TDN Top Triple Crown Contenders

TDN Derby Top 20 for April 17

The prep season is over, but that doesn’t mean the intrigue has ended as the racing world locks its focus on the main event, the May 5 GI Kentucky Derby. Please note that the rankings below are independent from the “Road to the Derby” points leaderboard that Churchill Downs will use to determine starting berths; that list can be accessed here.

1) MAGNUM MOON (c, Malibu MoonDazzling Song, by Unbridled’s Song)
‘TDN Rising Star’ O-Robert E. & Lawana L. Low. B-Ramona S. Bass, LLC (KY). T-Todd Pletcher. Sales history: $380,000 yrl KEESEP ’16. Lifetime Record: GISW, 4-4-0-0, $1,177,800.
Apr. 10 TDN Top 20 Rank: 1
Last Start: 1st, GI Arkansas Derby, OP, Apr.14.
Achievements: 1st, GII Rebel S., OP, Mar. 17.
Equineline PPs. Caulfield on Magnum Moon.
KY Derby Points: 150

‘TDN Rising Star’ Magnum Moon has earned kingpin status based on his entire undefeated, four-race body of work–even if his four-length win in Saturday’s GI Arkansas Derby did leave a couple of loose ends that will linger as open questions into the Kentucky Derby. He broke running, responded to a smooch to seize the lead, and asserted himself assuredly at the head of affairs, a new tactic for him. Even though he got away with splits that were on the slow side (a legit criticism), this $380,000 KEESEP Malibu Moon colt withstood pressure right up until the quarter pole, and when a firing line of four turned for home, Magnum Moon was the only one who was still hand-ridden. He peeled away from the pack convincingly when roused more aggressively, but then ducked out so far at the eighth pole that he ran right out of the head-on shot (jockey Luis Saez later blamed gate marks on the track). Although it cost him nothing but style points on Saturday, such behavior does plant seeds of concern moving forward (especially because Magnum Moon previously drifted out at the sixteenth pole when winning the GII Rebel S.) But I’m willing to treat such imperfections as works in progress that can be smoothed over. His raw versatility in winning with multiple styles at increasing distances over very different kinds of tracks while thriving under pressure is what gives him the tactical edge 2 1/2 weeks out from the Derby.


2) JUSTIFY (c, Scat DaddyStage 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: GISW, 3-3-0-0, $666,000.
Apr. 10 TDN Top 20 Rank: 2
Last Start: 1st, GI Santa Anita Derby, SA, Apr. 7
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 100

The three-for-three Justify has no comparison in this year’s crop when it comes to flash and panache. With style, power, and some off-the-charts speed figures, this $500,000 KEESEP Scat Daddy colt has gone from unraced maiden to Grade I winner in a span of 48 days, and every human counterpart associated with this ‘TDN Rising Star’ is in awe about how much untapped potential he really might possess. I can see why he’ll be the favorite on the first Saturday in May. But endorsing him at an underlaid a price at this nascent stage of his career is likely to be hazardous to one’s bankroll. Justify was in complete control over outclassed foes at the maiden and allowance levels, and after attaining an unpressured lead through the initial half mile of the GI Santa Anita Derby, he only had to spurt away from a not-fully-cranked Bolt d’Oro (Medaglia d’Oro) to wrap up the race under his own terms. That’s a scenario that’s unlikely to develop when he ships away from his home track for the first time in the Kentucky Derby, where the early pace will be hotter, the chaos into the clubhouse turn will be utterly unpredictable, and a solid cast of challengers are likely to be zeroing in on the leaders in rapid-fire succession as the pack corners for home. Then again, if Justify is able to overcome all those compounded adversities, he will truly rate as the once-in-a-generation super-horse that some supporters are projecting he can be.


3) 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, 6-4-1-1, $1,016,000.
Apr. 10 TDN Top 20 Rank: 3
Last Start: 2nd, GI Santa Anita Derby, SA, Apr. 7
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; 1st GII San Felipe S., SA, Mar. 10.
Equineline PPs. Caulfield on Bolt d’Oro.
KY Derby Points: 104

You don’t often see the mount on such a highly ranked Derby contender open up so late in the prep season, but that was the case last week when Javier Castellano (who had been aboard for each of this colt’s last two races), informed owner/trainer Mick Ruis he would be accepting a commitment aboard GI Florida Derby winner Audible (Into Mischief) for the Kentucky Derby, citing a loyalty to Audible’s connections. The mount didn’t stay open long, as three-time Derby-winning jockey Victor Espinoza (who had worked “Bolt” earlier this season) was given the call aboard this $630,000 FTSAUG Medaglia d’Oro colt. Bolt now looms as a top-tier threat based on a hard-fought win via DQ in the GII San Felipe S. (the strongest prep race of the year) and a non-taxing second in the Santa Anita Derby. “What I like about him, he’s really kind and calm. Nothing bothers him,” Espinoza told the TDN. “He saves his energy a lot…. Bolt d’Oro reminds me of California Chrome (Lucky Pulpit), in that he’s run quite a few times before the Kentucky Derby. It’s easy for me to ride that kind of horse that has that experience.”


4) MENDELSSOHN (c, Scat DaddyLeslie’s Lady, by Tricky Creek)
O-Michael B. Tabor, Mrs. John Magnier & Derrick Smith.
B-Clarkland Farm (KY). T-Aiden O’Brien. Sales history: $3,000,000 yrl KEESEP ’16. Lifetime Record: GISW, 7-4-1-0, $1,961,137.
Apr. 10 TDN Top 20: 4
Last Start: 1st, G2 UAE Derby, MEY, Mar.31
Accomplishments: 1st, GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, DMR, Nov.3; 2nd, G1 Darley Dewhurst S., NEW, Oct. 14
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 100

Mendelssohn is hardly your typical European invader for the Kentucky Derby. This Scat Daddy colt has already twice made headlines in the United States, once when hammering for $3 million at KEESEP, and a year later when gamely winning the GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. Plus, American racing enthusiasts are already well acquainted with the dirt prowess of his older sister, the four-time champion Beholder (Henny Hughes). If an 18 1/2-length blowout win can serve as a reminder of one’s relevance, that was certainly the case for Mendelssohn in the G2 UAE Derby. Sure, the Meydan track was conducive to early speed that day and the field for that 1 3/16-mile race did not exactly come up as a robust bunch. But this is a colt who is quick from the gate, does not absolutely need to be prowling on the front end, and is likely to emerge as a relentless Derby stalker. He figures to be able to apply pressure at multiple points in a 10-furlong race while still being in the hunt late when it counts.


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: $1,000,000 yrl KEESEP ’16. Lifetime Record: Ch. 2yo, GISW, 5-2-2-1, $1,855,000.
Apr. 10 TDN Top 20 Rank: 5
Last Start: 1st, GII Blue Grass S., KEE, Apr. 7
Accomplishments Include: 1st GI Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, SA, Nov. 4.; 2nd GI Champagne S., BEL, Oct. 7.
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 134

Trainer Chad Brown’s plan all along for 2018 was to have Good Magic peak in his third start off a seasonal layoff. This million-dollar KEESEP Curlin champ is one of potentially eight Derby horses who might attempt to make the race this year off only two preps, so a little historical perspective is in order to illustrate how training methodologies are changing: Between 1984 and 2006, horses with only two sophomore preps were a collective 0-for-38 in the Derby. Since then, horses with only a pair of 3YO preps have won the Derby an attention-getting eight times (2007-12 and 2015-16). Good Magic’s GII Toyota Blue Grass S. win pretty much followed the script of what you’d like to see in a Derby candidate leading up to that third start off the break–the score was convincing enough to establish that he’s a viable Derby threat without having drained the colt to overstate that point. Good Magic is expected to work once at Keeneland, where he is currently stabled, prior to shipping to Churchill Downs to get one breeze over the track there before his Derby start.


6) AUDIBLE (c, Into MischiefBlue Devil Bel, by Gilded Time)
O-WinStar, China Horse Club, Head of Plains Partners, Starlight Racing. B-Oak Bluff Stables LLC (NY). T-Todd Pletcher. Sales history: $175,000 FTNSAR yrl ’16; $500,000 FTFMAR 2yo ’17. Lifetime Record: MGSW, 5-4-0-1, $882,920.
Apr. 10 TDN Top 20 Rank: 6
Last Start: 1st, GI Florida Derby, GP, Mar. 31
Accomplishments: 1st, GII Holy Bull S., GP, Feb. 3.
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 110

The Audible we’ve seen so far is an opportunist. In winning the GII Holy Bull S. and the Florida Derby, he attained comfortable positions and pounced when the pace and other in-race circumstances unfolded in his favor. No question, it takes athletic ability to do that. But what we don’t know heading into Louisville is whether this $500,000 FTFMAR son of Into Mischief can live up to his name by calling a tactical audible if that chaotic run through the first turn in the Derby doesn’t leave him in a prime position. Audible is considered a win threat based on speed figures, a nice overall progression arc, and the fact that he hails from a high-percentage outfit with Derby-winning experience. The big unknown is how he’ll handle mid-race adversity or a solid late stretch attack from multiple contenders, because we haven’t yet seen him face those types of challenges at the graded stakes level. “He’s coming back in five weeks off a 1 1/8-mile race so I think we’re just trying to have him peak on the day and keep him fit without overdoing it,” said trainer Todd Pletcher after Friday’s :48.74 half-mile work (1/26) at Palm Beach Downs.


7) NOBLE INDY (c, Take Charge Indy–Noble Maz, by Storm Boot)
O-WinStar Farm LLC & Repole Stable. B-WinStar Farm LLC. T-Todd Pletcher. Sales history: $45,000 RNA yrl KEESEP ’16. Lifetime Record: GSW, 4-3-0-1, $691,600.
Apr. 10 TDN Top 20 Rank: 7
Last Start: 1st, Louisiana Derby, FG, Mar. 24.
Equineline PPs. Caulfield on Noble Indy.
KY Derby Points: 110

Noble Indy won the GII Louisiana Derby with the addition of blinkers, but his running style wasn’t overly modified by the equipment change because he’s a pace-presser who’s been on the lead at the second call in three of his four lifetime starts. What will be the tactics in Louisville? Committing to an all-out assault on the lead might not exactly be this $45,000 KEESEP Take Charge Indy colt’s sweet spot, but having enough early gas to mix it up in the first flight at least theoretically keeps him away from the worst midpack traffic. Noble Indy has already shown he can take a little roughhousing at the start and he re-rallied when the lead was clawed away from him in the stretch fight of the Louisiana Derby. I continue to believe that he’ll be the least talked-about of the four Todd Pletcher-trained horses aiming for the Kentucky Derby. And while that factor will probably be worth a rise of a few points in the mutuels, Noble Indy is at least on par development-wise with several of those stablemates, so I’m banking that he’ll be a juicy overlay in the betting.


8) MY BOY JACK (c, Creative CauseGold N Shaft, by Mineshaft)
O-Don’t Tell My Wife Stables & Monomoy Stables LLC. B-Brereton C. Jones (KY). T-Keith Desormeaux.
Sales History: $14,000 RNA wlg KEENOV ’15; $20,000 yrl KEESEP ’16. Lifetime Record: MGSW, 10-3-3-2, $645,145.
Apr. 10 TDN Top 20 Rank: 14
Last Start: 1st, GIII Lexington S., KEE, Apr. 14.
Accomplishments Include: 1st, GIII Southwest S., OP, Feb. 19; 1st, Zuma Beach S., SA, Oct. 9
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 52

There were reasons to bet against My Boy Jack in Saturday’s GIII Stonestreet Lexington S.: He was a closer shortening up to 1 1/16 miles on a track that sometimes helps speed horses, and he had drawn the outermost post in what was clearly a last-ditch attempt to earn Derby qualifying points. Yet he delivered big-time as the 3-2 favorite, and now looms as a sneaky-sharp Derby horse who can be relied upon to deliver a sustained punch from about 4 1/2 furlongs out regardless of where he is placed in a large field. This $20,000 KEESEP Creative Cause colt owns a stamina-strong pedigree, has now run nine consecutive route races, and his connections have consistently mentioned how relaxed and confident he’s grown since his breakout win in the muddy GIII Southwest S. three starts back. “He was very, very comfortable in his stride and that was pretty much a repeat of his last start,” jockey Kent Desormeaux said after the Lexington, adding that the 10 furlongs will suit him “probably even better. We always tend to get a true, honest pace in the Kentucky Derby, and I think he’ll enjoy that.”


9) VINO ROSSO (c, CurlinMythical Bride, by Street Cry {Ire})
O-Repole Stable & St. Elias Stable. B- John D. Gunther (KY). T-Todd Pletcher. Sales history: $410,000 yrl KEESEP ’16. Lifetime Record: GSW, 5-3-0-1, $620,500.
Apr. 10 TDN Top 20 Rank: 8
Last Start: 1st, GII Wood Memorial S., AQU, Apr. 7.
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 107

If his aggressively won Wood Memorial S. is any indication, Vino Rosso’s on-track performance could finally be catching up to his lofty expectations. Then again, he has three other Tampa Bay Downs races showing in his past performances that come across as utterly underwhelming–an allowance win against a short field at 1-20 odds, plus two stakes routes in which he never seemed to be mentally or physically in the race. So determining which Vino Rosso will show up on Derby day is a tough guess based on a read of his past performances alone. A more helpful clue emerged last week when jockey John Velazquez committed to ride this $410,000 KEESEP Curlin colt in the Derby, which is notable because he had also ridden last-out graded stakes winners Audible and Noble Indy for top client Todd Pletcher, and he presumably had his choice among all three. Based on the Wood win, Vino Rosso now looks more in his element rating from farther back instead of forcing the issue closer to the action, so the more speed in the Derby the better for this colt.


10) FLAMEAWAY (c, Scat DaddyVulcan Rose, by Fusaichi Pegasus)
O-John Oxley; B-Phoenix Rising Farms (ON). T-Mark Casse. Sales history: $150,000 yrl KEEJAN ’16; $400,000 yrl SARAUG ’16. Lifetime Record: MGSW, 9-5-2-0, $704,834.
Apr. 10 TDN Top 20 Rank: 9
Last Start: 2nd, GII Blue Grass S., KEE, Apr. 7
Accomplishments: 1st, GIII Bourbon S., KEE, Oct. 8; 1st, GIII Sam F. Davis S., TAM, Feb. 10.
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 70

Flameaway’s positives: Relishes being involved in pace pressure, doesn’t back down when engaged (even when overmatched), runs well on any footing, and has won at four varying distances. His negatives: Winless above Grade III, untested beyond 1 1/16 miles, and doesn’t rack up commandeering speed figures. Throw all of those handicapping components into a mental blender, and I think the resulting assessment will be that this $400,000 FTSAUG Scat Daddy colt will be an overlooked component on Derby day–certainly not one of the top win threats, but the type of horse who could logically hit the board or even orchestrate a 30-1 upset if circumstances align in his favor. Company lines are also key (beaten only three lengths by Mendelssohn; has twice outfinished Vino Rosso), and note that Flameaway has twice run well in large (14-horse) fields.


11) FREE DROP BILLY (c, Union RagsTrensa, by Giant’s Causeway)
O-Albaugh Family Stables LLC. B-Helen K. Groves Revokable Trust (KY). T-Dale Romans. Sales history: $200,000 KEESEP yrl ’16. Lifetime Record: GISW, 8-2-3-2, $625,220.
Apr. 10 TDN Top 12 Rank: 13
Last Start: 3rd, GII Blue Grass S., KEE, Apr. 7
Accomplishments Include: 1st, GI Breeders’ Futurity, KEE, Oct.7; 2nd, GI Hopeful S. Sept. 4.
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 44

Free Drop Billy’s past performances don’t tell the whole story about where this $200,000 KEESEP Union Rags has been or–more importantly–where he’s going. Seven months apart, he’s now twice been involved in graded stakes where Sporting Chance (Tiznow) ducked out in deep stretch, with the most recent incident stopping Free Drop Billy cold when he was surging up on the outside in the Blue Grass S. His ninth-place non-effort in the Breeders’ Cup (beaten 29 lengths) still has everyone baffled. And even Free Drop Billy’s lone stakes win, the GI Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland last autumn, is difficult to get a good read on because one of the favorites suffered a catastrophic injury in that race. Yet redemption and a true-to-ability race could be closer than most people think for this still-developing May 3 foal. I envision Free Drop Billy tucking in towards the back in the Derby, tipping out for a prolonged bid, and then seeing how far and long his closing kick will take him into what projects to be a zesty early pace.


12) HOFBURG (c, Tapit-Soothing Touch, by Touch Gold)
O/B-Juddmonte Farms Inc. (KY). T-Bill Mott. Lifetime Record: GISP, 3-1-1-0, $227,950.
Apr. 10 TDN Top 20 Rank: 15
Last Start: 2nd, GI Florida Derby, GP, Mar. 31.
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 40

Hofburg glides toward the Kentucky Derby as a very tantalizing, under-the-radar wild card. He’s only raced three times and hasn’t won beyond the maiden ranks. Yet his Juddmonte Farms/Bill Mott connections aren’t shying away from plunging him into the deep end of the pool. This alone could be a tipoff that they think they have a Classics-worthy colt, because this isn’t an owner/trainer combo that is annually intent on having a horse in the Derby just for the sake of being represented. You can make the cogent argument that the Tapit homebred was involved late in the Florida Derby only because a fortuitous pace meltdown up front paved his way. But what was unmistakable was this colt’s body language–he kept attacking and never looked discouraged when chasing home a far more experienced favorite when second to Audible. According to Daily Racing Form, Irad Ortiz Jr. will replace his brother, Jose Ortiz, in the Derby aboard Hofburg, because Jose has committed to Eclipse Award champ Good Magic.


13) ENTICED (c, Medaglia d’OroIt’s Tricky, by Mineshaft)
O/B-Godolphin (KY). T-Kiaran McLaughlin. Lifetime Record: MGSW & GISP, 6-3-1-1, $595,680.
Apr. 10 TDN Top 20 Rank: 12
Last Start: 2nd, GII Wood Memorial S., AQU, Arp. 7
Accomplishments Include: 1st, GII Kentucky Jockey Club S., CD, Nov. 25; 3rd, GI Champagne S., BEL, Oct. 7; 1st GIII Gotham S., AQU, Mar. 10
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 103

In the Wood Memorial, Enticed led the main body of the field behind a breakaway pacemaker, and trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said post-race that “we were a little closer than I thought we’d be.” It’s unlikely that Enticed will be positioned similarly in the Derby though, because there figure to be enough pace-pressers and midpack stalkers to willingly take up that role. If a long, sustained run is the game plan for this Medaglia d’Oro homebred, it’s a plus to know that he’s already uncorked a nice, length-of-stretch rally over the Churchill Downs strip in the Nov. 25 GII Kentucky Jockey Club S. That race ended up being a highly productive key race, turning out three subsequent stakes winners. But will big-framed Enticed benefit from his heat-of-battle bumping with Vino Rosso in the stretch run of the Wood? The unknown answer to that question will go a long way to figuring out how he’ll fare in Louisville, where he’s likely to have to either do some degree of inside fighting or give up ground with a wide bid to attain a contending spot.


14) QUIP (c, Distorted HumorPrincess Ash, by Indian Charlie)
O-Winstar Farm LLC, China Horse Club International & SF Racing LLC. B-WinStar Farm LLC (KY). T-Rodolphe Brisset. Lifetime Record: GSW & GISP, 5-3-1-0, $482,800.
Apr. 10 TDN Top 20 Rank: 10
Last Start: 2nd, GI Arkansas Derby, OP, Apr. 14
Achievements: 1st, GII Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby, TAM, Mar. 10.
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 90

‘TDN Rising Star’ Quip won the “race within the race” in Saturday’s Arkansas Derby. The GII Tampa Bay Derby winner was a prominent pace presence as expected, and hounded eventual open-length winner Magnum Moon right up to the quarter pole when that rival convincingly torqued into another gear to win going away. Jockey Florent Geroux then kept Quip going well enough to win a four-horse photo for second. Although this son of Distorted Humor qualifies on points, Quip’s connections have not committed fully to a Derby berth.

15) 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, 6-1-3-2, $752,000
Apr. 10 TDN Top 20 Rank: 11
Last Start: 3rd, GI Arkansas Derby, OP, Apr. 14
Accomplishments Include: 3rd GI Los Alamitos Futurity, LRC, Dec.9; 2nd GI Frontrunner S., SA, Sept. 30; 2nd GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, DMR, Nov. 4
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 54

Solomini qualifies on Derby points and his connections said it’s on to Louisville after his third-place effort in the Arkansas Derby. He took the overland route on Saturday and gave up a fair amount of real estate on the backstretch and the far turn, but no one in the four-horse firing line at the quarter pole was going to match strides with Magnum Moon through the lane. This $270,000 KEESEP Curlin colt is officially winless since breaking his maiden on debut Sep. 2, although he did cross the wire first when DQ’d out of the GI Los Alamitos Futurity Dec. 9. Having said that, Solomini has never finished out of the top three in his five-race career, always coming close with capable, grind-it-out efforts but never summoning up that one, big, visually impressive flourish of a finish to leap the chasm to elite status. Maybe 10 furlongs and a zealous pace to help tilt the shape of the race in his favor will do the trick.


16) PROMISES FULFILLED (c, ShacklefordMarquee Delivery, by Marquetry)
O-Robert J. Baron. B-David Jacobs (KY). T-Dale Romans. Sales history: $37,000 yrl KEESEP ’16. Lifetime Record: GSW, 5-3-0-1, $337,280.
Apr. 10 TDN Top 20 Rank: 17
Last Start: 9th, GI Florida Derby, GP, Mar. 31
Accomplishments: 1st, GII Fountain of Youth S., GP, Mar. 3.
Equineline PPs.
Kentucky Derby Points: 52

Promises Fulfilled currently rates as the best bet to cross the Churchill Downs finish wire in front–the first time past the stands. After getting roasted in the Florida Derby speed duel, trainer Dale Romans is in regroup mode with this $37,000 KEESEP son of Shackleford, who does own a win and a very good stakes third over the Churchill track that is Romans’ home court. Even if you don’t view Promises Fulfilled as a solid win threat, his presence on the front end will contribute to the fates of other forwardly placed contenders, namely prospective favorite Justify. Romans said on Saturday that jockey Robby Albarado is likely to pilot either Promises Fulfilled or Free Drop Billy in the Derby, but that a second rider for whichever mount goes open has yet to be confirmed.


17) BRAVAZO (c, Awesome AgainTiz o’ Gold, by Cee’s Tizzy)
O/B-Calumet Farm. T-D. Wayne Lukas. Lifetime Record: GSW & GISP, 8-3-1-1, $436,528.
Apr. 10 TDN Top 20 Rank: 18
Last Start: 8th, GII Louisiana Derby, FG, Mar. 24.
Accomplishments: 1st, GII Risen Star S., FG, Feb. 17; 2nd, GI Breeders’ Futurity, KEE, Oct. 7.
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 54

Bravazo’s last seven races have all been at a mile or longer, so stamina is unlikely to be a Derby issue for this Awesome Again homebred. Consistency appears to be his weakness though, because he’s either not too far off the action at the finish wire (five times in his career) or he gets dusted by double-digit lengths (the three other starts). His last race was a clunker (a 21-length, lugging-out eighth as the second fave in the Louisiana Derby), so Bravazo will be looking for a turnaround based on morning works leading up to his long-shot bid in Louisville.


18) FIRENZE FIRE (c,Poseidon’s Warrior–My Every Wish, by Langfuhr)
O/B-Mr. Amore Stables (FL). T-Jason Servis. Lifetime Record: GISW, 9-4-1-0, $669,100.
Apr. 10 TDN Top 20 Rank: N/A
Last Start: 4th, GII Wood Memorial S., AQU, Apr. 7
Accomplishments: 1st, GI Champagne S., BEL, Oct. 7; 1st, GIII Sanford S., SAR, July 22.
Equineline PPs
KY Derby Points: 39

The Poseidon’s Warrior homebred demonstrated an admirable, grind-it-out, style at age two and early in 2018 that allowed him to overachieve in spots where the competition was been tough and/or he was up against the grain of the way the pace unfolded. But his pedigree is slanted heavily toward sprinting on both sides, he’s yet to win a two-turn race, and he’s now lost three in a row after taking what turned out to be the easiest (New York) prep path to the Derby. After barely making the qualifying cut on a points basis, it looks like Firenze Fire is on his way to Louisville.


19) LONE SAILOR (c, Majestic Warrior-Ambitious, by Mr. Greeley)
O-GMB Racing. B-Alexander-Groves-Matz, LLC (KY). T-Thomas Amoss. Sales history: $120,000 yrl KEESEP ’16. Lifetime Record: GISP, 8-1-3-1, $334,237.
Apr. 10 TDN Top 20 Rank: N/A
Last Start: 2nd, GII Louisiana Derby, FG, Mar. 24
Accomplishments: 3rd, GI Breeders Futurity S., KEE, Oct. 7
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 42

Lone Sailor won his second career start at Saratoga last September, ripping away to an 11-length romp in the mud over seven furlongs. Since then this $120,000 KEESEP Majestic Warrior colt has competed in six straight route races and hasn’t won again. He wrested control of the lead inside the final furlong of the Louisiana Derby but couldn’t seal the deal, ending up second while beaten only a neck at 9-1 odds. If you plan on banking on that effort as the start of a potential upswing, you’ll be rewarded with odds well north of 60-1 in Louisville.


20) GRONKOWSKI (Lonhro {Aus}-Four Sugars, by Lookin At Lucky)
O-Phoenix Thoroughbred Limited. B-Epic Thoroughbreds LLC. T-Jeremy Noseda. Sales history: $75,000 wnl KEENOV ’15; $67,415 yrl TATOCT ’16; $404,492 2yo TATBRE ’17. Lifetime Record: 6-4-1-0, $135,644.
Apr. 3 TDN Top 12 Rank: N/A
Last Start: 1st, 32red Burradon S, NEW, Mar. 30.
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: Qualified via European Road to the KY Derby

Gronkowski has never run on dirt nor beyond a mile, and he qualified for a berth in Louisville by winning the Europe Road to the Kentucky Derby invite. His most recent score was in the straight-course Burradon S. at Newcastle, a race in which he settled towards the back of the pack and rallied late for a 1 1/4-length, driven-out victory. He will remain overseas for another week and a half prior to shipping stateside Apr. 28.