TDN Derby Top 12 for March 3


Thousand Words working at Santa Anita | Horsephotos


Only one points-based GI Kentucky Derby prep last weekend, but it did produce a reshuffling of the ranks. This coming Saturday’s triple-header of qualifying points races at Santa Anita, Aqueduct and Tampa Bay Downs annually makes for a bust-out weekend, so Top 12 frost heaves are in the forecast.

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: GII San Felipe S., SA, Mar. 7
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 20.

Thousand Words has been at the head of affairs since the Top 12 debuted Dec. 31, and Saturday this undefeated $1-million KEESEP bay will get his second sophomore test in the form of the GII San Felipe S. at Santa Anita. This long-striding son of Pioneerof the Nile reportedly wasn’t fully cranked workout-wise when he unleashed a power-under-pressure performance to win the Feb. 1 GIII Robert B. Lewis S., and both of his stakes scores to date were admirably similar from a tactical standpoint. On both occasions, Thousand Words put away a speedy pacemaker, then had plenty left in reserve to flick away fresh challenges from closers late in the lane. It’s getting increasingly tough to gauge the West Coast sophomore scene though, so it’s legitimate to question the quality of competition this colt has been roughing up. Thousand Words only had to beat three rivals in the GII Los Alamitos Futurity and five in the Lewis, and none of the also-rans from any of his races are currently ranked as Top 12 prospects. The San Felipe should be a touch tougher, with stablemate Authentic (Into Mischief) and juvenile champ Storm the Court (Court Vision) among expected entrants.

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: GI Florida Derby, GP, Mar. 28
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 22.

It’s now March, and the balance of power within the ranks of sophomore elites is solidly centered in Florida. This $110,000 yearling’s stock got boosted significantly Saturday when Ete Indien (Summer Front), the only horse within 14 1/2 lengths of “Tiz” in his imposing GIII Holy Bull S. victory, came back to crack the Top 12 with a stylish 97-Beyer wire job in the GII Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth (FOY). This New York-bred is on target for what looks like a deep renewal of the GI Florida Derby, although last week quoted trainer Barclay Tagg as saying that Tiz threw a shoe in a Feb. 10 workout; and Sackatoga managing partner Jack Knowlton told the Blood-Horse that the colt subsequently missed training because of a “minor foot bruise.” Tiz was able to go for long jogs in the interim though, and he returned to the Palm Meadows worktab Monday with a half-mile breeze in :50 flat (8/20).

3) 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, 3-2-1-0, $161,500.
Last Start: 1st Alw/OC, TAM, Feb. 14
Next Start: Uncommitted
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 4.

‘TDN Rising Star’ Gouverneur Morris might look a little out of place way up here in the number three spot, but the gamble on him is based on future potential rather than what he’s shown on paper so far. Last month, this Constitution gray ($200,000 at KEESEP; $600,000 at FTFMAR) debuted on this list at number seven with a better-than-it-looks Tampa allowance win (two hundredths of a second off the 1 mile, 40 yards track record), his first start in more than four months. Since then, one horse ranked ahead of him has been declared off the Derby trail, another ran last as the FOY favorite, and two others who have yet to start in 2020 are on conservative comeback paths with no firm next-race plans. All of that resulted in the “Guv” leapfrogging them all. This athletic-framed colt can be a touch quirky in training and needed assertive handling to get his act together on the far turn of his 88-Beyer Tampa race, but he has some nice finishing ability, and was also nimble enough to debut as a nine-length sprint winner in the Spa slop last year. Jockey John Velazquez has been aboard for both of this colt’s wins, and he made it a point to be at Palm Beach Downs Saturday morning for the Guv’s :49.50 in-company half-mile breeze (9/21).

4) 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: 2nd GII Risen Star S. Div. 1, FG, Feb. 15
Accomplishments Include: 1st GIII Lecomte S., FG, Jan. 18; 3rd GI Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity, KEE, Oct. 5
Next Start: GII Louisiana Derby, FG, Mar. 21
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 33.

Provided he earns the qualifying points, Enforceable isn’t one of those horses who has to win the GII Louisiana Derby in flashy fashion to roll into Louisville as a credible Kentucky Derby threat. If the owner/trainer tandem of John Oxley/Mark Casse can get this $775,000 KEESEP RNA into the first leg of the Triple Crown in sharp shape, this colt’s grind-all-day closing style and stamina-centric pedigree (by Tapit out of a MGSW Dixie Union mare) will be tough to leave off any tickets at 10 furlongs. Enforceable was a stout-closing second behind a loose-on-the-lead winner in the stronger division of the GII Risen Star S. Feb. 15, and he was just hitting his best stride while closing six wide into a final three-eighths clocked in :37.58 (a full 1.08 seconds faster than the second division).

5) 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 8-3-0-2, $713,051.
Last Start: 1st GIII Southwest S., OP, Feb. 17
Accomplishments Include: 1st GII Kentucky Jockey Club S., CD, Nov. 30.
Next start: Possible for GII Rebel S., OP, Mar. 14
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 21.

Silver Prospector is an overachieving sort who’s quietly building a solid (eight races) base of experience. He’s never started favored, but has now sandwiched a pair of two-turn graded stakes wins around a subpar fourth-place performance that had an excuse. His long-drive score in the Churchill slop in the Nov. 30 GII Kentucky Jockey Club S. looks much more legit now that Tiz the Law and Enforceable have subsequently won graded stakes. And that clunker of a fourth on opening day at Oaklawn can be explained away by this Declaration of War colt trying to close into a strong speed bias. But Silver Prospector’s 97-Beyer rebound in the Feb. 17 GIII Southwest S. was the high-torque corker that could represent a transformative moment for this $50,000 KEESEP to $190,000 OBSAPR pinhook. He showed he could handle being hemmed in along the rail, made his own breaks by punching through in tight quarters off the turn, then opened up under a measured drive to win by a length. The GII Rebel S. Mar. 14 could be next. That race annually represents the point of delineation between the junior-varsity and varsity Derby hopefuls that race in the Oaklawn preps.

6) 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.

The connections of Maxfield–who loomed as one of the favorites for the GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last year before he scratched the week of the race and then had ankle chip surgery–are one or two more workouts away from deciding whether this Street Sense homebred merits a shot at Derby consideration. “We have to see with him because it’ll be a question of, ‘Do we take a shot at one of the Derby trials if he’s doing real good or just try to find something a little softer for him off the layoff,'” trainer Brendan Walsh said. “I don’t know if we’d throw him to the wolves off the layoff in something like the Florida Derby. That’s probably unlikely … The other thing would be to come back maybe somewhere around Keeneland and run him in the [GI] Preakness S. … It doesn’t matter where he comes back, he’s going to be a good horse this year. It’s just a question about what the timing allows us to do. We’d all love to win the Derby, but on the same point I’m not going to sacrifice a horse like him just for it.”

7) NADAL (c, Blame Ascending 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: GSW, 2-2-0-0, $153,000.
Last Start: 1st GII San Vicente S., SA, Feb. 9
Next Start: GII Rebel S., OP, Mar. 14
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 0.

‘TDN Rising Star’ Nadal is currently the only Top 12 contender without a start around two turns (and 10 of the remaining 11 have already won a route race). That lack of distance experience will change when this brawny winner of the GII San Vicente S. ships to Oaklawn next week for the Rebel, a stakes that won’t come up as an easy spot. This physically imposing Blame bay ($65,000 KEESEP; $700,000 FTFMAR) has won at 6 1/2 and seven furlongs, but his maiden debut earned a higher Beyer (98) than his stakes win (91), so it’s unclear what we should expect next out, numbers-wise. Baffert has invaded from Santa Anita to win six of the previous 11 Rebels. But he has also saddled the beaten favorite in each of the last four editions, including a pair of odds-on defeats in split divisions of last year’s Rebel.

8) 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: Likely for GII San Felipe S., SA, Mar. 7
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 10.

Authentic looms as the “other” Bob Baffert trainee likely to be entered for Saturday’s San Felipe S., which makes him dangerous from a pari-mutuel standpoint as an alternative to top-ranked stablemate Thousand Words. This two-for-two, $350,000 KEESEP yearling bulleted six furlongs in 1:12.80 (1/5) at Santa Anita Monday in preparation for his first start since a 7 3/4-length pummeling of the GIII Sham S. field back on Jan. 4. The focus on Authentic will center on his ability to overcome the greenness and headstrong habits he exhibited while soaring solo through the stretch in the light-on-competition Sham.

9) 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.

It’s getting too deep into the Derby season to be carrying unraced horses like Structor so high up in the rankings, so he slipped several spots this week from number three after his connections passed on a possible start in the FOY because of an undisclosed setback. Structor is now without a published workout since Feb. 17. This $160,000 KEESEP and $850,000 OBSMAR pinhook capped an undefeated 2-year-old season with a mature, capable win in the 2019 GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, and his breeding (Palace Malice out of a More Than Ready mare) suggests a turf-to-dirt transition is well within his scope. Structor might very well turn out to be one of the better sophomores when he resurfaces, but the purpose of this list is to rank the chances of Derby contenders. The clock is ticking for this colt, with zero qualifying points and two months to go until the first Saturday in May.

10) ETE INDIEN (c, Summer FrontEast India, by Mizzen Mast)
O-Linda Shanahan, Sanford Bacon, Dream With Me Stable, Inc., Horse France America, D P Racing LLC & Patrick L. Biancone Racing LLC. B-Robert B. Tillyer & Eric Buckley (KY). T-Patrick Biancone. Sales History: $85,000 RNA wnl ’17 KEENOV; $80,000 yrl ’18 KEESEP; €240,000 2yo ’19 ARQMAY. Lifetime Record: GSW, 5-3-1-0, $333,156.
Last Start: 1st GII Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth S., GP, Feb. 29
Accomplishments Include: 2nd GIII Holy Bull S., GP, Feb. 1
Next Start: Likely for GI Florida Derby, GP, Mar. 28
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 54.

Favorites have now lost 12 of the last 14 runnings of the FOY, and bettors seemed to smoke out Ete Indien’s wire job on Saturday, drilling him to 3-1 second choice. Gulfstream’s quirky configuration for 1 1/16-mile dirt races–with the start close to the first turn and the finish at the sixteenth pole–tilts the advantage to early gunners, and this Summer Front colt was sent immediately to the lead from his outside gate. He settled comfortably on the rail for the backstretch run while cranking out legit splits, and was in command by four lengths cornering for home with the remainder of the pack under futile drives to close the gap. It didn’t hurt that the heavy favorite, Dennis’ Moment (Tiznow), never threatened and ran last. This three-time auction prospect ($85,000 KEENOV RNA, $80,000 KEESEP, €240,000 ARQMAY) earned a 97 Beyer for his effort. Ete Indien is a streamlined, high-energy colt who was on his toes in the paddock and in pre-race warm-ups (ears jammed with cotton to keep from reacting to noise), and he can expect a far stiffer challenge if he starts next in the Florida Derby.

11) 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: 1st GIII Sam F. Davis S., TAM, Feb. 8
Accomplishments Include: 1st Pulpit S., GP, Nov. 30
Next Start: GII Tampa Bay Derby, TAM, Mar. 7
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 10.

Along with stablemate Ete Indien above, this $6,000 KEESEP to $20,000 OBSAPR Karakonite (Jpn) pinhook gives trainer Patrick Biancone an intriguing duo of top-level Derby prospects who each made their first two starts on the turf. Sole Volante ran a 90-Beyer third in the one-turn-mile Mucho Macho Man S. at Gulfstream Jan. 4 in his dirt debut, then steamrolled to a 96-Beyer cudgeling of a decent GIII Sam F. Davis S. crew at Tampa Feb. 8. Sole Volante will get a new jockey, Florent Geroux, for Saturday’s GII Tampa Bay Derby. Luca Panici, previously the regular rider for both Ete Indien and Sole Volante, suffered a broken collarbone in a fall at Gulfstream Feb. 21.

12) THREE TECHNIQUE (c, Mr Speaker–Nite in Rome, by Harlan’s Holiday)
‘TDN Rising Star’ O-August Dawn Farm. B-Omega Farm LLC & Bally Breeders (KY). T-Jeremiah Englehart. Sales History: $50,000 wnl ’17 KEENOV; $180,000 yrl ’18 FTKJUL. Lifetime Record: SP, 5-2-3-0, $154,750.
Last Start: 2nd Smarty Jones S., OP, Jan. 24
Next Start: GII Rebel S., OP, Mar. 14
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 4.

‘TDN Rising Star’ Three Technique ran a sneaky-sharp second in the Jan. 24 Smarty Jones S., and that race looks stronger in retrospect now that fourth-place finisher Silver Prospect rebounded to win the Southwest S. with a hefty 97 Beyer. Both Silver Prospector and Three Technique tried in vain to close into the teeth of a stern speed bias that day (Oaklawn’s nine-race opening-day card featured five wire-to-wire winners and two pace-pressing winners), and it’s notable that this Mr Speaker colt ($50,000 KEENOV and $180,000 FTKJUL) galloped out longer and stronger than the winner. Trainer Jeremiah Englehart told the Oaklawn press office last week that a rider for Three Technique “is up in the air” because Irad Ortiz, Jr., who rode this colt in his last two starts, has committed to a horse for Bob Baffert in the Rebel. The jockey’s brother, Jose Ortiz, rode Three Technique in his first three career starts, but he’s sidelined with a broken wrist.

On the Bubble: (in alphabetical order)

Anneau d’Or (Medaglia d’Oro): Beaten fave in slower division of Risen Star will re-aim for GI Santa Anita Derby.

Basin (Liam’s Map): Aired in GI Hopeful S. at Spa last season then was sidelined with a right hind ankle problem. He’s now on target for a return in the Mar. 14 Rebel S.

Chance It (Currency Swap): Scratched from FOY after drawing the outside post, new focus is Saturday’s Tampa Derby.

Charlatan (Speightstown): The 105 sprint Beyer earned by this ‘TDN Rising Star’ is tops for any 3-year-old so far in 2020.

Country Grammer (Tonalist): Not an overt Derby threat, but tuck him away as a later-developing Classics contender, possibly following in the GI Belmont S.-winning hoofprints of his sire. Got pinballed at break off layoff in FOY, but was humming along seven wide in short-stretch finish. A better-than-looks fifth.

Dennis’ Moment (Tiznow): This ‘TDN Rising Star’ was never in it to win it as the beaten fave in the FOY. His last-place finish has a too-bad-to-be-true aura to it, but there was no obvious excuse.

Edge of Fire (Curlin): This Ontario-bred ‘TDN Rising Star,’ previously ranked No. 12, is being aimed for a late March allowance try at Gulfstream. His connections have indicated that even the June 27 Queen’s Plate is not a likely target, so we’ll assume the Kentucky Derby is not in the mix either. Interesting one to watch, though.

Eight Rings (Empire Maker): Best guess here is that he resurfaces off Breeders’ Cup layoff in Oaklawn’s Rebel S. All seven other horses from the Juvenile have now run back. They are a collective 2-for-12.

Honor A.P. (Honor Code): Likely to make 2020 debut in Saturday’s San Felipe S. coming off October mile MSW win.

Independence Hall (Constitution): Has sights set on what is shaping up as toughest Florida Derby in years. But that gaudy 101 Beyer earned in Nashua S. romp is proving to be a difficult badge of accomplishment to carry around.

Modernist (Uncle Mo): Could be a pace presence with Fair Grounds advantage if he remains on target for the Louisiana Derby.

Storm the Court (Court Vision): Two-year-old champ looks to regroup in Saturday’s San Felipe S. and will partner with a new rider, Joel Rosario.

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