The TDN Derby Top 12 for Mar. 11

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Tiz the Law | Sarah Andrew

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There’s a new No. 1 on the Top 12 totem pole for the first time this season. We’re now inside the 54-day mark to the GI Kentucky Derby. That means it’s roughly 77,000 minutes until post time–but who’s counting?

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: 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.

Tiz the Law seized the No. 1 ranking held since Dec. 31 by Thousand Words (Pioneerof the Nile), whose blah fourth in the GII San Felipe S. dislodged him from A-list placement. Last month this $110,000 SARAUG Constitution bay was in the news for missing workouts related to a lost shoe/foot bruise, but “Tiz” has since fired back with two decent breezes, and his five-eighths bullet in 1:01.90 on Sunday at Palm Meadows (1/11) solidified his status as the fave for the GI Florida Derby.

Tiz is an aggressive stalker, and he’s proven he can make his own in-race breaks while posting very legit speed figures (100 Beyer in the GIII Holy Bull S.). He also boasts strong company lines that have yielded three 2020 graded stakes winners currently ranked within the Top 12. The nerve-wracking part about backing Tiz though, is that he has a history of creating unnecessarily troubled trips for himself (last three races he’s run up on the heels of rivals on the backstretch). Hopefully he’s learning from such in-race teaching moments, because if jockey Manny Franco has to yet again ride the brakes in the Florida or Kentucky Derbies, the momentum loss might be too much to overcome.

2) GOUVERNEUR MORRIS (c, Constitution–Addison 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: GISP, 3-2-1-0, $161,500.
Last Start: 1st Alw/OC, TAM, Feb. 14
Accomplishments Include: 2nd GI Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity
Next Start: Uncommitted
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 4.
‘TDN Rising Star’ Gouverneur Morris breezed five-eighths in 1:01.79 at Palm Beach Downs Saturday (5/6).
“I thought it was his best work since he’s been here in Florida,” trainer Todd Pletcher said via a Team Valor posting on Twitter. “He was really full of energy.”
This intriguing gray ($200,000 KEESEP; $600,000 FTFMAR) doesn’t have a next-stakes assignment etched in stone yet, but the shaping-up-tough Florida Derby could be a potential resurfacing race. And the “Guv” is certainly bred to win it–both his sire (Constitution, 2014) and dam-sire (Unbridled’s Song, 1996) were Florida Derby victors. This colt’s 2020 debut at Tampa was a mile-and-40-yards allowance that he won just .02 seconds shy of the track record, and that effort was legitimized this past Saturday when the horse who ran second, the in-form Untitled (Khozan), came back to run another good second behind the favored winner of the GIII Gotham S. at Aqueduct.

3) HONOR A.P. (r, Honor Code–Hollywood 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: GSP, 3-1-2-0, $122,200.
Last Start: 2nd GII San Felipe S., SA, Mar. 7
Next Start: GI Santa Anita Derby, SA, Apr. 4
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 20

Even though Honor A.P. was second behind undefeated Authentic (Into Mischief) in Saturday’s San Felipe S., his performance outweighs the winner’s in terms of Kentucky Derby relevance. This $850,000 FTSAUG Honor Code ridgling ran one of the more visually impressive MSW races on the SoCal circuit last October (5 1/4-length wire job), then his 2020 debut in early January got derailed by a foot bruise. Trainer John Shirreffs didn’t shy away from a tough stakes spot though, and Honor A.P. broke fluidly in the San Felipe, rated willingly at the fence into the clubhouse turn, then was repositioned outside for the backstretch run. He methodically took aim at–and deftly put away–both the previous No. 1-ranked Top 12 horse and the juvenile champ. But when Honor A.P. engaged loose-on-the-lead Authentic turning for home, Authentic had more left for the drive. Honor A.P still finished determinedly, and he galloped out on even terms with the 98-Beyer winner after the wire. His effort represents serious advancement off a five-month layoff, and an extra half-furlong in the GI Santa Anita Derby off such a sharp try could make him the wise-guy favorite over Authentic in their projected rematch Apr. 4.

4) 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, 3-3-0-0, $331,200.
Last Start: 1st San Felipe S., SA, Mar. 7
Accomplishments Include: 1st GIII Sham S., SA, Jan. 4
Next Start: GI Santa Anita Derby, SA, Apr. 4
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 60.

Undefeated Authentic is the clear front-end threat among Derby candidates. We’ll have to wait until the Santa Anita Derby to see if his prowess extends beyond 1 1/16 miles. This $350,000 KEESEP Into Mischief bay’s San Felipe S. victory represents an uptick in his career arc, not only for the authoritative fashion of his win over a decent field, but because Authentic (now equipped with ear plugs to keep crowd noise from bothering him) didn’t swerve in and out during the stretch run like he did in the GIII Sham S. This colt quickly overcame a stutter-step start, led the chase into the first turn, and after initially being keen onto the backstretch, settled nicely once jockey Drayden Van Dyke looked back over both shoulders five-eighths out to make sure no early attacks were imminent.

Authentic benefited from his two closest pursuers never truly firing despite both being roused vigorously on the far turn, but he did face a serious challenge from an emboldened Honor A.P. at the head of the lane and repulsed that bid smartly. Authentic even found a touch more spark a sixteenth out to extend his winning margin to a comfortable 2 1/4 lengths while never having to be seriously pushed on to do it.

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,
7-2-1-2, $267,150.
Last Start: 2nd GII Risen Star S. Div. 1, FG, Feb. 15
Accomplishments Include: 1st GIII Lecomte S., FG, Jan. 18; 3rd GI Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity, KEE, Oct. 5
Next Start: GII Louisiana Derby, FG, Mar. 21
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 33.

Enforceable’s role as a deep closer seems to have solidified during a productive winter campaign in New Orleans that has earned him a GIII Lecomte S. win and a second in the stronger division of the split GII Risen Star S. But will his connections want him a touch closer to the pace in the Mar. 21 GII Louisiana Derby? When Enforceable was trailing in 11th about 5 1/2 furlongs out in the Risen Star, jockey Julien Leparoux all of a sudden started urging him for run way earlier than you’d expect to see in a nine-furlong February prep. This $775,000 KEESEP RNA responded by picking off half the pack with an efficient rail run, and it set up his strong, six-wide closing move in the lane. There should be no qualms about this Tapit colt’s pedigree when it comes to being able to slug it out over 10 furlongs on the first Saturday in May. But banking on a deep closer who might have to bob and weave through a 20-horse field is usually a dicey proposition in the Derby, no matter how talented the horse is.

6) 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., OP, Feb. 17
Accomplishments Include: 1st GII Kentucky Jockey Club S., CD, Nov. 30.
Next start: GII Rebel S., OP, Mar. 14
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 21.

Silver Prospector isn’t a ‘Wow!’ type of performer, but he might be on the verge of breaking through to that level based on his impressive array of tools and traits. His best speed figure (97 Beyer in the GIII Southwest S.) puts him at or near par with everyone ranked above him on this list. He’s won both dueling for the lead (earlier in his eight-race career) and while stalking (in two-turn stakes). He’s handled trip woes (hemmed in at the rail in the Southwest) and splashed home in the slop (GII Kentucky Jockey Club S.). And this Declaration of War pinhook ($50,000 KEESEP; $190,000 OBSAPR) has already bested higher-ranked foes like Tiz the Law and Enforceable.

Despite that list of credentials and a win already over the Oaklawn surface, it’s likely that Silver Prospector (whose birthday was Monday) will go off as the second or third choice in the wagering for Saturday’s GII Rebel S. Discerning bettors will know that trainer Steve Asmussen has won four previous editions of the Rebel, including an 8-1 upset last season in a split division that featured a 2-5 Bob Baffert shipper.

7) THREE TECHNIQUE (c, Mr Speaker–Nite in Rome, by Harlan’s Holiday)
‘TDN Rising Star’ O-August Dawn Farm. B-Omega Farm LLC & Bally Breeders (KY). T-Jeremiah Englehart. Sales History: $50,000 wnl ’17 KEENOV; $180,000 yrl ’18 FTKJUL. Lifetime Record: SP, 5-2-3-0, $154,750.
Last Start: 2nd Smarty Jones S., OP, Jan. 24
Next Start: GII Rebel S., OP, Mar. 14
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 4.

‘TDN Rising Star’ Three Technique ($50,000 KEENOV; $180,000 FTKJUL) has gone off favored in all five career starts and he’s never run worse than second, with two combined victories producing an aggregate 10-length winning margin. Yet trainer Jeremiah Englehart had to find a new jockey for Saturday’s Rebel S., because Irad Ortiz, Jr., who rode this Mr Speaker colt the last two starts, reportedly has instead committed to a Bob Baffert trainee for the Rebel. So Luis Saez is now named to ride Three Technique.

“Luis is one of the best,” Englehart said. “You don’t mind putting your cleats on with him. He’s a guy you want to have on your team.”

The Jan. 24 Smarty Jones S., in which Three Technique ran second, is turning out to be a key race. The wet Oaklawn track was favoring speed on Opening Day (five wire winners and two pace- pressers), and Three Technique rallied adeptly into the teeth of that bias, then galloped out past the winner. Since then, fourth-place finisher Silver Prospector has come back to win the Southwest S., and the sixth- and seventh-place finishers were next-out allowance winners in late February at Oaklawn.

8) 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 is now four published workouts into his comeback preparations after surgery to fix a displaced ankle chip back in November. Although it’s still questionable that he might attempt a Derby prep, he remains well-ranked because the scintillating nature of his GI Breeders’ Futurity S. win still resonates five months after the fact. Over the weekend, trainer Brendan Walsh outlined to TDN‘s Christina Bossinakis what a possible path to Louisville might look like for this 2-for-2 Street Sense homebred for Godolphin.

“If everything went perfectly and we thought he was doing as well as he possibly could do, then we’d probably take in one of the Derby trials, maybe a month out,” he said. “But things would have to really go well because it would be off of a layoff to [try and] take in any of the Derby trials against horses that have had two, three runs this year. To take them on, off of the bench, would be a huge ask for any horse.”

Bettors gave Maxfield a fighting chance in Pool 3 of the Kentucky Derby Future that closed Sunday night, backing him to 15-1 odds.

9) 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., SA, Feb. 9
Next Start: GII Rebel S., OP, Mar. 14
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 0.

Nadal’s :59.60 five-eighths blowout bullet Sunday at Santa Anita (1/58) cemented his favoritism for Saturday’s Rebel S. But considering Bob Baffert shippers annually get pounded in that stakes anyway (his trainees have won six of the previous 11 Rebels, but he has saddled the beaten favorite in each of the last four), that sharp morning move was probably only icing on the figurative cake.
This ‘TDN Rising Star’ displayed speed to spare in a pair of Santa Anita sprint victories, and now this muscular Blame bay ($65,000 KEESEP; $700,000 FTFMAR) will have to stretch out for the first time around two turns over an unfamiliar surface against a fairly deep list of Rebel probables that includes horses who have already run well at Oaklawn, plus a couple of intriguing layoff wild cards.
There are legitimate quibbles about Nadal’s going backwards, speed-figure wise, despite winning the GII San Vicente S. But Baffert had said post-race that he intentionally trained this colt lightly going into that seven-furlong prep, and that the race itself was the “serious work.” Thus, we should have a better picture after Saturday as to what Nadal’s sweet spot really is in terms of raw power meshing with stamina.

10) 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: 1st GII Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth S., GP, Feb. 29
Accomplishments Include: 2nd GIII Holy Bull S., GP, Feb. 1
Next Start: Aiming for GI Florida Derby, GP, Mar. 28
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 54.

Trainer Patrick Biancone told TDN‘s Bill Finley a few days ago that he prefers to work even his dirt-centric horses on turf “because I think it is kinder on the legs.” And he added that he likes to start his young horses in grass races “even if they look like dirt horses, because I think those races are less stressful and they get them ready for the next step.”
That strategy has worked so far with both GII Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth (FOY) winner Ete Indien, and stablemate Sole Volante (Karakonite {Jpn}), who ran second in Saturday’s GII Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby. Ete Indien, a three-time auction prospect ($85,000 KEENOV RNA, $80,000 KEESEP, €240,000 ARQMAY) is going to have to prove his FOY wire job was no fluke (his main pace-pressing challenger was a 49-1 long shot and the heavy fave ran dead last). But sophomores who consistently run sharp speed figures on the front end at Gulfstream (86, 95, 97 Beyers for this Summer Front colt) can be extremely difficult to run down in the Florida Derby.

11) 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: 4th GII San Felipe S., SA, Mar. 7
Accomplishments Include: 1st GIII Robert B. Lewis S.; 1st GII Los Alamitos Futurity
Next Start: Uncommitted.
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 25.

Thousand Words dropped all the way from No. 1 based on his punchless performance when fourth in the San Felipe S. But the Kentucky Derby has certainly been won by contenders who threw in a clunker somewhere along their prep paths, and this $1-million KEESEP Pioneerof the Nile bay is worth following based on how professionally he won his first three races.

Trainer Bob Baffert said on “At the Races with Steve Byk” Monday he believes the no-show has to do with how headstrong Thousand Words was early in the race.
“Even when he works like that, he doesn’t finish,” Baffert said. “He was just too sharp, just too strong early, and he gassed it turning for home. That wasn’t him. I really thought I was going to run one-two in there. That’s why we have these preps, you try to figure them out. You want to figure them out before that last prep, because that past prep is the one that there can’t be any mistakes. He came out of it well, so we’ll have to tweak him. Equipment–maybe no blinker or less blinker; train him a bit differently. He’s a quirky horse, but he’s still a good horse.”

12) ANNEAU D’OR (c, Medaglia d’Oro–Walk Close, by Tapit)
O-Peter Redekop B.C. Ltd. B-Highland Yard (Ky). T-Blaine Wright. Sales History: $170,000 RNA yrl ’18 KEESEP; $480,000 2yo ’19 OBSAPR. Lifetime Record: GISP, 4-1-2-0, $403,000.
Last Start: 9th GII Risen Star S., FG, Feb. 15
Accomplishments Include: 2nd GI TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile;  2nd GII Los Alamitos Futurity
Next Start: GI Santa Anita Derby, SA, Apr. 4.
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 12

Anneau d’Or could loom as the forgotten contender in the GI Santa Anita Derby, and he just might get plenty of pace to chase over a track where he was only a neck shy of winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and (potentially) the 2-year-old championship. This $480,000 OBSAPR Medaglia d’Oro bay (RNA’d for $170,000 at KEESEP) was last seen struggling home ninth as the even-money fave in the weaker division of the split Risen Star S. Equipped with blinkers for the first time, he broke running but jumped into the bit a little too keenly, backseating jockey Joel Rosario the first time under the wire. He checked off heels soon after, got spun four wide on both turns, and looked lost way out in the seven path through the stretch.

On Saturday he had his first breeze since that eventful trip to New Orleans, going a half mile in :49 at Golden Gate Fields (19/62).

On the Bubble (in alphabetical order):
Basin (Liam’s Map): Aired in GI Hopeful S. at Spa last season then was sidelined with a right hind ankle problem. He’s now on target for a return in the Mar. 14 Rebel S.

Dennis’ Moment (Tiznow): This ‘TDN Rising Star’ ran a too-bad-to-be-true last in the FOY, but trainer Dale Romans remains adamantly confident in his horse moving forward. Diagnostic work has yet to uncover an excuse or a veterinary concern.

Eight Rings (Empire Maker): Two straight Santa Anita bullet works for this Bob Baffert comebacker suggest a decision on his 2020 debut is imminent.

Independence Hall (Constitution): Still on target for Florida Derby. In wake of GIII Davis S. second, it’s since been revealed he lost his tongue tie prior to the race and his right front shoe coming out of the gate.

King Guillermo (Uncle Mo): Wired GII Lambolm South Tampa Bay Derby at 49-1 off a 3+-month layoff with an astonishing 99 Beyer and reportedly could train up to the Derby without another prep. That’s a pretty tall task, but stranger things have happened. And you have to admit, he looked pretty good in his comeback win.

Mischevous Alex (Into Mischief): He’s won back-to-back Grade III stakes in one-turn miles at Gulfstream and Aqueduct, and his connections are mulling next-race options.

Modernist (Uncle Mo): Trainer Bill Mott likened him to Country House (but more mature than the 2019 Derby winner) after this colt’s weaker-division Risen Star S. win. But the 84 Beyer he earned under ideal racing circumstances might not be enough to excel at the next level in the Louisiana Derby.

Sole Volante (Karakonite {Jpn}): Closed from far back and was advancing when it counted to get second behind the longshot winner of the Tampa Derby. But considering the shallowness of that field, he left the impression of having not done enough. Yet he consistently runs mid 90s Beyers and has never been off the board from five starts.

Structor (Palace Malice): The 3-for-3 winner of the GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf has been aimed for a dirt debut on the Derby trail, but he’s been unworked since Feb. 17, causing him to drop out of the Top 12. Still a big believer in him moving forward, though.

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