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Kentucky Derby update for March 29

There are a couple of races on the Road to Kentucky Derby 2019 this weekend including the Florida Derby (G1). Hidden Scroll tries to rebound after getting cooked on the lead in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2). The UAE Derby (G1) from Dubai is the other big weekend points race, and that race looks like a mad scramble.

Kentucky Derby 2019 Points Race Analysis

GP 14 (G1 Florida Derby, 9f) #4 BOURBON WAR (7-2) rallied and fell 3/4ths of a length short as my top choice in the Fountain of Youth (G2). He drew well, gets pace to chase, and should love today’s added ground. I think the improving son of Tapit can get there this time under Ortiz Jr., but he does not need to win to qualify for the Kentucky Derby. He has 21 points, and if he runs 3rd, he picks up another 20 points, and that would get him into the gate on the first Saturday in May. #1 Hidden Scroll (5-2) drew the rail and almost has to go to the lead. He was sensational in his local flat mile debut on a wet track, and actually did well to hold 4th after using too much early energy in the Fountain of Youth (G2) March 2. He gets a rider switch from Joel Rosario to Javier Castellano and could easily go all the way. #9 Code of Honor (3-1) sat a great trip behind the speed from the inside post in the Fountain of Youth, and he is firing bullets for this. I love his versatility and he might score again but he won’t be 9-1 this time. #2 Current(15-1) has shown ability in the turf stakes ranks and Todd Pletcher has been on a roll in recent points races. I can see him hitting the board at a price. #7 Maximum Security (9-2) stretches out and faces a salty graded group after a trio of facile victories vs. much lesser local sprinters. Jason Servis is a high % trainer and he looms a pace factor at the very least under Luis Saez. He might end up compromising Hidden Scroll on the front end, but I don’t know if he will be able to hang in there throughout. The Plays: #4 to win, Exacta Box 1-4, Trifecta 1-4/1-2-4-9/1-2-4-9, Trifecta 1/ALL/4


MEY 5 (G1 UAE Derby, 9.5f) #5 DERMA LOUVRE (12-1) might like this longer trip. His biggest win last year was a 7-length romp in his longest start at a mile and an eighth. After that maiden win, he won a couple of races as the chalk at seven panels, and finished his 2018 campaign with a head defeat in a flat mile event in the mud. He showed decent late interest in a show finish Feb 17 and might be ready to move forward. #1 Walking Thunder (5-1) easily won his first three starts before settling for the place in the UAE Guineas (G3) Feb 7. Dettori ends up here and he is a solid threat if able to navigate today’s added ground. #6 Divine Image (2-1) is getting better and can run all day. She exits back-to-back course/distance wins and put it all together in a romping win March 9. This is her toughest test to date and she won’t offer much value. #8 Gray Magician (15-1) was beaten by very good Maryland-bred Alwaysmining in the Miracle Wood at Laurel Feb. 16. He has some speed and might get brave if able to shake loose early under Joel Rosario. #11 Van Beethoven (10-1) might surprise for Aidan O’Brien. He was a group two winner in a turf sprint last year and returned with an even 4th in an all-weather flat mile event March 6. The son of Scat Daddy is bred to handle dirt. The Plays: #5 to win, Exacta Box 1-5, Trifecta 1-5/1-5-6/1-5-6-8-11

Kentucky Derby 2019 Points Race Recaps

Louisiana Derby (G2) from Fair Grounds (3-23-19) - Winner: By My Standards

War of Will was the strong favorite but took an awkward step early and never got seriously involved. That threw this race wide open, and By My Standards sat a better trip than runner-up Spinoff and prevailed by less than a length. The runner-up broke from post 10, stalked wide, and did everything but win while well clear of show horse Sueno. It should be noted that none of the top three competed in any of the prior points races at Fair Grounds, and that probably means that War of Will was beating nothing in the Lecomte and Risen Star. Country House made a wide, threatening move from the back but flattened out and ended up 4th. Mr. Money was next, followed by Roiland, Bankit, Hog Creek Hustle, War of Will, Limonite, and Lemniscate. If I want anyone out of this race, it is Spinoff. It looks like they will press on with War of Will. I do not like his Derby chances at all. He is exiting a below par effort and probably peaked over the winter. He will be meeting a full group of sharp, improving horses on the first Saturday in May.


Sunland Derby (G3) from Sunland Park (3-23-19) - Winner: Cutting Humor ($6.60)

Mucho Gusto was the strong favorite in this one, and he set sail for the lead from the inside post under Joe Talamo. He went too fast early and paid the price late in a distant show finish. Cutting Humor was always well placed under John Velazquez and got first run. He needed that jump because Anothertwistafate was charging late but came up a neck short. The latter had a less than ideal trip but never stopped trying and proved that he could handle dirt. He won his previous three all-weather routes in front running fashion and is definitely not a need to lead type. Mucho Gusto was about six lengths behind the top two and was followed by Wicked Indeed, Eye Cloud, Pasamonte Man, Hustle Up, Collusionist, and Walker Stalker.


Jarrod Horak’s “Exceptional Eleven" Kentucky Derby 2019 Contenders (3-29-19)

(1) GAME WINNER (Candy Ride - Indyan Giving, by A. P. Indy)

Trainer (Bob Baffert) - Owner (Gary and Mary West)

Latest Workout: 4f in 48.80 (7/23) at Santa Anita on March 26.

Comments: We finally got to see Bob Baffert’s two-year-old champion in the Rebel Stakes (G2), and he did not disappoint despite losing by a neck. He was supposed to kick off his sophomore campaign in the San Felipe Stakes on March 9, but that was was scrapped after the Santa Anita main track was closed due to safely concerns. He has shipped to Oaklawn Park for his sophomore debut in the second division of the Rebel Stakes (G2), and the strong favorite rallied to miss by a nose. Fellow California shipper Omaha Beach got the jump on him and won the battle, but Game Winner brushed off the rust and appears poised to move forward in the Santa Anita Derby (G1) on April 6. I am sure that Bob Baffert is not worried about losing a mile and a sixteenth prep. He just needed to get a race into his talented runner and the Rebel Stakes was a means to an end. The goal is to peak on the first Saturday in May, and that may very well happen.

Derby Points (45)

(2) IMPROBABLE (City Zip - Rare Event, by A. P. Indy)

Trainer (Bob Baffert) - Owner (WinStar Farm, China Horse Club, SF Racing)

Comments: Bob Baffert’s other unbeaten juvenile was also supposed to start his campaign in the San Felipe, and ended up in the first division of the Rebel Stakes (G2) at Oaklawn Park last Saturday due to the well documented surface issues at Santa Anita Park. He ran a quality race from the outside post and missed by a neck while racing wide throughout under Drayden van Dyke. I fully expect him to be much fitter in his final Kentucky Derby prep in the Arkansas Derby (G1) on April 13, and Jose Ortiz will be his new rider. I would not be surprised to see both Baffert runners win their final Derby points races next month and head to Churchill Downs as the two favorites.

Derby Points (25)

(3) CODE OF HONOR  (Noble Mission, Reunited, by Dixie Union)

Trainer (Shug McGaughey) - Owner (William S. Farish)

Latest Workout: 4f bullet in 48.40 (1/12) at Payson Park on March 25.

Comments: Original “exceptional eleven” member returned to the list after bouncing back in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) at Gulfstream Park on March 2. He was as high as #2 on my list in the past, and in the FOY, he save ground chasing fast fractions and was always in a good tactical spot under John Velazquez. He safely held off late runner Bourbon War to win by a bit less than a length. I like the versatility he has shown in four career starts. He flashed sharp early speed right out of the gate in his winning debut at Saratoga Aug. 18. He made his second career start in the Champagne Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park, and he ran a big race to land the place after stumbling badly at the start. In that one-turn mile, he made a sustained run from last and rallied five-wide in the stretch to finish a clear 2nd. He failed to put his best foot forward in his first start of the year in the Mucho Macho Man Stakes, but his other three efforts were spot-on and he has already earned enough points to run in the Kentucky Derby. He is as talented as any sophomore in the land and is getting good at the right time. He drew post 9 for the Florida Derby (G1) and is the 3-1 second choice on the morning line.

Derby Points (54)

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

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

Latest Workout: 4f in 49.00 (2/39) at Payson Park on March 22.

Comments: Returned to the list for the second time after winning the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) in his sophomore debut. He owns a strong pedigree and has definitely improved from age two to three. He should continue to develop for Bill Mott and has secured enough points to run in the Kentucky Derby. I am looking forward to his final Derby prep at nine furlongs, and he sure seems like a mile and a quarter type. It looks like he will make his final Derby prep in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 6.

Derby Points (50)

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

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

Latest Workout: 5f in 1:02.40 (1/7) at Payson Park on March 22.

Comments: Was sensational in his career debut in the fourth race at Gulfstream Park on Saturday, Jan. 26. In that one mile special weight affair, he went straight to the front from the inside post under jockey Joel Rosario and 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. That stellar effort earned him a shot in the Fountain of Youth (G2) on March 2, but his inexperience was on full display. Instead of settling in behind hopelessly overmatched outsider, he went after that one early, set the pace, and paid the price late. He set fast fractions and just missed holding the show as the beaten favorite in his stakes debut. He is fast and talented but needs to ration his speed better in his next start. The Florida Derby is his next start and he will get a rider switch from Joel Rosario to Javier Castellano.

Derby Points (5)

(6) ANOTHERTWISTAFATE (Scat Daddy - Imprecation, by First Defence)

Trainer (Blaine Wright) - Owner (Peter Redekop B. C. Ltd.)

Comments: He was excellent in the El Camino Real Derby and that victory earned him an automatic berth in the Preakness Stakes (G1). The $360k son of Scat Daddy put his three-race all-weather route wins streak on the line in the Sunland Derby (G3) on March 24, and he finished strongly to miss by a neck in a fine effort. The Sunland Derby may have been his best effort yet because he proved that he could sit behind horses and handle regular dirt. He owns dangerous early-pressing versatility and should be able to handle a mile and a quarter. He remains at Sunland Park and could end up running in one more race prior to Derby if he needs more points.

Derby Points (30)


(7) SPINOFF (Hard Spun - Zaftig, by Gone West)

Trainer (Todd Pletcher) - Owner (Werthheimer and Frere)  

Comments: I have liked this one since he ran 3rd in the Saratoga Special (G2) in his second career start last summer. It was great to see him stretch out and improve in his romping Tampa Bay Downs return Feb. 22, and he continued his upward trajectory in an excellent runner-up finish in the Louisiana Derby (G2) at Fair Grounds on March 23. His tactical speed in a big asset and he appears to be getting good at the right time.

Derby Points (40)


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

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

Latest Workout: 4f bullet in 48.00 (1/26) at Fair Hill (all-weather training) on March 23.

Comments: Stretched out and finished a wide 3rd as the beaten favorite in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2), and he did just enough in that event to remain on my list. He deserves final shot in a Kentucky Derby qualifying event, but he will have to run faster next time. We know he is a very talented sprinter, but I am just not sure how far he really wants to go. He could easily improve in his second try around two turns, especially if he is able to save more ground and get into a forward position early. It looks like he will go next in either the Blue Grass (G2) at Keeneland or Wood Memorial (G2) at Aqueduct, and a final decision will be made after he works again on March 30.

Derby Points (10)

(9) VEKOMA (Candy Ride - Mona de Momma, by Speightstown)

Trainer (George Weaver) - Owner (R.A. Hill Stable and Gatsas Stables)

Latest Workout: 5f in 1:02.82 (10/14) at Palm Beach Downs on March 23.

Comments: Showed excellent tactical speed and cruised home in both juvenile starts including a win in the Nashua (G3) at one mile Nov. 4. He made his sophomore debut in the Fountain of Youth and he was in the hunt throughout and ended up a decent 3rd. I am not sure how far he really wants to go but he should improve in his final Derby prep, which will be at Keeneland in the Blue Grass Stakes (G2) on April 6.  

Derby Points (10 points)

(10) ROADSTER (Quality Road - Ghost Dancing, by Silver Ghost)

Trainer (Bob Baffert) - Owner (Speedway Stable LLC)

Latest Workout: 6f in 1:14.00 (4/8) at Santa Anita Park on March 26.

Comments: I have been patiently waiting to get one of my original “exceptional eleven” members back on my list ever since his sharp optional claiming win at Santa Anita on March 1. That was his first start since a show finish in the Del Mar Futurity (G1) last summer, and he sure was impressive. We saw what he was capable of in his winning debut at Del Mar last July. He overcame the intimidating inside post in his professional debut at Del Mar, and his return victory was a big step in the right direction. He stalked the pace in his first route try on March 1 and pulled clear to easily best highly regarded John Sadler runner Nolo Contesto. He will get his first and only points race test in the Santa Anita Derby on April 6, and he has three solid works this month in preparation for that test. He will qualify for Kentucky Derby 2019 with a 1st or 2nd place finish.

(11) COUNTRY HOUSE (Lookin At Lucky - Quake Lake, by War Chant)

Trainer (William Mott) - Owner (Shields and McFadden)

Comments: I liked the progress he made in his first four starts, but I was expecting more in the Louisiana Derby (G2). He showed a bit more maturity in that event, but did not get a ton of pace help and flattened out late after making nice progress to get into contention turning for home. I still think there is a bit more talent than he has shown, and if he can break a bit better, he could jump up and win a graded event. He is frequently at the mercy of the pace and needs racing luck, and there is a chance that he runs in one final points race. His position at the bottom of the list is very shaky, and he will most likely be replaced by Bourbon War if that one runs a quality race in the Florida Derby.

Derby Points (30)

THE NEXT NINE: (12) Bourbon War, (13) Omaha Beach, (14) By My Standards, (15) Long Range Toddy, (16) Haikal, (17) War of Will, (18) Signalman, (19) Cutting Humor, (20) Instagrand

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