Kentucky Derby 2020 Report (7-19-20)

Much has changed on the recent road to Kentucky Derby 2020. Art Collector is suddenly one of the Derby favorites after a sharp victory in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on July 11. Chad Brown threw his hat in the ring with Peter Pan hero Country Grammer, and Bob Baffert won yet another Haskell with Authentic.

Kentucky Derby Points Race Recaps

Blue Grass Stakes (G2) Recap (7-11-20) – Winner: Art Collector

Swiss Skydiver took on the males in this spot, and the talented early-pressing filly made her presence felt throughout. Shivaree went to the lead from the rail under Johnny V as expected, but Swiss Skydiver was right up there with him, and she took over after the opening half. She was still in front after six panels, but Art Collector tracked the pace intently from an inner post, and he confronted the filly turning for home. Those two separated themselves from the rest, and Art Collector steadily pulled away to score by 3-1/2 lengths. Swiss Skydiver was clearly second best in a solid performance, and Rushie just held 3rd over Enforceable and Attachment Rate. The former made a wide move from post 10 but could not sustain his run and flattened out a bit late. He has some talent but probably has distance limitations. Enforceable did what he always does and make a decent sustained run, and Attachment Rate is usually thereabouts and was not embarrassed in 5th. Mr. Big News was next, followed by Finnick the Fierce, Test, Hard Lighting, Basin, Shivaree, Hunt the Front, and Man in the Can. It is possible that we saw the Derby winner in this race, and possibly the Oaks winner as well.

Peter Pan Stakes (G3) Recap (7-16-20) – Winner: Country Grammer

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The stalkers dominated this mile and an eighth affair at the Spa. Mo Hawk was intent on the early lead from the inside post, and Celtic Striker pressed him throughout. Country Grammer stalked inside and Caracoro was tracking outside that one. Caracaro grabbed a short lead but Country Grammer cut the corner and found room inside, and the latter prevailed by a neck. Caracoro ran a quality ran in his first start since Jan. 11, and my top choice Mystic Guide finished nicely for the show. I thought he was going to sit a stalking trip, but he was brushed at the start and ended up rallying from off the pace. Celtic Striker weakened to 4th, and behind him was Modernist, Chestertown, Candy Tycoon, Mo Hawk, and Katzarelli. I don’t think we saw the Travers winner in this event, but this stakes race was okay from a quality standpoint. Chad Brown saddled the winner, and he clearly had the best trip. Caracoro has upside and Mystic Guide was the only one making up ground from off the pace.   

Haskell Stakes (G1) Recap (7-18-20) – Winner: Authentic

This should have been much easier for Authentic. He got a very easy lead after a razor sharp break, and he was just cruising along on the front end from the outset. Ny Traffic was only applying token pressure from the outside post. After seeing the race shape developing, I thought Authentic was going to put on a show in the stretch. He briefly spurted clear and looked long gone, but he started to sputter late and Ny Traffic was suddenly gaining rapidly. Authentic was desperate for the wire and was fortunate to hold on by a nose. Dr Post was best of the rest in 3rd, and he was the only one even attempting to make up any ground. The race flow was definitely against him, but I still thought he should have done a bit more. Jesus’ Team was a weakening 4th, and Fame To Famous passed a couple of rivals to end up a well-beaten 5th. Lebda stalked and faded, and Ancient Warrior was never seriously involved. This was Authentic’s second attempt at a mile and an eighth, and he was shaky both times. I don’t see him handling a mile and a quarter. Ny Traffic tries hard every time, and if there is one horse to consider out of this race, it might be Dr Post. He did not have the smoothest trip in a race dominated throughout by the 1-2 finishers.      

Hot Prospects: Major Fed (Ghostzapper – Bobby’s Babe, by Smart Strike)

Major Fed is not new to the Derby trail, but he might be rounding back into top form at the right time. He went from New Year’s Day maiden winner to stakes runner-up in the Risen Star (G2) over the winter. He was tactical up to that point, but broke slow and rallied from 14th to finish 4th in the paceless LA Derby (G2). He raced wide from post 10 and ran last in the Matt Winn (G3), and bounced back with a rallying runner-up finish in the Indiana Derby (G3). He might make his next start in the Ellis Park Derby on Aug. 9, and a good showing might propel him into the Kentucky Derby on the first Saturday in September. I like his pedigree, and he has shown flashes of ability in the stakes ranks.

Kentucky Derby Top 20 Points Leaders (thru Haskell 7-18-20)

272 Points: Tiz the Law

200 Points: Authentic

120 Points: Honor A. P.

110 Points: Ny Traffic

100 Points: Art Collector

90 Points: King Guillermo

80 Points: Dr Post

74 Points: Ete Indien

70 Points: Modernist

50 Points: Country Grammer, Mischevious Alex

43 Points: Enforceable

40 Points: Max Player, Shivaree, Swiss Skydiver

38 Points: Major Fed

36 Points: Storm the Court

33 Points: Thousand Words

32 Points: Anneau d’Or

30 Points: Sole Volante

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Updated Kentucky Derby 2020 Points Race Schedule

Shared Belief (100-40-20-10) – August 1
Travers (100-40-20-10) – August 8
Ellis Park Derby (50-20-10-5) – August 9
Pegasus (20-8-4-2) – August 15

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Jarrod Horak’s “Exceptional Eleven” Kentucky Derby 2020 Contenders (7-19-20)

(1)  HONOR A. P. (Honor Code – Hollywood Story, by Wild Rush) – Previous Ranking (#1)

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

Latest Workout: 5f in 1:02.60 (74/94) at Del Mar on July 19.

Comments: Came out of his impressive SA Derby victory in fine order, and I was impressed with that bullet workout on June 24. He has moved from Santa Anita to Del Mar, and has posted three works since July 4. He is getting stronger as the year progresses, and his next start will come in the Shared Belief Stakes at 8.5f at Del Mar on Aug. 1. He is one of the fastest sophomore males at this stage, and more improvement is expected. It sure looks like a mile and a quarter is right up his alley.

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(2) ART COLLECTOR (Bernardini – Distorted Legacy, by Distorted Humor) –  Previous Ranking (#16)

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Trainer (Thomas Drury Jr.) – Owner (Bruce Lunsford)

Comments: He is rapidly moving up the rankings. In a previous Derby report I posted on June 25, I mentioned him in my hot prospect section, and I moved him up from 20th to 16th as part of my “next nine” list in my Derby blog prior to the Blue Grass. After his stellar stakes debut, I think we can say with confidence that he is a strong Derby contender. His pedigree is stellar and he has won all three starts this year while utilizing a different running style each time. He seems to have all the tools to win a race like the Derby, and the mile and a quarter should be no problem based on the way he has been finishing his races recently. He will either run in the Ellis Park Derby on August 9, or train up to the Kentucky Derby.    

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(3) TIZ THE LAW (Constitution – Tizfiz, by Tiznow) – Previous Ranking (#2)

Trainer (Barclay Tagg) – Owner (Sackatoga Stable)

Latest Workout: 5f bullet in 59.63 (1/20) at Saratoga on July 18.

Comments: There is no doubt that he is one of the top sophomores in the country, but I am not convinced that he is the best. There are a few small things nagging me about this one. He keeps sitting perfect tactical trips and winning easily, but his speed figures are not advancing, and the horses he is beating have not been coming back to flatter him. He is training forwardly in advance of his next assignment, which will be the Travers at Saratoga on Aug. 8.

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(4) AUTHENTIC (Into Mischief – Flawless, by Mr. Greeley) – Previous Ranking (#3)

Trainer (Bob Baffert) – Owner (SF Racing, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stable)

Comments: His high cruising speed in his main asset, and he did not have the best start when losing for the first time in the SA Derby. He had a sharp beginning in the July 18 Haskell and got the job done by a rapidly diminishing nose. The main concern has always been stamina. The first signs of distance limitations surfaced in the SA Derby, and those concerns were validated when he almost blew a clear lead in the Haskell. He is fast and talented, but a mile and a quarter looks out of reach.   

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(5) MAX PLAYER (Honor Code – Fools in Love, by Not for Love)  Previous Ranking (#5)

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Trainer (Linda Rice) – Owner (George E. Hall)

Latest Workout: 5f in 1:02.55 (3/4) at Belmont Park (dirt training) on July 14.

Comments: He made his stakes debut in the Withers (G3) at a mile and an eighth at Aqueduct on Feb. 1, and he raced wide throughout and came running down the stretch to score by a rather easy 3-1/4 lengths. He patiently waited for New York to start racing again after that effort, and he was biding his time and breezing every other week. He resurfaced in the June 20 Belmont Stakes (G1), and he rallied down the middle to garner the show. He is lightly raced and on the improve, and it appears as though he has plenty of stamina. The Travers is next, and he figures to enjoy the mile and a quarter distance.

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(6) KING GUILLERMO (Uncle Mo – Slow Sand, by Dixieland Band) – – Previous Ranking (#6)

Trainer (Juan Carlos Avila) – Owner (Victoria’s Ranch)

Latest Workout: 5f bullet in 1:00.22 (1/20) at Gulfstream Park on July 19.

Comments: His races have been well-spaced. Only two starts this year and he fired big shots both times. He switched surfaces and upset the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) March 7, and was 2nd to Nadal in the second division of the Arkansas Derby (G1) May 2. I like his early-pressing speed and he tries hard throughout. His next start is undecided. He has worked three times since July 4, and two of those moves were bullets. It appears as though he will train up to the Kentucky Derby.   

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(7) NY TRAFFIC (Cross Traffic, Mamie Reilly, by Graeme Hall) –  Previous Ranking (#14)

Trainer (Saffie Joseph Jr.) – Owner (Cash Is King, Paul Braverman, John Fanelli)

Comments: His early-pressing versatility frequently puts him in a contending position from the outset. He has yet to break through with a stakes win, but you have to admire his consistency after a show finish in the Risen Star (G2), and runner-up efforts in the LA Derby (G2), Matt Winn (G3), and Haskell (G1). Was he really finishing in the Haskell, or was it more of a case of Authentic getting weary late? I think it was more of the latter, but take nothing away from his stellar effort at Monmouth Park. He almost left New Jersey a G1 winner.    

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(8) DR POST (Quality Road – Mary Delaney, by Hennessy) – Previous Ranking (#4)

Trainer (Todd Pletcher) – Owner (St. Elias Stable)

Comments: He was definitely on the right path after a win in the Unbridled Stakes and a wide runner-up finish in the Belmont Stakes. I thought there was room to develop, and I picked him on top in the Haskell, but he was no threat to the top pair that day. He ran okay in both G1 starts but was never close to winning either event, and he just looks a cut below the best at this stage. His Haskell was not bad considering his less than ideal trip in a race dominated by the speed horses.   

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(9) UNCLE CHUCK (Uncle Mo, by Forest Music, by Unbridled’s Song) – Previous Ranking (#9)

Trainer (Bob Baffert) – Owner (Pegram, Watson, and Weitman)

Latest Workout: 4f in 47.60 (3/57) at Del Mar on July 13.

Comments: Ran away in his dirt route bow at Santa Anita June 12, and posted another easy win in the Los Al Derby (G3) on the Fourth of July. I like his early-pressing versatility, and he has plenty of upside after a pair of facile two turn victories from as many starts. He only faced three rivals in his stakes debut, and he had a relatively soft tactical trip in a race with no depth. They may go to the Travers next, and we will get a good gauge of his true abilities if he faces off against Tiz the Law and company in that mile and a quarter contest.

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(10) CEZANNE (Curlin – Achieving, by Bernardini) –  Previous Ranking (#8)

Trainer (Bob Baffert) – Owner (Magnier, Smith, Tabor, and St. Elias Stable)

Latest Workout: 5f in 1:00.00 (2/114) at Del Mar on July 18.

Comments: They paid $3.65 million for this one, and he hit the ground running in his dirt sprint debut at Santa Anita on June 6. He was not quick out of the gate, but was right up on the pace and got stronger as the race wore on. He stretched out at Los Al in his second career start July 2, and he stalked, pulled clear, and won by a bit less than two lengths in a workmanlike effort. We will learn more about him when he steps into the stakes ranks in the coming weeks and months. The Shared Belief Stakes at Del Mar might be his next start.     

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(11) ENFORCEABLE (Tapit – Justwhistledixie, by Dixie Union) –  Previous Ranking (#10)

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Trainer (Mark Casse) – Owner (John C. Oxley)

Comments: I have always thought that he was just the kind of horse to run 3rd or 4th at long odds in the Kentucky Derby. The late runner just keeps grinding away in the stretch in almost all of his starts. He has plenty of stakes experience with a win in the LeComte, a 2nd in the Risen Star, and a 3rd in the Breeders’ Futurity. He was 5th in the paceless Louisiana Derby, and just missed 3rd in the Blue Grass.

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THE NEXT NINE: (12) Sole Volante, (13) Pneumatic, (14) Country Grammer, (15) Shared Sense, (16) Rushie, (17) Thousand Words, (18) Storm the Court, (19) Major Fed, (20) Anneau d’Or