Kentucky Derby Blog Update: BC Juvenile Recap

Game Winner solidified his grip on the 2-year-old male division with a professional victory from off the pace in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs on Friday, November 2. He is expected to be named 2-year-old champion and is the clear early favorite for Kentucky Derby 2019.

Kentucky Derby 2019 Point Race Recaps: Breeders’ Cup Juvenile

Game Winner (1st) – Juvenile favorite lived up to top billing in a solid off the pace score by 2-1/2 lengths. He was bumped at the start and raced wide in his first start away from California. The Bob Baffert trainee is a solid competitor and deserves the 2-year-old title. His pedigree and connections make him a viable Derby contender. I like his running style versatility and winning spirit as well. I am not sure how strong this race was from top to bottom, and we will almost certainly see multiple late developers in the coming weeks and months.

Game Winner Horse Racing Handicapping Past Performances

Knicks Go (2nd) – His 70-1 stunner in the Breeders’ Futurity was not a complete fluke. He battled hard throughout and held the place by a length at 40-1 in this event, and he was the best of the speed types on this day. He is better than I thought but still has stamina questions to answer next year.

Knicks Go Horse Racing Handicapping Past Performances

Signalman (3rd) – Landed the place in the Breeders’ Futurity from the inside post. This time, he broke from post 13 and was clearly best of the rest in 3rd. I am not sure he wants to travel much beyond a mile and a sixteenth, but that is a question that will be answered next year.

Signalman Horse Racing Handicapping Past Performances

Mr. Money (4th) – He was in a good stalking spot throughout and ended up an even 4th, more than six lengths behind Signalman. He outran his 41-1 odds.

Gunmetal Gray (5th) – He fell too far back early and rallied from 13th to 5th in an okay effort. He is back in Southern California and must not lose contact with the field in his upcoming starts.

Dueling (6th) – Never seriously got involved from the inside post and ended up 3+ lengths behind his stablemate Gunmetal Gray.

Mind Control (7th) – Got sick and missed the Breeders’ Futurity, and he was pushed out of position right out of the gate in this race. He passed a few tired rivals and should be fitter next time.

Topper T (8th) – Chased the pace from post 12 and retreated. He was training well heading into this event and might show more next year for Bill Mott. He has stamina questions to answer.

Tight Ten (9th) – He has good early/pressing speed for Asmussen but steadied early, hit the rail, and was basically done after that. He has some ability but stamina is a big question at this point.

Complexity (10th) – The Champagne hero is fast and talented, but he completely flunked this stamina test. He probably deserves another chance around two turns, but his pedigree is sprint oriented and his future is probably in shorter events.

Derby Date (11th) – Was last early and passed a couple of tired runners. The maiden was completely overmatched in this spot.

Well Defined (12th) – Did not have the smoothest stalking trip and came up empty under Mike Smith. This was a class test for the Florida-bred, and he did not come close to passing it. He is proven at Gulfstream Park and will probably test the deep waters at that venue next year.

Standard Deviation (13th) – Overcame the outside post to finish a fine 3rd in the Breeders’ Futurity. This time, he had a troubled beginning and never got seriously involved.

Jarrod Horak’s “Exceptional Eleven" Kentucky Derby 2019 Contenders

(1) GAME WINNER (Candy Ride – Indyan Giving, by A. P. Indy)

Trainer (Bob Baffert) – Owner (Gary and Mary West)

Comments: Easily captured his first two Del Mar starts in a 16-day span, including a sharp score in the G1 Del Mar Futurity. He had better race spacing in the G1 American Pharaoh, and he easily passed that two turn test at Santa Anita Park on Sept. 29. He shipped to Churchill Downs for the BC Juvenile and rallied to win that one by 2+ lengths. Baffert’s talented colt is 4-for-4 and almost certainly gets named 2-year-old champion. His happy connections are mapping out his road to Derby schedule.

Derby Points (30)

(2) CODE OF HONOR (Noble Mission, Reunited, by Dixie Union)

Trainer (Shug McGaughey) – Owner (William S. Farish)

Latest Workout: 3f bullet in 37.43 (1/4) at Belmont Park on Nov. 15.

Comments: Showed good speed right out of the box in his front running debut win at Saratoga Aug. 18. He made his second career start in the Champagne, and he ran a big race after stumbling badly at the start. He made a sustained run from 10th and last and rallied five-wide in the stretch while clearly second best. He got sick, missed the BC Juvenile, and if everything goes perfect, he figures to make his next start in the Remsen Stakes at Aqueduct on Dec. 1.

Derby Points (4)

code of honor horse racing handicapping past performances

(3) IMPROBABLE (City Zip – Rare Event, by A. P. Indy)

Trainer (Bob Baffert) – Owner (WinStar Farm, China Horse Club, SF Racing)

Latest Workout: 4f in 48.80 (9/39) at Santa Anita Park on Nov. 15.

Comments: Followed up a professional stalk and pounce debut sprint score at Santa Anita with a runaway victory in the Street Sense at Churchill Downs on the BC undercard (one mile). Baffert’s promising runner looks like a candidate for the Los Alamitos Futurity on Dec. 8.

Improbable horse racing handicapping past performances

(4) KING FOR A DAY (Uncle Mo – Ubetwereven, by French Deputy)

Trainer (Todd Pletcher) – Owner (Red Oak Stable)

Latest Workout: 5f in 1:01.55 (2/23) at Belmont Park on Nov. 9.

Comments: Had a wide, troubled trip when checking in 3rd behind Complexity in his six furlong debut at Saratoga Sept. 18. He got a chance to stretch his legs at a mile and a sixteenth at Belmont second time out, and he set a pressured pace and kept on going in a 2-1/4 length tally on Oct. 4. Runner-up Felix the Fox was 2nd again on Oct. 26, and 4th place finisher Tacitus looked good graduating at Aqueduct Nov. 10.

(5) VEKOMA (Candy Ride – Mona de Momma, by Speightstown)

Trainer (George Weaver) – Owner (R.A. Hill Stable and Gatsas Stables)

Comments: Stalked the pace and smartly took down his six furlong debut at Belmont Park Sept. 23. He stepped up into the graded ranks in the Grade 3 Nashua at one mile Nov. 4, and once again he stalked, pounced, and won by a bit less than two lengths. He has some route and sprint influences in his pedigree, and we will see how far he wants to go in the future. The Remsen is the next logical step.

(6) FORTIN HILL (Mucho Macho Man – Dusty Rose, by Cherokee Run)

Trainer (Chad Brown) – Owner (OXO Equine LLC)

Latest Workout: 4f in 49.89 (48/54) at Belmont Park on Nov. 11.

Comments: The $575k purchase made a sparkling debut on Oct. 12 at Belmont Park. The first timer broke smoothly from the outside post under Irad Ortiz Jr. He tracked the pace outside, took over, and rolled home by 5+ lengths. He has had three published works since his Oct. 12 debut.

(7) GUNMETAL GRAY (Exchange Rate – Classofsixtythree, by Include)

Trainer (Jerry Hollendorfer) – Owner (West Point Thoroughbreds and Jerry Hollendorfer)

Latest Workout: 4f in :50.00 (31/64) at Santa Anita Park on Nov. 11.

Comments: Ended up 5th behind highly regarded Baffert runner Roadster in his debut, and that learning experience paid dividends second time out. In his second start at one mile, he stalked, pounced, and won by 6+ lengths under Drayden Van Dyke at Del Mar Aug. 22. He resurfaced in the American Pharaoh Stakes, and he caught his stablemate Rowayton for the place. He shipped to Churchill Downs for the BC Juvenile, and he rallied from 12th after a half-mile to end up 5th at the finish. The Juvenile field was very strung out, and he was beaten more than twelve lengths. He seems to have stamina but not enough quickness in the stakes ranks. The Los Alamitos Futurity in December would be a logical target.

Derby Points (4)

Gunmetal Gray horse racing handicapping past performances

(8) NETWORK EFFECT (Mark Valeski – Sandy Key Gal, by Put It Back)

Trainer (Chad Brown) – Owner (Klaravich Stables, Inc.)

Comments: It is never easy to win first time out at seven panels, and this one outran his 8-1 odds in his Saratoga bow Aug. 11. In that race, he stalked the pace from post 2 and pulled clear to win by three lengths over a pair of experienced runners (Derby Date, Road Home). That was a strung out field of eight. He tried stakes company in the G3 Nashua second time out, and he stalked the pace and ended up seven lengths clear of the show. His sire Mark Valeski landed the place in the G2 Risen Star and G2 LA Derby in 2012, and he won the G2 Peter Pan later that year, and the G3 Mineshaft as a 4-year-old. Dam Sandy Key Gal could stay a mile on turf.

(9) U S NAVY CROSS (Curlin – Honor Bestowed, by Honor Grades)

Trainer (Chad Brown) – Owner (Allen Stable, Inc. and Peter M. Brant)

Comments: Nice winning debut at seven panels on Sept. 29. In that maiden special weight affair at Belmont Park, he bided his time in 6th place before producing a nice turn of foot to prevail by a bit more than a length as the betting favorite under Jose Ortiz. Jonathan Thomas first timer Till Then set the pace and was clearly second best. That was a professional effort at a tricky debut distance. In his second career start in the G3 Nashua Stakes at Aqueduct, he lost contact with the field early and ended up passing a couple of runners in a disappointing, distant 4th place finish. He still has upside and I want to see what he can do around two turns.

(10) ENDORSED (Medaglia d’Oro – Dance Card, by Tapit)

Trainer (Kiaran McLaughlin) – Owner (Godolphin, LLC)

Comments: He broke slow, raced inside, moved out, and surged late to win by a neck in his winning Saratoga bow six furlongs (137 Today’s Racing Digest Final Rating). He drew the rail in the G1 Champagne at Belmont on Oct. 6, and he sat inside behind strong fractions in midpack before working his way up to 2nd in the stretch. He weakened in the final furlong to finish a disappointing 6th. Based on his strong connections, pedigree, and sharp debut, it is too early to give up on him, but his Champagne effort was not pretty. He is bred to excel over a route of ground, and we may see a much better effort around two turns in the future. He has not had any published workouts since the Champagne.

(11) TACITUS (Tapit – Close Hatches, by First Defence)

Trainer (William Mott) – Owner (Juddmonte Farms, Inc.)

Comments: Made his debut at a mile and a sixteenth at Belmont on Oct. 4, and he made a wide bid before finishing 4th behind King for a Day, Felix the Fox, and Kentucky Wildcat. In his second career start at one mile on dirt at Aqueduct, he was a bit slow early but made a nice outside move turning for home and outgamed Erlich to break his maiden on Nov. 10. He owns an outstanding pedigree and should continue to get better.

THE NEXT NINE: (12) Instagrand, (13) Roadster, (14) Knicks Go, (15) Signalman, (16) Mind Control, (17) Complexity, (18) Dueling, (19), Mucho, (20) Well Defined