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Kentucky Derby 2020 Update Aug 31 2020

All of the Kentucky Derby 2020 points races have been completed, and some of the runners are on the grounds and beginning final preparations for the first Saturday in September. Pneumatic won the last points race at Monmouth Park on Aug. 15, but he is expected to skip the Derby and point to the Preakness. Let’s recap the final four points races and update the Derby contenders list.

Kentucky Derby Points Race Recaps

Shared Belief Stakes Recap (8-1-20) - Winner: Thousand Words ($20.40)

Uncle Chuck and Anneau d’Or scratched, and we were left with one of those odd 4-horse field stakes races. Honor A. P. was the overwhelming favorite, and I picked him on top knowing full well that he already qualified for the Derby and 8.5f was too short for him. I thought he would win on class, but not so fast. Multiple graded winner Thousand Words got loose through moderate fractions from the inside post. Honor A. P. bumped into Kiss Today Goodbye at the start and was last early. Mike Smith steered him outside and he tried to put some pressure on the early leader. Honor A. P. Is not really a speed horse, so Cezanne went after his stablemate Thousand Words, and the favorite dropped back to 3rd at that point. Thousand Words has always been a fighter when he has the lead, and this race was no exception. He turned away Cezanne and Honor A.P.’s late bid fell short by 3/4ths of a length. Kiss Today Goodbye was last for much of the running and edged Cezanne for 3rd by a neck in the late stages. Thousand Words was very good as a 2yo and started 2020 with a gritty points race win. He lost his way in a pair of subsequent starts before rebounding with a clear runner-up finish in the Los Al Derby (G3). He is back on top of his game after this win, and the $1 million purchase was always cut out to be a good one. Honor A. P. probably got something out of this race and was running on nicely at the end. Cutting back to 8.5f in his final Derby prep was not ideal, but nothing about 2020 is normal. He will need to run much better under the Twin Spires, and an honest pace at a mile and a quarter should lead to a strong effort. Cezanne did not look like a $3.6 million purchase despite winning his first two outings. He is not ready for prime time.

Travers Stakes (G1) Recap (8-8-20) - Winner: Tiz the Law ($3.00)

Tiz the Law was outstanding in this grade one contest at a mile and a quarter. Uncle Chuck went to the lead under Luis Saez and Shivaree was hot on his heels. Tiz the Law was right behind those two and was clearly moving better than the other two front runners. The overwhelming favorite took over with a quarter of a mile to go and was on cruise control in the stretch. He won by 5-1/2 lengths while under wraps. He was fast and dominant, and is clearly the strong Derby favorite after this performance. Caracaro stalked outside and finished 2nd, and my value top choice Max Player was a solid 3rd. South Bend rallied from last to complete the superfecta, and Country Grammer was a length behind him. Uncle Chuck weakened to 6th and it was a long way back to last place finisher Shivaree.

Ellis Park Derby Recap (8-9-20) - Winner: Art Collector ($2.80)

Art Collector dominated throughout. His versatility is always dangerous, and that is why he has won all four of his starts this year. Brian Hernandez Jr. knew he was on the best horse, and he just took control early from post 4. Truculent, Dean Martini, Little Menace, and Attachment Rate chased, but none of them could keep up with the favorite. Art Collector had a half-length edge through six furlongs, and he increased his advantage to 1-1/2 lengths in the stretch, and finally 3-1/4 lengths when all was said and done. Attachment Rate gamely hung in there throughout in a clear runner-up finish. I had my doubts about his stamina, but he never stopped trying for Joe Talamo and Dale Romans. Necker Island rallied to finish a solid enough 3rd at 31-1 odds, and Rowdy Yates was 4th. Shared Sense went from last to 5th, and was followed by Dean Martini, Winning Impression, Anneau d’Or, Sprawl, Trident Hit, Little Menace, and Truculent.

Pegasus Stakes Recap (8-15-20) - Winner: Pneumatic ($3.60)

Pneumatic was much the best as expected in this final Derby points race at 8.5f. Arkaan stretched out and set the pace, and Wartime Hero stalked from 2nd. Pneumatic was in a great spot stalking outside in 3rd, and he came after Arkaan at the six furlong mark, put that one away, and it was game, set, and match. The favorite opened up by 3+ lengths in the stretch and easily held off Jesus’ Team to score by 2-1/4 lengths. Jesus’ Team stalked wide from the outside post and kept trying all the way to the wire in a clear runner-up finish. Arkaan was well clear of the rest in 3rd, and Super John completed the superfecta. This was a very strung out field, and Wartime Hero was another 8+ lengths back win 5th. Big City Bob, Skyscanner, and As Seen On Tv trailed.

Kentucky Derby Top 23 Points Leaders (thru Pegasus 8-15-20)

372 Points: Tiz the Law

200 Points: Authentic

150 Points: Art Collector

140 Points: Honor A. P.

110 Points: Ny Traffic

90 Points: King Guillermo

83 Points: Thousand Words

80 Points: Dr Post

60 Points: Caracaro

60 Points: Max Player

45 Points: Pneumatic (targeting Preakness)

43 Points: Enforceable

40 Points: Rushie

40 Points: Swiss Skydiver (Kentucky Oaks next)

38 Points: Major Fed

36 Points: Storm the Court

35 Points: Attachment Rate

30 Points: Sole Volante

25 Points: Finnick the Fierce

20 Points: Winning Impression

18 Points: Jesus’ Team (targeting Jim Dandy)

14 Points: Necker Island

10 Points: Kiss Today Goodbye (figures to return to turf)

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Jarrod Horak’s “Exceptional Eleven" Kentucky Derby 2020 Contenders (8-19-20)

(1)  HONOR A. P. (Honor Code - Hollywood Story, by Wild Rush) - Previous Ranking (#1)

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

Latest Workout: 5f in 59.40 (4/95) at Del Mar on Aug. 15.

Comments: There is no doubt that the Shared Belief Stakes at a mile and a sixteenth was too short for him. His previous victory in the 9f SA Derby was outstanding and he wants every bit of a mile and a quarter. His work at Del Mar on Aug. 15 was excellent, and he appears to be sitting on a very big effort on the first Saturday in September.

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

Trainer (Barclay Tagg) - Owner (Sackatoga Stable)

Comments: I have nothing but good things to say about his Travers (G1) victory. He was tons the best and earned his best career number at a mile and a quarter that day. I might be the only handicapper out there saying this, but there are still few small things nagging me about this one. He keeps sitting perfect tactical trips and winning easily. The speed horses quit, he takes over, and no other stalkers or closers make a dent in the stretch. That just cannot keep happening in graded routes at this level. At some point, race shape, a less than ideal trip, a wet track, an off day, or a combination of those factors will trip him up. It happens to just about every horse out there, even the biggest superstars like American Pharoah and Zenyatta. That being said, he is a grade one winner at ten furlongs and is on top of his game, and is going to be the shortest priced Derby favorite in quite some time.    

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(3) ART COLLECTOR (Bernardini - Distorted Legacy, by Distorted Humor) -  Previous Ranking (#2)

 Trainer (Thomas Drury Jr.) - Owner (Bruce Lunsford)

Comments: His pedigree is stellar and he captured all four starts this year. He can set the pace, stalk, or close, and seems to possess all the necessary tools to win a race like the Derby. A mile and a quarter should be no problem based on the way he has been finishing his recent nine furlong stakes races. He was strong throughout in the Ellis Park Derby and could not be any sharper heading into the Kentucky Derby.

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(4) AUTHENTIC (Into Mischief - Flawless, by Mr. Greeley) - Previous Ranking (#4)

Trainer (Bob Baffert) - Owner (SF Racing, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stable)

Latest Workout: 6f in 1:13.40 (1/3) at Del Mar on Aug. 19.

Comments: His high cruising speed in his main asset, and he did not have the best start when losing for the first time in the SA Derby. He had a sharp beginning in the July 18 Haskell and got the job done by a rapidly diminishing nose. The main concern has always been stamina. The first signs of distance limitations surfaced in the SA Derby, and those concerns were validated when he almost blew a clear lead in the Haskell. He is fast and talented, but a mile and a quarter might be too far.   

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(5) MAX PLAYER (Honor Code - Fools in Love, by Not for Love)  Previous Ranking (#5)

Trainer (Steve Asmussen) - Owner (George E. Hall)

Latest Workout: 5f in 1:01.80 (13/47) at Churchill Downs on Aug. 17.

Comments: He is now trained by Steve Asmussen and will make his next start in the Kentucky Derby. Linda Rice did a nice job with this one in New York. He improved in all of his stakes outings, which began with a victory in the Withers (G3) at a mile and an eighth at Aqueduct on Feb. He followed that up with back-to-back show finishes in the Belmont Stakes (G1) and Travers (G1). He is lightly raced and on the upswing, and it appears as though he has plenty of stamina.

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(6) KING GUILLERMO (Uncle Mo - Slow Sand, by Dixieland Band) - - Previous Ranking (#6)

Trainer (Juan Carlos Avila) - Owner (Victoria’s Ranch)

Latest Workout: 5f bullet in 59.40 (1/46) at Churchill Downs on Aug. 15.

Comments: His races have been well-spaced. Only two starts this year and he fired big shots both times. He switched surfaces and upset the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) March 7, and was 2nd to Nadal in the second division of the Arkansas Derby (G1) May 2. I like his early-pressing speed and he tries hard throughout. That is it for his 2020 races. He has always been a fast worker and three of his last six moves were bullets. He left Gulfstream in late July and his last two moves were under the Twin Spires, including a bullet work on Aug. 15.

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(7) NY TRAFFIC (Cross Traffic, Mamie Reilly, by Graeme Hall) -  Previous Ranking (#7)

Trainer (Saffie Joseph Jr.) - Owner (Cash Is King, Paul Braverman, John Fanelli)

Latest Workout: 5f bullet in 1:00.38 (1/8) at Saratoga on Aug. 13.

Comments: His early-pressing versatility frequently puts him in a contending position from the outset. He has yet to break through with a stakes win, but you have to admire his consistency after a show finish in the Risen Star (G2), and runner-up efforts in the LA Derby (G2), Matt Winn (G3), and Haskell (G1). Was he really finishing in the Haskell, or was it more of a case of Authentic getting weary late? I think it was more of the latter, but take nothing away from his stellar effort at Monmouth Park. He almost left New Jersey a G1 winner, and the overachiever should make his presence felt throughout in the Kentucky Derby.     

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(8) DR POST (Quality Road - Mary Delaney, by Hennessy) - Previous Ranking (#8)

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

Latest Workout: 5f in 1:01.44 (12/25) at Saratoga on Aug. 14.

Comments: He was definitely on the right path after a win in the Unbridled Stakes and rallying for the place in the Belmont Stakes. I thought there was room to develop, and I picked him on top in the Haskell, but he was no threat to the top pair that day. He ran okay in both G1 starts but was never close to winning either event, and he just looks a cut below the best at this stage. His Haskell was not bad considering his less than ideal trip in a race dominated by the speed horses. He might be a real sleeper in the Derby for Pletcher, and I don’t blame anyone for picking him to finish somewhere in the top three.    

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(9) THOUSAND WORDS (Pioneerof the Nile, by Pomeroys Pistol, by Pomeroy) - Previous Ranking (#17)

Trainer (Bob Baffert) - Owner (Pegram, Watson, and Weitman)

Latest Workout: 6f bullet in 1:11.80 (1/6) at Del Mar on Aug. 17.

Comments: An old friend has returned to the list. I had him ranked very high on my list late last year and into the winter of 2020 after wins in the Los Alamitos Futurity (G2) and Robert Lewis Stakes (G3). He lost his way in the San Felipe (G2) and Oaklawn Stakes, and showed signs of life in a clear runner-up finish in the Los Alamitos Derby (G2). He got out there and kept on finding in the Shared Belief Stakes Aug. 1, and he rediscovered his sharp form at the right time. I always liked his tenacity. He is a street fighter, and if he can get to the lead, he does not like to give it up.

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(10) ENFORCEABLE (Tapit - Justwhistledixie, by Dixie Union) -  Previous Ranking (#11)

 

Trainer (Mark Casse) - Owner (John C. Oxley)

Latest Workout: 5f from the gate in 1:01.40 (8/47) at Churchill Downs on Aug. 17.

Comments: He is a real favorite of mine. His place on the list dates back to my first Derby 2020 blog from September 2019, and I have always thought that he was just the kind of horse to run 3rd or 4th at long odds in the Kentucky Derby. The late runner just keeps grinding away in the stretch in almost all of his starts. He has plenty of stakes experience with a win in the LeComte, a 2nd in the Risen Star, and a 3rd in the Breeders’ Futurity. He was 5th in the paceless Louisiana Derby, and just missed 3rd in the Blue Grass. Don’t leave him off of your Derby trifecta and superfecta tickets.

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(11) MAJOR FED (Ghostzapper - Bobby’s Babe, by Smart Strike) -  Previous Ranking (#19)

Trainer (Gregory D. Foley) - Owner (Lloyd Madison Farms, IV LLC)

Latest Workout: 5f in 1:01.20 (5/33) at Churchill Downs on Aug. 18.   

Comments: His pedigree is excellent and he has not run poorly other than his clunker in the Matt Winn (G3). He was competitive in his other five starts, and it was nice to see him finish 2nd in the Indiana Derby (G3) last time. He fired a bullet under the Twin Spires Aug. 9, and his Aug. 18 move was solid as well. He seems to be back in form and will try to get involved late on the first Saturday in September.     

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THE NEXT NINE: (12) Caracaro, (13) Sole Volante, (14) Attachment Rate, (15) Rushie, (16) Storm the Court, (17) Finnick the Fierce, (18) Necker Island, (19) Winning Impression, (20) Shirl’s Speight

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