Derby Rankings: Week 5

Rather than do another Sweet Sixteen when there are 17 horses that deserve to be on there, I felt it was best to go back to the standard Derby Dozen for now and see what transpires next Saturday in the loaded Southwest Stakes. After that race, we finally will have a good line on everyone and be able to put together a more definitive list. ~ Steve Haskin

Derby Rankings: Week 5, Feb. 15

By Steve Haskin


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

With Essential Quality’s debut postponed a week, he is able to maintain the No. 1 spot. Last week we noted his continuous progress on his Thoro-Graph numbers, especially his jump from a 4 1/2 to a 1, which already has him fast enough to win the Derby. His Brisnet numbers back that up as evidenced by his steady improvement (84 – 88 – 92 – 97 and 103 in the Holy Bull, with the 103 being the fastest figure by any member of this crop). He also is the fastest and most consistent closer, based on his late pace figures. For all those who still don’t grasp the intricacies of speed figures, all you have to know is that he not only is the fastest 3-year-old and the strongest closer, he is also on the best pattern and is Derby ready right now. With only one more start in the Florida Derby and then a five-week gap to the Kentucky Derby, there should be no concerns of him peaking too soon. If he just pairs up his last Thoro-Graph figure or shows slight improvement he will be ready for a peak performance on the first Saturday in May.


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

We’ll have to wait a week now to see what kind of transition he’s made from 2 to 3. His speed ratings at 2 are fast and show an excellent progression, and his 3-year-old debut in the Southwest Stakes will tell us in what direction he’s going. He doesn’t need to improve much to be right on course. With the postponement of the Southwest it raises a question. If he was planning on a three-race Oaklawn campaign he will now have only three weeks to the Rebel instead of four. If he were to skip the Rebel he would have to wait seven weeks to the Arkansas Derby. So if he is unable to match strides with the brilliant Jackie’s Warrior in the Southwest going 1 1/16 miles it’s not a big deal. He just needs to run his race and be competitive and it’s OK if he is unable to catch a horse with that kind of class and speed. You also want to see if he can outclose the late-running Keepmeinmind. You really don’t want him having a grueling race or run some outrageous speed figure trying to catch Jackie’s Warrior, especially with two possible more preps ahead of him.


3. Risk Taking (Chad Brown, Medaglia d’Oro – Run a Risk, by Distorted Humor)

The positive impressions I got watching his last two races were echoed by Barry Eisaman, who broke the colt  “He always acted like a high school student with a college student mentality,” he said. “Everything we asked him to do, he acted like he had done it a million times already.” As I said, he looks like a throwback to those sound, hard-knocking horses of the past who know exactly what they’re supposed to do. From a speed standpoint, Thoro-Graph, which takes trip and ground loss into consideration, had him running a very slow number in his maiden win, while Brisnet had him running a fast number and an equally fast late pace figure. Although Brisnet had him regressing from a 98 to a 92 speed figure in the Withers, Thoro-Graph had him making a big move forward from a 10 1/2 to a 3 1/4, which puts him right in line with most of the leading contenders. So, which one do you believe? Sometimes you have to go by the eye test, and I just liked what I saw in the Withers, and that is a professional horse who looks to be improving with every start. And I guess I’m a sucker for all that extraordinary Phipps breeding in his female family that reads like a “Who’s Who” and the 4 x 4 inbreeding to Damascus. Sure he needs to get a little faster, but he is relentless and just keeps coming at you. Now we have to see how he fares against better horses with the big points on the line.


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

He turned in his strongest work so far, going six furlongs in a bullet 1:12 flat and did it with the rider never moving his hands. He was striding out beautifully right from the start and was pure poetry down the stretch. This horse’s mechanics are flawless and this was as perfect a work as you are going to see. To show how strong he was after the wire, he cut the corner sharply going into the turn and was smack down on the rail, then continued to pour it on around the turn and into the backstretch before the rider had to step on the brakes to pull him up. I have always maintained that you want to see plenty of stamina in the female family when you have an Into Mischief, but Authentic threw that theory out the window last year. It just looks as if the Into Mischiefs are pure runners and if they have the look of a stayer then they’ll get a distance of ground, and Life if Good reminds me a great deal of Authentic in many ways – a long striding horse who is very light on his feet and just glides over the ground. But I still want to see him settle off the pace and close and that seems to be the way Baffert is training him. Right now it looks as if the San Felipe Stakes on March 6 is next.


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

He was entered in the Risen Star just in case, and although there was a just in case with the postponement of the Southwest, he will ignore that and wait the extra week, giving up a 50-point race at a mile and an eighth in a wide-open race with no standout for a 10-point race at a mile and a sixteenth against Essential Quality and Jackie’s Warrior. Now that is what I call having faith in your horse. Granted, he did draw an outside post at Fair Grounds, but with his running style I doubt that would have compromised his chances. Diodoro said he feels much better running him out of his own stall and that certainly makes sense. After all, it’s not that he needs to win this race, he just needs to show the same big stretch run he showed in his last three races. But despite his big finishes in two Grade 1 stakes and a Grade 2, he still needs to improve his speed figures. The one thing you have to like about him is his consistency; he is always closing. Because he has been aggressive in the mornings and working fast, Diodoro wisely slowed him down with a nice easy :49 3/5 breeze over a track labeled good.


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

After the LeComte I ranked him higher than the two horses who finished ahead of him, Midnight Bourbon and Proxy, because of his wide trip, stretching out to two turns for the first time, and being herded badly by Proxy in the stretch. For him to overcome the 10-post in the Risen Star Stakes, in which he raced three-wide the whole way going nine furlongs, and turn the tables on Midnight Bourbon and Proxy, that is proof enough that this is another Into Mischief who is for real and can handle a distance. With the addition of blinkers, he was able to stay close to the leaders and use his grinding style of running to power home by 1 1/4 lengths under a vigorous hand ride. This colt is not going to dazzle you with electrifying performances, but he is going to run hard race after race. After running a 4 on Thoro-Graph in the LeComte, it’s now only a question what kind of progression he made in the Risen Star. As we have mentioned, he has a ton of stamina in his female family and is inbred to classic/stayer influence His Majesty, so with a mile and an eighth victory already under his belt, I see no reason why the Derby should pose any problem. And his running style is geared for Churchill Downs. Could he provide a fitting farewell to Juddmonte founder Prince Khalid Abdullah, who recently passed away?


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

So, just how fast is this horse and how far can he carry his speed? His speed figures say he’s far from the fastest horse on the Derby trail, and there was little improvement in his last two races on Brisnet and no improvement on Thoro-Graph. Brisnet gives him strong middle pace figures, but he slows down late. In two of his four races, at seven furlongs and a mile, he went his first half in a blazing :44 and change. Although he doesn’t close fast from a speed ratings standpoint all he does is run off from his opponents, winning by huge margins. So, what do we make of this horse who no doubt is extremely talented and can decimate his opposition despite running fast early factions? And he has already hung two defeats on Greatest Honour sprinting. We won’t know any more until the Rebel Stakes, but for now he passes all the visual tests and he is by a sire who was known for carrying his speed classic distances.


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

We mentioned last week his dramatic move on Thoro-Graph from a 10 to a 1, making him the fastest 3-year-old we’d seen so far (now the co-fastest). He also became the first horse to run back-to-back triple-digit Brisnet figures (101 and 101), so it looks like his speed figures are legitimate, and combined with his 14-length maiden romp last out, we better start taking this horse seriously. O’Neill calls him a rock star. He will have to come off Lasix in his next start, the San Felipe Stakes, but he did run well without it when beaten the slimmest of noses in the Los Alamitos Futurity. I’m not going to pay much attention to the slow time of 1:15 4/5 in his latest six-furlong work. He sat off another horse with the rider never moving his hands and finished up strong. What interests me more is that he worked six furlongs coming off three one mile races and a mile and a sixteenth race, so O’Neill certainly isn’t babying him, just like he never babied I’ll Have Another and Nyquist.


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

He returned to the work tab with a half-mile drill in :48 4/5 with the rider way up over his neck and never asking him to run. Looking at the Brisnet figures for the Robert B. Lewis for the first time, they came up a little on the slow side, but like with the Thoro-Graph figures he was the only horse to move forward. What was most disappointing on Brisnet were the slow late pace figures for the first three finishers. So once again we are left with the question, how good are these horses? I still like the progression he is on, jumping from a 13 to a 6 to a 3 on Thoro-Graph. And he has one of the more powerful pedigrees top and bottom, so all indications point to a horse who is making great strides with every race. Yes, he has to come home faster, but I am not going to judge him based on mile and a sixteenth races over a dead Santa Anita racetrack. I believe we won’t see the best of this horse until he goes a mile and an eighth and even more so a mile and a quarter.


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

With Life is Good heading for the San Felipe at this point, there is a decent shot we could see him in the Rebel, but as we all know, Baffert can change his mind at any time. If there is one thing we know about him it is that he can run big on the lead or from five lengths back, and he doesn’t back away from a fight. As mentioned earlier, his Brisnet speed figure regressed a couple of points off his runner-up finish behind Life is Good in the Sham Stakes, but he paired up his number on Thoro-Graph. He has been tested in different ways in his last two races and stood up to the test each time. Baffert refers to him as his Real Quiet in that it was the more brilliant Indian Charlie who was his big horse, defeating Real Quiet in the Santa Anita Derby. But when they stretched out to a mile and a quarter at Churchill Downs it was all Real Quiet, who went on to be beaten the slimmest of noses for the Triple Crown.


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

The more I watch the Robert B. Lewis Stakes the more impressed I am with his performance, which proved that his Breeders’ Cup Juvenile effort at 94-1 was no fluke. In the Lewis, I loved the way he rated and then accelerated on the turn when Joel Rosario moved his hands. In the stretch, he took all the worst of it, not only being in extremely tight quarters between Medina Spirit and Roman Centurian, but getting bounced around from both sides. While O’Neill was giving The Great One a six-furlong work in company, he breezed him an easy half alone in :51 1/5 with the rider sitting motionless throughout and then letting him run approaching the wire. As of now, The Great One will stay home for the San Felipe and he will head to Fair Grounds for the Louisiana Derby.


12. Overtook (Todd Pletcher, Curlin – Got Lucky, by A.P. Indy)

This colt still has a lot to learn and I’m not sure when we will see the best of him, but for now his race in the Withers and his Thoro-Graph jumps from a 20 to a 9 to a 5 1/4 suggest that he is improving enough to at least make his presence felt, especially with his powerful pedigree top and bottom. We know he can close and can sustain his run a long way and that could get him a piece of the Derby, but he is going to need to show more quickness and a turn of foot if he is going to have any chance of winning. And he is going to need to pick up points, whether it’s in the Wood Memorial or wherever he shows up. I know Pletcher is the last trainer to shorten a horse like this up to one turn and give him two more starts when he can give him one, but the one-mile Gotham might be a good place to sharpen him up a little and, win or lose, set him up for his big final prep. He also might pick up enough points the lessen the all-or-nothing pressure he would face in the Wood or wherever he shows up. But trainers today just don’t do that so I wouldn’t count on it.



SENOR BUSCADOR – You just can’t get away with being that far back when you face better horses no matter how spectacular you looked before, especially on a track where every winner was first or second turning for home.  I really wanted this colt to work out because of the great story behind him, and I haven’t given up on him. I was just hoping he would at least be in position to give himself a chance to win or be in the money, but you can’t be a dozen lengths back nearing the top of the stretch and expect to be competitive. He seemed to be close enough down the backstretch, but just when he started his run going into the turn the field became strung out with everyone making their moves and he found himself with way too much ground to make up. I still thought he might come charging home to pick up a piece of it, but that monster kick just wasn’t there, even though he did come home in :24 flat and :06 3/5. Remember, he hadn’t run in two months, had only two career starts, and only three three-furlong blowouts and a half-mile-breeze in between. Because he only runs the last part of it, I wasn’t crazy about him having only two preps off a layoff, so perhaps it would serve him better to go to Oaklawn for the Rebel and Arkansas Derby over a track that is more conducive to late closers. Otherwise he will have only one race to pick up a ton of points, and with his running style you sure don’t want to see him flying late and finish fourth in a four-horse photo.

PROXY – He is another I thought would take a big step forward with John Velazquez up. This time, he wasn’t hit left-handed, but whether it was habit or something else, he started bearing out on his own, and then continued to do so despite Velazquez hitting him continuously right-handed. To his credit he again battled to the wire to get second, but until he shows he can keep a straight course and not continue to bear out I can’t rank him in the Top 12. He has the talent and the pedigree, and I believe there so much more to this horse that he hasn’t shown. But he can’t keep compromising his chances every race. If he stays at Fair Grounds he will have only more prep to work out his issues.

MIDNIGHT BOURBON – It is so difficult separating him, Proxy, and Mandaloun, as they have now finished pretty much on the wire together twice. He had his own way on the front end in the LeComte and was able to hold off the other two who were way out in the middle of the track. This time he was put in a stalking position with Mandaloun sitting right behind him. He ran hard down the stretch, but couldn’t match strides with Mandaloun and failed to hold on to second, despite having a perfect trip. He is another who will have to step up in his next race. He is by Tiznow, so he likely is still a work in progress. I’m just not sure if he has the weapons needed to win the Derby.

JACKIE’S WARRIOR – I’m putting him here for now even though I think he has a big shot to win the Southwest Stakes on Saturday at a distance that should favor him. But he still has to prove he is as effective around two turns as he was around one turn, and whether he can rate off the pace if he has to, something he was unable to do successfully in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. He did, however, run a bang-up race chasing a brutal pace, so we’ll see what kind of progress he’s made since last fall.

ROMBAUER – I try not to fall into any synthetic traps and get too excited when a horse looks good over the Tapeta surface in the El Camino Real Derby, especially when they just get up to defeat a filly. But this horse has run big on dirt, grass, and synthetic and you can depend on him to be closing every race. It was a good move sending him up there to get a mile and an eighth race in him and now it’s on to bigger and better things. If this were a Sweet Sixteen ranking like the last two weeks he definitely would be on it. I just want to see him get into the fray earlier and not leave himself with so much to do.

Catching up from last week, while the eyes of the racing world were glued to BEZOS in his much-anticipated career debut going 6 1/2 furlongs, they might have missed that blur that blew right past him at the top of the stretch. Suddenly, all eyes became fixed on DREAM SHAKE, as he opened up on his field with every stride and looked like he was just getting started as he crossed the finish line 4 3/4 lengths in front. Even though he received a solid 90 Brisnet figure for a maiden race and a strong 95 late pace figure, it was his Thoro-Graph figure that was astonishing, as he received a “1,” which you rarely see for a first-time starter. That equals the number Greatest Honour ran in the Holy Bull Stakes. The big concern with that is, where does he go from there? If you’re a follower of Thoro-Graph, that is way too fast for a horse making his career debut. He is yet another horse who would have only three career starts before the Derby, so, like Prevalence, we really have no idea how to rank him. We saw what happened to another spectacular maiden winner, Prime Factor, when they rushed him into the Holy Bull off one sprint.

Speaking of PRIME FACTOR, he worked a solid half in :48 3/5 and should show improvement with that last race under his belt and more bottom under him. He just didn’t seem ready to tackle those horses in a graded stakes jumping from six furlongs to a mile and a sixteenth.

One horse who made a big impression in a maiden race at Fair Grounds Saturday was the Bret Calhoun-trained Runhappy colt RUN CLASSIC, who was stretching out to a mile and a sixteenth off a rough trip going six furlongs. Rating nicely in third, he took over at the head of the stretch, changed leads on cue, and drew off impressively. He kept building up momentum with long fluid strides and galloped out very strong, still hugging the rail. His time of 1:44 1/5 was a full second faster than Sainthood ran in the other division, three-fifths of a second faster than a strong allowance race on the same card, and a full second faster than the Rachel Alexandra Stakes. And you had to be impressed with his closing fractions of :24 and :06 1/5, which were significantly faster than the closing times of the other maiden race and allowance race. In addition, his time was only three-fifths slower than the Mineshaft Stakes won by the 4-year-old Maxfield, who many believe to be the best horse in the country. And to take it one step further his time compared favorably to the time of the nine-furlong Risen Star Stakes, run a tick under 1:50 2/5. His pedigree is a good mixture of speed and stamina and he definitely bears watching.

In the aforementioned mile and a sixteenth allowance race at Fair Grounds, the flashy American Pharoah colt BIG LAKE held off the late closing charge of DEFEATER to win by a diminishing half-length after opening a six-length lead at the eighth pole. Trained by Steve Asmussen, Big Lake has improved since stretching out to two turns and did well breaking from post 10, going three-wide on the first turn. His second dam is a full-sister to four-time Grade 1 winner Lakeway, who placed in the Alabama, Kentucky Oaks, and Breeders’ Cup Distaff. His third dam is a full-sister to Grade 1 winner Saratoga Six, and his fourth dam is a full-sister to Kentucky Derby and Belmont winner Bold Forbes. You had to be very impressed with Defeater, who was making only his second career start and first around two turns, and he was gobbling up ground in the stretch and blew by the winner on the gallop-out. Trainer Tom Amoss thought so highly of the son of Union Rags he entered him in the Risen Star Stakes, but elected to run in this spot instead. He is another to keep an eye on down the road.

A few weeks ago I mentioned DYNAMIC ONE as my megabomb sleeper, despite still being a maiden. He has always been highly regarded, and Todd Pletcher still has time to get another race in him in early March and have him ready for a huge leap to one of the big 100-point preps. He had a number of excuses in his last start, which I believe he would have won by several lengths. Despite tiring a bit in the stretch, it was still one of the more visually impressive races I’ve seen this year, and I just want to see what he can do when he’s healthy, doesn’t lose a shoe, and can get a decent trip. It was good to see him return to the work tab for the first time, as he breezed a half-mile in :49 in company with Amount.

Pletcher also has another maiden who bears watching. BRACKEN has never had a race that was suited for him. In his debut he chased his brilliant stablemate Prime Factor home in second in what I felt was a promising effort. In his next race he wound up going head and head for the lead and tired to finish third. Pletcher put him on the grass Saturday and he drew post 11, got hung four-wide on both turns racing back in seventh, but showed a brilliant turn of foot to reach contention. He ran on strongly, but was outrun by the even-money favorite Floriform, who slipped through on the inside. Watch out for this horse if Pletcher puts him back on the dirt. He is ready for a bust out performance.

In other Pletcher news, KNOWN AGENDA, who I have always been high on but can’t figure out, likely will try blinkers in his next start after his bizarre race in the Sam F. Davis Stakes. He is still very slow on his speed figures and they can only hope the blinkers will wake him up and put some speed in him. We know the talent and the speed are there; we have seen it, but lately he’s been all over the place. Pletcher sent out two gutsy maiden winners this week. ATLANTIC ROAD, a son of Quality Road, battled to the wire and prevailed by a half-length going seven furlongs at Aqueduct. Then on Saturday his Mshawish colt SAINTHOOD battled back after appearing beaten to eke out a nose victory at Fair Grounds. It was a good week for photos for Pletcher, as he also scored a narrow victory with the Constitution gelding HYPERFOCUS, who got up by a neck in a four-horse blanket finish going a mile on the grass.

PREVALENCE, who had more than a few jaws dropping watching his sensational maiden victory, will be looking for a two-turn allowance race in the next few weeks. If there is nothing in the book for him or it doesn’t fill he probably would make a huge leap into the Fountain of Youth Stakes. But again we’re talking about a horse will have only three lifetime starts going into the Derby; a tall task. He did turn in a solid five-furlong work this week in 1:01.

HIGHLY MOTIVATED moved a step closer to his debut in the Gotham Stakes, breezing five furlongs in 1:02 2/5 at Payson Park. American Pharoah winner GET HER NUMBER continued on his road back with a half-mile breeze in :49 2/5 at San Luis Rey Downs. Also getting closer to his 3-year-old debut and a return to the dirt is Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf winner FIRE AT WILL, who breezed six furlongs in 1:15 2/5 for the Fountain of Youth Stakes. His only dirt race was a narrow victory in the off-the-turf With Anticipation Stakes run on a sloppy track. Holy Bull Stakes runner-up TARANTINO had his first work since that race, breezing a half in :49 2/5. He, too, could show up in the Fountain of Youth Stakes

If you are looking for an update on last year’s mile and an eighth Remsen winner BROOKLYN STRONG, he hasn’t worked since that race, but should be on the work tab in the near future. He needs to start working, as he doesn’t have much wiggle room if he expects to be ready for a debut by early March, possibly in the Gotham Stakes.

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135 Responses to “Derby Rankings: Week 5”

  1. Jeff says:

    Life is Good workout today was Awesome! Real exciting prospect, that will be favored to win the KD… question will this class of 3 year olds be too strong to sweep the triple?

    • Matthew W says:

      This AM…Doug O’Neil said he was going to Louisiana with Hot Rod Charlie…and San Felipe with The Great One—I think we knew that–but he tossed in a little tout on The Great One–said they’ll have to run a big effort to beat him!

  2. Matthew W says:

    Any worries about Hidden Stash, who runs on his left lead….only need to watch the Saidi Cup, where in the worlds richest horse race was won by a horse on the wrong lead the entire stretch….

    • Matthew W says:

      My concern with Hidden Stash is whether he’s fast enough…five starts and he has improved in each start, and seems to keep on coming….

  3. Nelson Maan says:

    The Japanese colt La Perouse (B.c.3 Pelusa (JPN) – Hat Shite Good by Empire Maker) has just won the Hyacinth Stakes at Tokyo Racecourse. Masterfully guided by Christophe Lemaire who took his time after a bad break and came flying skimming the rail to win very convincingly. The time for the mile on dirt was 1:36.80 one second over the Stakes record.

    La Perouse, a son of an excellent Stayer and maternal grandson of Empire Maker, leads the Japan road to the Derby with 30 points. He must like the 1 ¼ mile distance.

    The next and final Japan prep is the Fukuryu Stakes on March 27 at the Nakayama race track. It is a 1 1/8-mile race with 40 qualifying points to the winner.

    The popular Lani was 5th in the Hyacinth before winning the UAE Derby and competing in the three TC races. Master Fencer was 4th in that Stakes and 2nd in the Fukuryu Stakes as a springboard to a very fast closing and meritorious 6th in the 2019 Derby.

    It would be nice to see a Japanese colt coming to the Derby.

    Japan is progressively making its presence felt in the Run for the Roses…

    • Mary Ellen says:

      Nice summary, Nelson! The Derby is not only early this year (May 1) it is coming up quickly given how few outstanding American 3YOs have emerged so far. Looking forward to March and better days ahead not just for horses, but all of us.

    • Davids says:

      Nelson, I’m more interested to see how the UAE 2,000 Guineas winner, Mouheeb, performs in the UAE Derby. Interesting pedigree. Who would have thought that the best dirt horse in the world in 2021 would end up being last year’s Prix du Jockey Club winner.

      Mishriff, not only beat the US horses on their preferred surface but at their preferred distance. John Gosden was always a great trainer but over the past several years or so his record has reached an unique level. Remarkable.

      • Nelson Maan says:

        That’s right Davids… Gosden never ceases to amaze everyone. What he did with Enable, Stradivarius, Too Darn Hot, Roaring Lion and Cracksman, to name a few the last few years, is truly impeccable.

        Mishriff proved that he loved the track when he was second in the 2020 Saudi Derby at a mile a year ago.

        His Jockey drew a perfect stalking trip. The 21-year-old David Egan, always had the battling pair of Knicks Go and Charlatan at sight knowing that Mishriff’s stamina would prevail at the end.

        The UAE Derby will be very interesting, specially with some international 3-year-old horses planning to enter. Murheeb and Rebel’s Romance could be renewing their rivalry there…

  4. Nelson Maan says:

    Seeing all the problems the winter storms have caused it is easy to shoulder the twelve-day delay of the Southwest Stakes. Superseding its 10 qualifying points was that the race is a special edition of the BC Juvenile. The winner Essential Quality, Jackie’s Warrior (the odds-on favorite) and the third place, Keepmeinmind, are ready for the most anticipated showdown of the year… I would say that all the excitement around the 3-year-old debut of those three top horses has not faded.

    The disruption left us with the “What now?” question regarding the lack of action in the Trail this week. I found an answer by directing my attention to Saudi Arabia (which by the way, saw its desert also covered by a mantle of snow yesterday).

    The Saudi Derby this Saturday features Cowan and two Godolphin 3-year-old prospects both by Dubawi. The filly Soft Whisper with Mike Smith and Rebel’s Romance with William Buick are very accomplished runners.

    Cowan with his crossover will be a good gauge to the quality of some international sophomores. His two seconds behind the highly regarded Senor Buscador and Caddo River look good enough to be in the mix under Umberto Rispoli.

    Soft Whisper shows a 4-win streak including the mile of the UAE 1000 Guineas last month on dirt. She won by 7 lengths, but it could have been by larger margin. She is the international favorite at 9-4 odds.

    Rebel’s Romance, who won the UAE 2000 Guineas Trial at Meydan on February 14, is undefeated in 3 starts. His time for the mile was a second better than the one logged by Soft Whisper but the general perception is that the filly got more potential upside.

    Joel Rosario was named to pilot the Japanese filly Pink Kamehameha (Leontes (JPN) – Tabatha Tosho (JPN) by Dancing Brave) a 33 to 1 longshot trying the dirt for the first time.

    Then the $20 Million Saudi Cup will be run at 12:40 pm Eastern Time. The race that could mark the international graduation of Brad Cox with Knicks Go or the vindication of Bob Baffert with Charlatan after McKinzie’s slipup last year.

    The international action is not a bad intermission to the Derby Trail, and unless Ghazaaly wins by 20 lengths, it will be making the headlines during the weekend…

    • EddieF says:

      If Cowan loses the Saudi Derby, it can only be blamed on a dislike for very long plane flights. I can sympathize. If he wins, he can add 0 points to his current Derby total of 0 points. I expect Knicks Go and Charlatan to battle each other all the way around in the Cup. If that happens, it will be exciting to watch.

      • Nelson Maan says:

        Joel Rosario will be riding Cowan … Umberto Rispoli and John Velazquez were not able to travel.

        How about your horse getting Zero points but you cash a USD900,000-check if he wins… and USD30,000 for a 6th place is not a bad consolation either…

  5. EddieF says:

    Steve, I’m wondering if you’ll be mentioning a colt that’s running Saturday and what you have to say about him (particularly if he wins). So that I ensure you don’t put out a hit on me, I’ll just say that he was third in his January debut to a sensational first-out maiden winner at a track that’s known for its ridiculously large equine sculpture. His tepid odds in the debut, along with how he ran the race and his pedigree, suggest big things at the 9f distance and beyond.

  6. EddieF says:

    It’s been 16 days since Concert Tour’s last race and no workout yet. He worked 8 days after his debut. Did I miss some news?

    • Bill Dawson says:

      He’s headed to Aqueduct for the Gotham.

    • Matthew W says:

      14 days is fine….my favorite pattern is 14 days…then 3 or 4 works 6 days apart 38 days between starts….as long as they are galloping every day….

      • EddieF says:

        I guess it depends on the horse. Sometimes, Baffert works a horse 8 days after a race. Other times, he waits 2 weeks. But I trust him. He seems to have done well over the years. 🙂

    • Bill Dawson says:

      This morning, (2-18), I read an article posted by Victor Ryan on the HRN blog, indicating Concert Tour was head to Aqueduct for the Gotham Stakes. When I questioned that article, I received a reply from Mr. Ryan stating that he was mistaken, and that Concert Tour is still headed to Oaklawn for the Rebel Stakes. He stated he was thinking of Freedom Fighter who is indeed pointed to the Gotham.

  7. Bill Dawson says:

    Per Shug McGaughey, Greatest Honour will be entered in the FOY, which is shaping up to be an exciting race.
    If Drain the Clock enters the FOY, he’ll give GH all he can handle.

    • EddieF says:

      That’s a good sign for Greatest Honour. He’s following Orb’s path to the Derby.

      • Steve Haskin says:

        would you stop it already. Im gonna have to screen your posts so you dont keep stealing my thunder. Im the one who has to come up with new angles every week and now you make my Orb comparisons for next week old hat

        • EddieF says:


          Only about three people would have read my comment if you hadn’t drawn attention to it. Now it’ll be on all the horse racing shows. 😉

  8. I Want Revenge says:

    Glad to see Hidden Stash back to work little more than a week after the Sam Davis. This is my under the radar horse. Good to see a good horseman like Victoria Oliver have a horse on the road to the Derby. I think he gets better the longer the races.

    • Matthew W says:

      I agree! I’ve won money on him three races in a row–he can run all day–and if they ever find a way to get him to change leads…there have been left lead horses over the years that were really good…Cougar II and Whirlaway to name two, Hidden Stash needs to get better–BUT…he has improved EVERY RACE—

      • Steve Haskin says:

        Whirlaway was excellent changing leads. Changed on cue in all three Triple Crown races and in his 2-year-old races. If you want to know horses who were not good changing leads, they were Ruffian, Forego, and especially Alydar, who changed leads only once and that was in the Travers only because he had to take up sharply on the turn and it messed up his left lead habit.

        • Matthew W says:

          Are you sure about Whirly Steve? I read about Ben Jones having so much trouble with him he put up chairs in the two pathon the turn and instructed Arcaro to stay down there, figuring if you can’t fix him then utilize his left lead…I was just a kid when I read about that….

    • Steve Haskin says:

      I just want to see him switch leads.