Derby Rankings: Week 6

This past weekend was the annual intermission on the Derby trail when the stakes races take a break and we have to come up with new things to say about these horses. The only difference this year is waiting for the Southwest Stakes to be run so we can find out once and for all if champion Essential Quality has made a successful transition from 2 to 3. ~ Steve Haskin

Derby Rankings: Week 6, Feb. 22

By Steve Haskin

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

He is No. 1 right now because he has earned it with the progress he’s made. He’s getting more professional, he’s getting faster with each race, he has shown the ability to run off from his opponents, and just has a look of class about him. He is pretty close to being Derby ready right now and just has to maintain his form, especially facing much more talented horses in Saturday’s Fountain of Youth Stakes. McGaughey had him on the inside in his half-mile work in company Sunday, as both horses hooked up on the turn, were well off the rail turning for home, and finished dead even in :51 1/5, with Greatest Honour’s rider keeping his hands way down on the colt’s neck. On the gallop-out, however, Greatest Honour asserted himself and drew five lengths clear. McGaughey is following a similar pattern with him as he did with Orb, giving him three two-turn races at 3, although this colt is a little ahead of Orb, who didn’t make his stakes until the Fountain of Youth. Greatest Honour already has an impressive graded stakes victory under his belt, in which he earned very fast speed figures, so McGaughey has to make sure he leaves enough in the tank to peak on Derby Day, as that “1” he got on Thoro-Graph in the Holy Bull might have been a little fast for January. I’m just looking for a good solid effort in the Fountain of Youth to move him forward into the Florida Derby.

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

The No. 1 spot has been there for Essential Quality if he wanted it, but he hasn’t had the chance with two postponements of the Southwest Stakes. Now, he and Greatest Honour will vie for top billing on the same day at different tracks. It’s fortunate for him he is stabled at Fair Grounds and hasn’t missed any works. In fact, he turned in a sharp five-furlong drill in 1:00 4/5 on Saturday, third fastest of 41 works at the distance. Assuming they finally get to run the Southwest next week, a decision will be made where they go next for his final prep. It would be six weeks to the Arkansas Derby, so the more logical and likely spot would seem to be the Blue Grass Stakes a week earlier, where he scored impressive victories in the Breeders’ Futurity and BC Juvenile. It’s hard to believe, though, that it’s been 30 years since a Blue Grass winner captured the Kentucky Derby. Since Riva Ridge nearly 50 years ago, only Spectacular Bid and Strike the Gold have scored a Blue Grass – Kentucky Derby double. As for the Breeders’ Futurity, only one winner, Swale, has gone on to win the Kentucky Derby in the past 70 years. But enough of history; right now let’s just get a race in him and see what we’re dealing with 3 1/2 months after the BC Juvenile.

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

It seems as if every week is devoted to praising his workouts. Watching him work five furlongs in 1:00 4/5, once again by himself, I was amazed how fluid his stride is. Going around the turn, if you put the proverbial glass of water on the rider’s back not a drop would have spilled. His mechanics are as close to perfection as you can get, and the one horse who comes to mind watching him in action is American Pharoah. He followed that work with a bullet five furlongs in :59 3/5 on Sunday that was a carbon copy of his other works except for watching him weave his way between horses galloping out down the backstretch like a runaway train. Baffert got him going six furlongs in 1:12, out seven furlongs in 1:25 4/5. With that said he still has had only two lifetime starts, one of which was the Sham Stakes, in which he and Mike Smith hopefully learned a lesson and won’t treat a race like it was nothing more than a stroll in the park. Horses, especially those with limited racing, need to know what competition is. You don’t want them to fall asleep in a race, like Life is Good and Smith did in the Sham, and then have to quickly rouse them out of their slumber when a good horse like Medina Spirit suddenly is breathing down their neck. Now that he got that out of the way, I trust he and Smith will take the San Felipe and Santa Anita Derby more seriously. When they do, who knows what we’ll see.

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

He’s been a totally different horse since the addition of blinkers. Or has he? It sure looks that way on paper, but in his poor performances without them, one was his debut going six furlongs, which he wants no part of, and the second was on the grass, which he really isn’t bred for. So doing what he wants to do – going two turns on the dirt — he is undefeated. No, he’s not the fastest horse, and he’s not the most dynamic, and in today’s Kentucky Derby he doesn’t fit the mold of the California Chromes, American Pharoahs, Always Dreamings, Justifys, Maximum Securitys, and Authentics, all brilliant horses with good tactical speed. But I can’t help falling for the throwback types; those sound hard-running, hard-trying horses with classy pedigrees geared toward stamina. So until he proves otherwise I will keep looking at that Thoro-Graph jump from a 10 1/2 to a 3 1/4 in the Withers and consider him a leading contender. He returned to the work tab Sunday, breezing an easy half in :50.

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

Because the Oaklawn track has been closed, he hasn’t worked in 13 days, which means he didn’t work the weekend the Southwest was postponed the first time and didn’t work the weekend it was postponed the second time. Even if he does work early in the week, he will have only one work in three weeks going into arguably the toughest test of his career against grade 1 winners who have been working regularly at Fair Grounds. Diodoro had him razor sharp for his debut, which he actually has missed three times if you count him being entered in the Risen Star Stakes the same weekend as the first aborted Southwest Stakes. So as of this writing there are question marks concerning him, with his missed works and training on top of missed races. He does have several serious works behind him, so there is at least some foundation, but this is far from an ideal situation and there is no way of knowing what to expect on Saturday. With his style of running and at this distance against these horses, he really doesn’t have to win this race anyway, so if he is at least closing in the stretch and can pick up a piece of it that is something to build on. Horses these days are not given many opportunities to earn points, so it could all come down to his final prep.

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

He appears to be making big strides with every race and has now proven himself at a mile and an eighth, and with his female family I think we can put the question of distance to rest. If you want to judge his progress through his speed figures, he is improving slowly, one small step at a time. His Thoro-Graph numbers have gone from a 6 1/2 to a 4 to a 3, which means he still needs to get faster and only more race to do it before chilling out for six weeks leading up to the Kentucky Derby. He has proven to be the fastest of his two rivals, Proxy and Midnight Bourbon, based on his wide trips. What he has in his favor is that there are very few fast 3-year-olds so far, so if he can improve several points going a mile and three-sixteenths in the Louisiana Derby he should be ready for the big test on the first Saturday in May, even off the layoff.

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

One of the few top 3-year-olds stabled at the frozen tundra of Oaklawn Park, he wisely skedaddled out of town and headed to the friendlier climes of Fair Grounds, where he worked a bullet five furlongs in :59 3/5 Saturday, fastest of 41 works at the distance. With the Southwest horses extremely unlikely to wheel back in two weeks for the Rebel, his main threat looks to be the annual Rebel raider Bob Baffert, who is scheduled to send his San Vicente Stakes winner Concert Tour. That should tell us just how fast Caddo River really is. Visually, he has looked faster than his back-to-back Thoro-Graph numbers of 4 1/4. We know he can run very fast early and can carry his speed, but the question with him is, how far can he carry it against a horse like Concert Tour, who didn’t dazzle anyone with his 5 1/4 Thoro-Graph figure in the San Vicente, but has sprinter’s speed and should be more formidable going two turns.

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

Now, if you’re looking for fast on the Thoro-Graph numbers, his gigantic leap from a 10 to a 1 makes him the fastest 3-year-old along with Greatest Honour and first-out winner Dream Shake. But was it too big a leap? We will find that out when he faces Life is Good and company in the San Felipe Stakes. When a horse runs a huge speed figure and wins by 14 lengths on top of that you have be very careful. You don’t want him running much faster than that now, but you do want him to stay in that range, possibly pairing it up to indicate that it was a legitimate number. He still has the Santa Anita Derby, so it’s OK if the San Felipe serves as a bridge to get there and shows that he can compete against far better horses than he faced in his maiden race and even in the Los Alamitos Futurity. As a side note, the highly touted Fenway, who he trounced by 30 lengths last time out, came back to run a good second behind another talented Baffert colt in Hozier. As we’ve mentioned, he will be coming off Lasix, and when they do after such a monster performance you just want to see that same spark. There is no reason why we shouldn’t, as his performance in the Los Al Futurity without Lasix was pretty impressive with second time blinkers. And he has run back-to-back 101 Brisnet sped figures, the only 3-year-old to do so, so all indications are that we are dealing with a vastly improved horse who could be any kind.

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

If you offered me a Pool 3 Future Wager ticket on any horse it would be on this guy at 41-1. That is the kind of value I would be looking for. His third-place finish in the three-horse Robert B. Lewis photo went pretty much under the radar, which no doubt is why his odds are that high compared to the 25-1 on Medina Spirit, who beat him a neck. It should be noted, however, that Roman Centurian, coming off a maiden victory and battling two graded stakes-placed horses to the wire, earned a faster Thoro-Graph number than both of them. Rather than repeat in detail his terrific pedigree, dominated by four generations of Phipps breeding, let’s just say he should keep improving as the distances get longer and will relish the mile and a quarter. He demonstrated his sharpness by working five furlongs in 1:00 2/5, wearing four bandages. But unlike the Baffert horses, he was being pushed along in the stretch, continuing at a good clip past the wire.

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

Baffert loves referring to him as his Real Quiet. So, if we assume then that Life is Good is his Indian Charlie, let’s go back to the 1998 Santa Anita Derby when the faster and more precocious Indian Charlie opened a two-length lead on Real Quiet at the eighth pole and couldn’t extend it. The fact that Real Quiet was able match strides with him in the final eighth, it set him up perfectly to turn the tables on the first Saturday in May. That is something to remember in the San Felipe when Medina Spirit and Life is Good are likely to meet again. The first time they met, Medina Spirit almost caught his stablemate napping, and that is not likely to happen again. Normally, Medina Spirit would have pointed for the Sunland Derby, but with that track closed, Baffert has little choice but to keep him home. Like Real Quiet, he is not a robust colt and Baffert does not want to ship him long distances. He did turn in a strong six-furlong work in 1:12 2/5, so he should be sharp and fit for the big rematch.

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

He will add a fresh new face when he heads to Fair Grounds for the Louisiana Derby in an attempt to break up the three-horse domination of Mandaloun, Proxy, and Midnight Bourbon, who have been virtually joined at the hip in the LeComte and Risen Star Stakes. Hot Rod Charlie showed in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and Robert B. Lewis Stakes he is a dogged competitor, whether it’s against Essential Quality or Medina Spirit or at Keeneland or Santa Anita. Now we’ll see what he can do stretching out to a mile and three-sixteenths at his third track in three starts. He is another who has improved big-time with the addition of blinkers. By taking this route he also will have only two starts this year and will have to go into the Kentucky Derby off a six-week layoff, which is why the new 10-furlong distance of the Louisiana Derby is such an important change based on the race’s poor record of producing Derby winners.

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

As of Sunday morning, he still hasn’t worked since the Withers, which was more than two weeks ago, so that will bear watching. His place in the Top 12 is tenuous at this point with two huge preps next weekend. He has shown marked improvement since the blinkers were taken off, and although right now he doesn’t look fast enough or quick enough to be a legitimate Derby win prospect, he does look like a horse who can pick up a piece of it with his late run and strong pedigree. So far he hasn’t shown that instant burst that can put him in contention turning for home. It seems as if Pletcher always leaves his slower, stamina-oriented horses in New York with the early nine-furlong Withers to point for rather than the shorter preps in Florida that are often dominated by horses with good natural speed. But speed has been winning the Derby and he will always be pace dependent. What he has in his favor is a great deal of scope for improvement, so he could show us something new and different in the Wood Memorial with the two months between races.


CONCERT TOUR – I came very close to putting him on the list at No. 12, but it is still several weeks to the Rebel Stakes, so there is time to see how next weekend’s Fountain of Youth and Southwest Stakes shake things up. For now, there is no need for any major changes. That will come next week. I was very impressed watching him work a half in :47 1/, second fastest of 39 works at the distance, especially the way he did it and how smooth he was down the stretch under no urging at all. Like most Baffert horses, he continued strong past the wire with the rider having to step on the brakes, his feet in the dashboard, when he ran up on horses training in front of him on the backstretch. Remember, he has plenty of stamina in his pedigree, although his female line is not strong at all.

PROXY AND MIDNIGHT BOURBON – I am putting these two together because of reasons I stated last week. Also, in the Risen Star, both horses paired up their “5” Thoro-Graph number from the LeComte when I felt they should have improved off that. So I still need to see a significant move forward with only one more prep to go. Both should benefit from the added distance of the Louisiana Derby, but Proxy still needs to show he can keep a straight course, and Midnight Bourbon still has to show he can close after tracking the pace. The one thing I like about Proxy is that when hits the shadow of the wire he knows how to dig in and get second. Now he just has to show he can do the same thing to get first.

TARANTINO – He will attempt to build on his second-place finish in the Holy Bull Stakes when he takes on Greatest Honour again in the Fountain of Youth Stakes. The Holy Bull was his dirt debut, despite a pedigree that is geared toward dirt. He showed good tactical speed, but just couldn’t match strides with Greatest Honour. “I think we have to give him a chance to qualify on his own,” trainer Rodolphe Brisset said. “If it doesn’t work out we’ll focus on the grass. Based on what we’ve seen his past week, he needed (the Holy Bull).”

PREVALENCE AND PRIME FACTOR – You can’t win your career debut any more impressively than these two colts did, and now they both will try prove they weren’t one-race wonders. Prime Factor showed what can happen when you jump from one maiden sprint to a two-turn graded stakes, and now he will have to rebound off a disappointing performance in the Holly Bull Stakes. He has the Fountain of Youth or Tampa Bay Derby as a next possible start, but Prevalence will have to wait after spiking a temperature. He is back galloping now, and this could very well be a blessing in disguise, as perhaps he won’t be rushed to try to make the Derby.

JACKIE’S WARRIOR – He breezed an easy half in :50 1/5 as he awaits the Southwest Stakes. Like Essential Quality, he is fortunate to be stabled at Fair Grounds and has been able to work during the two postponements. Although he still needs to show he can win going two turns, he should have an advantage over Essential Quality going 1 1/16 miles, especially if he is able to establish an easy lead or can show he can win from off the pace. This may be his only opportunity to beat the champ, so he has to take advantage of it.

SENOR BUSCADOR – There isn’t much to add from last week other than to say if you are looking for something positive, his Springboard Mile was flattered on Saturday when runner-up Cowan closed very fast to narrowly miss winning the Saudi Cup Derby. I still can’t ignore what I saw in his first two races, but I also can’t ignore what I didn’t see in the Risen Star. With only three career starts and running only a half-mile with his late closing style, he really needs to step up in his final prep and show that incredible closing power and late burst he demonstrated at Remington Park. I still think there is a possibility he was a bit short in the Risen Star, having only two career starts and three three-furlong breezes and a one half-mile breeze at Sam Houston between races.

FIRE AT WILL – He will add some additional flavor to the Fountain of Youth making his dirt debut on a fast track. He did win the off-the-turf With Anticipation Stakes in the slop, but he has been working steadily on dirt. Mike Maker said he’s ready after his five-furlong work in 1:02 3/5, but admits this is a tough task, adding that the colt deserves a chance on the Derby trail.

ROMBAUER – Trainer Mike McCarthy said all options are open for him following his come-from-behind score in the El Camino Real Derby. With his style of running, the 9 1/2 furlongs of the Louisiana Derby would seem like a good fit and he should improve coming off the Tapeta surface. As mentioned last week, he just needs to get into the fray earlier and not give himself so much ground to make up late.

If you are looking for a powerful closer with a dramatic turn of foot you’re going to have to look all the way to Japan to find such a colt in LA PEROUSE, who appeared to be hopelessly beaten in the one-mile Hyacinth Stakes, but came charging between horses to snatch victory. By a grandson of Sunday Silence, his female family is dominated by top-class American sires and racehorses. In his previous start, he electrified the crowd with a devastating run to win going away and duplicated that in the Hyacinth after breaking slowly and falling far off the pace in a big field. He definitely will get the mile and a quarter and it’s only a question of whether he comes for the Derby and whether he is as good as he’s looked. But he is worth keeping an eye on.

Saffie Joseph was to decide on the next scheduled race for Swale winner DRAIN THE CLOCK after watching the colt work. Although always considered a sprinter, Drain the Clock has given his connections a touch of Derby fever and now a decision will be made whether to stretch him out to two turns in the Fountain of Youth or to a one-turn mile in the Gotham Stakes. Normally when a trainer considers a horse a sprinter and runs him in five sprints, he usually is. But there is always that nagging thought that maybe he was wrong. This horse looks to be a sprinter, but on the Derby trail it doesn’t hurt to give the horse a chance to prove people wrong.

If Drain the Clock goes in the Gotham it would be quite a slugfest with the speedy HIGHLY MOTIVATED, Baffert’s San Vicente runner-up FREEDOM FIGHTER, and runaway Jerome winner CAPO KANE all pointing for the race. Highly Motivated is up to five furlongs in his works, turning in a 1:02 2/5 breeze over the deep Payson Park track. Capo Kane, who got a bit tired in the nine-furlong Withers Stakes, stayed sharp with a :48 4/5 half-mile drill at Parx. Freedom Fighter worked six furlongs in 1:13 flat with SPIELBERG (remember him?), who also worked in 1:13 flat. Baffert will now send him to Saturday’s Southwest Stakes. When you have your typical overload of Derby horses, as Baffert does every year, it is hard to pass up a $750,000 purse.

I have no idea where DREAM SHAKE goes after getting that spectacular “1” Thoro-Graph number in his career debut, but he remains sharp, working five furlongs in 1:00 flat.

Todd Pletcher worked KNOWN AGENDA and DYNAMIC ONE a half-mile in company in :49 flat. I am looking for a big turnaround from Known Agenda if he can get his act together, and I still consider Dynamic One my megabomb sleeper as he awaits another two-turn maiden race in early March.

HIDDEN STASH, a fast-cosing third in the Sam F. Davis Stakes, returned to the work tab with an easy half-mile breeze in :50 1/5 at Payson Park. We still don’t know how good this horse is because he has never changed leads, and until he does we really won’t know where he fits on the Derby trail. Sam F. Davis winner CANDY MAN ROCKET breezed a half in :49 at Payson Park and is looking to improve off that slowly run race now that he has a two-turn race under him.

Remsen winner BROOKLYN STRONG, who missed two months with an illness and has been unable to get back to the races, has all but run out of time. A start in the Gotham won’t happen and if Derby fever gets a firm grip on his connections he could still try to make the Wood Memorial or Arkansas Derby as a springboard into the Derby off only one start; further proof that the rule book has been tossed in the trash.

John Shirreffs could have the two most talented disappointments in California in RED FLAG and PARNELLI. But he continues to persevere, working both five furlongs in a snappy :59 4/5. Red Flag in particular deserves another chance based on his impressive early performances. Also in California, American Pharoah winner GET HER NUMBER is up to five furlongs in his works at San Luis Downs and should be ready for his return shortly.

Steve Asmussen-trained SUPER STOCK, third in the Breeders’ Futurity and Iroquois Stakes and second in the Street Sense Stakes has been working steadily for his return. He has plenty of bottom and wouldn’t need much to be ready for the Derby.

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265 Responses to “Derby Rankings: Week 6”

  1. Nelson Maan says:

    Fire on Will resuming in the Fountain of Youth brings again the conversation about the Turf to Dirt angle.

    The usual situation is that horses who started running on Turf remain running on that surface for their whole career but there have been a handful who could shine in both turf and dirt.

    It is only natural to think that the stars of the Golden Age could run anyone down equally on dirt or on grass. Secretariat comes to mind to confirm that perception.

    The South Americans Sandpit, Gentlemen and Siphon were equally effective on both surfaces.

    Wise Dan won Horse of the Year on his amazing Turf conquers but he also was G1 winner on dirt…

    Cigar who was ordinary on turf but invincible on dirt is a historical singularity.

    Then you see other examples like Elusive Quality, Volponi, Court Vision, Sidney’s Candy and Lea who excelled on turf and dirt.

    When it comes to the Derby no one can forget the horses who were supposed to be grass specialists but ended up taking the Roses: Barbaro, Big Brown and Animal Kingdom.

    Big Brown and Animal Kingdom did not compete in the BC Juvenile Turf. This race determines the best 2-year-old turf specialists, but sometimes nice dirt runners emerge from it.

    Some examples of such dual Stakes winners are the following:
    Good Samaritan who was third in the BC Juvenile Turf won the Jim Dandy and was runner-up in the Clark.

    But the most prolific one was the 2017 edition. Its filed included Mendelssohn, Catholic Boy, My Boy Jack, Flameaway, Snapper Sinclair. All of them proved to be equally adept on dirt … That Stakes also featured Godolphins’s Masar who went on to win the Epsom Derby the next year…!

    In 2018 War of Will was 5th in the BC Juvenile Turf. He has proven to be also a Stakes horse on dirt by arising as the king of the Fair Ground route to the Derby and winning the Preakness.

    The last horse emerging from the marquee 2-year-old race to win a Stakes on dirt was Mutasaabeq. Outadore (3rd in the 2020 BC J Turf) disappointed on his dirt debut at Remington Park but he could be a nice sprinter on any surface.

    Talking about the Fountain of Youth, many can remember how Soldat started his 3-year-old campaign. It was a resounding win at 1 1/8 mile on a sloppy track. He had Turf . The son of War Front won the Fountain of Youth after that tour de force at Gulfstream.

    Paraphrasing Steve, Fire at Will does not need to win the FOY. A good performance after 113-day-layoff will earn him the right to stay in the trail …

    No one could criticize you for attempting the Derby trail especially when you have a Grade 1 winner either on turf or on dirt …

    • Steve Haskin says:

      That’ss quite a list of names you compiled. The pioneers of dirt/grass stars were Round Table and T.V. Lark. You certainly have to mention Kelso and later John Henry, and another horse decent horse named Secretariat.

      • Nelson Maan says:

        Yes Steve … ! I have left a lot of big names who were equally great on dirt and on grass… i.e. Dr. Fager was also champion grass horse (DRF).

        Gio Ponti should be probably be in the list and more recently, even Thunder Snow should be mentioned .

        I just wanted to relate the theme to the modern Derby trail … but I realize that it is be very cumbersome to recount all the prospects that started on grass and ended up running in the Derby like Aptitude, Johannesburg, Castledale, Borrego, Imperialism, Master David, Wilko, Lawyer Ron, Paddy O’Prado, Dullahan, Optimizer, International Star, Bolo, Mubtaahij and Creator.

        The good thing is that you can always spot a superior horse regardless of the surface the shine on …!

      • perimeister says:

        Secretariat was an okay racehorse, but it’s not like there’s any website devoted to his memory.

    • EddieF says:

      Good stuff, Nelson. To add…Lava Man won G1 stakes on dirt, turf, and AW.

      • Nelson Maan says:

        Thanks for the reply Eddie…! Yes .. Lava Man is a great example of being superior on any surface… albeit not at any Track…

        I am quite sure that I have left many great horses on dirt and turf … the initial intent was to set a background on Fire at Will’s entering the Derby trail…!

  2. Bill Dawson says:

    Rock Your World is a Candy Ride colt that won his debut, on turf, so impressively, I was hoping John Sadler would try him on dirt in a Derby prep race. However, he’ll remain on turf for the one mile, 100K Pasadena, at SA, on Saturday (2-27). He’ll probably be up against it with Cathkin Peak (Ire), going for his third straight win, (8/5 on the M/L).
    BTW, Rock Your World’s time in that 6 furlong MSW race was 1:08.47. He is one fast colt.
    In the event RYW were to win the Pasadena, there’s still time for Sadler to consider a Derby prep race down the road. 🙂

  3. Bruce says:

    There you go Steve, Known Agenda wins today, and looked pretty good. Not sure of what he beat, or how his time will rate, but at least he won, and most likely goes to the Florida Derby?

    • Steve Haskin says:

      He certainly lived up to my No. 8 ranking in week one. He is an odd horse who has really frustrated Pletcher. Let’s just hope it was the blinkers that woke him up and not the Lasix. He has worked with blinkers and got outworked, so you cant figure this horse out. But on his day he is very talented. Cant wait to see what he does in the Florida Derby without Lasix

  4. Terri Zeitz says:

    Oh my goodness, what a race The Fountain of Youth might turn out to be. There are several first rate horses who will be there this Saturday. There are no horses just filling the gate at the FOY.
    This year might be the year that yet another Derby winner might come out of the races at Gulfstream Park.

    • EddieF says:

      I’d say there are a few “fillers” in the FOY. And one of them has what must be THE worst name of a horse in the Derby preps so far: Tiz Tact Toe.

    • Davids says:

      Greatest Honour put on another sparkling display and yes, another Derby winner from a Gulfstream Park prep looks very possible.

  5. Matthew W says:

    the points system–rewards horses who start late….and it doesn’t reward horses that start early—example—The Del Mar Futurity, The Hopeful…The Champagne—all produced Kentucky Derby winners—they also had graded earnings that could help a horse get into the race—but no more….because they offer little or no points, a horse like Sea hero—who ran huge in the Champagne (I think it was..)—but did not fare well in the Spring preps—might not have even qualified for the race, but for his graded earnings, much of which was from the Champagne.

    • Matthew W says:

      They used to ran at two for “bottom”, they would get some graded earnings and then take a couple of Winter months off—and come back at 7 furlongs, a two turn prep or two—those days are all but over.

    • EddieF says:

      Yes, the game has changed. But I would rather see horses in the Derby that performed well at the age of 3. As you know, the top 2yo equine athletes often don’t transition well when they return as 3yos. As for the Sea Hero example: If the point system was in effect for ’92-’93, Sea Hero’s connections would likely have had a different strategy for him.

      It’s interesting to look back at the horses that won the Derby from 2000 to 2012. Only 3 of them won graded stakes for 2yos: Street Sense in the G1 BC Juvenile, Mine That Bird in the G3 Grey Stakes at Woodbine, and Super Saver in the G2 Ky JC Stakes.

  6. Betsypaige says:

    Unbridled Honor worked a bullet recently……I still hope that Todd will take it slowly with him, but it’s possible he runs in the TB Derby………

    Greatest Honour looked good working with the very talented Creed a couple of works back; I’m rooting for him!

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Well, he definitely likes Tampa better than Aqueduct, but we have no idea what he beat last time and he will have to come off Lasix, which he ran with for the first time in his last race. But we gotta get you another Honor Code, Betsy. He’s no Honor A.P, but we’ll see what Todd does with him.

      • Betsypaige says:

        I doubt he beat any world beaters, Steve, lol………..but he did have trouble. No, I’m not like “wow, I think he could be a Derby horse” – I don’t usually get like that. He’s a colt I think has talent and he could be a good one, but of course he has to prove it. I don’t know if he used Lasix in his debut or not – I kind of hope not, because that was a sneaky solid race and I’d like to think his maiden win improvement was not due to that medication.

        I’m all for any horse from Slew line, but as Honor Code is Indy’s last son, yeah – I’m really hoping he’ll get something going. He has a few promising ones and Creed returns next week most likely, but he does need to get it going – and there’s nothing like a good 3 year old to do that.

        I miss Honor A.P…….

        Thanks for the Derby list – it always makes for fun reading!

  7. 7.5 Furlongs says:

    Steve Haskin –

    Thank you for the Week 6 Rankings. Appreciate the coverage of overseas races for three-year-olds. Could not agree with you more about preference for stamina leaning pedigrees / bloodlines. It’s not easy to dismiss older, classic sires from years past. I still favor the Hail to Reason, Stage Door Johnny, Sir Gaylord, Roberto, Princequillo, and Ribot sire influences over all others.

    Look forward to your coverage of Kentucky Derby 2021 in the coming weeks.

    7.5 Furlongs

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Thank you. You dont see Sir Gaylord much anymore, but I am totally in agreement on all the others. Glad you mentioned Stage Door Johnny, one of the names I ALWAYS look for. Great stamina influence. With Roberto you get Hail to Reason, and you cannot get better than Pruncequillo and Ribot. The other name I always look for is Buckpasser.

    • Davids says:

      Buckpasser, Seattle Slew, Forli, Blushing Groom, Hoist the Flag, Secretariat, Alydar are other Classic sires you like to see but ethese days if A.P. Indy isn’t in the pedigree you’d be sceptical on whether there is any presence of stamina. Mr. Prospector you like to see as well but for other reasons.

      • perimeister says:

        It looks one of a small handful of key factors in getting the best out of the AP Indy line stallions requires breeding to a mare with Buckpasser (for Busanda) or having a War Admiral or Man o War tail line mare. Hoist the Flag works like Buckpasser. American Flag, who is found in Alydar’s past, doesn’t have the same effect. Slew works too, through Busher or Seattle Song/Cee’s Song, which seems a reason for the AP Indy line’s affinities for Tiznow mares.

        • Davids says:

          I forgot to mention In Reality, blind spot.

          • perimeister says:

            Forgiven. And I should add that it appears War Relic and War Admiral may substitute for each other in the theory, hence In Reality.
            Do you think the Valid Appeal branch is a stamina influence too? I take it as given that the others are.

            • Davids says:

              No, with Valid Appeal beyond a mile you’re hoping rather than believing. Nijinsky is another who should also be mentioned.

              • perimeister says:

                Nijinsky’s influence is had as broodmare sire, doesn’t it? I can’t recall finding him in a tail male line.

            • Davids says:

              Yes, it’s the broodmare sire where you want the stamina to come from. Into Mischief crossed with a speedy mare and 6f is the resultant distance expectation.

              • perimeister says:

                Is there some genetic mechanism basis for a preference for breeding mare with stamina influenctial sires, that you are aware of?
                When you have a Phalaris line sire, it might seem necessary to obtain stamina from the distaff side, as Into Mischief exemplifies. But when you have a stallion, even from Phalaris, that tends to throw long, is there any inherent reason that they should be dispreffered, except as broodmare sire?

  8. Steve Haskin says:

    Starting to thnk Fire at Will is going to run huge in the FOY. But two sons of Macleans Music have a very good chance of wiring both fields, and then what? Key to FOY is whether Prime Factor goes after Drain the Clock, who breaks from the rail. I’ll take a fast-closing third for Greatest Honour, because I’m not sure the speed is going to come back on this track

    • 1JoeP says:

      Hi Steve, agree with your feelings about the FOY. We know GH will be rolling in the stretch and Fire at Will is classy and tactical. Drain the Clock is very dangerous because of his speed. Those are the 3 from the FOY that I will use in P4 and P5. I am hoping GH and Fire at Will run big. I boxed both FAW and GH with Roman Centurian at 41-1 in KDFW3. Can’t wait till next weeks San Felipe, IMO RC will give LIG all he can handle.

      • Steve Haskin says:

        San Felipse could be the most important race of the year. If the two Maclean Musics wire their field will that tell us anything about the Derby. It could be all about how Essential Quality and Greatest Honour run behind them. Fire at Will could catapult up the Rankings if he likes the dirt.

        • Matthew W says:

          I have a feeling Fire At Will is going to be making a middle move at the speed—I think Greatest Honor is OK on Sat–that is, there will be pace—-and Roman Centurian only needs to be closing well for me to be happy next week—his trainer is talking up a storm about him–come to think of it, so is Doug about The Great One–maybe there will be ample pace next Sat, too….weather out here (west) has been superb, and when it HAS rained the trackman has done a terrific job—next Sat will be Santa Anita’s first of two big days this year, the other being Santa Anita Derby day, and mehopes the weather holds.

          • Steve Haskin says:

            Thats what I said on the radio this morning. He should make the first move and I’ll be happy with a good closing effort by GH. He ran too fast on Thoro-Graph anyway last time

    • Bill Dawson says:

      Hi Steve
      Yesterday, you posted a comment stating the following, “There are two horses who are going to be bet fairly heavily in the FOY and Southwest, who if they win, might not even make the top 10”. I realize the key words in that statement are “might not”, but if DTC were to win the FOY, I would think it would be hard to keep him out of your top 10. The same could be said for Jackie’s Warrior in the Southwest.

      • Steve Haskin says:

        Winning the 1 1/16 FOY on the lead on a speed track doesnt make one a Derby horse. His female family has a number of Euro sprinters and who knows with Maclean’s Music who is speed. Right now he has to do something dramatic to convince me that a need the lead horse who has run in sprints his whoe life is going be a major Derby contender based on stealing the FOY. But we’ll see. It’s all about how impressive he looks and if he looks like he wants to keep stretching out. Remember this is likely an owner’s decision and Saffie already determined he was a sprinter by sprintng him 5 times. Im not crazy about horses who need the lead and are not bred for stamina. But I have an open mind. Lets see how he looks. The whole key to the race is whether Prime Factor, just outside him, runs with him. This race does not set up well for Greatest Honour. But it might for Fire at Will sitting rright behind the leaders.

    • EddieF says:

      According to Brisnet stats, closers have won 6 of 13 races at the distance this meet. I expect Greatest Honour to win the FOY, maybe regress a bit in the Florida Derby, then rebound in the Ky Derby. I would not be surprised by a not-close 2nd-place finish by Fire At Will, but a win would surprise me big time. I can’t get past his turf turf turf breeding. (Did I emphasis TURF enough?) I’m also skeptical about his lone dirt win in the mud against 3 inconsequential turfers.

  9. Bruce says:

    Hey Steve,

    Just want to thank you for all the work you put into the Derby Rankings each week! Your input is much appreciated. I find the thoro-graph and Beyer numbers especially helpful!! When trying to separate young horses it really helps to use speed figures in my opinion. So keep’m coming.

  10. Matthew W says:

    Steve I’m looking over the Oaklawn card for Saturday—they have the horses! Overflow fields running for big purses–maybe not full fields for the stakes races, but the other races are full up and bigger purses than Santa Anita, Gulfstream, Aqueduct, Fair grounds….Oaklawn used to be second tier—it’s top tier now!

  11. Bill Dawson says:

    Hi Steve

    I suspect you’re referring to Drain the Clock in the FOY. Today a placed a $100.00 KD Futures win wager on DTC, at the Downtown Grand Casino (LV), at 80-1 odds. Actually, I bet 5 individual $20.00 win wagers, (to avoid the IRS window in case I yet).
    Obviously, Greatest Honour is the horse to beat, but even a 2nd place finish by DTC, would probably put him in the Florida Derby starting gate. DTC is the 2nd favorite on the Morning Line, at 9/2, for the FOY. Greatest Honour is 8/5.

    • Bruce says:

      Bill, you might want to double check that IRS window qualifier on future wagers. My buddy and I have collected on several future wagers….Derby, and world series….and the IRS window never came into play. All were in or around $10K. I believe the IRS window only comes into play if the odds you got were 300-1 or greater? So if you put $2 on a 300-1 shot, IRS would want to collect. But your $100 at 80-1 shouldn’t come into play, even though you’d collect more than the person who put $2 on the 300-1 shot.

      Might save you the time of playing 5 separate tickets. And thanks for your confidence in DTC, I’ll be sure to play him on Sat! I read a lot of your post, you give good reasoning behind your picks.

      Good luck!

      • Bill Dawson says:

        Thank you Bruce, I appreciate the heads up on how the IRS window comes into play. I remember the rules were relaxed on taxable winnings a few years ago, but I never fully understood how it worked. A few years ago, I hit a superfecta for around $4,000.00 and 25% was taken right off the top, (I had to fill out an IRS form as well). Since the rules were changed, I’ve hit several supers ranging from $1500.00 to $3000.00 and nothing was taken out of my winnings. Needless to say I’m glad Congress changed the rules. As for Drain the Clock, I’m counting on him to carry his impressive speed over the FOY distance, (8.5 furlongs).
        Thank you for the kind words relating to my posts. Here’s hoping DTC secures a win in the FOY, and moves on to the Florida Derby.
        As you probably know, in recent years, 4 past winners of the Fla. Derby have gone on to win the Kentucky Derby, (Orb, Nyquist, Always Dreaming and Maximum Security). Although Maximum Security was disqualified, I still consider him the winner. 🙂
        Good luck on Saturday.

  12. Steve Haskin says:

    There are two horses who are going to be bet fairly heavily in the Fountain of Youth and Southwest, who if they win, might not even make the Top 10.

  13. EddieF says:

    Was just double-checking on Concert Tour’s next race as there were some questions earlier. Baffert is quoted as saying that CT is “penciled in” for the Rebel. At the Paulick site, there’s a story about Baffert’s Derby horses. Here’s a passage: “Baffert also won the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) in 2012 with Bodemeister, who was named after Olympic gold medal winning skier Bode Miller.” Gee…and I thought he was named after Bob’s son Bode. LOL

    • Steve Haskin says:

      There were never any questions about Concert Tour’s next race. It has always been the Rebel, as reported several times on that great online feature Derby Rankings on

      • EddieF says:

        I’ll have to check out that website. 🙂

        BTW, I was referring to this…

        Steve Haskin says:
        February 24, 2021 at 1:38 pm
        Did Baffert change his mind? I havent been checking anything recently. Last he told me Concert Tour was going to the Rebel.

        • Steve Haskin says:

          So, I said right there he was running in the Rebel, as Baffert has been saying for weeks. That was in reference to a comment by someone that he was runnning in the San Felipe as if he knew somethng everyone else didnt

          • EddieF says:

            I was posting mainly because of the crazy “Bode” reference in the Paulick story. But you may have had a bit of brain fog when you replied this morning to Nelson Maan’s post about Concert Tour and wrote “He would have gone to the Sunland Derby but without that race there is not much to do with him but so he has little choice but to go in the San Felipe. Baffert didnt want to ship to Oaklawn because he’s a very light colt. I am sure he wll move up in the rankings even if he gets beat in the San Felipe but runs a huge race.”

    • Matthew W says:

      Bobs son also was named after Bode Miller

  14. Pine Island Lives says:

    Steve, I just read that you are on the nominating committee for the Hall. I think there are a few locks in Todd and AP, who else do you see getting in this year?

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Really tough year to predict. I would hope Game on Dude gets in. Not sure if the fillies will eliminate each other. Tough to separate them. I think Clement has a decent chance. I’m just not sure how people vote and what their thinking is.

      • Pine Island Lives says:

        I’d love to Clement and Kona Gold get in. He was such a special horse who I feel doesn’t get the credit he is due. His 3-4 year stretch was incredible for a sprinter.

        • Matthew W says:

          I’m with you on Kona Gold! That compact bay was a California legend! Did the wet work when he won his Breeders Cup race, and that field was one of the best bunch of sprinters ever assembled for one race—he pushed the torrid pace and lasted over Honest Lady–Frankel was steaming but the late great Bruce Headley was smiling from ear to ear! When Kona lost his dazzling early lick, he changed to a come from behinder, outdueling Big Jag a time or two–they had some epic throwdowns! He keeps getting passed over, and it would have been great for Kona to get in before Bruce passed away—but putting Kona Gold into the Hall of Fame would be no charity case, Kona deserves it!

  15. EddieF says:

    The Southwest may not really tell us much about the Derby prospects of the participants, regardless of the track condition. Jackie’s Warrior is the fastest out of the gate, and he’s never lost when he’s had the early lead. Will a JW victory in the Southwest restore his pre-BCJ reputation? Perhaps only slightly.

    And what if the 2yo champion is able to run down JW to win the Southwest? He would certainly maintain his high standing, but it could reasonably be said that his only competition had previously disappointed as the odds-on favorite in the BCJ. And if he loses? Well, JW had the race locked up before it started, some would say. All things considered, whatever the result, we’ll need to see another race from both of them to evaluate their Derby chances.

    One longshot to watch in the Southwest is Woodhouse. He didn’t have the best of trips in his 3yo N1x debut at Oaklawn on February 11. Yet he finished strong in the mud to be third beaten by only a length. His Late Pace figure in that race (96) was better than any LP figure in any race of his Southwest rivals — with the exception of Santa Cruiser in the Lecomte (a 109 following a solid turtle impression in the early going). I must use him in exactas with the favorites.

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Essential Quality can easily be forgiven if Jackie gets to control the pace and beats him. you just dont know how much effect the wet track will have.

      • EddieF says:

        He can definitely be forgiven. I just don’t think it will tell us much. It’s a weak field. Essential Quality’s pedigree is no obstacle to winning on an off track. As for Jackie’s Warrior, his sire has good numbers for off-track runners in his five crops. Interesting that his dam won 19 races — all on fast tracks.

      • EddieF says:

        …that is, JW’s dam, Unicorn Girl.

  16. Kaye from PA says:

    Just discovering you on this site. Welcome back Mr. Haskin!

  17. Deacon says:

    Hi Steve: I am curious about Spielberg going to the Southwest Stakes. Maybe I am reaching here but I never underestimate a Baffert horse on the Derby trail. I realize he only won the Los Alamitos Derby & was 4th in the Lewis but what chance do you give him moving forward. He could be dangerous at a big price if he makes the Kentucky Derby.
    I hope Jackie’s Warrior shines bright in the Southwest, as I have liked him since day one of the Derby trail.
    Thank you for your continued incredible work each week, what a labor of love. 🙂

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Baffert is basically is sending him there because it’s $750,000 and he has nowwhere else to run him. Baffert feels he’s a nice horse but not in the same class as his three big. That said, he can surely win, but both Essential Quality and Jackie would have to run below their best. It looks ike rain so you you never know.

  18. Nelson Maan says:

    The more I look at this one the more I like his chances if he makes it the first Saturday of May.

    Homebred Concert Tour (Street Sense- Purse Strings by Tapit) for Gary and Mary West could be avenging the disqualification of Maximum Security in 2019.

    If you go strictly by pedigree you can say that Concert Tour was born to excel at longer races. The confluence of Street Sense and Tapit on this fast and already G2 winner supports that believe …

    His second and third damsires, Mt. Livermore and Marfa are not seen that often in the pedigree of Derby horses but the former was a top sire and the latter sired the outstanding Farma Way. This statuesque black horse trained by Wayne Lukas earned almost 3 million Dollars and still holds the track record for the 1 3/16-mile (1:522/5) when winning the 1991 Pimlico Special over Preakness victor Summer Squall.

    Concert Tour’s third dam Wind Chime (by Marfa) is the second dam of the 2-year-old-champion filly Stardom Bound (by Tapit). That makes his dam, Purse Strings, a quarter sister to the champion.

    Concert Tour’s two last 4F workouts both reads 47.20 looking fantastic in his strides and drive as pointed out by Steve.
    Baffert will likely be removing the blinkers for the Rebel Stakes and if the son of Street Sense is able to defeat Caddo River at Oaklawn then the Arkansas Derby would be pretty much under his scope.

    One of the storylines in this Derby Trail is about what horse or horses Baffert bring to the Derby and if those are apt enough to award him with a 7th Derby.

    What makes this journey to the Derby even more exciting is the fact that there are at least other four trainers also “in the zone” when it comes to plausible prospects …!

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Great pedigree analysis. he certainly can win the Derby and as I’ve been saying he will appreciate stretching out. Right now he is No. 3 on Baffert’s depth chart. He would have gone to the Sunland Derby but without that race there is not much to do with him but so he has little choice but to go in the San Felipe. Baffert didnt want to ship to Oaklawn because he’s a very light colt. I am sure he wll move up in the rankings even if he gets beat in the San Felipe but runs a huge race.

      • Jeff says:

        Interesting, do we have an idea who may run in the San Felipe? I thought that Concert Tour was going to Arkansas?


      • Nelson Maan says:

        Thanks for the reply Steve. This is a good update …

        So it seems like Concert Tour will have to face Life is Good for the 50 points of the San Felipe on March 6.

        Baffert has been in that position before so he will likely be minimizing “conflict of interests” among his top horses.

        • Steve Haskin says:

          Did Baffert change his mind? I havent been checking anything recently. Last he told me Concert Tour was going to the Rebel.

          • Nelson Maan says:

            There was a confusion when you said “he has little choice but to go in the San Felipe” I thought you were referring to Concert Tour since my post was about him alone.

            I realize that you were talking about Medina Spirit being light and staying for the San Felipe.

            Jeff also got a bit confused with the reply …

            No worries…we all know that Concert Tour is bound for the Rebel

  19. Davids says:

    Some of the guess work in rating the Derby Trail should be replaced by more concrete evidence, confidence after the running of the Fountain of Youth Stakes and Southwest Stakes this weekend. Mind you, Oaklawn Park has another miserable weather forecast coming up for Saturday, rain this time. Whether the connections of Essential Quality want to run the champion in muddy conditions is debatable so we still may having to wait for his reappearance. Time will tell.

    In sunny Florida meanwhile, the return of Greatest Honour is highly anticipated. Another repeat of the Holy Bull Stakes performance should cement Greatest Honour as the hot favorite for the Florida Derby, if not the Kentucky Derby. The McGaughey colt appears stardom bound. Best not to get too excited this early though, fate can often be extremely cruel.

    I wish California had a prep this weekend as there seems to be a lot of confusion on who is actually the best colt on the West Coast. The Great one might be just that, we’ll see in time.

    Thanks Steve, for another entertaining read. Things are starting to heat up a little and that’s not just the weather.

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Sorry to hear about the weather. They cant get a break. I have never seen a place get more rain

      • Davids says:

        I know Steve, you wouldn’t want to be superstitious. Lol, horse racing? I’m not sure how good Last Samurai is but the weather gives him an extremely leg going on pedigree alone. Just a damn shame.

    • Dewey Hebert says:

      I would be surprised if Exclusive Quality was scratched due to a wet track. His pedigree mud stats are 18% (Tapit / Pulpit) and he shows a bullet 5f work on a “good” track. Shouldn’t be a problem.

      • Davids says:

        Granted, Essential Quality’s pedigree should be fine on a wet track, however, what would concern me was running on a packed down sealed track with a possibility of injury. Let’s just hope there isn’t too much rain.

  20. EddieF says:

    Known Agenda is entered in a 9f OC 75000N1x at GP on Friday. Would a win earn him a ticket to the Florida Derby?

  21. Auburn Bill says:

    So great to have found this site. I missed seeing your Derby Dozen. I’ve got to post info about your new locale on some social media horse groups for others that are unaware of it. Glad to have you back!!

    • Steve Haskin says:

      That would be great, Bill. Thank you very much. I really appreciate it. We’re trying to get it out there , but it’s hard.

  22. Roseann Cherasaro says:

    Good summery Steve .I am excited this year to see Shug back in contention with GH ! I am also hoping the son of Hard Spun can hold that speed can’t wait to see them both run. Nicky The Vest was impressive last out I would love to see a son of Runhappy move along into your ratings . I guess we’ll see how things shake out this weekend seems like forever since EQ and JW have run no rain/snow dances !

  23. Steve Haskin says:

    Eddie F.

    I will be writing about Nicky the Vest next week as a lead-in to the Gotham. Been trying to find out if hes going, only 3 weeks between races. He has an awesome pedigree. You wont find a better female family for a New York-bred. All Paul Mellon (Rokeby) breeding. His two races were extremely impressive and his mechanics are perfect. Gorgeous action and balance. Gotham tough test but I can see him winning. Giving everything away again early, but I got more.

    • EddieF says:

      Glad you checked him out, Steve. I need to look at his pedigree as you described. It’s also nice to get your evaluation of his performances. I look forward to next week’s article. By the way, Nicky the Vest was named for the longtime bartender at the famous (and infamous) Rao’s Restaurant in East Harlem — a fascinating story on its own!

      • Steve Haskin says:

        Best marinara sauce you can buy. Thats all we use now. No one can get in to Rao’s anyway. Just heard from LaPenta. He told me about the name. He was the martuni bartender. They really love him. Right now, Gotham or Wood. I woud hate to see him with only 3 races, but as I said earlier, the heck with history.

  24. Michele says:

    Keepmeinmind not running in SW- will wait for Rebel

  25. Stephanie says:

    I’m praying for a Tapit , any Tapit to win the Derby. The Belmont has already been good to his Colts but I’m ready for a Tapit to knock the Derby out of the park! So I’ll continue to root for them