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Kentucky Derby 2019 Blog: Lecomte Recap + Smarty Jones Analysis

War of Will made an early statement on the road to Kentucky Derby 2019 with a strong victory in in the Lecomte Stakes (G3) at Fair Grounds on Saturday, Jan. 19. This week, the Derby points race series makes a pit stop in Hot Springs, Arkansas for the Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn Park on Friday, Jan. 25.

Kentucky Derby Points Race Analysis

Smarty Jones Stakes from Oaklawn Park (1-25-19)

OP 8 (Smarty Jones, 8f) #7 BANKIT (7-2) gets pace to chase in the paper race and almost certainly would have won the Springboard Mile with a better trip. He was a front runner in his first four starts and his newfound late running tactics paid dividends in his last pair. He is proven at the distance and might be able to wear these down with a clean trip. #8 Gray Attempt (5-2) won his last two sprints on fast dirt and he improved his FIRE, CPR, Pace, and Final Ratings in all three starts. He beat Manny Wah and Hog Creek Hustle in the Sugar Bowl and those two returned to finish 2nd and 3rd in the Lecomte Stakes (G3) at Fair Grounds on Jan. 19. #1 Long Range Toddy (4-1) won his last three starts under Richard Eramia including the Remington Springboard Mile at this distance. He projects a ground saving stalking trip. #6 Forloveofcountry (12-1) has won at this distance twice overall on turf and wet dirt. His numbers jumped up in the slop Nov. 24 but he has never competed on fast dirt. The Plays: #7 to win, Exacta 7/1-8, Exacta 1-8/7, Trifecta 1-7-8/1-7-8/6


Kentucky Derby 2019 Point Race Recaps

Lecomte Stakes (G3) Recap (1-19-19) - Winner: War of Will

War of Will passed his first Derby points race test with flying colors. He stalked the pace, took over after six furlongs, and widened to win by four lengths under Tyler Gaffalione. Despite his visually impressive score, he did not do enough to make it on my “exceptional eleven” Derby contenders list. He sits at lucky number thirteen currently. He has a long distance turf pedigree and is a promising runner going forward, but it is tough to get excited about these early Derby points races. We will learn much more about him when he faces better competition in the Risen Star and Louisiana Derby. I don’t think there was much depth to this field. War of Will’s main foe Mr. Money got sick and scratched, and a pair of horses stretching out from sprint races finished 2nd and 3rd (Hog Creek Hustle, Manny Wah). 52-1 longshot Wicked Indeed rounded out the superfecta, and Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) runners Plus Que Parfait and Roiland finished 5th and 7th. That Churchill points race from last year seemed suspect. Tight Ten, a decent juvenile runner last season, had a bad beginning and was taken out of his early game in a throwout effort, but I still think he is a sprinter. In the end, War of Will looked good beating suspect company and I am cautiously optimistic that he will continue to progress as distances increase.


Jarrod Horak’s “Exceptional Eleven" Kentucky Derby 2019 Contenders (1-24-19)

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

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

Latest Workout: 4f in 48.60 (16/93) at Santa Anita Park on Jan. 20.

Comments: It’s official! Bob Baffert’s colt was named two-year-old champion earlier this evening, and the deserving Eclipse Award winner had an outstanding juvenile campaign. He won his first two Del Mar starts in a 16-day span including the Del Mar Futurity (G1). After that, he stretched out in distance and captured the American Pharaoh Stakes (G1) and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1). The Juvenile has been a productive race so far (three next-out points race winners). Show finisher Signalman returned to take the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2). 5th place finisher Gunmetal Gray won the Sham Stakes (G3) in his next start, and 7th place finisher Mind Control won the Jerome Stakes at Aqueduct on New Year’s Day. He has a strong pedigree, Derby-winning connections, class, running style versatility, and is in great shape as the current Derby points leader. He returned to the work tab Jan. 9 and is expected to have two Derby preps this year (San Felipe & SA Derby likely targets).   

Derby Points (30)


(2) IMPROBABLE (City Zip - Rare Event, by A. P. Indy)

Latest Workout: 4f in 48.00 (7/93) at Santa Anita Park on Jan. 20.

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

Comments: The Eclipse Award finalist followed up a debut sprint win at Santa Anita with a runaway score in the Street Sense at Churchill Downs on the Breeders’ Cup undercard (one mile around one turn). Bob Baffert’s talented runner was the strong favorite in the CashCall Futurity (G1) at Los Alamitos Race Course on Dec. 8, and he won for fun from the inside post. He has been finishing like he wants more ground and is a very promising player on the Derby trail. He returned to the work tab Jan. 9 and could end up shipping to Oaklawn for some upcoming Derby preps.  

Derby Points (10)

(3) VEKOMA (Candy Ride - Mona de Momma, by Speightstown)

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

Latest Workout: 4f in 49.87 (12/21) at Palm Beach Downs on Jan. 19.

Comments: Followed up a smart six furlong debut win at Belmont Park Sept. 23 with a fairly easy triumph in the Nashua (G3) at one mile Nov. 4. He was originally slated to go in the Remsen Stakes but got a break instead. He is wintering in Florida and returned to the work tab on Jan. 12. He has some route and sprint influences in his pedigree, and we will see how far he wants to go later this year.   

(4) MAXIMUS MISCHIEF (Into Mischief - Reina Maria, by Songandaprayer)

Trainer (Robert E. Reid Jr) - Owner (Cash is King LLC)

Latest Workout: 5f bullet in 58.02 (1/57) at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 19.

Comments: There is no question that he is fast and talented, and he stepped up to the big leagues and passed his first graded test around two turns in the Remsen (G2) at Aqueduct on Dec. 1. I am not completely sold on him at this point due to his suspect long distance pedigree and soft trip in his stakes debut, but he has done nothing wrong yet. He is wintering in Florida and got back to work on Jan. 12, and he fired a big five panel bullet on Jan. 19. He might show up in the Holy Bull Stakes (G2) at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 2.  

Derby Points (10)

(5) SIGNALMAN (General Quarters - Trip South, by Trippi)

Trainer (Ken McPeek) - Owner (Magdalena Racing)

Comments: This one racked up the Derby points as a juvenile with top three finishes in the Breeders’ Futurity (2nd), BC Juvenile (3rd), and Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (1st). He sure is consistent but I am not sure about him as a long term prospect. He is wintering in Florida and is reportedly galloping at Payson Park but has yet to record a workout this year.

Derby Points (18)

(6) NETWORK EFFECT (Mark Valeski - Sandy Key Gal, by Put It Back)

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

Latest Workout: 5f in 1:01.95 (3/12) at Palm Meadows on Jan. 13.

Comments: Followed up a solid win in his seven furlong debut at Saratoga with a clear place finish in the Nashua (G3) second time out. He got no pace help in the Remsen (G2) and came running late for the place in a decent effort. He clearly has some talent and seems to have a bit of staying power as well. He is spending the winter in Florida and returned to the work tab at Palm Meadows Training Center on Dec. 30.

Derby Points (4)

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

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

Latest Workout: 5f in 1:02.80 (115/140) at Santa Anita Park on Jan. 20.

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 (G1) and caught his stablemate Rowayton for the place. He shipped to Churchill Downs for the BC Juvenile (G1) and rallied from 12th after a half-mile to end up 5th at the finish (beaten twelve lengths). He showed a nice late kick to win the Sham Stakes (G3) in his sophomore debut at Santa Anita Park on Jan. 6. He has experience and stamina but will need to run faster in future points races to be considered a top tier Derby contender. He had his first workout since the Sham on Jan. 20.

Derby Points (14)

(8) BANKIT (Central Banker - Sister in Arms, by Colonel John)

Trainer (Steve Asmussen) - Owner (Winchell Thoroughbreds and Willis Horton Racing)

Latest Workout: 3f in :38.40 (13/18) at Oaklawn Park on Jan. 21.

Comments: I have become a big fan of the overachieving New York-bred. He was a front runner in his first four sprint starts and was able to win one of those at Saratoga. He turned the corner in the Sleepy Hollow Stakes for state breds at Belmont Park Oct. 20. In that one turn mile on the dirt, he was 8th after the opening quarter and 7th after a half. He made steady progress and crossed the line 5+ lengths in front. That effort earned him a shot at a Kentucky Derby points race, and once again he showed nice late interest to just miss in the Remington Springboard Mile. There is little doubt that he would have won the Springboard Mile with a better trip. He has worked four times at Oaklawn Park since that race including a five furlong bullet on Jan. 5. He goes next in the Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn on Jan. 25.

Derby Points (4)

(9) INSTAGRAND (Into Mischief - Assets of War, by Lawyer Ron)

Trainer (Jerry Hollendorfer) - Owner (OXO Equine LLC)

Latest Workout: 4f in 47.60 (5/93) at Santa Anita Park on Jan. 20.

Comments: He ran away from his foes in his first two starts including the Best Pal (G2) at Del Mar Aug. 11. His went on vacation after his connections decided to pass on the Del Mar Futurity (G1) and American Pharaoh Stakes (G1) last year. I am not sure how far he ultimately wants to go but he certainly showed a lot of promise as a juvenile and has three published workouts this year (thru Jan. 20).  

(10) MUCHO (Blame - Extent, by Pulpit)

Trainer (William Mott) - Owner (Claiborne Farm and Adele B. Dilschneider)

Latest Workout: 4f in 50.20 (6/23) at Payson Park on Jan. 21.

Comments: Original “exceptional eleven” member returned to the list after getting back on the work tab on Jan. 6. He followed up an okay 2nd in his June 10 debut at Belmont Park with a runaway maiden victory at Saratoga Aug. 4. He was the strong favorite in the Hopeful (G1) on closing day at Saratoga but he was unable to catch Mind Control while clearly second best (129 Today’s Racing Digest Final Rating). He figures to enjoy two turns.

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

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

Latest Workout: 4f in 50.20 (6/23) at Payson Park on Jan. 21.

Comments: Returned to the list after getting back on the work tab on Jan. 6. 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 to break his maiden on Nov. 10. He is bred to be any kind and should continue to develop.

THE NEXT NINE: (12) Win Win Win, (13) War of Will, (14) Code of Honor, (15) Coliseum, (16) Kingly, (17) Standard Deviation, (18) Owendale, (19) Bourbon War, (20) Country House

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