2023 Derby Rankings – Week 1

Don’t panic at the length of the first Derby Rankings. There are so many horses to sort through and so few that have really stood out, especially at the stakes level. As is often the case, the ‘wow’ performances have been mostly in maiden races and we all know that horses often leave those races far behind when they move up in class and face winners. But as you will see, some of these impressive maiden winners have the foundation, running style, and pedigree to suggest they will keep improving. This is a long one, but we tried to cover as many as possible. ~ Steve Haskin

Derby Rankings: Jan. 23, 2023 – Week 1

By Steve Haskin

1— Forte (Todd Pletcher, Violence – Queen Caroline, by Blame)

He had his first work this past weekend, breezing three-eighths in :38 1/5. It is way too early to get a decent line on this crop of 3-year-olds, but as of now I feel Forte stands far above the others based on proven class, accomplishments, and pedigree. The only horse who has come close to beating him in his last three starts, Loggins, is sidelined with no sign of an imminent return. Of course we all know things can change quickly on the Derby trail, but I can’t find any flaws in this colt. He has a strong stretch kick, can win going away, as he did despite the short stretch of the Breeders’ Cup, or fighting to the wire. He has triple-digit Brisnet middle and late pace figures, so he has been at his strongest in different parts of the race, and has two triple-digit Brisnet final speed figures. Also, he is on a strong upward pattern on his Thoro-Graph numbers, He’s won from five furlongs to 1 1/16 miles on fast and sloppy tracks and has won on the rail and going very wide. Until he shows he has any weakness or some freakishly talented horse emerges he has to be a clear-cut No. 1.

2—Cave Rock (Bob Baffert for now, Arrogate – Georgie’s Angel, by Bellamy Road)

He’s still a couple of weeks from his first breeze, but there’s no rush with him. He has plenty of bottom and Baffert will get him fit pretty quickly. As we know, he will have to be turned over to another trainer before the Derby. He is an immensely talented colt with a ton of speed and is bred to go long. This colt’s first three races were brilliant and dominating, much like his sire Arrogate, and I love the way he reaches out with that low action. I am giving him a pass for the Breeders’ Cup. He seemed to be in control of the race at the three-eighths pole, but turning for home he appeared to lose his action, as he tried to lug in, turning his head out, and failed to change leads. After he finally did change leads at the sixteenth pole he got back in stride and was running strongly to the wire, but Forte already had the race won. Despite suffering his first defeat Cave Rock actually ran his fastest Thoro-Graph number, getting a “2 1/4″ following three consecutive “3’s.” If he does come back in top shape and keeps progressing and gets sent to Tim Yakteen before the Derby like last year’s Baffert horses, don’t go by last year’s poor efforts by Taiba and Messier at Churchill Downs. Taiba wasn’t ready for the Derby with only two lifetime starts and Messier didn’t run again for six months, and when he came back he ran horribly twice for Baffert. Cave Rock would be a great legacy for Arrogate, who we lost way too soon.

3—Practical Move (Tim Yakteen, Practical Joke – Ack Naughty, by Afleet Alex)

Can a horse who once looked like another Bob Baffert patsy turn out to be his kryptonite? In Practical Move’s first four races he was beaten by four different Baffert horses. In his third start, however, going two turns for the first time, he overcame a poor start, going five-wide into the first turn and racing wide throughout, to challenge the heavy favorite Fort Bragg, who drifted very wide into his path turning for home, causing him to take up briefly. He cut sharply to the inside and looked like a winner in midstretch until Fort Bragg ducked in under a right-hand whip and bumped him soundly. He still regained the lead, but Fort Bragg came back and beat him, only to be disqualified, giving Practical Move his first official victory over Baffert. But then he dropped back to a sprint in the Bob Hope Stakes and ran into one of Baffert’s speediest bullets, Havnameltdown, and could only finish third. Then came the Los Alamitos Futurity at 1 1/16 miles, and of his four opponents, three were trained by Baffert, including the notorious Fort Bragg. But this time he needed no help from the stewards and crushed them all, drawing off to a 3 3/4-length score, earning a whopping 105 Brisnet speed figure and improving to a “3 3/4″ Thoro-Graph number. This colt has a lot of bottom, having run at four different distances from 6 1/2 furlongs to 1  1/16 miles and is at his best going two turns. He returned to the work tab Saturday with a strong half in :47 4/5. Who knows which Baffert horses Yakteen will get for the Derby this year, but he may very well have the best one already. And this one is all his.


4—Giant Mischief (Brad Cox, Into Mischief – Vertical Oak, by Giant Oak)

There is a lot to like about this colt. He did debut going 5 1/2 furlongs at Horseshoe Indianapolis, which is not your typical launch pad for Kentucky Derby hopefuls. However, Cox does use that track to look for a softer spot. That said, it appeared he had little shot to finish in the money at the quarter pole and no shot to win at the eighth pole, but he suddenly took off at the sixteenth pole and blew right by the leader. Off that race he wound up next in a seven-furlong allowance race on the Breeders’ Cup card facing Bob Baffert’s 3-5 shipper Arabian Lion, an impressive debut winner in 1:09 3/5. Sent off at 6-1 and breaking from the rail he showed good speed moving quickly into third just inside Arabian Lion. Nearing the top of the stretch, Arabian Lion moved outside the leader, while Giant Mischief took the inside route. They hooked up in a stretch battle and to most everyone’s surprise it was Giant Mischief who began to inch away, winning by three-quarters of a length in 1:22 1/5 with Arabian Lion 17 lengths ahead of the third horse. Giant Mischief’s Brisnet speed figure catapulted from a 70 to a 99. He closed out the year in the Springboard Mile at Remington Park and got left cold at the break, dropping far back of the nine-horse field. He remained in last all the way down the backstretch and then used his quick turn of foot to inhale the field in one swoop, and in a flash was lapped on the two leaders. It looked like he had given all he had as he lost touch with them and appeared content to finish third, as the eventual winner opened up in midstretch. But again he found that other gear out of nowhere and took off. His big move fell 1 1/4 lengths short, but he was gaining with every stride. He had his first breeze back as he points for the Rebel Stakes.


5—Jace’s Road (Brad Cox, Quality Road – Out Post, by Silver Deputy)

This colt was impressive winning first time out at Ellis Park going six furlongs and pretty much toying with his field, drawing off under a hand ride to win by 4 1/2 lengths in a sharp 1:09 4/5, doing everything smoothly and professionally. He was then stretched out to 1 1/16 miles and thrown right into graded stakes company in the Iroquois Stakes at Churchill Downs. Although he finished third, beaten only 1 1/2 lengths, I loved what I saw. He was sitting in good position tracking the leader, but when the 3-5 favorite Echo Again moved up on his outside to take over second he suddenly dropped back and found himself three lengths back and going nowhere. Then three other horses pulled alongside him, but he kept coming. In the stretch, he swung out, brushing with another horse and then rallied inside the eventual winner Curly Jack, but just couldn’t sustain his run. I just liked the way he bounced back and made a race out of it after looking hopelessly beaten. I can’t explain his dud in the Street Sense Stakes run in the slop when he dropped right out of it and was virtually eased in the stretch. But to his credit he rebounded in the Gun Runner Stakes at Fair Grounds when he went right to the front pressed by the 4-5 favorite Determinedly, who was coming off a stunning 7 1/4-length romp in a maiden race. Nearing the head of the stretch Determinedly was being hard ridden while Jace’s Road was still coasting along. In the stretch, Jace’s Road shook free and dew off at will, winning under a hand ride by 5 1/4 lengths, earning a 96 Brisnet speed figure and running a “4 1/2″ Thoro-Graph number, which was a jump of four points from his first two races. This colt’s tail-female line combines the best of Phipps and Paul Mellon blood and you can’t get classier than that.


6—Cyclone Mischief (Dale Romans, Into Mischief – Areyoucominghere, by Bernardini)

He looks to be one of the biggest overlays of the Future Wager at 41-1. As good as he looked at 2, he may be the most improved colt of all of them. In his career debut at a taxing flat mile at Churchill Downs he went to the lead pressed by two horses. He put them away and opened up in the stretch, but was nailed by two closers right at the wire. In his next start he again broke sharply and went to the front, gave it up briefly, then quickly opened a clear lead nearing the top of the stretch and drew off under a hand ride to win by 5 1/4 lengths, jumping over to his left lead nearing the wire. Despite running a slow time and dropping to a paltry 77 Brisnet figure, he was put in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes. With eight horses in contention at the eighth pole, he was passed late, finishing seventh, but beaten only 2 3/4 lengths by Instant Coffee. Sent to Gulfstream, he made his 3-year-old debut in a one-mile allowance race and was fourth choice behind a pair of promising Todd Pletcher colts and one trained by Saffie Joseph and seemed like a different horse. This time he rated beautifully in third two lengths back. On the turn, one of the Pletcher horses, Litigate, passed him on the outside, putting him in a box, but he was able to ease out between horses, with four across the track. He put Litigate away turning for home and drew off to win with his ears up by 5 3/4 lengths. Not only did his Brisnet figure jump from an 81 to a 99, after running three slow Thoro-Graph numbers of “11,” he catapulted all the way to a “4 1/2.” He is a fairly late foal, born April 30, so it looks like he is just now figuring it all out.


7—Banishing (Brendan Walsh, Ghostzapper – Dowager, by A.P. Indy)

He was scratched from an important allowance race with some superficial cuts, which is not what you want in your first race against winners. But if you liked anyone from that race, as well as the LeComte Stakes, this colt in only two starts has proven to be significantly faster than anyone in both those races. As for missing this race, it does set him back a bit, but he has already gone a mile and 1 1/16 miles, so he at least has some good bottom. Owned by Godolphin, he is a big long-striding horse with high knee action, but I like the turn of foot he showed in his career debut. After breaking awkwardly from post 12, hitting the side of the gate, he raced way out in the middle of the track and moved up gradually, but then seemed to be backing up a bit. Just then he put it in another gear and starting passing horses quickly on his own, going from seventh to being lapped on the leaders at the head of the stretch. He was unable to sustain his run, finishing fourth, beaten 2 3/4 lengths. Going a flat mile at Churchill Downs in your career debut is tough and he got a lot out of it. Sent to Fair Grounds and stretching out to 1 1/16 miles and two turns, he broke on top and set the pace with two horses lapped on him and putting constant pressure on him. He opened up briefly on the turn, then was challenged again nearing the top of the stretch. In a flash, he was gone, opening up with every stride and drawing off under a hand ride to win by 8 1/2 lengths, galloping out way ahead of the others. I loved the maturity and athleticism he showed compared to his first race, and coming home his last sixteenth in :06 1/5. He has three Breeders’ Cup Classic winners in his first three generations and just looks like a horse with a promising future.


8—Signator (Shug McGaughey, Tapit – Pension, by Seeking the Gold)

Once again I’m taking a shot and going against my rules about ranking horses coming off maiden wins. But the truth is, I haven’t seen many stakes winners this year that have made a big impression on me and fields that have been deep with talent. To me they all still have a lot to prove. I am putting Signator this high mainly from a visual standpoint. He is a beautiful moving horse with great extension to his stride and has excellent mechanics. He also has a “fantastic disposition,” according to Eddie Woods, who trained him up to the 2-year-old sale. He obviously is a physical standout and could run early considering they paid $1.7 million for him. In his career debut going six furlongs, which I believe was too short for him, he was still a bit green and didn’t change leads until Joel Rosario made him nearing the eighth pole. Once he did he took off and was flying at the end to be second. Stretching out to a flat mile at Aqueduct on a muddy track, he had a rough start, but after sitting right behind four horses was able to come through on the rail and draw off to win by 4 1/2 widening lengths, getting stronger the farther he went, as jockey Javier Castellano never touched him with the whip and took a look back inside the sixteenth pole. Despite doing it all on his own he still came home the final quarter in :24 flat. You never know about a horse until they beat winners, but I will give this colt a high ranking based on the eye test and a tremendous pedigree that I will get into next week. He worked a half at Payson Park in :48 3/5 last week, and that is pretty quick over that deep track.


9—Instant Coffee, Brad Cox, Bolt d’Oro – Follow No One, by Uncle Mo)

The Brad Cox cavalcade of stars continues, and although I wasn’t exactly blown away with the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes or the LeComte Stakes he did win both of them in a very professional manner, and with two graded stakes victories and a sharp seven-furlong maiden score in :1:22 3/5 you have to take him seriously. But the truth is, no one went into the LeComte with good speed figures and they ran basically the same time as the allowance race earlier on the card with three horses on the wire together and the winner appearing to tire late. The LeComte also saw the pace-setting Echo Again pulling up in the stretch with a stifle issue. Instant Coffee has a very efficient stride, runs straight, and as mentioned earlier has been very professional in all his races. He had been running Thoro-Graph numbers  of “7 1/2” twice and then an “8” and Beyer and Brisnet figures in the 80s, so he needs to get faster, as do many of this year’s top stakes performers. We’ll see what happens when these other horses start getting faster and improving, but as of now he has to be included in the Top 10. The question whether he can start getting faster and improving with them.


10—Arabian Knight (Bob Baffert, Uncle Mo – Borealis Night, by Astrology)

A $2.3 million yearling, he looked like it in his only start, a 7 1/4-length romp in a rapid 1:21 4/5 at Keeneland. He was never really asked to run down the stretch and still came home his final eighth in :12 flat. With a “2 1/4” Thoro-Graph number, you just have to wonder if it was too fast too quickly. The runner-up, Determinedly, came back and won by 7 1/4 lengths next time out before finishing third in the Gun Runner Stakes and barely winning an allowance race Saturday. Instead of waiting for the Robert Lewis Stakes at home, Arabian Knight will head to Oaklawn for Saturday’s Southwest Stakes and will be coming off a series of terrific works, including a powerful 1:12 1/5 move for six furlongs and five furlongs in :59 1/5. Baffert puts a lot of foundation into his horses and he should be dead-fit despite having only the one start. He does stick his left leg out a bit, which makes his stride look a bit awkward, but he’s only had the one start to judge him by and he is a very powerful mover. He reminds me in some ways of his sire, who was one of the best 2-year-olds we’ve seen in a while. Again, it is extremely rare for me to rank a horse with only one sprint start, but this is the year to do it and this colt looks very advanced and I know what I’m getting from Baffert. Pedigree-wise, he is a complete outcross through five generations and his dam is inbred to Secretariat and Dr. Fager and her tail-female line traces to Damascus.

11—Corona Bolt (Brad Cox, Bolt d’Oro – Stormbeforethecalm, by Quiet American)

There are 11 Brad Cox-trained horses in the latest Future Wager, and although this colt hasn’t been farther than six furlongs I am going to assume that he will only get better the farther he goes. He’ll stretch out to 1 1/16 miles in Saturday’s Southwest Stakes and a big effort will move him way up in the rankings. He already has shown a lot in his two races. In his debut going 6 1/2 furlongs at Churchill Downs he got bumped pretty hard coming out of the gate, tracked the two leaders in third, and then showed a good turn of foot inhaling those two without any urging whatsoever though a stiff half in :45 3/5. He opened up in the stretch and was given a strong hand ride to win by a length. In his next start, the six-furlong Sugar Bowl at Fair Grounds, he broke sharply and charged to the lead in :22 1/5 and :45 4/5. He opened up in the stretch and won comfortably by 6 3/4 lengths in 1:09 4/5, closing his final quarter in :24 flat. He does hold his head a bit high in the stretch, but he carries his legs under him beautifully, and in his two races you cannot ask a horse to run straighter down the lane. Not once did he deviate even a little off his path, even when Florent Geroux gave him a little one-tap wake-up call in the Sugar Bowl before letting him come home all on his own.


12—Disarm (Steve Asmussen, Gun Runner – Easy Tap, by Tapit)

I’m really caught up with maiden winners this year, mainly because they just seem more exciting than most of the proven stakes horses. So I’ll continue to take shots with a few of them even though it’s something I normally never do, as I have seen too many exciting maiden winners regress when they face winners. Another who has caught my eye is Disarm, who has the right style, looks very classy, and has a strong pedigree. In his debut going 5 1/2 furlongs at Churchill Downs he had to steady in traffic, dropping back several lengths. He moved up along the inside, then swung six-wide at the top of the stretch. Still about seventh in mid-stretch he took off and was flying at the end, finishing third, beaten two lengths. His next start was Whitney day at Saratoga going seven furlongs. He drew the disadvantageous rail and broke a step slow, dropping back. He again moved up along the rail, swung four-wide and quickly drew clear, winning by 6 1/4 lengths under a hand ride. The runner-up who he left in his wake, Arthur’s Ride, came back to finish second, beaten three-quarters of a length, by Instant Coffee, who went on to win the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes and LeComte. Some may not be thrilled with the final time of 1:24 2/5 and final eighth in :13 2/5, but the Grade 1 Test Stakes that day was run in 1:23 4/5 with a final eighth in :13 2/5 and the Whitney won by Life is Good was run in 1:48 4/5 with a final eighth in :13 1/5. I love the way this colt reaches out with his low action.  He hasn’t shown a quick turn of foot but he keeps getting stronger, building up momentum, and should appreciate stretching out in distance. He hasn’t run since August, but has a pair of easy half-mile works at Fair Grounds.


13—Victory Formation (Brad Cox, Tapwrit – Smart N Soft, by Smart Strike)

He probably should be higher, but I have to break up this Brad Cox juggernaut somehow. I could have gone with a number of Cox’s horses, but many of them look fairly similar. I went with this guy because he is undefeated in three starts and has a good form line through third-place finisher Lugan Knight, who he defeated in an allowance race at Churchill Downs and who came back to win the Jerome Stakes at Aqueduct. Victory Formation has won all three of his starts on the front end, including the Smarty Jones Stakes and it is time to see if he can rate sitting off the pace. There are too many horses faster than him, so you don’t want the kind of horse who is dependent on the lead. What I admired most about him in that allowance score is the way he turned what looked like certain defeat into victory, coming again after being passed by the impressive maiden winner Two Eagles River.


14—Blazing Sevens (Chad Brown, Good Magic – Trophy Girl, by Warrior’s Reward)

Another of the many solid stakes horses who have not done anything to get excited about, but right now is good enough to be a contender, especially having finished on the board in such prestigious races as the Hopeful, Champagne, and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. And although his career debut going six furlongs at Saratoga was run in slow time he did look good drawing off to a 6 1/4-length score while being eased in the final 100 yards. He didn’t seem to handle the sloppy track in the Hopeful in only his second career start, finishing a well-beaten third. But in the Champagne he was a different horse, and although facing an off track again, he blew by the leaders to win by 3 1/4 lengths. Although he finished fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile he showed that the Champagne was no fluke, as he broke slowly and was briefly last before moving up into seventh along the inside. Despite the field being spread out across the track nearing the top of the stretch, creating several wide openings, he was taken out and wound up getting fanned some seven-wide. He closed well enough down the shortened stretch and was beaten a little over five lengths behind the two best 2-year-olds in the country. He’s just getting back to serious training and has done enough to be considered a legitimate Derby contender.


15—Dubyuhnell (Danny Gargan, Good Magic – Wild Gams, by Forest Wildcat)

The gutsy Remsen Stakes winner has the fastest Thoro-Graph number with a “1 1/4,” and is the only horse other than Forte in the Future Wager field to run a triple-digit Brisnet figure. He seems to be coming around nicely for Gargan at Palm Meadows, breezing a half in :49 3/5. The son of Good Magic has two victories and a fourth, with both wins coming in the slop, one of them an off-the-turf race. The Remsen got excellent speed figures all around, but with a fourth in his only dirt race, in which he was beaten almost eight lengths by Instant Coffee, I just want to see how he handles a fast track before ranking him any higher. I was also impressed with the Remsen runner-up, Arctic Arrogance, who is as tough and game as they come, but with him it’s just about finishing off his races and coming out on top of his stretch battles. That Dubyuhnell was able to out-game him going 1 1/8 miles and coming off only two starts and an off-the-turf maiden victory was pretty impressive. If he can show he’s just as good on a fast track he no doubt will move up in the rankings.


Late news: Three horses in the Top 15 — Arabian Knight, Jace’s Road, and Corona Bolt — and two horses mentioned in detail in Knocking on the Door — Sun Thunder and Hit Show — were entered Monday in Saturday’s Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn, Hold on to your hats. Three of those are trained by Brad Cox.

Saturday’s allowance race at Fair Grounds took a big hit with the scratch off Banishing. The wire-to-wire winner DETERMINEDLY was making his eighth career start and did seem to get a bit tired late, just holding off two lightly raced horses, TAPIT’S CONQUEST and SILVER HEIST, coming off maiden wins, with another maiden winner, TAPIT SHOES, racing very greenly down the stretch. If you like Instant Coffee, they did run basically the same time.

One Brad Cox-trained horse who has been high on everyone’s radar screen is the gutsy Breeders’ Futurity runner-up LOGGINS. Churchill Downs continues to include him in the Future Wager field, where he is taking a ton of money, but he has been sidelined with various issues and is not expected back in training in the near future. Another Cox horse to keep an eye on is HIT SHOW, winner of two of his three  starts, with his last being an impressive 3 1/2-length score going a mile at Oaklawn. The son of Candy Ride has been very sharp with three straight works in 1:00 and change and could join stablemate Corona Bolt in Saturday’s Southwest Stakes.

Another horse I am looking forward to seeing run in the Southwest Stakes is the maiden winner SUN THUNDER, who unleashed a powerful turn of foot to win by 6 1/2 lengths after finishing a strong-closing third to Determinedly in his career debut. His Thoro-Graph numbers have been slow and it didn’t look as if he beat much last time out. But his last was visually impressive and I loved his most recent work, going a half in company in a bullet :47 3/5, fastest of 92 works at the distance.

On the Baffert front, HAVNAMELTDOWN, winner of the Best Pal and Bob Hope Stakes, the latter run in 1:21 3/5, returned to the work tab on January 13, working five furlongs in s sizzling :58 2/5, then followed that up with another five-furlong work in :59. Baffert’s $3.55 million 2-year-old purchase HEJAZI finally broke his maiden going 6 1/2 furlongs following three defeats. In his two previous races he was beaten by stablemates Cave Rock and Speed Boat Beach. By Bernardini, out of a Medaglia d’Oro mare, you would think he’d be better going a distance, but he obviously is very fast as indicated by his swift final time of 1:14 2/5 last out and 97 Beyer figure. Another fast maiden winner, FAUSTIN, worked five furlongs in :59 1/5. REINCARNATE, NEWGATE, and NATIONAL TREASURE haven’t worked since their 1-2-3 finish in the Sham Stakes.

Catching up from the previous week, we saw an impressive allowance victory from the Justify colt VERIFYING. The Champagne Stakes runner-up rebounded from a dull effort in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile to win impressively by 5 1/4 lengths going a mile at Oaklawn Park for who else but Brad Cox. With a “5 1/2″ Thoro-Graph figure he returned to the same number he got in the Champagne.

The horse who really caught my eye, but is not quite ready to be ranked in the Top 12, was the Todd Pletcher-trained KINGSBARNS, who debuted at a mile at Gulfstream and got so much out of the race it gave him a lot more experience than other horses with only one start. First off, he was trapped in a box for the first six furlongs of the race, which is a tough initiation for a first-time starter going a mile. A young horse has to have a good mind to just sit back and wait and not get rank or frustrated. When he came to the head of the stretch he was able to ease off the rail, but there were three horses in front of him and he was hemmed by another horse moving outside him. After a slight bump he was angled sharply back inside and finally found and opening. Without hesitation, he slipped right through and found himself in front. Two horses came charging at him late, but he had no problem holding them off, winning by 1 3/4-lengths. He has a nice big bounding stride, but with only the one start he has a lot of catching up to do.

I don’t know how far he wants to go, but if you’re looking for a behind-the-scenes horse you might want to keep an eye on RECRUITER, who is undefeated in four starts at Monmouth, Laurel, and Parx with back-to back stakes victories, which have been more workmanlike than brilliant. But he has excellent tactical speed and knows how to win. He has won at three different racetracks at four different distances, and on three different surfaces – fast, good, and sloppy. His last two Brisnet speed figures have been a 99 and a 98 and his Thoro-Graph numbers jumped from a “6 1/4” to a “3 3/4,” so like his sire Army Mule he does have speed. He hasn’t been two turns yet, but he does have five Belmont Stakes winners in his pedigree and two horses who were narrowly beaten in the Belmont. He currently is training at Fair Hill for Cal Lynch.

Another classy horse coming out of the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes is CURLY JACK, who has two wins and a second in his three starts at Churchill Downs. Although the KJC has me baffled considering how slow it was and that there were so many horses together on the wire, but also how many horses have run well coming out of the race. Trained by Tom Amoss, Curly Jack has run six times, the last three at 1 1/16 miles, so he has plenty of bottom and experience. He has started back working at Fair Grounds,

WILDATLANTICSTORM, winner of the Springboard Mile, is training at Sam Houston Race Park. The son of Stormy Atlantic has won four of his six starts with two seconds, but they have all been at Remington, Lone Star, and Prairie Meadows, so it’s time to move to the major tracks to see how he fares against stronger fields. The aforementioned ARCTIC ARROGANCE had a nice six-furlong stamina builder in 1:15 on the Belmont training track.

The Brad Cox 3-year-olds keep piling up. If you want to see what guts is watch the final race at Aqueduct Saturday and see how the Cox-trained Arrogate colt SLIP MAHONEY dug in and refused to let the Todd Pletcher-trained CRUPI get his head in front after a torrid duel the entire length of the stretch.

Racing historian, author, and award-winning retired journalist for the Daily Racing Form and The Blood-Horse, Steve Haskin was inducted into the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame’s Media Roll of Honor in 2016. Known for his racing knowledge and insightful prose, he has been an exclusive contributor to since 2020.


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209 Responses to “2023 Derby Rankings – Week 1”

  1. As most probably know this but “SLOPPY ” going at Oaklawn… can be anyone’s game now in the Southwest Stakes

  2. Bill Dawson says:

    If you’re looking for a longshot in the Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes, Simplification deserves a look at 38-1.
    He’s had success over the GP track, and finished 4th in last year’s Kentucky Derby.
    An exotic wager, (Tri/Super) might work. Cyberknife looks like the one to beat.

  3. Matthew W says:

    Big run by Queen Goddess today…..nice win by Red Knight the 9yo NY bred .

  4. Lynda King says:

    Will be cheering for Art Collector in the Pegasus and One More Bid in the Turf Invitational. Really no favorites in the Filly and Mare.
    Yes, I know that One More Bid (by California Chrome) is a long shot and that this is the first time he has raced longer than a mile. His jockey is Mike Smith.
    Safe races and safe riding for all.
    Good luck on everyone’s bets.

    • Davids says:

      Well done Lynda, Art Collector distanced them. I thought Art Collector would have been menaced too much but great ride by Junior Alvarado. Proxy was not suited to the track’s speed bias but you still hope. Ha ha

      • Lynda King says:

        One More Bid held on for 5th in the turf. Very proud of him since this was his first attempt to go longer than a Mike.
        I really like Art Collector and of course his trainer. Mr Mott.
        Junior Alverado is a good jock in my opinion.

        • Davids says:

          Yes Lynda, Bernardini is an all time favorite so, hopefully, Art Collector makes it at stud. Thus far Marking is probably his best son at stud.

          Junior Alvarado never seems to get the accolades he deserves but he’s always educating young horses in every race. Bill Mott is the best in many eyes. So pleased for Art Collector, the Pegasus World Cup win adds swagger when promoting the horse.

      • Lynda King says:

        One More Bid broke great and lead most of the way. I think Mike should have settled him off the pace. The grading has the dame kick as Chrome. Very game though to hold on for 5th.

    • Ms Blacktype says:

      Congratulations on choosing Art Collector, Lynda! In retrospect, his short 2022 campaign appears to have paid off. Cyberknife may have just run out of gas after a challenging 3YO season — plus he’s only a newly turned 4YO.

      Kudos to all of Art Collector’s connections.

  5. Changed my betting strategy on the Pegasus and decided to KEY Cyberknife on top in a Trifecta. Putting my $$$ on him after reviewing his works again and though I thought his works were soft initially ,checked them out against other horses the days he worked and they were right on top…. Fairgrounds must be a “deep” track. I just hope i have the right horses underneath him… I said I always felt he and Taiba were better that Epicenter now putting my $$$ were my mouth is !!! Going down with the ship WIN or LOSE !!! Got to hope Geroux gives him the right trip !!!

  6. John Goggin says:

    The DRF’s (Marcus Hersh) is very, very bullish on Arabian Knight’s chances in today’s Southwest….to paraphrase-‘just watch and enjoy and bet something else..’

    • Steve Haskin says:

      He is going to be a huge favorite so I’m sure a lot of people are bullish on him. Baffeert…Oaklawn…$2.3 million at sale.

  7. Matthew W says:

    Sun Thunder could sit a trip today.. could get some pace on the Southwest, and McPeek’s Sun Thunder drew the rail, will sit and wait—I liked his maiden win, he will need to improve and I expect he will…I’ll play him under Bob’s favorite and also a win/place wagering, they could go pretty fast early…

    • Bill Dawson says:

      My $10.00 superfecta play will be; Key Arabian Knight on top of Sun Thunder, Corona Bolt and Jace’s Road.

      That is: 6/ 1-2-3 with 1,2,3 with 1,2,3
      Cost: $60.00

  8. Lynda King says:

    Happy Heavenly Birthday Penny.

  9. Rachel fan says:

    Cheering for Corona Bolt to be the next GSW for Bolt d’Oro. He’s got a ton of speed and hopefully stamina to go with it. My only concern is that if he is engaged in a stretch duel, his high headed way of running could get him beat on the wire if he’s neck and neck with a runner with low action .

    • Sorry Rachel Fan but I think “Corona” Bolt will be “MO”delo’d by Arabian Knight(AK) at the beginning of this race. Went back and looked at AK race at Keeneland and he looked like he was shot out of cannon coming out of the gate…. Big uncertainty can he carry his speed to the finish !?!?

      • Was a BIG “Bolt d’ Oro” fan until “Justify” came along. Bolt could not hold a candle next to him … but then again there wasn’t another 3 year old that year who could !!!

      • Rachel fan says:

        Big questions that’ll be answered today. Arabian Knight certainly is an impressive runner. Distinctive paddling motion with his left foreleg but it doesn’t seem to affect his speed. May the best colt win!

        • With the SLOP. It could improve Corona Bolts chances.

          • Rachel fan says:

            Arabian Knight much the best. He hardly looked winded after the race and the mud didn’t seem a deterrent at all. Corona Bolt looked like he was starting to make a move along the rail, then his head went up like he caught mud in the face. After that, he faded. Maybe he’ll bounce back on a drier track next time. Congrats to the winner, he looks terrific.

  10. Steve Haskin says:

    Hit Show is listed as a probable by NYRA for next Saturday’s Withers Stakes, so with three entered in the Southwest lets see if Cox scatches Hit Show and goes up to New York.

    • Bill Dawson says:

      That’s an interesting development. Cox may be thinking the 9 furlong Withers may be better suited for Hit Show than the 8.5 furlong Southwest. Or, he just wants to avoid racing against Arabian Knight.
      If you can provide the rest of the Withers field, I would deeply appreciate it.
      Thanks Steve.

      • Steve Haskin says:

        Probable — Hit Show, Arctic Arrrogance, Classic Catch, General Banker

        Possible — Classic Legacy, Lord Miles, Mr. Bob, Mr. Ripple

        • Bill Dawson says:

          Thanks for providing those names Steve.
          On the face of it, the Withers field appears to be much weaker than those entered in the Southwest, IMO.
          And the 9 furlong distance should be to Hit Show’s liking. In addition, I wondering if Gary and Mary West (owner/breeder) of Hit Show may have persuaded Cox to make the switch to the Withers. Very interesting development to say the least.

    • Davids says:

      Steve, Aristocracy (Tapit colt undefeated – Gary West owned, Cox trained) won early January Turfway park, was nominated for the Withers Stakes. Any news? Can’t find any workouts since that win. Impressive type.

  11. Bill Dawson says:

    Re: San Vincente Stakes (G2), 7 Furlongs, at SA, on Sunday, 1-29

    A short field of 5 will contest referenced race, with 4 of the 5 trained by Bob Baffert. From my perspective, Havnameltdown appears to be the colt to beat. He’s won 3 of 4 races which include wins in the G3 Best Pal, and the G3 Bob Hope.
    His last two works have been bullets, so you would think Baffert has him well cranked for this race.
    No Derby points in the San Vincente, but Baffert has several options moving forward with this speed merchant on the Derby trail.

    • Steve Haskin says:

      All thse races in California are nothing moe than Baffert horses working in company. Four of five is a disgrace. Doesnt anyone have decent 3 year olds out there?

      • Bill Dawson says:

        Very few, although Practical Move, trained by Tim Yakteen, appears to have considerable upside moving forward.

        • Steve Haskin says:

          He may be the best one out there, certainly the only horse who can beat Baffert. But isnt there anyone else at Santa Anita who is even good enough to run in these races?

          • Bill Dawson says:

            The El Camino Real Stakes is coming up on 2-4, at Golden Gate, it’s possible a colt from the west coast could show promise coming out of the race. We’ll see.

          • Davids says:

            Steve, needs you. Lol. There are several excellent trainers beside the big fish.

      • Roberta Greevey says:

        Agree completely, Steve. Even when he has JUST three of six, I get angry. I wonder what would happen if they limited the number of starters from one Barn to two. Could be that other trainers still wouldn’t enter horses and the fields would be even smaller than they are now. Ugh!

    • Ms Blacktype says:

      I agree, Bill. Havnameltdown isn’t a Derby horse, though, especially with that pedigree (and that name!!). I will be interested to see how Faustin performs here. I’m hoping for a breakout performance by SOMEONE in either the Southwest or the San Vicente.

      • Bill Dawson says:

        When you say Havnameltdown isn’t a Derby horse, keep in mind horses have been known to outrun their pedigree.
        Baffer could stretch him out in an upcoming KD prep race, just to see if he can be competitve in a two turn race. If not, Havnameltdown will probably be limited to sprints and middle distance races.

      • Davids says:

        Ms Blacktype, some information for you:

        Arthur’s Ride – 01-27-2023
        Track Payson Park
        Surface Dirt
        Distance 5 Furlongs
        Workout type Breezing
        Workout time 1:04.00
        Track condition Fast

        Donato Lanni, selected him so that’s a positive. He’s not nominated for any stakes in the near future, yet.

  12. Steve Haskin says:

    A big longshot I’m looking at in the Southwest Stakes is Red Route One, who had the trip from hell in the Ky. Jockey Club. Could pick up a piece of it at a big price.

    • Chasingmytale says:

      Good points and I agree. I wrote about him on another article. I mentioned I don’t think Arabian Knight wants to be looked in the eye and this could cause a speed duel between AK and Corona Bolt. Red Route One and Jace’s Road are the two horses I expect to take advantage of a potential speed duel and pace meltdown. I based my analysis of Arabian K on his his lone work in company in his last four works. Also, who knows how his paddling will affect him if any. Good luck.

    • Ms Blacktype says:

      When Downthestretch said he would pass on the Southwest as a betting angle, I looked over the non-favored contenders and came up with Red Route One as well. Nice to have such an informed backup on my hunch!

    • Nelson Maan says:

      Good selection. Red Route One was also impressive in the Breeders’ Futurity when third behind champion Forte and the striking

      Loggins…. Red Route One closed strongly by the rail and finished ahead of Instant Coffee and Newgate at 60 to 1; but the son of Gun Runner, after that telling performance, was 3 to 1 in the Street Sense.

      Assuming Hit Show will be scratched in favor of The Withers, I will be wheeling 3-Jace’s Road with 2-Corona Bolt/6-Arabian Knight/7-Red Route One for a $18 trifecta cost.

      If Red Route One runs free of traffic troubles he might make the trifecta yield a return of 6 or 7 to 1 .

      Good luck to everybody.

  13. Matthew W says:

    The 2023 Pegasus drew a terrific betting proposition! At 15-1 I’m going to play an across-the-board wager on GET Her Number! I think he’s on the improve, Miller has worked him long, so he should settle back some…..wasn’t that impressed, with last year’s crop of three year Olds, I liked Epicenter and Taiba but I’ll take an older than 4yo on Sat!…..

  14. Lynda King says:

    Congratulations to all of the Eclipse Awards winners.
    Just thrilled that Epicenter won 3 year old colt.

  15. Steve,

    Thanks again for your annual Derby analysis. I have been following it for years and enjoy comments and rankings. I am with you as far as being super excited about this years 3 year old crop.

    As far as this Saturday’s Southwest Stakes (SS) I will pass betting this race and will concentrate more on the Pegasus at GP. The SS just has too much uncertainty. Although a big Baffert fan I am not happy with his workout pattern for Arabian Knight (AK)especially if the horse will be put on the front end. If Corona Bolt goes with him (which I expect) they could ding-dong themselves into submission. If the early fractions are fast (22+ , 45+, 110+) I think Corona Bolt will be toast at the top of the stretch. If I knew if Arabian Knight was going to be ridden far off the pace I feel he would be a shoe-in, but that is the big “if”. Most of the rest of the horses in this field we just don’t know if and who will show up. Baffert claims he doesn’t know how good AK is. He is either being truthful or he is being coy and he knows he has a monster on his hands. Like I said I am going to be sitting this one out betting wise but will be anxious to watch this race.

    As far as the Pegasus I am looking at a 4-horse exacta box of Cyberknife, Proxy, White Abarrio and Last Samurai. Will see what happens there.

    Have a Great rest of the week and Good Luck to all this weekend.

  16. Mr. K says:

    Mr. Haskin,

    I’m certain understands that you provide an unmatched wealth of knowledge as it pertains to the Sport of Kings. Thank you, thank you, thank you, for your years of unabashed service to the Industry. You are a one of a kind that deserves unmeasured accolades.

    Please keep educating and updating us as long as your mind has the energy. You are much appreciated.

    Dear, if we have to set up a Gofundme to keep Mr. Haskin pontificating on the Derby hopefuls, please let me know and I’ll be the first to contribute. Thousands will follow.

    Thanks to ALL!

    Mr. K

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Oh my goodnesss, Mr. K, you have left me speechless. Thank YOU three times over for your kind and eloquent words. They mean a great deal to me. I’ll pass on the Gofundme for now but may give it the OK when I start falling apart. Thank you so much again. You have made my day.

  17. Roberta Greevey says:

    I finally got to Steve’s rundown yesterday and I’ve been going over every detail since then. I love this time of the year when there’s such an abundance of hope for so many 3 year olds. I guess that’s why they’re called hopefuls. Ha! This year I vow not to get excited about hopefuls trained by Dale Romans and Ken McPeek. It seems there’s disappointment every year with those guys. Steve said that Signator is training in Florida, so I’m hoping I get to see the Tapit colt on the Florida Derby trail. Shug has been my favorite trainer since 1989! Also training here is Dubyuhnell. Nice to know about his excellent speed figure. Steve, did you mean to say “but with a fourth in his only OTHER dirt race”?

    I think that Brad Cox had 11 entries in the Future Wager and 5 of Steve’s 15. I can’t wait to see where he sends them.

    • Davids says:

      Roberta are you and your friend off to see the Pegasus World Cup this Saturday? Looks like a great card with lots of chances in each race. I’ll be watching live from 5 am Sunday morning here, Race 6. Who do you like in Pegasus World Cup? Kim hoping for a Proxy win but it looks wide open.

      With all the support Signator is getting on this site you start to worry on whether the horse can carry all the hope of so many. Ha ha Good luck if you are going to Gulfstream Park. Is rain in the offing?

      • Roberta Greevey says:

        We’ll be there! Two friends and one friend’s daughter. Even if I’m not breathing, I’ve given instructions to cart my body to the rail near the finish line. There may be some showers, but otherwise a decent day weather-wise. Yes, Signator has a lot of support. But I’m sure that Shug has monitored Signator’s internet access to avoid undue pressure. Ha!

        I agree with you on PROXY in the Pegasus because it looks like the race is set up for a classy closer. GET HER NUMBER also has good late energy and could reward his backers with a big payout. Then there’s Baffert’s speedy DEFUNDED. BB means business when he brings a horse to the PWC.

        I’m looking forward to Race 2 for maidens. First-timer DARK VECTOR has the dreaded inner post, but he has a lot going for him. He’s a half-brother to Forbidden Kingdom. Weaver is having an excellent meet. Bolt d’Oro is off to a great start as a sire. The dam and Forbidden Kingdom both won their first starts.

        Have fun watching!

        • Davids says:

          Ha ha yes, Roberta, we don’t want young Signator to get a swell-headed and start believing his publicity. You can read my mind, over the the Pegasus World Cup. The Californian horses look dangerous to me and White Abarrio wouldn’t surprise either but you can’t pick them all. Lol.

          Good luck with Dark Vector and have a great day. Hopefully, you’ll at least win enough for another free meal.

        • biggy312 says:

          Hi Roberta:
          I like the #1 in GP race 2 Saturday too: Bolt D’Oro is 17% with first time starters and Weaver does well with first timers too. The inside is playing fair now but is a challenging post position for a first time starter. I hope we see 8-1 ml or better!
          Good luck!!!

    • Nelson Maan says:

      Hi Roberta!

      I just wanted to share the list of Pletcher’s chief 3-year-olds who have already run and are working steadily with the Derby trail in sight:

      1. Forte
      2. Kingsbarns
      3. Tapit Trice
      4. Cuvier
      5. King d’Oro
      6. Shesterkin
      7. Expect More
      8. Litigate
      9. Rudder’s Men
      10. Point Proven
      11. Classic Catch
      12. Crupi
      13. Morethanreadyeddie
      14. Clubhouse
      15. Ok Boomer
      16. Santorini

      I also got similar lists for Baffert, Asmussen, O’Neil, Mc Peek, Chad Brown, and of course, Brad Cox … I will let you know them in future replies…

      • Davids says:

        Nelson, I think your 1, 2, and 3 are serious contenders. Tapit Trice could be Pletcher’s Belmont Stakes horse more than the Derby but you can only watch, wait, and see how things pan out.

      • Bill Dawson says:

        Please allow me to chime in, on your post to Roberta

        I’d love to see Tapit Trice win the KD, with my horse, (Hit Show) finishing 2nd.
        I would cash my Futures Exacta wager for $26,588.00

      • Roberta Greevey says:

        Thanks, Nelson. That’s a very helpful list. I’m sure that more than a few of them will be seen in the various GP prep races before the Florida Derby. I expect a very contentious 3-year-old trail.

  18. Deacon says:

    Arabian Night

    Excellent 1st list

  19. Chasingmytale says:

    Hi Steve – Good to see your Derby Rankings back! I hope all is well with you. Corona Bolt – I finally got around to doing some research on his last race. He led from gate to wire with his ears pricked and straight up near the wire and after the wire while FULL of run. He went in 22.24, 45.92, 57.78 (yes, a sub 12 split between his 4f and 5f time), and finished in 1:09.96. If my memory is correct, there were 3 additional 2yo races going the same distance. All of them were 1.5 seconds to over 2 seconds slower than Corona Bolt’s final time. Even more impressive is the fact that there was a stakes race for older horses won by Surveillance. His final time of 1:09.61 was only .35 seconds faster than Corona Bolt’s final time. Corona Bolt won by over six lengths and was clearly geared down in the stretch…Surveillance wasn’t. Surveillance excited that race and won a stakes race last weekend against a good field. Based on what I can tell, Corona Bolt is a very talented colt and Brad knows it and is showing a lot of confidence in him. He did something similar with Mandaloun. Arabian Knight could be his undoing if they get into a speed duel. Personally, I’m looking forward to seeing how this colt runs more than any other horse in the race. He could be special.

  20. greg marsh says:

    Hi Steve

    Happy 2023 to you and all of your readers. I am hoping it will be a joy-filled year for all of us.

    I am a big fan of classy, young sire Mendelssohn. He has an exciting three year-old in Japan named Bold Zone who was bred by Spendthrift Farm out of Halo Dolly. A few weeks ago, on the 15th, he won a maiden race at Nakayama race course on the outskirts of Tokyo. The distance was a hair under nine furlongs and he won by 3 1/2 lengths.

    While it is only one race, and I haven’t seen a replay, I am looking forward to seeing how he progresses with hopes that he will qualify for the Derby via the Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby.

    I am also looking forward to his future races because he has Damascus top and bottom in his pedigree.

    greg (Fan of Damascus)

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Happy New Year Greg. I’mj so happy to see Damascus inbreeding in Japan. Hopefully he will show up in one of the Derby preps

    • Nelson Maan says:

      Hi Greg. It is nice to read your thoughts here. I likewise wish you a year plentiful of blessings and health.

      I just watched the replay and Bold Zone looked good winning in his debut at 1800 meters. He did not break well from pp 7 but advanced steadily from 11th at the first furlong to win convincingly by 3.5 lengths. I hope Bold Zone takes the 30 points of the Hyacinth Stakes at Tokyo on February 19th or the 40 points of the Fukuryu Stakes at Nakayama on March 25.

      So far the Japanese road to the Derby is led by Derma Sotogake (JPN) (Mind Your Biscuits(USA)) with 20 points.

      Should Bold Zone reach the Derby, it would be the first Japanese horse to do so without a 2-year-old campaign.

      The Japanese and Japanese-trained horses have been intriguing especially after their great success in the 2021 Breeder’s Cup (Loves Only You, Marche Lorraine) and on Dubai Cup day (with 5 wins) last year.

      Crown Pride (JPN) entered last year’s Derby after winning the UAE Derby and the black horse triggered some expectation training at Churchill for a month before the Derby.

      Unfortunately, Crown Pride and Summer Is Tomorrow (his UAE rival) decided to embark in a Kamikaze mission. Their split times of 21 3/5 and 45 1/5 proved to be damaging to them with Crown Pride finishing 13th 18 lengths behind Rich Strike.

      BTW a fact you may want to remember is that there are four Derby winners with Damascus in their (5 gen.) pedigrees (War Emblem, Big Brown (3×4), Orb, Justify).

      Forte, Practical Move, Jace’s Road, Instant Coffee, Arabian Knight, Corona Bolt, Blazing Sevens, Determinedly, Verifying, Kingsbarns… so you will have a lot of personal favorites to root for…lol

      • Nelson Maan says:

        Those and also NATIONAL TREASURE, HEJAZI, WILDATLANTICSTORM, RECRUITER, REINCARNATE, Arabian Lion and many more hopefuls all got your beloved Damascus within their first 6 generations…

      • greg marsh says:

        Hi Nelson

        I just found Bold Zone’s race replay. He showed a nice turn of foot when rounding the final turn and entering the stretch. I know little about the competition but he showed class.

        Thanks for pointing out the various horses on the Road to the KD (not Kraft Dinner) who have Damascus in their pedigree.

        Thanks also for all the research you share with us. You can tell a person’s class by what they share, more than what they do. You, Steve, and some of the other posters are here to help, not hoard their knowledge.

        That is one of the reasons I love reading Steve’s Derby Rankings.

        greg (Fan of Damascus . . . and being part of this community)

  21. Nelson Maan says:

    Thanks, Steve, for another great start to your long-established Derby standings.

    Your Derby rankings are feasts to the true horse racing fans and to every knowledgeable horseman. Your exhaustive documenting of the Kentucky Derby trails has become brilliant piece of its history.

    Trying to predict how Derby prospects evolve during the next three months is quite challenging but watching those beautiful horses vying for a prominent place in history is a gratifying journey for many of us.

    At this stage I just register hopefuls owning what I call high 10-furlong index.

    High up in that table is SIGNATOR who proved with his win at Aqueduct on October 14 to be a very efficient mover with great and imposing stride. His impressive performance placed him as the most promising horse in Shug McGaughey’s barn. As Steve stated, Signator looked like the proverbial Derby horse and more so because the son of Tapit holds huge room for improvement going forward.

    By the way, the speed figures for Signator’s mile are just out of wack … 1:37 4/5 on that muddy track (not sealed) should be graded higher. Other horses got 10 to 16 points higher after running around 1:39 on sloppy sealed tracks at Aqueduct.
    Signator is well related to the incredible Flightline being by Tapit and having Blitey in their dam side.

    Steve will likely be expanding on Signator’s amazing pedigree next week. It is always enlightening to touch on the prominent Phipps lineages which include one of the best broodmare bloodlines in the world. I would love to finally see Easy Goer in the Pedigree of a Derby winner…

    Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey, who is recognized for being patient developing top racers, did a great training job with Orb in 2013 and took the late Code of Honor to a second place in 2019.

    Signator could be the second Derby winner for West Point partnerships after taking the Roses with Always Dreaming in 2017. West Point has been effective in the Derby with stats showing a second with Commanding Curve in 2014 and the 5th place of My Boy Jack in 2018.

    I will be following the beautiful gray like his own shadow…!

    Good luck with you favorite Derby hopeful and happy Derby trail to everybody.

    • Nelson Maan says:

      The other Derby hopefuls in my watch list are:

      Banishing. Steve makes a compelling case for the Godolphin flag bearer. Brendan Walsh looking to be vindicated after Maxfield misfortune in the trail .

      Cyclone Mischief. Could this one endure to give Dale Romans a Derby at last? His 3-year-old debut suggests he might.

      Slip Mahoney. Pure grit is this son of the great Arrogate.

      Crupi. As other Pletcher trainees by Curlin, he is bound to continue improving towards Derby Day.

      Tapit Trice. Love to see Dunkirk as his broodmare sire. Pletcher will likely take him to smell the Roses.

      Tapit Shoes. Half to Cyberknife, and just like this top 3-year-old last year, he has to become more professional to achieve better performances.

      Verifying. By TC champion Justify and half to champion Midnight Bisou. He is the only one with Grade One experience in Brad Cox’s squad. Confirmed his class in his 3-year-old debut.

      Classic Legacy ( Into Mischief – Distorted Legacy, by Distorted Humor ). A Bill Mott trainee who is flying under the radar but this one is material for the fast lane.

      Practical Move. Defeating Baffert’s army in California is a big deal indeed…!

      By the way, McGaughey also has General Jim (Into Mischief – Inspired by Grace, by Curlin ) as another Derby hopeful. His best races are on turf, but he is bred for the dirt. That is why he was the (unlucky) favourite in the Mucho Macho Man. He deserves another chance on dirt…!

      • Bill Dawson says:

        Hi Nelson Maan

        Re: Southwest Stakes, Sat. 1-28, Oaklawn Park

        First of all, I consider you one of more knowledgeable contributors on Steve Haskin’s site. Your comments are well received on this end. I’d appreciate any thoughts you might have regarding the likely outcome of the Southwest Stakes.
        Brad Cox has three entries in the race, Corona Bolt, Jace’s Road and Hit Show. When Manuel Franco became available, you would think Cox would want Franco aboard the horse he considers having the most upside moving forward on the Derby trail. Cox choose Franco to ride Hit Show rather than Joe Talamo, who he switched to Jace’s Road. This tells me Cox considers Hit Show the better of the two.
        I’m just wondering how you regard these rider changes.
        Thanks Nelson.

        • Nelson Maan says:

          Thanks Bill… I really appreciate your kind words. I likewise enjoy your unique perspectives around handicapping. We all really nurture each other in this respectful and friendly forum inspired by Steve’s in-depth analyses.

          Regarding the jockey assignments in the Southwest I would think that Flavian Prat on Corona Bolt makes the son of Bolt D’Oro the “favorite son” for Cox.

          The race will very likely present a strong speed duel between Arabian Knight and Corona Bolt. I can see them separating from the field in mid-stretch; and Flavian Prat and John Velazquez deploying all their resources to prevail at the end.

          Please, bear in mind that Joseph Talamo rode Hit Show at OP on December 17 only because Florent Geroux was at Remington Park to pilot Giant Mischief in the 400K-Remington Springboard Mile Stakes. BTW the overlooked Wildatlanticstorm looked like a good one winning that mile race…!

          Also, remember that Joe Talamo guided Jace’s Road in his promising debut at Ellis. So no surprise seeing him reunited with the son of Quality Road.

          For the Southwest, Talamo will try to benefit from an impending hot pace and drive Jace’s Road hard in the last quarter to attempt sweeping the two favorites. It would be hard but who knows? He might get lucky…

          I feel like (speed wise) Hit Show is a tad below his two stablemates … as you know, at this stage of the trail speed is paramount. The son of Candy Ride is a great exotic play though…!

          The Southwest will be great fun to watch…!

          • Bill Dawson says:

            Thanks for the reply Nelson.

            It’s rather obvious you do your homework and can cover a lot of bases in the sport of thoroughbred racing.
            Your points, relating to the Southwest Stakes, appear to be spot on.
            Corona Bolt has the highest Equibase Speed Figure in the field (103) and 2nd highest Brisnet Figure (99).
            Arabian Knight has an Equibase Speed Figure (102) but the highest Brisnet Figure (104). So as you mentioned, this could very well be a speed duel between those two colts early on. However, the main question is, can they carry their speed over a distance of ground, in this case 8.5 furlongs?
            The reason I’m so high on Hit Show is his breeding. By Candy Ride, out of Actress, by Tapit, he’s bred to run all day, IMO. His sire and broodmare sire need no introduction, but the thing that stands out, as it relates to his breeding, is his dam and 2nd dam. Both were graded routers. Hit Show has the 3rd fastest late pace figure in the field, so don’t be surprised to see him making a big close on the pace setters in the late stretch run.
            I couldn’t resist placing a win wager on Hit Show, at 77-1 in KD Futures Pool 3, ($100.00).
            In addition, I boxed him with ALL in my Exacta wager. Also, I placed a $40.00 win wager on Practical Move, at 58-1.
            My track record for KD Futures wagers is not good, but what the hell, you can’t take it with you.
            Good luck Nelson

            • biggy312 says:

              Hi Bill:
              The way I look at last year, it was like a seven-out at the craps table: everyone who wagered on futures lost when Rich Strike won! This year is a new year with new possibilities…I like how you key your horse in an exacta box. When you cash one of those” it can cover years of wagers! Living in Vegas, I am restricted to win bets only in futures, which is why I like to jump on high odds horses early…enjoy your insights. .good luck to you!

              • Bill Dawson says:

                Hey biggy312

                You’re absolutely right, if Hit Show makes the KD starting gate, and were to finish 1st or 2nd, the exacta payoffs could be huge.
                BTW, the last time I looked, Circa casino had Hit Show at triple digit odds. Living in Vegas gives you an edge to make those Futures Win bets at any time.
                Good luck with your wagers biggy312.

            • Nelson Maan says:

              At 10 furlongs Hit Show will have the upper hand for sure…

              • Bill Dawson says:

                Yes indeed, Hit Show is well suited for the Classic distance.
                It’s good to see we’re both on the same page in that regard.
                Thanks for your input Nelson.

      • Steve Haskin says:

        Thanks so much, Nelson. Great to see you back with your expertise. I also dont understand Signator’s speed ratings. Shouldnt be that low.

      • Roberta Greevey says:

        Nice to see you back, Mr. Nelson Maan. I was hoping you hadn’t disappeared like some of our other old favorites. I love your comments about Signator. I told my friend about him for the future wager and she bet $20 on him at 34 to 1.

    • Ms Blacktype says:

      This was such an intriguing post, Nelson, I looked up Signator’s winning race in October. He was very impressive and appeared to be enjoying himself. I also noticed that he was covered up for most of the race and ran the last quarter in 24 seconds.

      • Lynda King says:

        Ms Blacktype, I think Signator is a lovely colt, beautifully balanced and nice conformation.
        At the moment he checks several boxes for me in addition to his appearance, he has a nice pedigree (including Riva Ridge and many other Derby winners on his dam’s side.
        West Point Thoroughbreds does a really great job picking potential grade one winners for the public to invest in.
        I also really like Shug. One of the few true horsemen left in the business. He takes great care getting these colts ready to race.
        He certainly is on my watch list al9ng with Forte and Instant Coffee.
        Still going through this week’s list horse by horse looking for colts to add to my watch list.

        • Ms Blacktype says:

          Lynda: I looked up his video for many of the same reasons! Love Shug, love the Phipps breeding, and it doesn’t hurt that he is grey. (There are so many lovely grey colts out there this Derby season.)

          I’ll be interested to read your comments when you have finished mulling over this important first rankings list.

          • Davids says:

            Ms Blacktype, Arthur’s Ride worked at Payson Park on January 19, 2023. 4f, breezing, 0:48.60 on a fast track. I meant to write this in earlier for you but the weather here has been so hot, humid that I spend the first few hours watering the garden. I put this in an earlier post for you but sometimes you forget to go back.

      • Nelson Maan says:

        Hi Ms Blacktype.

        I was so impressed with Signator’s win that I shout to myself “This is the Derby winner right thereeeee!” … and then I see all those super horses shot by Bafferto in California checking my enthusiasm. It is long overdue to see a son of Tapit winning the Derby; and this one looks to be a superior athlete.

        Anyway, it is clear that there is still a long road ahead but still we should recognize great quality no matter how raw it appears to be.

    • Davids says:

      Nelson, I wouldn’t be getting too carried away with speed figures. Even the best paradigms utilised cover only a relatively small extent of a race. Your eyes interpret a fuller understanding than you can agree, factor out, disagree on a proposed finding. If these ‘methods’ were so precise Racing would have disappeared years ago.

      On to Signator, the pedigree on the dam side is replete with brilliance, stamina, and toughness the more Buckpasser is in a pedigree the better. Tapit needs no introduction, when his sons are good they are exceptional. To top things off Signator appears to have a similar temperament as the mighty Flightline. So, if Signator can gather together all these ingredients we may see another rare individual. Often, you think you see something special in a colt only to be disappointed later on let’s hope we’re right this time. I wish sceptre still wrote on this site his depth of knowledge and ability to spot a good one was always appreciated.

      Are we putting too much weight on Signator at this early stage, undoubtedly yes, but let’s dream on until the hope is shattered – or not.

      • Nelson Maan says:

        I do agree with your assessments. I just wanted to point out to the “speed figure-aholics” precisely how misguiding are those specially when the track is wet or sloppy.

        Signator looked like something special to me … but then again my own biases could be operating here (i.e. Tapit, Castellano, broodmare sires Easy Goer and Riva Ridge with their first Derby winner, etc).

        Anyway, looking forward to Signator’s next race and all his workouts… the road is long and hard for these wonderful athletes…

        • Davids says:

          Ah, I didn’t spot the ‘secret weapon’ but yes, there is so much to like about Signator. The female family, Buckpasser and Seeking the Gold among others plus of course Tapit. Presumably, the Florida Derby wiil be the direction this colt will take to get in the Derby.

  22. King Barbaro says:

    And awaaaay we go! I haven’t even read the article yet. Just so excited to start the ride again. Hi Steve! 🙂

  23. Paul G. says:

    Oh Blitey!!! I am Old School and still revere the Phipps Bred Broodmares. When you confirm next time Steve that Signator is bred not unlike a recent Comet that we were in awe of ,I will be Onboard!!!

  24. Kyri Freeman says:

    I’m going to throw two grey Tapits in there. Tapit Trice is a big, clueless guy who still seems to be thinking ‘what is the purpose of this activity?”, and maybe he’s more of a Belmont horse, but he is closely related to Jaywalk and I think he’ll get all the distance he needs. His opposite is Shopper’s Revenge, out of G1 winner Stopchargingmaria. His maiden win demonstrated a high cruising speed and beautiful way of going.

  25. biggy312 says:

    Hi Steve!
    Derby season, actually Derby Futures season has now officially started! It starts with your first column! Due to a back strain that started late last year and only recently ended, I started my futures wagers a bit later than usual and missed some higher odds while I was not able to move! I have my initial wagers down as follows:

    Verifying and Practical Move at 80-1; Corona Bolt at 100-1; Blazing Sevens at 65-1; Giant Mischief at 40-1; Victory Formation at 50-1 and Hoosier Philly at 48-1 (missed her at 75-1)

    I am looking forward to Cox horses sorting themselves out: he really has a bunch of good ones!
    I really look forward to your columns: they add a great deal to my enjoyment of the road to the Derby!