Kentucky Derby 2020 Blog: Lecomte Stakes Preview

The Kentucky Derby 2020 trail is off and running! Independence Hall started off the year with an easy score in the Jerome Stakes, and Authentic ran away with the Sham Stakes a few days later. The Fair Grounds road to the Derby begins with the Lecomte Stakes (G3) Jan. 18, and Scabbard is the tepid morning line favorite.

Lecomte Stakes (G3) Preview from Fair Grounds (1-18-20)

Scabbard is the favorite and he should not have any excuses. The class of the field reunites with his winning rider Corey Lanerie and earned the top TRD numbers in the G3 Iroquois Stakes. He drew a favorable post position and should get pace to chase. Look for him to strike from midpack. Steve Asmussen entered three runners (Excession, Halo Again, Silver State), and the latter might be the most dangerous of the three. The $450k son of Hard Spun ran well in both starts at Churchill Downs last year, and Ricardo Santana Jr. sticks with the stalker. Enforceable is one of two runners from the Mark Casse barn (Lynn’s Map is the other), and the well bred colt is part of my Derby list. He has a shot to rally for a share if the pace heats up (it should). Sycamore Run might be the one to catch from post 13. Can he go all the way from a tough post in his stakes and two turn debut in his second career start? Mr. Monomoy drew well and figures to save ground chasing the pace. He is bred to be a good one for Brad Cox. Finnick the Fierce rallied for the place at 87-1 odds in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2). We will find out if that effort was a fluke.

Kentucky Derby 2020 Points Race Recaps

Jerome Stakes Recap (1-1-20) – Winner: Independence Hall ($2.20)

This was not the performance many of us were expecting. Granted, Independence Hall scored easily, but he made some troubling mistakes. He was fractious in the paddock and lunged at the start and was away last. His rider Jose Ortiz maneuvered him outside, and within a matter of strides he was in front. He was a bit erratic in the lane and scored by four lengths. There was nothing behind him and that is why he got away with his antics. I still like him and he clearly has ability, but there are more questions than answers at this stage. Prince of Pharoahs and Bourbon Bay, a pair of NY-bred maiden winners, finished in a dead-heat for the place, and it was a mile back to Celtic Striker, Polar Bear Pete, and Dubai Bobby. The track was good and the final time was not particularly fast (1:37.27).

Sham Stakes (G3) Recap (1-4-20) – Winner: Authentic ($4.40)

Authentic was my top pick in my TRD video for Jan. 4 and he made short work of this field. He seized control early from the rail under Drayden Van Dyke and was clear throughout. He was green in the stretch but it did not matter in this spot. He won by more than seven lengths over stablemate Azul Coast. The latter has no speed and wants all the ground he can get. Zimba Warrior held off Taishan for 3rd. Scoring was another 8+ back in 5th, and Uncaptured Hero stalked and retreated to last. This was only the second career start for Authentic, and he clearly has speed and talent. He needs to work on some things and we will find out if he is a legit Derby contender in the near future.

Hot Prospects: Tizamagician

Is Tizmagician the next Omaha Beach for Richard Mandella? There are some similarities. Omaha Beach was burning win money and settled for minor awards in his first four starts, and then the lightbulb came on. He rattled off four straight wins (3 grade 1’s). Tizamagician landed the place in 4 of his first 5 starts, and broke through with a sharp one mile maiden victory at Santa Anita Jan. 1. He has a strong dirt route pedigree (Tiznow – Dixie Union), and his early-pressing speed frequently puts him in a favorable spot. He figures to show up in a Derby points race in the near future.

Jarrod Horak’s “Exceptional Eleven” Kentucky Derby 2019 Contenders (1-16-20)

(1) GOUVERNEUR MORRIS (Constitution – Addison Run, by Unbridled’s Song) – Previous Ranking (#1)

Trainer (Todd Pletcher) – Owner (Team Valor International & WinStar Farm LLC)

Latest Workout: 4f bullet in 49.05 (1/14) at Palm Beach Downs on Jan. 12.

Comments: He easily scored in his Saratoga debut in the slop at 5.5f on Sept. 2. He was bumped at the break and chased the pace, cruised up outside in the stretch, and finished with plenty in reserve to win by a very easy nine lengths. They were asking a lot in his second career start in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1). In that race, he stretch out three furlongs from the outside post in his first start vs. winners and first start around two turns. He raced wide throughout before running to the lead turning for home, and he fought hard for 2nd after eventual winner Maxfield passed him. After spending a few weeks at WinStar Farm, he returned to Todd Pletcher’s barn in Florida, and got back on the worktab Dec. 22.

Derby Points (4)

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(2) THOUSAND WORDS (Pioneerof the Nile – Pomeroys Pistol, by Pomeroy) – Previous Ranking (#3)

Trainer (Bob Baffert) – Owner (Albaugh Family Stable & Spendthrift Farm)

Latest Workout: 4f in 47.40 (5/67) at Santa Anita Park on Jan. 13.

Comments: $1 million purchase came out running at Santa Anita in a 6.5f dirt sprint Oct. 26. He was the slight favorite over experienced rival Thunder Code. The latter bobbled at the start from post 2 and cruised up to set the pace. He looked gone in the stretch but Thousand Words stalked outside and wore down the leader to win by a 1/2. Thunder Code was 6+ clear of the rest. This was a professional debut and he just seemed to be getting warmed up at this sprint distance. He met a trio of experienced stakes rivals Los Alamitos Futurity (G2) on a wet track second time out, and he passed that test with flying colors. He attended swift fractions and outgamed Auueau d’Oro to post a neck victory. He still has some growing up to do, and is a very promising Derby trail prospect.

Derby Points (10)

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(3) AJAAWEED (Curlin – Assiya, by Daaher) – Previous Ranking (#6)

Trainer (Kiaran McLaughlin) – Owner (Shadwell Stable)

Latest Workout: 4f in 48.60 (6/82) at Palm Meadows Training Center on Jan. 11.

Comments: His maiden win was so promising, and it was rather disappointing to see him finish 4th by eleven lengths in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at Keeneland. He bounced back with a good 2nd in the Remsen (G2), and that race looks even better after the fact. Early speed dominated at Aqueduct Dec. 7, and he closed nicely to miss by a 1/2 length while well clear of the rest. He is bred to run all day and appeared to be just getting warmed up at a mile and an eighth on Cigar Mile Day. He should continue to progress.

Derby Points (5)

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(4) INDEPENDENCE HALL (Constitution – Kalahari Cat, by Cape Town) – Previous Ranking (#5)

Trainer (Michael Trombetta) – Owner (Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners & Twin Creek Racing Stables)

Latest Workout: 4f in 50.60 (22/26) at Tampa Bay Downs on Jan. 13.

Comments: He easily scored from the rail in his seven furlongs debut at Parx Sept. 21. He shipped to Aqueduct for the Nashua (G3) on Nov. 3, and he chased the pace and ran off the screen in a 12+ length tally. That was probably the most impressive juvenile performance of 2019. He made his sophomore debut in the Jerome Stakes at Aqueduct on Jan. 1, and he was not nearly as brilliant in an easy score over a weak crew. He will need to run better next time. His connections have a couple of races in mind for his next points adventure. The Sam F. Davis (G3) at Tampa Bay Feb. 8, or the Risen Star (G2) at Fair Grounds Feb. 15.

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(5) DENNIS’ MOMENT (Tiznow – Transplendid, by Elusive Quality) – Previous Ranking (#7)

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

Latest Workout: 4f in 50.89 (93/118) at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 11.

Comments: Clipped heels and dumped Robby Albarado in his June 23 bow at Churchill Downs, and followed that up with a 19+ length tally in a 7f maiden affair at Ellis Park July 27. He stretched out in the stakes debut in Churchill’s Iroquois (G3) Sept. 14, and he tracked the pace and easily held off Scabbard in a solid effort. Based on his back-to-back wins and strong workouts, he was the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) favorite, but he stumbled at the start and never got involved in a last place finish at Santa Anita Nov. 1. He got a break and returned to the worktab Jan 11. He is expected to make first start as a 3-year-old in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) at Gulfstream Park Feb. 29.

Derby Points (10)

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(6) TIZ THE LAW (Constitution – Tizfiz, by Tiznow) – Previous Ranking (#8)

Trainer (Barclay Tagg) – Owner (Sackatoga Stable)

Latest Workout: 5f in 1:01.80 (4/12) at Palm Meadows Training Center on Jan. 12.

Comments: The talented NY-bred was sharp in his first two starts around one turn. One of those wins was in the Champagne Stakes (G1), and he was a smart stalk and pounce winner from the outside post that day. They decided to skip the BC Juvenile and shoot for the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs Nov. 30, but everything did not go according to plan in that race. He caught a wet track and was stuck down inside. He ended up just missing the place in a solid enough effort, but the final time was not fast. He is spending the winter at Palm Meadows Training Center in Florida, and is expected to make his next start in the Holy Bull (G2) at Gulfstream Park on February 1.

Derby Points (12)

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(7) ANNEAU D’OR (Medaglia d’Oro – Walk Close, by Tapit) – Previous Ranking (#9)

Trainer (Blaine D. Wright) – Owner (Peter Redekop)

Comments: Went from a debut turf route winner at Golden Gate to a Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) runner-up. He proved his surprising effort second time out was no fluke. He traveled to Los Alamitos and just missed while clearly second best in the Los Alamitos Futurity (G2). These connections got Derby fever last year with Anothertwstafate, and this one is off to a flying start. I like his pedigree and tactical speed.

Derby Points (12)

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(8) MAXFIELD (Street Sense – Velvety, by Bernardini) – Previous Ranking (#4)

Trainer (Brendan P. Walsh) – Owner (Godolphin, LLC)

Comments: He broke slow and rallied strongly to capture both of his starts from off the pace including the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at Keeneland. He was supposed to run in the BC Juvenile (G1), but an untimely leg injury forced him to scratch. He had surgery to remove an ankle chip on Nov. 18 and is back jogging at a farm in Florida. He will probably start galloping in a couple of weeks if everything goes well.

Derby Points (10)

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(9) HONOR A. P. (Honor Code – Hollywood Story, by Wild Rush) – Previous Ranking (#2)

Trainer (John Shirreffs) – Owner (C R K Stable LLC)

Latest Workout: 5f in 1:01 (19/139) at Santa Anita Dec. 29.

Comments: He rallied from 10th to finish 2nd in his 6f bow at Del Mar Aug. 17. He stretched out to a mile second time out Oct. 13, and easily went all the way in a very sharp effort. He might be a good one for patient trainer John Shirreffs. The Sham (G3) at Santa Anita on January 4 was supposed to be his Derby point race debut, but he came down with what has been described as a minor injury. Let’s see how long it takes him to return to the worktab.

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(10) GREEN LIGHT GO (Hard Spun – Light Green, by Pleasantly Perfect) – Previous Ranking (#10)

Trainer (James Jerkens) – Owner (Stronach Stables)

Latest Workout: 5f in 1:0.85 (1/6) at Palm Meadows Training Center Jan. 10.

Comments: Captured his first two starts including the Saratoga Special (G2) at 6.5f Aug. 10. He was the Hopeful Stakes (G1) favorite, but scratched when the track came up wet. The Champagne Stakes (G1) at Belmont was his third outing, and he gamely held 2nd that day. After that outing, he received a six week freshening in Ocala, Florida, and returned to the work tab Dec. 18.

Derby Points (4)

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(11) ENFORCEABLE (Tapit – Justwhistledixie, by Dixie Union) – Previous Ranking (#11)

Trainer (Mark Casse) – Owner (John Oxley)

Latest Workout: 4f in 48.60 (4/83) at Fair Grounds Jan. 10.

Comments: He was a solid 3rd in his stakes debut in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1), and after that he probably should have run in the Remsen Stakes due to the distance (graduated at 9f Aug. 22). Following the Breeders’ Futurity, he rallied from last to finish an even 4th on a wet track in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs Nov. 30. The one-paced grinder needs all the ground he can get, and the Fair Grounds surface should be the right fit for him. He goes next in the Lecomte Stakes (G3) Jan. 18.

Derby Points (3)

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THE NEXT NINE: (12) Structor, (13) Storm the Court, (14) Eight Rings, (15) Authentic, (16) Azul Coast, (17) Silver Prospector, (18) Shoplifted, (19) Toledo, (20) Ancient Warrior