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Kentucky Derby 2018 Report April 18

The road to Kentucky Derby 2018 prep race series ended with the Arkansas Derby, and we are less than three weeks away from the marquee event on the first Saturday in May.

The Derby picture has become crystal clear in recent weeks following sharp points race wins by Audible (Florida Derby), Good Magic (Blue Grass), Justify (SA Derby), Magnum Moon (Arkansas Derby), and Mendelssohn (UAE Derby). Add in multiple graded winner Bolt d’Oro, and this has the makings of a highly competitive Kentucky Derby.

There still may be a bit of movement in the days leading to the first Saturday in May, but the top twenty Derby points earners are beginning their descent on Churchill Downs. Combatant, currently 21st on the points list, is on the outside looking in, and needs one defection to make the field. At least one horse always seems to drop out of the running between the end of the points race series, and the post position draw, so Combatant still has a decent shot to get in.  

 
 
Let’s look back at the final two Kentucky Derby points races from April 14:

Lexington Stakes (Keeneland, 4-14-18; 140 Today’s Racing Digest Final Rating)

With all of the lightly raced horses on the Derby trail this year, My Boy Jack is a breath of fresh air. The Lexington was his 10th lifetime start, and he made it a winning one after rallying from post 10 to score by a measured head over Queen’s Plate hopeful Telekinesis. Show finisher Pony Up got past pace pacesetting returnee Greyvitos in deep stretch. Keith Desormeaux’s Kentucky Derby hopeful My Boy Jack was all over the country this year. After a 3rd in the Sham Stakes at Santa Anita, he traveled to Oaklawn Park and easily captured the Southwest Stakes (wet track). It was off to New Orleans for the LA Derby, and he ended up a close up 3rd that day. He wrapped up his busy Derby points campaign with a victory at Keeneland on April 14.

My Boy Jack Kentucky Derby Prep Past Performances 

Arkansas Derby (Oaklawn Park, 4-14-18, 131 Final Rating)

This event was eerily similar to the SA Derby. In that race, Justify walked on the lead with Bolt d’Oro giving futile chase. Magnum Moon crawled on the lead (48.60, 1:13.39) in the Arkansas Derby, and Tampa Bay Derby hero Quip followed him all the way around the racetrack. The final winning margin was four lengths, with Quip holding 2nd by a neck over Solomini, who was a head in front of Combatant. Magnum Moon heads to Churchill Downs with a perfect 4-for-4 record, and he can beat you on the front end, or from a stalking position. Quip gamely held the place and looms a Derby pace player at the very least. Solomini keeps earning minor awards in the stakes ranks, and the grinder never stops trying. As noted earlier, Combatant currently sits 21st on the Derby points list and needs one defection to make it into the big race.

Magnum Moon  Kentucky Derby Prep Past Performances 
 
In other Kentucky Derby 2018 contender news, Sunland Derby hero Runaway Ghost is out of the Kentucky Derby. He reportedly has a hairline fracture to his right front cannon bone. The injury is not expected to be career ending.   

Jarrod Horak’s “Exceptional Eleven" Kentucky Derby 2018 Contenders

(1) BOLT D’ORO (Medaglia d’Oro - Globe Trot, by A.P. Indy)

Trainer (Mick Ruis) - Owner (Ruis Racing)

Top Today’s Racing Digest Final Rating: 143 (San Felipe Stakes, SA, 3-10-18)

Comments: He has been my top ranked Derby contender since I rolled out my first list on 9-25-17, and I see no reason to jump ship now. How long has he been on top? To put things in perspective, Magnum Moon did not even have his first start until Jan. 13 of this year, and Justify began his career on Feb. 18. His six lifetime starts have produced four wins, a second, and a third, and the 3-time graded stakes winner (2 grade one wins) has a versatile running style. He will have two Derby works at Santa Anita Park on April 22 and April 28, and will ship to Churchill Downs on April 30. Victor Espinoza will ride him on the first Saturday in May, and he has won the Kentucky Derby three times (War Emblem, California Chrome, American Pharaoh).     
   
Derby Points (104)

(2) AUDIBLE (Into Mischief - Blue Devil Bel, by Gilded Time)

Trainer (Todd Pletcher) - Owner (WinStar Farm, China Horse Club, SF Racing) 

Top Today’s Racing Digest Final Rating: 158 (Florida Derby, GP, 3-31-18)

Latest Workout: 4f bullet in 48.75 (1/26) at Palm Beach Downs on April 13. 

Comments: He brings a 4-race win streak into the Kentucky Derby, and the win type can beat you from anywhere on the racetrack. He sat in 2nd in his romping Holy Bull Stakes victory (moderate pace). In the Florida Derby, the pace was smoking hot, and he rallied from 8th place. Due to his longstanding relationship with trainer Todd Pletcher, jockey Javier Castellano chose Audible over Bolt d’Oro for the Kentucky Derby. The $500,000 colt has never been a strong work horse, but his April 13 bullet was an exception. In that move, he worked inside older stablemate and Charles Town Classic candidate You’re to Blame, and finished on even terms after moving outside. He pulled clear on the gallop out (5f in 1:02.22), and appears to be peaking at the best possible time.

Derby Points (110)

(3) GOOD MAGIC  (Curlin - Glinda the Good, by Hard Spun)

Trainer (Chad Brown)

Owner (e Five Racing Thoroughbreds and Stonestreet Stables)

Top Today’s Racing Digest Final Rating: 153 (BC Juvenile, 11-4-17)

Comments: The 2-year-old champion was a flat 3rd in the Fountain of Youth Stakes, but he quickly put that effort in the rear view mirror after a rock solid stalk and pounce victory from an outer post position in the Blue Grass Stakes (150 Final Rating) at Keeneland on April 7. The 2017 BC Juvenile remains his best overall number, which is not a great sign, but the Blue Grass was definitely a step in the right direction. If he is your Derby horse, you have to hope that trainer Chad Brown has methodically brought him along slowly this year, and I am beginning to believe that is the case. I would not be surprised to see him peak at Churchill Downs on May 5. 

Derby Points (134) 

(4) MAGNUM MOON (Malibu Moon - Dazzling Song, by Unbridled’s Song)

Trainer (Todd Pletcher) - Owner (Robert and Lowana Low)

Top Today’s Racing Digest Final Rating: 153 (Rebel Stakes, OP, 3-17-18)

Comments: He used his tactical speed and strong finishing kick to perfection in his first three wins, including a big Derby points race tally in the Rebel Stakes. He brought two bullet workouts into the Arkansas Derby, and went to the lead (slow pace) and never looked back in an easy triumph over pace presser Quip. It is easy to look good visually when everything is handed to you on a silver platter, and the same can be said of Justify. How will he handle a less than ideal trip in 20-horse Derby field? Apollo in 1882 was the last unraced 2-year-old to win the Kentucky Derby. He has returned to his Palm Beach Downs base in Florida, and will ship to Churchill Downs on April 23.    

Derby Points (150)

(5) JUSTIFY (Scat Daddy - Stage Magic, by Ghostzapper)

Trainer (Bob Baffert)

Owners (China Horse Club, Head of Plains, Starlight Racing, WinStar Farm)

Top Today’s Racing Digest Final Rating: 147 (SA Derby, SA, 4-7-18)

Comments: One of two very talented, unraced 2-year-olds, along with Magnum Moon. It is interesting that those two completed their final Derby preps in exactly the same manner. They both walked on the lead (SA Derby, Arkansas Derby) and were on cruise control from start to finish. The race shapes of those events knocked the closers out of contention, and the pace pressers could do nothing but chase and hold position. I am not taking anything away from these talented winners and their outstanding performances, but the 20-horse Kentucky Derby stampede is a whole new ballgame, and it takes much more than raw talent to succeed on the first Saturday in May. He is expected to have his first of two Derby workouts later this week at Santa Anita Park.

Derby Points (100)

(6) MENDELSSOHN (More Than Ready - Song of Bernadette, by Bernardini)

Trainer (Aidan O’Brien)

Owners (Derek Smith, Michael Tabor, Mrs. John Magnier)

Top Today’s Racing Digest Final Rating: 132 (BC Juvenile Turf, DMR, 11-4-17)

Comments: If you were bowled over by Justify and Magnum Moon, then you still must be lifting your jaw off the floor after watching this one canter by eighteen lengths in the UAE Derby. Beholder’s $3 million half-brother shipped to Del Mar and won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf last fall. In seven lifetime starts, he rattled off four wins in Dubai, Great Britain, Ireland, and the United States, and he has won on dirt, synthetic, and turf. Will he be able to ship from the Dubai desert to Louisville, Kentucky and run back to that stellar effort? History is certainly not on his side, and he will probably take more money than he should, but he clearly has the speed and talent to make some serious noise at Churchill Downs. 

Derby Points (100)

(7) VINO ROSSO (Curlin - Mythical Bride, by Street Cry)

Trainer (Todd Pletcher) - Owner (Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable)

Top Today’s Racing Digest Final Rating: 150 (Wood Memorial, AQU, 4-7-18)

Comments: After winning his first two starts at Tampa Bay Downs in November and December last year, he made his 3-year-old debut in the Sam F. Davis Stakes and ended up a solid 3rd behind Flameaway and Catholic Boy. He added blinkers and finished a flat 4th in the Tampa Bay Derby, and that has turned out to be a decent heat. Quip and Flameaway came out of that race to run 2nd in the Arkansas Derby and Blue Grass, and Vino Rosso had his breakthrough performance in the Wood Memorial. In the latter event at Aqueduct in New York, he sat patiently in midpack and used his stamina to defeat Enticed by three lengths. John Velazquez will ride him in the Kentucky Derby, and I love his long distance pedigree.

Derby Points (107)

(8) SOLOMINI (Curlin - Surf Song, by Storm Cat)

Trainer (Bob Baffert) - Owner (Zayat Stables)

Top Today’s Racing Digest Final Rating: 143 (Rebel Stakes, 3-17-18)

Comments: Other than the Los Alamitos Futurity (disqualified from 1st and placed 3rd), he has not shown a winning spirit in the stakes ranks. His underneath finishes in Derby points races began with a 2nd to romping winner Bolt d’Oro in the FrontRunner Stakes, and he split a razor sharp Good Magic and a very wide Bolt d’Oro in the BC Juvenile. In his three-year-old debut in the Rebel Stakes, he battled hard throughout and edged Combatant for the place, and nipped that same runner for the show in the Arkansas Derby. The hard trying grinder has not developed a winning running style and is a cut below the best at this stage of his career. He will return to his Santa Anita Park base, and that is where he will do his Kentucky Derby preparations.        

Derby Points (54)

Solomini Kentucky Derby Prep Past Performances 

(9) NOBLE INDY (Take Charge Indy - Noble Maz, by Storm Boot)

Trainer (Todd Pletcher) - Owner (WinStar Farm)

Top Today’s Racing Digest Final Rating: 146 (LA Derby, FG, 3-24-18)

Latest Workout: 5f in 1:01.00 (4/7) at Palm Beach Downs on April 13.

Comments: The Louisiana Derby hero showed true grit and determination to come again along the inside under John Velazquez after closers Lone Sailor and My Boy Jack went on by in the lane. He added blinkers at Fair Grounds that day and figures to be part of the Kentucky Derby pace. He had his first Derby workout on April 6, and breezed again in Florida on April 13.  

Derby Points (110) 

(10) ENTICED  (Medaglia d’Oro - It’s Tricky, by Mineshaft)

Trainer (Kiaran McLaughlin) - Owner (Godolphin Racing, LLC.)

Top Today’s Racing Digest Final Rating: 161 (Gotham Stakes, AQU, 3-10-18)

Comments: He showed talent as a juvenile in a show finish in the Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park, and he ended his 2-year-old campaign with a victory in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes. The latter key race produced subsequent stakes winners Promises Fulfilled, Reride, Quip, and Bravazo. He was 4th from the inside post in his Holy Bull return, but bounced back with a visually impressive win from the outside post in the Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct on March 10. In his final Derby prep in the Wood Memorial on April 7 (141 Final Rating), he stalked, took the lead, and was bothered by eventual winner Vino Rosso. There was an objection and inquiry, but the best horse won, and there was no change to the original order of finish. He has talent, but I am not sure that he wants to go ten furlongs on the first Saturday in May.
   
Derby Points (103)

(11) FREE DROP BILLY (Union Rags - Trensa, by Giant’s Causeway)

Trainer (Dale Romans) - Owner (Albaugh Family Stables)

Top Today’s Racing Digest Final Rating: 140 (Gotham Stakes, AQU, 3-10-18)

Comments: He earned 140 Today’s Racing Digest Final Ratings in the Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland last fall, and in his first two starts this year in the Holy Bull (finished 2nd) and Gotham Stakes (finished 3rd). In his final Derby prep on April 7, he was placed 3rd via disqualification in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland (138 Final Rating). He is one of four original members of the “exceptional eleven,” along with Bolt d’Oro, Good Magic, and Solomini. He is safely in the Derby with 44 points, but his numbers are going nowhere fast. 

Derby Points (44)

THE NEXT NINE:

(12) Hofburg - (40 points) - Florida Derby runner-up would not be in the Derby if they used the old graded race earnings method instead of the points. Bill Mott’s late bloomer worked in company with Good Samaritan on April 15, and got the better of his classy older work mate by a head. They galloped out 5f in 1:01.37, and kept on going another furlong (1:15.30). Irad Ortiz, Jr. is his Kentucky Derby pilot. Looking ahead to the Belmont Stakes, he would appear to be well-suited to that race, along with Vino Rosso.   

(13) My Boy Jack (32 points) - The late runner definitely earned his Derby stripes in the Sham Stakes (3rd), Southwest Stakes (1st), LA Derby (3rd), and Lexington Stakes (1st). He could land a share for Team Desormeaux if the Derby pace heats up. He seems to prefer a mile and a sixteenth. 

(14) Flameaway - (70 points) - He ranks up there with My Boy Jack as a likeable overachiever. He has won on dirt, synthetic, and turf, and has competed in eight stakes races with four wins, and a pair of 2nds. The early/pressing type never gives up.

(15) Lone Sailor - (40 points) - Just like Hofburg, he would not be here under the graded earnings criteria. His lone points race success was a rallying 2nd in the LA Derby. He will be passing tired horses in the Kentucky Derby, and a minor award is not impossible.

(16) Quip - (90 points) - He got into the Derby with a smart win off a layoff in the Tampa Bay Derby, and gamely held the place in the Arkansas Derby. He likes to be forwardly placed. 

Quip Kentucky Derby Prep Past Performances 
 
(17) Bravazo - (54 points) - His big Derby points victory in the Risen Star seems like so long ago. The Wayne Lukas trainee owns running style versatility.  

(18) Promises Fulfilled - (50 points)  - The Dale Romans runner is the likely Derby front runner, but he probably won’t be around at the finish. He went all the way in the Fountain of Youth, but got caught in a speed duel before throwing in the towel in the Florida Derby.

(19) Firenze Fire - (39 points) - He is easy to root for, but a mile and a quarter is too far. 25 of his 39 Kentucky Derby points were earned in one-turn mile races (Champagne, Jerome, Gotham). 

(20) Gronkowski - Earned berth through European road to Kentucky Derby 2018. He has been competing in all-weather races in Great Britain, and he has won his last four starts.

ON OUTSIDE LOOKING IN: (21) Combatant - 32 points, (22) Snapper Sinclair - 22 points, (23) Reride - 20 points, (24) Dream Baby Dream - 20 points, (25) Restoring Hope - 20 points. 
 

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