October 25, 2020

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Michael’s Top Kentucky Derby Prospects

May 4, 2019; Louisville, KY, USA; Chris Landeros aboard Bodexpress (21) , Jon Court aboard Long Range Toddy (18) and Luis Saez aboard Maximum Security (7) race into the first turn during the 145th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports ORG XMIT: USATSI-402986 ORIG FILE ID: 20190504_jla_ss1_210.jpg

  1. Nadal
    • Trainer: Bob Baffert
    • Last Start: 1st, San Vicente Stakes (G2)
    • Thoughts: This talented colt is 2-0 to start his career and more importantly is my #1 Kentucky Derby prospect… right now! I know people were conflicted about his last start since he only won by ¾ of a length. But let’s put this start in perspective. First, this was only the second start of Nadal’s career and it was among stakes company. 2nd, he ran suicide fractions early and was still able to hold on. Baffert doesn’t rush horses if they are not ready. He has to be high on this horse if he was willing to put him in a Grade 2 stakes race after only a maiden win. I’m fully aware Nadal might turn into an elite sprinter. But his breeding suggests that he should like the extra distance that the derby demands.
  2. Authentic:
    • Trainer: Bob Baffert
    • Last Start: 1st, Sham Stakes
    • Thoughts: God, I can’t remember the last time one trainer had this many derby prospects. It must be hard to be Bob Baffert, because this might be his best horse. He absolutely decimated the field in the Sham Stakes despite being green down the lane. My god, he almost ran himself into the rail near the wire. But this horse showed early speed and the ability to relax down the backstretch. My only concern is that his Sire’s (Into Mischief) offspring have run into distance limitations. Authentic though looks like he will be able to handle the distance. Just for grins, Azul Coast was the second place finisher in the Sham, and he just came back to win the El Camino Real Derby…. Authentic will be a force to be reckoned with if he keeps improving. Next Start will be the San Felipe.
  3. Tiz the Law
    • Trainer: Barclay Tagg
    • Last Start: 1st, Holy Bull Stakes (G3)
    • Thoughts: From his name, you might think he is a son of TizNow. But this is another talented son of Constitution who could not have looked more impressive last out in the Holy Bull Stakes. He posted a big speed figure in that effort. More importantly he was able to show tactical speed early, settle, and pounce.  
  4. Charlatan
    • Trainer: Bob Baffert
    • Last Start: 1st, MSW
    • Thoughts: Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Baffert debuts a horse in late February and starts on the Kentucky Derby trial after a dazzling maiden win… No this horse isn’t Justify. How could he be? He wasn’t even the favorite in his maiden debut. Baffert himself has said that he doesn’t know how good this horse is. That being said, Charlatan just put up the highest beyer speed figure of any 3 year old in his class. People are already making comparisons to Hidden Scroll from last year. I don’t think those comparisons are fair though. This wasn’t a sloppy track and Charlatan looked more impressive against better horses. This horse might be just hype, but I’m wagering he’s much more.
  5. Maxfield:
    • Trainer: Brendan Walsh
    • Last Start: 1st, Breeders’ Futurity (G1)
    • Thoughts: This was probably the best 2 year old in the country last year. Unfortunately, he got scratched at the last minute in the Breeders Cup Juvenile. Before that, he dominated the Futurity by open lengths. The 2nd and 3rd place finishers in that race both came back to win! Maxfield is finally back on the work tab, but we still don’t know when his next start will be. He has all the potential in the world, but must stay healthy to have any shot of making the Kentucky Derby Starting Gate.
  6. Structor:
    • Trainer: Chad Brown
    • Last Start: 1st Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1)
    • Thoughts: This horse proved me wrong last out in the Breeders Cup. He didn’t have great speed figures coming into the race, so I was against him. But Chad Brown clearly had this colt ready as he beat a talented group of turf runners that day. Now it looks like Chad Brown is going to switch this horse to dirt and take a shot at the Kentucky Derby trail. He took a similar path 2 years back with Good Magic who ended up getting 2nd in the Derby behind the great and powerful Justify. Sired by Palace Malice, there is nothing in Structor’s breeding to suggest he won’t like the dirt.
  7. Enforceable:
    • Trainer: Mark Casse
    • Last Start: 2nd Risen Star Stakes (G2)
    • Thoughts: I was against this horse, in the Risen Star, but he actually impressed me in his 2nd place effort. This horse was closing on a day  where the track had a huge speed bias. Although they were trained by different people, Enforceable does remind me a bit of Country House. They are both closing types that always give you an honest hard trying effort. Enforceable is not the most talented colt in this crop, but I have a feeling that this is the horse that can pick up the pieces late in Kentucky derby.
  8. Mischevious Alex
    • Trainer: John Servis
    • Last Start: 1st Swale (G3)
    • Thoughts: I’m still seeing some Derby prospect lists with Green Light Go on it. Well GLG was 3rd to this horse last out in the Swale Stakes G3. I love derby prospects that show big improvement from age 2 to 3. That is what we have here as Mischevious Alex is 2-0 as a 3 year old. Notice too that Irad Ortiz picked up the mount for that last win. To me that shows that the word is out on this horse that he is live. Like most Into Mischief horses, the one concern is that he might not be able to get the 1 ¼ mile distance. That being said, this horse has great action and I would not be surprised if this turns out to be the best horse on the New York circuit.
  9. Chance It:
    • Trainer: Saffie Joseph
    • Last Start: 1st Mucho Macho Man
    • Thoughts: Until Saffie Joseph gets caught doping his horses, it is tough to throw any of his horses off your tickets. Chance it seems to be the best colt in his barn. He’s under the radar right now since He’s mostly been running in these Florida bred stakes. He’s been impressive though winning 4 out of his last 5 races. Last out he even beat Sole Volante who came back to win his own derby prep. Chance it is running next in the fountain of youth where I think he might upset the heavy favorite.
  10. Gouverneur Morris
    • Trainer: Todd Pletcher
    • Last Start: 1st Allowance at Tampa
    • Thoughts: This horse is very intriguing. He is 2-1 in his short career losing to only Maxfield as a two year old. He then took a long layoff, but just won a very competitive allowance at Tampa last out. There should be zero distance concerns with this horse since he is bred out of Constitution and a Unbridled’s Song mare. Pletcher always seems to get a derby favorite in the mix, and this horse seems to be his best chance.

Horses I’m keeping an eye on:

  • Sole Volante: This horse was one of my picks to upset Independence Hall in the Sam F. Davis. He had a very nice closing kick to beat the heavy favorite and will likely have enough derby points to make the starting gate. I’m keeping him out of my top 10 for now, because I’m skeptical of how strong that Sam F. Davis field was. He got a good speed figure and is now 3-1 in his 4 race career. His next race will likely be the Tampa Bay Derby in March. Interestingly he is the only derby prospect that is a gelding. Very few geldings win the Kentucky derby. The last one to do it was Funny Cide who won the derby in 2003. Before Funny Cide, a gelding hadn’t won the derby since 1929. A horse named Clyde Van Dusen won it that year. I’m actually rooting for Sole Volante, because if he becomes a superstar they won’t retire him early like they do with most triple crown horses. Since he can’t make money in the breeding shed, he’ll have to make it on the track. We could see this horse race for a long time!
  • Honor A. P.: Trained by John Shirreffs this horse had a very impressive Maiden win at a mile last year at Santa Anita. He’s been on the bench to start 2020 so its hard to get a grasp of how talented this horse is. He’s bred beautifully and has a lot of potential. His next start is at the San Felipe Stakes on March 7th. If he can win their he’ll certainly turn into a top derby prospect.
  • Three Technique: This horse is still green and keeps coming up just short in big races. If he can mature, could be dangerous down the road.
  • Mr. Monomoy: I was against him in the risen star, but he proved me wrong. This horse is clearly getting better as the distances get longer.
  • Market Analysis: This was a very impressive Maiden winner at Gulfstream park. He debuted at 7 furlongs which is tough to do. Son of honor code should have no problem stretching out. Also trained by Todd Pletcher.
  • Violent City: This son of Violence had a very impressive debut win at Gulfstream park winning a 7F MSW by over 4 lengths. He beat a heavily bet Pletcher horse that ended up coming back to back to win next out at a mile. He is bred to be more of a sprinter, but if his connections choose to stretch him out, he could make a run at a later derby prep.

Derby Prospects I’m against:

  • Thousand Words: Another Bob Baffert horse that will be overbet down the trail. His best win was against Anneau d’Or who just came in 9th in the Risen Star. Baffert has 4-5 horses better than this guy. I’m going to try to beat moving forward.
  • Dennis’ Moment: This horse reminds me a bit of Instagrand. He had a flashy maiden sprint win, but might struggle as the distances get longer. I’m not a big fan of his trainer Dale Romans who has never won the Kentucky Derby. His workouts have been fast, but he has had trouble passing his running mates. I could be dead wrong, but I just don’t see this horse progressing.
  • Independence Hall: This horse was all hype after beating some crappy fields in New York. I was against him last out in the Sam F. Davis where he got 2nd to Sole Volante. This horse will be over-bet the rest of the derby trail. I’ll try to beat him every time.
  • Storm the Court: This is your 2 year old champion and I want no part of him. The breeders cup juvenile has turned out to be a key race for the worst of reasons. Only 1 horse from that race has come back to win which was Shoplifited in the springboard mile. Storm the court got 4th last out in the San Vicente. His wedding was the Juvenile, the rest of the trail will be his funeral.
  • Eight Rings: He’s trained by bob Baffert so he will take money the rest of the trail and I can’t wait to bet against him. He matured early as a 2 year old and beat weak fields at Santa Anita. Now the rest of the crop has caught up to him and unless he improves tremendously, he’s got no shot in the derby.
  • Max Player: He’ll be able to win some races on the New York circuit, but that’s about it. Last out he beat a very weak Withers field. They came home so slow that I wouldn’t be surprised if no one from that race makes the derby starting gate.