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Kentucky Derby 2018 Report March 20

Noble Indy, one of a handful of Kentucky Derby 2018 hopefuls for trainer Todd Pletcher, appears ready for a breakthrough performance in the Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds on Saturday, March 24.

Noble Indy smartly won his first two outings at Gulfstream Park, including a two turn optional claiming score to kick off his sophomore campaign on Jan. 11. He shipped to Fair Grounds for his stakes debut in the Risen Star on Feb. 17, and he ended up outnodding Instilled Regard in an even show finish. Following the Risen Star, the Pletcher runner returned to his Palm Beach Downs base in Florida, and is back in New Orleans after a trio of solid workouts for this engagement. He puts blinkers on for the first time and might sit the garden spot trip under John Velazquez.

Noble Indy 2018 Kentucky Derby contender 
Risen Star upsetter Bravazo is back for more for Wayne Lukas. He drew the rail and might go straight to the front under Gary Stevens. He put an exclamation point on his LA Derby preparations with a bullet workout at Oaklawn Park on March 18.

Snapper Sinclair battled Bravazo from start to finish in the Risen Star and came up a nose short. Jose Ortiz hops aboard for trainer Steve Asmussen, and he looms a LA Derby pace factor at the very least. 

My Boy Jack rode the good inside portion of the track to a sharp off the pace victory in the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park on Feb. 19. He sure liked the mud that day, and he gets pace to chase in the LA Derby for Team Desormeaux. Prior to the Southwest, he was a distant 3rd behind McKinzie in the Sham Stakes. 

The LA Derby field is completed by maiden Marmello, Risen Star also-ran Givemeaminit, Southwest also-ran Retirement Fund, maiden claiming winner Hyndford, and recent local allowance 1-2 finishers Dark Templar and Lone Sailor.

The other Kentucky Derby points race this weekend is the Sunland Derby on Sunday, March 25. Trainer Bob Baffert has won the Sunland showcase four times (Collected, Chitu, Governor Charlie, Wanna Runner), and recent Santa Anita Park maiden route winner Restoring Hope will be his representative this year. New York Central and Dream Baby Dream are expected to enter for trainer Steve Asmussen. Prince Lucky could ship to New Mexico for Todd Pletcher, and Wayne Lukas has 6th place Southwest finisher Kentucky Club. All Out Blitz, Dark Vader, and Runaway Ghost are also possible entrants. The winner of the main event at Sunland Park will receive 50 Derby points. 

Restoring Hope 2018 Kentucky Derby Contender 

Let’s look back at the two Kentucky Derby points races from March 17:

Rebel Stakes (Oaklawn Park, 3-17-18; 153 Today’s Racing Digest Final Rating)

Magnum Moon was always in a good spot tracking front runner Title Ready. He pounced on the weakening leader in the lane, and cruised across the line a few lengths in front of Solomini. The latter had an uncomfortable inside trip. He tried hard throughout and gamely held off Combatant for the place. The Baffert trainee got sick earlier this year and was making his first start of the season. Combatantsettled for a minor award for the fourth time in a Derby points race, and he was the only one making up ground from the back of the pack. Title Ready ended up 4th, and Sporting Chance was a wide 5th. Magnum Moon is now 3-for-3 for Todd Pletcher. The unraced 2-year-old owns fine tactical speed and a decent finishing kick. His sire Malibu Moon was responsible for Kentucky Derby 2013 winner Orb.

Magnum Moom 2018 Kentucky Derby Contender 
Jeff Ruby Steaks (Turfway Park, 3-17-18; 150 Final Rating)

Blended Citizen now has 22 Derby points after nipping Pony Up by a neck in Turfway’s all-weather showcase event at a mile and an eighth. Arawak ended up a decent 3rd. The winner wore blinkers for the first time for trainer by Doug O’Neill, and I would not be surprised to see him in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on April 7, or the Lexington Stakes at that same venue a week later. He was not an original Triple Crown nominee. He can be made eligible at the tune of $6,000. 

In other Kentucky Derby 2018 contender news, Avery Island is officially off the Derby trail for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. As reported last week, the Godolphin colorbearer was sent to Rood and Riddle Clinic for evaluation after returning lame from a recent workout. He will be out for 60-90 days with an undisclosed injury, and will not require surgery.

Instilled Regard has worked four times since finishing a flat 4th in the Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds. He fired a five furlong bullet on March 7, and his most recent move was an easy six furlong breeze in 1:17.80 (16/17) at Santa Anita Park on March 18. He will most likely have his final Derby prep in the Santa Anita Derby on April 7. 

Promises Fulfilled had his first workout since his surprise victory in the Fountain of Youth Stakes. He breezed a half-mile in 48.16 (19/94) at Gulfstream Park for trainer Dale Romans on March 17.

Fountain of Youth runner-up Strike Power also returned to work for trainer Mark Hennig. He breezed a half-mile in 49.21 (19/30) at Gulfstream Park on March 16.

There is a bit of movement on my list this week. Solomini drops from second to fifth, and Instilled Regard drops off to make room for impressive Rebel hero Magnum Moon. The former exits a disappointing 4th in the Risen Star and will try to bounce back in the Santa Anita Derby in April. 

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 started as my top ranked Derby contender when I began my list last September, and he remains on top of the heap after a strong effort in his 3-year-old debut in the San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita Park on March 10. In the San Felipe, he did everything asked of him and more while not fully cranked. He was placed first following a late stretch bumping incident with McKinzie, and the show finisher was far back. He should be ready to roll in the Santa Anita Derby on April 7.         

Derby Points (64)

(2) MCKINZIE (Street Sense - Runway Model, by Petionville)

Trainer (Bob Baffert) - Owner (Mike Pegram, Karl Watson, Paul Weitman)

Top Today’s Racing Digest Final Rating: 149 (Sham Stakes, SA, 1-6-18)

Comments: He has turned into a gritty street fighter for Baffert, and reminds me a bit of Silver Charm. He can be brilliant, like his big debut win, and his razor sharp off the pace tally in the G3 Sham. In his other two races, he battled hard throughout and was placed first via DQ in the G1 Los Al Futurity, and he gave Bolt d’Oro all he could handle in the San Felipe, but had his number taken down after bumping with that foe in deep stretch (143 Final Rating). He is in need of a less strenuous race in his final Derby prep, and he is definitely one of the top Derby contenders at this stage. It looks like the Santa Anita Derby will be his final Derby prep.  
Derby Points (40)

(3) 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: 156 (Holy Bull Stakes, GP, 2-3-18)

Latest Workout: 5f in 1:01.50 (3/10) at Palm Beach Downs on March 17.

Comments: After four lifetime starts, he has a trio of wins and a show finish. He stepped up to face much better foes in his stakes debut in the Holy Bull at the Gulf on Feb. 3, and he was more than up to the task in an effortless 5+ length tally after tracking moderate splits. The Florida Derby on March 31 will be his last Kentucky Derby prep race, and we should learn much more about him in that affair.        

Derby Points (10)

Audible 2018 Kentucky Derby Contender 
(4) 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)

Latest Workout: 4f in 48.90 (14/81) at Palm Meadows  on March 17.

Comments: Too much was expected of him in his 3-year-old debut in the Fountain of Youth Stakes. He definitely did not bring his "A" game that day in a flat show finish, and he probably needed the outing. Granted, he was not the same horse in his sophomore bow that we saw in the BC Juvenile, but, on the positive side of the ledger, he has a solid 2-year-old foundation, is in good shape on the Derby points list, and appears healthy and sound. He returned to the work tab on March 17, and could show much more in his next start in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on Saturday, April 7.  

Derby Points (34) 

(5) 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: He has had a bit of a rocky road to the Derby. After winning his dirt sprint debut at Del Mar last summer, he was 2nd to runaway winner Bolt d’Oro in the FrontRunner Stakes, and he split an impressive Good Magic and a very wide Bolt d’Oro in the BC Juvenile. He crossed the line first but had his number taken down in a controversial disqualification in his final juvenile start in the Los Al Futurity. After that, he got sick over the winter, and finally returned to the work tab on Feb. 3. Jockey Flavien Prat seemed to want the lead in his Rebel Stakes return on March 17, but he was not fleet enough early, so he stalked inside. He briefly got stuck behind weakening front runner Title Ready in early stretch, and he battled hard to the end while outmaneuvering late runner Combatant for the place. He should have gotten a ton out of the Rebel Stakes and could move forward in his final Derby prep.     

Derby Points (34)

Solomini 2018 Kentucky Derby Contender 

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

Trainer (Jonathan Thomas) - Owner (Robert V. LaPenta)

Top Today’s Racing Digest Final Rating: 134 (Remsen Stakes, AQU, 12-2-17)

Latest Workout: 5f in 1:00.00 (1/2) at Bridlewood Farm on March 17.

Comments: His 3-for-4 juvenile campaign included a sharp surface switching victory in the Remsen Stakes at Aqueduct on 12-2-17. He made his first start as a 3-year-old in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs on Feb. 10. In his 3-year-old bow, he rallied into tepid splits and finished a respectable 2nd in a race he likely needed. It looks like his connections have settled on the March 31 Florida Derby for his final Derby prep, and Irad Ortiz, Jr. will replace Manny Franco in the irons. He probably needs an exacta finish at the end of the month to secure a starting spot under the Twin Spires on the first Saturday in May.    

Derby Points (14)

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

Trainer (Todd Pletcher) - Owner (WinStar Farm)

Top Today’s Racing Digest Final Rating: 141 (OC, GP, 1-11-18)

Latest Workout: 5f in 1:00.77 (2/10) at Palm Beach Downs on March 17.

Comments: He won his first two starts at Gulfstream Park before shipping to Fair Grounds and landing the show in his stakes debut in the G2 Risen Star Stakes (140 Final Rating) on Feb. 17. The lightly raced colt most likely needs a top two finish in his final Derby prep in the Louisiana Derby on March 24. 

Derby Points (10) 

(8) 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: 146 (Maiden Special Weight, SA, 2-18-18)

Comments: Impressive debut extended sprint winner was back in three weeks, and made short work of his four allowance rivals in his first start around two turns in the mud at Santa Anita Park on March 11 (141 Final Rating). The unraced juvenile is obviously very talented but has only raced twice and is definitely playing catch up at this stage. It looks as though he will ship to Oaklawn Park for the Arkansas Derby on April 14.  

(8) 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: Just like Justify, he did not race as a 2-year-old. He started his career with an easy dirt sprint win at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 13, and stretched out and easily took down four rivals in an optional claiming route at Tampa Bay on Feb. 15. He made a big splash in his first stakes start in the Rebel Stakes on March 17. In the Rebel, he attended the pace outside, bid for the lead turning for home, and pulled clear for a 3.5 length victory under Luis Saez. The inexperienced colt will complete his road to the Derby in the Arkansas Derby on April 14. 

Derby Points (50)

(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 plenty of promise as a juvenile in the Champagne at Belmont Park last fall. He was part of contested pace that day, dropped back to stalk, and held the show in a game effort. He followed that up with a determined win in a key renewal of the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (subsequent stakes winners Promises Fulfilled, Reride, Quip, Bravazo). He was a flat 4th from the inside post in his G2 Holy Bull return, but bounced back in a big way from the outside post in the Gotham on March 10. The Wood Memorial on April 7 will be his final Derby prep. He is bred to handle nine furlongs at the very least, and might be getting good at the right time.  

Derby Points (63)

(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: Last year’s G1 Breeders’ Futurity (140 Final Rating) hero at Keeneland began his sophomore campaign with a clear place finish in the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 3. He only had four published works prior to the Holy Bull, and he matched his career best 140 Today’s Racing Digest Final Rating that day. He entered the Fountain of Youth Stakes but scratched in favor of the Gotham Stakes (one mile) at Aqueduct on March 10. In the Gotham, he rallied to finish a clear 3rd (another 140 Final Rating) while no match to the top two finishers. He is one of four remaining members of my original “exceptional eleven” list fromlast September (along with Bolt d'Oro, Good Magic, and Solomini), so I have a soft spot for him, plus his sire Union Rags was my 2012 Derby-Belmont horse. It appears that Free Drop Billy is a notch below the best, and his preferred distance is anyone’s guess. He will wrap up his road to the Derby in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on April 7.       

Derby Points (24)

THE NEXT NINE: (12) Instilled Regard - 19 points, (13) Bravazo - 54 points, (14) Promises Fulfilled - 52 points, (15) Quip - 50 points, (16) Flameaway - 30 points, (17) Firenze Fire - 29 points, (18) Combatant - 22 points, (19) Snapper Sinclair - 22 points, (20) My Boy Jack - 12 points. 

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