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Kentucky Derby 2019 for 2-8-19

The Road to Kentucky Derby 2019 makes just one stop this week at Tampa Bay Downs for the Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3). Last year’s Breeders’ Futurity winner and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile runner-up Knicks Go is the morning line favorite.

Kentucky Derby 2019 Points Race Analysis for Saturday (2-9-19)

TAM 11 (G3 Sam F. Davis, 8.5f) #6 KENTUCKY WILDCAT (9-2) made nice progress in all three starts in New York last year and graduated in a flat mile affair when last seen at Aqueduct Dec. 1 (3 next-out winners). He owns a nice route pedigree and has the right running style for this (fast pace expected). #8 So Alive (5-1) stretched out to two turns and caught a fast track for the first time, and he looked good winning that local optional claiming event Jan 6 (blinkers on). He came back to drill a bullet Feb 3 and Castellano comes in to ride the Pletcher trainee. He gets pace to chase and might offer a hint of value. #10 Still Dreaming (15-1) is interesting at a price for Motion. He dueled and weakened in his 6f bow at Laurel Nov. 22, and he stretched out to a mile and was a sharp winner at that same venue Jan. 1 (clear runner-up Red Gum next-out winner). #4 Cave Run (6-1) is bred to route and gets pace to chase. He still has to prove himself on fast dirt and over a route of ground. #1 Counter Offer (12-1) was clearly second best behind So Alive last time. He should save all of the ground before launching his last rally and might spice up the exotics. I don’t love the outside post and the $460k purchase might end up losing too much ground stalking the pace. I have never been a big fan of #3 Knicks Go (5-2) and he will almost certainly take too much action today. He stretched out and stole the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at 70-1 last fall but that was not a fast race. His best effort was a runner-up finish in the BC Juvenile at 40-1 and he followed that up with a fading 11th place finish in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) in the slop. He meets plenty of other speed and is worth trying to beat on the win end. The Plays: #6 to win, Exacta 6/8-10, Exacta 8-10/6, Trifecta 6-8/1-3-4-6-8-10/1-4-6-8


Kentucky Derby Points Race Recaps

Withers Stakes (G3) from Aqueduct (2-2-19) - Winner: Tax

It is pretty early for these young sophomores to be traveling a mile and an eighth, and we really did not learn much in this affair. It was a thrilling three-horse photo finish that went to Tax by a head over front runner Not That Brady, and Our Braintrust was another neck back in 3rd. Former claimer Tax did not have the smoothest journey from the inside post and showed some determination. The runner-up did not have the best start and that probably cost him the win. Our Braintrust had stamina questions to answer and the fact that he hung in there throughout makes me think that none of these wanted to go this far. All-weather specialist Sir Winston was up for 4th and was followed by Admire, Moretti, and Lucky Lee.


Holy Bull Stakes (G2) from Gulfstream Park (2-2-19) - Winner: Harvey Wallbanger

Harvey Wallbanger stormed home from the back of the pack to pull off a 29-1 shocker in the Holy Bull Stakes (G2) at Gulfstream Park on Saturday, Feb. 2. He has stamina and a decent late kick for trainer Ken McPeek, but he was really helped by the race shape in this event. Overall, I was not impressed with the quality of this Derby prep. I was surprised to see Harvey Wallbanger win, but 128-1 outsider Everfast running 2nd was a real head-scratcher. The Dale Romans trainee was beaten by a combined 69+ lengths in his other three graded tries and was the slowest entrant in the field on speed figures. That fact that he only lost this race by a length speaks volumes to the overall strength of this field. Strong favorite Maximus Mischief sat the perfect stalking trip and had every chance, but he got tired in a disappointing show finish. There was always a stamina concern for him and he sure looked like a miler today. Epic Dreamer took the race to Maximus Mischief right out of the box and only ended up a length behind that one in an okay performance. He was 6th of 11 in the Springboard Mile Dec. 16 and does not quite have graded stakes ability. Mihos checked in 5th and appears best in extended sprints. Garter and Tie, a disappointing Federal Case, Come On Gerry, and Gladiator King trailed. 


Robert Lewis Stakes (G3) from Santa Anita Park (2-2-19) - Winner: Mucho Gusto

All of the luster was taken out of this race following the defection of Nolo Contesto, and Sadler and company must be thinking what might have been after watching Omaha Beach run off the screen in the fifth race. A field of five left the gate in this Derby points race and heavy favorite Mucho Gusto chased aggressive front runner Magnificent McCool. Bob Baffert’s favorite put away the surface switching early runner and the race was basically over after six furlongs. Mucho Gusto splashed home by 4+ lengths over Sham (G3) hero Gunmetal Gray. The latter gamely wore down Easy Shot for the place, and Magnificent McCool was a couple more lengths back in 4th. Kid Cantina took a bad step on the backstretch and was pulled up and vanned off. I doubt that we saw the Derby winner here but Mucho Gusto joins Extra Hope as next-out dirt route winners from the Los Alamitos Futurity (G1). Those runners certainly flattered Improbable this week.


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)

Latest Workout: 5f in 1:00.20 (9/130) at Santa Anita Park on Feb. 8.

Comments: Bob Baffert’s two-year-old champion went 4-for-4 as a juvenile including a trio of grade one victories (Del Mar Futurity, American Pharoah Stakes, Breeders’ Cup Juvenile). The BC 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: 6f in 1:15.00 (11/17) at Santa Anita Park on Feb. 8.

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. Troubled Los Al Futurity show finisher Extra Hope was a next-out allowance winner on a wet track at Santa Anita Jan. 31. Los Al Futurity runner-up Mucho Gusto won the Robert Lewis Stakes (G3) on Feb. 2. 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) SIGNALMAN (General Quarters - Trip South, by Trippi)

Trainer (Ken McPeek) - Owner (Magdalena Racing)

Latest Workout: 4f in 46.63 (2/73) at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 2.

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 was consistent last year and had his first published workout of 2019 on Jan. 26. He might make his sophomore debut in the Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park on March 2.

Derby Points (18)

(4) HIDDEN SCROLL (Hard Spun - Sheba Queen, by Empire Maker)

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

Latest Workout: 4f in 49.80 (4/12) at Payson Park on Feb. 8.

Comments: Could not have been more impressive in the fourth race at Gulfstream Park on Saturday, Jan. 26. In that one mile maiden special weight affair for three-year-olds, he went straight to the front from the inside post under jockey Joel Rosario and he widened his advantage throughout.  He crossed the finish line at least fourteen lengths in front of his nearest rival High Amplitude (Chad Brown first timer), and he stopped the clock in a swift 1:34.82. He is bred to handle a route of ground and could be any kind of performer. His aforementioned debut was on a wet track and I want to see if he can run the same race on dry land. We will find out how good he is in the Fountain of Youth Stakes.

(5) WIN WIN WIN (Hat Trick - Miss Smarty Pants, by Smarty Jones)

Trainer (Michael Trombetta) - Owner (Live Oak Plantation)

Latest Workout: 4f in 51.80 (60/64) at Tampa Bay Downs on Feb. 2.

Comments: Lost for the first time after a bad start from the rail in the Heft Stakes at Laurel Park Dec. 29. He was clearly second best that day and talented winner Alwaysmining has now won three straight (2 stakes wins). The Maryland based 3-year-old males are pretty good (Maryland Juvenile runner-up Our Braintrust was 2nd in Jerome at Aqueduct Jan 1). Michael Trombetta’s improving colt shipped to Tampa Bay Downs and ran off the screen in the Pasco Stakes at seven panels after a slow start on Jan. 19. He is targeting the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) and is expected to work again on Sam F. Davis Day (2-9-19).  

(6) WAR OF WILL (War Front - Visions of Clarity, by Sadler’s Wells)

Trainer (Mark Casse) - Owner (Gary Barber)

Latest Workout: 4f in 51.00 (138/170) at Fair Grounds on Feb. 2.

Comments: There have been seven Derby points races so far this year, and War of Will was the most impressive winner by far. He placed in the Summer (G1) on turf at Woodbine last summer, and he switched to dirt and cruised in his last pair, including a sharp stalk/pounce score in the Lecomte (G3) at Fair Grounds on Jan. 19. He owns a long distance turf pedigree and is on the upswing.

Derby Points (10)

(7) COUNTRY HOUSE (Lookin At Lucky - Quake Lake, by War Chant)

Trainer (William Mott) - Owner (Shields and McFadden)

Latest Workout: 4f in 50.00 (11/22) at Payson Park on Feb. 5.

Comments: I decided to replace Tacitus with Country House on my list because the former has not worked since Jan. 29 and has not raced this year, and the latter is pointing to the Risen Star at Fair Grounds on Feb. 16. I like the progress he made in each of his three starts. He was clearly second best to Kentucky Wildcat in his final juvenile start on 12-1-18, and in his sophomore debut at Gulfstream on Jan. 17, he overcame a bad start and slow pace to win handily. 

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

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

Latest Workout: 6f from the gate in 1:13.60 (7/17) at Santa Anita Park on Feb. 8.

Comments: He showed endless potential in a pair of 10-length romps last summer including the Best Pal (G2) at Del Mar. The $1.2 million purchase has not started since 8-11-18 and that was a decision made by his owner. I am not sure how far he ultimately wants to go but he certainly showed a lot of promise as a juvenile and he has six published workouts this year (thru Feb. 8). He might make his first 3-year-old start in the San Felipe (G2) at Santa Anita on March 9.   

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

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

Latest Workout: 4f bullet in 49.00 (1/16) at Payson Park on Feb. 4.

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 was unable to catch Mind Control while clearly second best (129 Today’s Racing Digest Final Rating). He figures to enjoy two turns and is expected to have his first start of 2019 sometime in March.

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

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

Latest Workout: 4f in 51.16 (16/19) at Palm Beach Downs on Jan. 29.

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. He might go next in the Fountain of Youth.   

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

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

Comments: Has now competed in four points races over a route of ground with a win in the Sham (G3) and runner-up finishes in the American Pharoah (G1) and Robert Lewis (G3). He handled a wet track in the latter race and gamely rallied for the place over that speed favoring surface. I still think that he is a cut below the best at this stage but he does have some stamina and a decent late kick.

Derby Points (18)

THE NEXT NINE: (12) Code of Honor, (13) Coliseum, (14) Extra Hope, (15) Maximus Mischief, (16) Bourbon War, (17) Network Effect, (18) Harvey Wallbanger, (19) Tacitus, (20) Mucho Gusto

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