TDN Derby Top 12 For February 4

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Tiz the Law (3) flashed good gate speed in last weekend’s GIII Holy Bull S. | Coglianese

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Stakes preps for the GI Kentucky Derby in Florida and California yielded some separation at the top of the totem pole last Saturday. This coming weekend will likely feature three Top 12 horses in action, which could create some mid-level movement on the list.

1) 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, 3-3-0-0, $211,000.
Last Start: 1st GIII Robert B. Lewis S., SA, Feb. 1
Accomplishments Include: 1st GII Los Alamitos Futurity
Next Start: Uncommitted
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 20.

Thousand Words has owned the No. 1 ranking since the start of the season, but the gap between this $1-million KEESEP buy and most of the pack widened discernibly after his grind-’em-down, power-under-pressure score in Saturday’s GIII Robert B. Lewis S. This still-learning Pioneerof the Nile colt has displayed the strongest combination of physical prowess and mental awareness among top-tier contenders so far, and his three-quarter length win in the Lewis was tactically similar to his GII Los Alamitos Futurity win in that he had to put away a speedy stablemate and then have enough left to confront a fresh closer in deep stretch. This time around, Thousand Words broke fluidly, rated patiently at the rail, dropped back to fifth on the clubhouse turn, then worked his way up to be a stalking fourth on the backstretch. Taking dirt to the face while into the bit, this three-for-three colt was ridden patiently through the far turn. He got nudged along through a narrow hole at the quarter pole, then commenced a long, steady reeling-in of his target while keeping a late-arriving foe at bay. “He’s got that big, long stride and the farther the better with him,” trainer Bob Baffert said post-race. “You could tell about the last 50 yards he was really getting going. He came back he wasn’t even tired, so that is a good sign.”

2)  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: GISW, 4-3-0-1, $498,900.
Last Start:  1st GIII Holy Bull S., GP, Feb. 1
Accomplishments Include: 1st GI Champagne S., 3rd GII Kentucky Jockey Club S., CD, Nov. 30
Next Start: Possible for GII Louisiana Derby, FG, Mar. 21
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 22.

Tiz the Law’s energetic, big-number (100 Beyer) breakout in the GIII Holy Bull S. was easily the most eye-catching romp among last Saturday’s Derby preps. Underscoring how he made a difficult comeback race look easy was the fact that the Holy Bull has been a horrific annual trap for highly touted sophomores, with big-name favorites going down in defeat in nine of the previous 11 runnings. This $110,000 Fasig-Tipton New York-Bred yearling shot out of the gate, opted for the four path into the clubhouse bend, then jockey Manny Franco conceded the lead and took to the fence to save ground. This tactic resulted in yet another dicey backstretch placement for “Tiz,” who for three consecutive stakes now has been forced to steady off heels with Franco applying momentum-drag braking. By the half-mile pole though, Tiz was repositioned outside, relishing the pursuit of front-running prey. He collared Ete Indien (Summer Front) three-eighths out, then the dueling duo opened up six lengths on the rest of the field through legit splits. But by the top of the lane Tiz the Law left that pretty decent speedster reeling. Franco stayed busy on a lugging-in, looking-out Tiz, cementing a winning margin of three with the remainder of the crushed field 11 1/2 lengths behind the second-place horse.

3) STRUCTOR (c, Palace MaliceMiss Always Ready, by More Than Ready)
O-Jeff Drown & Don Rachel. B-Three Chimneys Farm (Ky). T-Chad Brown. Sales History: $160,000 yrl ’18 KEESEP; $850,000 2yo ’19 OBSMAR. Lifetime Record: GISW, 3-3-0-0, $709,500.
Last Start: 1st GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, SA, Nov. 1
Accomplishments Include: 1st GIII Pilgrim S., BEL, Sept. 28
Next Start: Uncommitted.
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 0.

Structor is being primed for a turf-to-dirt leap after capping a three-for-three season with a decisive GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf score. His breeding suggests that transition is within his scope (by Palace Malice out of a More Than Ready mare), and you could say that Structor’s stock has essentially been on the rise for a year now considering he fetched $160,000 at KEESEP then resold for $850,000 at OBSMAR. But potentially more important than pedigree is the authoritative flair with which Structor repulsed some fairly talented competition in both of his stakes wins at age two. I’m especially bullish on his GII Pilgrim S. score. Structor stalked confidently, hit the lead under pressure turning for home, then slugged out a head victory after a long stretch fight in which the top five horses were covered by 2 1/2 lengths. A Monday half-mile breeze at Palm Meadows in :48.90 (8/33) was his second published work of the year.

4) DENNIS’ MOMENT (c, TiznowTransplendid, by Elusive Quality)
‘TDN Rising Star’ O-Albaugh Family Stables LLC. B-Tolo Thoroughbreds (Ky). T-Dale Romans. Sales History: $400,000 yrl ’18 FTSAUG. Lifetime Record: GSW, 4-2-0-0, $167,800.
Last Start: 8th GI TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, SA, Nov. 1
Accomplishments Include: 1st GIII Iroquois S.
Next Start: GII Fountain of Youth S., GP, Feb. 29
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 10.

Albaugh Family Stables owns top-ranked Thousand Words in partnership with Spendthrift Farm, and Albaugh owns ‘TDN Rising Star’ Dennis’ Moment outright, which makes for a formidable No. 1-No. 4 punch. “In the past, we were always dodging horses,” Albaugh stable manager Jason Loutsch told Thoroughbred News Service last Friday, referring to the outfit’s recent Derby hopefuls Free Drop Billy (Union Rags), Brody’s Cause (Giant’s Causeway), and J Boys Echo (Mineshaft). “We went into this year that we’re going to change our mentality. If we’re as good as we hope we are, we shouldn’t have to dodge anyone.” This $400,000 FTSAUG acquisition looms as the early favorite for the GII Fountain of Youth S. Feb. 29, and it’s worth noting that no other Top 12 horses have publicly committed to that same prep, so A-list competition might be hard to come by first time back. Dennis’ Moment is four works into his 2020 training, and he cracked bullet status on Sunday with a :58.47 (1/49) five-eighths breeze at Gulfstream.

5) 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 has progressed from jogging to galloping at Palm Meadows in his comeback from mid-November surgery to repair a mildly displaced ankle chip. He had scratched the week of the Breeders’ Cup after being installed as the third favorite on the Juvenile morning line, and considering how that race ended up (45-1, 28-1 and 39-1 trifecta with two no-show heavy faves), one can only wonder what might have been had this Street Sense homebred for Godolphin been healthy enough to run. But such speculation is far behind in the rear-view mirror as his connections aim for Maxfield’s first public workouts that will lead to a yet-unmapped return to the races. This colt’s dynamic, breakaway victory in the GI Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland Oct. 5 still resonates as the most visually impressive two-turn juvenile stakes of 2019, and it looks even better now that both the third- and fourth-place finishers, Enforceable (Tapit) and Ajaaweed (Curlin), have emerged as Top 12 threats.

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, 7-2-1-2, $267,150.
Last Start: 1st GIII Lecomte S., FG, Jan. 18
Accomplishments Include: 3rd GI Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity, KEE, Oct. 5
Next Start: GII Risen Star S., FG, Feb. 15
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 13.

Enforceable looms as the home-court horse to beat in the Feb. 15 GII Risen Star S. at Fair Grounds after his off-the-pace shakedown of a good GIII Lecomte S. field there Jan. 18. Trainer Mark Casse last year swept the Lecomte-Risen Star tandem with War of Will (War Front), although he’s explained that these two colts are not similar in makeup (War of Will was a ready-made learner, Enforceable takes awhile to figure things out). Not only is the spacing of the Fair Grounds series favorable to Enforceable timing-wise, but his stamina-centric pedigree is a great fit for the newly elongated Risen Star and GII Louisiana Derby (both extended a sixteenth of a mile this season). This $775,000 KEESEP RNA now owned by John Oxley is a half-brother to 2013 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner New Year’s Day and is a full brother to fellow gray Mohaymen, who won four straight stakes on the 2015-16 Derby prep trail, then ran fourth in Nyquist’s Kentucky Derby. Enforceable’s dam, Justwhistledixie, was a durable multiple Grade II winner whose sweet spot was eight or nine furlongs on the dirt.

7) INDEPENDENCE HALL (c, ConstitutionKalahari Cat, by Cape Town)
O-Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, Twin Creeks Racing Stables, LLC, Kathleen & Robert Verratti. B-Woodford Thoroughbreds (Ky). T-Michael Trombetta. Sales History: $100,000 yrl ’18 KEESEP; $200,000 RNA 2yo ’19 FTFMAR. Lifetime Record: GSW, 3-3-0-0, $210,000.
Last Start: 1st Jerome S., AQU, Jan. 1
Next Start: GIII Sam F. Davis S., TAM, Feb. 8
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 10.

Independence Hall will be solidly favored for Saturday’s GIII Sam F. Davis S. when Tampa entries are drawn Wednesday. The connections of this undefeated, $100,000 KEESEP graduate (subsequently RNA’d for $200,000 at FTFMAR) had been on the fence about whether the Davis or next weekend’s Risen Star S. at Fair Grounds would be the optimal placement for this Constitution colt’s two-turn unveiling. “The [difference in points] was part of the decision process, but the owners feel the points will come if the horse is right,” trainer Mike Trombetta said. “This race is here at the track he’s training on, and the other one is 600 miles away at a track he’s never seen. You weigh all these things, then everybody has to be happy with whatever decision is made and you just roll with it.” Derby prognosticators will be keenly watching Independence Hall pre-race to see if he gets hot and bothered in the paddock like he did before his four-length romp in the Jerome S. Independence Hall also broke a stutter-step slow in the Jerome, and he shied from the stick in both the Jerome and his GIII Nashua S. win. The Davis has recently been no slam-dunk for favorites–they’ve lost six of last eight runnings.

8)  AJAAWEED (c, Curlin–Asiya, by Daaher)
O-Shadwell Stable. B-Shadwell Farm (KY). T-Kiaran McLaughlin. Lifetime Record: GSP, 4-1-1-0, $119,850.
Last Start: 2nd GII Remsen S., Aqu, Dec. 7
Accomplishments Include: 4th GI Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity, Kee, Oct. 5
Next Start: GIII Sam F. Davis S., TAM, Feb. 8
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 5.

Ajaaweed will be the second fave behind Independence Hall if he starts in Saturday’s Davis S. I like the progression of his career arc, but I have concerns about whether the sometimes-quirky Tampa surface is the best match for this colt’s off-the-pace style. The Davis has been won in wire-to-wire fashion by mid-priced upsetters the past two seasons, speed-oriented runners have won four of the last five runnings and the track in general does not favor deep closers. This Shadwell homebred’s second-place try in the GII Remsen S. stands out because he was wide on both turns behind a slow pace on a day when speed carried better as the afternoon progressed at Aqueduct. He closed very well, but the horse who was saved by the wire in that race, Shotski (Blame), led but caved as the fave when second to Max Player (Honor Code) this past Saturday in the GIII Withers S. over nine furlongs at Aqueduct.

9) ANNEAU D’OR (c, Medaglia d’Oro–Walk Close, by Tapit)
O-Peter Redekop B.C. Ltd. B-Highland Yard (Ky). T-Blaine Wright. Sales History: $170,000 RNA yrl ’18 KEESEP; $480,000 2yo ’19 OBSAPR. Lifetime Record: GISP, 3-1-2-0, $399,000.
Last Start: 2nd GII Los Alamitos Futurity, LRC, Dec. 7
Accomplishments Include: 2nd GI TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
Next Start: Uncommitted.
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 12

The plan to equip Anneau d’Or with blinkers and ship to Fair Grounds for a nine-furlong prep over a track with a long stretch makes sense on several levels. This $480,000 OBSAPR breezer (RNA’d for $170,000 at KEESEP) was an effective, lumbering closer in a pair of graded stakes at age two. Because the Santa Anita sophomore stakes routinely come up as short-field affairs dominated by speed-centric favorites, racing in one of those races wouldn’t play to Anneau d’Or’s tactical strengths. Neither would remaining home at Golden Gate Fields for the Feb. 15 El Camino Real Derby, because that synthetic-surface race would deprive this Medaglia d’Oro colt of dirt experience while offering fewer Derby qualifying points than the same-day Risen Star. Joel Rosario has been confirmed as the new jockey for Anneau d’Or’s foray to New Orleans.

10) ANSWER IN (g, Dialed In–D’ya Knowwhatimean, by Broken Vow)
O-Robert LaPenta & Madaket Stables. B-Glen Oak Farm & Two Stamp Stables (KY). T-Brad Cox. Sales History: $175,000 wnlg ’17 KEENOV. Lifetime Record: SP, 3-1-2-0, $153,412.
Last Start: 2nd Springboard Mile, RP, Dec. 15
Next Start: Aiming for GIII Southwest S., OP, Feb. 17
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 4.

Answer In is quietly building a nice resume that consists of two Churchill sprints (six and seven furlongs) that ended up being productive MSW races and a two-turn debut in the Springboard Mile that was notable for this $175,000 KEENOV weanling, who  dove through at the rail to narrowly miss winning as the 3-5 fave. Trainer Brad Cox has Answer In on target for a sophomore unveiling in the Feb. 17 GIII Southwest S., and he worked the colt in company Sunday with stablemate Gold Standard (Medaglia d’Oro), a Grade III-placed 4-year-old filly who is also pointing for an Oaklawn stakes on the same date. “Both breezed really well,” Cox said. “He’s a good work horse. She is, too. We’ll do a little something again next week.” Cox confirmed jockey Javier Castellano has accepted the return call on Answer In after riding this colt at Remington.

11) 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: GSW, 2-2-0-0, $91,200.
Last Start: 1st GIII Sham S., SA, Jan. 4
Next Start: Possible for GII San Felipe S., SA, Mar. 7
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 10.

Authentic’s 7 3/4-length shellacking of a soft GIII Sham S. field stands out by numbers (90 Beyer). But his rodeo-esque antics while soaring solo through mid-stretch didn’t earn him any style points. Trainer Bob Baffert said this $350,000 KEESEP yearling got spooked by crowd noise, and only time will tell if the colt’s veering in and head tossing are correctable flukes or ingrained behavior. Considering he’s a May 5 foal who’s only started twice, Authentic gets the benefit of the doubt that he’ll figure things out. He’s since rattled off three Santa Anita workouts, and as Baffert maps out his annual who’s-going-where puzzle for his typical full hand of Derby contenders, Authentic might shake out as the sophomore who ends up staying home for the Mar. 7 GII San Felipe S.

12) STORM THE COURT (c, Court Vision–My Tejana Storm, by Tejano Run)
O-Exline-Border Racing LLC, David Bernsen, Susanna Wilson & Dan Hudock. B-Stepping Stone Farm (Ky). T-Peter Eurton. Sales History: $5,000 yrl ’18 FTKFEB; $60,000 2yo ’19 OBSAPR. Lifetime Record: Ch. 2yo Colt & GISW, 4-2-0-1, $1,172,951.
Last Start: 1st GI TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, SA, Nov. 1
Next Start: GIII San Vicente S., SA, Feb. 9
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 22.

The defending 2-year-old champ will be back in action this weekend, headlining what is likely to be a short field over seven furlongs in the GII San Vicente S. Even though it offers no Derby qualifying points and is the lone remaining stakes sprint of any importance after January on the Derby prep calendar, the San Vicente is a historical stepping-stone to success on the first Saturday in May. Kentucky Derby winners Nyquist (2016) and Silver Charm (1997) both won the San Vicente, as did five other Derby champs dating to 1940 (Majestic Prince, Lucky Debonair, Swaps, Hill Gail and Gallahadion). “He is a May foal, and I believe he’s maybe grown an inch or so,” trainer Peter Eurton updated TDN’s Joe Bianca last week. “He never was short or anything, he’s always been kind of leggy, not a real thick individual, but I think he has filled out a bit. He’s close to 1,100 pounds now, whereas some of these 3-year-olds you see are well in the high 11s, 1,200s, so he’s not what you’d call big in thickness, but he’s tall and leggy.”

On the Bubble (in alphabetical order)

Chance It (Currency Swap): Will aim to be the hometown hopeful spoiler in the GII Fountain of Youth S. based on 4-for-6 record with four 90+ Beyers at Gulfstream.

Edge of Fire (Curlin): Latest TDN Rising Star won easily with plenty left in tank after deft Gulfstream MSW score on Saturday.

Eight Rings (Empire Maker): Still waiting for this TDN Rising Star to resurface on worktab after getting a post-Breeders’ Cup break. The GII Rebel S. Mar. 14 at Oaklawn could be a possible next-race option.

Gold Street (Street Boss): Wire-to-wire Smarty Jones S. victor has now won three straight on wet tracks; aiming for Southwest S. at Oaklawn. Asmussen: “The racetracks are definitely playing conducive to his natural style and he took advantage of it.”

Gouverneur Morris (Constitution): TDN Rising Star who was second behind No. 5-ranked Maxfield at Keeneland now targeting Southwest at Oaklawn, per Team Valor’s Barry Irwin in DRF.

Max Player (Honor Code): Parx invader picked up pieces to win Withers; another nine-furlong try in Apr. 4 GII Wood Memorial S. likely next.

Nadal (Blame): TDN Rising Star reportedly will hit the road for Baffert off maiden score, heading to Oaklawn for intriguing Southwest.

Silver State (Hard Spun): Caught the eye with a trip-troubled second behind Enforceable in Lecomte S.; just breezed Monday at Fair Grounds in first work back.

Three Technique (Mr Speaker): Owned by Bill Parcells (August Dawn Farm), the Mar. 14 Rebel is likely next for this TDN Rising Star after firing late on speed-carrying track in Oaklawn’s Opening Day feature.

Click here to visit TDN’s Top Kentucky Derby contenders page.

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