The TDN Derby Top 12 for June 9

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Tiz The Law | Ryan Thompson

by T.D. Thornton

The GI Kentucky Derby is still three months away but the Triple Crown starts in less than two weeks with the GI Belmont S. The coronavirus has upended the traditional schedule, but it hasn’t dampened the intrigue and interest to see who’ll end up atop the crop.

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, 5-4-0-1, $945,300.
Last Start: 1st GI Curlin Florida Derby, GP, Mar. 28
Accomplishments Include: 1st GI Champagne S., 1st GIII Holy Bull S., GP, Feb. 1, 3rd GII Kentucky Jockey Club S., CD, Nov. 30
Next Start: GI Belmont S. BEL, June 20. Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 122.

The unique one-turn configuration of the revamped GI Belmont S. (shortened to nine furlongs) figures to work to Tiz the Law’s advantage. He’s generally an alert gate-breaker, but in three of his past four stakes this $110,000 Fasig-Tipton New York-Bred sales graduate has run up into pockets of trouble, and he had to do some unnecessary maneuvering to extricate himself. His GI Florida Derby (96 Beyer) was a breakthrough exception though, so perhaps that relatively clean stalking victory is evidence that this colt is progressing to a point where he can apply sustained pressure to top-notch sophomores from start to finish. Tiz’s ultra-high level of confidence is what has set him apart from his peers so far, and although it remains an open question as to whether he is a true 10-furlong threat, that’s not the task at hand in the Belmont S. Each of the four races he’s won have been by open lengths, and in all of those efforts the outcome was pretty much decided by the eighth pole. The Belmont will surely be a tougher test, but Tiz has had no truly soft spots throughout his career arc, and he’s met all of those challenges with aplomb (even in the one stakes he lost last November).

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.

Honor A. P.’s 2 3/4-length grind-down score in the GI Runhappy Santa Anita Derby is best described as a blunt-force show of power rather than a lightning-in-a-bottle display of brilliance. This first-crop Honor Code ridgling ($850,000 FTSAUG) took a decisive step forward with the effort, and jockey Mike Smith got off him raving about his impressive stride length, which he utilized in mid-pack stalk mode while parked behind a three-way scramble for the lead. Honor A.P. was cued to quicken 3 1/2 furlongs out, but it took awhile for the 2-1 second choice to get fully cranked. His commanding four-wide sweep off the turn put him over the top three-sixteenths from the wire, and he determinedly ramped up the pressure while not finishing up overly extended. Why wasn’t the win enough to vault him into the No. 1 spot? Even though Honor A.P. seems better suited to 10 furlongs, Tiz the Law has the been-there-done-that body of work that is replete with instances in which he has overcome adversity against top competition over various dirt surfaces. Honor A.P. is just getting going (four starts, all in California), and he caught a sizable break on Saturday when Authentic (Into Mischief), the 1-2 favorite, broke flat-footed and outward, then was wide on both turns chasing the pace. Trainer John Shirreffs told the Santa Anita notes team Sunday the 1 1/16-miles Shared Belief S. at Del Mar Aug. 1 is under consideration as a next race.

3) MAXFIELD (c, Street SenseVelvety, by Bernardini)
O/B-Godolphin LLC (KY). T-Brendan Walsh.
Lifetime Record: GISW, 3-3-0-0, $442,762.
Last Start: 1st GIII Matt Winn S., CD, May 23. Accomplishments Include: 1st GI Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity, KEE, Oct. 5
Next Start: GII Toyota Blue Grass S., KEE, July 11
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 60.

Maxfield’s long-awaited comeback race off a six-month layoff (ankle chip surgery) was well worth the wait. This Godolphin homebred truly looked to be out of the hunt on the far turn of the May 23 GIII Matt Winn S. at Churchill Downs, yet he overcame traffic into the first bend, having to keep touch mid-pack behind a tepid pace (:23.98, :48.21), and losing ground on both turns before locking in and focusing at the eighth pole to blow by an outward-drifting rival. Max launched into a sustained half-mile drive against a fairly deep field of foes, building serious momentum before cresting late in the lane and being taken in hand by Jose Ortiz to coast clear by a measured length. This colt’s dynamic, breakaway victory in the GI Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland last October still resonates as the most visually impressive two-turn juvenile stakes of 2019. Although his Winn effort lacked the same electrifying panache, the difference was more than made up for in terms of the patiently handled power he displayed in a spot where Max most likely wasn’t honed to his sharpest potential. He remains undefeated, and his placement at number three on this list represents the line of demarcation between the A-list contenders and every other sophomore trying to earn elite-level status.

4) 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, 4-3-0-1, $196,310.
Last Start: 2nd GII Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby, TAM, Mar. 7. Accomplishments Include: 1st GIII Sam F. Davis S., TAM, Feb. 8, 1st Pulpit S., GP, Nov. 30. Next Start: Alw/Opt. Clm., GP, June 10. Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 30.

Remember when horses used to prep for big stakes in allowance races? That will be the case on Wednesday at Gulfstream Park when Sole Volante and uncoupled stablemate Ete Indien (Summer Front) headline a one-turn mile designed as a fitness check prior to their respective starts in the June 20 Belmont S. and July 18 GI Haskell S. This $6,000 KEESEP yearling and $20,000 OBSAPR juvenile has drawn the outside in that ninth-race feature, and the effort will represent a half-furlong cutback from his 11th-to-second GII Tampa Bay Derby try behind King Guillermo (Uncle Mo), who subsequently finished a game runner-up in the faster division of the GI Arkansas Derby. Trainer Patrick Biancone said that rainy Florida weather hampered training plans in late May, and once the June 10 race was a “go,” he called off workout plans for both colts. Ete Indien will be speed from the rail and Sole Volante is most comfortable as a deep closer; he doesn’t need to win this prep race to move forward in New York at nine furlongs.

5) 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: GII San Felipe S., SA, Mar. 7; GIII Sham S., SA, Jan. 4. Next Start: Uncommitted. Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 100.

Back in March, when Authentic wired the GII San Felipe S. and kicked away from a not-ready-for-prime-time Honor A.P. in the stretch, he largely had everything his own way. Last Saturday in the Runhappy Santa Anita Derby, those roles were revered, as the $350,000 Keeneland September acquisition broke tardily and outward (about three paths to the right of his outermost stall) before righting himself to contest the pace while three wide on both turns. As trainer Bob Baffert put it, “He did all the heavy lifting all the way around to the stretch,” and had nothing left to give when confronted by the eventual winner. Baffert said earlier this spring that Authentic, a May 5 foal, was the least mature of his Derby candidates, and that’s been evident in several of this colt’s races. In each of his last two starts now Authentic has had trouble breaking alertly, and in January he won the GIII Sham S. despite veering in and out and fighting his rider through a solo stretch run. So he’s no longer undefeated (3-for-4) and still has some focus issues to work on. That doesn’t mean Authentic can’t redeem himself in his next start, and although Baffert was non-committal on Sunday, the GI TVG.com Haskell S. July 18 could be a logical landing spot. Baffert has won that stakes eight times, and he usually likes to be represented in it by his best front-end force because of Monmouth’s speed-friendly nature.

6) 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: Uncommitted
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 90.

King Guillermo became a second-deadline Triple Crown nominee when his connections made a $3,000 qualifying payment June 3 (the deadline had been moved from March and the fee halved because of the pandemic). Following his gritty second in the stronger/faster division of the split Arkansas Derby May 2, the bay, a $90,000 RNA at KEESEP before bringing $150,000 at OBSAPR, was freshened on an Ocala farm prior to rejoining Juan Carlos Avila’s Gulfstream stable May 27. Avila posted on Twitter that the Tampa Bay Derby winner would depart for Kentucky July 27 with the aim of training straight up to the Kentucky Derby without a race in between. If King Guillermo were to win at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in September, that 127-day gap would be the longest winning layoff for any Derby starter in over a century. The filly Regret won in 1915 off a 259-day break, and the first Triple Crown winner, Sir Barton, won the 1919 Derby off a 238-day rest. Records prior to 1929 are incomplete, though. Since that year, the longest winning layoff has been 42 days, equaled by Needles in 1956 and Animal Kingdom in 2011.

7) 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: Uncommitted
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 33.

The second half of Enforceable’s sophomore season began Saturday with a bullet (1/7) three-eighths breeze in :36.40 at conditioner Mark Casse’s training center in Ocala. This $775,000 KEESEP RNA already has a nine-race foundation (seven of them at 1 1/16 miles or longer), but his peak effort was in the GIII Lecomte S. back on Jan. 18 and Enforceable didn’t progress forwardly in two subsequent stakes. Yet he was not disgraced in defeat (wide on both turns in the GII Louisiana Derby and a ground-saving second in the GII Risen Star S.), and Casse is bullish on his chances for the late-summer Classics. Enforceable is a half-brother to 2013 GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner New Year’s Day (sire of DQ’d 2019 Derby winner Maximum Security) and is a full brother to fellow gray Mohaymen, who was fourth in the 2016 Derby.

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.

Cezanne, the $3.65 million FTFMAR sales topper named after the 19th-century French painter, is a new shooter on the list this week after his unveiling at 2-5 odds on the Santa Anita Derby undercard. The Bob Baffert firster was just nominated to the Triple Crown last week at the revised second deadline, but he’s been a known entity ever since he breezed an eighth in :10 flat prior to last year’s auction. Breaking from the one hole sprinting 6 1/2 furlongs, Cezanne got out of the gate well enough and was nudged to engage the frontrunners while being guided outward soon after clearing the start gap. The beautifully bred bay sat two paths off the rail amid a four-way go for the lead, and when the pack tightened into the turn he didn’t hesitate to hold his position as the front-runners stacked up across the track at the midway point on the bend. Cezanne came over the top off the turn, wandered slightly outward, got a couple of right-handed reminders from Flavien Prat to stay focused, then opened up to a 2 1/4-length win (90 Beyer).

9) PNEUMATIC (c, Uncle MoTeardrop, by Tapit)
O/B-Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC (KY). T-Steven Asmussen. Lifetime Record: GSP, 3-2-0-1, $101,850. Last Start: 3rd GIII Matt Winn S., CD, May 23. Next Start: Uncommitted. Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 10.

Pneumatic broke his maiden sprinting at Oaklawn in February in a key race that resulted in subsequent wins for the second- and third-place finishers. He stretched out to a mile there and won again, improving his speed figures enough to merit a crack at what turned out to be a fairly talented renewal of the Matt Winn S. at Churchill. He took scads of money, going off as the second favorite behind third-ranked Maxfield, but the Winchell homebred ended up getting trapped into a slow-pace speed duel along the inside that didn’t look like it was the intended plan of attack. ‘The ‘TDN Rising Star’ led briefly five-sixteenths out, then held for third behind a powerful winner. He had his first breeze back at Churchill June 1, getting five furlongs in 1:02.20 (7/8). Last week he became the third horse on this list to be nominated to the Triple Crown at the second deadline.

10) MODERNIST (c, Uncle MoSymbolic Gesture, by Bernardini) O-Pam & Martin Wygod. B-Wygod Family (KY). T-Bill Mott. Lifetime Record: GSW, 5-2-0-2, $388,800.
Last Start: 3rd GII TwinSpires.com Louisiana Derby, FG, Mar. 21.
Accomplishments Include: 1st GII Risen Star S., FG, Feb. 15.
Next Start: Probable for GI Belmont S. Equineline PPs KY Derby Points: 70.

Modernist has shipped from trainer Bill Mott’s base at Payson Park to Belmont Park, and he was listed in the track’s Sunday press notes as “probable” for the Belmont S. on June 20. This Wygod Family product broke his maiden in start number three at Aqueduct in January, then shipped to the Fair Grounds and won the slower division of the Risen Star S. in pace-pressing fashion (84 Beyer). Post 14 contributed to lost real estate on both turns when Modernist was third in the GII Louisiana Derby. After a brief freshening that lasted until mid-May, Modernist lit up the work tab with back-to-back bullets in Florida before heading north. He could be an overlooked sleeper if he goes in the Belmont, and his chances were aided last week when that race’s chief front-end threat, Charlatan (Speightstown), was declared out of the running because of an ankle injury.

11) ETE INDIEN (c, Summer FrontEast India, by Mizzen Mast)
O-Linda Shanahan, Sanford Bacon, Dream With Me Stable, Inc., Horse France America, D P Racing LLC & Patrick L. Biancone Racing LLC. B-Robert B. Tillyer & Eric Buckley (KY). T-Patrick Biancone. Sales History: $85,000 RNA wnl ’17 KEENOV; $80,000 yrl ’18 KEESEP; €240,000 2yo ’19 ARQMAY. Lifetime Record: GSW, 5-3-1-0, $333,156.
Last Start: 3rd GI Curlin Florida Derby, GP, Mar. 29
Accomplishments Include:  1st GII Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth S., GP, Feb. 29; 2nd GIII Holy Bull S., GP, Feb. 1
Next Start: Alw/Opt. Clm, GP, June 10. Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 74.

Ete Indien looms as a formidable front-end force in his Wednesday allowance tune-up at Gulfstream. He’s already a high-energy, keyed-up colt to begin with (on his toes, ears jammed with cotton, sometimes washy during warm-ups), and he’s drawn the rail and will add blinkers in a one-turn mile prep for his anticipated start in the July 18 Haskell S. This three-time auction prospect ($85,000 KEENOV RNA, $80,000 KEESEP, €240,000 ARQMAY) romped by 8 1/2 lengths in the GII Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth S. (his chances aided by the heavy favorite running last) and has twice hit the board behind divisional kingpin Tiz the Law. Looking ahead to his New Jersey stakes engagement, you’d have to think speed-centric Monmouth would be the ideal Derby prep spot for this lead-seeking colt.

12) STRUCTOR (c, Palace MaliceMiss Always Ready, by More Than Ready) O-Jeff Drown & Don Rachel. B-Three Chimneys Farm LLC (KY). T-Chad Brown. Sales History: $160,000 Ylg ’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: Uncommitted. Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 0.

Remember Structor? The 3-for-3 winner of the GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf had been aimed for a dirt debut on the Derby trail, but he was knocked off the path in February because of an airway issue that required surgical intervention. Now he’s three workouts into his comeback at the Stonestreet training center in Ocala with the goal of rejoining trainer Chad Brown’s stable in New York in the near future. Will he still be late for the Derby party or will his connections even still want to aim for that Sept. 5 spot? There are a lot of unknowns in that equation, but I had him colt ranked as high as number three over the winter based on the level-headed ability he displayed under pressure when turfing at age two. Structor, a $160,000 Keeneland September yearling and $850,000 OBS March breezer, also has a built-in layer of bottom supporting his 2-year-old race record, with all three of his starts coming in mile or longer races. His sire won the 2013 GI Belmont S., yet was also a resilient enough stalker to win the one-turn GI Met Mile at age four.

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