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Kentucky Derby 2019 Update (2-1-19)

The Road to Kentucky Derby 2019 is jam-packed with a trio of points races this week beginning with the Withers at Aqueduct. 

Kentucky Derby Points Race Analysis

Withers Stakes (G3) from Aqueduct (2-2-19)

AQU 9 (G3 Withers, 9f) #3 MORETTI (3-1) is a $900k purchase for Todd Pletcher exiting a solid course/distance maiden win (improved 128 CPR + 125 FR; field-best 36.9 Last Fraction). He adds blinkers and will probably stalk the pace. #6 Our Braintrust (6-1) was clearly second best in the Jerome and Mark Casse takes over the training duties. The top Maryland-based three-year-olds are pretty good (Alwaysmining, Win Win Win) and it looks like this one will get some pace to chase. I am not sure about this distance and I think his best chance to succeed in this race is to sit back and make one run. #1 Tax (2-1) ran better than expected in a prominent throughout show finish at 17-1 in the Remsen (G2). He was in a pair of maiden claiming starts before that and I want to see him run his Remsen figure again at underlaid odds. #5 Lucky Lee (7-2) looked good throughout in back-to-back flat mile romps at Parx to end his juvenile campaign. #7 Not That Brady (4-1) is a decent NY-bred with speed. He will probably be in front early but a couple of others might be breathing down his neck. #2 Sir Winston (12-1) adds blinkers and won the Display at WO in his final juvenile start Dec. 8. He might be better on all-weather footing. #4 Admire (15-1) broke his maiden at this distance in the slop at Churchill Nov 24. This is a tough spot to take on winners for the first time and he must prove himself on fast dirt. The Plays: #3 to win, Exacta 3/1-5-6, Exacta 1-5-6/3

Moretti Horse Racing Handicapping Past Performances 

Holy Bull Stakes (G2) from Gulfstream Park (2-2-19)

GP 11 (G2 Holy Bull, 8.5f) #2 FEDERAL CASE (6-1) appears to want every bit of this distance and more for Todd Pletcher. He won both of his starts at seven panels and a one-turn mile and gamely wore down a stubborn Frosted Grace (entered in G3 Swale) in a local four-horse affair Dec. 23 (improved 90 FIRE, 119 CPR, 132 FR). The $650k son of Gemologist could fall into a perfect ground saving stalking trip under his new rider Javier Castellano. #8 Maximus Mischief(1-1) cruised in all three juvenile starts and was in complete command throughout in the Remsen (G2). I am not sure how far he wants to run when the pace heats up and we might find out today. There are up to six runners with early tendencies in this field and he new rider Jose Ortiz might try to position him just off the two outside speed horses. #6 Mihos (5-2) drew well and got a great setup in the Mucho Macho Man Jan 5. He must prove himself around two turns but the pace might come back to him again and he should be grinding away in the lane under John Velazquez. #1 Garter and Tie (12-1) is a consistent midpack stalker and he should sit a good trip from the rail. He is probably not good enough to win but can definitely hit the board. #5 Harvey Wallbanger (15-1) should be picking off tired runners from the back of the pack. He ran well in all four maiden starts last year and Brian Hernandez Jr. rode him perfectly in his graduation run Nov 17. The Plays: #2 to win, Exacta 2/6-8, Exacta 6-8/2, Trifecta 2-6-8/2-6-8/1-5


Robert Lewis Stakes (G3) from Santa Anita Park (2-2-19)

SA 6 (G3 Robert Lewis, 8.5f) 
Primary - #6 NOLO CONTESTO, #5 Mucho Gusto
Secondary - #2 Magnificent McCool, #4 Gunmetal Gray
Wagers: #6 to win, Trifecta 5-6/2-5-6/2-4-5-6, Trifecta Key 6/2-4-5 

Comments: #6 NOLO CONTESTO (5-2) split a 10-horse field after a troubled trip from the inside post in his local dirt sprint debut Dec. 1. He stretched out in his second start and gamely graduated from the outside post in a local one mile affair Jan. 4 (improved 90 FIRE, 126 CPR, 132 FR). He projects another outside stalking trip under Joel Rosario and could easily be this good. #5 Mucho Gusto (8-5) set the pace and stayed away from the trouble caused by Savagery in the early going in the Los Al Futurity (G1) Dec. 8 and he ended up a clear 2nd behind his impressive stablemate Improbable that day. Show finisher Extra Hope looked good winning an optional claiming dirt route on a wet track at Santa Anita Jan. 31. He might be the controlling speed in this event under Joe Talamo. #2 Magnificent McCool (8-1) relaxed and kicked away in a sharp turf route maiden win Dec. 28. He handles dirt and might be able to step up and compete with these at playable odds. Prat is 4-for-5 with O’Neill recently and there is a chance that he will be aggressively handled in this spot. #4 Gunmetal Gray (9-5) got a great setup in the Sham (G3) last time but I do not see the same above par pace materializing in this race. He also might catch a speed favoring wet surface and will probably take money money than he should. #3 Easy Shot (8-1) followed up an $80,000 maiden claiming sprint score with an okay 5th in the Sham Stakes. He figures to stalk the pace and needs to improve a few lengths to threaten these. #1 Kid Cantina (20-1) stretches back out and he graduated in a one mile event on the all-weather surface at Golden Gate last fall. He gets a big class and distance test today. 

Kentucky Derby 2019 Point Race Recaps 

Smarty Jones Stakes (G3) Recap (1-25-19) - Winner: Gray Attempt

Gray Attempt stretched out successfully and made all of the running in the Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn Park on Friday, January 25. The Smarty Jones started with a 9-horse field and there figured to be an early battle between Gray Attempt and Jack Van Berg, but the latter scratched, and the first Oaklawn Park Derby points race of the year was a parade with the three early runners dominating throughout. Long Range Toddy saved ground chasing the pace from the inside post and finished 2nd, and Boldor a solid 3rd. Six Shooter was 4th, followed by Sleepy Eyes Todd, Bankit, Super Steed, and Forloveofcountry. This did not look like a strong Derby prep and the closers were basically eliminated due to the lack of pace. 


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 1:03.40 (35/42) at Santa Anita Park on Jan. 30. 

Comments: Bob Baffert’s two-year-old champion won his first two Del Mar starts in a 16-day span including the Del Mar Futurity (G1). After that, he stretched out in distance and captured the American Pharaoh Stakes (G1) and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1). The 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: 5f bullet in 58.40 (1/35) at Santa Anita Park on Feb. 1. 

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 is the morning line favorite in 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) 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.    

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

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

Latest Workout: 4f in 50.06 (3/7) at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 28. 

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 Remsen (G2) 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 is wintering in Florida and got back to work on Jan. 12, and he fired a big five panel bullet on Jan. 19. He is the even money favorite in the Holy Bull Stakes (G2) at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 2.   

Derby Points (10)


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

Trainer (Ken McPeek) - Owner (Magdalena Racing)

Latest Workout: 3f in 39.80 (11/12) at Payson Park on Jan. 26. 

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 is consistent but I am not sure about him as a long term prospect. He is wintering at Payson Park in Florida and had his first published workout of the year on Jan. 26. 

Derby Points (18)

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

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

Latest Workout: 6f in 1:15.20 (15/19) at Santa Anita Park on Jan. 27. 

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 (G1) and caught his stablemate Rowayton for the place. He shipped to Churchill Downs for the BC Juvenile (G1) and rallied from 12th after a half-mile to end up 5th at the finish (beaten twelve lengths). He showed a nice late kick to win the Sham Stakes (G3) in his sophomore debut at Santa Anita Park on Jan. 6. He has experience and stamina but will need to run faster in future points races to be considered a top tier Derby contender. He had his first workout since the Sham on Jan. 20 and is entered in the Robert Lewis Stakes (G3) on Feb. 2. 

Derby Points (14)


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

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

Latest Workout: 5f in 59.00 (2/35) at Santa Anita Park on Feb. 1. 

Comments: He ran away from his foes in his first two starts including the Best Pal (G2) at Del Mar Aug. 11. His went on vacation after his connections decided to pass on the Del Mar Futurity (G1) and American Pharaoh Stakes (G1) last year. I am not sure how far he ultimately wants to go but he certainly showed a lot of promise as a juvenile and has had five published workouts this year (thru Feb. 1).   

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

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

Latest Workout: 4f in 49.60 (5/27) at Payson Park on Jan. 29. 

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 he was unable to catch Mind Control while clearly second best (129 Today’s Racing Digest Final Rating). He figures to enjoy two turns.

(9) TACITUS (Tapit - Close Hatches, by First Defence)

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

Latest Workout: 5f in 1:03.40 (6/12) at Payson Park on Jan. 29. 

Comments: Returned to the list after getting back on the work tab on Jan. 6. Made his debut at a mile and a sixteenth at Belmont on Oct. 4, and he made a wide bid before finishing 4th behind King for a Day, Felix the Fox, and Kentucky Wildcat. In his second career start at one mile on dirt at Aqueduct, he was a bit slow early but made a nice outside move turning for home to break his maiden on Nov. 10. He is bred to be any and should continue to develop. 

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

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

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. 

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

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

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 figures to jump on the Derby trail and try a route of ground in the near future. 

THE NEXT NINE: (12) War of Will, (13) Code of Honor, (14) Coliseum, (15) Extra Hope, (16) Standard Deviation, (17) Owendale, (18) Bourbon War, (19) Country House, (20) Kingly

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