The TDN Derby Top 12 for July 14

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Previously unranked Art Collector (Bernardini) moves all the way into the top 5 off of his GII Toyota Blue Grass S. win | Coady Photography

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Now 55 days out from the first Saturday in September, the GI Kentucky Derby totem pole continues to have an East-West hydra-like split at the top. But a Kentucky-based new shooter arrived on the scene over the weekend to add some spark and intrigue to the rankings. As the cadence quickens, the plot thickens.

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, 6-5-0-1, $1,480,300.
Last Start: 1st GI Belmont S., BEL, June 20
Accomplishments Include: 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
Next Start: GI Travers S., SAR, Aug. 8.
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 272.

Tiz the Law has been confidently carrying the burden of No. 1 favoritism since Mar. 11, and the 5-for-6 divisional kingpin arrived in Saratoga Monday morning in preparation for the GI Travers S. on Aug. 8. A win in the Midsummer Classic would mark one year to the date since this New York-bred broke his maiden at the Spa, and his only lifetime loss was a trip-troubled third in the slop at Churchill Downs last November. This $110,000 SARAUG Constitution colt ended his juvenile season as an overachiever with a knack for finding tight spots and pockets of traffic while still managing to win. But at age three Tiz emerged as a stronger, faster, more tactically agile racehorse, and he’s been well tuned in his training, with a minor foot bruise back in February as the only several-day setback in his regimen. Partnering with jockey Manny Franco, this assertive stalker has learned how to put himself in position to apply pressure as a menacing presence just behind the leaders, and with five open-length victories by margins of at least three lengths Tiz has yet to hook up with anybody who can seriously run with him inside the eighth pole. In a year filled with COVID-19 concerns and asterisks because of all the changes to the Triple Crown schedule, Tiz the Law has remained a constant, shining presence, handling just about any challenge thrown his way.

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, 4-2-2-0, $362,200.
Last Start: 1st GI Runhappy Santa Anita Derby June 6. Accomplishments Include: 2nd GII San Felipe S., SA, Mar. 7.
Next Start: Shared Belief S., DMR, Aug. 1.
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 120.

While Tiz the Law merits the No. 1 ranking based on his impressive overall resume, Honor A.P. looms as the sophomore whose untapped potential is the most tantalizing. This $850,000 FTSAUG ridgling’s GI Santa Anita Derby score on June 6 serves as the measuring stick for the California-based contenders because it was a 2 ¾-length, grind-’em-down victory notable for both Honor A.P.’s long reach and the ease with which he covered that ground. Trainer John Shirreffs has said repeatedly this first-crop son of Honor Code has the mental makeup to handle the rigors of a 20-horse Derby field, and the 1 1/16 miles Shared Belief S. at Del Mar Aug. 1 will be his final prep prior to Louisville. On Sunday, Honor A.P. worked seven furlongs in 1:29.20 (1/2) at Del Mar as part of a three-way team. He started about a length behind two maiden juvenile workmates and was asked to slip through at the rail, which he did without strenuous effort. Track clockers had Honor A.P. going from the five-furlong pole to the wire in 1:03.30, edging away from his overmatched mates before continuing on for another quarter-mile on his own.

3) 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: MGSW & GISP, 4-3-1-0, $411,200.
Last Start: 2nd GI Runhappy Santa Anita Derby, SA, June 5. Accomplishments Include: 1st GII San Felipe S., SA, Mar. 7; 1st GIII Sham S., SA, Jan. 4.
Next Start: GI Haskell S., MTH, July 18.
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 100.

Authentic is New Jersey-bound after breezing a solo five-eighths in :59.80 (4/88) at Del Mar July 11 in prep for the GI Haskell S. on Saturday. He’ll be solidly favored based on the list of probables for Monmouth’s calling-card race, and one of the big questions for this $350,000 KEESEP Into Mischief bay is whether or not he wants (or needs to) transition into an effective stalker in order to maintain his spot in the overall pecking order. Authentic started his career 3-for-3, winning near the lead in a MSW sprint then wiring graded stakes fields in his first two route attempts. But in the Santa Anita Derby, this colt broke tardily and outward, then tried to press the pace while three wide on both turns. He ended up second behind No. 2-ranked Honor A.P., but likely gained more from that experience than is evident on paper. Trainer Bob Baffert has won the Haskell eight times, and in aiming for a ninth he has worked Authentic no fewer than five times in the six-weeks span between races, including bullets at both a flat mile and six furlongs.

4) ART COLLECTOR (c, BernardiniDistorted Legacy, by Distorted Humor)
O/B-Bruce Lunsford (KY). T-Thomas Drury Jr. Lifetime Record: GSW, 8-4-1-0, $548,475.
Last Start: 1st GII Toyota Blue Grass S., KEE, July 11
Next Start: Uncommitted
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 100.

Art Collector cruised into the GII Blue Grass S. having crossed the wire first by open lengths in three straight races against allowance/optional claiming company. He soared out of Saturday’s Keeneland feature 3 1/2 lengths the best after a tenacious stretch duel that earned a 103 Beyer Speed Figure, the highest by any 3-year-old at a mile or longer this year. This athletic Bruce Lunsford homebred by Bernardini broke with the pacemakers, applied pressure from third behind dueling leaders, and when the favored filly Swiss Skydiver (Daredevil) put away rail-running Shivaree (Awesome of Course), Art Collector gamely latched onto her and ratcheted up the pressure. From the quarter pole to the sixteenth pole both rivals dug in, but in the final half a furlong Art Collector torqued into another gear the leading GI Kentucky Oaks points-earner couldn’t match. The Keeneland mini-meet did produce fast times on both surfaces, and while Saturday’s dirt races were not outright dominated by speed (one wire winner, five pace-pressers, one midpack stalker), being in the hunt near the front did yield discernable advantages. The Aug. 9 Ellis Park Derby is a next-race possibility according to trainer Thomas Drury Jr., but another start before the Derby is not a requirement considering Art Collector has bankrolled 100 Derby qualifying points (tied for third).

5) 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: 3rd Pulpit S., GP, Nov. 30, 1st
GII Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby
Next Start: GI Kentucky Derby, CD, Sept. 5
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 90.

We’re approaching the seven-week mark to the Derby, and already King Guillermo is shaping up as the most intriguing under-the-radar contender despite his high ranking on this list. In an already unconventional season because of the coronavirus, his connections are taking an even more unusual prep path to the Derby, with a projected 127-day gap between starts. This second-deadline (June 3) Triple Crown nominee owns only two tries against graded stakes company, but both were crackerjack efforts. This Uncle Mo bay ($90,000 RNA at KEESEP; $150,000 OBSAPR) forced the issue on the front end at 49-1 odds to win the third-fastest GII Tampa Bay Derby in the race’s 40 runnings, then he ran a tenacious second in the stronger/faster division of the split GI Arkansas Derby. After some down time on a Florida farm, he got back to business July 4 with a bullet (1/118) :47.11 half-mile breeze at Gulfstream. On July 11, he was clocked over the same distance in :48.03 (8/101). Trainer Juan Carlos Avila posted on Twitter afterward that the King came out of his work in “excellent” shape, with a five-furlong work planned for this coming Saturday.

6) UNCLE CHUCK (c, Uncle MoForest Music, by Unbridled’s Song)
O-Karl Watson, Michael E. Pegram & Paul Weitman. B-Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings LLC (KY). T-Bob Baffert. Sales History: $250,000 yrl ’18 KEESEP. Lifetime Record: GSW, 2-2-0-0, $120,000.
Last Start: 1st GIII Los Alamitos Derby, LRC, July 4
Next Start: Uncommitted
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 20.

Uncle Chuck’s adept dismantling of the four-horse GIII Los Alamitos Derby July 4 pairs up nicely with his seven-length maiden romp back on June 12. In his maiden win over a mile, this $250,000 KEESEP Uncle Mo colt wired the field after breaking a step slowly. Stepping up to stakes company at Los Al, Uncle Chuck broke alertly, was rated wide into the first turn, settled comfortably on the backstretch, then took dead aim at the leader, blowing by as he pleased. Roused for the stretch run–at 1,380 feet, the longest in North America–Uncle Chuck had plenty left, gamely swatting away a fresh challenge from stablemate Thousand Words (Pioneerof the Nile), a sophomore who was once so highly regarded that he spent the bulk of last winter atop this Top 12 list. Hand-ridden in the final stages, Uncle Chuck scored by four decisive lengths. This colt boasts speed and precocity on the bottom side of his pedigree and two-turn potency up top. For a more detailed dissection of Uncle Chuck’s family line, see colleague Chris McGrath’s deep-dive analysis from last week.

7) SHARED SENSE (c, Street Sense–Collective, by Bernardini)
O/B-Godolphin LLC (KY). T-Brad Cox. Lifetime Record: GSW, 8-3-2-0, $322,112.
Last Start: 1st GIII Indiana Derby, IND, July 8
Next Start: Uncommitted
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 20.

Shared Sense emerged as a late arrival on the Derby scene with his off-the-pace, track-record (.17 seconds off the old mark) score in last Wednesday’s GIII Indiana Derby, which for the first time was carded at nine furlongs. His stock inched upward again on Saturday thanks to a company-line boost from three-peat winner Art Collector, who came back out of their 1-2 finish in a June 13 Churchill Downs allowance to annex the Blue Grass S. at Keeneland. The Indiana Grand win by this homebred for Godolphin wasn’t so much a “Wow!” performance, but it underscored that this is a sophomore going the right way on the progression arc with more than a few hints at distance ability lodged within his pedigree (Street Sense out of a Bernardini mare). “He’s a tough horse,” trainer Brad Cox said, “On the dry dirt, that’s where he gets his best races. I tried him on the grass. His physical makeup, how he travels, I thought he might like the grass. He didn’t really go for it. And his last race at Churchill was a really good race. That race didn’t set up at all for him and he ran a big race. He’s just a horse I think will get better with distance and race.”

8) DR POST (c, Quality RoadMary Delaney, by Hennessy)
O-St. Elias Stable. B-Cloyce C. Clark (KY). T-Todd Pletcher. Sales History: $200,000 wlg ’18 KEESEP; $400,000 yrl ’18 KEESEP. Lifetime Record: SW & GISP, 4-2-1-0, $261,635.
Last Start: 2nd GI Belmont S., BEL, June 20
Accomplishments Include: 1st Unbridled S., GP, Apr. 25
Next Start: GI Haskell S., MTH, July 18
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 60.

Dr Post, the Belmont S. runner-up, now has two four-furlong breezes under his belt since his graded stakes debut, and last week was deemed a “likely” Haskell S. starter by trainer Todd Pletcher (entries Wednesday). If you discount his career debut, when this Quality Road colt bobbled at the break at 1-2 odds and ran fourth in a 5 1/2-furlong sprint, Dr. Post has paired back-to-back wins at Gulfstream over seven furlongs and 1 1/16 miles with his nine-furlong second behind the No. 1-ranked sophomore in the land. Although this $400,000 KEESEP and $200,000 KEENOV colt was not in the same league as Tiz the Law on June 20, Dr Post did win the “race within the race,” finishing ahead of some fairly accomplished contenders. If noted speedsters Authentic and Ete Indien (Summer Front) both show up for the Haskell and go too fast to last, Dr Post will be primed to pounce.

9) 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.
Next Start: Uncommitted
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 43.

True to form, Enforceable ($775,000 KEESEP RNA) took the overland route home in the Blue Grass S., rallying from tenth to get necked in a photo for third while never threatening Art Collector and Swiss Skydiver, who were 8 1/4 lengths clear of the pack. “He ran well,” trainer Mark Casse said post-race. “I don’t think there is any secret out there that there has been a pretty good speed bias and we had to run against it. We ended up fairly wide turning for home and it probably cost us third. But I just wanted a positive race and him finishing. I talked to Mr. [owner John] Oxley beforehand and told him we don’t have to win, we just want a good race. Now what we want is for him to come out of this race and do well and we’ll figure out one more. I was proud of him [Saturday]. He broke well, and that’s something we worked hard on because he hadn’t been breaking very well. It was a real positive race.”

10) 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.
Next Start: Uncommitted.
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 30.

Sole Volante, a light-bodied stayer with a grass-on-grass pedigree (Karakontie {Jpn} out of a Kingmambo mare), figures to be a forgotten horse on the Derby trail after his no-punch sixth in the Belmont S. He reportedly didn’t like the track that day according to trainer Patrick Biancone, and no next-race plans have been publicly announced. But still, if this $6,000 KEESEP and $20,000 OBSAPR gelding ends up in the Derby, the prospect of a hot pace coupled with his smooth way of going and keen mind make him one of those dark-horse outsiders who figures as a logical long shot.

11) MAX PLAYER (c, Honor CodeFools in Love, by Not For Love)
O-George E. Hall & SportBLX Thoroughbreds Corp. B-K&G Stables (KY). T-Linda Rice. Sales History: $150,000 RNA yrl ’18 KEESEP. Lifetime Record: GSW & GISP, 4-2-1-1, $273,500.
Last Start: 3rd GI Belmont S., BEL, June 20
Accomplishments Include: 1st GIII Withers S., AQU, Feb. 1
Next Start: GI Travers S., SAR, Aug. 8.
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 40.

Trainer Linda Rice said last week that after considering either Thursday’s GIII Peter Pan at Saratoga or Saturday’s Haskell at Monmouth, Max Player is instead going to wait another three weeks and “point right to the Travers.” This Honor Code colt ($150,000 KEESEP RNA) gained a foothold within the Top 12 after a “best of the rest” third in the Belmont S. At 14-1 odds, Max was no true threat to Tiz the Law, but his performance has to be viewed through the prism coming off of a 4 1/2-month layoff (primarily due to pandemic postponements). Max broke his maiden in start number two at Parx, then stretched capably to nine furlongs in the Feb. 1 GIII Withers, pressuring a tiring favored pacemaker into submission through moderate fractions. Rice has described this colt as a slow but steady learner, and if he can build that Belmont third into a breakthrough Travers performance, he could blossom into a “live” horse for the first Saturday in September.

12) CEZANNE (c, CurlinAchieving, by Bernardini)
O-Mrs John Magnier, Michael B Tabor, Derrick Smith & St Elias Stable. B-Hill ‘n’ Dale Equine Holdings Inc & St Elias Stables LLC (KY). T-Bob Baffert. Sales History: $3,650,000 2yo ’19 FTFMAR. Lifetime Record: 2-2-0-0, $57,000.
Last Start: 1st Allowance/Optional Claiming, LRC, July 2.
Next Start: Uncommitted.
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 0.

Cezanne advanced his record to 2-for-2 with a July 2 first-level allowance/optional claiming score over a mile at Los Alamitos. But considering this $3.65 million FTFMAR sales topper was 1-to-10 in the betting against only four rivals, he did not deliver an emphatic enough performance to retain his previous No. 8 placement. He stalked in third, quickened when cued to go after his stablemate entering the far turn, then passed that rival five-sixteenths out. Through the stretch, Cezanne had to be kept to task under both right- and left-handed stick work, and he could not decisively put away the longest shot on the board, a pesky closer who had required 10 starts to break his maiden for a $50,000 tag. The winning margin was an eroding 1 3/4 lengths (85 Beyer). By contrast, this Curlin bay’s debut was much more visually impressive: In that June 6 sprint, Cezanne fought all the way amid a four-way go, then dug in and opened up to win without being fully extended (90 Beyer).

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