Kentucky Derby 2020 Report for Jan. 31

There have been four Kentucky Derby 2020 points races this year, and the LeComte Stakes (G3) at Fair Grounds has been the strongest race so far. There are three Derby preps this weekend (Holy Bull, Robert B. Lewis, Withers).

Tiz the Law is the 3-5 morning line favorite for the Holy Bull Stakes (G2), and Thousand Words is 4-5 to remain unbeaten in the Robert B. Lewis (G3) at Santa Anita Park. The final points race on Saturday, Feb. 1 is the Withers Stakes at the Big A. Shotski is the 2-1 choice on the line and is the most vulnerable of the three Derby points race favorites on Saturday. For analysis of those three Derby preps, check out my Today’s Racing Digest video.

Kentucky Derby 2020 Points Race Recaps

LeComte Stakes (G3) Recap from Fair Grounds (1-18-20) – Winner: Enforceable ($15.60)

A big field with a solid pace and stamina won out. Bango, Shashashakemeup, and Jack the Umpire were the early instigators. Mr. Monomoy sat behind them and was the only forwardly placed runner around at the end. Enforceable was wide early and often from post ten. He raced 11th of 13 for the first half-mile and picked up the pace nicely after that. He showed a nice turn of foot in the stretch and kicked clear to score by a length and a half. My top choice Silver State rallied smartly for the place in just his third career start for Steve Amussen. I thought he ran every bit as well as the winner. This was his first start around two turns and he has plenty of upside. Mr. Monomoy missed 2nd by a neck and was well clear of 4th place finisher Finnick the Fierce. Beaten favorite Scabbard was a flat 6th and was followed by Shashashakemeup, Excession, Halo Again, Bango, Perfect Star, Jack the Umpire, Sycamore Run, and New Eagle.

Smarty Jones Stakes Recap from Oaklawn Park (1-24-20) – Winner: Gold Street ($22.80)

Everything about this race was confusing. First of all, the track was muddy, and some horses probably did not handle the footing. There were a trio of sprinters stretching out in distance (Lykan, Nucky, Gold Street), and the pace figured to be fast. Spoiler alert, it wasn’t! Lykan was rank early and Nucky never got involved. Gold Street was exiting back-to-back dirt sprint wins in the slop, and he just got out there and completely controlled the pace in this spot. My value top choice Lynn’s Map took up chasing duties because someone had to. Gold Street was in cruise control from start to finish and scored by a very comfortable 2+ lengths. Three Technique stalked from the outside post and was clearly second best in a solid effort. Shoplifted stalked the pace and was best of the rest in 3rd, and his stablemate Silver Prospector was 4th. Lynn’s Map weakened to 5th, and Shared Sense, Lykan, Jungle Runner, and Nucky completed the order of finish. The speed figure came back solid but there is a very good chance that this was not a strong race, at least when it comes to the Derby trail. My best guess is that the top two finishers are milers at best.

Hot Prospects: Nadal

Bob Baffert’s late starting colt Nadal made his career debut a winning one at Santa Anita Park on Jan. 19. This six panel sprint was loaded with first timers and only had one experienced runner. Nadal broke from the often intimidating rail post and dueled inside after breaking a bit slow under apprentice J. C. Diaz Jr. He started to inch clear after a half-mile and was 3+ lengths in front when all was said and done. Exaulted rallied to finish 2nd and Lane Way was a clear 3rd, and they are both promising sorts. Nadal clearly has talent (fastest 3yo race of the year so far), and the 2-3 finishers won’t be maidens much longer. The Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park on Feb. 17 might be his next assignment.

Jarrod Horak’s “Exceptional Eleven” Kentucky Derby 2020 Contenders (1-31-20)

(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: 5f in 1:00.85 (5/14) at Palm Beach Downs on Jan. 26.

Comments: He has only raced twice but showed plenty of promise in both of those juvenile starts. His Saratoga debut in the slop at 5.5f on Sept. 2 of last year was outstanding. 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. He was thrown in a very tough spot in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) second time out. 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 in December 2019, and has worked since times since Dec. 22.

Derby Points (4)

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

Thousand Words Horse Racing Handicapping Past Performances

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

Latest Workout: 4f in 48.20 (10/44) at Santa Anita Park on Jan. 27.

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 very game neck victory. He returns to action in the Robert Lewis Stakes (G3) at Santa Anita Park on Saturday, Feb. 1, and he is the deserving 4-5 morning line favorite.

Derby Points (10)

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

Trainer (Kiaran McLaughlin) – Owner (Shadwell Stable)

Latest Workout: 5f in 1:00.65 (2/4) at Palm Meadows Training Center on Jan. 31.

Comments: His maiden win at one mile second time was pretty good, and it was somewhat disappointing to see him finish 4th by double digits in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at Keeneland. He bounced back with a very good 2nd in the Remsen (G2), and that race looks even better after absorbing the facts. 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 might return to action in the Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs Feb. 8.

Derby Points (5)

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

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

Latest Workout: 5f bullet in 1:00.00 (1/34) at Tampa Bay Downs on Jan. 26.

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 was fractious in the paddock and broke last. He was steered outside and was quickly in front, but needs to run better next time. He shipped to Tampa Bay Downs after the Jerome, and the Sam F. Davis (G3) at Tampa Bay Feb. 8 is his next target.

Derby Points (10)

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

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

Latest Workout: 4f in 48.15 (12/103) at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 25.

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 February 29.

Derby Points (10)

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

Trainer (Barclay Tagg) – Owner (Sackatoga Stable)

Latest Workout: 4f bullet in 48.00 (1/40) at Palm Meadows Training Center on Jan. 26.

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 particularly fast. He is spending the winter at Palm Meadows Training Center in Florida, and is the 3-5 morning line favorite for the Holy Bull (G2) at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 1.

Derby Points (12)

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

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

Latest Workout: 6f in 1:13.40 (1/4) at Golden Gate Fields Jan. 25.

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. Two races on Feb. 15 are possible. He could stay home for the El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate, or ship to Fair Grounds for the Risen Star.

Derby Points (12)

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

Trainer (Mark Casse) – Owner (John Oxley)

Comments: He caught my eye after breaking his maiden at a mile an eighth at Saratoga last summer. He followed that up with a 3rd in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) and a 4th place finish on a wet track in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs Nov. 30. I was hoping he would spend the winter at Fair Grounds, and that is where he is. I thought he would rally for a minor award in the LeComte (G3) and do more damage in longer races, but he proved me wrong and captured the LeComte. He got pace help last time and ran on strongly in the lane. He will remain at Fair Grounds and shoot for the Risen Star Stakes.

Derby Points (13)

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

Trainer (James Jerkens) – Owner (Stronach Stables)

Latest Workout: 5f in 1:00.35 (2/16) at Palm Meadows Training Center Jan. 25.

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 worktab Dec. 18. The Holy Bull Stakes was a possibility, but they decided to take the conservative route and enter the Swale Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 1.

Derby Points (4)

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

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 has just started galloping again. He is definitely on a tight schedule and cannot afford any hiccups. For comparison purposes, Gouverneur Morris has also started twice in his career, and his last start was also in the Breeders’ Futurity. That colt has already worked six times, so he is at least six weeks ahead of Maxfield from a conditioning standpoint.

Derby Points (10)

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

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

Latest Workout: 4f in 51.40 (64/71) at Santa Anita Jan. 26.

Comments: Sharp two turn maiden winner had a minor setback, which forced him to miss the Sham Stakes (G3) at Santa Anita Park Jan. 4. He got back on the worktab at the Great Race Place Jan. 20 and cannot afford to miss any more time.

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THE NEXT NINE: (12) Structor, (13) Storm the Court, (14) Silver State, (15) Authentic, (16) Nadal, (17) Tizamagician, (18) Azul Coast, (19) Toledo, (20) Ancient Warrior