Derby Rankings: Week 8

We’ve cut the Rankings down to a bonus baker’s dozen this week for reasons you will read in Knocking of the Door, and it was extremely difficult to separate the top five horses, making this one of the biggest crap shoots we’ve seen in years with still more questions than answers. ~ Steve Haskin

Derby Rankings: Mar. 7, 2022 – Week 8

By Steve Haskin


1—Smile Happy (Ken McPeek, Runhappy – Pleasant Smile, by Pleasant Tap)

I could have easily replaced him with Simplification, but it’s difficult dropping a horse after seven weeks as No. 1 and I’m just not quite ready to do that. He is still coming out of the best prep of the year and it’s not easy making your first start of the year at 1 1/8 miles and with so little foundation. He is still on course, so before becoming a prisoner of the moment I am going to stand pat and let this past weekend’s races sink in a little more. There isn’t a lot more to say about him that we haven’t said already, so let’s provide a little back story and see if he gave any signs of what was to come when he was a baby. His breeder Xavier Moreau said he was born just a few stalls down from the stall where Barbaro was born. Maybe that will prove to be a lucky barn. He could see a few days after he was born how balanced and correct he was and how smart he was with a beautiful eye and head. He had a great mind and just did everything they asked of him. He had so much appeal a group of Irish pinhookers offered to buy him two weeks before the sale, but Moreau turned down their offer. When he did sell, Moreau said he was like an old show horse and he was “so proud of him,” how well he stood and walked. Adrian Regan of Hunter Valley Farm, who then pinhooked him as a yearling, said he was a beautiful colt, who was extremely smart and did everything perfectly, and he remembers how much he loved his work and was always aggressive on the track. Well, it seems not much has changed. He still seems very intelligent and professional and loves to run and compete. So that is a little background so you can get to know him. His first race this year will serve as a good learning experience, hopefully for his jockey as well, and he will be ready for a big effort in the Bluegrass Stakes.


2—Zandon (Chad Brown, Upstart – Memories Prevail, by Creative Cause)

The same goes for this colt. I’m keeping him here for now because I don’t think any less of him. Being we’re devoting space this week to backgrounds I will add Zandon, who also is being pointed for the Bluegrass Stakes. It was veteran bloodstock agent Mike Ryan who picked him out at the Keeneland September yearling sale for $170,000 for owner Jeff Drown. Ryan had looked at him on the farm a few weeks before the sale and loved what he saw, which was “a big, strong colt and very impressive looking with a great head and eye (sound familiar?). He also felt he was a “quality colt who had a lot of presence and was a good mover.” After seeing again at the sale and still loving everything about him he called Jeff Drown and told him how much he liked the colt and wanted to buy him. Although he had already spent a lot of money for Drown it was decided to go ahead and buy him. He has been impressed with what he’s seen so far. “He ate a lot of dirt in his first start and had his head turned sideways,” he said. “There was no wasted action and he had excellent knee action and was a very efficient mover. I thought he looked magnificent and he seems to have a bright future.” Airdrie Stud’s Brereton Jones bred his dam and second dam and stands his sire and broodmare sire. “Zandon was a beautiful colt as a yearling,” said Brereton Jones’ son Bret who plays a major role in the operation and bred last year’s top-class sprinter Bell’s the One. “We lost (his second dam) Incarnate Memories this year, but fortunately we kept (Zandon’s dam). He first caught our attention when he worked in company with a son of Curlin and ran off and left him” I know how much Brown loved this colt from day one and I will trust his judgment.


3—Simplification (Antonio Sano, Not This Time – Simply Confection, by Candy Ride)

I have liked this colt since the Mucho Macho Man and said I considered him more of a Derby horse after his Holy Bull defeat than I did before because it showed he was able to use adversity to expose a new dimension to him. Well, as it turned out, rather than go back to his old normal style of running he changed his m.o. completely and used that new dimension to easily win the Fountain of Youth Stakes. When was the last time you saw horse win on the lead in :45 4/5 and 1:09 4/5 and then rally from seventh to win off fractions of :48 1/5 and 1:12. He certainly is worthy of the No. 1 spot and may wind up there soon, but the only reason he isn’t there just yet is that with the scratch of top contenders Mo Donegal and Giant Game, High Oak and Galt falling at the top of the stretch, Rattle N Roll never being a factor, Emmanuel having a terrible trip, and an 87-1 sprinter with two career starts finishing third, there is the question of what he beat. He had won a listed stakes and was a troubled second in a graded stakes, while the second, third, and fourth-place finishers had never even run in a stakes. This is not to take away from his performance, which definitely stamps him as a serious Derby horse. But like Smile Happy and Zandon he still has to turn the tables on the horse (White Abarrio) who beat him easily in his last start. And as he did in the Holy Bull he failed to change leads again and will have to work on that. But the bottom line is that you rarely see a horse with his early speed not only turn into a closer but one who looked like he’s been doing it all his life. And you had to be impressed with the way he swung six-wide turning for home and just swept by everyone and quickly opened up on the field. As I said, any one of the top 5 could be No. 1. But for now I will let it all soak in.


4—Epicenter (Steve Asmussen, Not This Time – Silent Candy, by Candy Ride)

I have to admit I could be making a mistake not having him No. 1 because of his natural speed and closing power and how easily he won the Risen Star, and I fully expect him to win the Louisiana Derby the same way. But with a rocket ship like Forbidden Kingdom now firmly on the Derby trail with the ability to run any horse in the country off his feet early, it is time for Epicenter to show he can come from the off the pace and not be one-dimensional. If Forbidden Kingdom makes it to the Derby there is no one who is going to outrun him. So if Epicenter can sit behind a horse in the Louisiana Derby and win the same way he did in the Risen Star, coming home that fast, then he would be a legitimate Derby favorite because I already I know he can get a mile and a quarter, as I explained in last week’s comments. So in short, I just want to see him display some versatility as Simplification has done. He checks off all the other boxes. Now, if Forbidden Kingdom does not make it to Churchill Downs then it’s a different story because if any horse can wire the Derby field it is him. But it’s always good to have another weapon just in case he needs it, and with Forbidden Kingdom now in the picture he will need it.


5—Morello (Steve Asmussen, Classic Empire – Stop the Wedding, by Congrats)

I put him below Epicenter only because Epicenter runs two weeks earlier, which will give me a clearer picture. It’s pretty much a dead-heat right now for No. 4 and close to a five-horse dead-heat for No. 1. He still has a big test to pass going two turns for the first time in the Wood Memorial against far more seasoned and talented horses, but I have been raving about this colt every week since the Jimmy Winkfield and to be honest, while all the top horses look like potential stars he is the one horse I have seen who has exhibited all the signs of a superstar. I thought he could be special after the Winkfield and now after the Gotham I am convinced of it. He is so professional and brilliant and so machine-like you can’t tell one of his races from the other. In three starts he has drawn off from his opponents with a remarkable surge of power and he has yet to feel the whip. When a horse does what he does all on his own without being asked that is a rare quality. He also is a horse who exudes a great deal of class before, during, and after a race. He just needs to face better quality horses going two turns. His pedigree says distance not only will be no problem, he should get better the farther he goes. Toby Sheets, who has had him from the beginning felt he was special last summer, but a minor setback prevented from starting until late November. I mentioned that his Thoro-Graph numbers leaped from a “7” to a “1 ¾” in the Winkfield, making him already one of the fastest 3-year-olds in the country. I can’t wait to see what he gets in the Gotham. To pair up that number would be perfect.


6—White Abarrio (Saffie Joseph, Jr., Race Day – Catching Diamonds, by Into Mischief)

Even though Simplification lost all chance at the start of the Holy Bull, his emphatic victory in the Fountain of Youth has to flatter this colt, who beat Simplification with the same authority the Fountain of Youth winner beat his opponents on Saturday. Ironically, both races sort of fell apart due to scratches, bad trips, or top horses not firing. So who knows if we got a true gauge of the competition? All we can go by is what we saw and both colts certainly passed the eye test. The main question with him is how far he wants to go. That’s not to say he can’t go a mile and a quarter, but his pedigree doesn’t shout distance. We know he has speed in the morning with his :47 flat and :59 2/5 works before the Holy Bull. Because he was skipping the Fountain of Youth to go directly to the Florida Derby, he returned to the work tab a couple of weeks after the Holy Bull with an easy three-furlong breeze and now we’ll see how he picks up the pace getting ready to go a mile and an eighth.


7—Secret Oath (D. Wayne Lukas, Arrogate – Absenthe Minded, by Quiet American)

It was obvious she would get a much better Thoro-Graph number than the Rebel winner, but I had no idea the difference would be this huge. The Rebel looked to be a slow race and it certainly was for the ground-saving winner Un Ojo, who a got a “7.” Secret Oath not only far surpassed the Rebel she now has the most impressive pattern of any 3-year-old, male or female. When she jumped from a “9 ¼” and a “9 ½” to a “3 ¾”in an allowance romp on December 31 it was important to see if she could move forward off that. When she jumped to a sensational “1 ½” in her runaway Martha Washington score on January 29 she was in danger of peaking too early in the year. She was already in Kentucky Derby range, so it would be understandable if she regressed a little off that. But when she paired up that number with another “1 ½” in the Honeybee it confirmed that she is indeed that fast and now ready to improve off that. It was the second-fastest Thoro-Graph number by any 3-year-old behind the “1” run by Messier in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes, but she has paired up her number while Messier needed more time to recover from his effort and skipped the San Felipe. So what all that means is that she is the only 3-year-old in the country numbers-wise who is Derby ready. Just a slight improvement would win many Derbys.


8—Emmanuel (Todd Pletcher, More Than Ready – Hard Cloth, by Hard Spun)

Don’t blame him for being overhyped all year and overbet in the Fountain of Youth Stakes off a maiden and allowance win against far less talented horses. And certainly don’t blame him for his fourth-place finish, in which he actually showed, at least to me, he was a serious Derby horse. Drawing post 8 didn’t do him any good, neither did get getting hammered at the start by A.P.’s Secret who broke out into him, causing him to drop back and not be able to use his early speed. Then he got stuck in traffic and was four-wide going into the first turn, while the winner saved ground with a perfect rail trip, as did the runner-up In Due Time. He came out of the turn back in eighth six-wide and remained way out in the middle of the track down the backstretch. Passing the half-mile pole he unleashed a big five-wide sweeping move to reach contention and continued five-wide around the turn when Simplification, who had moved to the outside, stormed up outside him. Emmanuel was starting to tire a bit and Simplification had all the momentum as he charged by him turning for home. He then had to alter course outside Simplification when the winner came in and took his path away. He then got shoved around by Dean Delivers, who he was battling with for second inside the sixteenth pole, and finally was passed by the ground-saving In Due Time and then nailed on the wire for third by the surprising O Captain. This was certainly an excellent learning experience and should really toughen him up for his all-important final prep. He showed a whole new dimension and proved he wasn’t just a horse who can win on an easy uncontested lead. Yes, he got a little tired, as to be expected considering all his travails, but let’s just say the boy turned into a man.


9—In Due Time (Kelly Breen, Not This Time – Sweet Sweet Annie, by Curlin)

This was a big step up from his impressive allowance victory and he showed that performance was legitimate by coming on strong to get second in the Fountain of Youth Stakes. I didn’t rank him higher than Emmanuel because he had a far better trip and I expect Emmanuel to get a faster Thoro-Graph number. But that still doesn’t diminish his performance in his first two-turn race and facing top-class stakes horses for the fist time. And he is one horse you know is going to keep improving the farther he goes. You can be sure he is going to be tough to beat next time out going a mile and an eighth. After jumping from an “8 ¾” to a “3” Thoro-Graph number in his last start it will be interesting to see if or how much he improved off that. Although he did save ground it was good to see him go between horses and come home strong. He has a big easy stride that covers a lot of ground with seemingly little effort and that also will work in his favor.


10—Classic Causeway (Brian Lynch, Giant’s Causeway – Private World, by Thunder Gulch)

I love the way Lynch gave him strong long works for the Sam F. Davis Stakes and now has him sharp for Saturday’s Tampa Bay Derby with a :59 4/5 final work. With a series of “5” Thoro-Graph numbers this is his big opportunity to finally take a jump forward and put down a number that is at least competitive with the top horses. I like the fact that he was able to battle through quick fractions an and come home strong, but like some of the others we really don’t know what he beat in the Sam Davis and he no doubt will face some tougher horses on Saturday. It is important for a horse to show that he made the transition from 2 to 3, which he did. Unlike most of the others, he is on a three-prep schedule, which is getting to be a forgotten plan to get to the Derby. Lynch has been old school all the way – not afraid to work them long and not afraid to run. Now let’s just see him improve on those Thoro-Graph numbers.


11—Mo Donegal (Todd Pletcher, Uncle Mo – Callingmissbrown, by Pulpit)

Whether it was a low-grade fever or drawing the 12 post, scratching out of the Fountain of Youth wasn’t a catastrophe, but it’s not what you want to see. He still is on a decent schedule for the Kentucky Derby, but the fact is he now is on a two-prep schedule instead of a three-prep schedule, which Pletcher was planning on. So in that respect he has had to resort to plan B. There is very little I can say about him until he runs in the Wood Memorial. All we can go by is the fact that he is battle-tested, consistent, and is always closing in the stretch. For now we just have to wait for him to get back on the work tab and see how he progresses there. The Wood is still a long way off and he will have to go into the race off a nine-week layoff, which obviously is not ideal.


12—Rattle N Roll (Kenny McPeek, Connect – Jazz Tune, by Johannesburg)

You didn’t expect me to dump him off one race, as dull as it looked, did you? I said all along I didn’t like this spot for him, especially on this track with the short stretch. This is a big galloping type of horse who needs to get fit by racing and his style does not fit Gulfstream at all. McPeek wasn’t crazy about this spot either and could have run him a week later at Tampa, but he liked the timing of this race better to set him up for the real test in the Louisiana Derby at 1 3/16 miles with that long stretch. He doesn’t even need to win that, only to run a strong second to Epicenter, because he will move forward again at Churchill Downs. The bottom line is he was down on the inside with that big stride of his and never got out and was beaten 7 ¼ lengths, which is hardly insurmountable. This colt is reminiscent in many ways of another McPeek horse, Tejano Run, who also won the Breeders’ Futurity and started off his 3-year-old campaign with a dull fifth-place finish, beaten over 10 lengths, in the Risen Star at 1-2. But he also needed racing, and after then finishing second in the Jim Beam Stakes and third in the Blue Grass Stakes he was a fast-closing second in the Kentucky Derby. McPeek said Rattle N Roll ate up great Sunday morning and he is not discouraged in the slightest. He expects a big turnaround at Fair Grounds, so I will let everything play out before giving up on him.


13—Forbidden Kingdom (Dick Mandella, American Pharoah – Just Louise, by Five Star Day)

I guess this looks to be a low ranking off his “workout” in the San Felipe Stakes, but I still don’t see him as a Derby type horse. He was 10 times faster than anyone else is this small overmatched field, which had accomplished nothing. So, sure he was able to blow them away from the start and simply outsprint them, running them into the ground with fractions of :45 4/5 an 1:10 2/5, while opening a seven or eight-length lead, and then crawling home under no pressure in :26 2/5 and :07, winning by 5 ¾ lengths in what was the easiest Grade 2 win we’ve seen in quite a while. He can win the Derby like that if he’s Spend A Buck, but that seems unlikely. Don’t get me wrong, this is a brilliant talented colt that any trainer would love to have, but it’s a long stretch to a mile and a quarter with his style of running and we first have to see what he does against Messier in the Santa Anita Derby. I have no idea who else is out there to run against them. Perhaps he will turn it into a match race and again just blast out of gate and play catch me if you can. Doppelganger gave him a bit of a run in the stretch to slightly narrow his margin of victory, but I would think that performance could set him up well for the Arkansas Derby. If any trainer can stretch this colt out it is Mandella, but the Kentucky Derby is another matter.


14—Commandperformance (Todd Pletcher, Union Rags – Smitten, by Tapit)

It doesn’t happen often heading into mid-March, but I am actually looking forward to a maiden race more than the Tampa Bay Derby on the same card. I loved his five-furlong work Saturday in 1:00 4/5, indicating he is sharp and ready for the most important maiden race of the year. If he can’t beat Tampa maidens then how is he going to do against serious Derby contenders in their final prep? But Pletcher certainly doesn’t want him going into the Derby as a maiden. Not only is he supposed to win Saturday’s race he is supposed to win it pretty impressively. Now we just have to see who and how many they get to run against him. He was my first Derby sleeper after his career debut, so he caught my eye from day one. If it wasn’t for the slight bone bruising that has sidelined him since his fourth-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile I firmly believe he would have been no worse than second in that race. All we can do now is see how he bounces back off the layoff.



Derby Rankings typically features four more horses than the original Derby Dozen of past years. And we extended it to 20 last week, which I felt was too many and diluted the Rankings, so a bonus baker’s dozen seems appropriate this week rather than try to rank an ever-extending group of horses who all look pretty much alike. Proven Breeders’ Cup horses GIANT GAME and PAPPACAP are looking to rebound off disappointing efforts, even if Giant Game did have a legitimate excuse, displacing his palate and losing his air. We’ll likely see him in the Tampa Bay Derby after scratching out of the Fountain of Youth. And I can barely remember CALL ME MIDNIGHT’S nose victory in the Lecomte Stakes it was so long ago. And the rest to me are inseparable, needing to move forward off good, but not great performances. In that group are PIONEER OF MEDINA, UN OJO, ETHEREAL ROAD, BARBER ROAD, the surprising O CAPTAIN, and DEAN’S LIST, who looks like a one-turn horse. And what to you do about the unfortunate Bill Mott pair of HIGH OAK and GALT, who thankfully escaped injury in the Fountain of Youth. Despite coming off a six-month layoff, High Oak was loaded throughout the race and despite racing wide was right up there with a cluster of horses vying for the lead at the head of the stretch when A.P.s Secret tried to squeeze his way through and came out in front of him, causing him to clip heels and go down hard. Stablemate GALT, rallying from last, had to avoid the fallen horse and threw his rider Joel Rosario. Fortunately he and Junior Alvarado seemed to escape serious injury. If both horses are able to bounce back from this they will be dangerous, especially High Oak, who was running a huge race at the time.

So how do you take just those 11 horses and place them is some kind of order? And who do you leave out of the top 20? I did rank Ethereal Road ahead of Un Ojo and Barber Road last week because of his wide trip in the Rebel, while they both saved ground all the way. As it turned out, Un Ojo and Barber Road got mediocre at best Thoro-Graph numbers of “7” and “7 ¼”, respectively, while Ethereal Road got a respectable “4,” which was a big  improvement from his “9” the race before, That is a huge difference between horses who virtually finished on the line together. So you can consider Ethereal Road in the top 16.

TIZ THE BOMB returned on the Turfway Polytrack and scored a solid victory in the John Battaglia, despite racing wide the whole way. If he can repeat in the Jeff Ruby Steaks we’ll see what Kenny McPeek decides to do with him.

Out of sheer desperation and a deep respect for the talents of MESSIER I contacted one of his owners who I know and asked him for a simple yes or a no off the record if I should put the colt in my Rankings. As expected I got no response, so it is just wait and see from now on.

Last year’s Iroquois winner MAJOR GENERAL had his final tune-up for the Tampa Bay Derby, breezing five furlongs in 1:02 1/5. SLOW DOWN ANDY returned to the work tab Sunday with a solid :48 3/5 half-mile drill. I would think Doug O’Neill will give him another shot in the Santa Anita Derby, as he certainly didn’t run his race in the Risen Star when he was pulling hard early.



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352 Responses to “Derby Rankings: Week 8”

  1. Bill Dawson says:

    As of today, 3-13, my top ten KD contenders are as follows.

    1) Simplification
    2) Epicenter
    3) Classic Causeway
    4) White Abarrio
    5) Smile Happy
    6) Morello
    7) In Due Time
    8) Zandon
    9) Forbidden Kingdom
    10) Rattle N Roll
    On a side note, I’m hoping D. Wayne Lukas will change his mind and not run Secret Oath against the boys in the Ark. Derby. Why take a chance that she might over-extend herself and sustain an injury? Keep her with fillies.

  2. Ms Blacktype says:

    Aaarrrggggh! Internet went out just about the time Greatest Honour went to the post yesterday, thanks to the big East Coast “storm” which actually wasn’t much of a storm where I live. (I’d grumble about my cable service, but all of you suffer from similar fates I’m sure). So a day late, I discovered Classic Causeway won the TB Derby in modest time, earned an 84 Beyer, but may in fact go for a THIRD prep in the Blue Grass — mostly thanks to all of you posting here! Thanks so much for the intel. I have a feeling he may perform better than the Beyers suggest. Hoping my post actually posts.

  3. TommyMc says:

    The Derby & Oaks Future Wagers closed. The Derby pool was about $284,000 and The Oaks Pool was less than a quarter of that at about $64,000. #24 All Others once again was the Favorite in The Derby Pool @ 4-1. I wonder who they are betting? The BB horses? There have been a few good looking Maiden winners and a couple of 2-time winners lately. Anyway, Smile Happy went off at 6-1 again. So, Mac can keep those commercials going. Classic Causeway seems too low at only 10-1. But, he’s the flavor of the week after yesterday’s big win. Forbidden Kingdom took plenty of “action” at 7-1. That also seems awfully low 8 weeks out from race day.

    • TommyMc says:

      Zulu Echo closed as the 5-2 Favorite in The Oaks Pool even though she has yet to race this year. She has been working out and seems to be nearing a race. Secret Oath took some late money to end up at 7-2. Risky for 2 reasons: She might try The Derby instead and can she transfer her Oaklawn form to Churchill? #24 All Others was at 6-1. Again, I wonder who they are betting? BB horses? Kathleen O, after her big win at Gulfstream on Fountain of Youth Day, ended up at only 9-1. Wouldn’t it be great to see Shug McGaughey win The Kentucky Oaks? She definitely has her supporters. I’d like to hear the story of that name. If she makes it to The Oaks, I’m sure we’ll get the story. I know that there is a very highly respected trainer named Kathleen O’Connell. But, then the question is: If the owners are such big fans, why didn’t they give her the horse?

  4. EddieF says:

    My top 6 today are Smile Happy, Simplification, White Abarrio, Classic Causeway, Epicenter, and Zandon. Messier’s owners can make the trainer change, I assume, just before entries for one of the final preps. I expect that to happen, barring a case of temporary insanity.

    • Nelson Maan says:

      I like your Derby half dozen … the Blue Grass will be very telling if Classic Causeway shows there to get even against Smile Happy. It appears that the expected pace would favor the beautiful chestnut again.

      Imagine if CDI decides to deny Messier any qualifying points because the trainer change was done at “the last minute”… not sure if there are rules about deadlines for transferring horses but a month before the Derby looks like a prudent window to do it.

      Then it would be a similar situation as War Emblem’s but in reverse…!

      • EddieF says:

        Thanks, Nelson. The Blue Grass has the makings of a solid race for a change.. Zandon is possible, too. I can’t find the official CD statement about the points situation. But it will go smoothly, I’m sure. LOL

    • Nelson Maan says:

      BTW Messier worked today 5F in 59.40 handily Santa Anita ranking 1/61.

    • Matthew W says:

      #1 Morello…..#2 Smile Happy….#3 Zandon for me …

      • EddieF says:

        I like Morello a bunch. But he needs to prove himself around two turns in the Wood. He’ll need to deal with Mo Donegal.

  5. Matthew W says:

    Four Derby Futures plays……#1 Morello (16-1) my biggest wager……#2 “All Others” (6-1) right now that’s a good price!….#3 Zandon (30-1) is a good price on a good horse…..#4 Cyberknife (50-1) just think this colt has talent…..on the bubble is Mo Donegal (23-1) has done nothing wrong and only had a fever, and his odds went up.

    • Matthew W says:

      The BAD prices are Forbidden Kingdom (5-1) and Classic Causeway (8-1).

    • EddieF says:

      The way I look at the KDFW nearly 2 months out is that I’d need AT LEAST 20-1 on the top current contenders. So among those you mention, Mo D is borderline and Zandon is good. Cyberknife? Maybe 52-1. 😉

  6. Matthew W says:

    This is one of those years where the preps haven’t told us much, but I believe the next round—the final preps–are going to clear things up, as far as the contenders go…..I expect Smile Happy runs a big one, and becomes Derby favorite…….

  7. TommyMc says:

    I think that Commandperformance might be dropping off Steve Haskin’s new list. I could be wrong. He really disappointed at 1-9 in a Maiden race full of “sketchy” rivals. Even in a comeback race, he should have been able to crush that crew. To me, he doesn’t seem to be able to quicken. I’m no expert, but, his conformation doesn’t look like a mile and a quarter horse to me. He looked kind of “thick”. More like a sprinter or miler. Maybe he’ll work himself into shape with another prep. But, I won’t be betting on it. Owner Mike Repole sounded very disappointed after the race. He said that he saw no excuse.

    • TommyMc says:

      Speaking of a good looking horse: Did anyone see Chad Brown’s Gia Romantica win a Maiden Race on debut at Tampa? What a beauty! When I saw her on the track, I knew that she was the winner. Unfortunately, I’d already bet on another horse. It looks like in this case, it was a million dollars well spent. With Chad Brown, you can’t really go by workout times. You need to look at the pattern of works instead. He gets them ready off of 4-furlong works.

    • EddieF says:

      Commandperformance is no longer a Derby thought in my mind. That was embarrassing for the connections. They screwed up.

      • Nelson Maan says:

        These layoffs seem to be more harming than I remember… Rattle N Roll, Commandperformance and Major General seem to be needing much more time to regain proper form after.

        You say they screwed up because the Gray is still a maiden and they must now be bolder to try Stakes again?

        • Nelson Maan says:

          *after very disappointing 3-year-debuts (from 5, 4 and 7 months hiatus respectively)

        • Davids says:

          Major General’s performance reminded me of the notorious performance of Life at Ten to a lesser degree.

          • Nelson Maan says:

            You mean when Life at Ten did not finish in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff?

            Did you notice something amiss during Major General’s warm up?

            The excuse is that the son of Constitution stumbled at the start… but never got in touch with the field. I hope he is OK.

            • Davids says:

              I actually missed the warm up and introduction of the horses but during the race the way Major General dropped out so quickly seemed odd. It could have been anything but it did remind me of the way Life at Ten just trotted around the track.

        • EddieF says:

          I’ve saved a lot of money by passing on the layoff horses, including my numero uno Smile Happy.

          Regarding Commandperformance, I think he needed to go through conditions. There was plenty of time. But they went in another direction and didn’t stick to the plan.

  8. TommyMc says:

    There are rumors out there that Classic Causeway earned only an 84 BSF for his romp in yesterday’s Tampa Bay Derby. If that is true, he regressed from the 88 that he was assigned for his win in The Sam F Davis. Not good. I know that Steve Haskin will give us the lowdown in his new list on Monday or Tuesday. Maybe Mr. Haskin will even come up with the “Sheets#”. Even if Classic Causeway is beating up on over-matched foes, you want to see him moving forward and not backwards. I would expect that a horse will need to run somewhere between a 102-110 BSF to win The Kentucky Derby. Unless it’s a poor crop of 3 year-olds like California Chrome was able to beat with a 97 BSF. No offense. The last thing that I need is a bunch of “Chromies” coming after me.

    • TommyMc says:

      Trainer Brian Lynch said that he was thinking of The Bluegrass as the next race for Classic Causeway. Maybe some better opponents can make him run faster. Maybe. I like that he’s using 3 preps to get ready for his Derby run. I also like that he’s won every time that he didn’t have to break from a disastrous post position. I love this horse. He’s a real beauty. I want him to succeed. But, as of right now, I have to agree with Matthew. I like some other horses a little bit better for The Derby. Subject to change. If he runs a 94-98 BSF in The Bluegrass and beats some better horses, I could jump right back on his bandwagon. BTW, Lynch mentioned The Bluegrass right after the race without having time to think about it. So, that could change.

      • Laura L Lanham says:

        I am liking this colt and the way his trainer is taking his Derby path. Could this be trainer instructions to the jockey tactics as well? Get the win without burning out the colt? He’s got the points now. I didn’t think the half in that race was blazing fast. The track was listed as good. Not a bad pedigree at all. They got the win and came home safe and sound.

        As for the class of the others how do you really tell when they don’t race like they used to 30 years ago? Morning works help but still what happens on the track is what counts. When it comes to the Derby none of them will ever race in a field that large again. Back when Mine That Bird ran in the Derby everybody dismissed him and looked what happened. Not saying that is going to happen this year either. Could be some of these long shots winning are better then they are getting credit for.

    • EddieF says:

      I don’t look at BSFs. But CC had a 99 Brisnet fig in the Sam Davis, so I’ll be interested in seeing his number when published on Tuesday. The track was listed as “good,” and was described as deep and tiring. CC can have a regression (he did win, after all) and run big in his final prep. Not to mention that speed figures are just one element of a comprehensive analysis. Oops…I mentioned it!

      • Nelson Maan says:

        Hi EddieF. You read my mind … I was about to post the same ideas. He was expected to regress after a fantastic 3-year-old debut.

        Suffices to see how easy the son of Giant’s Causeway is winning at Tampa, how energetic he looked after the races and most importantly Irad Ortiz’s assessment of the horse potential… we can say all the fields are overmatched but I say the any field would look feeble when you have such willing runner.

        Classic Causeway is a text book example of handicapping by observing performance more than by depending on the stony speed figures and other mathematical metrics.

        I would like to see the flashy chestnut promoted to top 5 … but, then again, he is apparently “slow” according to some devious speed figures…

        • EddieF says:

          Hey, Nelson. Thanks for the supporting argument. I think that Steve will have CC at #6 or 7.

          • Nelson Maan says:

            As you hinted, I also believe Classic Causeway will be finally convincing every one if he were to run in the Blue Grass… Exciting horse indeed…!

            You are probably right about his new ranking… it would depend on how Steve measures Secret Oath, White Abarrio and Morello against the last great son of Giant’s Causeway.

            • Davids says:

              When did wins in restricted Grade 2 races crown racehorses as ‘great.’ Ha ha

              • Nelson Maan says:

                I should have explained better … great compared to the last sons of Giant’s Causeway on the dirt. One can say that Bricks and Mortars and United were great but on the turf. To me CC is ‘greater’ than Brody’s Cause, Destin and Mr. Big News… My opinion is that Classic Causeway is considerably above the normal or average sons of his sire on dirt…

                Anyways, You know how much I love hyperboles … cannot hide my vein of publicist ! LOL

                “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some hire public relations officers.”

                Daniel J. Boorstin

            • EddieF says:

              Steve always has something to surprise us. 🙂

          • Kristi Geisler says:

            Really? I will be surprised if CC is still even on the list. It sounded to me like Steve was really looking for an improvement in the speed figures, although he goes by Thorographs more, so I guess we’ll have to wait to find out what those were.

  9. Jeff says:

    Watched all the preps and most potential KD entrees, Messier is the best 3 year old at this junction. Lukas entering the Filly in the fray due to weak results by others and more than likely Baffert horses out. Fascinated that basically not one owner is moving their horses from bafferts barn. Also, heard his barn is reloading with 2 year olds…

  10. Mark says:

    I hope this isn”t true…


    Lukas: Secret Oath much more likely for Preakness than Kentucky Derby

  11. Bill Dawson says:

    In the event Zandon secures enough points, (in the Blue Grass), to make the KD starting gate, I’m wondering if Jose Ortiz will remain loyal to Chad Brown and ride Zandon in the KD. Or will he opt to ride Simplification, who is rapidly become one to the top KD contenders. Ortiz rode Simplification to perfection in the FOY. Now, if he can only get him to change to the correct lead in the stretch run, that would check another box in his impressive arsenal.
    Needless to say, a lot can change in the next couple of months, but I’m hopeful Jose commits to Simplification as his KD mount. Stay tuned for the decision.

    • Davids says:

      According to 1JoeP, on the previous page, Zandon now has the services of Flavien Prat for the Blue Grass Stakes. So, it follows that if ‘they’ are successful in the Blue Grass Stakes, Prat will probably stay on Zandon for the Kentucky Derby.

      Remember, Prat is moving to New York, so, winning the Kentucky Derby for Brown would be very advantageous for him. Ha ha

  12. Matthew W says:

    Zandon at 35-1 is worth a shot, Cyberknife at 50-1 also, and I made a bigger wager on Morello at 16-1……

    • Matthew W says:

      Claddic Causeway is down to 8-1 now, I don’t think he will hit the board, the Derby won’t allow him an easy pace, today the pace pretty much stayed the same, not likely in Louisville.

  13. Bill Dawson says:

    Now that Classic Causeway and Simplification have made the KD starting gate, my exacta wager in KD Futures Wager Pool 2 is looking pretty good. I boxed CC, at 52-1 with Simplification, at 44-1 which would return $5,290.00 if CC came in 1st, and Simplification finished 2nd. If the order of finish were reversed, the payoff would be $4,580.00.
    I’d feel even better if Simplification wins the Florida Derby, just to show he’s a legitimate KD contender.
    I’ve got Simplification boxed with the entire Pool 2 field, in 23 exacta wagers, which includes Holy Bull winner, White Abarrio, at 171-1. The payoff for that: $9,099.00 or $7,183.00. 🙂

  14. TommyMc says:

    I hope that owner of Classic Causeway wears that same Jed Clampett hat to The Derby. The Blue-Bloods in Louisville will love it. Another nice win. The competition only gets tougher from here. Trainer Brian Lynch said he’s thinking of The Bluegrass as a next step towards The Derby. Those 100-pointers should be more competitive. Classic Causeway has his points. The pressure will be on everyone else.

    • Bruce says:

      Yeah Tommy that hat is about as old as he is! :0 Hey if it brings him luck then more power to him, keep waring it all the way to the Derby!

      • Ross says:

        Nice call on that observation TommyMC… Now some Bob B blue lens in a set of granny’s old glasses to finish a speed on the lead look. ” The first thing you know old Jed’s a millionaire (again).”

  15. Bill Dawson says:

    Racing fillies against top colts, on dirt, has always been a concern of mine. Hopefully, Secret Oath doesn’t over-extend herself against the boys in the Arkansas Derby and comes out of the race in good order.

  16. Matthew W says:

    Classic Causeway easy—-does not look like Kentucky Derby winner, to me, easy winner but horses rarely get such a trip in Louisville, I don’t think anybody from Tampa hits the board in Louisville

    • Mike Relva says:

      Come on, he’s 3. He’s improving. Some demand 2 much/2 soon.

      • Matthew W says:

        I didn’t say CC is not a nice colt….I re-read my post it says I don’t think he or anyone from the race are the Derby winner….he won easy, on the pace, beat a horse with Beyer top of 71….my 4-horse tri box WON…..I just don’t think we saw the Derby winner today—-unless we’re talking about the colt who ran as fast as Ce Ce did at Oaklawn….

    • Davids says:

      That’s my view as well Matthew. I just haven’t been impressed enough by Classic Causeway. Forbidden Kingdom, as an example, will rocket past him at the start and then what for Classic Causeway?

      • Laura Lanham says:

        When it comes to the KD a lot depends on the post draw. You get a full field and a bad draw it makes a difference. You can run out of racing room real quick in that race. Having a jockey that has been there before as well helps. Still have more prep races to go before that day.

        • Davids says:

          Yes Laura, I like everything about the Kentucky Derby except the race itself. I understand the betting angle but it’s the US’s most prestigious race surely it deserves to be run with a 10 to 12 field where everyone has a chance and moreover, they all deserve to be there.

      • EddieF says:

        Have you watched CC out of the gate in his last two races? It’s like he’s shot from a cannon. That will be essential in a 20-horse field. His gate ability is his best weapon.

        • Nelson Maan says:

          I totally agree with your observation EddieF.

          Not only how fast Classic Causeway is breaking but it is also too effortlessly … that puts him ahead of other speedy horses in the Derby.

          His pedigree suggest that he would love the Classic distance as well… can’t wait for the Blue Grass.

          • Davids says:

            Good that you have mentioned pedigree, Nelson. Over the past nine runnings of the Tampa Bay Derby, 3 Tapit colts and now 3 Giant’s Causeway colts have won the Tampa Bay Derby. That’s an amazing win percentage for just 2 sires. However, none, thus far, have gone on to win the Kentucky Derby as yet.

            Perhaps, the Tapit & Giant’s Causeway colts have a predilection to running well on the Tampa surface. Coincidence? May be or may be not? I’ve always be circumspect when it comes to Tampa Bay success – what happens in Tampa Bay, often stays in Tampa Bay.

            Good luck with Classic Causeway.

            • Nelson Maan says:

              Great observations Davids about the affinity of Giant’s Causeway and Tapit sons to Tampa surface and also about the weight of that path on Derby outcomes.

              The reason I am expanding on Classic Causeway is that his success at Tampa is being diminished due to ‘slow” speed ratings. I believe he had won without firing on all cylinders and that his next race would confirm it or refute it.

              Also, I consider his pedigree among the best for the 1 1/4 distance. Since his debut at Saratoga in 82 3/5 I had him in my watch list.

              The same way you are wary about Tampa Bay success I am about the way the speed ratings are computed there… I am a sucker for white-blazed chestnuts and perhaps my “eye test” is subjective because of that.

              I also need good luck with the drama involving Messier…

              • Davids says:

                There is a positive with the Giant’s Causeway & Tapit colts that have won the Tampa Bay Derby quite a few have gone on to run extremely well in the Belmont Stakes. Something to keep in mind.

                We all have our favorites and quirks in selecting winners. Good luck with Classic Causeway, though. I fear there are too many ‘wanting the lead’ types that they’ll end up defeating each other early in the Kentucky Derby.

                With Messier, just wait and see. If he’s good enough to be in the Kentucky Derby he’ll be in it. Just pretend he’s trained by ‘whoever’ until he is. Ha ha

  17. Nelson Maan says:

    As expected Classic Causeway amazing in the Tampa Bay Derby. He is already in … five speedsters out of six qualified horses so far.

    Un Ojo and now Grantham confirming the worth of the Withers Stakes …!

    • Davids says:

      I was much more impressed with We the People at Oaklawn Park than Classic Causeway at Tampa Bay but We the People hasn’t any points as yet.

      • EddieF says:

        The way things are going, he could qualify with a fourth-place finish in one of the final preps. 🙂

        • Davids says:

          If We the People ran fourth in the Arkansas Derby surely they would skip the Kentucky Derby. An impressive win or second is required to go forward. There are other races.

      • Nelson Maan says:

        Who won’t be impressed by the son of Constitution clocking almost the same time as Champion Ce Ce winning the Azeri Stakes.

        I would take him to the Arkansas Derby at once…!