Kentucky Derby 2020 Update Dec. 8, 2019

The Kentucky Derby 2020 preps are winding down for the juvenile set. Silver Prospector took the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) Nov. 30. Shotski wired the field in the Remsen (G2) Dec. 7, and Thousand Words captured the Los Al Futurity (G2) later that day for trainer Bob Baffert. The Derby trail has one more stop for the juveniles next week, the $400k Springboard Mile at Remington Park on Sunday, Dec. 15. They will all officially turn three on January 1, and the Jerome at Aqueduct is the first points race of 2020.  

Kentucky Derby 2020 Points Race Recaps

Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) Recap (11-30-19) – Winner: Silver Prospector ($17.80)

This graded point race was run at a mile and a sixteenth in the slop. Longshot New Eagle set the pace and favorites South Bend and Tiz the Law were in chase mode. I initially thought my value top choice Silver Prospector would dictate terms, but he was patiently handled under Ricardo Santana Jr. The eventual winner rallied while out in the clear, and that was the key to victory. 87-1 bomber Finnick the Fierce rallied to edge Tiz the Law for the place, but the latter probably could have captured this event with a different trip. He was hemmed in from the inside post for much of the running, and there is little to no doubt that he would have finished at least 2nd if he sat the same journey as Silver Prospector. Enforceable rallied from last and was gaining late in an okay 4th place finish. He ran out of ground and was in the wrong race. He should have been in the Remsen (G2) at a mile and an eighth. New Eagle faded to 5th, and South Bend, Fighting Seabee, and Two Last Words trailed. The jury is out on the strength of this race, and the wet track makes it tougher to decipher. 

Remsen Stakes (G2) Recap (12-7-19) – Winner: Shotski ($19.60)

Shotski rode the speed bias to victory in this graded affair at a mile and an eighth. He was one of five front running winners on the card, and the pace was slow in this event. He was coasting along up front, opened up in the stretch, and held on to score by a diminishing 1/2 length. I don’t think this was a strong race, and the only one I am interested in is runner up Ajaaweed. The latter was the only one making up any ground, and he really moved forward after a well-beaten 4th in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1). He has been part of my Derby list all along and seems to want more ground. Show finisher Chase Tracker chased the pace from the inside post and was almost four lengths behind Ajaaweed. Informed was best of the rest in 4th, and was followed by Prince James, a flat Alpha Sixty Six, Cleon Jones, a fading Forza Di Oro, and Amends. 

Los Alamitos Futurity (G2) Recap (12-7-19) – Winner: Thousand Words ($5.40)

Only four lined up in this graded dirt route on a good (sealed) track. All four were decent runners, and Bob Baffert trained half the field. Speaking of Baffert, he absolutely owns this race, and it was surprising that Thousand Words was not the favorite. He should have been. The pace was quick in here with High Velocity sprinting to the early lead. The other three were in chase mode, and Thousand Words was the closest pursuer. The latter took a short lead in the stretch and BC Juvenile runner-up Anneau d’Oro immediately confronted him. Those two bounded clear and battled all the way to the wire. The both had the lead late, and Thousand Words fought back and scored by a neck. Anneau d’Oro ran a winning race in defeat, and High Velocity was another five lengths back in 3rd. Wrecking Crew gave way and was eased. In the end, it was tough to read this fast early/slow late stakes on a wet track. The top two are decent sorts. 

Hot Prospects: Azul Coast

This is a new Derby blog feature. Each time I update the blog, I will profile one exciting new prospect on the Derby trail. Recent debut winner Azul Coast is first hot prospect to keep an eye on. Bob Baffert’s $320k son of Super Saver made a splash in his first start at Los Alamitos on Dec. 8. He raced wide throughout on the good (sealed) main track, and won going away by four lengths under Drayden Van Dyke. It is never easy to win around two turns first time out, and this one did it with ease over a couple of decent experienced rivals (Special Day, Jeffnjohn’sthundr). A Derby points race is almost certainly on his radar screen.    

Jarrod Horak’s “Exceptional Eleven” Kentucky Derby 2019 Contenders (12-8-19)

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

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

Comments: His debut in the Saratoga slop at 5.5f on Sept. 2 was strong. 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 the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) second time out. He stretched 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 Maxfield passed him. All in all a very solid performance. He will spend the next six weeks at WinStar Farm, and will return to Todd Pletcher’s barn after that to prepare for a winter campaign in Florida. His connections are looking for a growth spurt in the off season.  

Derby Points (4)

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(2) HONOR A. P. (Honor Code – Hollywood Story, by Wild Rush) – Previous Ranking (#3)

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

Latest Workout: 5f bullet in 1:00.80 (1/7) at Del Mar Dec. 2. 

Comments: Rallied from 10th to finish 2nd in his 6f bow at Del Mar Aug. 17. Stretched out to a mile second time out Oct. 13, and easily went all the way in a sharp effort. He might be a good one for patient trainer John Shirreffs. I am not 100% sure what is next for this one. They might be looking for an allowance spot, or he could show up in a points race like the Sham (G3) at Santa Anita on January 4. 

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(3) THOUSAND WORDS (Pioneerof the Nile – Pomeroys Pistol, by Pomeroy) – Previous Ranking (#4)

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

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

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 out for 60 days. He will return to the Brendan Walsh shedrow in Palm Meadows, Florida in a couple months. 

Derby Points (10)

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

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

Comments: This one really came out of nowhere. It is not easy to win first time out from the rail post, and he did it rather easily at the tricky debut distance of seven furlongs at Parx Sept. 21. He was supposed to run in an allowance race at Laurel second time out, but there was a water main break and the card was scrapped. They decided to ship to Aqueduct for the Nashua (G3) on Nov. 3, and he chased the pace and ran off the screen in a 12+ length tally. There were some promising runners in that 9-horse field, and he emphatically swatted them away. I have no idea how far he wants to run, but he sure looked good in his first two starts at seven panels and a one turn mile.  

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(6) AJAAWEED (Curlin – Assiya, by Daaher) –  Previous Ranking (#10)

Trainer (Kiaran McLaughlin) – Owner (Shadwell Stable) 

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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(7) DENNIS’ MOMENT (Tiznow – Transplendid, by Elusive Quality) – Previous Ranking (#8)

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

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 was given a clean bill of health after that, and will get a 45-day break before rejoining the Romans barn at Gulfstream Park. 

Derby Points (10) 

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

Trainer (Barclay Tagg) – Owner (Sackatoga Stable)

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 will spend 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 20.   

Derby Points (12)

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(9) ANNEAU D’OR (Medaglia d’Oro – Walk Close, by Tapit) – Previous Ranking (#13) 

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 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)

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

Trainer (James Jerkens) – Owner (Stronach Stables)

Comments: Started out fast win a 5.5f debut win at Belmont July 4, and a solid score over subsequent Iroquois (G3) runner-up Scabbard in the Saratoga Special (G2) at 6.5f Aug. 10. He was the Hopeful Stakes (G1) favorite, but scratched when the track came up wet. I thought he ran okay in the Champagne. He gamely held 2nd that day and will get a six week freshening in Ocala, Florida. He is expected to rejoin the Jimmy Jerkens barn after that, and look for him on the Derby trail at Gulfstream Park next year.  

Derby Points (4)

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(11) ENFORCEABLE (Tapit – Justwhistledixie, by Dixie Union) – Previous Ranking (#6)

Trainer (Mark Casse) – Owner (John Oxley) 

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). After 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. 

Derby Points (3)

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