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Kentucky Derby Blog Year-End Update

All of the Kentucky Derby 2019 points races are in the book for 2018 and the Derby trail will start getting more serious as the calendar turns to January.

Likely 2-year-old champion Game Winner ends the year as my top ranked Derby contender. Bob Baffert’s unbeaten colt owns running style versatility and a promising long distance pedigree.

Game Winner Kentucky Derby Past Performances 
Speaking of Baffert, he is absolutely loaded with talented Derby trail runners. In addition to Game Winner, he has impressive Los Alamitos Futurity winner Improbable and sharp debut maiden winner Coliseum. The latter might end up being his best runner when the dust settles.

Parx shipper Maximus Mischief stepped up to the big leagues and delivered a strong front running victory in the Remsen at Aqueduct on Dec. 1. His early speed makes him a dangerous threat in upcoming Derby trail events.

Shug McGaughey saddled Kentucky Derby winner Orb a few years ago, and he has promising Champagne runner-up Code of Honor this time around. He got sick and missed the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and ended up missing the Remsen as well. He is spending the winter in Florida and should be ready to run again early next year.

Signalman ran well without winning in the Breeders’ Futurity and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, and he broke though with his first graded victory in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs. He might kick off his 3-year-old campaign in the Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park.

There are many more exciting prospects including but not limited to Nashua winner Vekoma, Nashua and Remsen runner-up Network Effect, and American Pharoah Stakes place finisher Gunmetal Gray. Derby hopefuls will come and go quickly as we travel down the long and winding road to the first Saturday in May.

As always, I started my Derby blog in September and four of my original “exceptional eleven” contenders are still on the list (Game Winner, Code of Honor, Gunmetal Gray, Roadster). Others like Instagrand have been on the sidelines and could return to the list with big efforts early next year.

Kentucky Derby 2019 Point Race Recaps:

Springboard Mile 2018 Recap (12-16-18) - Winner: Long Range Toddy - 126 Today’s Racing Digest Final Rating

The Springboard Mile at Remington Park was the final Kentucky Derby 2019 points race of the year, and trainer Steve Asmussen saddled five of the eleven entrants. His runners ended up first, second, fourth, eighth, and tenth. Dobbins G and Marquee Prince were prominent early, and Long Range Toddy was always in a good spot behind them under Richard Eramia. Dunph stalked wide and made the first run, but Long Range Toddy came after him in the stretch and gained the late advantage. Bankit was last for much of the running before weaving his way through traffic and closing hard to miss by a head while likely best. The top two were 2+ lengths clear of Dunph, and Tone Broke charged late to complete the superfecta. Marquee Prince weakened to 5th and was followed by disappointing favorite Epic Dreamer, D Toz, Kaziranga, Dobbins G, Tobacco Road, and Six Shooter. I am not sure how strong this race was in regards to Derby contenders, but I really liked the effort turned in by Bankit, who earned the best FIRE Number (89) and CPR (127) in the Springboard Mile. The former front runner has learned to relax and finish in his last pair, and the talented New York-bred could end up having a productive 3-year-old season.

Long Range Toddy Kentucky Derby Past Performances 

Jarrod Horak’s “Exceptional Eleven" Kentucky Derby 2019 Contenders (12-27-18)

(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 quality victory in the Del Mar Futurity. He had much better race spacing in the American Pharaoh Stakes and easily passed that two turn test at Santa Anita Park Sept. 29. He shipped to Churchill Downs for the Breeders’ Cup 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.  He is expected to have two Derby preps next year. 

Derby Points (30)

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

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

Latest Workout: 4f in :49.20 (4/42) at Payson Park on Dec. 22.

Comments: Flashed early speed right out of the gate in his winning debut at Saratoga Aug. 18. He made his second career start in the G1 Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park, and he ran a big race after stumbling badly at the start. In that event, he made a sustained run from last and rallied five-wide in the stretch to finish a clear 2nd. He got sick and missed the BC Juvenile, and patient trainer McGaughey was not happy with his training and decided to skip the Remsen Stakes at Aqueduct on Dec. 1. He is spending the winter at Payson Park in Florida and returned to the work tab Dec. 9.

Derby Points (4)

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

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

Comments: 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). Baffert’s talented runner was the strong favorite in the G1 CashCall Futurity 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.

Derby Points (10)

Improbable Kentucky Derby Past Performances 

(4) COLISEUM (Tapit - Game Face, by Menifee)

Trainer (Bob Baffert) - Owner (Godolphin, LLC)

Latest Workout: 6f bullet in 1:12.60 (1/19) at Santa Anita Park on Dec. 24.

Comments: The well-bred colt was outstanding in his seven furlong debut at Del Mar Nov. 17. He went straight to the front from the inside post under Joe Talamo and was quickly in command by four lengths after a half-mile. He was on cruise control throughout and won by 6+ lengths while under a hand ride. He has drilled three bullets since his debut and figures to adore two turns.

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

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

Comments: Followed up a smart six furlong debut win at Belmont Park Sept. 23 with a fairly easy triumph in the Grade 3 Nashua at one mile Nov. 4. He has some route and sprint influences in his pedigree, and we will see how far he wants to go in the future. He was originally slated to go in the Remsen Stakes but got a break instead and will resume his career in 2019.

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

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

Latest Workout: 6f bullet in 1:14 (1/12) at Santa Anita Park on Dec. 22.

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. I would like to see him ship to Fair Grounds for the Lecomte Stakes on Jan. 19. Jerry Hollendorfer shipped Instilled Regard to New Orleans to win the 2018 Lecomte.     

Derby Points (4)

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

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

Comments: Followed up a professional win in his seven furlong debut at Saratoga with a clear place finish in the G3 Nashua second time out. He got no pace help in the G2 Remsen and came running late for the place in a rock solid effort. He clearly has some talent and seems to have a bit of staying power as well. We will learn more about him in a truly run route race vs. tougher competition next year.

Derby Points (4)

Network Effect Kentucky Derby Past Performances

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

Trainer (Ken McPeek) - Owner (Magdalena Racing)

Comments: This one keeps racking up the Derby points 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 at Payson Park in Florida and is tentatively scheduled to kick off his sophomore campaign in the Fountain of Youth Stakes.

Derby Points (18)

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

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

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 G2 Remsen 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 will winter in Florida and is expected to have two Derby preps next year.

Derby Points (10)

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

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

Comments: I have become a 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. I do not know how far he will ultimately want to go against top company, but I love his newfound closing kick, and they should have fun with this one next year.

Derby Points (4)


(11) ROADSTER (Quality Road - Ghost Dancing, by Silver Ghost)

Trainer (Bob Baffert) - Owner (Speedway Stable LLC)

Latest Workout: 5f in 1:02.80 (38/66) at Santa Anita Park on Dec. 19.

Comments: Overcame the often intimidating inside post in his professional debut at Del Mar July 29 and was made the strong favorite in the G1 Del Mar Futurity at that same venue Sept. 3. In the latter event, he did not show the same brilliance in an even show finish. He was originally expected to stretch out in the G1 American Pharaoh but got a couple of months off instead, and he returned to the work tab Nov. 28.

THE NEXT NINE: (12) Instagrand, (13) Mind Control, (14) King for a Day, (15) Tacitus, (16) Dueling, (17) Kingly, (18) Mucho Gusto, (19) Well Defined, (20) Extra Hope

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