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Kentucky Derby 2020 Report for Feb. 7

The Kentucky Derby 2020 points race series was in high gear last weekend. Tiz the Law is the very early Derby favorite after a sharp score in the Holy Bull Stakes, and Bob Baffert’s $1 million colt Thousand Words ran his record to 3-for-3 in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes. The Withers was the other points race on Feb. 1, and Max Player went from maiden winner at Parx to graded stakes winner at the Big A.

The Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs is the lone points race on Saturday, Feb. 8, and Independence Hall tries to go 4-for-4. The early-pressing type makes his first start around two turns. Premier Star stretches out and looms the target, and Remsen Stakes (G2) runner-up Ajaaweed is the one to fear late.    

Kentucky Derby 2020 Points Race Recaps

Withers Stakes Recap (2-1-20) - Winner: Max Player ($12.80)


Shotski was an underlay as expected. He stole the Remsen (G2) over a speed favoring oval last year. In this event, he did not figure to shake loose early, and he did not. Prince of Pharoahs was the first to engage the chalk, and Vanzzy and New Commission were also forwardly placed. Monday Morning Qb went after Shotski after the other early challengers faded, and that set the table for my value oriented TRD video winner Max Player. The Linda Rice trainee was lurking wide under Dylan Davis. He was scrubbing away and under the whip while continuing wide approaching the far turn, and swung even wider turning for home. He had the momentum out in the middle of the track and won going away by 3+ lengths. Shotski just held 2nd over late runner Portos, and Monday Morning Qb flattened out and finished 4th. New Commission was 5th, and Prince of Pharoahs was another ten lengths back in 6th. Mr. Shortandsimple and Vanzzy were both eased. This was not a fast race but was a big forward move for Max Player. He went from wet track maiden winner at Parx to a graded Derby points race winner.    

Holy Bull Stakes (G2) Recap (2-1-20) - Winner: Tiz the Law ($4.60)


Ete Indien set the early pace and Relentless Dancer pushed from 2nd. Tiz the Law was tracking inside, and his rider Manny Franco tapped on the breaks and steered outside for clear sailing. That was probably the winning move. Ete Indien and Tiz the Law hooked up after six furlongs and the match race was on. The separated themselves from the pack and Tiz the Law edged away in the lane while lugging in. He scored by three lengths and Ete Indien was 11+ in front of Toledo. Relentless Dancer was another 4+ back in 4th, and Mayberry Deputy was a couple of lengths behind him. Uncork the Bottle was next and Clear Destination was basically eased. It was a good starting point for Tiz the Law, and Ete Indien ran a quality race as well. This was a strung out field with little to no depth.    

Robert B. Lewis Stakes (G3) Recap (2-1-20) - Winner: Thousand Words ($3.20)

thousand Words Kentucky Derby Prep Race Past Performance 

These early winter Derby preps at a mile and a sixteenth are not particularly important. They key is to keep earning points and moving forward, and hopefully stay healthy. Things will get serious at a mile and an eighth in March and April. High Velocity got out there and gave his chalky stablemate a target. Tizamagician chased outside and Thousand Words was patiently ridden inside and behind horses under Flavien Prat. The favorite came off the rail and engaged High Velocity in the stretch, and fought hard to the end to prevail by a bit less than a length. Surface switcher Royal Act nabbed 2nd late, and High Velocity was another neck back in 3rd. Tizamagician could not go with the top runners late and ended up an even 4th. He was followed by Encoder and Zimba Warrior. As for the winner, this was a solid beginning to his 3yo campaign. I love his tactical speed and heart, and nothing seems to bother him (track condition, racing inside, eating dirt, etc). He is now 3-for-3 with 20 Derby points. I doubt he was fully cranked for this. No reason to be. He should be sharper, faster, and fitter next time.    

Hot Prospects: Farmington Road

Todd Pletcher always seems to have these lightly raced, late bloomers, and Farmington Road appears to be getting good in a hurry. He was 5th in his sprint bow at Belmont last fall. He stretched out a couple of furlongs in a one turn mile second time out, and he finished an improved 2nd in December at the Big A. He shipped to Florida and began his sophomore campaign with a professional two turn maiden win at Tampa Bay Jan. 12. He got better in the late stages at a mile and forty yards last time, and he should only improve with distance and experience. He might make his Derby points race debut in the Risen Star Stakes (G2) at Fair Grounds on Feb. 15.

Jarrod Horak’s “Exceptional Eleven" Kentucky Derby 2020 Contenders (2-7-20)

(1) GOUVERNEUR MORRIS (Constitution - Addison Run, by Unbridled’s Song) -  Previous Ranking (#1)

Trainer (Todd Pletcher) - Owner (Team Valor International & WinStar Farm LLC)

Latest Workout: 5f in 1:00.45 (8/19) at Palm Beach Downs on Feb. 2.

Comments: Now that we have seen these horses run a few times, I want to dig a little deeper in my comments. I like the explosiveness this one showed in his sprint debut in the slop at Saratoga last summer. He handled a wet track that day and that is definitely a plus. His second start in the Breeders’ Futurity was a great learning experience. Racing two turns on a fast track from the outside post, he made a wide, eye catching move before Maxfield blew by him. He outlasted Enforceable for the place, and that is a big plus because that one has plenty of stamina. He is a work in progress and still has much to prove, but the raw talent is there, and I really like what I have seen so far. After spending a few weeks at WinStar Farm following his second career start at Keeneland, he returned to Todd Pletcher’s barn in Florida in December 2019, and has worked every seven days like clockwork since Dec. 22.

Derby Points (4)


(2) THOUSAND WORDS (Pioneerof the Nile - Pomeroys Pistol, by Pomeroy) - Previous Ranking (#2)

Trainer (Bob Baffert) - Owner (Albaugh Family Stable & Spendthrift Farm)

Comments: $1 million purchase is now 3-for-3 after capturing his second points race in the Robert B. Lewis (G3) Feb. 1, and you know he was not fully cranked. There is much to like here. It just about goes without saying that Baffert knows how to prepare a horse for the Derby. This one is a very classy individual and I like the fight he showed in the Los Al Futurity (G2). He turned away BC Juvenile (G1) runner-up Anneau d’Oro that day, and in the Lewis, he took dirt to the face while racing inside and behind horses. He does not blow the competition away. Rather, he just keeps coming after you with those long, grinding strides, and he sure seems to have a will to win. All of his wins were accomplished using different tactics. He stalked wide in his bow, dueled second time out, and closed from the inside last time. Those traits should come in handy as we continue down the Derby trail, and it sure seems like he is just getting warmed up at a mile and a sixteenth. On another positive note, he handled a wet track just fine at Los Alamitos late last year.

Derby Points (20)


(3) TIZ THE LAW (Constitution - Tizfiz, by Tiznow) - Previous Ranking (#6)

Trainer (Barclay Tagg) - Owner (Sackatoga Stable)

Comments: The talented NY-bred is 3-for-4 with a 2nd, and his lone loss was a troubled, close-up 3rd in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) on a wet track at Churchill Downs Nov. 30. That is a bit of a concern because we have seen the Derby run over a wet track numerous times recently. His Holy Bull (G2) return was excellent, and it is always a good sign when a good juvenile runs fast in his sophomore debut. I really like his tactical speed, and he finishes off his races in fine order. I am not thrilled with the lugging in last time, and there was probably nothing behind him at Gulfstream that day. He remains a very promising Derby hopeful, but I never get carried away with these Jan/Feb points race winners. They just never seem to win the Derby anymore. He is targeting the Florida Derby.      

Derby Points (22)


(4) AJAAWEED (Curlin - Assiya, by Daaher) -  Previous Ranking (#3)


Trainer (Kiaran McLaughlin) - Owner (Shadwell Stable)

Latest Workout: 5f in 1:00.65 (2/4) at Palm Meadows Training Center on Jan. 31.

Comments: He is ranked this high because of his excellent 2nd in the Remsen (G2). He had no chance trying to catch lone speed Shotski that day. It wasn’t just that. The track was speed favoring at the Big A, and he was the only one making up any ground in the mile and an eighth affair. A couple more jumps and he would have scored. Another thing I like is he competed in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at Keeneland last year. Maxfield won that one, with Gouverneur Morris 2nd and Enforceable 3rd. Ajaaweed was a non-threatening 4th, but I thought that was the deepest juvenile Derby points race of 2019, and it was nice to see him bounce back with a good 2nd at the Big A. He is bred to run all day and appeared to be just getting warmed up at a mile and an eighth on Cigar Mile Day. He returns to action in the Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs Feb. 8.  

Derby Points (5)


(5) INDEPENDENCE HALL (Constitution - Kalahari Cat, by Cape Town) -  Previous Ranking (#4)

Trainer (Michael Trombetta) - Owner (Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners & Twin Creek Racing Stables)

Latest Workout: 4f in 48.60 (10/80) at Tampa Bay Downs on Feb. 2.

Comments: I am really not sure how good he really is. Yes, he is 3-for-3 and was sensational in the Nashua (G3) at Aqueduct on Nov. 3. That was probably the most impressive juvenile performance of 2019. His first start of 2020 was not nearly as good. Yes, he easily won the Jerome Stakes on Jan. 1, but there was absolutely nothing behind him, and he made mistakes. He was fractious in the paddock and broke last. He was steered outside and was quickly in front, but he only won because his competition was vastly inferior. He shipped to Tampa Bay Downs after the Jerome, and the Sam F. Davis (G3) at Tampa Bay Feb. 8 is his next target. He is going to have to run much better if he expects to win his next start in Florida.   

Derby Points (10)


(6) DENNIS’ MOMENT (Tiznow - Transplendid, by Elusive Quality) - Previous Ranking (#5)

Trainer (Dale Romans) - Owner (Albaugh Family Racing LLC)

Latest Workout: 5f bullet in 58.47 (1/49) at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 2.

Comments: He was a true all or nothing type last year. Let there be no doubt that the raw talent is there, but he seems to have a problem with the start. He clipped heels and dumped Robby Albarado in his June 23 bow at Churchill Downs, and stumbled at the start and lost all chance as the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) favorite. In between, he broke his maiden by 19+ lengths at Ellis Park, and easily captured the Iroquois (G3) Sept. 14 at Churchill. He beat Scabbard in the latter race, and that one was very disappointing in the BC Juvenile and LeComte. He returned to the worktab Jan 11 and is expected to make first start as a 3-year-old in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) at Gulfstream Park February 29.  
Derby Points (10)


(7) ANNEAU D’OR (Medaglia d’Oro - Walk Close, by Tapit) - Previous Ranking (#7)

Trainer (Blaine D. Wright) - Owner (Peter Redekop)

Latest Workout: 7f in 1:29.80 (1/1) at Golden Gate Fields Feb. 1.

Comments: Went from a debut turf route winner at Golden Gate to a Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) runner-up. He proved his surprising effort second time was no fluke. He traveled to Los Alamitos and just missed while clearly second best in the Los Alamitos Futurity (G2). These connections got Derby fever last year with Anothertwstafate, and this one is off to a flying start. I like his pedigree and tactical speed. They have decided on his next start, and it will be the Risen Star at Fair Grounds Feb. 15. He will add blinkers and Joel Rosario will ride.

Derby Points (12)


(8) ENFORCEABLE (Tapit - Justwhistledixie, by Dixie Union) - Previous Ranking (#8)

Trainer (Mark Casse) - Owner (John Oxley)

Latest Workout: 4f in 49.80 (48/94) at Fair Grounds Feb. 2.

Comments: The big thing to like about this one is his stamina (broke maiden at 9f). His late run fell short in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) and Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2), and he seemed like a real grinder last year. He was much better in his 3-year-old bow in the LeComte (G3) at Fair Grounds last month. He showed a better turn of foot and smartly defeated promising Asmussen runner Silver State. He has an outstanding pedigree and a decent finishing kick, and Mark Casse saddled the winners of the Preakness and Belmont Stakes in 2019. He will remain at Fair Grounds for the Risen Star and LA Derby. Both of those races are longer this year. The Risen Star is 9f and the LA Derby is 9.5f, and the distance changes will only help him.

Derby Points (13)


(9) MAXFIELD (Street Sense - Velvety, by Bernardini) -  Previous Ranking (#10)

Trainer (Brendan P. Walsh) - Owner (Godolphin, LLC)

Comments: He broke slow and rallied strongly to capture both of his starts from off the pace including the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at Keeneland. He was supposed to run in the BC Juvenile (G1), but an untimely leg injury forced him to scratch. He had surgery to remove an ankle chip on Nov. 18 and has just started galloping again. He is definitely on a tight schedule and cannot afford any hiccups. For comparison purposes, Gouverneur Morris has also started twice in his career, and his last start was also in the Breeders’ Futurity. That colt has already worked seven times, so he is at least seven weeks ahead of Maxfield from a conditioning standpoint. There are big concerns here. How will he fare after surgery, and he cannot keep breaking slow as the competition gets tougher. Distance sure does not seem like an issue.

Derby Points (10)


(10)  HONOR A. P. (Honor Code - Hollywood Story, by Wild Rush) - Previous Ranking (#11)

Trainer (John Shirreffs) - Owner (C R K Stable LLC)

Latest Workout: 5f in 1:02.40 (33/55) at Santa Anita Feb. 2.

Comments: Sharp two turn maiden winner had a minor setback, which forced him to miss the Sham Stakes (G3) at Santa Anita Park Jan. 4. He got back on the worktab at the Great Race Place Jan. 20. The pedigree and talent is there. John Shirreffs is a very patient trainer and will not push him to make the Derby. Everything has to go right for him. He absolutely cannot miss any more time or races.


(11) NADAL (Blame - Ascending Angel, by Pulpit) - Previous Ranking (#16)


Trainer (Bob Baffert) - Owner (Stronach Stables)

Latest Workout: 4f in 47.80 (2/41) at Santa Anita Feb. 4.

Comments: Green Light Go stubbed his toe in his Swale return Feb. 1 (flat 3rd), and that made room on my list for late starting Baffert colt Nadal. His Jan. 19 sprint debut was fast and impressive. He ran some promising first timers off their feet in a 3+ length triumph from the inside post. Exaulted and Lane Way finished 2nd and 3rd, and they both seem to have talent. They were reportedly looking at the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park on Feb. 17 for his second start, but he has now been entered in the San Vicente Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita Feb. 9. He will meet 2-year-old champ Storm the Court in the San Vicente, and we will learn more about both colts in that important seven panel test.      


THE NEXT NINE: (12) Storm the Court, (13) Silver State, (14) Authentic, (15) Max Player, (16) Structor, (17) Azul Coast, (18) Farmington Road, (19) Ancient Warrior, (20) Ete Indien

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