TDN Derby Top 12 for August 18

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Tiz the Law | Sarah Andrew

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All of the qualifying races for the GI Kentucky Derby have been run and we’re approaching the two-week mark for the first Saturday in September. Please note the rankings below are independent from the “Road to the Derby” points leaderboard Churchill Downs uses to determine starting berths. That list can be accessed here.

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, 7-6-0-1, $2,015,300.
Last Start: 1st GI Runhappy Travers S., SAR, Aug. 8
Accomplishments Include: 1st GI Belmont S., BEL, June 20, 1st GI Curlin Florida Derby, GP, Mar. 28, 1st GI Champagne S., 1st GIII Holy Bull S., GP, Feb. 1, 3rd GII Kentucky Jockey Club S., CD, Nov. 30
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 372.

Tiz the Law will head to the Derby as the imposing favorite backed by credentials no horse will be able to replicate once the world reverts to traditional Triple Crown scheduling. He’s 6-for-7 lifetime and undefeated in four starts at age 3, and is coming off an absolute trouncing of the GI Travers S. field at the Derby distance of 1 1/4 miles. This $110,000 SARAUG Constitution colt cuffed around an accomplished (but not spectacular) group by 5 1/2 lengths, earning a 109 Beyer Speed Figure despite being geared down late. (Highest Beyer ever in a Derby prep? Not quite. Bellamy Road ran a 120 in the then-GI Wood Memorial before running seventh as the 2005 Derby fave). More impressive than the numbers are Tiz’s visuals: He simply looks the part of a confident aggressor when he blows by the competition, and his far-turn blast-offs have been so emphatic that he has yet to have to fight any serious challengers inside the eighth pole. Just as important is how finely trainer Barclay Tagg has kept this colt honed over a 12-month period: Tiz’s Aug. 8 Travers romp came one year to the date of his maiden-breaking win at the Spa. Will pitfalls lurk in Louisville? The Derby favorite always has a figurative target on his back, and the turnaround time between races for Tiz (four weeks) will be the shortest spacing in his career.

2) ART COLLECTOR (c, BernardiniDistorted Legacy, by Distorted Humor)
O/B-Bruce Lunsford (KY). T-Thomas Drury Jr. Lifetime Record: GSW, 9-5-1-0, $548,475.
Last Start: 1st Runhappy Ellis Park Derby, ELP, Aug. 9
Accomplishments Include: 1st GII Toyota Blue Grass S., KEE, July 11
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 150.

Although already firmly entrenched as the No. 2 Derby choice, Art Collector’s stock edged upward a notch on Saturday when the filly Swiss Skydiver (Daredevil) pasted the GI Alabama S. field at Saratoga. Back on July 11, Art Collector and Swiss Skydiver ran 1-2 while eight lengths clear of the competition in the GII Blue Grass S. In the aftermath of that race, there had been musings about whether a with-the-pace bias had influenced some main-track results at the Keeneland mini-meet. Now that both of those front-runners have come back to register commanding next-out victories, it’s clear they’re both A-list sophomores whose lofty standings are legitimate. This Bernardini-sired homebred won the Ellis Park Derby Aug. 9 by firing confidently off the mark, forging to the front with eight horses bunched closely behind. He then peeled off from the pack in completely professional fashion as his overmatched pursuers petered out one by one. While Tiz the Law catches the eye with flash and panache, Art Collector looms like a quietly intimidating bruiser. It’s also worth noting that this colt has crossed the finish wire first in three of four lifetime races over the Derby surface.

3) HONOR A.P. (r, Honor CodeHollywood 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: GISW, 5-2-3-0, $382,200.
Last Start: 2nd Shared Belief S., DMR, Aug. 1
Accomplishments Include: 1st GI Runhappy Santa Anita Derby June 6, 2nd GII San Felipe S., SA, Mar. 7
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 140.

Long-striding, sharp-minded Honor A.P. has always carried himself like a horse with Triple Crown potential, and the pandemic delay has helped his progression arc. But he’s coming into the Derby off a subpar prep, so momentum-wise there is a question here that the two horses ranked ahead of him have already answered. And yes, this $850,000 FTSAUG Honor Code ridgling did encounter a bit of a “trap” situation when not fully cranked at 1-5 odds in the Shared Belief S. at Del Mar. Honor A.P. was cutting back to 1 1/16 miles (not his ideal distance) and had to endure a tough trip (bumped at break, three wide on both turns in a four-horse field) when running second behind Thousand Words (Pioneerof the Nile). Honor A.P.’s training tightened up nicely on Saturday with a five-eighths workout in in :59.40 (4/96) prior to the first race at Del Mar with regular rider Mike Smith up. Honor A.P. has never run worse than second from five starts (2-3-0) and his 102-Beyer GI Santa Anita Derby was ultra-impressive. But that’s also his only win beyond the maiden ranks, and he got a bit of help that day when 1-2 fave Authentic (Into Mischief) veered outward at the start, costing him the race.

4) 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 & GISP, 5-2-1-1, $340,350.
Last Start: 2nd GI Arkansas Derby, OP, May 2
Accomplishments Include: 1st GII Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby, 3rd Pulpit S., GP, Nov. 30
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 90.

The pandemic has thrown all norms out the window. A horse winning the Kentucky Derby off a 127-day layoff? Why not? Two years ago we saw Justify go from being an unraced maiden to a Triple Crown winner in 113 days, so traditional approaches to prepping for the Classics were already starting to slide off the grid. King Guillermo’s connections are banking on the fact that because this Uncle Mo bay ($90,000 RNA at KEESEP; $150,000 OBSAPR) won the GII Tampa Bay Derby at 49-1 odds off a 97-day respite back in March, a similarly spaced break might be just what he needs to get ready for 10 furlongs against the top of the crop. In a normal year, this would be the equivalent of a horse last racing in the final week of December, then not again until the first Saturday in May. But the circumstances are obviously different, and not drilling a horse hard through the summer months may well prove an advantage. King Guillermo was a visually impressive victor with a legit number (99 Beyer) in the Tampa Derby, and his second-place try in the faster division of the split GI Arkansas Derby showed this colt responds to insistent urging and doesn’t back down in the stretch.

5) THOUSAND WORDS (c, Pioneerof the NilePomeroys Pistol, by Pomeroy)
O-Albaugh Family Stables & Spendthrift Farm. B-Hardacre Farm (FL). T-Bob Baffert. Sales History: $1,000,000 yrl ’18 KEESEP. Lifetime Record: MGSW, 7-4-1-0, $327,000.
Last Start: 1st Shared Belief S., DMR, Aug. 1
Accomplishments Include: 1st GII Los Alamitos Futurity, LRC, Dec. 7, 1st GIII Robert B. Lewis S., SA, Feb. 1
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 83.

Thousand Words has a nice confidence-builder under his belt as a prep for the Derby, but he still rates as a conundrum in terms of where he fits overall. He was ranked as the No.1 Derby prospect on this list from December through early March, then went off the rails form-wise for three starts (in two of them he just looked flat and in another he backpedaled while taking sloppy kickback). But this million-dollar KEESEP Pioneerof the Nile colt’s 104-Beyer win in the Shared Belief S. is evidence of his ability to summon grit under pressure. And even though he races in southern California, where the 3-year-old stakes fields come up notoriously short (three of his races have been against only three other rivals), Thousand Words has, on several occasions, slugged it out in early pace battles while still having enough energy left to repulse serious stretch challenges. It’s rare to see a Derby candidate for trainer Bob Baffert who keeps switching jockeys, but when Florent Geroux picks up the mount at Churchill, he will be the fourth different rider for Thousand Words in as many starts.

6) 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,
10-2-2-2, $367,150.
Last Start: 4th GII Toyota Blue Grass S., KEE, July 11
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
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 43.

Back in early March, after Enforceable was a stout-closing second behind a loose-on-the-lead winner in the faster division of the GII Risen Star S., I wrote in the Top 12 that “this colt’s grind-all-day closing style and stamina-centric pedigree (by Tapit out of a MGIISW Dixie Union mare) will be tough to leave off tickets at 10 furlongs.” It’s now nearly six months later, and my assessment remains unchanged heading into the rescheduled Derby. This $775,000 KEESEP RNA most recently ran fourth in the Blue Grass S., and I already noted in Art Collector’s write-up how that race is shaking out to be a stronger-than-perceived prep now that the 1-2 horses have both come back to win subsequent starts in impressive fashion. Enforceable is a half-brother to 2013 GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner New Year’s Day (sire of DQ’d 2019 Derby winner Maximum Security) and is a full brother to fellow gray Mohaymen, who was fourth in the 2016 Derby. He breezed five-eighths from the gate Monday at Churchill in 1:01.40 (8/47).

7) 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: GISW, 5-4-1-0, $1,011,200.
Last Start: 1st GI TVG.com Haskell Invitational S., MTH, July 18.
Accomplishments Include: 1st GII San Felipe S., SA, Mar. 7; 1st GIII Sham S., SA, Jan. 4, 2nd GI Runhappy Santa Anita Derby, SA, June 5
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 200.

Authentic is usually a solo worker in the mornings, but trainer Bob Baffert put him in chase mode when bulleting six furlongs in 1:12.60 (1/4) last Thursday at Del Mar. Authentic was parked two lengths behind a 3-year-old, maiden-winning stablemate who was drilling five furlongs, and Authentic gradually reeled that colt in by a neck at the wire before galloping out stronger and longer on his own. This $350,000 KEESEP Into Mischief bay has high-level pace-pressing ability that could put him near the head of affairs for the first mile of the Derby. But Authentic’s caving-then-saving antics after getting away with soft splits in the GI Haskell S. underscore that this is a colt who still must overcome both focus issues and stamina concerns at 10 furlongs. John Velazquez has been named to replace Mike Smith (who rode Authentic in the Haskell but has the Derby mount on Honor A.P.) and Drayden Van Dyke (who was previously aboard for Authentic’s first four races).

8) 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, 7-4-1-1, $323,310.
Last Start: 6th GI Belmont S., BEL, June 20
Accomplishments Include: 1st GIII Sam F. Davis S., TAM, Feb. 8, 1st Pulpit S., GP, Nov. 30, 2nd GII Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby, TAM, Mar. 7.
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 30.

This $6,000 KEESEP and $20,000 OBSAPR Karakontie (Jpn) pinhook doesn’t stand out as a top-tier threat. But he’s a fresh (78-day layoff), light-bodied stayer with a decent route-race foundation who reliably posts 90s Beyers and reportedly didn’t like the track surface in the GI Belmont S. This gelding has been repeatedly described by his connections as a quiet-minded, intelligent type who knows his job is to pass other horses. Expect him to make one run from off the tailgate, but he’s going to need a touch of help from a feisty pace and/or a very clean trip in a large field.

9) DR POST (c, Quality RoadMary Delaney, by Hennessy)
O-St. Elias Stable. B-Cloyce C. Clark (KY). T-Todd Pletcher. Sales History: $200,000 wlg ’17 KEESEP; $400,000 yrl ’18 KEESEP. Lifetime Record: SW & GISP, 4-2-1-0, $261,635.
Last Start: 3rd GI TVG.com Haskell Invitational S., MTH, July 18
Accomplishments Include: 2nd GI Belmont S., BEL, June 20, 1st Unbridled S., GP, Apr. 25
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 80.

Dr Post ran second in the Belmont S. and third in the Haskell S., but both of those efforts came across like “pick up the pieces” efforts behind high-profile favorites. The race that is more intriguing in this $400,000 KEESEP and $200,000 KEENOV colt’s past performance block is his determined win in the $75,000 Unbridled S. at Gulfstream back on Apr. 25, when Dr Post fought on gamely despite being boxed and blocked on the far turn and again in the stretch. An encouraging five-eighths breeze at Saratoga last Friday in 1:01.44 (12/25) sparked serious Derby consideration among his connections, and with a seven-week gap between starts, this Todd Pletcher trainee could emerge as a mid-pack stalker/closer type who is ready to make a leap to the next level.

10) NY TRAFFIC (c, Cross Traffic–Mamie Reilly, by Graeme Hall)
O-John Fanelli, Cash is King LLC, LC Racing & Paul Braverman. B-Brian Culnan (NY). T-Saffie Joseph, Jr. Sales History: $27,000 RNA 2yo ’19 EASMAY. Lifetime Record: GISP, 9-2-3-2, $565,470.
Last Start: 2nd GI TVG.com Haskell Invitational S., MTH, July 18
Accomplishments Include: 2nd GII Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby, FG, Mar. 21, 2nd GIII Matt Winn S., CD, May 23, 3rd GII Risen Star S. Div. 2, FG, Feb. 15
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 110.

Ny Traffic has run three seconds and a third in four graded stakes tries this year, and he hasn’t been beaten by more than 1 1/2 lengths in any of those efforts. But this $27,000 EASMAY Cross Traffic gray hasn’t won a stakes race yet, and his only two lifetime wins were a Parx MSW and a Gulfstream allowance/optional claimer. Still, he digs in and tries, and already has two-credible nine-furlong and one 1 3/16-miles race to his credit. Could he end up overachieving as the “forgotten” New York-bred in the Derby with all of the attention focused keenly on fellow Empire State-bred Tiz the Law?

11) CARACARO (c, Uncle MoPeace Time, by War Front)
‘TDN Rising Star’ O-Global Thoroughbred & Top Racing LLC. B-SF Bloodstock LLC (KY). T-Gustavo Delgado. Sales History: $95,000 wlg ’17 KEENOV. Lifetime Record: GISP, 4-1-3-0, $238,800.
Last Start: 2nd GI Runhappy Travers S., SAR, Aug. 8
Accomplishments Include: 2nd GIII Peter Pan S., SAR, July 16
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 60.

This $95,000 KEENOV Uncle Mo bay will stable at Saratoga until it’s time to ship to Louisville, and he has two nice graded stakes seconds to his credit since returning to action off a six-month layoff. In the July 16 GIII Peter Pan S., Caracaro seized the lead in the stretch and scrappily brushed with the eventual winner, Country Grammer (Tonalist), to get beaten only a neck in a 96-Beyer breakout effort. In the Travers, Caracaro was clearly not in the same league as Tiz the Law, but that didn’t stop him from running hard to win the race among the also-rans by two clear lengths. But for Caracaro, winning the Derby would mean running three hard races at nine, 10, and 10 furlongs through a seven-week span at the height of summer. Repeated success at those distances in that time frame is something you just don’t see in the sport very often, let alone at the game’s highest level.

12) MAX PLAYER (c, Honor CodeFools in Love, by Not For Love)
O-George E. Hall & SportBLX Thoroughbreds Corp. B-K&G Stables (KY). T-Steve Asmussen. Sales History: $150,000 RNA yrl ’18 KEESEP. Lifetime Record: GSW & MGISP, 5-2-1-2, $373,500.
Last Start: 3rd GI Runhappy Travers S., SAR, Aug. 8
Accomplishments Include: 1st GIII Withers S., AQU, Feb. 1, 3rd GI Belmont S., BEL, June 20
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 60.

Max Player has been transferred from trainer Linda Rice’s care to the Steve Asmussen stable at Churchill Downs. He breezed five furlongs there on Monday in 1:01.80 (13/47). This first-crop Honor Code colt ($150,000 KEESEP RNA) was a commendable third in both the Belmont S. and the Travers S., but in neither effort did he get within true striking distance of much-the-best winner Tiz the Law. Max Player had been described as a slow but steady learner earlier this summer by Rice. And although he’s done little wrong and there is certainly room for rounding into a nice distance-centric horse, this colt would need to uncork a multi-level improvement in the Derby to leapfrog the proven multiple graded stakes winners ranked above him.

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