneland, where he breezed a half mile in :49.20 (12/47) Friday. Walsh subsequently detailed in a Blood-Horse interview that he plans to have the colt ready to race by mid-May, although no exact race has been picked out to start what would ideally be a three-prep plan to get to the first Saturday in September.

4) AUTHENTIC (c, Into MischiefFlawless, by Mr. Greeley)
O-SF Racing LLC, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables LLC, Fred Hertrich III, John D. Fielding & Golconda Stables. B-Peter E. Blum Thoroughbreds LLC (KY). T-Bob Baffert. Sales History: $350,000 yrl ’18 KEESEP. Lifetime Record: MGSW, 3-3-0-0, $331,200.
Last Start: 1st GII San Felipe S., SA, Mar. 7
Accomplishments Include: 1st GIII Sham S., SA, Jan. 4
Next Start: Uncommitted
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 60.

Trainer Bob Baffert has said he will back off of race-ready training for undefeated Authentic for the time being. This $350,000 KEESEP Into Mischief bay would have started favored in the called-off Santa Anita Derby. Yet with 60 Derby qualifying points (fifth-best on the Road to the Derby list) and several of the stable’s other A-list sophomores slotted for the Arkansas Derby, Authentic will now be freshened with an aim toward being ready for prime-time action in late summer. He was a front-running force up to 1 1/16 miles in early March, and the addition of ear plugs by Baffert in the San Felipe S. helped to resolve focus issues (veering in and out in the stretch) that this colt exhibited back in January. That Mar. 7 win (98 Beyer) was visually more impressive than Authentic’s previous score. But the only two horses to run back out of the San Felipe so far were both beaten favorites in their next starts, including stablemate Thousand Words, who was 11th in the Oaklawn S. Saturday.

5) NADAL (c, BlameAscending Angel, by Pulpit)
‘TDN Rising Star’ O-George Bolton, Arthur Hoyeau, Barry Lipman & Mark Mathieson. B-Sierra Farm (KY); T-Bob Baffert. Sales History: $65,000 yrl ’18 KEESEP; $700,000 2yo ’19 FTFMAR. Lifetime Record: MGSW, 3-3-0-0, $753,000.
Last Start: 1st GII Rebel S., OP, Mar. 14
Accomplishments Include: 1st GII San Vicente S., SA, Feb. 9
Next Start: GI Arkansas Derby, OP, May 2
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 50.

‘TDN Rising Star’ Nadal ticked off several boxes on the Derby contender checklist by winning the Mar. 14 GII Rebel S. at Oaklawn. He proved he could handle shipping, two turns, and a sloppy/sealed track. Most impressively, he sparred successfully through an internal pace battle that featured legit splits, and when the pack tightened behind him with numerous far-turn threats emerging, this burly Blame bay ($65,000 KEESEP; $700,000 FTFMAR) capably held them all off. Nadal will likely start favored on the first Saturday in May in the Arkansas Derby, a stakes that favorites have won in each of the last three runnings. Baffert has won it twice, with American Pharoah (2015) and Bodemeister (2012).

6) SOLE VOLANTE (g, Karakontie {Jpn}Light Blow, by Kingmambo)
O-Reeves Thoroughbred Racing, Andie Biancone & Limelight Stables Corp. B-Flaxman Holdings Limited (KY). T-Patrick Biancone. Sales History: $6,000 yrl ’18 KEESEP; $20,000 2yo ’19 OBSAPR. Lifetime Record: GSW, 4-3-0-1, $196,310.
Last Start: 2nd GII Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby, TAM, Mar. 7
Accomplishments Include: 1st GIII Sam F. Davis S., TAM, Feb. 8, 1st Pulpit S., GP, Nov. 30
Next Start: Uncommitted
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 30.

I’m inclined to give an upgrade to Sole Volante (“flying sun” in Italian) since he was last ranked within the Top 12 based on reanalyzing his beaten-fave second in the GII Tampa Bay Derby. Closing from far off the tailgate is rarely the optimal strategy at the Oldsmar oval, and on Mar. 7 the six dirt races at Tampa were all won by forwardly-placed speedsters (five pace-pressers, one who led every step). By contrast, this $6,000 KEESEP and $20,000 OBSAPR Karakontie (Jpn) pinhook settled in eleventh, saved ground, then made steady progress to win the “race within the race” behind a 49-1 bomb who won going away by 4 3/4 lengths (99 Beyer). Since transitioning to dirt after starting his career with a pair of grass wins last season, this gelding ran a sneaky-good third in the one-turn-mile Mucho Macho Man S. at Gulfstream Jan. 4, then slapped around a decent GIII Sam F. Davis S. crew at Tampa Feb. 8, earning a 96 Beyer. Sole Volante had been pointed for a start in the Arkansas Derby, but COVID-related shipping restrictions will reportedly keep him from journeying away from his Florida base.

7) CHARLATAN (c, Speightstown–Authenticity, by Quiet American)
‘TDN Rising Star’ O-SF Racing LLC, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables LLC, Stonestreet Stables LLC, Frederick Hertrich, III, John D. Fielding & Golconda Stables. B-Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings LLC (KY). T-Bob Baffert. Sales History: $700,000 yrl ’18 KEESEP. Lifetime Record: 2-2-0-0, $67,200.
Last Start: 1st Allowance/Optional Claiming, SA, Mar. 14
Next Start: GI Arkansas Derby, OP, May 2
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 0.

‘TDN Rising Star’ Charlatan is the only 3-year-old so far this season to earn consecutive triple-digit Beyers (105, 106). With trainer Bob Baffert pointing both Nadal and this Speightstown colt for the Arkansas Derby, one of those undefeated colts is likely to have his tactics altered to avoid dueling each other into defeat, because both have demonstrated a keen desire and ability to pounce on the pace from the outset of their races. This $700,000 KEESEP chestnut has yet to attempt two turns, and while Charlatan’s sire was a champion sprinter, his dam, Authenticity, was a Grade III stakes victress at nine furlongs.

8) WELLS BAYOU (c, Lookin At LuckyWhispering Angel, by Hard Spun)
O-Clint & Lance Gasaway, Madaket Stables LLC & Wonder Stables. B-Knowles Bloodstock, Inc. (KY). T-Brad Cox. Sales History: $50,000 yrl ’18 KEEJAN; $18,000 yrl ’18 KEESEP; $105,000 2yo ’19 OBSMAR. Lifetime Record: GSW, 5-3-1-1, $845,293.
Last Start: 1st GII Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby, FG, Mar. 21
Accomplishments Include: 2nd GIII Southwest S., OP, Feb. 17
Next Start: Possible for GI Arkansas Derby, OP, May 2
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 104.

Wells Bayou wired the GII Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby over 1 3/16 miles, and if you discount a seventh-place finish in a one-turn mile allowance in the slop at Churchill last autumn, his past performance record matches up with most of the heavy hitters on this list, with three wins and one second (beaten only a length in his stakes debut). This bay son of Lookin At Lucky ($50,000 KEEJAN, $18,000 KEESEP, $105,000 OBSMAR) has been strictly a front-end force to date, and if he goes in the Arkansas Derby he will face a far stiffer fight for the early lead than he’s ever experienced. His sire was the beaten favorite with a rough trip in the 2010 Kentucky Derby, and his dam-sire, Hard Spun, outran his 10-1 odds with a very game second in the 2007 Derby.

9) KING GUILLERMO (c, Uncle MoSlow Sand, by Dixieland Band)
O-Victoria’s Ranch. B-Carhue Investments, Grouseridge Ltd. & Marengo Investments (KY). T-Juan Avila. Sales History: $90,000 RNA yrl ’18 KEESEP; $150,000 2yo ’19 OBSAPR. Lifetime Record: GSW, 4-2-0-1, $240,350.
Last Start: 1st GII Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby, TAM, Mar. 7
Accomplishments Include: 3rd Pulpit S., GP, Nov. 30
Next Start: Uncommitted
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 50.

After King Guillermo wired the Tampa Bay Derby at 49-1 off a three-month layoff, his connections said they were leaning toward training up to the Kentucky Derby without another prep. That plan sounded a little dubious considering this Uncle Mo bay ($90,000 RNA at KEESEP; $150,000 OBSAPR) only had one other win–a MSW turfer–on his resume, and he was quite light in overall experience. But now that the Derby has been re-slotted for September, “King G” could be back in the mix with time on his side to build up a more solid foundation. Even if you think that Tampa shocker was a fluke, there’s no denying that this colt looked confident and well within himself striding clear on the lead, and the female side of his pedigree suggests staying power with Dixieland Band and Seattle Slew in the near branches of his family tree.

10) ENFORCEABLE (c, TapitJustwhistledixie, by Dixie Union)
O-John Oxley. B-Clearsky Farm (KY). T-Mark Casse. Sales History: $775,000 RNA yrl ’18 KEESEP. Lifetime Record: GSW & GISP,
9-2-2-2, $367,150.
Last Start: 5th GII Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby, FG, Mar. 21
Accomplishments Include: 1st GIII Lecomte S., FG, Jan. 18; 3rd GI Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity, KEE, Oct. 5, 2nd GII Risen Star S. Div. 1, FG, Feb. 15
Next Start: Uncommitted
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 33.

Enforceable is a deep closer with a robust stayer’s pedigree, but his come-from-behind running style inherently invites trip woes. Thus, his overland fifth in the GII Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby is not as bad as it appears on paper when you factor in that he lost real estate on both turns and couldn’t get to the top two finishers after they chased each other all the way around the track. In his previous race, the split GII Risen Star S., this $775,000 KEESEP RNA opted for a ground-saving go, and a nice rail run resulted in a traffic-free second. Enforceable is a half-brother to 2013 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner New Year’s Day (who subsequently sired DQ’d Derby winner Maximum Security) and is a full brother to fellow gray Mohaymen, who won four straight stakes on the 2015-16 Derby prep trail and was fourth in Nyquist’s Kentucky Derby.

11) SILVER PROSPECTOR (c, Declaration of War–Tap Softly, by Tapit)
O-Ed & Susie Orr; B-Hargus & Sandra Sexton & Silver Fern Farm LLC (KY); T-Steve Asmussen. Sales History: $50,000 yrl ’18 KEESEP; $190,000 2yo ’19 OBSAPR. Lifetime Record: MGSW, 9-3-0-2, $719,718.
Last Start: 6th GII Rebel S., OP, Mar. 14
Accomplishments Include: 1st GII Kentucky Jockey Club S., CD, Nov. 30, 1st GIII Southwest S., OP, Feb. 17
Next Start: Uncommitted
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 21.

Silver Prospector continues to merit a Top 12 ranking based more on consistency and experience than raw power and prowess. His sixth-place try in the Rebel as the beaten second fave came with minor excuses in the form of traffic on the turns and having to eat sloppy kickback before again running into blockages turning for home, but the reality is he was punchless late in the lane behind Nadal when it counted. On the plus side, the previous-race company line for this Declaration of War pinhook ($50,000 KEESEP; $190,000 OBSAPR) upticked when the horse he beat by a length in the GIII Southwest S., Wells Bayou, came back to win the Louisiana Derby in his next start.

12) GOUVERNEUR MORRIS (c, Constitution–Addison Run, by Unbridled’s Song)
‘TDN Rising Star’ O-Team Valor International & WinStar Farm LLC. B-Machmer Hall, Carrie & Craig Brogden & James F. Miller (KY); T-Todd Pletcher. Sales History: $200,000 yrl ’18 KEESEP; $600,000 2yo ’19 FTFMAR. Lifetime Record: GISP, 4-2-1-0, $197,500.
Last Start: 4th GI Curlin Florida Derby, GP, Mar. 28
Accomplishments Include: 2nd GI Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity, KEE, Oct. 5
Next Start: Possible for GI Arkansas Derby, OP, May 2
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 14.

‘TDN Rising Star’ Gouverneur Morris remains a work in progress, and there is a possibility that he shows up next in the Arkansas Derby. He has shown flashes of brilliance (nine-length maiden win at the Spa last summer; a gritty Tampa allowance win just .02 seconds off the track record) paired with some so-so efforts, including his most recent fourth in the Florida Derby. John Velazquez really started riding him hard a half mile out in that Gulfstream stakes, and just like in his previous try at Tampa, this Constitution gray ($200,000 at KEESEP; $600,000 at FTFMAR) needed assertive handling all through the far turn just to try to stay engaged. He had some run into the stretch, but no true explosive rally. Like practically every other horse on this list, the benefit of time and maturity can only help with his progression.

On the Bubble (in alphabetical order):

Anneau d’Or (Medaglia d’Oro): GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile runner-up has been logging miles up at Golden Gate Fields; could be a forgotten prospect when he resurfaces.

Country Grammer (Tonalist): This bay merits dark-horse consideration off a much-better-than-it-looks fifth in the GII Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth S. Currently training at Payson for Chad Brown.

Edge of Fire (Curlin): This Ontario-bred ‘TDN Rising Star’ briefly made the Top 12 earlier this year, but when his connections indicated that both the Derby and the Queen’s Plate were not likely targets because of time constraints, he got de-listed. He’s since run second in a Gulfstream allowance, and again merits consideration given the revamped race spacing.

Mr. Monomoy (Palace Malice): ‘TDN Rising Star’ won stronger/faster split division of GII Risen Star S., then was shelved with an ankle injury. The revised Derby timetable puts him back in the mix.

Sonneman (Curlin): Won a Belmont MSW and a Gulfstream allowance six months apart and fits the profile of a late bloomer with plenty of time to round into a top-notch contender.

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