TDN Top Triple Crown Contenders

The TDN Derby Top 20 for Apr. 24, Presented by WinStar Farm

We’re now inside the two-week mark for the May 5 GI Kentucky Derby and big jumps in the prep-race pecking order have given way to behind-the-scenes strategizing, final workout intrigue, and the intensity of big-race anticipation. One Derby spot opened up on Monday morning and another is still in flux based on the dual news that Quip (Distorted Humor) has been withdrawn from Derby consideration to instead aim for the GI Preakness S. and that the British-based Gronkowski (Lonhro {Aus}) will also miss the race with a minor infection that required him to be treated with antibiotics. Please note that the TDN Top 20 rankings below are independent from the “Road to the Derby” points leaderboard that Churchill Downs will use to determine starting berths; that list can be accessed here.

1) MAGNUM MOON (c, Malibu MoonDazzling Song, by Unbridled’s Song)
‘TDN Rising Star’ O-Robert E. & Lawana L. Low. B-Ramona S. Bass, LLC (KY). T-Todd Pletcher. Sales history: $380,000 yrl KEESEP ’16. Lifetime Record: GISW, 4-4-0-0, $1,177,800.
Apr. 17 TDN Top 20 Rank: 1
Last Start: 1st, GI Arkansas Derby, OP, Apr.14.
Achievements: 1st, GII Rebel S., OP, Mar. 17.
Equineline PPs. Caulfield on Magnum Moon.
KY Derby Points: 150
Even though Magnum Moon is not yet the so-called “complete package,” I’m willing to bet that this undefeated ‘TDN Rising Star’ has the right balance of natural speed, tactical prowess, the willingness to face and overcome in-race challenges, and a solid enough pedigree to put him over the top going 10 furlongs in the Derby. Other key plusses–like the experience of having a Derby-winning trainer calling the shots, and the fact that Magnum Moon has now handled three very different types of racing surfaces without requiring the pace to unfold in a certain way–also afford him definite advantages. For certain, this $380,000 KEESEP Malibu Moon colt does present some causes for concern. He’s either ducked or drifted out in the stretch runs of each of his last two Oaklawn races, and it’s a legit criticism to say his internal fractions on the front end of the GI Arkansas Derby (a :48.60 half and 1:13.39 for three-quarters) were on the pedestrian side. But from a visual standpoint, Magnum Moon was still hand-ridden at the top of the stretch in that prep when the firing line of competitors who ranged up abreast of him were all being roused and driven while turning for home. The guess here is that this colt still has deeper reserves of talent we have not yet seen, and that assessment combined with the likelihood that he will spike in the betting all the way up to the third or fourth choice makes him a tantalizing proposition to punch through to a higher level in the Derby.

2) JUSTIFY (c, Scat DaddyStage Magic, by Ghostzapper)
‘TDN Rising Star’ O-China Horse Club, Head of Plains Partners LLC, Starlight Racing & WinStar Farm. B- John D. Gunther (KY). T-Bob Baffert. Sales history: $500,000 yrl KEESEP ’16. Lifetime Record: GISW, 3-3-0-0, $666,000.
Apr. 17 TDN Top 20 Rank: 2
Last Start: 1st, GI Santa Anita Derby, SA, Apr. 7
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 100
Quick, name the only two Derby winners since 1900 to win the Run for the Roses off only three lifetime starts. Did you guess Big Brown in 2008 and the legendary filly Regret in 1915? Both were favored at around 5-2 odds, and while 3-for-3 ‘TDN Rising Star’ Justify figures to bear the burden of Derby favoritism squarely on his broad chestnut shoulders, I doubt he’ll go off lower than 4-1 considering the depth of the field. This undefeated $500,000 KEESEP Scat Daddy colt represents limitless possibility right now, and it’s been amazing to witness his raw, assertive power, stylish panache, inherent athleticism, and gigantic stride as he’s assembled an impressive dossier of credentials heading into the Derby, going from unraced maiden to Grade I winner in a span of only 48 days. But while the numerous superlatives surrounding Justify haven’t changed since his Apr. 7 GI Santa Anita Derby win, neither have the very real doubts about this colt’s ability to continue to accelerate so rapidly through a very steep and sharp learning curve. Justify has yet to face multi-horse pace pressure, repeated in-race attacks, a field larger than seven, or even shipping and racing away from his home track. So while unrealized potential is very much on this impressive colt’s side, experience is not.

3) BOLT D’ORO (c, Medaglia d’OroGlobe Trot, by A.P. Indy)
O-Ruis Racing. B-WinStar Farm (KY). T-Mick Ruis. Sales History: $630,000 yrl FTSAUG ’16. Lifetime Record: MGISW, 6-4-1-1, $1,016,000.
Apr. 17 TDN Top 20 Rank: 3
Last Start: 2nd, GI Santa Anita Derby, SA, Apr. 7
Accomplishments Include: 1st, GI Del Mar Futurity, DMR, Sept. 4; 1st GI FrontRunner S., SA, Sept. 30. 3rd GI Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, SA, Nov. 4; 1st GII San Felipe S., SA, Mar. 10.
Equineline PPs. Caulfield on Bolt d’Oro.
KY Derby Points: 104
Bolt d’Oro will head to Louisville as a “wise guy” second or third favorite in the betting. He very much deserves that characterization based on his established, near-championship form at age two, his solid win via disqualification in the most impressive Derby prep stretch battle of the spring (the GII San Felipe S.), and the fact that he was not throttled hard to try to overtake Justify when second in the Santa Anita Derby. But this $630,000 FTSAUG Medaglia d’Oro colt also presents unanswered questions to handicappers: Namely, “Bolt” hasn’t crossed the finish wire first since Sep. 30, and the last time he raced in a large field (the Breeders’ Cup), his well-documented issues in the first few strides out of the gate cost him both early positioning and the race. Three-time Derby-winning jockey Victor Espinoza is on record as saying that any such shortcomings will be mitigated by Bolt’s seasoning and relative experience compared to the other, more lightly raced, Derby favorites, and Espinoza has described Bolt as a kind, calm partner who knows how to conserve his pre-race energy. Such intangibles are important in a one-of-a-kind chaos race like the Derby, and when combined with what we see on paper, Bolt should be considered a serious win threat.

4) MENDELSSOHN (c, Scat DaddyLeslie’s Lady, by Tricky Creek)
O-Michael B. Tabor, Mrs. John Magnier & Derrick Smith.
B-Clarkland Farm (KY). T-Aiden O’Brien. Sales history: $3,000,000 yrl KEESEP ’16. Lifetime Record: GISW, 7-4-1-0, $1,961,137.
Apr. 17 TDN Top 20: 4
Last Start: 1st, G2 UAE Derby, MEY, Mar.31
Accomplishments: 1st, GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, DMR, Nov.3; 2nd, G1 Darley Dewhurst S., NEW, Oct. 14
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 100
Mendelssohn is unique for many reasons, but one thing that stands out about this $3 million KEESEP Scat Daddy colt is that his two best lifetime races have come in the two most prestigious races he’s targeted, the GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf and the G2 UAE Derby. His wins were so emphatic and he was so precisely honed for both of those performances by trainer Aidan O’Brien that it’s easy to forget that Mendelssohn threw in a couple of double-digit-loss clunkers at age two. Over the weekend, O’Brien confirmed that jockey Ryan Moore would continue to partner with Mendelssohn in the Derby rather than remain in Britain to ride in the first English Classic of the season at Newmarket that same day. Since 2000, nine winners of the 1 3/16-miles UAE Derby have gone on to start in the Kentucky Derby, but the best finish out of that collective was sixth. Yet that stat might not be so meaningful when you consider that Mendelssohn is widely thought to be the best Dubai-winning horse to ever attempt the Run for the Roses. This colt is probably not so freakish as his 18 1/2-length blowout win over a speed-favoring Meydan surface might indicate, but you have to regard him with a hefty dose of respect knowing he’s got plenty of early lick to pressure the pace and will be the only Derby starter to have won beyond nine furlongs.

5) GOOD MAGIC (c, CurlinGlinda the Good, by Hard Spun)
O-e Five Thoroughbreds & Stonestreet Stables. B-Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings (KY). T-C Brown. Sales History: $1,000,000 yrl KEESEP ’16. Lifetime Record: Ch. 2yo, GISW, 5-2-2-1, $1,855,000.
Apr. 17 TDN Top 20 Rank: 5
Last Start: 1st, GII Blue Grass S., KEE, Apr. 7
Accomplishments Include: 1st GI Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, SA, Nov. 4.; 2nd GI Champagne S., BEL, Oct. 7.
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 134
If it is possible to be a million-dollar KEESEP auction purchase, a Breeders’ Cup winner, and an Eclipse Award champion and yet still be considered an “under the radar” Derby horse, then Good Magic is it. He was short on conditioning as a failed-to-fire favorite in his 2018 debut, and over the course of the next eight weeks in February and March this Curlin champ trained out of the spotlight while the sophomore division was dominated by other up-and-comers. Then Good Magic redeemed himself with a solid, stretch-fighting win in the GII Toyota Blue Grass S. that provided him with a ratcheted-up test of his ability while not completely draining him for his well-targeted start in the Derby. If you believe that all of the speed currently shown on paper among the Derby entrants will actually materialize in the race itself, then you have to think Good Magic’s effective, proven ability to carve out a sweet stalking spot and make one sustained run from about a half mile out is going to be a definite asset that ups his chances considerably.

6) AUDIBLE (c, Into MischiefBlue Devil Bel, by Gilded Time)
O-WinStar, China Horse Club, Head of Plains Partners, Starlight Racing. B-Oak Bluff Stables LLC (NY). T-Todd Pletcher. Sales history: $175,000 FTNSAR yrl ’16; $500,000 FTFMAR 2yo ’17. Lifetime Record: MGSW, 5-4-0-1, $882,920.
Apr. 17 TDN Top 20 Rank: 6
Last Start: 1st, GI Florida Derby, GP, Mar. 31
Accomplishments: 1st, GII Holy Bull S., GP, Feb. 3.
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 110
Audible’s stock took a downward tick prior to the GI Florida Derby when he tossed in a couple of lazy-looking workouts. Yet he not only won that race convincingly, but has since fired back with a pair of more spirited morning efforts that could signal we’re on the cusp of seeing a more fully focused horse in the Derby, and that’s a dangerous prospect considering how Audible shredded the GII Holy Bull S. and the Florida Derby fields without (presumably) being 100 percent mentally locked in. This $500,000 FTFMAR son of Into Mischief runs credible speed numbers, has responded well to mid-race cues from his jockeys to quicken, and has now stepped all the way from New York-bred maiden company to a Grade I winner’s circle while demonstrating a confident ability to switch from stalk mode into deft overdrive gears. The chief unknown about him though, remains how he might handle Derby adversity and multiple stretch attacks, because we haven’t seen him face those types of challenges in his Gulfstream Park preps, where he more or less picked his spots behind speed setups and pounced at will.

7) NOBLE INDY (c, Take Charge Indy–Noble Maz, by Storm Boot)
O-WinStar Farm LLC & Repole Stable. B-WinStar Farm LLC. T-Todd Pletcher. Sales history: $45,000 RNA yrl KEESEP ’16. Lifetime Record: GSW, 4-3-0-1, $691,600.
Apr. 17 TDN Top 20 Rank: 7
Last Start: 1st, Louisiana Derby, FG, Mar. 24.
Equineline PPs. Caulfield on Noble Indy.
KY Derby Points: 110
A bet on Noble Indy in the Kentucky Derby is essentially a wager that this Take Charge Indy colt is not only going to continue his development arc, but escalate it up a couple of notches compared to the level that some of the higher-ranked horses in this list have already attained. A blinkers-on win in the GII Louisiana Derby demonstrated that this 3-for-4 ‘TDN Rising Star’ is capable of establishing a strong early position while still having enough energy late in the race to fight free from multiple challengers. But Noble Indy has yet to face top-notch competition, and the horses he swatted away when headed in the long Fair Grounds stretch aren’t the same caliber as those who will likely be motoring home late over 10 furlongs in Louisville. With six weeks of spacing since his last start, Noble Indy is likely to be the “forgotten” colt among trainer Todd Pletcher’s four Derby hopefuls. But don’t let that fool you into thinking that he won’t exceed expectations at an overlaid mutuel.

8) MY BOY JACK (c, Creative CauseGold N Shaft, by Mineshaft)
O-Don’t Tell My Wife Stables & Monomoy Stables LLC. B-Brereton C. Jones (KY). T-Keith Desormeaux.
Sales History: $14,000 RNA wlg KEENOV ’15; $20,000 yrl KEESEP ’16. Lifetime Record: MGSW, 10-3-3-2, $645,145.
Apr. 17 TDN Top 20 Rank: 8
Last Start: 1st, GIII Lexington S., KEE, Apr. 14.
Accomplishments Include: 1st, GIII Southwest S., OP, Feb. 19; 1st, Zuma Beach S., SA, Oct. 9
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 52
Count My Boy Jack among the Derby entrants who will relish a “the faster the better” type of pace setup on the first Saturday in May. This $20,000 KEESEP Creative Cause colt has a stamina-centric pedigree backed by nine consecutive route races, and the key turning point in his development came when he figured out how to relax off the bridle and make one confident run when winning the muddy GIII Southwest S. three starts back. Since then he’s run a better-than-it-looks third in the Louisiana Derby, then won the GIII Stonestreet Lexington S. at Keeneland despite shortening up to 1 1/16 miles and drawing the outermost post. Even as far back as November, “Jack” ran a deceptively solid seventh in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, coming up only three lengths short with a five-wide run during which his jockey dropped the whip at the eighth pole. While not an overt win threat, Jack looms as a must-use in Derby horizontal exotics.

9) VINO ROSSO (c, CurlinMythical Bride, by Street Cry {Ire})
O-Repole Stable & St. Elias Stable. B- John D. Gunther (KY). T-Todd Pletcher. Sales history: $410,000 yrl KEESEP ’16. Lifetime Record: GSW, 5-3-0-1, $620,500.
Apr. 17 TDN Top 20 Rank: 9
Last Start: 1st, GII Wood Memorial S., AQU, Apr. 7.
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 107
Trainer Todd Pletcher didn’t start 2018 with multiple candidates on the TDN Derby list, but true to his late-blooming form we’re approaching May and he now projects to saddle a full 20 percent of the field (four horses) in the Run for the Roses. Vino Rosso is arriving on the scene at just the right time, but where you peg his chances for the Derby has everything to do with how you evaluate his breakout win in the GII Wood Memorial S. This $410,000 KEESEP Curlin colt seems to have found a sweet spot rallying from farther back rather than forcing the issue like he did in his four previous starts, but the Wood on paper was one of the softer nine-furlong preps assembled in April, and it featured an overzealous lone pacemaker setting up the race for closers. Vino Rosso essentially only had to put away the favored Enticed (Medaglia d’Oro) to prevail in the stretch, and he did manhandle that opponent convincingly when they solidly bumped several times in the run to the wire. So Vino Rosso displayed a nice fighting spirit and the Wood came back as a robust 98 on the Beyer Speed Figure scale, but the bulk of his winter form is still comprised of three so-so races at Tampa Bay Downs, making it unclear (to me at least) which Vino Rosso will show up on Derby day.

10) FLAMEAWAY (c, Scat DaddyVulcan Rose, by Fusaichi Pegasus)
O-John Oxley; B-Phoenix Rising Farms (ON). T-Mark Casse. Sales history: $150,000 yrl KEEJAN ’16; $400,000 yrl SARAUG ’16. Lifetime Record: MGSW, 9-5-2-0, $704,834.
Apr. 17 TDN Top 20 Rank: 10
Last Start: 2nd, GII Blue Grass S., KEE, Apr. 7
Accomplishments: 1st, GIII Bourbon S., KEE, Oct. 8; 1st, GIII Sam F. Davis S., TAM, Feb. 10.
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 70
If you’re compiling a short list of horses who will outrun their odds in the Derby, put Flameaway at or near the top of that ranking. This $400,000 FTSAUG Scat Daddy colt has shown tenacity on the lead, resilience in the stretch, and considerable overachievement in his company lines (he’s already beaten Vino Rosso and was within sniffing distance of both Good Magic and Mendelssohn in the Blue Grass S. and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, respectively). I do tend to upgrade horses who consistently show that they can handle multiple surfaces because it underscores there unflappability and versatility, and that’s certainly the case with Flameaway, who’s now won over fast dirt, firm turf, mud, slop, and a synthetic surface. According to assistant trainer Nick Tomlinson, you can add the Churchill main track to Flameaway’s preference list based on Saturday’s in-company five-eighths training move in 1:00.40 (12/52) “He’s doing really well with the track at Churchill and he recorded one of his best breezes that I’ve seen,” he said.

11) FREE DROP BILLY (c, Union RagsTrensa, by Giant’s Causeway)
O-Albaugh Family Stables LLC. B-Helen K. Groves Revokable Trust (KY). T-Dale Romans. Sales history: $200,000 KEESEP yrl ’16. Lifetime Record: GISW, 8-2-3-2, $625,220.
Apr. 17 TDN Top 12 Rank: 11
Last Start: 3rd, GII Blue Grass S., KEE, Apr. 7
Accomplishments Include: 1st, GI Breeders’ Futurity, KEE, Oct.7; 2nd, GI Hopeful S. Sept. 4.
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 44
Free Drop Billy is an enigma, form-wise. None of his past-performance lines on their own stamp him as an A-level win threat. But he’s a work-in-progress May 3 foal who will likely be charging hard in the final two furlongs of the Derby when other rivals project to be calling it quits. His elevation from fourth to third via DQ in the Blue Grass S. represents a substantial step forward, and it’s noteworthy not just for the interference this $200,000 KEESEP Union Rags colt endured in the final sixteenth of the race. More meaningful was how “Billy” overcame adversity after he got caught three wide on the first turn, was shuffled back when trying to pick a spot about five-eighths out, then regained a fluid stride on the far turn, again giving up ground while three wide. He needs a clean trip behind a fast pace to fire his best shot though, because Billy still doesn’t resonate as a horse who can aggressively make his own breaks or pick his launch point with authority in a crowded field of 20.

12) HOFBURG (c, Tapit-Soothing Touch, by Touch Gold)
O/B-Juddmonte Farms Inc. (KY). T-Bill Mott. Lifetime Record: GISP, 3-1-1-0, $227,950.
Apr. 17 TDN Top 20 Rank: 12
Last Start: 2nd, GI Florida Derby, GP, Mar. 31.
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 40
Hofburg is a stretch to like on paper based on limited racing opportunities. But if you’re a proponent of paying attention when an outfit that traditionally isn’t focused on getting horses into the Derby all of a sudden shows up with an intriguing, lightly raced candidate, this chestnut could be your dark horse. This Tapit homebred has only raced three times and hasn’t won beyond the maiden ranks, but the respectable owner/trainer combo of Juddmonte Farms/Bill Mott isn’t shying away from giving him a shot against the top of the crop. Hofburg broke his maiden going two turns from post 11 on Mar. 3 at Gulfstream, then wheeled right back in the Florida Derby and cashed for second money when widest off the turn behind much-the-best Audible. He dug in and kept attacking even when it was obvious that the more experienced horse was going to prevail through the stretch, and that’s the kind of subtle hustle that could pay dividends in a pressure-packed race like the Derby.

13) ENTICED (c, Medaglia d’OroIt’s Tricky, by Mineshaft)
O/B-Godolphin (KY). T-Kiaran McLaughlin. Lifetime Record: MGSW & GISP, 6-3-1-1, $595,680.
Apr. 17 TDN Top 20 Rank: 13
Last Start: 2nd, GII Wood Memorial S., AQU, Arp. 7
Accomplishments Include: 1st, GII Kentucky Jockey Club S., CD, Nov. 25; 3rd, GI Champagne S., BEL, Oct. 7; 1st GIII Gotham S., AQU, Mar. 10
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 103
Enticed took the path of least resistance (the Aqueduct stakes) to the Derby and he didn’t win his final prep prior to Louisville. But he did withstand getting roughed up along the rail when second to Vino Rosso in the Wood Memorial, and if he learned something about aggression from that experience, its going to mesh well with his consistent ability to crank up for long, sustained runs. Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin is not one who tends to go over the top with superlatives, but he did post on social media last Thursday that Enticed’s 1:01.20 (2/7) breeze over five furlongs at Palm Meadows was “one of his best works this year.” This Medaglia d’Oro homebred also checks the “been there, done that” box for familiarity with the Churchill Downs main track, because his length-of-stretch, fully unleashed winning rally there in the Nov. 25 GII Kentucky Jockey Club S. stood out as one of the more visually impressive juvenile stakes of 2017.

14) INSTILLED REGARD (c, Arch–Enhancing, by Forestry)
O-OXO Equine LLC. B-KatieRich Farms (KY). T-Jerry Hollendorfer. Sales History: $110,000 RNA yrl KEESEP ’16; $1,050,000 2yo OBSMAR ’17. Lifetime Record: GSW & GISP, 7-2-2-1, $294,000.
Apr. 17 TDN Top 20 Rank: N/A
Last Start: 4th, GI Santa Anita Derby, SA, Apr. 7
Accomplishments: 1st, GIII Lecomte S., FG, Jan. 13
KY Derby Points: 29
Equineline PPs
Last week, trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said Instilled Regard could still be considered a Derby candidate if defections in the points rankings allowed him to edge into a qualifying spot. On Monday morning, the dual news about Quip and Gronkowski not making the Derby opened up that possibility. I have to admit to having a handicapping crush on Instilled Regard since his eye-catching GIII Lecomte S. win back in January, thus I have no hesitation about leapfrogging him over the back third of the Derby field based on the potential he flashed back in December and January. This $1.05 million OBSMAR son of Arch failed to fire without an obvious excuse in the GII Risen Star S., and the short field combined with a relatively unpressured pace in the Santa Anita Derby was a total mismatch for this colt’s running style. This multi-dimensional stalker was previously able to fuse tactical early prowess with a commanding late turn of foot, and he figures to be a very “live” sleeper in the Derby should he get in for certain.

15) SOLOMINI (c, Curlin-Surf Song, by Storm Cat)
O-Zayat Stables LLC. B-Glenna R. Salyer (KY). T-Bob Baffert. Sales history: $270,000 KEESEP ’16 yrl. Lifetime Record: MGISP, 6-1-3-2, $752,000
Apr. 17 TDN Top 20 Rank: 15
Last Start: 3rd, GI Arkansas Derby, OP, Apr. 14
Accomplishments Include: 3rd GI Los Alamitos Futurity, LRC, Dec.9; 2nd GI Frontrunner S., SA, Sept. 30; 2nd GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, DMR, Nov. 4
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 54
Solomini has run second and third in two Oaklawn prep stakes this spring but has yet to uncork a smart, bust-out performance that solidifies him as a top-level Derby contender. This $270,000 KEESEP Curlin colt is officially winless since breaking his maiden on debut Sep. 2, which qualifies as the longest victory gap by any colt within this week’s TDN Top 20. True, he did cross the finish wire first when DQ’d out of the GI Los Alamitos Futurity Dec. 9. But subsequent missed training because of a fever got him off to a late start in 2018, and while his company lines are replete with some of the division’s heaviest hitters, Solomini is still searching for an identifiable running style (is he a pace-presser, stalker or closer?) that could potentially catapult him higher in the Derby pecking order.

16) PROMISES FULFILLED (c, ShacklefordMarquee Delivery, by Marquetry)
O-Robert J. Baron. B-David Jacobs (KY). T-Dale Romans. Sales history: $37,000 yrl KEESEP ’16. Lifetime Record: GSW, 5-3-0-1, $337,280.
Apr. 17 TDN Top 20 Rank: 16
Last Start: 9th, GI Florida Derby, GP, Mar. 31
Accomplishments: 1st, GII Fountain of Youth S., GP, Mar. 3.
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 52
Based on the way Promises Fulfilled got hooked and burned himself out in the Florida Derby speed duel, it’s easy to write him off as a “fast but cannot last” pacemaker. But it could be a mistake to assume that every single one of the speed-oriented horses who figure to seek the lead in the Derby are actually going to be willing (or able) to be prominently placed. So what if this $37,000 KEESEP son of Shackleford suddenly finds himself relatively unpressured on the front end a la 20-1 War Emblem in the 2002 Derby? (The best example of a recent Derby that appeared loaded with early speed on paper but wasn’t.) Trainer Dale Romans said back in March that he’s only had a few horses in his career “that can just go fast from beginning to end and have that speed and stamina” and that Promises Fulfilled is one of them. Don’t forget that this colt has already once won over the Churchill strip and finished a credible third there in a subsequent graded stakes, both of which count as plusses.

17) BRAVAZO (c, Awesome AgainTiz o’ Gold, by Cee’s Tizzy)
O/B-Calumet Farm. T-D. Wayne Lukas. Lifetime Record: GSW & GISP, 8-3-1-1, $436,528.
Apr. 17 TDN Top 20 Rank: 17
Last Start: 8th, GII Louisiana Derby, FG, Mar. 24.
Accomplishments: 1st, GII Risen Star S., FG, Feb. 17; 2nd, GI Breeders’ Futurity, KEE, Oct. 7.
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 54
Because Bravazo will be entering the Kentucky Derby off a six-week gap since his 21-length drubbing in the Louisiana Derby, trainer D. Wayne Lukas breezed him six furlongs from the gate in company with two other stablemates in 1:15.40 (1/3) last Friday because he “wanted to put him in a situation where it would feel like an actual race.” The four-time Derby-winning trainer added “I think he’ll get a lot out of this work. He didn’t want to pull up after he was finished. My rider was exhausted.” Bravazo has a credible foundation of seven straight races at a mile or longer heading into the Derby, was second in his only career Grade I stakes try (at 47-1 odds in the Breeders’ Futurity S. at Keeneland), and it’s notable that this Awesome Again homebred did break his maiden by open lengths over the Churchill strip last September when forcing the pace in a one-turn mile.

18) LONE SAILOR (c, Majestic Warrior-Ambitious, by Mr. Greeley)
O-GMB Racing. B-Alexander-Groves-Matz, LLC (KY). T-Thomas Amoss. Sales history: $120,000 yrl KEESEP ’16. Lifetime Record: GISP, 8-1-3-1, $334,237.
Apr. 17 TDN Top 20 Rank: 19
Last Start: 2nd, GII Louisiana Derby, FG, Mar. 24
Accomplishments: 3rd, GI Breeders Futurity S., KEE, Oct. 7
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 42
Lone Sailor obliterated a Saratoga maiden field by 11 lengths in the second start of his career, turned in three okay efforts to close out his juvenile campaign, then has been quietly on the upswing in three Fair Grounds starts in 2018. This $120,000 KEESEP Majestic Warrior (A.P. Indy) colt’s past performances aren’t overpowering, but he does appear to be improving incrementally, and his neck loss in the Louisiana Derby at 9-1 in his most recent start gives him six additional weeks to put it all together as one of the longest-priced starters in the Kentucky Derby.

19) COMBATANT (c, Scat Daddy–Border Dispute, by Boundary)
O-Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC & Willis Horton Racing LLC. B-Paget Bloodstock. T-Steven Asmussen. Sales history: $320,000 yrl KEESEP ’16. Lifetime Record: MGSP, 7-1-3-1, $388,550.
Apr. 17 TDN Top 20 Rank: N/A
Last Start: 4th, GI Arkansas Derby, Apr. 14
Equineline PPs.
KY Derby Points: 32
With two Derby starting spots opening up on Monday, Combatant went from the next-eligible horse on the points earnings list to making the cut, and trainer Steve Asmussen told Daily Facing Form soon after the news of those defections broke that he intends to start this $320,000 KEESEP Scat Daddy colt in the Derby. Combatant is winless beyond the maiden level while racking up three seconds, a third, and a fourth in four subsequent stakes tries. He most recently chased Magnum Moon in the Arkansas Derby, giving up ground four wide while rallying from last into the far turn in that effort.

20) FIRENZE FIRE (c, Poseidon’s Warrior–My Every Wish, by Langfuhr)
O/B-Mr. Amore Stables (FL). T-Jason Servis. Lifetime Record: GISW, 9-4-1-0, $669,100.
Apr. 17 TDN Top 20 Rank: 18
Last Start: 4th, GII Wood Memorial S., AQU, Apr. 7
Accomplishments: 1st, GI Champagne S., BEL, Oct. 7; 1st, GIII Sanford S., SAR, July 22.
Equineline PPs
KY Derby Points: 39
Firenze Fire qualifies for the Derby based on points, but this sprint-slanted Poseidon’s Warrior colt displays “upside down” form in that his best races are all frontloaded at the start of his career at age two. His lone win in 2018 was a grinder of a one-turn mile effort into a crawling pace over a sealed, muddy Aqueduct surface against only five other foes. He’s since run second and fourth (twice) in two New York stakes preps and is now taking aim at the most difficult race the division has to offer in an attempt to orchestrate an ambitious reversal of fortune.