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Kentucky Derby 2019 Update for March 8

The Road to Kentucky Derby 2019 makes three stops in one of the busiest days so far this year, and highly regarded colt Instagrand makes his much anticipated return in the Gotham Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct on Saturday, March 9.

Kentucky Derby 2019 Points Race Analysis

AQU 10 (G3 Gotham, 8f) #5 HAIKAL (6-1) showed nice late interest in all three local dirt sprints and won despite a lack of pace in his Jimmy Winkfield return Feb. 9. He gets pace to chase and this distance looks just about right. He improved his FIRE, CPR, Pace + Final Ratings in all three starts. #8 Tikhvin Flew (12-1) drew outside the other speed and might get first run if/when the front runners back up. #6 Instagrand (1-1) ran off the screen in both dirt sprints as a juvenile including the Best Pal (G2). He sure was good as an early 2-year-old but this is his first start in 7+ months and first start away from California, and I am not sure how far he wants to go or if he has progressed since last year. Even money is a tough pill to swallow. #4 Much Better (10-1) easily won both of his one-turn dirt starts for Bob Baffert including a sharp optional claiming score under today’s rider Mike Smith Feb. 9 (blinkers on). The $600,000 son of Pioneerof the Nile should be make his presence felt throughout. #1 Family Biz (30-1) might be able to land a share at a big number. He should save all of the ground behind the speed and should be passing a few rivals in the stretch. #2 Knicks Go (12-1), #3 Mind Control (9-2), and #7 Not That Brady (5-1) should all show speed. The Plays: #5 and #8 to win, Trifecta 5-6-8/ALL/1


TAM 11 (G2 Tampa Bay Derby, 8.5f) #4 DREAM MAKER (4-1) was highly regarded last year but was green and never ran back to his sharp winning debut at Churchill Downs. He returned at Fair Grounds vs. optional claimers Feb. 9 and he ran away from that field in an outstanding effort (strong TRD Numbers - 2 next-out winners). He owns a strong pedigree and projects a tactical trip under Florent Geroux. #7 Win Win Win (5-2) is an excellent sprinter exiting a big local seven panel win in the Pasco. He is bred to go this far and probably wins this if he handles two turns. He broke slow in his last pair and cannot afford to make mistakes against better horses today. He sports back-to-back bullets for this. #6 Outshine (8-1) won two of three dirt sprints for Todd Pletcher and he added blinkers and earned an improved number Feb. 10. Joel Rosario takes the call and he is bred to handle this trip. #10 Tacitus (12-1) is bred to be any kind for Bill Mott and he faced some decent runners in both NY maiden starts last year. #5 Well Defined (7-2) added blinkers and stole the Sam F. Davis (G3) at 7-1 odds Feb. 9. All three of his wins were in front running fashion and his best shot is to shake loose early. THE PLAYS: #4 to win, Exacta 4/6-7-10, Exacta 6-7-10/4, Trifecta 4-7/4-6-7-10/4-6-7-10


TP 11 (G3 Jeff Ruby Steaks, 9f) #6 SKYWIRE (3-1) is 2-for-2 and looked good winning in the slop at Gulfstream in his first start for Mark Casse Feb. 13. He graduated in an all-weather sprint at Woodbine late last year and he worked over that tappet surface multiple times. He could easily handle his first stakes assignment and is a good alternative to the favorite. He earned the best last-out TRD Numbers (95 FIRE, 152 CPR, 149 Final Rating). #10 Somelikeithotbrown (8-5) cruised in the local stakes prep for this and the NY-bred placed in a trio of graded turf routes last year. He is versatile and looks like a solid contender but won’t offer much value. The Plays: #6 to win, Exacta 6-10


Kentucky Derby 2019 Points Race Recaps 

Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) from Gulfstream Park (3-2-19) - Winner: Code of Honor

Code of Honor was ranked as high as #2 on my Kentucky Derby list before throwing in a clunker in the Mucho Macho Man earlier this year. He put that below par effort in the rear view mirror and picked up 50 big Kentucky Derby points in a sharp victory in the Fountain of Youth Stakes. He stalked the pace from the inside post, took the lead in the stretch, and held off the late run of my value top choice Bourbon War to win by a bit less than a length. I am still not sure about Code of Honor as distances increase but he is a quality colt. The runner-up ran a big ran to land the place in his stakes debut and appears to have plenty of stamina. Vekoma lost for the first time in just his third career start. He chased legit fractions and ended up 3rd in a race he may have needed. He is another with stamina questions but should move up with this one under his belt. Overbet favorite Hidden Scroll ran extremely well in defeat and definitely showed his inexperience. He clearly has talent but is not quite ready for prime time, and I am not sure if he is a sprinter or a router at this stage. He lost the race when he went after hopeless longshot Gladiator King, and he used up too much energy securing the early lead. He did well to just miss holding the show and remains a promising prospect. Global Campaign was 5th and was followed by Union’s Destiny, a disappointing Signalman, Everfast, Epic Dreamer, Frosted Grace, and Gladiator King.   


Jarrod Horak’s “Exceptional Eleven" Kentucky Derby 2019 Contenders (3-8-19)

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

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

Latest Workout: 5f in 1:00.60 (6/43) at Santa Anita Park on March 4.

Comments: It has been a long time since we have seen Bob Baffert’s two-year-old champion, and we will have to wait a bit longer. He was supposed to return in the San Felipe (G2) at Santa Anita on March 9, but that race was scrapped after the Santa Anita main track was closed due to safely concerns. Live racing at Santa Anita is on hold, and the San Felipe will not be run this year. The Rebel Stakes (G2) at Oaklawn Park is likely to be split into two divisions on Saturday, March 16, and the Baffert trainee is now expected to make his sophomore debut in Arkansas.

Derby Points (30)

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

Latest Workout: 5f in 59.80 (4/43) at Santa Anita Park on March 4.

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

Comments: Bob Baffert’s unbeaten colt was also supposed to start his campaign in the San Felipe and is now expected to ship to Oaklawn Park for the Rebel. He got better as distances increased in a trio of 2018 starts. In his final start as a 2-year-old, he was the strong favorite in the Lost Alamitos Futurity (G1) on Dec. 8, and he stalked the pace and won for fun from the inside post at a mile and a sixteenth that day. He really kicked it in high gear in late stretch in that race and seems to want more ground.

Derby Points (10)

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

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

Latest Workout: 4f bullet in 47.00 (1/75) at Tampa Bay Downs on March 3.

Comments: His days of flying under the radar might be over, but he still must prove that he can handle a route of ground in Saturday’s Tampa Bay Derby (G2). He is 3-for-4 in sprint races and ran off the screen in the Pasco Stakes at seven furlongs after a slow start on Jan. 19. He is firing bullets for his March 8 engagement, and he is the 5-2 morning line favorite for the Tampa Bay showcase race.   


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

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

Comments: Original “exceptional eleven” member returns 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. I am not sure how effective he will be beyond a mile and a sixteenth but he is getting good at the right time and will get a chance to show his stamina in his final Derby prep.

Derby Points (54)

(5) WAR OF WILL (War Front - Visions of Clarity, by Sadler’s Wells)

Trainer (Mark Casse) - Owner (Gary Barber)

Latest Workout: 4f in 50.20 (63/87) at Fair Grounds on March 2.

Comments: There have been twelve Derby points races so far this year, and War of Will had two of the better looking victories in the Lecomte (G3) and Risen Star (G2). He owns early-pressing versatility and used his speed to secure a nice spot from a difficult outside post in the Risen Star. Other than talented but immature Country House, there was not much behind him in those two stakes wins at Fair Grounds, and he did not run much faster than front running Rachel Alexandra (G2) winner Serengeti Empress. He is a solid early season Derby contender but I think better and faster horses will emerge in the coming weeks and months. Plus, the Fair Grounds road to the Kentucky Derby has not been productive over the years. He has already secured enough points to run in the Kentucky Derby. He goes for a sweep of the Fair Grounds derby points races in the Louisiana Derby (G2) on March 23.

Derby Points (60)

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

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

Latest Workout: 4f in 49.20 (6/32) at Payson Park on March 3.

Comments: I like the progress he made in each of his four starts but he is still green. He was clearly second best to Kentucky Wildcat in his final juvenile start on 12-1-18, and that now injured foe returned to finish a good 2nd in the Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3) on Feb. 9. In his sophomore debut at Gulfstream on Jan. 17, he overcame a terrible start and slow pace to win going away. In the Risen Star at Fair Grounds, he broke slow again and was all over the place in the stretch. He probably would have beaten War of Will if he broke better and was able to maintain a straight line in the lane, but he did well to finish 2nd despite making multiple mistakes. Look out if/when he puts it all together.

Derby Points (20)

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

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

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. He is fast and talented but needs to ration his speed better in his next start. He deserves one last shot in a points race and may get it. The Florida Derby is one of his options.

Derby Points (5)
(8) INSTAGRAND (Into Mischief - Assets of War, by Lawyer Ron)

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

Latest Workout: 4f in 47.80 (2/71) at Santa Anita Park on March 5.

Comments: He was untouchable in his first two dirt sprints last summer (both 10-length romps) including the Best Pal (G2) at Del Mar. The $1.2 million purchase has not started since 8-11-18 and that was a decision made by his owner. I am not sure how far he ultimately wants to go but he certainly showed a lot of promise as a juvenile and he has eight published workouts this year (thru March 5). He was expected to make his first 3-year-old start in the San Felipe (G2) at Santa Anita on March 9, but opted for the Gotham Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct that same day, and Jerry Hollendorfer sure looks like a genius now. This was definitely the right move and not just because Santa Anita cancelled. He has not been seen in quite some time and the one-turn mile in New York makes much more sense. He is the even money favorite in the Gotham.  


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

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

Latest Workout: 4f in 49.40 (14/55) at Golden Gate Fields on March 2.

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 has now won his last three all-weather routes by a combined sixteen lengths. He has a nice combination of speed and stamina and we will learn more when he tries conventional dirt in the Sunland Derby (G3) March 24.

Derby Points (10)

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

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

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 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 next start.

Derby Points (10 points)

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

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

Latest Workout: 6f in 1:15.20 (14/23) at Santa Anita Park on March 1.

Comments: Has competed in four points races over a route of ground with a win in the Sham (G3) and runner-up finishes in the American Pharoah (G1) and Robert Lewis (G3). I thought that his Robert Lewis runner-up finish was his best race to date. He proved that he could handle a wet track that day and showed nice late interest over a speed favoring surface. I still think that he is a cut below the best at this stage but he does have some stamina and a decent late kick. He was slated to go in the San Felipe but missing that race should not hurt him too much. He has already raced six times overall and twice this year. He has plenty of bottom and there are many options for his next start.  

Derby Points (18)

THE NEXT NINE: (12) Dream Maker, (13) Bourbon War, (14) Roadster, (15) Extra Hope, (16) Spinoff, (17) Tacitus, (18) Mucho Gusto, (19) Signalman, (20) Tax

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