2023 Derby Rankings – Week 6

With one uninspiring Derby prep after another it’s finally time to get some clarity regarding this year’s Derby trail as we await Saturday’s big tripleheader that features the long-awaited debuts of 2-year-old champ Forte in the Fountain of Youth Stakes, top California colt Practical Move in the San Felipe, and a wide-open contentious Gotham Stakes that could produce a new star. So sit back this week and wait for the first real fireworks of the year…we hope. ~ Steve Haskin

Derby Rankings: Feb. 27, 2023 – Week 6

By Steve Haskin

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

Finally makes his 3-year-old debut in the Fountain of Youth Stakes. Normally, a good second or third would be encouraging enough, but he has a big class edge, with only a few stakes horses entered, and he should win. I cannot find any flaws in his record, running style, attitude, and pedigree. He’s got it all. What is most interesting about those opening comments is that they were written 10 years ago in Derby Dozen about Forte’s sire Violence, who also was ranked No 1 right from week one. if Forte even comes close to being the horse we saw last year he should be right there at the finish on Saturday. Although Pletcher has several promising 3-year-olds he has decided to go solo with Forte and point the others elsewhere. Usually with a come from behind horse who is much the best like Forte the most obvious way of beating him is to steal the race on the front end and hope he is still a little short coming off a layoff. But he is too versatile to let that happen, having been fairly close to :45 and change opening half-miles, so he does have tactical speed. In fact, he has never been farther back than five lengths at any point in his races whether it’s five furlongs or 1 1/16 miles. He had his final work, going five furlongs in 1:01 4/5.


2—Tapit Trice (Todd Pletcher, Tapit – Danzatrice, by Dunkirk)

Although Litigate would be the most logical Pletcher horse to run in the Tampa Bay Derby, having won the Sam F. Davis Stakes over the track, I believe Pletcher thinks too highly of Tapit Trice to run another horse against him, and this certainly looks like the best spot for him. No trainer has taken advantage of Tampa Bay’s 3-year-old program, including maiden and allowance races, more than Pletcher, so why ship this lightly raced colt out of town when the March 11 Tampa Derby gives him the best timing to fit two stakes in before the Kentucky Derby, with four weeks between races. We have seen Tapit Trice outgame a very gutsy horse in Slip Mahoney and we have seen him crush his promising stablemate Shesterkin, putting eight lengths between them in the final furlong. So, he is a fighter who can battle you to the wire and he has the explosive power to leave you far behind in a matter of seconds. As of now we haven’t seen a 3-year-old in Florida with his ability or physical prowess, certainly no one from the Sam Davis Stakes or Holy Bull Stakes. He had a nice useful half-mile breeze in :49 2/5.


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

The prolonged wet weather in Southern California has played havoc with not only racing, but training, as Santa Anita shut down the track completely. So the San Felipe horses could do nothing but wait for the track to open for training. Two weeks ago Yakteen had only one Derby horse, and with the exodus from the Baffert barn he now several more to occupy his time. But make no mistake, Practical Move is the horse he developed into a major Derby contender and he will remain number one in the barn. It seems every time I have watched the replay of one of Baffert’s stakes horses I keep running into this guy, and he was the only one to prevent them from going to the winner’s circle. I have mentioned his improvement on the Thoro-Graph numbers and it will be interesting to see if he can take another step forward and become the top California Derby contender. He does have other former Baffert horses, including Hejazi and the steady National Treasure, trying to beat Practical Move in the San Felipe, which has to put him and Practical Move’s owners in a weird position, but the big mystery horses in the field will be the recent impressive maiden winners Geaux Rocket Ride and Skinner.


4—Hit Show (Brad Cox, Candy Ride – Actress, by Tapit)

One aspect of his victory in the Withers Stakes that adds to his resume is that he was able to come off a big score with first-time Lasix and win even more impressively without Lasix. He has checked off a lot of boxes and this is just another one that may have gone unnoticed. Another stat that is worth repeating is that in four career starts he has won at four different distances at four different racetracks in three different states. What I also love about him is that in his three victories, by margins by 5 1/4 lengths, 3 1/2 lengths, and 5 1/2 lengths, he rallied from fifth and sixth, but had the lead at the eighth pole and then drew off to win with complete authority. Remember, the vast majority of Derby winners had the lead at the eighth pole. So you want to see a come from behind horse be right there with a furlong out and then pull away from the field. He also has run almost identical races at seven furlongs and 1 1/8 miles, making him the quintessential professional. Jorge Villagomez, who broke him, said he was always very laid back and smart and added, “He seemed to improve with every breeze here for me.” Just as he has improved with every start for Cox.


5—Reincarnate (Tim Yakteen, Good Magic – Allanah, by Scat Daddy)

That’s all we needed on this year’s Derby Trail was another inconclusive race, with a bad track, bad trips and a longshot winner. The biggest take from the Rebel Stakes was the terrific race this colt ran. This is a horse who was racing for a new trainer, traveling cross-country for the first time, and running in the slop for the first time. Despite having been on or just off the lead in all his races, he broke a step slowly and then had Giant Mischief cross over right in his path forcing him to drop near the back of the 11-horse field. So here was a horse who had never been farther back than third at any point of his races and had set the pace in his last starts now racing back in ninth, 11 lengths off the lead after a quarter mile and still in ninth after a half. He was still in ninth and stuck down on the inside heading into the far turn and all the way to the quarter pole. He eased out turning for home and just as he found a seam, with seven horses still in front of him, Bourbon Bash drifted out right into him and Red Route One, rallying on his outside, came in on him, putting the squeeze on him, forcing him to turn his head out and steady out of there just as he was making his run. He quickly got back in stride and was moving powerfully in the finally sixteenth, reaching out with great extension to finish third, beaten 2 1/2 lengths and making up three lengths in the final furlong. This horse has now run big on fast and sloppy tracks and on grass. We know he has front-running speed, setting a :45 2/5 half in the Sham Stakes, and we know he’s a strong, tough colt who can rally from far back and overcome trouble. I wasn’t sure how good this horse is, but I am sure now.


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

Brown could have waited a week and run in the Tampa Bay Derby and avoid a confrontation with Forte, but to his credit he felt this is the best spot for the colt and has enough confidence in him to run him where he belongs, even having to face the champ. Although Forte is expected to win, all you want to see from Blazing Sevens is to be coming on strongly in the final furlong. He didn’t have the best of trips in the Breeders’ Cup and I just want to see what he can do with a clean trip and a clear run, and a solid pace wouldn’t hurt. He turned in a strong final work, going five furlongs in 1:01 3/5, which is a good work over the deeper Payson Park surface. So it looks as if Brown has him just where he wants him. He hasn’t been talked about much, but his 27-1 Future Wager odds are just about what they should, so the public is still giving him some respect. He really hasn’t done anything to give you the impression he is not a serious Derby contender.


7—Verifying (Brad Cox, Justify – Diva Delite, by Repent)

He gets a pass for his fourth-place finish in the Rebel Stakes, as he’s already proven he’s a good horse who was never given a chance to run until it was way too late. Breaking from the rail he was able to get a good stalking position behind two longshots, who set a testing half in :46 flat. Unfortunately he was never able to get out, as his stablemate Giant Mischief kept him hemmed in all the way around the turn. Straightening into the stretch, he started to go inside Frosted Departure, but Florent Geroux quickly decided not to risk it and took him out looking for room. Just as he did, Bourbon Bash drifted out badly right in his path and he had to alter course back to the inside where he finally found room. But by then Confidence Game, who had a clean trip the whole way, had gotten the jump on him and was sailing for home with a clear lead, as Red Route One and Reincarnate were rolling out in the middle of track. He closed well enough, but with a final sixteenth in :06 2/5 he was unable to make up any ground and was beaten five lengths. You had to assume he would have been a lot closer if he had room to run at any point. I have no idea how to separate the Rebel horses or have a clue if this race enlightened us in any way considering the track condition and several bad trips.


8—Red Route One (Steve Asmussen, Gun Runner – Red House, by Tapit)

I have liked this colt all along and realize he wants to come from behind with a big late run, but over 19 lengths back is overdoing it quite a bit. Yet he still made up 18 of those 19 lengths, even winding up on his wrong lead in the stretch and altering course in the final furlong. To show how fast a pace this was, he likes to run his opening halfs in :49 to :50 and he actually was right in the ballpark being almost 20 lengths back off that :46 half-mile fraction. But before we brand him with being a plodder who comes from the clouds he was only two lengths back at the half in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes when they were crawling along in :50. You never want to see a horse as far back as he was in the Rebel, but give him a lot of credit for making up that much ground. He is another who has run big on dirt, slop, and grass. The only time he has finished off the board in seven career starts was when he had a rough trip in the Street Sense Stakes in the slop and wound up fifth. With his running style he would need a lot of luck in the Derby in much the same way Street Sense, Mine That Bird, and Rich Strike had dream trips coming from the back of the pack. He doesn’t have the ideal running style to win the Derby, but a number of horses have finished in the money from that far back, and occasionally you’ll get a winner.


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

I have mentioned my concerns about his path to the Derby, but he sure was flattered by the Rebel result, having beaten Confidence Game by almost eight lengths in the LeComte Stakes. He continues to work forwardly with an easy half in :50 2/5, but obviously is in no hurry with the Louisiana Derby still a long ways off. So there really isn’t much more to say about him, especially his lightly raced 3-year-old campaign, which will send him into the Kentucky Derby with only one race in 14 weeks. I like that Fair Grounds increased the distance of the Louisiana Derby a few years ago because of the six weeks to the Kentucky Derby and you would think that some trainers might want to have a fresher horse, having to go 1`3/16 miles. But the last two years we saw Mandaloun, trained by Cox, and Epicenter, trained by Steve Asmussen, run in all three of Fair Grounds’ Derby preps and run huge at Churchill Downs. This year Cox has elected to pass the Risen Star and give him two months between races and we’ll see how that works out. I do want to repeat that the reason may have been Instant Coffee’s big Thoro-Graph numbers jump from an 8 1/2 to a 2 1/2 in the LeComte. But that is pure speculation. Instant Coffee has the right running style and a good mixture of stamina and speed, and if you feel he is going to be battled tested enough going into the Derby then he looks like a solid contender. He isn’t flashy, but he is steady and always puts in a strong stretch run. Like with so many 3-year-olds this year I am having a hard time getting a strong feel for how good he really is.

10—Confidence Game (Keith Desormeaux, Candy Ride – Eblouissante, by Bernardini)

Yes, I have three horses he defeated ahead of him, but they are all proven stakes horses who didn’t have good trips and I can’t define these four horses based on one eventful race in the slop when he had the best trip of anyone. For now I am going to take a wait and see approach until I get a feel of just who this horse is and how much he has improved. Going into the Rebel Stakes, all we knew about him was that his six races were pretty much up and down. In some races he sat back in fifth, in another he scored a gutsy wire-to-wire victory. Both his wins came at Churchill Downs, he was beaten a total of 18 lengths in his two stakes appearances, he had never run on a sloppy track, and he could win going six furlongs or 1 1/16 miles. We also knew that his best Beyer speed figure was an 83 and his best Thoro-Graph number was a “7,” both mediocre at best. In short we knew very little about him. So, of course in a year like this he makes a big wide run in the Rebel, a horse comes out and brushes him just enough to prevent him from changing leads, and he draws off anyway to win by a length at 18-1. So did this race make him a legitimate Derby contender? I have no idea. His pedigree says he will get better the farther he goes. His dam Eblouissante is a half-sister to the great Zenyatta and in her first five generations there are 12 classic winners who won a total of 21 classics, including three Triple Crown winners, as well as a Handicap Triple Crown winner. What I did like was that he was holding everyone off at the finish and actually re-broke when Red Route One pulled up alongside him on the gallop-out, so perhaps this was his breakout race.


11—Arabian Knight (Tim Yakteen, Uncle Mo – Borealis Night, by Astrology)

Well, they waited long enough, but the L.A. Times finally reported on Sunday that he has been moved to Tim Yakteen’s barn through the Kentucky Derby and will point for the either the Santa Anita Derby or Arkansas Derby. I had taken him off the Rankings until we found out the plans and I’m putting him back this low for now until he returns to the work tab and we can all digest the fact that he will go into the Kentucky Derby with only three lifetime starts, will have two months between the Southwest Stakes and his next start, and only one race in 14 weeks going into the Derby. And remember, he’s has only three-furlong blowout in the past four weeks, so that is very little activity for a horse with only two lifetime starts. Yes, Justify won the Derby with only three career starts, but he was able to cram his three races into a much shorter time period. I won’t say he can’t do it because he is a very talented colt, but it’s a very perplexing situation trying to figure him out. Whether he can win with this crazy schedule and set of circumstances is another matter. Once he starts working regularly and gets some foundation under him he could move back up in the Rankings.


12—General Jim (Shug McGaughey, Into Mischief – Inspired by Grace, by Curlin)

I thought he might go for the one-turn mile in the Gotham, but McGaughey decided to keep him home and stretch him out to two turns against far better horses, which will tell him exactly what he has as far as a Derby caliber horse. Let’s remember he’s already been two turns, winning both his starts on the grass, and he does have a female family inundated with stamina. I’m not crazy about him drawing the rail coming off a sprint, but hopefully he can work out a trip sitting off horses and getting out in the clear at some point just so we can see if he is comfortable negotiating the two turns against some very classy horses, including the champ and the Champagne winner. I loved his race in the Swale and was impressed with everything I saw, so let’s see if he can take the next big step.


13—Angel of Empire (Brad Cox, Classic Empire – Armony’s Empire, by To Honor and Serve)

As blasé as everyone, myself included, has been about the Risen Star Stakes, the race for some reason I can’t explain actually got pretty strong Thoro-Graph numbers, with Angel of Empire going from a 19 to 11 1/4 to 9 1/4 to a stunning 2 1/2, just as Instant Coffee made a huge leap in the LeComte. His came as a big surprise considering how mundane the race looked visually. Even those behind him made big jumps in their Thoro-Graph numbers. So I have no idea now what to make of the race. What else is new? I just cannot figure out this crop of 3-year-olds, mainly deciding who is good and who is not. Will he “bounce” or regress in the Louisiana Derby or maybe they will wait two more weeks to run in his final prep. All we can hope for right now is this weekend’s stakes adding some sanity to the Derby picture.


14—Sun Thunder (Kenny McPeek, Into Mischief – Greenfield d’Oro, by Medaglia d’Oro)

Like Angel of Fever, his Thoro-Graph number in the Risen Star took off, going from an 11 1/4 to a 10 1/2 to an 8 to a 3 1/2. So, two horses both made monster leaps? Wait a second, how about fourth-place finisher Tapit’s Conquest, who went from a 10 to a 7 to a 6 1/2 to a 3. As we said earlier, these big jumps defied what most everyone saw with their eyes and even the Beyer figures. Thoro-Graph doesn’t throw out numbers like that haphazardly, so is it possible that this race was far better than people think? Just what we need, more contradictions and questions on this year’s Derby trail. Although Sun Thunder took the inside route and was outrun by the winner he rallied from 12th to pull on even terms at the eighth pole, which I loved to see, and it was a big improvement from his fourth in the Southwest, which actually wasn’t that bad a race in the slop against the runaway winner Arabian Knight. What first caught my eye with this colt was the turn of foot he showed in his 6 1/2-length maiden score going a mile. Even though his Beyers haven’t broken a 90, I do like the progression (69, 77, 81, 89). He will run next in the Louisiana Derby, which will be his fifth different distance in five races, so we have progression there as well.


15—Skinner (John Shirreffs, Curlin – Winding Way, by Malibu Moon)

Taking a big shot with him, in good part because of his trainer, who gave me the longest and most detailed report on a horse I have ever been given. Skinner has competed in two Grade 1 stakes as a maiden, which is uncharacteristic of Shirreffs. He did manage a well-beaten third behind Cave Rock in the Del Mar Futurity, but showed little in the American Pharoah Stakes. He dropped back into a maiden race in his 3-year-old debut and was visually impressive, showing great extension to his stride and being perfectly in sync with his rider. When asked to make his run on the far turn he put in a powerful move around horses and drew off with complete authority to win by 3 1/4 lengths in 1:36 3/5 for the mile and coming home his final quarter in about :24 2/5. This is a colt who also gallops out strong in his races. So are we seeing a different horse this year? Said Shirreffs, “We have really worked on him finding his stride in the morning and building repartitions — standing, jogging, and galloping. He Is a strong colt with a great shoulder and hind end. His mind is now adapting to racing and he has matured physically into a solid athlete, knowing where to put his feet for a strong stride. Yesterday (Feb. 23) he really worked well (5f in 1:01) on a very torn up track showing just how strong he is. Hopefully with a little more time he will accept the unexpected.”  That was just a small part of his comments, so how can I not put him in the Rankings.



Holy Bull Stakes winner ROCKET CAN turned in a sharp five-furlong work in  1:01 3/5 at Payson Park for the Fountain of Youth Stakes. With him getting his third straight 8 on Thoro-Graph in the Holy Bull and only an 82 Beyer, which was his career high, he has a long way to go to prove he is a legitimate Derby horse. And this is the spot as he takes on much tougher horses. His half-length defeat to Rebel winner Confidence Game in an allowance race moves him up a bit, even though he couldn’t get by him the length of the stretch after pulling on even terms at the quarter pole. For what it’s worth he is improving and the horse who finished second to him in the Holy Bull, Shadow Dragon, looks like a very nice horse. So we’ll just have to see if he can continue improving on Saturday.

Baffert Part Two. Mike Pegram has been with Baffert since the beginning, so considering that CAVE ROCK has not gone to another trainer yet, one can only assume with the colt’s late start that he will stay put with perhaps the Preakness as the target. It makes no sense to rank him at this late date unless  something to the contrary is announced  and there is actually a plan to get two races in him before the Derby.

As we head into the serious Derby preps, here are several under the radar horses with a lot to prove, but who might be sleepers to keep an eye on. We gave all the positives to be taken from DISARM’S second place finish in his return and we see a big move forward in his next couple of races. He had a lot going against him in that race and was running on well at the end with no chance to catch a good horse who set an easy pace and came home his final two eighths in a rapid :24 1/5 and :24 flat. For him to match those closing fractions off such a long layoff was pretty impressive. His pedigree says he is going to improve as the distances stretch out, but he has to really improve off his “9” Thoro-Graph figure, which is several points slower than his maiden victory. His 84 Beyer figure also was slower than his maiden victory. But I know the stable is pretty high on him and I did like his last race from a visual standpoint and those fast late fractions. I still believe a big move forward is imminent. It’s just a question of whether it will be big enough and fast enough to make him a serious Derby contender with just one more start.

Two former Baffert horses turned over to Tim Yakteen and nominated to Saturday’s Gotham Stakes are HEJAZI and CARMEL ROAD, although Hejazi is entered in the San Felipe. Carmel Road was awesome breaking his maiden at a mile by almost nine lengths eased up the length of the stretch after setting fractions of :21 4/5 and :45 4/5 . In the Breeders’ Futurity he broke from the disastrous post 14, was hung five-wide into the first turn and just stopped abruptly on the far turn, dropping to the back of the pack. That race was too bad to be true and he rebounded off that dismal showing to finish a good second to Practical Move in the Los Alamitos Futurity, finishing well clear of the others. He has been working as impressively as anyone, with five-furlong woks in :58 4/5, :59 1/5, and :59 flat and a six-furlong drill in 1:11 4/5. I love the way he was moving in all of them, in company and by himself, and if he runs to those works he  could jump into the Derby picture on Saturday.

Hejazi began his career with a pair of seconds going 5 1/2 furlongs, actually getting a 100 Beyer figure in his second start. Those were big efforts considering he is bred for stamina. In an audacious move, Baffert, despite having Cave Rock and National Treasure in the field, threw him into the Grade 1 American Pharoah Stakes as a maiden and off two short sprints and he ran a solid third behind his two stablemates, while finishing 3 1/4 lengths ahead of the fourth-place finisher. Dropping back into a 6 1/2-furlong maiden race and given Lasix for the first time, he wired his field under a hand ride, getting a 99 Beyer. The runner-up in Hejazi’s maiden score, WORCESTER, is another Baffert horse who can run and is going to be heard from down the road.

One of the new tools in handicapping on the Derby trail is Lasix, which is not allowed in stakes anymore. Let’s take five horses who were considered Derby hopefuls. Corona Bolt, a 6 3/4-length winner with first-time Lasix, came off Lasix in his next start and was beaten 15 1/4 lengths. Cyclone Mischief, a 5 3/4-length winner with first-time Lasix, came off Lasix in his next start and was beaten 11 3/4 lengths. Sun Thunder, a 6 1/2-length winner with first time Lasix, came off Lasix in his next start and was beaten 9 1/4 lengths. Harlocap, a 4 1/2-length winner with second-time Lasix, came off Lasix in his next start and was beaten 9 1/2 lengths. Although Determinedly won an allowance race by only a neck with first-time Lasix, he beat a very strong field, but taken off Lasix in his next start, the Risen Star Stakes, he was beaten 42 lengths. Of course there have been several horses who have run well coming off a victory with Lasix, but it is just something to keep an eye on when handicapping the Derby preps. For instance, three horses I am very high on, Tapit Trice, Disarm, and Kingsbarns, will be coming off Lasix in their next start, as they make their stakes debuts.

Jerome winner LUGAN KNIGHT turned in a sharp five furlong work in :59 4/5 at the Churchill Downs training center followed by an easy five furlongs in 1:02 for Saturday’s Gotham Stakes. With CARMEL ROAD, ARCTIC ARROGANCE, SLIP MAHONEY, and the unbeaten RECRUITER and EYEING CLOVER all possible starters, this could be one of the more interesting races of the year. The hard-knocking Arctic Arrogance should give us a line on Hit Show. Following two narrow defeats in the Remsen and Jerome, in which he was out-battled to the wire, he went into the Withers with blinkers added. He ran his race setting all the pace, but Hit Show ran right by him at the eighth pole to win by 5 1/2 lengths. Eyeing Clover ships in for Brad Cox off two impressive six-furlong races at Oaklawn and Fair Grounds. Slip Mahoney is another Cox-trained colt who is based at Belmont and showed his gameness, dropping a hard-fought battle with Tapit Trice and then winning after another gut-wrenching stretch duel, this time with the Pletcher-trained Crupi. If you watch his last two races you will be coming away with great admiration for this son of Arrogate. We also have the unbeaten Recruiter shipping in from Fair Hill following four straight victories at Monmouth, Laurel, and Parx, the last two in stakes races.

The San Felipe will be headed by proven stakes horses Practical Move, National Treasure, and Chase the Chaos, but one potential breakout star to watch is maiden winner GEAUX ROCKET RIDE. He has had only one six furlong race, and trained by the ultra conservative Dick Mandella, he wouldn’t seem to be a Derby horse. But this is an uncharacteristic leap in class for Mandella. The son of Candy Ride, out of an Uncle Mo mare, was nothing short of brilliant in his first start, winning on the front end by 5 3/4 lengths in a sharp 1:09 2/5. He is coming into the 1 1/16-mile San Felipe off a strong six-furlong work in 1:12 4/5, so we’ll see if he can make the stretch-out against top-class horses with only one sprint under his belt.

Something very similar is happening in Florida for the Fountain of Youth Stakes. If you want to know what confidence in your horse is, just take a look at trainer Gustavo Delgado putting his Good Magic colt MAGE in against the champ Forte as well as the Champagne winner Blazing Sevens off one seven-furlong maiden victory. Granted Mage was brilliant, rushing to the lead and running his opponents into the ground, winning by almost four lengths in a swift 1:22 2/5. If you want to know whether he can stretch out, in just his first two generations are stallions who won three classics (a Kentucky Derby and two Preaknesses) and placed in three classics (two Kentucky Derbys and a Belmont).

Sam F. Davis winner LITIGATE, who should only keep improving the farther he goes, breezed a half in :50 2/5. Pletcher likely will wait for the 1 3/16-mile Louisiana Derby with him, along with his undefeated KINGSBARNS, who has looked great in his two career starts. But going into the Kentucky Derby with only three career starts has not been a formula for success. Litigate’s speed figures in his three starts have been pedestrian without any improvement shown, but that could change once he goes 1 3/16 miles and farther, as his pedigree in inundated with stamina, which doesn’t translate to speed at these shorter distances. But he really needs to improve in his final Derby prep.

If you’re in a forgiving mood, you might want to consider CYCLONE MISCHIEF as a bounce back candidate in the Fountain of Youth following a disappointing performance in the Holy Bull. I like the way he’s been working and he’s shown he has ability. I am going to assume that coming off Lasix in the Holy Bull after a big win in allowance company was not a factor in his subpar effort, and he should be a big price on Saturday to possibly sneak into the exotics.

The late-running DENINGTON, a son of Gun Runner who closed fast to win a 1 1/16-mile allowance race at Fair Grounds last week in his eighth career start, getting a 91 Beyer speed figure, will join his stablemate Sun Thunder in the Louisiana Derby. All eight of his starts have been at a mile or longer. He is inbred three times to Fappiano though his sons Unbridled, Quiet American, and Cryptoclearance.

If there was any Kentucky Derby horse to come out of the Saudi Derby it was the Japanese horse DERMA SOTOGAKE, who finished a fast-closing third and had already earned 20 Derby points. Although he is by the good U.S. sprinter Mind Your Biscuits, who actually has plenty of stamina in his pedigree, his female family is loaded with stamina. His broodmare sire is a son of Sunday Silence and his second dam is by Arc de Triomphe winner Tony Bin. He also is inbred top and bottom to major class and stamina influence Hail to Reason through his sons Stop the Music and Halo. Finally, his third dam is by Wood Memorial winner Dike, who was a close third in the Kentucky Derby and whose sire Herbager is one of the great stamina influences. We’ll see if he comes back in the longer UAE Derby, where he could face Hyacinth Stakes winner PERRIERE, who he defeated with a big late run in the Zennippon Nisai Yushun. Both colts are nominated to the Derby.

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


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