The TDN Derby Top 12 for June 23

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Tiz the Law | Sarah Andrew

We’re now 75 days out from the GI Kentucky Derby. Although the TDN Derby Top 12 and the Churchill Downs official leaderboard for Derby qualifying points rarely mirror each other, the first four horses in this week’s rankings just so happen to line up with the hierarchy in the points standings.

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 not only held his form for the better part of a year, but he keeps evolving to the point where it now looks like this $110,000 SARAUG Constitution bay truly knows he’s toying with some fairly accomplished competition. It’s on to the GI Runhappy Travers S. at Saratoga after trainer Barclay Tagg announced Sunday that Tiz exited his 3 3/4-length GI Belmont S. romp in fine shape physically and with good levels of energy, attitude and appetite. Per usual, Tiz was fast off the mark in the one-turn, nine-furlong first leg of the Triple Crown, but was quickly gathered in hand by jockey Manny Franco to allow the two main speed threats to come through along the inside. The New York-bred was a coiled, pace-pressing presence through honest splits in his three-path run up the long Belmont Park back straight, and Tiz’s reeling in of the top two after six furlongs in 1:09.94 seemed a foregone conclusion as he drew within range at will. His distinctive white blaze came over the top off the turn, then Tiz deftly slipped into a higher, unmatchable gear when prompted to dig in. Franco kept after his colt assertively, but the leaders had nothing left to give and the all-out closers weren’t in the same league. Just like in each of Tiz’s five wins to date, victory was assured by the eighth pole. Tiz earned a 100 Beyer for the effort, which didn’t at all look like it scraped the bottom of his stamina reserves.

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: Uncommitted. Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 120.
Eleven days after his strong, stalking score in the GI Santa Anita Derby, Honor A.P. ($850,000 FTSAUG) returned to the work tab last Wednesday for an easy half-mile breeze in :53.40. After the work, trainer John Shirreffs told TDN he has circled “in pencil” the 1 1/16 miles Shared Belief S. at Del Mar Aug. 1 for this Honor Code ridgling’s next race. “His mental aspect is the really big strength for him. He doesn’t get upset easily. He’s not a nervous horse,” Shirreffs explained when asked about Honor A.P.’s chief attributes. “He takes everything in stride. So that’s a big plus. And the other thing is his way of going really helps him. He gets over the ground so easily. He doesn’t hit the ground hard. He’s light on his feet.” After the Santa Anita Derby, jockey Mike Smith said, “It seems the farther you go with him the better. He’s just got that big long, beautiful, powerful stride.” Shirreffs also trained Honor A.P.’s dam, Hollywood Story. She earned $1.1 million and was a Grade I victress at nine furlongs.

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.

In an exchange of text messages with TDN last week, trainer Bob Baffert said the only solid next-race commitment for any of his top 3-year-olds is the GI  TVG.com Haskell S. for Authentic. Baffert has won that stakes eight times, and has been second with the only two entries he’s had in it the past four years. Mike Smith will replace Drayden Van Dyke, per a June 18 story in Sports Illustrated. Forwardly placed horses traditionally have an advantage at speed-centric Monmouth, so the Haskell should play to the chief strength of this $350,000 KEESEP Into Mischief bay. Progression-wise, Authentic likely got more out of his Santa Anita Derby second (pressed the pace three wide on both turns after an awkward break) than his coast-to-coast score in the GII San Felipe S. back in March. Luckily for Authentic, time is on his side for the pandemic-altered Classics: He’s a May 5 foal who has had focus issues, like veering out erratically while soaring solo through the stretch in the GIII Sham S. back in January. He’s also had stutter-step starts in each of his last three races. A couple more months of maturity can only help.

4) 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.

King Guillermo was a mystery horse when he wired the GII Tampa Bay Derby at 49-1 off a three-month layoff. But his prolonged and determined second in the stronger/faster division of the split GI Arkansas Derby cemented has status within the Top 12. Now he’s slipping back under the radar, with no published workouts since that last start on May 2 and some relaxation time on a Florida farm. After the Arkansas Derby, trainer Juan Carlos Avila had stated a preference to train straight up to the Kentucky Derby. This Uncle Mo bay ($90,000 RNA KEESEP; $150,000 OBSAPR) has 90 qualifying points on the “Road to the Derby” leaderboard, good enough for fourth place right now in the standings.

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,
9-2-2-2, $367,150.
Last Start: 5th GII TwinSpires.com Louisiana Derby, FG, Mar. 21
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: GII Toyota Blue Grass S., KEE, July 11
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 33.

Enforceable ($775,000 KEESEP RNA) is heading from trainer Mark Casse’s training center in Ocala to the GII Blue Grass S. at Keeneland July 11, where he’ll attempt to rebound off a fifth-place finish in the Mar. 21 GII Louisiana Derby. On a National Thoroughbred Racing Association conference call last week, Casse likened the Florida-based comeback to the way he got 2016 juvenile champ Classic Empire to the winner’s circle after a series of setbacks early in that colt’s sophomore season. “You’ll remember a few years back, we had Classic Empire, and I think everybody kind of thought we were nuts [when] I said I was going to get him ready [for the Triple Crown]. And if you remember, we ran him right off of our place and won the Arkansas Derby. Our plan is to do the same here with Enforceable.” (Classic Empire, by the way, then ran fourth in the Kentucky Derby despite a horror trip and was second, beaten only a head, in the GI Preakness S.) Enforceable, whose forte has been closing from well off the pace, will have a jockey switch for the Blue Grass, with Joel Rosario replacing Julien Leparoux.

6) 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: GSW, 5-3-0-0, $235,500.
Last Start: 11th Oaklawn S., OP, Apr. 11
Accomplishments Include: 1st GII Los Alamitos Futurity, LRC, Dec. 7, 1st GIII Robert B. Lewis S., SA, Feb. 1
Next Start: Possible for GIII Los Alamitos Derby, LRC, July 4
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 25.

Either the July 4 GIII Los Alamitos Derby or the July 11 Blue Grass S. will be the next start for Thousand Words, trainer Bob Baffert told TDN last week. The bet here is that this $1-million KEESEP bay goes in the Los Al Derby. Thousand Words won the GII Los Alamitos Futurity over that track last December. Plus it’s an easier ship from Santa Anita, and the race has only lured four and five starters in each of the past two runnings (with Baffert trainees winning both). Thousand Words reigned as the No. 1 kingpin on this list for most of the winter, then dropped precipitously after a punchless, no-excuse fourth in the Mar. 7 San Felipe S. His stock fell further after a beaten-fave 11th over a sealed track in the Oaklawn S. Apr. 11, but that day he truly looked like a horse who wasn’t comfortable with the wet footing, backpedaling from kickback 3 1/2 furlongs out. With the GI Kentucky Derby advanced to Sept. 5, he’s now back in play as a second-wind candidate. Thousand Words fired two consecutive training bullets earlier this month. Then he worked six furlongs in 1:13.20 (4/10) on Saturday while drawing well clear of older workmate Once On Whiskey (Bodemeister), who, coincidentally, won the 2018 Los Al Derby.

7) 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: Uncommitted
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 60.

It’s been an uncharacteristically quiet season on the Derby trail for trainer Todd Pletcher in 2020, but his best chance could be arriving late on the scene in the form of Dr Post, who ran a capable second behind Tiz the Law in the Belmont S. This Quality Road colt ($200,000 KEENOV, $400,000 KEESEP) is now 2-1-0 from four starts, and he owns a better-than-it-looks score in the $75,000 Unbridled S. at Gulfstream that was notable for his grinding determination despite being blocked on the turn and again into the stretch. Dr Post’s sire was a four-time Grade I winner, thrice at nine furlongs and once in the one-turn Met Mile. His dam, Mary Delaney was a front-running force in sprints 13 years ago who won a Grade II over seven furlongs. Pletcher said on Sunday next-race options are either the Haskell or Travers.

8) 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: 1-1-0-0, $30,000.
Last Start: 1st Maiden Special Weight, SA, June 6.
Next Start: Uncommitted.
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 0.

Trainer Bob Baffert joked in a Sports Illustrated story last week that recent maiden-breaking stablemates Cezanne (the $3.65 million FTFMAR Curlin-sired sales topper) and Uncle Chuck (Uncle Mo, $250,000 KEESEP), were “walk-ons” taking the place of the barn’s recently sidelined or retired Derby prospects. But “pretty good walk-ons,” Baffert was quick to add. He told TDN via text message last week there were “no real plans” yet for a next race for both colts. Cezanne, who breezed an eighth in :10 flat prior to last year’s auction, earned a 90 Beyer for winning his debut at 6 1/2 furlongs, in which he battled in the two path amid a four-way go for the lead, then dug in off the turn to open up to a 2 1/4-length win.

9) BASIN (c, Liam’s MapAppenzell, by Johannesburg)
O-Jackpot Farm. B-Cottonwood Stables LLC (KY). T-Steve Asmussen. Sales History: $150,000 yrl ’18 KEESEP. Lifetime Record: GISW, 6-2-2-1, $471,000.
Last Start: 2nd GI Arkansas Derby, OP, May 2
Accomplishments Include: 1st GI Runhappy Hopeful S., SAR, Sept. 2, 3rd GII Rebel S., OP, Mar. 14
Next Start: GII Toyota Blue Grass S., KEE, July 11
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 50.

Basin, last summer’s GI Hopeful S. winner, could be primed to pounce third off the layoff if he starts as expected in the Blue Grass S. Trainer Steve Asmussen told DRF.com last week that the prospect of some extra time between starts and a desire to keep this $150,000 KEESEP bay in two-turn races as the chief reasons he did not enter the Belmont S. on Saturday. After not starting between September and March because of a right hind ankle issue, this Liam’s Map colt has been third and second behind two Bob Baffert-trained winning faves in Oaklawn stakes. Most recently Basin was five lengths in the wake of now-sidelined Charlatan (Speightstown) in the division of the Arkansas Derby that produced faster internal fractions but a slower final eighth and final time. Basin is a May 12 foal, so his next start will be the first after his actual third birthdate.

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’s non-threatening sixth in the Belmont S. was blah enough to derail him a few pegs within the Top 12, but a solid overall race resume saves this light-bodied deep closer from complete banishment off the list. Coming off a three-month layoff, this $6,000 KEESEP and $20,000 OBSAPR Karakontie (Jpn) gelding had a winning allowance prep at Gulfstream 10 days prior to his trip to New York. But he never looked in it to win it on Saturday despite getting a robust pace that should have greatly aided his off-the-tailgate style. Trainer Patrick Biancone previously described Sole Volante as having the mind and athletic prowess to be able to adapt to different racing surfaces. But Biancone told DRF.com on Sunday the gelding didn’t handle the track at Belmont. Sole Volante’s second in the GII Tampa Bay Derby is quite a bit better than it looks on paper considering he closed from 11th on a day when the six dirt races at Tampa were all won by forwardly placed speedsters.

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: Uncommitted.
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 40.

Yes, Max Player’s third in the Belmont S. does have a “picked up the pieces” aura to it. But he’s a fresh face coming off a 4 1/2-month layoff, and that still was a pretty nice sustained run he uncorked from the back of the pack. It included a bit of maneuvering for position entering the turn and then having to switch outside charging into the lane. The honest pace established by the frontrunners certainly set up that type of move, but neither second-place finisher Dr Post nor Max Player were seriously threatening Tiz the Law. But what happens in the “race within the race” can be beneficial too, and this $150,000 KEESEP RNA will be a better Derby candidate for the experience. Trainer Linda Rice told TDN‘s Christie DeBernardis last week that Max was “a bit of an enigma” at age two whose progress over time has been “slow and steady.” On Sunday, Rice said a decision on a next start would be a week or 10 days away.

12) STORM THE COURT (c, Court Vision–My Tejana Storm, by Tejano Run)
O-Exline-Border Racing LLC, David Bernsen, Susanna Wilson & Dan Hudock. B-Stepping Stone Farm (Ky). T-Peter Eurton. Sales History: $5,000 yrl ’18 FTKFEB; $60,000 2yo ’19 OBSAPR. Lifetime Record: Ch. 2yo Colt & GISW, 7-2-0-2, $1,235,451.
Last Start: 6th GI Arkansas Derby, OP, May 2
Accomplishments Include: 1st GI TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, SA, Nov. 1, 3rd GII San Felipe S., SA, Feb. 9
Next Start: GIII Ohio Derby, TDN, June 27
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 32.

The 2-year-old champ and 45-1 upset winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile has been luckless in three starts as a sophomore and will venture to Thistledown for the GIII Ohio Derby this Saturday in search of a turnaround. This $60,000 OBSAPR bay (bought for $5,000 as a FTKFEB yearling) was only peripherally involved when fourth in the GII San Vicente S. and wasn’t in the bridle when third behind heavyweights Authentic and Honor A.P. in the San Felipe S. He loomed but never fired when sixth in the stronger/faster division of the Arkansas Derby, and trainer Peter Eurton told DRF.com last week that blinkers would come off at Thistledown for the first time since Storm the Court ran third in the GI American Pharoah S. at Santa Anita last September. “He’s matured enough now,” Eurton said. For a $500,000 race, the Ohio Derby is currently lacking a headline horse and Storm the Court might end up being it. In six career races, this Court Vision colt has never started the favorite.

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