TDN Top Triple Crown Contenders

TDN Derby Top 12 for March 13

It doesn’t really matter which side you take on this past weekend’s GII San Felipe S. disqualification. The undeniable fact is that the controversy has sparked some much-needed interest in the GI Kentucky Derby chase by providing a bona fide rivalry at the top end of the division, and a close finish between two very talented colts only whets the appetite for what is to come further down the pipeline. Deeper down the list, we have a cluster of capable sophomores who might be one race away from muscling into top-tier contention, and the bottom end of this week’s Top 12 features several surprising new shooters emerging as fresh threats.

1) 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,
4-3-1-0, $350,000.
Mar. 6 TDN Top 12 Rank: 1
Last Start: 2nd GII San Felipe S., SA, Mar. 10
Accomplishments Include: 1st, GI Los Alamitos Futurity, LRC, Dec. 9; 1st GIII Sham S., SA, Jan. 6
Next Start: Possible for GI Santa Anita Derby, SA, Apr. 7
Equineline PPs. Caulfield on McKinzie.
KY Derby Points: 40

His margin crossing the finish line first in the hotly contested San Felipe was a head, but the difference in ability between McKinzie and arch-rival Bolt d’Oro (Medaglia d’Oro) is much narrower than that, and I’m rooting big-time for a rematch in the GI Santa Anita Derby. This is a close call, but regardless of the administrative decision made by the Santa Anita stewards to disqualify him from first, this ‘TDN Rising Star’ retains the No. 1 ranking because he still prevailed in the heat of battle. I don’t believe that McKinzie’s shifting out under left-handed whipping in the vicinity of the sixteenth pole cost “Bolt” the win any more than Bolt’s veering inward at the quarter pole after getting a right-handed crack of the crop cost McKinzie his own momentum when pinned down on the fence. In fact, I like the fact that this $170,000 KEESEP Street Sense colt was emboldened when roughed up a bit, and he dug in resiliently when he had legitimate reasons to pack it in under pressure. I agree with trainer Bob Baffert’s assessment that the entire stretch run was just “two Hall-of Famers race riding,” and both colts will end up getting more long-term seasoning out of their fight than if either one had peeled away from the pack and won by the length of the grandstand. Does McKinzie still have more to prove? You bet. But in a Derby prep season where highly hyped horses have been returning off layoffs and faltering under milder pressure than we saw in the San Felipe, he has asserted himself as a legitimate target at the top of the totem pole for now.


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, 5-4-0-1, $816,000.
Mar. 6 TDN Top 12 Rank: 2
Last Start: 1st GII San Felipe S., SA, Mar. 10
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
Next Start: Aiming for GI Santa Anita Derby, SA, Apr. 7
Equineline PPs. Caulfield on Bolt d’Oro. KY Derby Points: 64

The ferocity with which Bolt d’Oro attacked McKinzie off the turn in Saturday’s San Felipe S. answered a lot of questions. Would this $630,000 FTSAUG Medaglia d’Oro colt be able to build off his 2-year-old prowess despite a 127-day layoff? Would the muscle pull that derailed him from training briefly back in January have any lingering effects? Did he work too fast (:46.40) in his final blowout? All of these concerns were laid to rest when Bolt slugged it out with admirable determination through the lane, and he earned himself a victory via disqualification when McKinzie’s shifting outward was determined the stewards to have cost him the victory. His future potential looks even more formidable when you consider that comeback try was probably not his “A” effort, although I’m not sure I concur wholeheartedly with owner/trainer Mick Ruis’s assertion that what we saw was only an “80%” Bolt d’Oro. Still, there’s massive upside potential here, and McKinzie and Bolt d’Oro together have cracked open quite a chasm between themselves and the rest of the division right now. If they collide again in the Santa Anita Derby (figuratively, one hopes, and not again literally), it will be the most highly anticipated Derby prep race in years.


3) 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.
Mar. 6 TDN Top 12 Rank: 3
Last Start: 1st GIII Withers S., AQU, Feb. 3.
Accomplishments Include: 1st GII Nashua S., AQU, Nov. 5.
Next Start: GII Louisiana Derby, FG, Mar. 24
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 14

It’s appropriate that Avery Island will make his next scheduled start in Louisiana, because the Street Sense colt takes his name from the Gulf Coast salt dome that is the home of the Tabasco brand pepper sauce (it’s a play off his dam, Kinda Spicy [A.P. Indy]). He has a deep pedigree, a big frame, a long stride, and a good mental makeup according to trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. In essence, he’s a push-button stayer who seems like a good match for the 1,346-foot Fair Grounds stretch. But his cruise control seems to lack a cutthroat dimension right now, and that’s an asset he’s going to need moving forward in a race like the Kentucky Derby, where the aggressive ability to make one’s own breaks in a 20-horse field is often the difference between being a contender and an also-ran. He breezed five furlongs in 1:01.15 (3/9) on Friday at Palm Meadows Training Center. With regard to Avery Island’s company lines, the horse who ran second to him in the GIII Withers S., Firenze Fire (Poseidon’s Warrior), ran a non-threatening fourth in his next out in Saturday’s GIII Gotham S. at Aqueduct, so that represents a very slight downtick.


4) 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.
Mar. 6 TDN Top 12 Rank: 4
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: GI Florida Derby, GP, Mar. 31
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 14

Catholic Boy’s connections have narrowed down a next start since the last edition of the Derby Top 12, with the GI Florida Derby on Mar. 31 now the primary target (the Mar. 24 GII Louisiana Derby had also been under consideration). The grading of the Florida Derby might have been a factor, because this More Than Ready (Southern Halo) colt has won a Grade II and a Grade III, but not yet a Grade I. And while Gulfstream Park is not necessarily known as a track that favors closers, the likely entry of several other forwardly placed horses–namely Promises Fulfilled (Shackleford) and Audible (Into Mischief)–could ensure a lively pace that would play to Catholic Boy’s off-the-pace strength. Trainer Jonathan Thomas told the TDN several weeks ago that he’d like to see his colt drop back, not be too engaged too early in the race, and make one single strong run. Catholic Boy is not a grinder and he does not seem to benefit from pecking at the pace the way he did in the GIII Sam F. Davis S. at Tampa, and he will have the opportunity in the Florida Derby to benefit off that tightener and unleash a commanding kick that is more in line with his preferred style. Daily Racing Form reported on Monday afternoon that Irad Ortiz Jr. has been named the new jockey for Catholic Boy’s next start.


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 million yrl KEESEP ’16. Lifetime Record: Ch. 2yo, GISW, 4-1-2-1, $1,255,000.
Mar. 6 TDN Top 12 Rank: 5
Last Start: 3rd, GII Fountain of Youth S., GP, Mar. 3
Accomplishments Include: 1st GI Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, SA, Nov. 4.; 2nd GI Champagne S., BEL, Oct. 7.
Next Start: Possible for GII Blue Grass S., KEE, Apr. 7
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 34

Good Magic lies in wait for a possible next start in the GII Blue Grass S. at Keeneland Apr. 7 after a failed-to-fire humbling in his 2018 debut. His third-place try in the Fountain of Youth perhaps afforded him a necessary dose of in-race endurance-building that could be more valuable than any string of workouts, but other than that it’s difficult to come away with emphatic positives that demonstrate progression off this million-dollar KEESEP colt’s championship season as a juvenile. Still, even though he did not live up to the off-season hype, one single poor race does not equal derailment from the Derby trail, and he maintains a spot within the Top 12 based on respect for his 2-year-old accomplishments. Trainer Chad Brown will have five weeks between starts to tighten this Curlin colt, and improvement is expected. The Blue Grass isn’t yet flush with commitments from other horses at this point in the season, so we don’t know what type of competition he’ll be facing. But don’t forget that last year’s edition of the Blue Grass came up “loaded” on paper, and a 31-1 shot upset the field while the higher-ranked contenders tossed in blah efforts.


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 ’16 yrl. Lifetime Record: MGISP, 4-1-2-1, $472,000
Mar. 6 TDN Top 12 Rank: 6
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: GII Rebel S., OP, Mar. 17
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 14

Solomini is Oaklawn Park-bound for Saturday’s GII Rebel S., which means he will be the final horse ranked within the Top 12 to make his 2018 debut. This translates to a gap of 99 days between starts since his Dec. 9 DQ from winning the GI Los Alamitos Futurity. He subsequently spiked a temperature that set him back a bit in January, but his last four works have been bullet moves, the most recent being a :59 (1/61) clocking at Santa Anita Saturday. Trainer Bob Baffert has won six of the last eight renewals of the Rebel, including one for Solomini’s owner, Zayat Stable, with eventual Triple Crowner American Pharoah (Pioneeerof the Nile) in 2015. Things to watch in terms of improvement for this $270,000 KEESEP Curlin colt include overcoming touches of greenness and focus/concentration issues that were evident when he took the lead but couldn’t sustain his bid in the stretch of the GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and when he was disqualified from first in the Futurity for angling in on rivals.


7) PROMISES FULFILLED (c, Shackleford-Marquee Delivery, by Marquetry)
O-Robert J. Baron. B-David Jacobs (KY). T-Dale Romans. Sales history: $37,000 yrl KEESEP ’16. Lifetime Record: GSW, 4-3-0-1, $327,280.
Mar. 6 TDN Top 12 Rank: 7
Last Start: 1st GII Fountain of Youth S., GP, Mar. 3.
Next Start: GI Florida Derby, GP, Mar. 31
Equineline PPs.
Kentucky Derby Points: 52

Promises Fulfilled has led at the first call in each of his four lifetime races and he’s won three of them, so it’s no real secret what his most effective running style is. His wire job in the GII Fountain of Youth at 18-1 might have come as a surprise to bettors, but not to trainer Dale Romans, who has been high on this $37,000 KEESEP son of Shackleford ever since his game third in the Nov. 25 GII Kentucky Jockey Club S., in which he held well for third despite popping a shin splint. With that minor problem rectified, Romans was confident that giving jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. instructions to seize the lead from the outermost post in the Fountain of Youth was the right move, and when Promises Fulfilled coasted through a :48.39 half mile with his ears up, he was as good as gone. He switched to his right lead effectively in the lane and kept on motoring right through the gallop-out, signaling that he may have more left to give when the pace is likely to be more pressured in his next start, the GI Florida Derby.


8) 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 ’16; $500,000 FTFMAR 2yo ’17. Lifetime Record: 4-3-0-1, $287,720
Mar. 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

With the connections of Audible, Promises Fulfilled, and Catholic Boy all indicating a preference for entering the GI Florida Derby, the showcase sophomore race at Gulfstream Park has the potential to be the most intriguing East Coast prep on this year’s Derby trail. It’s not surprising that the Florida Derby is a coveted path to the first Saturday in May in Louisville, because it has produced the winner of the Kentucky Derby in each of the past two years and in three of the last five. The gamble with Audible is that he will attempt to win it off a 56-day layoff since his GII Holy Bull S. win, which could be a stretch given his relatively light (four races, three straight wins) seasoning. Then again, with greater spacing and fewer races evolving into the norm for Triple Crown-caliber horses, who knows how much you can compare training patterns from earlier eras to today’s methodologies. This $500,000 FTFMAR son of Into Mischief turned in a 1:00.99 (3/12) five-eighths breeze at Palm Beach Downs on Saturday. His who-beat-whom form received a mild uptick later that afternoon when fourth-place Holy Bull finisher Enticed (Medaglia d’Oro) came back to win the GIII Gotham S. at Aqueduct.


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.
Mar. 6 TDN Top 12 Rank: 9
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

Instilled Regard is high on talent, but rates as another horse on this week’s Top 12 who has to recover from a hiccup in his last race. His beaten-favorite fourth in the GII Risen Star S. is likely not indicative of his true ability based on the willingness to fight he displayed in his previous two tries, and a bullet :59.20 (1/58) five-eighths training move at Santa Anita last Wednesday indicates he’s well on his way toward turning in a better effort next time out. “It seems like he likes this track and he’s run good on this track,” assistant trainer Dan Ward told XBTV on Friday. But the connections of this $1.05 million OBSMAR Arch colt are certainly keeping an open mind about where that next start might be. “We’re waiting to find out where the next race is, either Louisiana or Arkansas or Sunland or Santa Anita,” Ward continued. “But we’ll try and have him ready.”


10) ENTICED (c, Medaglia d’OroIt’s Tricky, by Mineshaft)
O-Godolphin Racing. B-Godolphin (KY). T-Kiaran McLaughlin. Lifetime Record: MGSW & GISP, 5-3-0-1, $410,680.
Mar. 6 TDN Top 12 Rank: N/A
Last Start: 1st GIII Gotham S., AQU, Mar. 10
Accomplishments Include: 1st, GII Kentucky Jockey Club S., CD, Nov. 25 3rd, GI Champagne S., BEL, Oct. 7.
Next Start: Possible for GII Wood Memorial S., AQU, Apr. 7
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 63

Enticed earned a rebirth onto the Derby Top 12 list with his determined annexation of Saturday’s GIII Gotham S. He advanced willingly with an outside bid, and at the five-sixteenths pole appeared poised to blow by a 35-1 pacemaker who was ambitiously setting solid fractions. But that speedster, Old Time Revival (Brethren), surprisingly kicked again at the quarter pole, and jockey Junior Alvarado had to hustle a little harder to get this Medaglia d’Oro homebred to level off and reel in what ended up being a clearly spent foe by the sixteenth pole. Enticed took to his task willingly, and with no others firing from behind, ended up coasting home under wraps. “I didn’t want to get him in trouble at all because he’s a horse that takes a while to get going,” Alvarado said. “As soon as we turned for home, I knew it was just a matter of time when he switched leads for him to give me that next gear.” Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said the Apr. 7 GII Wood Memorial S. is a logical next race for Enticed’s final Derby prep: “He’ll come back here and train in Florida just because it worked well. The main goal, obviously, is the first Saturday in May, but the Wood would make the most sense.”


11) JUSTIFY (c, Scat Daddy-Stage 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: 2-2-0-0, $66,000.
Mar. 6 TDN Top 12 Rank: N/A
Last Start: 1st Allowance Optional Claiming, SA, Mar. 11.
Next Start: Uncommitted
Equineline PPs.
Kentucky Derby Points: 0

New addition to the Top 12 Justify qualifies both as a “now” horse and a “wow” horse. This $500,000 KEESEP Scat Daddy colt is undefeated in two starts after shredding a two-turn Santa Anita allowance field on Sunday. This ‘TDN Rising Star’ has earned triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures in both starts to date, a 104 followed by a 101, and Sunday’s effort only rates slower because he was torqued down substantially at the finish after drilling his competition. He’s hardly battle-hardened yet, but consider that this Bob Baffert trainee has already shifted adroitly from sprinting to routing, handled an equipment change (blinkers off), and has proven ability both on a fast, dry track and a sealed muddy surface–all in just a touch more than three weeks since his debut. And yes, it’s a classic case of “recency bias” in the pari-mutuel marketplace to see how he closed on Sunday at 6-1 as the most heavily bet individual horse in Pool 3 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager (the “all others” field was favored at 4-1). But it’s also an indication that the betting public isn’t so keen on the contenders who’ve been listed with established 2-year-old form, giving some credence to the theory that we’ve yet to witness the top of the crop. An April Derby prep race will be this undefeated prospect’s next stepping stone to Louisville.


12) QUIP (c, Distorted Humor-Princess Ash, by Indian Charlie)
‘TDN Rising Star’ O-WinStar Farm, China Horse Club & SF Racing. B-WinStar Farm (KY). T-Rodolphe Brisset. Lifetime Record: GSW, 4-3-0-0, $282,800.
Mar. 6 TDN Top 12 Rank: N/A
Last Start: 1st GII Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby, TAM, Mar. 10.
Next Start: Uncommitted
Equineline PPs.
Kentucky Derby Points: 50

‘TDN Rising Star’ Quip chased late-money favorite World of Trouble (Kantharos) all the way around the track through moderate splits in the Tampa Bay Derby, but wore that rival down when it counted, breaking free in the final 50 yards while fending off all-out onrusher Flameaway (Scat Daddy) to earn a 19-1 victory. This Distorted Humor (Forty Niner) colt is emerging a little late on the scene, but his beginnings are intriguing: He won on debut at Churchill downs last fall, scored an allowance by open lengths at Keeneland, then ran into an eventual key-race group when seventh in the GII Kentucky Jockey Club S. before a winter freshening. “On paper, it looked like we were going to be there early, and it was a matter of whether they were going to let us go (the half-mile) in :47 or :49,” said trainer Rodolphe Brisset. “They let us go in [:49.48], which was a little surprising to me. It was just a matter of him being fit enough. I’m not sure if we had him 100%, but he was fit enough to win today and that’s the main thing.” The final clocking of 1:44.72 for 1 1/16 miles was the slowest Tampa Bay Derby since 1997. Yet based on the Beyer scale, his number came back a respectable 94.


On the Bubble (in alphabetical order)
Bravazo (Awesome Again): Risen Star S. upsetter aiming for Louisiana Derby; yet another to exit key Kentucky Jockey Club S.
Combatant (Scat Daddy): Half-mile Oaklawn maintenance breeze on Sunday in prep for Saturday’s Rebel S.
Curlin’s Honor (Curlin): Fair Grounds-based Casse soph is another aiming for wide-open Rebel S.
Exclamation Point (Concord Point): Half to Classic Empire (Pioneerof the Nile) now 2-for-2 at Oaklawn and could resurface in GI Arkansas Derby.
Flameaway (Scat Daddy): All-out off the turn and slightly erratic in the lane when second in Tampa Derby; possible for Blue Grass S. next.
Higher Power (Medaglia d’Oro): 2-for-3, with two route wins, and aiming for Saturday’s Rebel S. at Oaklawn.
Hollywood Star (Malibu Moon): ‘Rising Star’ posted bullet six-furlong breeze at Gulfstream on Saturday; idle since fourth in Feb. 10 Davis S. at Tampa.
Gronkowski (Lonhro {Aus}): Will travel stateside after three straight wins in Great Britain to target either Wood Memorial or Blue Grass S.
Magnum Moon (Malibu Moon): 2-for-2 ‘Rising Star’ fired bullet five-eights at Palm Beach Downs on Saturday in prep for this weekend’s Rebel. S. at Oaklawn.
Marconi (Tapit): Stamina specialist ‘Rising Star’ awaiting next assignment from Pletcher.
Mendelssohn (Scat Daddy): GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf winner returned a winner at Dundalk Racecourse in Ireland; now targets UAE Derby.
My Boy Jack (Creative Cause): Plucky off-pace winner of GIII Southwest S. handles various surfaces, has pedigree depth, and is learning how to relax on bridle. Overlooked bomb potential here.
New York Central (Tapit): Asmussen-trained ‘Rising Star’ scored in OP muddy allowance race Feb. 19 and awaits next task.
Noble Indy (Take Charge Indy): ‘Rising Star’ ran third in the Risen Star at Fair Grounds; pair of Palm Beach Downs breezes since.
Reride (Candy Ride {Arg}): ‘Rising Star’ has won at Churchill, Keeneland, Delta, Sunland, and now will ambitiously ship to Dubai for UAE Derby.
Retirement Fund (Eskendereya): ‘Rising Star’ dead-heated for seventh in sloppy Southwest S., back training at Fair Grounds, where he’s 2-for-2.
Restoring Hope (Giant’s Causeway): Maintenance breeze on Monday. Baffert: “I was actually going to run him in the [San Felipe] but he had a little foot issue.”
Snapper Sinclair (City Zip): Beaten a nose at 41-1 in Risen Star S. and appears on target for rematch in Louisiana Derby.
Sporting Chance (Tiznow): GI Hopeful S.-winning ‘Rising Star’ breezed a stamina-building mile at Oaklawn last week in preparation for this Saturday’s Rebel S.
Strike Power (Speightstown): ‘Rising Star’ second in Fountain of Youth S. stretchout; could return in Florida Derby.
Zing Zang (Tapit): Listed as likely for Saturday’s Rebel S. at Oaklawn.