The TDN Derby Rankings for September 2


Tiz the Law gallops through the slop Sept. 2 | Coady


Here are the final TDN GI Kentucky Derby rankings after an entertaining, intriguing, and unusually long buildup to the first Saturday in September. The field is listed in “likeliest winner” order.

The Top 10…

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 is a Kentucky Derby standout no matter how you parse his credentials. He's 6-for-7 lifetime and undefeated in four starts at age three. He's thrice run Beyer Speed Figures at or above the elite-level 100 mark. He's already won at the Derby distance of 10 furlongs and that victory was a resounding trouncing of the GI Runhappy Travers S. field at Saratoga. Most importantly, his progression into a mature, confident, aggressor who carries himself with swagger is evident in the visually impressive nature of his races. This $110,000 SARAUG Constitution colt makes his own breaks and controls the tempo of his races from an imposing stalking position, and he's never been in a serious stretch fight beyond the eighth pole while pasting the competition by open lengths (never fewer than three). Detractors will point to the fact that his only career loss came over the Churchill Downs surface, but that argument is a reach. Tiz created his own trouble in that third-place try in a sea of slop last November in the GII Kentucky Jockey Club S., and he's long since advanced in his development into a colt who relishes throttling his competition. Post 17 shouldn't be a problem. Tiz is an alert breaker who knows how to seize prime early positioning and he'll have a long run through the home straight to settle just behind the anticipated speed. The only reason not to bet on him will be the prohibitive price. Tiz the Law has had an amazingly long run of luck, maintaining his form for well over a year for an old-school trainer and ownership group that underscores fun and doing right by their horses, so he's an easy favorite to root for.

2) 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.

This $850,000 FTSAUG Honor Code ridgling figures to be a far better contender in the Derby than he appeared in his not-fully-cranked second at 1-5 odds when shortening up to 1 1/16 miles in the Shared Belief S. at Del Mar. He has a long stride, a keen mind and an unruffled demeanor, and the projected (more up-tempo) pace dynamic of the Derby figures to suit both his pedigree and target-oriented running style. For a launching-off point for what Honor A.P. might be capable of on Saturday, reference his 102-Beyer GI Santa Anita Derby score on June 6, in which he methodically wore down the pacemakers and fluidly covered ground like he wanted more of it. Honor A.P. does take a while to torque up to his main attacking gear, but he's also been described by trainer John Shirreffs as being light on his feet, which is an attribute that is usually a necessity in any 18-horse scrum.

3) 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.

King Guillermo's 127-day layoff quest to win the Derby doesn't strike me as outlandish as it might seem to some traditionalists. This colt was intentionally kept out of hard training in the early part of summer after running back-to-back impressive races when winning the GII Tampa Bay Derby and grinding out a gutsy second in the faster division of the split GI Arkansas Derby. Having plenty of down time was always the prescribed plan for this Uncle Mo bay ($90,000 RNA KEESEP, $150,000 OBSAPR), who runs best when fresh. The filly Regret won the 1915 Derby off a 259-day break, and Sir Barton won the 1919 Derby off a 238-day rest. Since 1929, the longest winning layoff has been 42 days, equaled by Needles in 1956 and Animal Kingdom in 2011. What is a little concerning is that trainer Juan Carlos Avila has been nursing a tepid 1-for-25 record over the past two months. And jockey Samy Camacho is booked on no other Derby day mounts at Churchill, which means that the rookie Derby rider will be sitting in the jocks' room for hours before his big-race debut without the benefit of being able to ride over the track and (more importantly) focus on another race as a distraction from the pressure. Still, having said all of that, King Guillermo's 20-1 morning line represents considerable value if you can actually snag that price.

4) 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.

In a Derby prep season extended to 10 months because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Thousand Words is the epitome of a comebacking contender. He was the No.1 Derby prospect on this list from December through early March, then slid off the grid for three starts between March and July (in two of those races he just looked uninterested, and in the sloppy Oaklawn S. he clearly didn't like taking wet kickback). But this million-dollar KEESEP colt's 104-Beyer tally in the Shared Belief S. over Honor A.P. stamped him as a resurgent player for a trainer known to produce Derby winners (even when they're not favorites). Thousand Words doesn't resonate as a “Wow!” horse, but one talent that is decidedly in his favor is his oft-demonstrated ability to fight through tenacious early pace battles while still being able to repulse serious stretch challenges. Not too many horses in this year's Derby field have demonstrated that skill, and it will suit this Pioneerof the Nile colt well if he can handle the stretch to 10 furlongs.

5) 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.

Enforceable is the long-shot play of the Derby, and a must inclusion for all exotics. Admittedly, it's tough to make a case for him based on results on paper alone. This $775,000 KEESEP RNA was fifth in the GII Louisiana Derby, then ran fourth in the July 11 GII Toyota Blue Grass S., his lone summer prep for Louisville. But he was wide on both turns in the Blue Grass behind dominant one-two finishers who both came back to win stakes in impressive fashion, and this Mark Casse trainee has now had six weeks of conditioning over the Churchill surface. Knowing that he's coming in fresh with run-all-day bloodlines (by Tapit out of a Dixie Union mare), dismiss Enforceable at your own peril. He is going to fly under the radar betting wise, and he is highly likely to be flying by some of the more stamina-challenged pacemakers late in the lane on Saturday.

6) AUTHENTIC (c, Into Mischief–Flawless, 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 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.

Considering that more preps were added to the calendar to qualify for the Derby, it's a bit odd that only three entrants in this 18-horse field–Tiz the Law, Thousand Words and Authentic–are sporting victories in their last races. This $350,000 KEESEP Into Mischief bay has high-level pace-pressing ability, and his outermost gate draw makes it a near-cinch that he'll be sent for speed to attain prominent positioning. But it's not guaranteed that Authentic is going to abide by the strategic wishes of new jockey John Velazquez and trainer Bob Baffert. He's had adverse issues leaving the starting stalls in three of his five races and his stretch antics by now are well-documented, underscored by his caving-then-saving final eighth in the GI Haskell S. in which Authentic nearly snatched defeat from the jaws of victory by losing focus. Ability beyond nine furlongs remains an open question (because having multiple Grade II-winning sprinter Mr. Greeley as his dam-sire does give Authentic's pedigree a short-distance slant). But it's also not difficult to envision a scenario in which the Churchill strip comes up speed-favoring and Authentic gets bold on a loose lead.

7) 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.

Sole Volante has more upside than people might perceive coming into the Derby. This $6,000 KEESEP and $20,000 OBSAPR Karakontie pinhook will be firing fresh (78-day respite) after reportedly not liking the track in the Belmont S., and trainer Patrick Biancone backed this gelding off from deep-summer preps to instead leg up with a series of turf works at Palm Meadows in Florida. Sole Volante has already run four 92-plus Beyers on dirt, and it's crucial to point out that he earned those numbers over two tracks–Gulfstream and Tampa–that are historically not conducive to off-the-tailgate running styles like his. This is a light-bodied stayer who could be in the hunt well into the final furlong of the Derby. Sole Volante's dam only won once, but it was over 14 furlongs in England.

8) NECKER ISLAND (c, Hard SpunJenny's Rocket, by Mr. Greeley) O-Raymond Daniels, Wayne Scherr & Will Harbut Racing LLC; B-Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings LLC (KY); T-Chris Hartman. Sales history: $250,000 Ylg '18 KEESEP. Lifetime Record: GSP, 10-2-0-3, $199,730.
Last Start: 3rd Runhappy Ellis Park Derby, ELP, Aug. 1.
Accomplishments include: 3rd GIII Indiana Derby, IND, July 8.
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 14.

Necker Island, a $100,000 claim three starts back, owns Churchill wins over both a fast and a sloppy surface, but those two victories were last autumn at the start of his career when one-turn miles and seven-furlong sprints seemed to be his sweet spot. Although this Hard Spun colt hasn't been able to break past the 86-87 Beyer plateau his last four starts, he was facing some talented winners in Art Collector (Bernardini) and Maxfield (Street Sense). Necker Island's third in the GIII Indiana Derby is actually quite a bit more impressive than it appears on paper: he stumbled at the break, got hooked wide on both turns, then got first run at the pacemaker before hanging in admirably behind a winner who shaved 0.17 seconds off the nine-furlong track record.

9) 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 Haskell Invitational S., MTH, July 18
Accomplishments Include: 2nd GII 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.

In four graded stakes preps this season, the 2-for-9 Ny Traffic has run three seconds and a third, 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 yet, and his only two lifetime wins were a Parx MSW and a Gulfstream allowance/optional claimer. Yet he has a hard-trying, overachieving way of going, and he was barely nosed out of a  Haskell S. upset by 3-5 fave Authentic. This colt has experience at nine furlongs (twice) and 1 3/16 miles, and generally outruns his odds. Is he the “sleeper” New York-bred in the Derby with fellow Empire Stater Tiz the Law drawing all the attention and betting action?

10) 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.

This first-crop Honor Code colt ($150,000 KEESEP RNA) was a commendable third in both the Belmont S. and the Travers S., but he wasn't in the same league as dominant winner Tiz the Law in either contest. We still haven't seen a big breakout race from this slow-but-steady learner, and his connections have gambled on a trainer change for the Derby. Steve Asmussen took over from Linda Rice after the Travers, and while that's probably too short a time window for a new conditioning regimen to produce immediate results, Max might awaken under the aggressive handling of new jockey Ricardo Santana Jr., who rides quite a bit more assertively than the strong-finishing, but more patient Joel Rosario.

The Rest of the Field…

11) SOUTH BEND (c, AlgorithmsSandra's Rose, by Old Trieste) O-Gary Barber, Wachtel Stable, Peter Deutsch & Pantofel Stable LLC; B-Highclere Inc (KY); T-Bill Mott. Sales History: $47,000 RNA Ylg '18 FTKJUL; $70,000 2yo '19 OBSMAR. Lifetime Record: SW & MGSP, 12-3-2-2, $390,114.
Last Start: 4th GI Runhappy Travers S., SAR, Aug. 8
Equineline PPs.

Trainer Bill Mott saddled 65-1 Country House (Lookin At Luck) in the Derby last year and ended up getting moved up from second to win via DQ. This year his trainee South Bend figures to be in the same stratospheric odds range. This $70,000 OBSMAR Algorithms bay (RNA'd for $47,000 at FKTJUL) began his career a perfect three-for-three but hasn't won since. At 12 starts, he's the most experienced starter in this year's edition. He rated from last to get fourth in the Travers S. (first start under Mott's care), so he already has 10-furlong experience. And at age two, he ran a crackerjack race over the Churchill surface, winning the one-turn-mile Street Sense S. while only a hundredth of a second off the stakes record. Not an overt win threat, but definitely fodder for exotics.

12) MR. BIG NEWS (c, Giant's CausewayUnappeased {Ire}, by Galileo {Ire}) O-Allied Racing Stable LLC; B-Don Alberto Corporation (KY); T-Bret Calhoun. Sales History: $95,000 Ylg '18 FTKOCT. Lifetime Record: SW, 7-2-1-0, $168,553
Last Start: 6th GII Toyota Blue Grass S., KEE, July 11
Equineline PPs.

With a distance-centric pedigree (by Giant's Causeway out of a Galileo mare), you can see why 10 furlongs could very well be within the wheelhouse for Mr. Big News. The exclamation point in his past performance block is the 46-1 half-length splashdown win he earned when relishing a sealed/sloppy Hot Springs track in the Apr. 11 Oaklawn S. But Mr. Big News was drifting out in that victory, and only one of the dozen horses he bested that day (Thousand Words) has proven to be of Kentucky Derby caliber. Although his career-top Beyer of 88 will not be good enough to win the Derby, it's worth noting that this colt has never regressed in terms of speed numbers, earning Beyers that have moved upward for each of his seven lifetime tries.

13) MONEY MOVES (c, Candy Ride {Arg}Citizen Advocate, by Proud Citizen) O-Robert V LaPenta & Bortolazzo Stable; B-Whitehall Lane Farm (KY); T-Todd Pletcher. Sales history: $975,000 2yo '19 OBSAPR. Lifetime Record: 3-2-1-0, $67,400.
Last Start: 2nd Allowance, SAR, July 25
Equineline PPs.

This $975,000 OBSAPR Candy Ride (Arg) colt is light on experience (just three races), but high on potential based on a pair of one-turn Gulfstream wins to kick off his career and an eye-catching 98-Beyer second at Saratoga over nine furlongs. He's run well as a pace-pressing threat and has overcome two stutter-step starts leaving the gate, but being in the hunt over 10 furlongs in just his second start back since March is still a major ask at this point in his career. But history could be on his side: dam-sire Proud Citizen was also a late consideration for the 2002 Derby, yet he ran a better-than-expected second at 23-1 odds.

14) ATTACHMENT RATE (c, Hard SpunAristra, by Afleet Alex) O-Jim Bakke & Gerald Isbister; B-Mr & Mrs C Oliver Iselin (VA); T-Dale Romans. Sales History: $100,000 Wlg '17 KEENOV; $200,000 Ylg '18 KEESEP. Lifetime Record: GSP, 8-1-3-1, $143,732.
Last Start: 2nd Runhappy Ellis Park Derby, ELP, Aug. 9
Equineline PPs.

As a May 18 foal, Attachment Rate has no doubt benefitted from the September rescheduling of the Derby. But with only a maiden win to his credit, this Virginia-bred Hard Spun colt ($100,000 KEENOV; $200,000 KEESEP) is facing a tall task coming off a best-of-the-rest second behind Art Collector in the Ellis Park Derby. Prior to that, he had trip trouble in three consecutive stakes yet managed to improve his Beyers in each of those efforts.

15) FINNICK THE FIERCE (g, Dialed InSouthern Classic, by Southern Image) O-Arnaldo Monge & Rey Hernandez; B-Paige Jillian Blue Sky Stables (KY); T-Rey Hernandez. Lifetime Record: GISP, 9-2-1-2, $191,290. Last Start: 7th GII Toyota Blue Grass S., KEE, July 11 Equineline PPs

Finnick the Fierce hasn't dodged any heavy hitters in his preps, and he's run some respectable races at long odds while picking up a handful checks for minor awards. Most notably, he is one of only two horses to ever finish in front of Tiz the Law, running an 87-1 second in the Kentucky Jockey Club S. over a waterlogged Churchill surface. But Finnick's only true win was a five-furlong sprint at age two at Indiana Downs in a four-horse field (he also got moved up via DQ at Oaklawn going 1 1/16 miles). Although co-owner and trainer Rey Hernandez noted this Dialed In gelding has thrice run well from post one, the rail draw is traditionally a disadvantage in the crowded Derby, and it's even more complicated for Finnick because he lost his right eye as a baby (congenital cataract) and won't be able to see the wall of horses to his immediate outside.

16) STORM THE COURT (c, Court Vision–My Tejana Storm, by Tejano Run) O-Exline-Border Racing LLC & David A Bernsen LLC; B-Stepping Stone Farm (KY); T-Peter Eurton. Sales History: $5,000 Ylg '18 FTKFEB; $60,000 2yo '19 OBSAPR. Lifetime Record: Ch. 2yo, GISW, 9-2-1-3, $1,310,451.
Last Start: 2nd GIII La Jolla H., DMR, Aug. 9.
Equineline PPs.

Storm the Court enters the Derby winless in 10 months, with his last score being the  45-1 shocker in the GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile that he has been unable to replicate. Although this $60,000 OBSAPR bay (bought for $5,000 as a FTKFEB yearling) doesn't have a “traditional” Derby-horse pedigree, hints of it are there. Sire Court Vision, although known as a MGISW turfer who capped his career with a win in the GI Breeders' Cup Mile, did start his career on dirt with wins in the GIII Iroquois S. and GII Remsen S. at age two, and he started in both the Kentucky Derby and GI Travers S. at three. Dam-sire Tejano Run was a rugged (8-4-6 from 21 starts) MGSW/MGISP galloper who ran second in the 1995 Derby.

17) MAJOR FED (c, GhostzapperBobby's Babe, by Smart Strike) O-Lloyd Madison Farms IV LLC; B-Lloyd Madison IV (KY); T-Greg Foley. Lifetime Record: MGSP, 6-1-2-1, $215,600.
Last Start: 2nd GIII Indiana Derby, IND, July 8
Equineline PPs.

Major Fed is one of three Derby entrants who have yet to win beyond the maiden ranks. This Ghostzapper homebred out of a Smart Strike mare has earned two seconds in Grade II and Grade III stakes, and his best efforts have come from mid-pack stalking trips. He has a habit of getting parked out wide on the turns, so trying to tuck in to save ground from post five might be his best shot.

18) WINNING IMPRESSION (g, PaynterUnbridled Sonya, by Unbridled's Song) O-West Point Thoroughbreds & Pearl Racing; B-WinStar Farm LLC (KY); T-Dallas Stewart. Sales History: $17,000 Ylg '18 KEESEP; $77,000 2yo '19 OBSAPR. Lifetime Record: 9-1-1-2, $98,552.
Last Start: 7th Runhappy Ellis Park Derby, ELP, Aug. 9
Equineline PPs.

Winning Impression has the makings of a mudlark. Unfortunately for him, the advance forecast for Derby day is clear and sunny. He's crossed the finish wire first both times he's raced over the slop (losing one via DQ) but has been beaten double-digit lengths in a pair of seventh-place efforts in two summer stakes preps since then. His sire, Paynter, was second in the 2012 GI Belmont S. over 1 1/2 miles, so there is a glimmer of hope that 10 furlongs in the Derby could be a move-up for him.

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