The TDN Derby Top 12 for Feb. 19

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Thousand WordsBenoit

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That rumbling noise you heard over the weekend was the first seasonal shifting within the Top 12 rankings, sort of like an early spring thaw that finally calves the iceberg. Five horses have leapfrogged onto the list since its last publication, and we’re now at the 75-day mark to the GI Kentucky Derby.

 

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.

Top 12 kingpin Thousand Words had his first workout on Monday since ratcheting his record to three-for-three with a muscle-flexing score in the Feb. 1 GIII Bob Lewis S. This reliable stalker breezed five-eighths in 1:00.60 (9/41) at Santa Anita, and trainer Bob Baffert has said several times this season that this long-striding, $1 million KEESEP buy is not the type of colt who needs a lot of work. But the five-time Derby-winning trainer was not up for discussing next-race plans for Thousand Words–or any of his contenders–Monday. “You know what? Right now, I’m still not talking about it too much,” Baffert told the Santa Anita press office. “I’ve got to figure out where I’m going to run them. Everybody keeps asking me every day, ‘What are you going to do?’ I know what I’m going to do, but only I know. Things change and I don’t want to jinx them.” History suggests Thousands Words will go next in the Mar. 7 GII San Felipe S. Baffert has won the Lewis (or its predecessor, the Santa Catalina S.) seven times since 1999. Five of those winners next started in the San Felipe. One of them was this colt’s sire, Pioneerof the Nile, whose second in the 2009 Derby represents the best showing of any of Baffert’s starters who took the Lewis-San Felipe route to Louisville.

 

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.

In contrast to Baffert’s desire to remain tight-lipped about plans for the No. 1-ranked contender, the connections of Tiz the Law have been very willing to reveal their road map to the first Saturday in May. This includes the disclosure 10 days ago that this $110,000 SARAUG buy would be re-routed from the Mar. 21 GII Louisiana Derby to instead remain at Gulfstream for the GI Florida Derby a week later. “There really are a number of factors, starting with how well he ran in the Holy Bull,” said Sackatoga Stable’s managing partner, Jack Knowlton, referring to Tiz’s 100-Beyer win in that Grade III stakes. “He obviously liked the racetrack, so that’s one box that we checked in a major way. [Trainer] Barclay [Tagg] typically likes home games rather than away games. It’s a lot easier for him and arguably easier for the horse to get out of his stall on Saturday morning and go 45 minutes down the road to Gulfstream rather than ship or fly over to Fair Grounds.” Tiz the Law’s sire won the 2014 Florida Derby. This is a high-energy colt with a nerve-wracking habit of putting himself in dicey, trip-troubled spots. But Tiz usually manages to extricate himself with a flourish, and thus is a fun horse to watch and root for.

 

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: Possible for GII Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth S., GP, Feb. 29

Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 0.

Structor’s half-mile breezes have been getting incrementally faster, and his :48.30 (2/32) move at Palm Meadows Monday was the fourth workout in his prep pattern, suggesting a 2020 debut is not far away. The most logical spot for his dirt coming-out party is now the Feb. 29 GII Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream. This $160,000 KEESEP pinhook, who re-sold for $850,000 at OBSMAR, capped a three-for-three season with a confident win in the 2019 GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. He displayed level-headed ability under pressure at age two, and he has a built-in layer of bottom, with all three of his starts at age two coming in mile or longer races. His sire, Palace Malice, won the 2013 GI Belmont S., but was also a resilient enough stalker to win the GI Met Mile at age four.

 

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 Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth S., GP, Feb. 29

Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 10.

Dennis’ Moment is now three half-mile and three five-eighths breezes into his much-anticipated sophomore season. Trainer Dale Romans long ago circled the Feb. 29 Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth as this ‘TDN Rising Star’s’ first of two Derby prep races. But among top-tier 3-year-olds, this $400,000 FTSAUG purchase is the biggest wild card in terms of not knowing which races in his 2019 form represent his true ability. His four races are comprised of a DNF (lost jock in debut) and a last-place finish (GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile) book-ending a 19-length maiden win and an easy, geared-down score in the GIII Iroquois S. Romans told DRF last week that Flavien Prat will replace Irad Ortiz, Jr. for the Fountain of Youth because Ortiz will be riding in Saudi Arabia on that date (Ortiz will retain the mount in future races). Dennis’ Moment figures to go off favored in that stakes. But favorites have a cringe-worthy recent record in the Fountain of Youth: They’ve won only two of the last 13 editions, including one demotion via disqualification.

 

5) MR. MONOMOY (c, Palace MaliceDrummette, by Henny Hughes)

‘TDN Rising Star’ O-Madaket Stables, LLC, Michael Dubb, Doheny Racing Stable. B-FPF LLC & Highfield Ranch (KY). T-Brad Cox. Sales History: $60,000 wnl ’17 KEENOV; €180,000 2yo ’19 ARQMA. Lifetime Record: GSW, 5-2-1-1, $327,162.

Last Start: 1st GII Risen Star S., Div. 1

Accomplishments Include: 3rd GIII Lecomte S., FG, Jan. 18

Next Start: Uncommitted

Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 52.

‘TDN Rising Star’ Mr. Monomoy, a half-brother to same stable’s 2018 champion filly Monomoy Girl (Tapizar), boomeranged into Derby relevance Saturday with a stylish, front-running score in the stronger (on paper) and faster (by final clocking and by final three-eighths) division of the split GII Risen Star S. This $60,000 KEENOV buy (resold for €180,000 at ARQMAY) asserted himself on the front end, then settled in hand under decent pressure. When a challenger launched the initial attack three furlongs out, Mr. Monomoy swatted him away with authority, then managed to kick on through the long Fair Grounds stretch while earnestly pursued by two legitimate favorites. Two months ago, after this colt lost his two-turn debut at 6-5 odds, trainer Brad Cox admitted “there is a little bit of a question mark on how far the horse wants to go.” Although his Belmont-winning sire, Palace Malice, seems to suggest staying power, Mr. Monomoy’s dam-sire, Henny Hughes, made his mark strictly as a MGISW sprinter.

 

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.

Maxfield celebrated his birthday Monday with his first published workout since mid-November surgery to fix a mildly displaced ankle chip. He breezed three-eighths in :38.20 (13/16) at Palm Meadows, and it’s still too early in his comeback for the connections of this Godolphin homebred to commit to a race. This colt will clearly be the last among the Top 12 Derby prospects to debut in 2020, but for anyone who was wowed by Maxfield’s bounding, 5 1/2-length, loop-the-group pasting of the GI Breeders’ Futurity S. field at Keeneland Oct. 5, the wait should be worth it. That win represented the most visually impressive two-turn juvenile stakes win in 2019, and it’s since been backed up by solid performances by the second, third-, and fourth-place finishers (two of whom are ranked right behind Maxfield at Nos. 7 and 8).

 

7) GOUVERNEUR MORRIS (c, ConstitutionAddison 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: 3-2-1-0, $161,500.

Last Start: 1st Alw/OC

Next Start: Uncommitted

Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 4.

It’s entirely possible the most influential Derby prep race from last weekend was not a stakes. ‘TDN Rising Star’ Gouverneur Morris nailed an allowance win Friday as the 1-2 favorite in his 2020 debut, but don’t dismiss this performance as some Todd Pletcher shipper shellacking an ordinary five-horse Tampa field. When one of the presumed pacemakers lost the jockey coming out of the gate, the gray ($200,000 at KEESEP; $600,000 at FTFMAR) had to do the pace-pressing dirty work by hounding crack speedster Untitled (Khozan). The ‘Guv’ had to be roused by John Velazquez to keep up at the 3 1/2-furlong grounds and cued with the stick turning for home, but he leveled off nicely and finished well. At age two, this colt debuted as a nine-length sprint winner in the Spa slop, then ran second in the Breeders’ Futurity behind Maxfield before being rested for his sophomore season. Next-race plans are not yet firm, but qualifying points are an issue for this colt (he only has four), so expect that start to be in a 100-40-20 points race like the Florida Derby.

 

8) 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

Accomplishments Include: 1st GIII Lecomte S., FG, Jan. 18; 3rd GI Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity, KEE, Oct. 5

Next Start: Possible for GII Louisiana Derby, FG, Mar. 21

Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 33.

After Enforceable won the GIII Lecomte S. in January, I cautioned in his Top 12 write-up that deep closers can be dangerous to fall in love with as Derby prospects, because their success is so often pace- and trip-dependent. That logic came into play in Saturday’s stronger division of the GII Risen Star S., because once it became evident that no one would go gunning with Mr. Monomoy, the late runners had to work additionally hard to try and close the gap on the impressive (92 Beyer) front-running winner. This $775,000 KEESEP RNA now owned by John Oxley was content to lag in last onto the backstretch, but at the 5 1/2-furlong pole you could see jockey Julien Leparoux spark into action with a little more urgency than usual at such an early juncture in the race. He asked Enforceable to pick up the pace while zooming up the rail to attain mid-pack placement, and when clear inside passage never materialized, Leparoux swerved out to the six path for a long drive that earned him second. “He made a couple of different moves and still finished with plenty of acceleration,” trainer Mark Casse said. “That kind of experience will help him down the road.”

 

9) 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.

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.

Considering he already has career eight starts under his belt (like Enforceable), Silver Prospector is a “throwback” horse in this current era of racing Derby candidates sparingly. In fact, he’s already launching a bit of a 2020 comeback after throwing in a one-race clunker to start his season with a blah, against-the-bias fourth in the Smarty Jones S. Jan 24. On Monday, we saw a more highly honed version of this Declaration of War colt ($50,000 KEESEP; $190,000 OBSAPR). He saved ground and stalked while comfortably covered up at the rail in the GIII Southwest S., and jockey Ricardo Santana, Jr. had a handful of horse at the top of the lane when Silver Prospector bulled through and kicked for home. His Beyer rating came back a robust 97, and his 1:43.01 final clocking compares favorably to two other 1 1/16 miles stakes on the same Oaklawn card: Older fillies and mares went the same distance .64 seconds slower in the GIII Bayakoa S., and Silver Prospector’s time was only one-hundredth of a second off the clocking for accomplished older males in the GIII Razorback S.

 

10) 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.

Next Start: GII Rebel S., OP, Mar. 14

Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 0.

In the paddock and in warm-ups, ‘TDN Rising Star’ Nadal stood out visually as a much more physically imposing equine athlete than his peers in the Feb. 9 GII San Vicente S. He ran to those brawny looks by sparring through quick early splits and emerging on top from a three-way go to win by a half-length under constant pressure over seven furlongs, defeating juvenile champ Storm the Court (Court Vision) in the process. His 91 Beyer for the effort seems legit, but it’s a seven-point reduction from his maiden debut. And when you parse the San Vicente sectionally, the comparatively slow :38.50 for the final three furlongs takes a bit of the shine off the performance. The bay ($65,000 KEESEP; $700,000 FTFMAR) closed as the 8-1 co-favorite with Tiz the Law among non-field horses in Pool 2 of the Derby Future Wager, which is saying something (I’m not sure what) considering this colt won’t even attempt two turns until mid-March, when he is expected to ship to Oaklawn for the GII Rebel S.

 

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: Uncommitted

Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 10.

The two-for-two Authentic bulleted six furlongs in 1:12.20 (1/5) at Santa Anita last Thursday, and he’s now had five published morning moves since his 7 3/4-length bulldozing of a the GIII Sham S. crew back Jan. 4 (a race that looked weak on paper but has since been shored up by the runner-up winning the El Camino Real Derby Saturday). The main takeaway from that race was that this $350,000 KEESEP purchase was green but game, and although his ducking in, veering out, and fighting his rider is what stood out, it’s also proper to mention that Authentic did regain enough focus to win geared down, so it’s not like 10 seconds of unruly behavior should define him moving forward. As mentioned in the write-up for Thousand Words, trainer Bob Baffert isn’t yet disclosing when or where Authentic will be starting next, but this is a colt clearly sitting on “go” and whose turn at the entry box is theoretically ahead of more recently raced stablemates.

 

12) EDGE OF FIRE (c, CurlinLeading Edge, by Tapit)

‘TDN Rising Star’ O/B-Chiefswood Stable Limited (ON). T-Jimmy Jerkens. Lifetime Record: 1-1-0-0, $25,800.

Last Start: 1st MSW

Next start: Uncommitted

Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 0.

A slew of hopefuls competed for the final Top 12 slot this week. Although a lone maiden sprint win is not usually enough to gain a foothold within A-list dozen of Derby hopefuls, I’m taking a shot here with ‘TDN Rising Star’ Edge of Fire, an intriguing Curlin homebred for Chiefswood Stable who was calm and classy with plenty left in the tank for his two-length favored Gulfstream debut win Feb. 1. This Jimmy Jerkens trainee broke alertly, was positioned into stalking contention while rated in fourth, remained patiently on hold almost the entire journey around the turn, then kicked away after shifting out to a clear path while opening up smartly under the lightest of encouragement. It was the type of effort that suggests longer and stronger races are within the scope of his ability.

 

On the Bubble (in alphabetical order):

Ajaaweed (Curlin): Dropped out of Top 12 after low-impact third in GIII Davis S. at Tampa, a track that does not usually play kindly to deep closers.

 

Anneau d’Or (Medaglia d’Oro): Beaten fave in slower division of Risen Star lost his spot within Top 12 after being anxious early, five wide into club turn, then seven wide turning for home in dull ninth-place try. Will re-aim for GI Santa Anita Derby.

 

Answer In (Dialed In): Beaten fave in Southwest S. slid off the Top 12 grid but had an excuse: Five wide club turn, dragged rider to stalk in third, got first run at pacemaker, then faded to non-threatening third.

 

Azul Coast (Super Saver): Prevailed as fave in El Camino Real Derby after running second to Baffert stablemate Authentic in Sham S

 

Chance It (Currency Swap): His 94-Beyer win in the Mucho Macho Man S. looks even better now that two foes have won next out, including the 96-Beyer winner of the GIII Davis S. at Tampa.

 

Charlatan (Speightstown): ‘TDN Rising Star’ with champion sprinter sire earned quick clocking in Sunday six-furlong unveiling for Baffert.

 

Eight Rings (Empire Maker): ‘TDN Rising Star’ finally resurfaced on Santa Anita work tab after post-Breeders’ Cup break. He was the well-beaten second choice in what has turned out to be a non-productive edition of the Juvenile.

 

Ete Indien (Summer Front): Initially pegged as a turfer, he’s run two very nice overachieving dirt races at Gulfstream on the front end, including a pesky second behind Tiz the Law in the Holy Bull S.

 

Independence Hall (Constitution): Could not retain Top 12 placing after looming boldly, then folding with no obvious excuse in his two-turn debut in the Davis S. at Tampa. Sure, he was second. But with the clean gift trip he had, this colt should have fired much better down the lane.

 

Modernist (Uncle Mo): Big wake-up call to fight for lead and win slower division of Risen Star; trainer Bill Mott compares him kindly to 2019 Derby winner-via-DQ Country House (although he added this colt is more mature at this stage).

 

Silver State (Hard Spun): Capable third in faster division of the Risen Star S.; has yet to punch through with a stakes win but is always in the hunt.

 

Sole Volante (Karakontie {Jpn}): Like stablemate Ete Indien, is making an encouraging transition from turf to dirt with big-fig (96 Beyer) score in Davis S.

 

Storm the Court (Court Vision): Two-year-old champ was only peripherally involved in San Vicente S., and his 2020 debut was a so-so fourth. The six horses to run back out of the Juvenile are now a collective 1-for-10 in subsequent starts.

 

Three Technique (Mr Speaker): Prep plan for this Bill Parcells-owned ‘TDN Rising Star’ is to parlay a sharp Rebel S. try into a GI Arkansas Derby start.

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