Derby Rankings: Week 10

It’s the proverbial lull before the storm, as all camps sit back this week and get ready for the big 100-point races that should clear up the Derby picture once and for all and separate the contenders from the pretenders. During this lull we will focus our attention on pedigrees and see which horses will thrive going a mile and a quarter with a majority of those mentioned below carrying the bloodline of this website’s illustrious namesake. ~ Steve Haskin

Derby Rankings: Mar. 21, 2022 – Week 10

By Steve Haskin


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

He turned in quite a work in company with Rattle N Roll, going five furlongs in a bullet :58 4/5, and was going the easier of the two. McPeek has left the door open for a possible switch to the Florida Derby. Looking at his pedigree, Runhappy’s sire Super Saver won the Kentucky Derby and Super Saver’s broodmare sire A.P. Indy won the Belmont and Breeders’ Cup Classic. Super Saver traces to Majestic Light, who is by Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Majestic Prince, out of a Ribot mare. Smile Happy’s female family is as strong a classic pedigree as I have seen. His broodmare sire Pleasant Tap, a three-quarter brother to Kentucky Derby winner Go For Gin, won the Jockey Club Gold Cup and Suburban Handicap and was so versatile he placed in the Kentucky Derby, Breeders’ Cup Classic, and Breeders’ Cup Sprint. Pleasant Tap is by Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Pleasant Colony, a major classic and stamina influence by Ribot’s son His Majesty, also a major classic and stamina influence. Pleasant Tap’s dam is by Belmont Stakes winner Stage Door Johnny, another major and classic stamina influence. Smile Happy’s second dam is by Relaunch, sire of Jockey Club Gold Cup winner Waquoit, and his third dam is by His Majesty’s full-brother, the top classic and stamina influence Graustark, sire of Belmont winner Avatar, giving Smile Happy the Rasmussen Factor (RF), being inbred to a top-class broodmare, in this case Flower Bowl, winner of the Delaware Handicap, who also produced Coaching Club American Oaks winner and Hall of Famer Bowl of Flowers. That also gives Smile Happy three doses of Ribot in his pedigree. And finally, Smile Happy’s fifth dam, the Darby Dan-bred Bravura, is also the fifth dam of Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Funny Cide and Belmont winner Empire Maker, both of whom combined to sweep the 2003 Triple Crown.


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

He turned in another strong half-mile work in :48 4/5 over the deep Payson Park track. He doesn’t have your typical pedigree being inbred to little known French miler Siberian Express, winner of the French 2,000 Guineas, and being by up-and-coming sire, stakes-winning Upstart, who placed in the Florida Derby, Whitney, Met Mile, and Haskell Invitational. Zandon’s two paternal great-grandsires, Touch Gold and A.P. Indy, both won the Belmont Stakes. Upstart’s sire Flatter, sired Flat Out, two-time winner of the Jockey Club Gold Cup and Suburban Handicap, and Upstart is inbred top and bottom to the great classic stamina influence Buckpasser. Zandon’s first two dams were bred by Brereton Jones’ Airdrie Stud and this family traces to the great foundation mare Boudoir, making this the family of Majestic Prince, Graustark, His Majesty, Bowl of Flowers, and Your Host, sire of Kelso. Zandon’s broodmare sire Creative Cause, a son of Giant’s Causeway, won the San Felipe and placed in the Preakness and Santa Anita Derby. Zandon’s pedigree also has the three ubiquitous daughters of Secretariat, Weekend Surprise, Terlingua, and Secrettame, who together have dominated the American bloodlines. So there certainly is enough here to suggest Zandon will not have any problems getting a mile and a quarter.


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

If there is an Always Dreaming, Justify, Maximum Security, Authentic, or Medina Spirit in this year’s Derby it looks like him, as he is the one horse you don’t want to see loose on the lead, which he could very well be again in the Louisiana Derby. He gets most of his speed from his sire side through top-class sprinters Trippi, Great Above, and Ta Wee, but his sire is one of the hottest young stallions in the country and his paternal grandsire Giant’s Causeway was one of the best 1 ¼-mile horses in the world and whose maternal great-grandsire is English Derby winner Roberto. On the female side, Epicenter’s broodmare sire Candy Ride set a new track record winning the 1 ¼-mile Pacific Classic, and Candy Ride’s grandsire Cryptoclearance was a multiple stakes winner at 1 ¼ miles and was second in the Belmont, Travers, and Jockey Club Gold Cup. In the bottom half of his pedigree you have English 2,000 Guineas winner King of Kings to give him that good mile speed along with being inbred to the brilliant French 2,000 Guineas winner Blushing Groom. For stamina, there is the great Sadler’s Wells; Ela-Mana-Mou, winner of the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes and Eclipse Stakes and third in the Arc de Triomphe; and Busted, also winner of the King George and Eclipse Stakes, who sired St. Leger and Coronation Cup winner Bustino. It is those European classic-distance horses that enable him to carry his speed and come home in fast fractions. That makes it tough on his opponents, who can only hope there will be someone fast enough to not only run with him early, but stay with him long enough to slow him down in the stretch.


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

Last week we talked about how tough, durable, and adaptable this colt is. He can dazzle you with his speed on the front end or he can sweep past horses coming from well off the pace. He just needs to get back to switching leads in the stretch. Like Epicenter, he is by the red-hot sire Not This Time, out of a Candy Ride mare, making this a potent combination. And he also is inbred to Blushing Groom (three times) so their pedigrees are extremely similar and he gets those same speed influences on top. One of the great stamina influences of the past quarter century is Herbager, and Simplification’s dam is inbred 4×4 to the great French-bred stallion, once through his daughter Ballade, the dam of champions Glorious Song and Devil’s Bag and Simplification’s great-grandsire Saint Ballado. Simplification’s second dam, Ballado’s Halo, is a full-sister to two-time Eclipse champion and Hall of Famer Ashado, as well as Sunriver, who won the Hollywood Turf Cup and Jim Dandy Stakes and placed in the Belmont Stakes, Florida Derby, and Man o’ War Stakes. Simplification also traces to Ribot three times. So don’t expect to see him backing up in the stretch. Like the horses of the past, he will scrape, claw, and battle for every inch and will never stop fighting. He is the kind of horse you really want to see in the Derby. 


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

Unlike the other contenders he will be making his two-turn debut in the Wood Memorial, so there is a lot at stake. His mechanics, running style, and professionalism suggest that will not be a problem. His sire, who is a grandson of Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Cat Thief, won three Grade 1 stakes around two turns, including the Arkansas Derby, and he was second in the Preakness and fourth in the Kentucky Derby. Classic Empire’s sire is Santa Anita Derby winner Pioneerof the Nile, second in the Kentucky Derby and sire of Triple Crown winner American Pharoah. Pioneerof the Nile is by Belmont Stakes winner Empire Maker, who is by Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Unbridled. Morello’s broodmare sire Congrats won a pair of two-turn stakes and placed in the Santa Anita Handicap and Hollywood Gold Cup. Looking at Morello’s four great-grandsires, they have combined to win two Belmont Stakes, two Breeders’ Cup Classics, and a Travers. And his fourth dam is by champion grass horse Assagai, winner of the mile and a half Man o’ War Stakes. If he can beat seasoned classy horses stretching out to 1 1/8 miles in his two-turn debut, the sky’s the limit. So far there is nothing about this horse I don’t love.


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

With her commitment to the Arkansas Derby it is naturally assumed that a huge performance will put her in the Kentucky Derby. All I can say is assume nothing and don’t get too hyped up if she wins the Arkansas Derby. Let’s wait and address that after April 2 when the pressure to run her will begin. We’ll keep her in the Rankings until we’re officially told otherwise. But the Oaks is still very much in the picture. As for her pedigree, her blend of brilliant speed and stamina no doubt contributes to the explosive turn of foot that has buried her rivals in the blink of an eye. She can sit in traffic and bide her time, and when that hole opens she is gone. Earlier, we mentioned the Rasmussen Factor, having inbreeding to top quality mares. Secret Oath is inbred to Tartan Farm’s great producer Aspidistra through her son and daughter, Hall of Famers Dr. Fager and Ta Wee. In fact, she has Dr. Fager twice in her pedigree. She also is inbred to the Tartan stallion Rough’n Tumble, sire of Dr. Fager and the stakes-winning Minnesota Mac, and to Fappiano through his sons Unbridled and Quiet American. Her sire won the mile and a quarter Breeders’ Cup Classic, Dubai World Cup, and Travers Stakes in track-record time. Her dam won or placed in seven two-turn stakes, her broodmare sire sired a Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner, and her third dam is by Hatchet Man, who defeated Forego in the mile and a quarter Amory Haskell Handicap and is the broodmare sire of Kentucky Derby winner Strike the Gold. Secret Oath’s dam, Absenthe Minded, traces to the Australian-bred Sky High, sire of champion older horse Autobiography, winner of the two-mile Jockey Club Gold Cup by 15 lengths defeating champions Key to the Mint and Riva Ridge. Oh, yes, she worked a bullet five furlongs in :59 2/5, out in 1:12 2/5.


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

Is Classic Causeway fast or does he just give the illusion of being fast? With his pedigree, which is not geared toward speed, it was a surprise to see him win his career debut by 6 ½ lengths going seven furlongs at Saratoga in a swift 1:22 3/5, which is why he was 13-1. Stretching out to two turns, he was on the lead in three of his next four starts and was a close fourth in the other. This year he has set the pace in both his starts at Tampa Bay Downs and was in total control from the first step out of the gate in the Tampa Derby. He sure looked fast, but his 84 Beyer speed figure makes him one of the slowest, if not the slowest, 3-year-olds on the Derby trail. In five career starts he hasn’t been able to run faster than a mediocre “5” Thoro-Graph number, which he has run four times without showing any improvement. So how did he get a 99 Brisnet figure in the Sam F. Davis Stakes? The truth is he’s an anomaly. His sire has been a ubiquitous presence among the Derby pedigrees, but is not known for siring speed horses. His broodmare sire won the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes, but he is by a champion sprinter and two-time Met-Mile winner. His dam won a couple of small sprint stakes in California and his next four dams either were unraced or ran at small Midwestern tracks in Ohio and Michigan. His second dam is by an Arkansas-bred sire named Dmitri, who ran only once, but his third dam is by Temperence Hill, winner of the Belmont, Travers, Jockey Club Gold Cup, and Suburban Handicap. So is he really as fast as he looks visually or is he as slow as most of his speed figures indicate? Hopefully we’ll know more in the Blue Grass Stakes.


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

I loved everything about his five-furlong work in :59 2/5, and he followed that up with an easier breeze in 1:00 2/5 in company with the focus more on coming home fast and a strong gallop out. Joseph got his final quarter :23. If those works are an indication of what we’re going to see in the Florida Derby he’s ready for a big effort. Here is another horse whose pedigree is a bit of an enigma even though his two grandsires, Tapit and Into Mischief, are arguably the two most influential stallions in the country. His sire Race Day was a pretty solid racehorse, winning the Oaklawn Handicap, Fayette Stakes, and Razorback Handicap. Although he hasn’t done much as a stallion he is the sire of another Derby contender in Barber Road. Race Day’s female family boasts top names such as More Than Ready, In Reality, Key to the Mint, and Graustark. White Abarrio’s dam did nothing on the racetrack and is a half-sister to the pure sprinter Cool Cowboy. There isn’t a lot to say about the rest of his female family, so to me he is still a bit of an unknown when it comes to how far he wants to go. It wouldn’t surprise me either way. With him it is about whether he is as good as he looked in the Holy Bull Stakes and if he can repeat that performance jumping into the Grade 1 Florida Derby off a two-month layoff.


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

Hopefully the slight fever that forced him to miss a workout will not affect his Santa Anita Derby status. Last week I discussed the speed and stamina in his pedigree. I will go over it again, but keep in mind that as of now it is the speed that has been dominant, and I’m talking about serious sprint speed. Two races back in the Bob Hope Stakes he was way too headstrong early, fighting the rider while setting blazing fractions of :21 2/5 an :43 1/5 and looking nothing at all like a Derby horse. In his two-turn debut in a very weak San Felipe Stakes field, he just shot to the lead and buried his overmatched opponents with fractions of :22 3/5 and :45 4/5. People in general have fallen in love with him as a Derby horse, but we’ll know more after he takes on Messier in the Santa Anita Derby. So once again here is a look at both sides of his pedigree. His raw speed combined with a pedigree that has pure sprinters Five Star Day, Carson City, and Mt. Livermore in his first three generations on the dam side and his dam being very fast in her own right was enough to convince me he was a one-dimensional speedball with sprinters dominating his female family. Upon further study of his pedigree, I will say that there is a bit of a chance he can stretch his speed out. First off, his broodmare sire Five Star Day’s dam is by Vanlandingham, who won the 1 ½-mile Jockey Club Gold Cup, as well as the Suburban Handicap and Washington D.C. International. Forbidden Kingdom’s third dam Til Forbid placed in the Alabama and Kentucky Oaks and is by Temperence Hill, who won the Belmont Stakes, Jockey Club Gold Cup, Travers, and Suburban. And you can’t forget the fact that Forbidden Kingdom’s sire is a Triple Crown winner. Mandella said one of the colt’s main attributes is his intelligence, so we’ll see if he is able to harness some of that raw speed without taking away his main weapon.


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

When you look at More Than Ready and Hard Spun you naturally might think speed and rightly so. But even though More Than Ready is known more for siring horses running short on the grass, he did recently sire Travers and Belmont Derby winner Catholic Boy. And as for Hard Spun, yes he was fast and his only Grade 1 score came at seven furlongs, but he did finish second in the Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup Classic and his dam is by the distance-loving Turkoman, out of a half-sister to Preakness and Belmont winner Little Current. Emmanuel’s dam is a half sister to Free Drop Billy, winner of the Breeders’ Futurity and placed in the Blue Grass, Gotham, and Holy Bull Stakes, and to Hawkbill, winner of the Eclipse Stakes, Dubai Sheema Classic, and Princess of Wales’s Stakes. His second dam, Trensa is by Giant’s Causeway and is a half sister to Grade 1 Ballerina winner Serape, a daughter of Fappiano, out of the multiple Grade 1-placed Mochila, a half-sister to champion grass horse Cozzene owned and bred by John Nerud. So there is a good mixture of mile speed and solid mile and a quarter stamina on both grass and dirt. As of now that seems to be right in Emmanuel’s range. Coming off his terrible trip in the Fountain of Youth, you can bet he has grown up quite a bit and is ready to take a big step forward, and it’s been decided that will be in the Blue Grass Stakes.


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

Finally back on the work tab, going a half in :49 2/5 in company with Emmanuel. He is such a forgotten horse following his scratch in the Fountain of Youth Stakes if he should return with a victory in the Wood Memorial his stock could very well rise more than any other horse, as he has always been regarded as a leading Derby contender. He is already proven at 1 1/8 miles with his narrow victory over Zandon in the Remsen Stakes and there is nothing in his pedigree to indicate he won’t get another eighth of a mile, especially with his consistent closing punch. Uncle Mo has sired horses who can do pretty much anything at any distance, and in addition to being the leading stallion of graded stakes winners in 2020, he sired 2016 Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist. Mo Donegal’s second dam, Island Sand, won the Acorn and Delaware Handicap and placed in the Kentucky Oaks, Mother Goose, and Fantasy Stakes. In 2007, she sold at Keeneland for $4.2 million in foal to A. P. Indy. Island Sand’s sire Tabasco Cat won the Preakness and Belmont Stakes and her dam is by Forty Niner, winner of the Travers and Haskell Invitational. All Mo Donegal has to worry about now is bouncing back off a nine-week layoff and improving on his speed figures, especially his last three Thor-Graph numbers of “6,” “6 ½” and “6,” which are pretty pedestrian for this late date.


12– Early Voting (Chad Brown, Gun Runner – Amour d’ete, By Tiznow)

His pathetic 74 Beyer speed figure in the Withers Stakes has been lifted 14 points to an 88 because of the big efforts of two beaten horses, Un Ojo and Grantham, since that race, which was almost two months ago. So if you got turned off by that sloth-like Withers number and didn’t bet him in the Future Wager because of that, tough luck. He suddenly has become much faster. You can’t blame Beyer. Who they beat is an integral part of the system. But as you can see, it is far from flawless, so remember that the next time you swear by the numbers. What is true today may not be true tomorrow, although I can’t remember a figure changing this dramatically. For two months his figure was totally out of whack. As I mentioned, when he was a youngster at the farm, he was considered more muscular and compact than the typical Gun Runners, who are more long and lean and look like stayers. A few minor vet issues at 2 caused him to sell for a lower price than expected. But pedigree-wise he is all stamina, with his sire and broodmare sire accounting for three Breeders’ Cup Classic victories, and any horse who can win his career debut going head and head at a flat mile and then draw off and follow that up with a dominating victory going 1 1/8 miles over a deep tiring muddy track has to have a solid foundation despite having only two starts. His female family is very strong, with broodmare sire Tiznow. His third dam is by Chieftain, a half-brother to major stamina influence Tom Rolfe and his fourth dam is by Buckpasser. To show how diverse his pedigree is, his dam is a full-sister to the ill-fated Irap, winner of the Blue Grass Stakes, Ohio Derby, and Indiana Derby and third in the Travers, and a half-sister to champion sprinter Speightstown.


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

Worked five furlongs in a bullet :58 4/5 in company with Smile Happy, who maintained a slight advantage to the wire and on the gallop-out. After his lackluster performance in the Fountain of Youth Stakes, which was a questionable spot for his 3-year-old debut, he now finds himself in a much more suitable spot in the Louisiana Derby going 1 3/16 miles down one of the longest stretches in the country, which should suit his strong closing kick. A second-place finish would be good enough to put him back on track, but he has to get a lot out of the race to make up for that stroll in the Fountain of Youth. As for his pedigree, he will run all day. His sire, Connect, a son of Curlin out of a Holy Bull mare, won the Cigar Mile and Pennsylvania Derby. He has a great combination of stamina and speed top and bottom. His second dam is by Jockey Club Gold Cup and Suburban Handicap winner Pleasant Tap, who is by major stamina influence, Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Pleasant Colony, a son of the Ribot stallion His Majesty. Pleasant Tap’s broodmare sire is another major stamina influence, Belmont winner Stage Door Johnny. Rattle N Roll’s third dam Dance Review produced two Grade 1 winners and is out of Dumfries, a half-sister to the top-class racehorse and champion sire Lyphard and the Vaguely Noble filly Nobiliary, who has the unique distinction of finishing second in the English Derby and then coming to America where she won the Washington D.C. International against a star-studded field. She is the only filly since 1916 to place in the Derby. All Rattle N Roll needs now is to just get in that starting gate on the first Saturday in May and let him take it from there.


14– Slow Down Andy (Doug O’Neill, Nyquist – Edwina, by Square Eddie)

He worked a sharp six furlongs in 1:12 2/5 in company from the gate for Sunday’s Sunland Park Derby. He looks like he’s matured quite a bit, keeping his head perfectly straight, and drew well clear of his stablemate despite being under a loose rein and not being asked in the slightest. He continued strong after the wire pulling some 10 lengths clear of his stablemate. He’ll be wearing blinkers for the first time and looks like he’s sitting on a huge race. The Sunland Derby is a good spot for him to get his head straight and show he has matured. He doesn’t need to face Messier and Forbidden Kingdom right now. He just needs to run a professional race, beat this bunch and earn enough points to get in the Derby field, because it could set him up for a peak performance on the first Saturday in May. This race won’t prove whether he’s good enough, but once he’s in that gate you never know. He is by Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist and his pedigree has a good mixture of speed and stamina. From a personal standpoint, after I became obsessed with horse racing, the first four colts I fell in love with were Damascus, Dr. Fager, Arts and Letters, and His Majesty, and all four are in his pedigree, so I do admit to having a soft spot for his bloodlines.


15– Pioneer of Medina (Todd Pletcher. Pioneerof the Nile — Lights of Medina, by Eskendereya)

He will try to find a place for himself in the Derby picture when he takes on Epicenter in the Louisiana Derby. Pioneer of Medina’s pedigree is loaded with stamina and there should be no problem getting the 1 3/16 miles and then the 1 ¼ miles. He is yet another with Giant’s Causeway in his pedigree. But he showed good speed in the Risen Star Stakes chasing Epicenter, and because of the slow pace he had a lot left in the stretch and battled Smile Happy and Zandon to the wire. His dam won a 1 1/16-mile stakes at Laurel and was second in the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes, and his third dam was a Grade 1 winner in Chile. He would have been an interesting horse for the Wood Memorial, as both his grandsires, Empire Maker and Eskendereya, won that race. With a huge Thoro-Graph leap from a “10 ½” to a “3,” there is no telling if he will regress off such a big jump or he is improving that quickly.


16– Call Me Midnight (Keith Desormeaux, Midnight Lute – Overseen, by First Defence)

He has a tricky pedigree that has speed and stamina throughout. It’s still hard to categorize his sire Midnight Lute, who was only a sprinter because of a breathing problem. Call Me Midnight sure ran like distance should not be an issue when he closed fast to nail Epicenter in the final strides in the Lecomte Stakes at 28-1. The race was set up for him, with Epicenter going too fast early, and we’ll see if he can duplicate that late run with a different pace and coming off a nine-week layoff. His broodmare sire First Defence was a Grade 1 winning sprinter, as was First Defence’s dam Honest Lady, who was narrowly beaten in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. But Call Me Midnight’s tail-female family has plenty of stamina through his third dam, English Oaks runner-up Slightly Dangerous and her sire English Derby winner Roberto. Slightly Dangerous also is the dam of Commander in Chief, winner of the English and Irish Derbys, and Call Me Midnight’s second dam Jibe, is a stakes winner at 1 ¼ miles in England. Call Me Midnight’s fifth dam, Noblesse, a daughter of champion sire Mossborough, was 2-year-old filly champion in England. So this is a good mix of American speed and European stamina.



I hated dropping IN DUE TIME off the Rankings, but I will leave him knocking on the door until he shows up on the work tab, as it’s been over two weeks since the Fountain of Youth and I have been unable to find out his current status or what race he’s pointing for. Once we know more he will return to the rankings. If he works in the next couple of days, here is his comment: The third of the Not This Time trio of Derby contenders, In Due Time has some influential names in his pedigree, such as broodmare sire Curlin, but with names like Sultry Song, Inverness Drive, Crozier, End Sweep, Trippi, Great Above, and Aloha Mood it should not come as a big surprise that he is a complete outcross through five generations. There seems to be enough there to get him the mile and a quarter, but it sure wouldn’t hurt to have the talent to help push him along. His big concern is reversing that significant drop from a “3” to a “6” on his Thoro-Graph numbers and improving his 91 Brisnet figure.

Whatever is happening with MESSIER and all the Bob Baffert horses, we still have to acknowledge them until we know something official. But time is running out. We know Messier, who worked a half in :48 3/5, is going to take a lot of beating  in the Santa Anita Derby. But don’t overlook his stablemate, San Felipe runner-up DOPPELGANGER, who turned in a sensational six-furlong work Sunday in 1:10 4/5 and is definitely on the improve. Don’t be surprised to see him show up in the Arkansas Derby and that $1.25 million purse. Whatever PINEHURST does in Saturday’s UAE Derby don’t expect it to put him on the Derby trail. But one colt who could hit the Derby trail with a big effort in Dubai is GILDED AGE, who, like Un Ojo and Grantham, is coming out of the live Withers Stakes, where he finished a fast-closing third. The son of Medaglia d’Oro has put in two explosive runs since trainer Bill Mott added blinkers.

Brad Cox is looking for big improvement from CYBERKNIFE, who worked five furlongs in 1:00 flat, in the Arkansas Derby. “He’s a tough horse to deal with, he always has been,” Cox said. “He’s gotten faster and appears to be improving. I thought his last race was a step forward. He got a really good figure in the last race. I think it’s going to stack up and probably be one of the better ones in the Arkansas Derby, and if he runs that race I think he’s a player.” Cox could have been alluding to the colt’s huge Thoro-Graph jump from an “8 ¾” to “3 ¼.” Also pointing for the Arkansas Derby are three locals coming out of the Rebel Stakes, UN OJO, BARBER ROAD, and CHASING TIME, as well as recent impressive allowance winner CALL ME JAMAL, who worked five furlongs in 1:01, out in 1:14. Barber Road worked a half in :48 1/5 in company, out in 1:01 and pulling up six furlongs in 1:14 4/5.

It will be interesting to see how GALT does in the Louisiana Derby after throwing his rider trying to avoid the fallen High Oak in the Fountain of Youth. In that race, Galt was moving up from last, but in his previous race he set the early pace, so who knows where he’ll be running on Saturday. The same can be said for the Cox-trained ZOZOS, who has shown early speed, but trying to run with Epicenter is another story, especially for a horse with only two career starts.

Speaking of HIGH OAK, he has a slight filling and if he’s not 100 percent for the Wood Memorial he could very well go in the Pat Day Mile and then the Preakness. But the Travers is the main goal, so they are not going to rush him now.

Mark Casse still has several on the Derby trail. PAPPACAP, who is coming off two strong works after his Fountain of Youth debacle, including a :59 flat drill Saturday, will try to bounce back in the Florida Derby. The improving VOLCANIC and GOLDEN GLIDER will point for the Bluegrass Stakes, with the Wood Memorial another option for either one. And synthetic specialist GOD OF LOVE will run in the Jeff Ruby Steaks.

Trainer Ed Barker said he will wheel SHIPSATIONAL back in the Florida Derby following his third-place finish in the Tampa Bay Derby. “We got hung out really wide on both turns and you absolutely cannot win being wide on both turns,” he said. “I’m pleased with how he ran. He tried, and if we had an inside post it would have been a lot different. We’ll take our shot there and if we get enough points that’s fine. If not, Plan B.” Coming back in three weeks I don’t have to train him hard. If we’re fortunate enough to get enough points it’s five weeks to the Kentucky Derby which is perfect.”

TIZ THE BOMB had another strong work for the Jeff Ruby Steaks, drilling a half in :47 flat at Keeneland. O CAPTAIN, a fast-closing third in the Fountain of Youth at 87-1, worked five furlongs in 1:01 for the Florida Derby. The speedy STRAIGHT UP G remains sharp for the Sunland Derby, working five furlongs in :59 1/5. TRAFALGAR, who showed nothing in the Risen Star Stakes, returned to the work tab with an easy half in :50 1/5.


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