2018 Kentucky Derby Contenders List and Analysis

Kentucky Derby 2018 is right around the corner. Well, not quite, but we are well into the month of September and it is time to roll out my annual Derby contenders list.

Eleven of the last seventeen Kentucky Derby winners graduated by October 4, including eight of the last eleven. Kentucky Derby 2012 hero I’ll Have Another captured his career debut at Hollywood Park on July 3 of his juvenile season.

Kentucky Derby 2013 winner Orb lost his first three juvenile outings. He graduated at the Big A on November 24, 2012, his first of five straight wins, culminating in an off the pace tally under the Twin Spires on May 4.

Kentucky Derby 2014 winner California Chrome earned his diploma in his second career start ($100k Graduation – 5.5f) at Del Mar on July 31, 2013. He ended his juvenile season with an easy win in the King Glorious, the beginning of a 6-race winning streak that ended with a dead-heat for 4th in the Belmont Stakes.

Triple Crown 2015 winner American Pharaoh graduated in the G1 Del Mar Futurity on 9-3-14, the beginning of an 8-race win streak (7 Grade 1‘s and a Grade 2).

Kentucky Derby 2016 winner Nyquist graduated on June 5, 2015 at Santa Anita Park, the start of an 8-race winning streak ending with a smart victory under the Twin Spires on the first Saturday in May.

Kentucky Derby 2017 winner Always Dreaming hit the board in his first two juvenile starts before graduating in his 3-year-old bow at Tampa Bay on January 25, 2017.

Looking back, some of my initial September Derby blog juvenile contenders panned out, like my early 2010-2011 Number 1’s Stay Thirsty and Alpha. Both won the G1 Travers during their 3-year-old seasons. Others turn out to be disappointments like Fortify, Purple Sky, and Silver Assault, and others got hurt along the way like Mastery.

International Star was my initial number one Kentucky Derby 2015 contender and he was scratched the morning of the Derby. Three of my original eleven Derby contenders made it to the starting gate that year including winner American Pharoah. The other two were Frosted and Carpe Diem.

Mohaymen was my initial number one Kentucky Derby 2016 contender and the 4-time grade 2 winner (Nashua, Remsen, Holy Bull, Fountain of Youth) finished 4th on the first Saturday in May.

An ideal Kentucky Derby contender would have a solid juvenile foundation, a blended speed-stamina pedigree, sharp graded stakes form, tactical speed, and winning connections. Strong pre-Derby works are the icing on the cake.

Jarrod Horak’s “Exceptional Eleven” Kentucky Derby 2018 Contenders

(1) BOLT D’ORO (Medaglia d’Oro – Globe Trot, by A.P. Indy)

Trainer (Mick Ruis) – Owner (Ruis Racing)

Latest Workout: 5f in 1:01.40 (37/97) at Santa Anita on Sept 24.

Comments: He broke slow, dueled, and pulled clear in his 6.5f DMR debut Aug 5 (128 Final Rating) and rallied smartly to win the G1 Del Mar Futurity at seven panels second time out Sept 4. The $650k purchase seems to possess the necessary tools to make him a player on the Derby trail. He is targeting the G1 FrontRunner at SA on Sept 30.

(2) FREE DROP BILLY (Union Rags – Trensa, by Giant’s Causeway)

Trainer (Dale Romans) – Owner (Albaugh Family Stables)

Latest Workout: 5f in 1:00.80 (9/47) at Churchill Downs on Sept 24.

Comments: The $200k son of Belmont Stakes hero Union Rags boldly won his 5.5f debut at CD from off the pace June 15 and followed that up with rallying place finishes in the G3 Sanford and G1 Hopeful. He is bred to get better as distances increase and is one of three promising juveniles for Romans (Hollywood Star and Dak Attack other two). The G1 Breeders’ Futurity at KEE on Oct 7 is his next assignment.

(3) ZATTER (Midnight Lute – Katori, by Dixie Union)

Trainer (Bob Baffert) – Owner (Zayat Stables)

Latest Workout: 5f in 1:00.60 (12/74) at Santa Anita on Sept 18.

Comments: Beat his highly regarded stablemate St. Patrick’s Day at DMR Aug 20 (140 Pace + 132 Final) and the latter flattered him with a maiden win of his own Sept 2. In the G1 Del Mar Futurity, he attended the pace outside, gained the lead while inching away in midstretch, and was run down by Bolt d’Oro while clearly second best. His pedigree has a nice blend of speed and stamina. The FrontRunner at SA might be next.

(4) SOLOMINI (Curlin – Surf Song, by Storm Cat)

Trainer (Bob Baffert) – Owner (Zayat Stables)

Latest Workout: 5f in 1:00.80 (15/74) at Santa Anita on Sept 18.

Comments: The well-bred son of Preakness hero Curlin did not disappoint as the even money favorite in his DMR debut Sept 2, defeating fellow exceptional eleven member Bahamian. His stablemate Zatter is more seasoned at the moment but this one is an interesting long term prospect. The FrontRunner at SA might be next.

(5) HONORABLE TREASURE (To Honor and Serve – Tempest Treasure, by Dixie Union)

Trainer (Ken McPeek) – Owner (Harold Lerner LLC, AWC Stables, Akman, Scott K. and Nehoc Stables)

Latest Workout: 4f in :50 (13/19) at Belmont Park on Sept 18.

Comments: Ended up a fading 5th of 7 in his turf route bow at the Spa July 22 and winner Untamed Domain recently won the G2 Summer Stakes at WO. In his second start at seven panels on dirt (also Saratoga), he stalked and pounced from the outside post and cruised home by 6+ lengths.

(6) GOOD MAGIC (Curlin – Glinda the Good, by Hard Spun)

Trainer (Chad Brown) – Owner (e Five Racing Thoroughbreds and Stonestreet Stables)

Latest Workout: 4f bullet in :48.88 (1/43) at Saratoga (dirt training) on Sept 17.

Comments: Left the gate as the heavy favorite at Saratoga Sept 26 but could not reel in Pletcher first timer Hazit while clearly second best. He should continue to get better with age and should not be a maiden much longer.

(7) HOLLYWOOD STAR (Malibu Moon – Hollywood Story, by Wild Rush)

Trainer (Dale Romans) – Owner (Albaugh Family Racing)

Comments: Followed up a debut maiden win at CD June 28 with back-to-back place finishes in the G2 Saratoga Special and G3 Iorquois. Romans thinks he will keep on improving and the two turn pedigree is certainly there.

Derby Points (4)

(8) TATTERS TO RICHES (Union Rags – Poco Mas, by A.P. Indy)

Trainer (Jeff Mullins) – Owner (Red Baron’s Stable and Rancho Temescal)

Latest Workout: 5f bullet in :59.40 (1/62) at Santa Anita on Sept 16.

Comments: The $1 million purchase with a distance oriented pedigree won his 6f debut at DMR July 29 (122 Final, Last Fraction 37.3). His second start occurred in the G1 Del Mar Futurity and he broke slow, stalked, and ended up 6th of 9. He is bred to be any kind and his first work back was a 5f bullet Sept 16.

Tatters To Riches 2018 Kentucky Derby Contender

(9) HAZIT (War Front – Rumor, by Indian Charlie)

Trainer (Todd Pletcher) – Owner (Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners)

Latest Workout: 5f in 1:01.05 (5/32) at Belmont (dirt training) on Sept 23.

Comments: Went straight to the front and gamely held off strong favorite Good Magic (clear 2nd – Chad Brown) in his Saratoga debut Aug 26. He is well bred with strong connections and could easily continue to progress. The G1 Champagne at Belmont on Oct 7 is his next target.

(10) BAHAMIAN (Freedom Child – Final Humor, by Distorted Humor)

Trainer (Simon Callaghan) – Owner (Reddam Racing)

Latest Workout: 5f in 1:01.60 (53/90) at Santa Anita on Sept 23.

Comments: Took money and was edged for 3rd in his July 22 (122 Pace + 104 Final) bow at DMR and was clearly second best behind promising Baffert trainee Solomini at that same venue Sept 2.

(11) JUNGLE WARFARE (Animal Kingdom – Golden Mean, by Mt. Livermore)

Trainer (Jerry Hollendorfer) – Owner (Hollendorfer, LLC. and West Point Thoroughbreds)

Latest Workout: 5f in 1:01.20 (18/62) at Santa Anita on Sept 16.

Comments: Hit the board in all three dirt sprint starts on June 10 (104 Pace + 98 Final), July 29, and Aug 20 vs. multiple talented rivals (Zatter, St. Patrick’s Day, Tatters to Riches, Runaway Ghost, Serengeti). He figures to appreciate two turns and might be a different animal over a route of ground.

THE NEXT NINE: (12) Dak Attack, (13) St. Patrick’s Day, (14) Sporting Chance, (15) Nero, (16) The Tabulator, (17) Ten City, (18) Mojovation, (19) Enticed, (20) Oskar Blues