Derby Rankings: Week 3

Because of all the activity this week and so many horses now firmly entrenched on the Derby trail we are extending the Rankings to a Sweet 16 to give as many horses as possible ample space and a place on the list of top prospects. ~ Steve Haskin

Derby Rankings: Week 3, Feb. 1

By Steve Haskin


1. Greatest Honour (Shug McGaughey, Tapit – Tiffany’s Honour, by Street Cry)

It was a bold move putting an unspectacular maiden winner at No. 2 last week and it’s probably a bolder move elevating him to the No. 1 spot over a champion and two-time grade winner, especially when he beat a questionable field that had very little stakes experience. But sometimes you have to go by your gut feeling when you think you see all the qualities that make a Derby horse, and this colt certainly looked like a Derby horse when he crushed his field by 5 3/4 lengths in the Holy Bull Stakes. You’re not going to find a stronger pedigree, as we mentioned in detail in Week 1, and I moved him up from No. 5 to No. 2 last week when a very fast horse he ran right behind in two sprint races, Caddo River, came back to romp by 10 lengths in the Smarty Jones Stakes and the second- and third-place finishers in his maiden victory both came back to run huge races next time out. He was originally scheduled to run in next week’s Withers Stakes because of the 1 1/8-mile distance, but the horse McGaughey was pointing for the Holy Bull couldn’t make the race, so he decided to keep Greatest Honour in Florida and run at the shorter distance. In the Holy Bull he showed he could lay within striking distance, make a sweeping four-wide run, and draw off at will, running solid fractions of :24 1/5, :23 2/5 :23 4/5, :24 4/5 and :06 3/5. He is the consummate pro with no quirks and he runs perfectly straight down the stretch. The first time I saw him he looked like a classy horse and he has improved his speed figures with every race.


2. Essential Quality (Brad Cox, Tapit – Delightful Quality, by Elusive Quality)

Yes he still deserves to be No. 1 and Hot Rod Charlie showed the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile was a legitimate race with his gutsy performance in the three-horse blanket finish of the Robert B. Lewis Stakes. But you still want to see what kind of transition he makes from 2 to 3, and a win in the February 13 Risen Star likely will put him back at No. 1. His works are progressing nicely and he has now had two solid five-furlong drills in 1:01 2/5 and 1:01 3/5 as he prepares for his 3-year-old debut, where he likely will face the brilliant Jackie’s Warrior and a number of other proven stakes horses, including possibly another Brad Cox horse, Mandaloun, and another Godolphin horse, Proxy. But it must be noted that taking this path will pretty much assure he will have only two Derby preps and a six-week layoff from the Louisiana Derby to the Kentucky Derby. No horse has ever accomplished that. In the past 25 years, the only three Kentucky Derby winners to have run in the Louisiana Derby – Grindstone, Funny Cide, and Country House – all had a race in between.


3. Senor Buscador (Todd Fincher, Mineshaft – Rose’s Desert, by Desert God)

What we mentioned about the Risen Star and Louisiana Derby pertaining to Essential Quality applies to Senor Buscador as well. But Fincher is convinced that won’t be a problem considering the way this colt trains. As of now he’s had only a couple of three-furlong blowouts so it is time for him to start picking up the tempo. I’m keeping him up this high one more week and then we’ll see what the picture looks like after next week’s Derby preps. I’m still ranking him with my heart at this point. The horse he defeated in the Springboard Mile, Cowan, came back to finish second to Caddo River in the Smarty Jones Stakes, but was beaten more than 10 lengths. However, before you link that performance to Senor Buscador you have to take into account that Cowan had to check sharply to avoid clipping heels with a horse who had cut in front of him, and despite the distance being shorter than he wants and trying to catch a runaway train he still managed to finish 7 1/2 lengths ahead of the third horse. So I think you can still say the Senor beat a quality horse at Remington. If you want to know where the name comes from it is actually pretty simple. They were struggling to come up with a name based on the colt’s pedigree until owner Joe Peacock’s son’s then girlfriend and now wife noticed the name Mr. Prospector in the sire and dam’s pedigree and pointed out that Mr. Prospector in Spanish is Senor Buscador. It had a ring to it; end of search.


4. Keepmeinmind (Robertino Diodoro, Laoban – Inclination, by Victory Gallop)

After his quick five-furlong work last week he slowed down to a 1:02, galloping out a very strong six furlongs in 1:14 4/5 and pulling up seven furlongs in 1:27 2/5. Diodoro is putting a lot of bottom in him with these long strong gallop-outs, and the track was slower this time than for his last work when he had a target to run at. His works, especially this one, have been more about the gallop-out than the final time. The Southwest Stakes might be a bit short for him, especially if he runs into Caddo River, but he is fit and ready after a brief vacation and light training at WinStar Farm. We probably won’t see the real Keepmeinmind until they go a mile and an eighth, but he is one horse who only needs to be closing strong in the stretch to keep moving forward toward a peak performance at Churchill Downs, where he captured the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes. His Thoro-Graph figures did regress ever so slightly in that race, but we’ll get a better gauge of its quality when runner-up Smiley Sobotka runs next Saturday in the Sam F. Davis Stakes.


5. Caddo River (Brad Cox, Hard Spun – Pangburn, by Congrats)

Cox could be holding a pat hand at both Fair Grounds and Oaklawn Park, and with this guy I’m not sure who can beat him if he keeps displaying the kind of high cruising speed that we saw in his last two races. If he takes after his sire in any way then there is no telling how far he can carry that speed. And his female family certainly isn’t going to hold him back. The fact that he was able run half-mile fractions in :44 and change and :45 in sprint races and then throttle back and go :47 and change stretching out to two turns demonstrates how difficult it is going to be to beat this horse. He has an interesting Thoro-Graph pattern, pairing up a 9 1/2 in his first two races and then pairing up a 4 1/4 in his last two races. When a horse jumps five points you like to see him pair up that number to validate it and not get too fast too early. If he moves up several points next time and then pairs that up it would set him up for a peak performance in the Derby. This could mark the return to prominence after three decades of owner John Ed Anthony, who raced Eclipse Award winners Temperence Hill, Vanlandingham, and Prairie Bayou, and Preakness winner Pine Bluff under the name Loblolly Stable.


6. Life is Good (Bob Baffert, Into Mischief – Beach Walk, by Distorted Humor)

If you were concerned that he hadn’t worked in 16 days since his sharp half-mile in :47 flat, he did have a slight setback but returned to the work tab January 27 with an easy half in :49 3/5, so assuming his next start will be the San Felipe on March 6, his missed work was pretty insignificant and he looks to be back on track. Although his time wasn’t fast, he looked sensational from a physical standpoint. He is a beautiful mover with a smooth efficient stride and is very light on his feet. Of more concern is whether Baffert can harness his speed and hopefully get him to settle off the pace. He sure didn’t look speed crazy in this work and had his ears pricked right from the start. He looks to have enough stamina in his female family to counteract Into Mischief, and if you want to bring up Authentic, let me say again I doubt he would have won the Derby on the first Saturday in May. This colt, like Authentic, is a big rangy sort and doesn’t look like a sprinter, but the question is, will he be ready to go a mile and a quarter off only four career starts? He certainly has the talent and all the mechanics, and I don’t believe we have seen anything even close to his best.


7. Roman Centurian (Simon Callaghan, Empire Maker – Spare Change, by Bernardini)

He is another I took a shot with in Week 1 by ranking a maiden winner with only two starts in the Top 12, but he lived up to that maiden score with an excellent effort against proven stakes horses in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes, finishing second in a three-horse photo and outdueling the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile runner-up while having the widest trip of the three. Mechanically, he did everything right, but just couldn’t get his head in front of a game Medina Spirit. The reason he is ranked higher is that, according to Trakus, he ran 30 feet farther than the winner, which is equivalent to far more than the head margin and the few hundredths of a second he was beaten. For example, turning for home he was 15.7 feet off the rail compared to 5.9 feet for Medina Spirit. As I stated in Week 1 for those who did not see it, if you’re looking for a pedigree loaded with class, the Phippses bred his first four dams, his second and third dams were Grade 1 winners, his fourth dam was a Grade 2 winner and the dam of three Grade 1 winners, and his fifth dam, Lady Pitt, won the CCA Oaks, Mother Goose, and Delaware Handicap. In his first five generations are 10 classic winners who won a total of 17 classic races, as well as eight Hall of Famers. There is no doubt the future is very bright for this colt.


8. Medina Spirit (Bob Baffert, Protonico – Mongolian Changa, by Brilliant Speed)

Well, we know he’s a fighter. When a Bob Baffert horse has the rail in a two-turn race, you can be sure he’s going for the lead if no one wants it. The feeling here is that this is not where he wants to be. Into the backstretch he was flicking his ears back and forth. When Wipe the Slate moved up to his flank he pinned his ears and once again eased clear. Around the turn he was back to flicking his ears and you could tell he hadn’t been asked to run. If his stride looked a bit sloppy for a brief instant turning for home it most likely was because he switched to his right lead too early. In any event, he still had plenty left in the stretch and refused to let Roman Centurian and Hot Rod Charlie get past him. The most impressive aspect of his race was that, over a dead track, he set testing fractions of :22 4/5 and :46 3/5. By comparison, in the San Pasqual for older horses earlier on the same card they went in :23 4/5 and :48 3/5. He then went the three quarters in 1:12 1/5 compared to 1:13 3/5 in the San Pasqual. So it was understandable why they didn’t come home fast. The first three all look like top-class horses and they galloped out in a different area code from the others. We’ll see what kind of strategy they use next time on this colt. He showed in the Sham Stakes what he can do coming from off the pace.


9. Known Agenda (Todd Pletcher, Curlin – Byrama, by Byron)

He certainly was flattered by Greatest Honour’s performance in the Holy Bull. When the two hooked up in a furious stretch drive going a mile and an eighth in November he made the first move and held on doggedly to win by a head. I believe his well-beaten third in the Remsen Stakes was due to his dislike for the sloppy track, as he never looked comfortable. He has been working well, going five furlongs in a sharp :59 4/5 then an easy half-mile in :49, which should set him up nicely for Saturday’s Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay. By Curlin, out of one of the great European sire lines, he will run all day. If he can get a fast track next week we’ll find out once and for all if the Remsen was a throwout race. A big effort and he puts himself right up there with the leading Derby contenders.


10. Smiley Sobotka (Dale Romans, Brody’s Cause – Dance Thewayyouare, by Mineshaft)

I know the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes didn’t get good speed rating and he has a lot of improving to do off his 8 1/4 Thoro-Graph figure, but the horse who beat him, Keepmeinmind, had already proven himself with his big efforts in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and Breeders’ Futurity. So we really won’t know how good this horse is until he makes his 3-year-old debut, which will also come next Saturday in the Sam F. Davis Stakes. After several five-furlong breezes Romans sharpened him up with a brisk half-mile work in :46 4/5, so he looks ready to come out running. He has improved with every start, has excellent tactical speed, and he should only get better as the distances stretch. He will get a good test from Known Agenda, which should make the Sam Davis an excellent prep.


11. Hot Rod Charlie (Doug O’Neill, Oxbow – Indian Miss, by Indian Charlie)

I’m not sure yet how effective he is going to be at a mile and a quarter, but he showed his excellent second-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at 94-1 was no fluke when he was third in a three-horse photo in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes, while taking all the worst of it between horses the entire stretch run, getting bounced around from both sides and being in very tight quarters in the final yards. But he battled on gamely against two promising Derby horses. We’ll see how the speed figures come out on this race, but so far you couldn’t ask for a better progression, going from a 16 1/2 to an 8 1/2 to a 3 3/4 on Thoro-Graph. This is a horse who sold for a mere $17,000 as a yearling, then pinhooked later in the year for $110,000, where he was picked out by Dennis O’Neill.


12. The Great One (Doug O’Neill, Nyquist – Little Ms. Protocol, by El Corredor)

Last week I said I was not sure if his 14-length maiden romp was quite as good as it looked, but after further scrutiny I am now convinced this is a serious horse based on his mechanics and his maturity from a gangly green colt to a polished professional. What put me over the edge was his Thoro-Graph figures and the most dramatic leap I can remember, going from a 17, 17, 16 and 10 to a 1. So, from wondering if he was too slow, you suddenly go to wondering if he went too fast too soon. With two preps left and six weeks to the San Felipe all you want is for him to maintain that form and not have any dramatic leaps forward or backward. He wasn’t flattered by the poor effort of Spielberg in the Robert Lewis, but he seems to have made great strides since that race. He was named by his co-owner, hockey star Erik Johnson, after his boyhood idol Wayne Gretzky. He had RNA’d at the sale for $195,000. But Dennis O’Neill had fallen in love with him and sent Johnson photos and a video of the colt. Others tried to buy him privately for $150,000 to $160,000, but Johnson told him to get over there and get the horse bought. He offered $185,000 and got the colt, and Johnson went in for 40%. Despite nearly pulling off a huge upset in the Los Alamitos Futurity as a maiden, in which he got beat the slightest head bob by Spielberg, track clockers told O’Neill he was running for second when he faced Baffert’s 3-5 favorite Fenway in last Saturday’s maiden race. But he sat right off Fenway’s flank, ran him into the ground through rapid early fractions over a dead track, and drew with every stride before galloping out some 25 lengths ahead of the runner-up.


13. Mandaloun (Brad Cox, Into Mischief – Brooch, by Empire Maker)

It will be interesting to see what Cox does with him. He likely will have Essential Quality making his 3-year-old debut in the Risen Star Stakes February 13, and if he ships him to Oaklawn for the Southwest Stakes he could run into another Cox-trained horse, Caddo River, who looks to have a stranglehold right now on the Oaklawn 3-year-old picture. He does have the Rebel Stakes if he wants to wait that long. It is extremely tough separating the first three finishers of the LeComte, but he ran the best speed figures and just makes a classy appearance with a good deal of upside. He remains sharp, working a half in :48 1/5, second fastest of 99 works at the distance. He has never been flashy, but he is tough and consistent and can sustain his run a long way.


14. Midnight Bourbon (Steve Asmussen, Tiznow – Catch the Moon, by Malibu Moon)

I think in the long run he may turn out to be a better Derby prospect than Mandaloun, but I just want to see what he can do coming from off the pace and not controlling a race with an easy lead, as he did in the LeComte. He is built like a stayer, but I want to see him erase two of stakes defeats in which he sat off the pace. He gave up a clear lead in the stretch in the Iroquois Stakes and had Sittin’ on Go run right by him, and Sittin’ on Go has run poorly in his last three starts. He then tired badly in the Champagne Stakes, beaten over 14 lengths. I do believe he is a better horse this year, but he needs to show a little more versatility and the ability to come home fast and draw away from horses. For him, the real test will come when he faces some heavy hitters based at Fair Grounds in the Risen Star Stakes.


15. Proxy (Michael Stidham, Tapit – Panty Raid, by Include)

There isn’t much more to say about him until we can see one race where he’s ridden properly and doesn’t get hit continuously left-handed. If this horse can keep a straight course who knows how good he can be. To show how close he is to Mandaloun in the afternoon and the morning, he turned in the exact same work of :48 1/5, right down to the same one-hundredths, second fastest of 99 works at the distance. And no they did not work in company. To demonstrate how quickly he is improving he went from a pair 13 1/4 Thoro-Graph figures to a 5 in the LeComte and his pedigree suggests he should keep on improving. If Prevalence continues his meteoric rise, Godolphin could have a potent three-headed monster. This definitely is a horse who is still a work in progress and who knows what we’ll see in a few months.


16. Tarantino (Rodolphe Brisset, Pioneerof the Nile – without Delay, by Seeking the Gold)

He was no match for Greatest Honour in the Holy Bull, but it was an excellent effort for his first start ever on dirt. He has had an unusual journey so far. He was purchased as a yearling at Keeneland for $610,000 and turned over to Bob Baffert. He obviously was not turning heads in his works on dirt, so Baffert started him twice on grass, something you rarely if ever see him do with a young horse. After he finished second, beaten a nose, in the Zuma Beach Stakes it was decided to put him back in the sale, but no one was interested, so they bought him back for only $240,000 and sent him back east to Brisset. In his first start for his new trainer he was impressive winning a one-mile allowance race on grass, and when he started working well on dirt, Brisset decided to try him in the Holy Bull and he ran a bang-up second at 26-1, pressing the pace the whole way, finally putting the leader away, and then outrunning the favorite Prime Factor for second. Although he couldn’t handle the closing punch of Greatest Honour he never quit and was striding out well at the wire, while finishing almost four lengths ahead of Prime Factor.



It was tempting to try to squeeze CONCERT TOUR into the Rankings considering he is reported to be one of Baffert’s best 3-year-olds. But he still has a ways to go before he stretches out to two turns, so we’ll wait a little longer before ranking him with the more accomplished horses. But from what I’ve seen so far in his one race and in his works he looks like the real deal. Baffert is moving him gradually up the ladder and we’ll what happens when he gets to the major preps.

For those, myself included, who have an urge to rank impressive first-out maiden sprint winners, all you have to do is look at the performances Saturday of PRIME FACTOR and AMOUNT. The former was way overbet at even-money in the Holy Bull stretching out from six furlongs to 1 1/16 miles, and while he managed to finish a well-beaten third, he was rubber-legged turning for home and had nothing left. We’ll see if he can step way up next time with this race under his belt. Amount was up there early in the Holy Bull, but faded quickly and was eased at the head of the stretch.

One horse looking to get back in the Rankings is CAPO KANE, who will stretch out to 1 1/8 miles in Saturday’s Withers Stakes. Trainer Harold Wyner has been giving him strong two-minute licks to put some air in his lungs and he is just beginning wake up and get more aggressive. He’s been thriving at Parx and if he repeats his performance in the Jerome he is going to be very tough to beat. Although the Withers is not expected to draw a strong field, there will be some potentially good horses in there, and another impressive victory by Capo Kane would make him a serious Derby horse.

One horse who could show up and bears watching is LEBLON, who has been training super at The Thoroughbred Center in Lexington. Trained by Paulo Lobo, the son of Broken Vow has improved with every start and broke his maiden with a game performance going 1 1/8 miles at Churchill Downs. He has plenty of bottom under him with three two-turn races and three six-furlong works. He is bred to run all day and would be a welcome addition to the field. Todd Pletcher could have two in there with last-out winners OVERTOOK, who won coming from far back, and DONEGAL BAY, who won on the front end.

But keep an eye on two possible Maryland invaders SHACKQUEENKING, who shortened up to run a solid third in the seven-furlong Spectacular Bid Stakes last out, and ROYAL NUMBER, who I find very intriguing. After a second and a third in allowance races at Laurel he was given Lasix for the first time and looked sensational, slipping through on the inside and quickly drawing off to win by 7 3/4 lengths with the jockey way up in the saddle the last quarter mile as if in a workout. His trainer Mike Trombetta is not sure how much of a role Lasix played and we won’t know until he runs again without it. But it just could be he is improving at the right time and is loving the two turns, being bred for stamina top and bottom. At this moment Trombetta is not sure what the plans are, but he is looking at all options, including the Withers.

On the training front, Nyquist Stakes winner HIGHLY MOTIVATED continues to work steadily at Payson Park for Chad Brown, his last being a half-mile breeze in :49 1/5. Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf winner FIRE AT WILL moved a step closer to his 3-year-old debut with a five-furlong work in 1:01 3/5 at Gulfstream Park. JACKIE’S WARRIOR, pointing for his debut in the Risen Star Stakes, worked five furlongs in 1:01 4/5. I like the way they’ve been giving him nice easy works, as he needs to harness some of that speed and learn how to win from off the pace.

Three impressive maiden winners DEFEATER, CARILLO, and PRATE all worked at Fair Grounds as they look to stretch out to two turns. Prate in particular was very impressive working five furlongs in a bullet 1:00 flat, fastest of 55 works at the distance. Carillo has an advantage over the other two having won first out going a flat mile at Aqueduct. All three look to have a bright future.

DRAIN THE CLOCK, impressive winner of the seven-furlong Swale Stakes, looks to be the dominant sprinter in Florida, but his connections still haven’t ruled out the possibility of stretching him out in the Fountain of Youth Stakes.

I don’t know how dead the Aqueduct track is or what to make of the 1:56 1/5 time for 1 1/8 miles, but THE REDS looked very impressive visually winning a maiden race with a strong move from last after splitting horses to win going away by almost four lengths. John Kimmel trains the son of Belmont winner Tonalist.

Another exciting prospect to watch stretching out in the Sam F. Davis Stakes is the Bill Mott-trained CANDY MAN ROCKET, who, following a dismal career debut in the slop, romped by 9 1/2 lengths at Gulfstream. The son of Candy Ride broke on top but took back and settled three lengths off the lead. When John Velazquez asked him at the head of the stretch he drew off under a hand ride. He does have a slight paddle to his stride but he is a classy looking individual and we’ll see how he does going two turns against some seasoned stakes horses.

Leave a Reply

291 Responses to “Derby Rankings: Week 3”

  1. Davids says:

    Well Steve, Proxy has a new pilot for the Risen Star Stakes, John Velazquez. Perfect.

    • Coldfacts says:

      Doesn’t Proxy appear to be grinder like fellow Tapit progeny Tacitus. Johnny V was unable to get Tacitus to separate from Mystic Guide and the eventual winner in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. I cannot see him being able to get Proxy to same against what appear to be faster opponents.

      He drifted under whipping in his last two starts. However, even if he had maintained a straight curse, he wouldn’t have finished significantly faster. he appears to be tough grinding colt devoid of the gears necessary gears to repel serious closers.

      Obviously these are young horses and they can improve literally overnight. But this colt has exhibited it running style which appear one dimensional Slow and grinding.

      • Davids says:

        I think you are trying to convince yourself rather than me. Moreover, I wouldn’t be blaming Johnny Velazquez on Tacitus’ inability to run past the competition. They were trying various tactics. Tacitus is best left to run his own race.

  2. Bill Dawson says:

    Yesterday, 2-6, Mandaloun worked a bullet 5 furlongs in 59.80, 1/35, at the Fair Grounds. It certainly appears that Brad Cox has his colt locked and loaded for a big showing in the Risen Star. By hot sire, Into Mischief, Mandaloun has a good mix of speed and stamina in his makeup. The 9 furlong Risen Star distance should be right up his alley, and the one to beat, IMO.
    Safe trips to all.

    • Davids says:

      Post 11. at the Fair Grounds has a low winning percentage of only 6.2 for distance races. Good luck with Mandaloun. Not for me. Keepmeinmind has an even worst post with Post 12.

      • Bill Dawson says:

        Mandaloun has shown improving speed figures, which should get him in a good position approaching the first turn. He shares the 3rd highest late pace figure with Midnight Bourbon, with only two higher, (Santa Cruiser, at 109, and Senor Buscador, at 105).
        Keep in mind the Risen Star will be contested at 9 furlongs, none of these colts have have gone that far in any of their races.
        Mandaloun’s dam side reflects an abundance of stamina influence, to compliment the speed on his sire side.
        Bottom line, Mandaloun checks a lot of boxs; hot sire (Into Mischief) hot trainer/jockey combo (Cox/Geroux) a good mix of speed/stamina, and that 5F bullet work on Saturday is a good indication he’s in good form.
        The horse that scares me the most is Senor Buscador.
        Good luck with your pick.

        • Davids says:

          Just playing devil’s advocate here. If Mandaloun ‘checks a lot of boxes’ why did he come in third last time? The field for the Risen Star Stakes is an advance on his previous competition. Good luck though. Should be a fun race.

          • Bill Dawson says:

            For Mandaloun to finish 3rd, just a length behind the winner, in his first Stakes race says a lot for his potential moving forward, IMO. Dismiss Mandaloun to your heart’s contend. Pending the outcome of the Risen Star, I’ll continue to support him on the Derby trail.
            Have a nice day Davids.

    • Coldfacts says:

      Morning Bill,

      I like to theorize the likely path to victory for my fancied entrant in a race. I am interested to know the path to victory for Mandaloun.

      Judging from his Lacomte effort. He appeared to hang. His stride extension didn’t indicate he was closing resolutely but rather maintaining a good rhythm with little realistic chance of overhaling the leader or separating from the eventual runner-up .

      The fractions recorded in the Lecomte were modest. Midnight Bourbon enjoyed an uncontested lead. Given said modest fraction, he should have pulled away. But instead his opponents kept grinding away at his lead. Midnight Bourbon is a nice colt but a cut or two below those occupying the upper echelon of the division.

      If there was a serious closer in the Lecomte, I doubt the final time of 1:44.41 would have been fast enough to keep it out of the winners enclosure. There are two serious closers in the Risen Star field. With a contentious pace expected. I cannot envisage the top 3 from the Lecomte holding both of them off.

      If the entrant I like runs to expectation. I am of the opinion the KD winner is likely to emerge from this prep. He is not covered above.

      • Bill Dawson says:

        Hey Facts
        In my view, we haven’t seen the best of Mandaloun. I posted a reply to Davids earlier (see above), expressing my view on Mandaloun. The colt that’s getting my attention is Senor Buscador, with that big close he made in the Remington Springboard Mile.
        That long stretch at the Fair Grounds should benefit Senor Buscador’s chances. However, just for clarification, I’ll remain aboard the Mandaloun bandwagon, pending the outcome of the Risen Star.
        Good luck with your pick Facts.

  3. 7.5 Furlongs says:

    I think Risk Taking is also inbred to Buckpasser as well. Colt has the DNA. All he needs are the qualifying points, good health, and a little racing luck. No comment about being “too slow”. At this time of the year, three-year-olds are on the improve and figuring it all out.

  4. 7.5 Furlongs says:

    Very impressed with Risk Taking’s winning performance in the Withers Stakes February 6. Coming from midpack to finish strong. Even more impressed with his 5-cross pedigree, which should be ideal for 1 1/4 miles and KD 2021.

    I have the second-place finisher, Overtook, who finished 3 3/4 lengths back, in a future book wager, but not sure how he makes up the difference in lengths in the coming weeks. At least Overtook, who rallies from back of the pack, has learned to take kickback and still finish his races.

    A couple of serious race horses, Risk Taking and Greatest Honour, have stepped up as legitimate KD 2021 runners in Jan-Feb. The East Coast is looking good up to this point.

  5. Betsy says:

    I liked Unbridled Honor’s performance yesterday. The figures won’t be that good, but that was a promising performance; I liked the bold move he made mid race and the agility and burst at the end, after being blocked for the last furlong.

    • Davids says:

      Unbridled Honor appeared a bit immature, physically, for the Derby Trail but there are still 3 months of growth until Derby Day. Irish Honor might give you some cheer in the months to come.

      • Betsy says:

        Hi David – how are you?

        He’s definitely still got growing up to do – the race before this one, he failed to improve on his sneaky good debut as he was well-beaten by Risk Taker. Obviously that was a good race, and with his pedigree UH should improve. I’m all for Todd going slow with him. What puzzles me is that he ran one tick slower than the filly stakes (but without the trouble, it would have been faster), yet his BSF was 14 points less. Considering that Beyers only care about final time, I don’t understand that.

        Irish Honor looked pretty good in his first start for Saffie Joseph, but I think he’s a sprinter. A horse I love is Ethical Judgement, who is recovering from a minor issue. He may be a turf horse, not sure, but he looked good breaking his maiden in his dirt debut at Keeneland.

        • Davids says:

          Hi Betsy, I’ve been lucky, hope it’s been the same with you. Thus far anyway, Ethical Judgment appears to be Honor Code’s best from his second crop. Although, Unbridled Honor is an improving type with an active family.

          Creed should be in a race soon so there’s something to look forward to.

          • Betsy says:

            Yes, fortunately I can’t complain. I readily admit that EJ beat a bunch of off the turf horses, but he did it easily. If he winds up being a turf horse (he ran very well in his debut, on turf), I’d be very happy. We’ll see about UH – he has a wonderful female family, and he strikes me as a late developer.

            Oh my god, I’m SO happy about Creed…….so excited!!!!!! Also, another HC that I loved – a filly named Talking Book – is on the comeback trail for Shug. She’s been off since last February, I think – and although she’s still a maiden after two starts, she showed a lot of promise. I felt at the time that she’d be a stakes winner. Whether she’s the same filly after what was apparently a bad injury, I don’t know, but they must have been high on her as they easily could have retired her to breed.

  6. Bruce says:

    And that is why to don’t bet a unraced 3 yr old at 26-1 in the future wager!! Bezos just finished 6th of 9!

  7. Davids says:

    Wasn’t there a lot of hype around Bezos? Did something happen to Bezos in the race?

    • EddieF says:

      He is not the Amazonian that he was cracked up to be.

    • Nelson Maan says:

      Nothing happened in the race apart from the phony Bezos looked heavier than a T28 War Tank … Mike Battaglia is jeopardizing the future of the future Derby bets… his time doing this thing might be over !

      • Nelson Maan says:


        • Coldfacts says:

          A colt by Empire Maker out of an A P Indy mare working 5F in 58 plus, could only occur in one barn.

          Bezos wasn’t bred to work 58 for 5F. On a previous blog I alluded to the fact there was too much stamina in his pedigree and not enough speed. I do believe you disagreed.

          • Nelson Maan says:

            I did not even read your post …! I am just telling you that Battaglia should be held accountable for putting that horse as a fool’s trap to the public…!

            I never ever fall for that kind of non-sense. My rule is very clear … you should always wait for at least three races in order to better characterize the Derby prowess of any given young horse.

            Please, don’t ever put words in my mouth… Thanks

      • Davids says:

        Two good points, or possibly 3.

  8. Nelson Maan says:

    One of the amusements among some member of the Haskin community is picking Steve’s brain so as to predict how the ranking might look after relevant preps unfold. So, every week it is tempting to guess who is promoted and who is demoted from the honor roll.

    Known Agenda and Smiley Sobotka were disappointing in the Sam Davis and will likely be downgraded. But who are filling the two vacancies ?

    Remaining in the ranking are Essential Quality, Senor Buscador, Keepmeinmind, Mandaloun, Midnight Bourbon and Proxy since they will be making their cases next week.

    Providing the highly touted Bezos (who is debuting in 15 minutes from now) is no Justify I presume the ranking tomorrow will just include Concert Tour, Risk Taking and Candy Man Rocket at the tail (14, 15 and 16 places respectively).

    What do you think? Are the three winners of the prep races this weekend making the ranking?

    • EddieF says:

      Must disagree about KA and SS being likely downgraded. They will DEFINITELY be downgraded…out of the Sweet 16. Yesterday’s three winners are likely to get in. But Nova Rags and Hidden Stash must also be considered. I think Steve will put Risk Taking higher than the bottom of the list, based on his teaser of a couple of days ago. For good reason, he’s having a hard time separating the top three in the Lecomte, but something’s got to give with the new candidates.

      • Nelson Maan says:

        It is understandable putting the three top finishers in the LeComte bunched below the top ten. They will be separated further after the Risen Star for sure.

        Senor Buscador and Keepmeinmind will likely stay within the top 4 as the possible pace in the Risen Star looks to be favoring the closers.

        Keith Desormeaux could be throwing his hat into the ring with Santa Cruiser… his only card in the Trail.

        Next week will be very telling indeed!

    • Davids says:

      Steve, is much less forgiving in the modified Derby Rankings. I’d be surprised if Known Agenda and Smiley Sobotka weren’t removed. Moreover, sprinting doesn’t cut the mustard either so Concert Tour will have to wait until he competes in other stakes with points.

      Risk Taking will make the grade but the big question is which of the top 3 form the Sam F. Davis Stakes will make it or not at all?

  9. Bill Dawson says:

    This past Thursday, (2-4), I mentioned Risk Taking’s tail-female side, having the strong class influence. by legendary breeder Ogden “Dinny” Phipps. Private Account in the 3rd generation, Damascus, Numbered Account and Con Game in the 4th generation and Sword Dancer, Majestic Prince and Buckpasser, appearing twice in the 5th generation.
    Risk Taking’s win in the 9F Withers, provided clear proof 10 furlongs is well within his range.
    In the Withers, I keyed Risking Taking and Capo Kane on top, with 4 others underneath in my super. Coming down the stretch I thought I had it, but Overtook went right on by Capo Kane to knock me out of the super.
    However, earlier on the Aqueduct card (3rd race) my $5.00 superfecta box of 1-2-5-6 hit for $1347.50. Getting 2 horses on the 1 post ( 1 & 1A) and two horses on the 2 post (2 & 2A) was good to have going into the race, IMO. So all and all I had an excellent day. Now its on to the Risen Star. I like Brad Cox’s colt, Mandaloun, for the win.

  10. EddieF says:

    Risen Star Stakes, February 13, entries

    1 Starrininmydreams
    2 Proxy
    3 Beep Beep
    4 Carillo
    5 Senor Buscador
    6 Midnight Bourbon
    7 O Besos
    8 Sermononthemount
    9 Defeater
    10 Santa Cruiser
    11 Mandaloun
    12 Keepmeinmind
    13 Rightandjust

  11. EddieF says:

    Best last-race Brisnet numbers

    Withers — Risk Taking, 98
    SB Davis — Candy Man Rocket, 97


  12. Matthew W says:

    Hidden Stash will love the 10 furlongs!

  13. Coldfacts says:

    Runway Magic looks great. Worth an each way wager.

  14. EddieF says:

    Hey, Steve. Now that Risk Taking has won, I’m even more interested in reading your comments for Monday. How about a teaser? 😉 As expected, I didn’t bet him due to low odds.

    • Nelson Maan says:

      Congrats on Risk Taking !… that is you get when trying to forecast the weather over Oldsmar.

    • Nelson Maan says:

      Now you have to congratulate me on CANDY MAN ROCKET …!

      • EddieF says:

        Wow! Very nice! Was that you hammering him down from a 10-1 ML? 🙂

        • Nelson Maan says:

          LOL … I wish I am able to sway pools…. ! Just decided to play all in the Trifecta so as to get much more than the 3 to 1 to win.

          Perhaps many people SAW how Promise Keeper (who was 4th 10 lengths behind The Rocket in his last) demolished an excellent field at a mile at Gulfstream earlier. Even Jeebar (3rd in the same race) was a very game runner-up to a nice Pletcher debut winner Democracy in the 7th race there.

          The son of Candy Ride was supposed to be an overlay! but the collective intelligence of the People is right 80% of the time…!

          • EddieF says:

            I can’t imagine the GP races having that much of an effect on the SB Davis betting. But who knows?!?! Need to watch for the second-place finishers in the last race of both Risk Taking and Candy Man Rocket. (3rd-place finisher The Reds in RT’s last race came back to win.)

  15. Coldfacts says:

    Todd Pletcher’s Overtook is the pick of the paddock. I expect a explosive stretch run.

  16. Coldfacts says:

    Which of the works below by 10, 3YOs appear inconsistent with an Empire Maker progeny?

    Bezos – Empire Maker out of a A P Indy mare. Best 5F work 58+. (BBaffert)

    Roman Centurian – Empire Maker out of a Bernardini mare. Bes 5F work 1:01. (SCallaghan)

    Core Curriculum – Empire Maker out of a Danzig mare. Best 5F work in 1:01+ (TPletcher)

    Moraz (F) – Empire Maker out of a A P Indy mare. Best 5F work 1:00+. (McCarthy)

    Big Easy Empire – Empire Maker out of a Malibu Moon. Best 5F work 1:00+. (MStidham)

    Epic Empire – Empire Maker out of a Street Sense mare. Best 5F work 1:01+.

    Bird Ruler – Empire Maker out of a Indian Charlie mare. Best 5F work 1:01+.

    Made In Karoo – Empire Maker out of a Lemon Drop Kid mare. Best 5F work 1:01+. (PMiller)

    Kattegat – Empire Maker out of a Wild Rush mare. Best 5F work 1:03+. (MMaker)

    Adara – Empire Maker out of a Forest Camp mare. Best 5F work 1:02+ (KMcPeek)

    A colt by Empire Maker out of a A P Indy mare working 5F in 58 plus, could only occur in one barn.

  17. EddieF says:

    The track at Oldsmar will likely be a bog.

    • Steve Haskin says:

      So I hear. I rremember how bad Known Agenda looked in the slop. Lets see if PLetcher scratches. Not may alternatives. Should move a grass horse like Lucky Law up.

      • EddieF says:

        Yeah. I have a feeling KA won’t be scratched. Even on an off track, the Davis is a much softer spot than the Southwest in 9 days. The Davis is a crapshoot, with most runners having either a decent slop pedigree or decent races on off tracks (exceptions are KA, Candy Man Rocket, Joe Man Joe). Is there such a thing as a No Rain Dance?

    • Matthew W says:

      Bummer. was going to make Hidden Stash my third big play of the year, but won’t do that on the off going…WILL play him, though.

      • Davids says:

        Hidden Stash ran a great race, arguably, better than the first two who both ran great for Bill Mott.

        • Matthew W says:

          Only closer that finished in the picture—wish he could’ve gone thru the seam, instead of outside the leaders–would’ve been 2nd at least..wasn’t beat by much.

          • Davids says:

            Yes, probably inexperience. Even so, it was a progression and Hidden Stash was picking up both the colts in front of him, late. Good signs. Ha ha

            Unanimously, is another that could come on by May, he ran well at the Fair Grounds all things considered. Promise Keeper was impressive at Gulfstream for later in the year.

    • Nelson Maan says:

      My quagmire Exacta: 1- Hidden Stash / 6 – Runway Magic / 7 – Boca Boy / 11- Lucky Law

      Sometimes heavy rain is just pesos from the sky…

  18. Coldfacts says:

    Thoro-GLucky Lawraph Figures

    I am neither familiar with the above figures nor the mathematical and other variables used in their computation.
    Lucky Law was assigned poor Thoro-Graph Figures for his 2 career starts on turf.

    DEBUT – 5F – Fractions – 22.51; 44.96; 56.68 – (Finished 2nd by 1 1/4L; closing 3 to 4 lengths off the pace)

    His sire was a crack sprinter. His dam sire was a mega router. If Lucky Law is more of a router and less of a sprinter. Wouldn’t finishing 2nd by 1 1/4L in a 5F sprint competed in 56+ be view an excellent effort for a router? How would such a performance be assigned a poor TG figure?

    2ND START – 8F – Fractions – 23.08; 47.87; 1:13.44; 1:25.24; 1:36:46 – (1ST by 1 1/2L; final 1/8 -11.22)

    The fractions were modest but the final 1/8 (11.22) was blisteringly fast. A colt that finished 2nd by 1 1/4L over 5F after f 21 & 44 fractions, will just be jogging when 23, 47, 1:13 are being recorded.

    Pace makes the race. Lucky Law was only required to run fast in the final 2F. His final furlong was 11.22. How much faster should the colt have gone to get a favor TG number.

    I avoid using speed figure and the results from other post race performance assessments. A poor TG figure for a young horse is not very significant. A router that is devoid of tactical speed, in a sprint race is not expected get a good TG Figure. Youngsters can improve overnight and can be baadly beaten in their previous start and first in the next i.e.,. Tawprit/ Bravazo.

    There is absolutely no way to accurately asses the improvement a young horse has made between starts. Sometime a groom/equipment change can transform a young horse.

    The limitations of Speed and TG figures makes them not as significant as the developers want the masses to believe .

  19. Nelson Maan says:

    Top ten horse Capo Kane (3/1) is the second favorite in the Withers Stakes behind Chad Brown’s Risk Taking (5/2). KOTD horses OVERTOOK (6/1), DONEGAL BAY (7/2), SHACKQUEENKING (10/1) and ROYAL NUMBER (6/1) will be trying to defeat the two favorites.

    Eagle Orb is a nice New Yorker who deserves betting a few bucks on his number if you are looking for a viable long shot.

    Hey EddieF got the tip that Capo Kane is suffering from a BS … bad sign that is …… so it is worth looking for at least an ROI of 8 in the Whiters… wadjou think?

  20. Nelson Maan says:

    Steve I am curious to know your take on Lucky Law moving to dirt … just looking for a bombshell … not Cindy Crawford but a horse paying 20 to 1 getting in the Tri…

    Thanks in advance for your views…

  21. Nelson Maan says:

    The three Derby-trail races this week will give a better idea of how to sort out a good number of hopefuls. Twenty seven horses will be making their (Derby) cases this Saturday and the ones biting the dust will most likely be forgotten (unless they have a valid excuse but time to rebound is limited anyways).

    The Sam F. Davis Stakes features 13 horses including Steve’s top 10 Smiley Sobotka (3/1) and Known Agenda (6/1).
    Also in the race are two Bill Mott horses flagged in the KOTD section: CANDY MAN ROCKET (10/1) and NOVA RAGS (4/1). Both horses are well meant and should be relishing the 1 /16 mile going. Nova Rags could be ending as the cofavorite with Sobotka but I like Candy Man Rocket to win under Junior Alvarado who is the first-call jockey for Mott. I just love his pedigree top to bottom … the son of Candy Ride will be my key horse in any bet.

    Smiley Sobotka is a deserving favorite but I can not shake from my head the appalling dislike of his sire Brody’s Cause to the Tampa surface in 2016. I do not recall he had any other justification for his 7th place in the Tampa Bay Derby as he went on straight from there to win the Blue Grass…! I believe Steve has labeled Tampa as a quirky surface. Who knows!
    Hidden Stash could be running well enough in the Sam Davis to make the Knocking on the Door.

    I will be relying on Mott and Pletcher horses with Hidden Stash to try hitting the Trifecta.

    • Mary Ellen says:

      I like Candy Man Rocket’s chances, too. Good pick!

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Fastest last-out Thoro-Graph number belongs to Mr. Doda. Capo Kane next.

      • Steve Haskin says:

        But of course Mr. Doda is coming off 5 1/2 furlong races and is bred to be sprinter so I have no idea what he’s doing here

    • Davids says:

      Tampa Bay’s surface is usually kind and safe for the horses, nonetheless, the surface is much less demanding that it used to be. I really enjoy the ‘quirkiness’ of Tampa Bay year after year.

      • Nelson Maan says:

        That is a good point Davids… 2016 conditions might be very different from current ones.

        • Davids says:

          I was thinking more 2007, and before, when Any Given Saturday was a close second to Street Sense in the Tampa Bay Derby but you’re right, nonetheless.

    • Coldfacts says:

      No love for Boca Boy!

      His ML 5/1 didn’t generate any curiosity? His 2 wins were recorded on off tracks. Rain is in the forecast for Tamla Bay. The colt is likely to return 4 months between starts on a surface he apparently relishes.

      Boca Boy doesn’t possess the appealing pedigree of many in the field. But many can out run modest pedigrees. He is a big colt with excellent stride mechanics and good tactical speed. He carried said speed from gate to wire in the 8 1/2L In Reality @ the generous odds of 12/1.

      A colt that size, with tactical speed and efficiency in movement, has to be a better athlete returning for 4 months of further development.

      NB: The colt was being directed to the KJC Stake at CD when he suffered a setback.

      I consider him a worthy Trifecta

  22. EddieF says:

    Concert Tour is in Saturday’s 7f San Vicente. Is the San Felipe next?

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Steady progression. Doubt he will run against Life is Good, so Rebel could be alternative for either one, and he has to find a spot for Medina Spirit.

    • Nelson Maan says:

      CONCERT TOUR is the one primed to be climbing the ranks. If he wins the San Vicente like an odds-on favorite should, I can see the son of Street Sense and maternal grandson of Tapit making the top 15.

      One has to be fascinated by the speed displayed by Concert Tour given he got stamina to spare in his family.
      His stable mate Freedom Fighter has been really impressive training for his comeback after sidelined for 5 months. The son of Violence will likely be delivering a good spectacle in the San Vicente.

  23. Bigtex says:

    Love all of this, Steve. Essential Quality stands atop my leaderboard but what do you think about Medina Spirit’s pedigree?

    • Steve Haskin says:

      rightfully so, he probably should be there. We’ll see how he does in the Southwest. Medina Spirit has obscure names but definitely bred to go long. I went over his pedigree in week 1 or 2.

  24. Coldfacts says:

    Royal Number appears to have the stride mechanics capable of negating the tiring effects of the winter surface at the Big A.