Kentucky Derby Back to Playing Music in May

With the Kentucky Derby likely back to the first Saturday in May, it is time to take a look at the (very) early contenders on the Future Wager’s Pool 1, as well as several more emerging from Churchill’s “Stars of Tomorrow” card. ~ Steve Haskin

Kentucky Derby Back to Playing Music in May

By Steve Haskin


It is still too early to know for sure what songs we will be singing next year about the Kentucky Derby besides “My Old Kentucky Home.”

As of now it looks as if the Derby will be back running “In the Merry Merry Month of May” and that we no longer will “See You in September.” The Belmont Stakes will again be run when “June is Bustin’ Out All Over,” but will return to its place as the final leg of the Triple Crown. And finally, thank goodness we won’t have to wait for the Preakness to be run during “Autumn Leaves.”

Churchill Downs, having acted hastily in vacating its traditional spot on the first Saturday in May and pushing the race to September, thus bastardizing the entire Triple Crown, has vowed not to repeat that, so as of now it looks as if we will again be running the Derby when the roses are in bloom. That means that the Preakness and Belmont will not have to again acquiesce to the actions of Churchill Downs and will also return to their proper place on the calendar.

But we still have to trudge through December, January, February, March, and April. If it seems as if the Derby is a long way off, there is one more song reference we have to keep remembering, and that is the beautiful and profound words of Amanda McBroom, who wrote: “Just remember in the winter, far beneath the bitter snows, lies the seed, that with the sun’s love in the spring becomes the rose.”

That seed has already been planted, and this past week’s Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool 1 allowed us to get our Derby fever up a couple of degrees and enable us to get a very early start on throwing our money down the proverbial toilet. And we had additional seeds planted all over Churchill Downs with Saturday’s all-2-year-old “Stars of Tomorrow” card, which included the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes, and three maiden races and two allowance races for males.

The first Future Wager gave racing fans a chance to catch early lightning in a bottle and ferret out that elusive Derby winner, assuming he is not among the multitude of young horses who have yet to see the inside of a starting gate. If you had taken a wild shot last year in Pool 1 you could have gotten Authentic at 50-1 ($103.60 payout) compared to 8-1 on Derby Day. You could have had loads of fun along the way getting Tiz the Law at 11-1 when he was 3-5 on race day. And think of the hefty exacta price you could have gotten on those two back in November of 2019. Of course, 18 of the remaining 20 horses on that first list did not make the Derby, so were you one of those who had the backbone (or were crazy enough) to put up your money before you even came down from your Thanksgiving turkey high?

At least this time you won’t have to wait nine months hoping your horse keeps his form and doesn’t have any physical setbacks. So, for all those who had to wait that long to find out if a front-running son of speed-oriented sire Into Mischief with only one sprint victory in November at Del Mar and trained by Bob Baffert was going to lead you to the promised land, kudos to you. You can bet that ain’t gonna happen again. Oh, wait, the favorite in this year’s Pool 1 is a front-running son of Into Mischief with only one sprint victory in November at Del Mar and trained by Bob Baffert. Never mind.

This horse is named Life is Good, a very appropriate name if you are Baffert, WinStar Farm, and Spendthrift Farm, who stands this phenomenon of a sire, whose stakes winners are sprouting like weeds. All three are living the good life these days.

Life is Good looked sensational in his career debut, drawing off under no urging to win by 9 1/2 lengths. Thanks in good part to Authentic, he closed at a ridiculous 5-1 in Pool 1, which are shorter odds than the undefeated two-time Grade 1 winner Essential Quality (7-1), who clinched the 2-year-old championship with a victory in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

Speaking of Into Mischief, the one positive aspect of being compared to Authentic is that the Derby and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner was a big rangy colt with long gazelle-like strides and looked more like a stayer than a sprinter-miler type. Well, we saw another Into Mischief at Churchill Downs on Saturday who has the same traits and is just a big gorgeous colt who looks more like an older horse. His name is Mandaloun, a Juddmonte Farm undefeated homebred who scored an impressive victory in a seven-furlong allowance race, covering the distance in 1:23, coming home his final eighth in a sharp :12 flat. He was very professional and looks like he wants more distance. He has plenty of stamina in his female family, being out of an Empire Maker mare and having three daughters of the top stamina/class sire His Majesty in his pedigree. And he has several physical traits of His Majesty, who was destined for big things, but was injury plagued throughout his career. Remember the name Mandaloun.

We’ll get back to Saturday’s 2-year-old races at Churchill, Del Mar, and Aqueduct. But first let’s finish up with the Future Wager. We know that last year’s Pool 1 produced a 50-1 steal and the Derby’s first two finishers, but that was then. Now we have to see if there are any potential steals in this year’s Pool 1. I have gone over the Thoro-Graph speed figures on numerous occasions this year, so rather than bore you with numbers and a refresher course on their meaning I will just use the figures myself to point out several horses who are much faster than their odds would indicate, are on a steady progression, and have the pedigree to go a mile and a quarter.

What is most evident about Pool 1 is the lack of respect for the accomplished California 2-year-olds. While they bet the unproven Life is Good down to favoritism off only one start they completely ignored the Del Mar Futurity winner Dr. Schivel at 72-1, American Pharoah winner Get Her Number at 64-1, and the Bob Hope winner Red Flag at 35-1. Red Flag was particularly impressive romping by 7 1/4 lengths for John Shirreffs, while pressing the pace for the first time in his career. He blew the field away on the turn and drew off with every stride, despite not changing leads. Red Flag’s third dam, Mackie, is a graded stakes winner and a half-sister to Kentucky Derby, Travers, and Champagne winner Sea Hero, as well as multiple Grade 1 winner Hero’s Honor, and Diana winner Wild Applause. Their dam, Glowing Tribute, was a multiple Grade 2-winning daughter of Graustark. Glowing Tribute’s dam Admiring is a half-sister to the brilliant fillies Priceless Gem and Affectionately. The family, which is the basis of the Hirsch Jacobs empire, continues with names like Searching, War Admiral, and La Troienne. Red Flag’s pedigree top and bottom has no less than nine classic winners, so I am looking at this colt as a potential steal at 35-1.

But to really demonstrate the lack of respect for the California horses, Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Essential Quality was sent off as the second choice in Pool 1 at 7-1. However, runner-up Hot Rod Charlie, who he defeated in the closing strides by three-quarters of a length, closed at 34-1. Yes, the Doug O’Neill-trained son of Oxbow was 94-1 in the Juvenile, but that was his second race with blinkers on, and in his previous start, he outgamed the John Shirreffs-trained Parnelli to win by a neck going head and head the entire race, with Parnelli finishing 16 1/4 lengths ahead of the third horse. And this past weekend Parnelli broke his maiden by nearly six lengths at Del Mar stretching out to a mile and was one of the stars of the weekend.

In the Juvenile, Hot Rod Charlie changed tactics racing in seventh, eight lengths off the pace after going four-wide on the first turn. He made a huge early move passing the half-mile pole and was right alongside the leaders turning for home, still four-wide. He put the big favorite Jackie’s Warrior away and gained a narrow lead, but his move may have been just a bit early and he couldn’t hold off Essential Quality. His Thoro-Graph figure jumped from an “8 1/2” to a “3 3/4.” Hot Rod Charlie is a half-brother to last year’s champion sprinter and Met Mile winner Mitole, but he does have enough stamina to suggest he should be able to get classic distances, especially with his running style. His sire is a Preakness winner, and Oxbow is by BC Classic winner Awesome Again, out of a full-sister to two-time BC Classic winner Tiznow. At 34-1 he looks extremely appealing.

Another California horse getting no respect at all is Rombauer, who was second, beaten three-quarters of a length, in the American Pharoah after a poor start and then rallied from 10th, 13 lengths back, to finish a respectable fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile after breaking from the post 13. Despite all that, he closed at 88-1 in the Future Wager.

My other potential steal is the 96-1 Pickin’ Time, a son of Travers winner Stay Thirsty, who was impressive winning the Nashua Stakes at Aqueduct by 2 1/4 lengths, earning a strong “4 1/2″ Thoro-Graph number. He has a good blend of speed and stamina, with more than enough stamina to stretch out to classic distances. As with Rombauer, that is a monstrous price for an accomplished graded stakes horse.

Finally, if I had to pick out one exciting horse who looked like a potential star at a decent price it would be the 27-1 shot Caddo River, a son of Hard Spun who has a ton of early speed, but can carry it a long way, as he showed when breaking his maiden by 9 1/4 lengths going a mile at Churchill Downs. This horse rattles off :44 and change opening half-miles under pressure and doesn’t stop, as he demonstrated when narrowly beaten by Godolphin’s Speaker’s Corner, who took a lot of late money in the Future Wager to get bet down from 47-1 to 29-1 on the final day. We’ll just have to see if Caddo River can keep stretching out, but he’ll have to harness some of that early speed.

Now, getting back to Saturday’s races, in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes we saw the continued emergence of Keepmeinmind as a legitimate early Derby contender. Although Essential Quality was the star of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, what really caught my eye was the powerful move on the turn by Keepmeinmind, a maiden who was wearing blinkers for the first time. He was able to sustain his run to finish a fast-closing third and then proved that performance was no fluke when he again exploded from last, circled the field six-wide, and powered home with a final sixteenth in about :06 1/5 to run down a stubborn Smiley Sobotka to win by a half length. I thought after that race he would take a lot of late money in the Future Wager, but still closed at an enticing 19-1. What I love about this horse is his ability to accelerate on the turn, make up a lot of ground quickly, and then sustain his run a long way.

Smiley Sobotka, trained by Dale Romans, has been improving with each start and is bred to run all day with stamina all through his pedigree. He was under pressure the whole way, put the speed away and opened a clear lead in the stretch only to get caught in the final strides by Keepmeinmind.

Of the maiden and allowance races, the performance that stood out in addition to Mandaloun was the aforementioned maiden romp by Parnelli going a mile at Del Mar. By Quality Road, his dam is by Bernardini and his second dam is by Not For Love, the broodmare sire of California Chrome. Considering what Hot Rod Charlie has gone on to do after beating him by a neck, there is little doubt that this colt, with his steady improvement, his pedigree, and trained by John Shirreffs, is a serious horse to watch.

Getting back to Churchill Downs, you had to be impressed with Leblon’s performance in a mile and an eighth maiden race, in which he made a long sustained run, circled seven-wide, and outclosed the promising Shadwell colt Saqeel to win by a neck. Also keep an eye on third-place finisher Scarlet Fusion, who was equipped with blinkers after two disappointing efforts. He fought for the lead the whole way and hung tough in the stretch, fighting back in the closing yards to be beaten a length. Keep an eye on all three of these colts.

If you’re looking for a buried treasure on the Churchill card, watch out next time for Boldish, one of only two first-time starters in a mile and a sixteenth maiden race. The son of Dialed In, sent off at 62-1, was bumped at the start, dropped back to 10th, and then launched a powerful run circling seven-wide at the top of the stretch. He continued to close strongly, finishing fourth despite racing a bit greenly in the stretch, running with his head cocked to the outside. For all you Secretariat fans, this colt has Big Red in his pedigree four times and he has the much coveted Rasmussen Factor (RF), being inbred top and bottom to Weekend Surprise through A.P. Indy and Weekend in Seattle. His trainer, Joe Sharp, sent out another promising colt in Twilight Blue, who ran a strong second to Mandaloun.

In the other seven-furlong maiden race, Runhappy had a good winner in Runway Magic, who pulled away from 3-2 favorite Outasite to win by 3 3/4 lengths. And finally, in a mile and a sixteenth allowance race, the even-money favorite Scarred, who closed at 49-1 in the Future Wager, was run down late by the steadily improving Hidden Stash, a well-bred son of Constitution, trained by Vickie Oliver. He won despite not changing leads, so he will have to work on that, but he no doubt is immensely talented.

If this column raised your Derby fever a degree or two, be prepared for it to skyrocket in six or seven weeks when the Derby Rankings, formerly known as Derby Dozen, begins. Who will be the first to get the coveted No. 1 ranking? See you then and tell your friends. ~ SH


Leave a Reply

51 Responses to “Kentucky Derby Back to Playing Music in May”

  1. Davids says:

    Steve, although it’s best not to get too carried away with debut winners, no doubt Prime Factor (Quality Road) at Gulfstream Park and Manor House (Upstart) at Laurel, both on Saturday, most certainly would have dazzled the eye of more than a few hardbitten old railbirds.

    Ah, the winter list for the upcoming Derby increases a few more.

  2. Davids says:

    Steve, something that should be fascinating to follow is how these colts compete without the availability of furosemide. Apparently, it will be the first time since 1963 that furosemide won’t be freely administered as a permissible drug.

  3. Nelson Maan says:

    Wicked Strong wins the Remsen under a powerful ride from Joel Rosario who made all the difference to prevail by just a neck over a very game Ten for Ten.

    This gelding son of Wicked Strong brings memories of the charismatic Funny Cide, the first New York-bred horse and the first gelding in 74 years to win the Derby … both run the restricted Bertram F. Bongard Stakes and the Sleepy Hollow Stakes before proving their mettle against open company….with a tag price of a mere $5,000 Brookling Strong is another nice story of the common man entitled to dream big…!

  4. Coldfacts says:

    Arabian Prince appears to be nice colt. Small with a big heart.

  5. otterbird says:

    Looking forward to January and the Derby Rankings. This was a great preview. Thank you!

  6. Mary Ellen says:

    Steve, I love reading about promising two year olds, even at this early date! I’ve already begun my list for 2021 — considering the Derby Trail actually started on Derby DAY this year, it was hard not to. But other than the four or five horses who’ve shown real ability so far, it’s hard to separate the rest. Your astute assessments really help! Thanks, and have a wonderful holiday.

  7. Betsypaige says:

    Steve, I meant to add – I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving and that you and your family are safe and well!

    I’m trying to find out the status of Shug’s colt, Creed, who was so impressive and then went to the sidelines. I’d have thought he’d be working by now as it wasn’t a serious injury, but nothing. Would you happen to know who I might contact to find out? Even with HAP still racing, I adored this horse – I think he could be a serious older horse, but I’m starting to get worried again. Thanks!

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Have a very Happy Holiday, Betsy. I hope you get another Honor Code for Christmas 🙂

      • Betsy says:

        Thanks, Steve! I may have one – outside of Ethical Judgement – named Unbridled Honor. His dam is a half to Mr. Greeley and Roman Ruler, and he’s trained by Pletcher.

        It was a joy reading about these promising babies…hope springs eternal!

  8. Betsypaige says:

    I love Stay Thirsty, but I just don’t see Pickin Time as a real contender; I think he’ll be a useful horse, but not top class. I thought this before I read this piece.

    A horse I love, but who I’m not sure will be better on turf or dirt, is Ethical Judgement. He’s by Honor Code out of a Smart Strike mare, and he won his dirt debut by open lengths. The race was taken off the turf, so admittedly he likely beat turf horses, but this is talented, green colt.

  9. Davids says:

    Steve, there is nothing more compelling yet, at the same time, more futile than contemplating the hopeful progression of inexperienced 2 year old colts. Mind you, it’s the absolute favorite topic to wile away the hours of frigid inactivity over the winter months. There is plenty of time to consider, reject, then reconsider the future possibilities of inexperienced colts that show promise. The mind game is almost as good at being at the races.

    At the moment, Essential Quality appears the obvious choice and for good reason, he’s the champion with no obvious flaws. Life is Good may have impressed but so did Classier, initially, and from the same barn as Life is Good but what happened to the hyped Classier when facing real competition? Something to think about there. Good luck to those hoping that lightening will strike again but the goal posts have already been shifted.

    Apart from those you have mentioned, the Tapit colt, Proxy, and the Honor Code colt, Ethical Judgement appear to have real talent. Exciting times, thanks Steve.

    • Coldfacts says:

      “he’s the champion with no obvious flaws”

      It appears he paddles. I am not sure if you consider same a flaw.

      • Davids says:

        I was thinking more of the colt’s future prospects as a Derby contender, rather than conformation. The deviation appears more exaggerated while being pulled-up than say, a large variation in full stride. Not being close up to observe movement can be deceiving when viewed via video as it can distort by flattening the subject. Obviously, whatever conformation faults Essential Quality may have it’s not impacting his ability to win, as a 2 year old anyway.

  10. RONKORD says:

    what are your thoughts on Tiz The Law in 2020, was Manny Franco the weak link? i dont believe it .

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Many did fine except for the Classic. I just wish Tiz had run a little more, but Tagg did what he felt was best for him

  11. 1JoeP says:

    I see that Speaker’s Corner is not entered in the Remsen. Maybe a blessing in disguise because as you said 1 1/8 can dull a 2 yr. old moving forward. Hopefully all is well with the horse. Maybe the connections will look for an allowance race instead of jumping onto the Derby trail first. Let us know if you get an update on Speaker’s Corner Steve.

    • Steve Haskin says:

      I cant believe they only got 5 horses.

    • Coldfacts says:

      “1 1/8 can dull a 2 yr. old moving forward”

      I find the above an interesting assertion. Below are Remsen winners that were not negatively impacted by their 9F experience. Interestingly Barbaro

      Bluegrass Cat -2nd 2006 KD. It is unlikely he was capable of beating Barbaro on the day.
      Thunder Gulch – Won 1995 KD & Belmont
      Go For Gin – Won the 1994 KS, finished 2nd Preakness & Belmont

      The fact that the Remsen hasn’t produced a KD winner since 1994, doesn’t mean the distance of the race is the cause. The Wood Memorial hasn’t produced a KD winner in 20 years.

      The likes Frosted, Mohaymen, Catholic Boy, To Honor and Serve and Honor Code were not dull as 3YOs. None won the KD but it can hardly be inferred that it was their participation in the Remsen was the cause.

      NB: The Breeder Cup Juvenile was long regarded as race that ruined the chance of winning the KD. Street Sense and Nyquist put that assertion to rest.

  12. Deacon says:

    This year can’t end fast enough for me. I think there is a good chance we haven’t seen the Derby winner yet.
    Historically, BC Juvenile winners don’t fare well in the Ky. Derby, if they even make it to the race.
    Nice to see this early list, it is certainly a start. I look forward to your weekly Derby Dozen. Best thing is it is just around the corner.
    Nice job on this blog Steve……………

    Merry (early) Christmas to you and family.

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Same to you Deacon and thanks for everything

    • Coldfacts says:

      Historically, BC Juvenile winners don’t fare well in the Ky.

      Nyquist – 1st BCJ
      Street Sense – 1st BCJ
      Mine That Bird – last in BCJ
      Sea Hero – 7th BCJ

      The above horses won the KD.

      BCJ winner Good Magic ran into Justify and had to settle for 2nd.
      BCJ winner Classic Empire experienced a brutal surface/trip en-route to finishing 4th

      Of the 10 BCJ winners before 2020, 4 didn’t contest the KD. Three of the 10 finished 1st , 2nd & 4th. Three were unplaced.

      given recent history I cannot concur with the conclusion above.

  13. 1JoeP says:

    Hello Steve – I bet Speakers Corner at 29-1 in KDFW1. I was impressed with his maiden win running down Caddo River late. Speakers Corner fired a bullet in his last work and should be primed for the Remsen. I like that Bill Mott is the trainer and like the Pedigree being by Street Sense. Got 10 inches of snow ❄️ ⛄️ today in Cleveland Ohio area, but betting the future wager can heat things up a bit in anticipation of the run for the roses in May.

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Nothing like the early Derby betting to melt that snow. I likeed Speaker’s Corner as well. It was a good setup rrace for him with that blazing pace and four horses were within a length of each. But the fact Caddo River came and romped means he did beat a very good horse. And he does have the pedigree. If he goes in the Remsen we’ll know more. I’m not crazy about the Remsen and asking 2year olds togo a mile and an eighth. It kind of dulls them and trainers today wont drop back to a sprint first time out next year like ALL trainers did in the past. They chase after those points. Good luck with the wager. If he gets past the Remsen you’ll have a live one.

      • 1JoeP says:

        Looks like Speakers Corner is not entered in the Remsen. Maybe this is a blessing in n disguise because as you stated running a 2yr. old at 1 1/8 can dull the horse moving forward. Maybe the connections are seeking an allowance race next instead of going on the Derby trail first.

  14. Scott kyker says:

    I had seen Runway’s previous, and ‘hoped for a full field for him to get lost in( odd wise). Enough stamina for him next year??? Not so sure…

  15. Ingrid Hill says:

    Hi Steve. Good article. I love getting insight on the up and comers. I’m a huge fan of the fillies, do you have any that stick out as ones to watch?

    Thanks again for the KD primer!

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Travel Column looked very impressive winning the Golden Rod Stakes and I would keep an eye on her.

      • Betsypaige says:

        She looks good, but I really love the runner up – I’m biased because I adored Cavorting, who was fabulous filly. Clairiere also looks to be extremely talented; I can’t wait to see her next year!

  16. Paddy Head says:

    Nice to be back to some sort of normalcy, thinking of the Derby, watching the 2 year olds develop.

    I was especially impressed with Keepmeinmind. I love the last to first horses.

    There’s a long trail to go before May!

  17. Nelson Maan says:

    Thanks Steve for this thorough scrutiny of the early Derby hopefuls. This is an excellent way to pick up our appetite for a customary Derby trail… using Pool 1 of the Derby Future Wager as a reference was a good way to start the carrousel of dreams …

    At this early stage I tend to find the horses with “Derby Pedigrees” and I see Hidden Stash as one with very apt bloodline for the Classic. As you point out, the son of hot sire Constitution has shown a very auspicious progression. His grandam sire, Smart Strike, ensures a good dosage of stamina and on top of that, descending from the 1x family (La Troienne) makes him even more appealing (at least for me).

    As for Pool 1, I thought there were good values for Jackie’s Warrior (18/1) and Ten for Ten (51/1). I cannot overlook that the Warrior was the prohibitive favorite in the BC Juvenile after conquering the East with very impressive Hopeful and Champagne romps.

    Ten for Ten showed great promise after his maiden win. His second behind Pickin Point in the Nashua Stakes was better than it looked as the son of Frosted is way more effective rating rather than sprinting. Ten for Ten’s second dam produced Creative Cause and Destin who were notable players in the Derby trail. His granddam sire, Eskendereya, was the overwhelming Derby Favorite before an injury prompted his premature retirement. One can be sure that Shug McGaughey will have Ten for Ten more than ready for the Roses after being close with Code of Honor last year.

    I will certainly be watching the evolution of Dr. Schivel, Hot Rod Charlie and Get her Number.
    BTW Steve do you know the plotted route of these three “Californians”… it seems like they do not have any published public workout for more than two months now…

    I believe your first Derby Ranking will feature the Champ Essential Quality as your top choice. He showed a true “killing instinct” when winning a very rough race in his debut at Churchill… and his two Grade One victories after that has proven that he is very well deserved Champion. Perhaps Brad Cox’s current brilliance will extend into May to have a say at the run for the Roses!

    Just hoping that the regally bred son of the super sire Tapit remains “healthy and happy” during the next five months … Godolphin deserves a fair shot at the Roses after its past prospects failed to fulfill their early (Derby) promise.

    Thanks again Steve… I am looking forward to reading your next articles at Secretariat site!

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Great rundown Nelson. Thank you. I know they decided to put Dr. Schivel away early but gave no reason. I would think they will all show up again soon. Jackie’s Warrior actually ran an excellent race in the BC. We’ll just have to see how far he wants to go.

      • Matthew W says:

        I agree about Dr Schivel, who looked much better defeating Speilberg in in his maiden win—than he did beating him in the Del Mar Futurity–having also run a couple of maiden races, I thought it odd that they decided to put him away like that–still, the horse had just changed hands….his maiden win was the most impressive race run by any two year old in the Del Mar Summer meet, as the track that day was particularly deep and slow.

    • Davids says:

      Well argued, Nelson. I hope we’re right, with reference to Ten for Ten in the Remsen Stakes, and that a more patient ride by new pilot Jose Ortiz will carve out a win. Should this come to fruition, and Ten for Ten triumphs, you’ll have to reassure me that running in the Remsen Stakes was a positive in the first place. Ha ha

      I’m not keen on 2 year olds running 9f at this time of the year and Steve’s predilection has cemented this opinion over the years. Nonetheless, Shug McGaughey knows how to train a colt for the Classic races so let’s split the difference 50/50. If Ten for Ten wins, that’s a positive, and if he runs awful that’s just as good as well.

      • Nelson Maan says:

        Hi Davids ! Thanks for your reply. I love your line “The mind game is almost as good at being at the races.” in escribing early stages of the Derby Trail.

        Following your favorite prospect and witnessing him growing to be a superb Derby contender is an indescribable feeling.
        It is like the sculptor expecting to chisel a masterpiece while he is devotedly working on it… or the treat of guessing the end of a great thriller while reading it.

        It is more than the ego yelling at the world; rather it is enjoying beautiful horses trying to etch their names in the Golden Book of History.

        That feeling is one of the charms in Steve’s Derby Rankings every year…. Enjoying the journey could make the destination even more gratifying…!

    • Coldfacts says:

      “the super sire Tapit”

      Unless I have misread the reports. Prior to Essential Quality’s win in the G1 BCJ. Super sire Tapit didn’t have aG1 winner in 2 years. His current G1 campaigner is Tacitus. He is yet to in a G1.

      I cannot concur that Tapit is super sire. With more millions dollar progenies than any other stallion in the last 10year. The results are just no there.

      Speaker’s Corner – Bred with the same cross that produced the unfortunate Maxfield. His 2ns and 3rd dams were sired by a BCC and Arc winner. He cover 7F in 1:23+ en-route to breaking his maiden. Could he be Maxfield 2?

      • Davids says:

        Yes, Coldfacts, you have in fact “missed the reports” to quote yourself. Essential Quality won the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity on October 3, 2020 while on October 4, Valiance won the Grade 1 Spinster Stakes. That’s two Grade 1 wins by Tapit progeny prior to Essential Quality winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

        Granted, Tapit was not represented by a Grade 1 winner in 2019 but he hid have the most black type winners – 26, the highest percentage of black type runners – 15.9%, and the most Graded Stakes winners – 13.

        Moreover, considering Tapit is already a three-time Champion Sire, Nelson can put any type of superlative in front of Tapit’s name and be correct in doing so. Fair is fair, after all.

        • Nelson Maan says:

          Thanks Davis, you have just described key figures I had in mind … you are one of the most resounding voices of fair wisdom in any forum….

          Adding to your savvy compilation here I would like to highlight the 27 Grade 1-winners produced by the Great White.

          Among all the records of Tapit there is the fact that he has more horses in the Derby trial than any other Sire the last 8 years.

          On top of those statistical feats I believe that being a sire of sires is another sign of genetic prowess. The accomplishments so far of Constitution, Tapiture, Tapizar and some early signals by Frosted and Tonalist prove Tapit’s supremacy among his peers…

          • Davids says:

            Thank you for the kind words, Nelson. Another feather in Tapit’s cap is his early success as a broodmare sire. Mind you, the Tapit broodmares will only improve in quality from now on so you would expect even better results.

            Merry Christmas and the best for the New Year.

  18. Matthew Wohlken says:

    Steve I think Hidden Stash is a hidden gem! The other day he missed the start by a half-step, and was taken four-wide around the first turn, and the pace was :49 3/5 CRAWLING…he kept on coming after the favorite Scarred–who is a nice son of Into Mischief—and despite running on his wrong lead he got there–.10 of a second slower than the two year old stakes race won by Keepmeinmind–at least Keepmeinmind had SOME pace to run at–:48 3/5—-Hidden Stash has room for improvement, with the lead changing, and he did suffer a wide trip in his WIN the other day—I’d like to get a futures wager on ‘Stash, NOT the 6/5 or whatever the “all-others” is…..

    • Matthew Wohlken says:

      Watching the race replay of Hidden Stash you can see after the race Bejarano telling Vickie Oliver about his inability to change leads, and his just going on with the colt anyway—that’s on the trainer to help to correct—if they can fix that—he could be the one, two wins in two tries at two turns spells stamina—

    • Steve Haskin says:

      I agee Matthew. It is frustrating when the horse you like and want to get a good price on is in the field at 6-5

    • Davids says:

      Couldn’t agree more. Most young colts would have sulked but Hidden Stash, with grit and determination, went full steam ahead. Looking forward to see how the colt performs with a better start.