Kentucky Derby 2020 Report: March 22

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Kentucky Derby 2020 will no longer be run on the first Saturday in May. The new date for the Derby is Saturday, Sept. 5. More points races will be added to the schedule in the coming weeks and months. Let’s catch up on all the recent action.

Last time, I noted that speed rules on the road to Kentucky Derby 2020. Since that post, three points races have run, and front runners captured two of those races. The next points race is the Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park on Saturday, March 28 (100 points to winner).

Kentucky Derby 2020 Points Race Recaps 

Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) Recap (3-14-20) – Winner: Field Pass ($9.60)

Fancy Liquor set the pace and post time favorite Invader was in chase mode. Those two battled for quite some time, and Invader finally got a short advantage. It would not last. Field Pass stalked outside and wore down Invader to score by a neck. Fancy Liquor was best of the rest in 3rd. Halo Again was 4th, followed by Victory Boulevard, The Stiff, Myamanoi, Dack Janiel’s, Austrian, Tina Todo, and Unthrottled. The winner picked up 20 Derby points, and with the Derby date change, those points mean nothing.

Rebel Stakes (G2) Recap (3-14-20) – Winner: Nadal ($3.80)

The pace was fast and Nadal battled hard on the lead. He was dueling with American Theorem and put that one away turning for home. He opened up and length and a half and gamely held on by half that margin at the end. Excession got a perfect setup and was the only one closing on the sloppy track. He could not get to the winner but was miles best of the rest. Basin just got the show over Three Technique and Coach Bahe. The final three finishers were very well-spaced (Silver Prospector, American Theorem, No Parole).

Louisiana Derby (G2) Recap (3-21-20) – Winner: Wells Bayou ($8.40)

This did not seem like a strong race. The pace was moderate and speed dominated all three trifecta positions. Wells Bayou took over right out of the gate and Ny Traffic chased him throughout. Modernist stalked outside and none of the others threatened at all. Wells Bayou held a safe margin throughout and beat Ny Traffic by a length and a half. The top two finishers were clear throughout. Modernist held 3rd by a 1/2 length over Major Fed, and Enforceable was another length behind those two. Shake Some Action was next, followed by Silver State, Chestertown, Royal Act, Social Afleet, Mailman Money, Sharecropper, Lynn’s Map, and Portos.

Hot Prospects: Eight Rings

The former “exceptional 11” member had no chance to make the Derby in May, but with the later Derby date, he is back in business. Last year’s American Pharoah (G1) hero has been idle since the 2019 BC Juvenile. He has worked seven times this year between Feb. 13 and March 22, and that last move was a six furlong bullet in 1:11 flat. The son of Empire Maker is trained by Bob Baffert, and he should show up in the entries in the near future.   

Jarrod Horak’s “Exceptional Eleven” Kentucky Derby 2020 Contenders (3-22-20)

(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 1:01.65 (3/12) at Palm Beach Downs on March 21. 

Comments: I like him more after the Kentucky Derby date was moved to Sept. 5. His Feb. 14 return at Tampa Bay Downs was solid, but I was not thrilled with the original plan of one prep for the Derby. The timing was always off, but now he has plenty of time to run multiple times before the first Saturday in September. It is no longer vital for these horses to run huge in the spring. The Florida Derby looks like his next target, and he does not have to win. I would like to see a solid stalk and pounce effort. A top three finish would suffice. I just want to see him handle a mile and an eighth, while leaving the impression that more is in the tank. I will feel pretty good about him if he clears those hurdles.  

Derby Points (4)


(2)  HONOR A. P. (Honor Code – Hollywood Story, by Wild Rush) – Previous Ranking (#4)

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

Latest Workout: 5f in 1:00.00 (16/98) at Santa Anita Park March 22.   

Comments: He was definitely one of the big winners when the Derby was moved to September. He was a facile two turn maiden winner second time out, and had a minor setback after that, which forced him to miss the Sham Stakes (G3) at Santa Anita Park Jan. 4. The $850k purchase got back on the worktab at the Great Race Place Jan. 20, and finally made his stakes debut in the San Felipe (G2). His effort was rock solid and John Shirreffs has to be encouraged heading into the SA Derby (G1). The San Felipe was his first start in more than four months, and he stalked outside and was clearly second best in the deepest Derby prep of the year. He finished in front of BC Juvenile hero Storm the Court and 2-time graded winner Thousand Words, and both of those runners had preps this year and should have been fitter than the Shirreffs trainee. I like his running style versatility and there is nothing but upside here. I am expecting him to get better as the year progresses.   

Derby Points (20)


(3) CHARLATAN (Speightstown, by Authenticity, by Quiet American) – Previous Ranking (#12)

Trainer (Bob Baffert) – Owner (SF Racing, Starlight, Madaket, Stonestreet, Golcanda Stables)

Comments: He is another one of the big winners of the later Derby date. He easily won both starts and ran fast throughout in each race. Now they can take their time and patiently choose the right stakes path for this talented colt. He has speed but showed that he could relax on the lead over a route of ground at Santa Anita March 14. The sky is the limit for this one. The biggest question at this stage is how far he wants to go against top company?   


(4) NADAL (Blame – Ascending Angel, by Pulpit) – Previous Ranking (#3)

Trainer (Bob Baffert) – Owner (Stronach Stables)

Comments: I was happy to see him pass his graded route test in the Rebel Stakes (G2). He gamely captured his first two dirt sprints including the San Vicente (G2), and he had to run hard throughout in the Rebel. He ran huge at Oaklawn Park. He faced pace pressure throughout and showed real determination in his first start around two turns. He proved that he could ship and win, and he handled a wet track as well. He is now 3-for-3, and the unrated 2-year-old has accomplished much in a very short time. He probably deserves a bit of a break, and they can start gearing him up for a strong summer and fall campaign.

Derby Points (50)        


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

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

Latest Workout: 5f bullet in 1:01.80 (1/10) at Palm Meadows Training Center March 14. 

Comments: He probably was not going to make the Derby on the first Saturday in May. The first Saturday in September is a much more realistic target, and he is suddenly back in the Derby chase. He broke slow and rallied strongly to capture both of his 2019 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 started galloping again earlier this year. He returned to the worktab Feb. 17 and is no longer on a tight schedule. He seems to be coming to hand quickly after firing a bullet in just his third work on March 1, and they have plenty of time to map out his sophomore campaign.

Derby Points (10)


(6) AUTHENTIC (Into Mischief – Flawless, by Mr. Greeley) – Previous Ranking (#5)

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

Latest Workout: 5f in 1:01.80 (18/37) at Santa Anita Park March 21.   

Comments: He was up on the pace and cruised in all three of his starts as the favorite. He easily beat subsequent El Camino Real Derby hero Azul Coast in the Sham Stakes (G3) Jan. 4, but was all over the place in the stretch. That erratic run second time out had everything to do with lack of experience. He wore ear plugs and was much more professional in the San Felipe (G2). The $350k purchase loves to get into the race early, and he crushed his foes with speed in his first three starts. Look how he discouraged his stablemate Thousand Words in the San Felipe. That one showed heart in his three wins but Authentic’s speed overwhelmed him on March 7. He is expected to make his next points race appearance in the Santa Anita Derby (G1). I am concerned that he will not helped by the later Derby. He appears to be peaking now.   

Derby Points (60)


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

Trainer (Barclay Tagg) – Owner (Sackatoga Stable)

Latest Workout: 5f in 1:02.65 (4/5) at Palm Meadows Training Center March 22. 

Comments: Tagg looks even smarter after skipping the FOY. They were preparing him to peak on the first Saturday in May, and that is no longer the case. The Derby is suddenly four months later and he is still fresh. Just like all of these, winning his next start or two is not important. The Kentucky Derby is still five months away, and it is as though we turned back the Derby calendar to November 2019. The key is to not peak in the spring. These Derby hopefuls need to stay as fresh as possible, while continuing to move forward. The Florida Derby is next, and he is a solid tactical threat on paper.            

Derby Points (22)


(8) INDEPENDENCE HALL (Constitution – Kalahari Cat, by Cape Town) –  Previous Ranking (#7)

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

Latest Workout: 4f in 48.31 (7/67) at Gulfstream Park March 22. 

Comments: I am really starting to have my doubts about his stamina. He did win his first three starts and was miles best of the rest in a runner-up finish in the Sam F. Davis (G3), but last two starts were not nearly as good as his Nashua (G3) romp. He was fractious in the paddock and broke last in the Jerome Jan. 1. He was steered outside and was quickly in front, but he only won because his competition was vastly inferior. He shipped to Tampa Bay Downs after the Jerome, and tracked two overmatched front runners in the Sam F. Davis (G3) at Tampa Bay Feb. 8. He was not able to take advantage of his first run journey and Sole Volante blew right on by him in the stretch. The latter returned to finish 2nd in the Tampa Bay Derby. They have decided on the Florida Derby for his  next points race, and he needs to show more in the stretch at a longer distance.    

Derby Points (14)


(9) THOUSAND WORDS (Pioneerof the Nile – Pomeroys Pistol, by Pomeroy) – Previous Ranking (#11)

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

Latest Workout: 5f in 1:00.20 (18/98) at Santa Anita March 22.

Comments: His below par effort in the San Felipe (G2) is much less of a big deal now that the Derby won’t be run until Sept. 5. He might stay at Santa Anita Park for the SA Derby, or they could just be patient and play the wait and see game. Remember, they paid a $1 million for this one, and he is a lightly raced 2-time graded winner. I am nowhere near ready to give up on him.

Derby Points (25)


(10) ETE INDIEN (Summer Front – East India, by Mizzen Mast) –  Previous Ranking (#10)

Trainer (Patrick Biancone) – Owner (Dream With Me Stable, Patrick Biancone, and others)

Latest Workout: 7f bullet in 1:23.20 (1/4) on turf at Palm Meadows Training Center March 16.   

Comments: There is no doubt that he is fast, but I have a feeling that a mile and an eighth and a mile and a quarter will be out of his reach. His first two starts were on turf, and this barn is getting a reputation for surface switchers. He cruised in an optional claimer on dirt at Gulfstream late last year, and followed that up with a clear 2nd in the Holy Bull (G2) and a facile front running victory from the outside post in the Fountain of Youth (G2). There was not any field depth in his last three dirt tries, and he was well clear but drifting wide in the stretch in the FOY. Let’s see how he handles a mile and an eighth in the Florida Derby (G1).   

Derby Points (54)


(11) SOLE VOLANTE (Karakontie – Light Blow, by Kingmambo) – Previous Ranking (#9)

Trainer (Patrick Biancone) – Owner (Reeves Thoroughbred Racing & Limelight Stables Corp)

Latest Workout: 4f in 50.15 (13/34) at Palm Meadows Training Center March 15.   

Comments: This late runner captured his first two turf starts. He switched to dirt and finished 3rd in the Mucho Macho Man, and got pace help in a rallying victory in the Sam. F. Davis (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs Feb. 8. He put in a nice run to land the place in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) and does not seem to have distance limitations. If the Derby was in May, I would love his chances to at least hit the board. Speed horses have been winning many points races, and he is one of the better later runners this year. Unfortunately for him, the Derby is 5+ months away, and there is no telling what will happen in the coming weeks and months.

Derby Points (30)


THE NEXT NINE: (12) Wells Bayou, (13) Enforceable, (14) Max Player, (15) Modernist, (16) Silver Prospector, (17) Storm the Court, (18) King Guillermo, (19) Mischevious Alex, (20) Eight Rings