Secretariat

Derby Rankings: Week 12

The big weekend of final preps that was supposed to clear up the Derby picture hardly accomplished that as we lost several of the old faces and added several new ones, including a megabomb that no one saw coming. So, now with only four weeks to the Derby here is the roster that has been assembled…with even more question marks. As you will see, I am not taking the conventional path when it comes to who reigns atop the Rankings. This is not the year to be boring. ~ Steve Haskin

Derby Rankings: Week 12, Apr. 5

By Steve Haskin

1. Rock Your World (John Sadler, Candy Ride – Charm the Maker, by Empire Maker)
In the 22 years I’ve been doing Derby Dozen and Derby Rankings I have never had a tougher time deciding who to put No. 1. It all comes down to this: Essential Quality is an undefeated champion who is the most logical No. 1. Known Agenda has already had the top spot and is a horse I have been high on from day one. But despite having only three career starts, Rock Your World is the one horse who possesses freakish qualities you rarely see. I am looking at him as a horse who has had more than three starts because I have never seen a horse gallop out after a race the way he does and comes back as if he wants to go around again. He possesses a remarkable engine with numerous gears. In the Santa Anita Derby he used one gear to run his opponents off their feet early, another to quickly separate himself from the stalking Medina Spirit and Parnelli on the turn, and several more in the stretch as he kept changing leads and surging forward each time. After setting a wicked pace, he seemed to get stronger the farther he went, running through the wire and opening up at least 15 lengths on the gallop-out. After returning, jockey Umberto Rispoli had to tug hard on the reins to get him to pull up. And he still is raw, as he demonstrated when he needed Rispoli to help him change leads, and then when the rider hit him right-handed and looked back over his shoulder, he jumped back to his left lead and surged again as he did in the Pasadena. It’s as if he uses lead changes to find another gear. This horse is just different, which is why I have had him ranked so high off two starts and never having run on dirt. Physically, he is a beast and he’s doing things ordinary horses just don’t do. As I concluded in last week’s comment, “He could be special and we very well may be seeing a huge breakout performance on Saturday.” That we did. And for those who follow it, he is now the only one among the Derby hopefuls to earn a 100 Beyer this year.

2. Known Agenda (Todd Pletcher, Curlin – Byrama, by Byron)
It was tough dropping him to No. 2, but it’s almost a dead-heat. When a horse has been running Thoro-Graph numbers of “11” and makes a giant leap to a “3 1/2″ there are several factors to consider. In this case, making such a dramatic improvement you have to ask, was it due to the addition of blinkers? Was it due to the addition of Lasix? Will he regress coming off Lasix in his first Grade 1 stakes? Will he simply “bounce” off a figure that he’s never come close to running before? Well, all those questions became moot when he not only didn’t regress he took another jump forward running a “1 1/2.” So now we know this horse is on a strong upward trend. As for his pedigree, in this day and age where speed rules, he is a rarity with points in both the stamina categories of his Dosage Profile. His granddam comes from one of the strongest European sires lines of modern times, from her sire Darshaan, who won the French Derby and was a champion sire and broodmare sire in three countries to Darshaan’s sire Shirley Heights, who the English and Irish Derby and sired a French Derby winner and English Derby winner in back-to-back years to Shirley Heights’ sire, the legendary Mill Reef, winner of the English Derby, King George, and Arc de Triomphe, whose record of six consecutive Group 1 victories stood for 30 years and who sired eight classic winners and a Breeders’ Cup Turf winner. Known Agenda also is inbred to the English Derby winner Sir Ivor, and his tail-female family traces to Nijinsky II, the last horse to sweep the English Triple Crown. With Curlin on top the mile and a quarter should be a piece of cake. Think of him as Antares, one of the four white Arabians in the movie Ben Hur. The sheikh who owns him acknowledges he’s not as fast as the other three, but “he will run all day without tiring.” It is time for a resurgence of stamina on the first Saturday in May and this is the guy to do it.

3. Essential Quality (Brad Cox, Tapit – Delightful Quality, by Elusive Quality)
I am fully aware it is sacrilegious to have him ranked No. 3, especially considering he is an undefeated champion and his Blue Grass victory was exactly the prep he needed for the Kentucky Derby, where he no doubt will be favored unless Concert Tour does something exceptional in the Arkansas Derby. With only one easy victory in the slop in five months he needed to have a tough race, and what made this a perfect prep is that he fought hard to beat a very good horse by a neck and most important there was a 5 1/2-length gap back to the third horse. His closing fractions of :23 4/5, :23 4/5, and :12 2/5, with a final three-eighths in :36 1/5 were very strong. The bottom line is that he is the logical and deserving Derby favorite, but this just isn’t the year I want to put a favorite on top, so I am just looking to latch onto something special and stand by my early convictions regarding the merits of the Top 2 horses. Essential Quality is still the only 3-year-old to run a negative Thoro-Graph number and I would expect to see another fast number in the Blue Grass. And as I have been mentioning all year, he has proven to be a horse you can put anywhere depending on the pace, whether on the lead, stalking the pace, or six or seven lengths back. In short you cannot plan strategy against him. But it has to be mentioned that no Blue Grass winner has won the Derby in 30 years.

4. Concert Tour (Bob Baffert, Street Sense – Purse Strings, by Tapit)
Judging from the prospective field for the Arkansas Derby he should be another going into the Kentucky Derby undefeated. He does need to continue to move forward and improve his Thoro-Graph numbers, but I doubt there is anyone who believes that won’t happen. He definitely is still a work in progress. He turned in another strong work, going six furlongs in 1:12 4/5 in the fog and working alone. He had his ears up the entire length of the stretch with the rider way up in the saddle and really poured it on after the wire, putting his ears back and picking up the pace. Baffert has always been very high on this colt and we will see how he adapts if they change tactics with the speedy Caddo River and let him roll this time. This not a horse who needs the lead and I am looking forward to seeing how he runs sitting off the pace, just as I was when American Pharoah ran in the Arkansas Derby and showed he was capable of winning that way. This is not the Derby you want a one-dimensional horse with so many tactical speed horses in there. After next week everything will be sorted out and we should have a better idea where all these horses should be ranked.

5. Greatest Honour (Shug McGaughey, Tapit – Tiffany’s Honour, by Street Cry)
Yes, he’s down to No. 5 for now, but we’re talking five-horse photo and he is still the horse I will be betting, but now as an overlay instead of a favorite. I just can’t rank him above the top 4. What I don’t understand is all the panicking over one defeat. Horses have bad days for various reasons. I mentioned last week he had run at least one race in every month since September, including a mile and eighth race last fall over a deep tiring track, and this year ran too fast, too good, too early. There was no way he could keep moving forward every race after the Holy Bull. If you believe in blessings in disguise, consider this: if he had won the Florida Derby he would have gone into the Kentucky Derby off three consecutive two-turn graded stakes victories on dirt as a 3-year-old. The last time a horse did that and won the Derby was 42 years ago and his name was Spectacular Bid. Heck, four of the last five Triple Crown winners didn’t do it. Do you know how many horses have swept the Holy Bull, Fountain of Youth, and Florida Derby? That’s correct, none. I think we need to take a deep breath and give this horse a break. I am not saying he is going to win the Kentucky Derby and I’m not saying he isn’t regressing, but losing the Florida Derby with a poor ride is not a reason to dismiss him. Does anyone remember when Fountain of Youth and Florida Derby winner Thunder Gulch finished a dull fourth in the Blue Grass Stakes as the 6-5 favorite? He also was dismissed and the result was a $51 payoff at Churchill Downs on a horse who was the Derby favorite one race earlier. As Aaron Rodgers spelled out a few years ago after the Green Bay Packers lost several games: “R-E-L-A-X.” There is a reason he was ranked No. 1 for eight straight weeks and if you liked him before you’re going to feel awful foolish if he wins the Derby at a big price and you went off him.

6. Highly Motivated (Chad Brown, Into Mischief – Strong Incentive, by Warrior’s Reward)
I’m still not positive a mile and quarter will be his strength, but he ran a sensational race in the Blue Grass Stakes in his two-turn debut, setting all the pace and holding on doggedly to make Essential Quality work like he’s never had to work before. But this was a wacky race with the first three-quarters run in 1:12 and the deep closers Rombauer and Keepmeinmind running third and fourth only two lengths off the lead. But when the pace quickened, he and Essential Quality left the others far behind. It looked like only a question of how far Essential Quality would win by as they hit the top of the stretch. But Highly Motivated wouldn’t quit. He kept battling back and switched back to his left lead at the sixteenth pole, just falling a neck short. It might have been different if he didn’t drift out from left-handed whipping forcing Essential Quality out. Instead of being inches apart with Essential Quality unable to get by him, they were now several paths apart with Essential Quality no longer having to look him in the eye. With Highly Motivated now on his wrong lead he just failed to hold off the champ, who got his neck in front right before the wire. He is another horse who I believe doesn’t need the lead, but coming off one-turn races and with no pace at all it was the right move.

7. Hot Rod Charlie (Doug O’Neill, Oxbow – Ind1an Miss, by Indian Charlie)
He breezed a half in :49 2/5, staying busy before the serious training begins. Does anyone else feel as if the Louisiana Derby was a long time ago? It’s pretty amazing how many horses who really aren’t need-the-lead types have set the pace in Derby preps, including him, Rock Your World, Concert Tour, Highly Motivated, Medina Spirit, Soup and Sandwich, and Midnight Bourbon. Who knows who is going to set the pace in the Derby? Maybe UAE Derby runner-up Panadol. This colt has proven his versatility and was 94-1 when he came from seventh and put quite a scare in Essential Quality in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. He has proven that was no fluke, and like Essential Quality he can beat you from anywhere on the track. And his trainer has proven on more than one occasion he knows how to win the Kentucky Derby. Whether he is a true mile and a quarter horse we won’t know until the first Saturday in May, something I guess you can say about a lot of them. But he gives 100 percent every time and you know you’re in a race when you go up against him.

8. Midnight Bourbon (Steve Asmussen, Tiznow – Catch to Moon, by Malibu Moon)
He had his first work over the Churchill Downs track, breezing five furlongs in a sharp 1:01 1/5. Of the possible Derby pacesetters mentioned above, who is the one most likely to be ignored and left alone on an easy lead? It would have to be him, as his wire-to-wire victory in the LeComte Stakes has been long forgotten by most people and in his last two starts racing just off the pace he didn’t have the closing kick to get the job done. So in my opinion there is little strategy to discuss. You have to go for the lead either at the start and lull them to sleep or get the lead fairly early in the race. I have seen so many horses who cannot catch anyone in the stretch, but are hard to pass once on the lead. He is maturing physically, and being by Tiznow, his most powerful weapon appears to be tenacity and the ability to not let horses get by him in the stretch. One thing is for sure, he will be forgotten at the windows and will be a huge price for a horse who knows how to battle and has never finished out of the money in seven starts, five of them in graded stakes. He’s just a good horse to keep in the back of your mind on Derby Day.

9. Dynamic One (Todd Pletcher, Unon Rags – Beat the Drums, by Smart Strike)
You can bet he’s going to get a faster Thoro-Graph number than the winner in the Wood Memorial, which he appeared to have won, but just got nipped on the wire after losing a lot of ground on the first turn and racing wide throughout. According to Trakus, he ran 43 feet farther than the winner, indicating that with a ground-saving trip he would have won by many lengths. He still showed a good turn of foot sweeping by horses on the far turn to reach contention. He kept on determinedly, but all that ground loss eventually took its toll. And it didn’t help that the track was so ridiculously slow. That takes a lot out of a horse, which is why I believe several of the favorites ran poorly. It is not an ideal way to prep for the Derby and can very well dull a horse. Aqueduct in early April often is slow, but not this slow. As for Dynamic One, I fell in love with him off a fourth in a maiden race, in which he had a horrendous trip but showed me all the signs of a top-class horse. I was just waiting for him to get that maiden win out of the way, which he did on a similar slow track, and I felt he had a big shot to move forward several lengths in the Wood. He has a tremendous pedigree, but it’s just a question of whether he is fast enough now to win the Derby. He surely has the bottom under him and is dead fit. He may be more of a Belmont horse, but I still feel with a good trip he can make his presence felt in the Derby.

10. Soup and Sandwich (Casse, Into Mischief – Souper Scoop, by Tapit)
He is yet another work in progress and another Into Mischief. His sons are running amok on the Derby trail and you just never know how far they want to go. Like several of the lightly raced horses this year he is doing things he shouldn’t be doing for a green horse who hasn’t figured it out yet. He showed that with his powerful runner-up effort in the Florida Derby coming off two races in which he made enough mistakes to last an entire career. But Casse got him to run much more professionally and he was able to carry his speed farther than one might have thought at that point in his career. The Derby might be a race or two too early for him, but he has to be respected. I believe once he becomes more polished we will see a very good horse who will win his share of stakes. His owner Charlotte Weber is old school and a true sportswoman and next year it will be 40 years since she finished second in the Derby with longshot Laser Light.

11. Bourbonic (Todd Pletcher, Bernardini – Dancing Afleet, by Afleet Alex)
So he was coming off of Lasix, and coming off a $50,000 claiming race and a starter allowance optional claimer for horses who had run in a claiming race and he wins the Wood Memorial at 72-1 coming from far back with an powerful stretch run after trailing the field until inside the three-sixteenths pole. Does that sound like a Todd Pletcher-trained horse to you? I believe part of it is that many of the leading contenders were spinning their wheels on that deep track and never fired, resulting in a :39 1/5 final three-eighths, the slowest mile and an eighth stakes on the card, which earned him a slow 89 Beyer speed figure. But to his credit he did come home his final three-eighths in a respectable :37 1/5. Don’t ask me what to make of this horse or this race, but one thing is certain and that is he has an amazing pedigree with a ton of class and stamina, and his sire and broodmare sire are remembered for scoring two of the most impressive Preakness victories we’ve seen in a long time. He also has improved dramatically with blinkers. Who knows, maybe he was just treading water until he was able to stretch out to a mile and an eighth. If that is the case, what is going to happen when he stretches out to a mile and a quarter? We can just envision the list of Derby winners that bore the name of Calumet Farm: Citation, Whirlaway, Iron Liege, Tim Tam, Bourbonic.

12. Medina Spirit (Bob Baffert, Protonico – Mongolian Changa, by Brilliant Speed)
He is certainly consistent and he has been running in top company all year, but he has yet to show he has enough weapons to win the Kentucky Derby. He has excellent tactical speed but not much of a closing punch, so I’m not sure what tactics he would use. But he has earned his way into the big race and deserves a shot at it, especially considering he has never finished out of the money and has proven he is a fighter on the lead. He was always in perfect position in the Santa Anita Derby, stalking a fast pace set by Rock Your World, but when the winner accelerated on the far turn he could not match strides with him, and like in the San Felipe he got the best of Dream Shake in the final furlong for second. Look, there is nothing wrong with running hard in big stakes and picking up a check each time. His victories will come; it just doesn’t have to be in the Kentucky Derby.

KNOCKING ON THE DOOR

Getting back to ROCK YOUR WORLD, it has to be mentioned that his was bred by Ron and Debbie McAnally. Here is a Hall of Fame trainer who had the legendary John Henry 40 years ago and is approaching his 90th birthday with a leading Kentucky Derby contender that he bred thanks to his breeding right to the brilliant Candy Ride, who he saddled to a track record-breaking performance in the Pacific Classic. “This is so incredible to be able to breed a horse like this,” Debbie said. “But all the credit goes to my man. He picks out all the matings.” They knew this colt could be special before they sold him because he was such an imposing individual whose measurements revealed an outstanding physical specimen, as we saw on Saturday. “Even at age 89, Ron is out at the track every morning unless I’m able to lasso him in,” Debbie continued. “But it’s in his blood and keeps him young. This is all about hopes and dreams and we certainly have both.”

One other statistic regarding the Santa Anita Derby: Rock Your World set fractions of :22 3/5, :46, 1:10 3/5, and 1:36 1/5. By comparison the fractions of the Santa Anita Oaks run earlier were :24 1/5, :49 1:13, and 1:38. That those fractions took nothing out of him and he galloped out in another area code tells you all you need to know about this colt.

HELIUM – Can we call him 13A as part of the Derby Baker’s Dozen? He belongs with the others mentioned in the last five spots, but I have been saying for a while he has so much history to overcome with the eight-week layoff, having only one start at 3, and never having run farther than 1 1/16 miles He will be attempting something that has not been accomplished in over 100 years. But I do have to say I love his works, especially his most recent five-furlong drill in 1:01 2/5 at Palm Meadows in which he was strong from the beginning. He runs hard and always seems very determined, which no doubt helped him battle back in the stretch to win the Tampa Bay Derby going away. We’ll keep monitoring his works closely and leave it up to Mark Casse to figure out a way to pull this off.

MANDALOUN – Despite his dull effort in the Louisiana Derby, he is at Churchill Downs and worked a half in :49 4/5 for the Kentucky Derby. Trainer Brad Cox could offer no excuse at Fair Grounds saying he simply ran out of gas. After talking it over with the Juddmonte brass they are going to throw the race out and if he continues to train well he will run in the Derby. They have always been very high on this colt, which makes his performance even more puzzling. Might as well give him another shot with six weeks to regroup.

CADDO RIVER – While on the subject of throwing a race out, Brad Cox will also be doing it for Caddo River after his disappointing effort in the Rebel Stakes when he wasn’t asked to challenge Concert Tour for the early lead and fought his rider, eventually fading out of contention. He will get another chance in Saturday’s Arkansas Derby and certainly is still sharp, working five furlongs in company in 1:00 1/5, galloping out six furlongs in 1:13 2/5. Expect different tactics this time.

PROXY – Mike Stidham said he’s been a puzzle and he had to make a positive visual move forward to continue on to Kentucky, which he didn’t. So his inclination was to not run in the Derby. Although his Ragozin and Thoro-Graph numbers were career bests and he is progressing in his overall development, Stidham doesn’t want to force him into the Derby. He did turn in a swift half-mile work in a bullet :46 4/5, fastest of 64 works at the distance. He probably will need points if they do want to give him a shot, so watch for him to show up in Saturday’s Lexington Stakes, which would also give him one last shot to get his act together and stop lugging out in the stretch every race.

O BESOS – He looks to have little chance of getting in with 25 points. Although there is still the Lexington Stakes with enough points to possibly get him in the Derby, they have decided to sit pat, with the worst case scenario being a start in the Pat Day Mile on Derby Day as one of the favorites. Greg Foley and his son and assistant Travis were thrilled with his performance in the Louisiana Derby, where he got the fastest Thoro-Graph number in the race, a “2 3/4.” They realize he is still immature physically and growing and improving every day. He certainly belongs in the Derby off that performance, which came up a head short of putting him in the starting gate. But it’s a long year and he has a bright future.

Four horses definitely in the Derby if their connections wish to go are REBEL’S ROMANCE and PANADOL, one-two in the UAE Derby, and LIKE THE KING and SAINTHOOD, one-two in the Jeff Ruby Steaks. Panadol, who was a late Triple Crown nominee, would be the natural pacesetter.

HIDDEN STASH with 32 points continues to run well, but not quite well enough, and the same can be said of ROMBAUER with 34 points, although it was a surprise to see him so close to the lead in the Blue Grass. It was no surprise to see a brilliant but lightly raced and untested PREVALENCE struggle on that deep track in the Wood. He will move on to bigger and better things. But there seemed to be no excuse for RISK TAKING, who was never in the race. CROWDED TRADE and WEYBURN ran OK, but below expectations. Crowded Trade had every chance in the stretch, but couldn’t sustain his run. In California, DREAM SHAKE picked up another piece of the purse, but doesn’t seem quite ready to move forward in the Derby.

In addition to Concert Tour and Caddo River, the Arkansas Derby will have Rebel runner-up HOZIER along with other California invaders GET HER NUMBER and possibly ROMAN CENTURIAN, who scratched from the Santa Anita Derby. Also expected are SUPER STOCK and the Dallas Stewart-trained LAST SAMURAI, who is taking a wild shot to try to get a small piece of it.

Leave a Reply

660 Responses to “Derby Rankings: Week 12”

  1. Brudder Andrusha says:

    I believe that Weyburn, another Top 20 qualifier is bypassing the Kentucky Derby and targeting the Belmont Stakes.

  2. Jeff says:

    With knowledge know that GH wasn’t himself, who did known agenda actually beat? Does it downgrade the performance?

    • Steve Haskin says:

      To be honest, I dont know who anyone has beaten

      • Jeff says:

        LOL! True! I go back to MS beating HRC who beat the Louisiana Derby field. RYW beat up on MS so your ranking is probably very accurate….

      • Davids says:

        Steve, that is too funny. I find it hilarious reading various posters stating that “such and such” is no good because he’s beaten nobody but “so and so” is the best because he’s my favorite. Lol. No evidence, just subjective opinion. That’s horse racing though. Lol.

    • EddieF says:

      Did the injury follow the running of the race? Or was the performance the result of an injury? There’s nothing that’s been written so far to answer that question.

      • Steve Haskin says:

        My guess is that it was building up

      • perimeister says:

        I believe the injury is better conceived as a repetitive stress related, than as a result of a traumatic incident. Training causes stress on the bones, and Greatest Honor was restressing the bones before they fully recovered from the previous stress, so his bones were gradually building up weakness instead of strengthening through the remodeling.

  3. JC says:

    I was 10 years old climbing up onto the roof in the country to adjust the antenna for the TV to watch the final leg of the triple crown in 1973, with a scratchy black and white tv . My Uncle Ellis said this horse is something special. When he won the 3rd leg it was electric and I still remember all 3 races. I was hooked ! And I have followed the Derby and Crown trail ever since. This is the first time since I was 10 years old I’ve felt what I felt then. Rock My World ! He Romps in Derby !

  4. 7.5 Furlongs says:

    Steve H. –

    Todd Pletcher has four horse who qualify on KD points as of today. If Saturday’s results do not change the points standings,
    is Pletcher expected to run all four in Louisville? Thanks for any info on the subject.

    7.5 Furlongs

    • EddieF says:

      What’s funny about it is that, even if all four go to the Derby, it won’t be the most he’s ever sent in one year!

      • Steve Haskin says:

        Yeah, he ran five and they all finished out of the money.

        • EddieF says:

          That can’t be easy to do! 😉 But the next time he sent 5, he got the show with Revolutionary. The rest finished no better than 9th. It seems like when the owners say they want to go to the Derby, he doesn’t try to talk them out of it.

          • 7.5 Furlongs says:

            The lesson to be learned is that the creation of a monopoly, or something close to it, in sports or business competition does not guarantee success. I remember several decades ago when a famous race horse owner Nelson Bunker Hunt tried to corner, or monopolize, the market on silver and failed. Later, he declared bankruptcy and sold off his famous race horses to generate liquidity. It took him many years to recover and return to horse racing ownership, but he never reached the level of accomplishment of earlier years.

            It’s interesting that the four Pletcher horses were not even close to going off as favorites in their last races, in which they racked up their KD qualifying points. The off odds for the horses were 5-1, 72-1, 15-1, and about 10-1.

            Actually, I’m drawn more to the Turfway Park colt, Sainthood, who ran a troubled second in the Jeff Ruby Steaks race. Sainthood is lightly raced with upside. Don’t know much about his race speed figures, but his pedigree is good, but not great. Owned by Winstar and a business partner, if he goes in KD 2021, a good post position will help. He will go off at very high odds, and I will at least take a look at the tote board.

            • Steve Haskin says:

              Enticing to a bettor. A nightmare to a writer. No story, no good. Pletcher, WinStar not the human interest angle youre looking for. Would have to dig deep to find one.

  5. Nelson Maan says:

    The Derby trail, like every competition at the highest level, sometimes looks like a survival race … the survival of the 20 fittest in this case!

    If you take Steve’s very first Dozen of the year as a reference you could see that Essential Quality, Medina Spirit and Known Agenda are lasting as Derby entrants. Three horses are out due to injuries (Senor Buscador, Life is Good and Capo Kane (retired)), four horse went off form or were not good enough to get enough points (Keepmeinmind, Smiley Sobotka, Prime Factor and Roman Centurian) and Caddo River still has one opportunity to make it.

    So far, those less accomplished horses are replaced by Rock Your World, Concert Tour, Highly Motivated, Hot Rod Charlie, Midnight Bourbon, Dynamic One, Soup and Sandwich and Bourbonic. The first two did not run last year so they would not be in the initial ranking while the others took advantage of the final 100-point races.

    Historically, half of the initial 12 are not able to make it for different reasons being 2012 the most consistent year when ten (10) of the initial Dozen ran in the Derby.

    2014 was a year plagued with injuries. Top horses Cairo Prince, Top Billing, Shared Belief, Honor Code, Strong Mandate and Midnight Hawk were forced out of the Trail by injuries. Hoppertunity was not in the initial Dozen as he did not run as a 2-year-old but was an important scratch from the Derby due to a sore foot.

    We can say that the welfare of the Derby hopefuls has improved given the mild nature of the injuries this year.

    Anyways, the most important message here is that horsemen never take any chances with the health of their horses …!

  6. Seth says:

    Steve, thoughts on Highly Motivated’s pedigree? Think he can get the 10 furlongs? Was impressed by him and his numbers from the Bluegrass.

    • Steve Haskin says:

      It’s not an ideal 10f pedigree, but not bad enough that he cant win if he’s talented enough. Just not the kind of pedigree I look for in the Derby.

  7. Nelson Maan says:

    The unfortunate sidelining of Greatest Honour revives the topic of the attrition rate during the Derby Trail.

    Young horses are subjected to tremendous stress and strain while training for the Derby. Many horses take on too much physical activity too quickly during the four months leading to the first Saturday in May.

    The inability to withstand the stress of training causes the horses to go off form (fatigue), to go ill and/or to suffer injuries.
    A good Trainer knows his horses so well that he can promptly spot if something is amiss with them. Shug McGaughey was not happy with Greatest Honour demeanor after the Florida Derby. It has been reported that Greatest Honour’s got stress-related problems in his ankles…

    McGaughey’s judiciousness is evident in his statement: “…we came to the decision yesterday that we need to give him some time off, let him grow into himself.”

    The son of Tapit should be ready for Saratoga’s Jim Dandy and from there to the Travers…

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Is it too much stress and strain with many horses having two, maybe three starts, or too much stress and strain without having a proper 2-year-old foundation? Are our horses prepared for the stress and strain of the Derby trail to start their career without building foundation first? In Greatest Honour’s case he ran 1 1/8 miles then 1 1/16 miles then peaked in January at 1 1/16 miles. Then he regressed a little at 1 1/16 miles then regressed more at 1 1/8 miles. It is imperative that a 3yo does not peak in January. That Holy Bull was too big a race that early in the year, especially having never faced winners before. You cannot maintain that.

      • Laura Lanham says:

        I tend to agree that they need that 2 yr old foundation. Would have to try and find the research but some racing at 2 helps build the bones if I recall the article correctly. Don’t expect to see another Secretariat getting HOY at the age of 2 but good works in the morning are just not the same as racing in the afternoon. Sure they school them in the gate and the paddock to get them ready but it’s still a different experience for them come race day.

      • EddieF says:

        Absolutely right! Going back to 2000, not a single Derby winner won a major stakes prep in January. (Nyquist won the 7f San Vicente on 2/15/16; California Chrome won the state-bred Cal Cup Derby on 1/25/14; Smarty Jones won the ungraded Count Fleet on 1/3/04 and the ungraded Southwest on 2/28/04.]

    • Fave n Foil says:

      A mile and a quarter test for colts in the Spring of their 3yo year… with all the stress and pitfalls to just apply pressure to the breed. This is really the very paramount point of what we choose to involve ourselves here today… So Century’s later it is still the process of making the breed.

      Men of means and vision have gone before us with this overarching principle and objective in mind.

      The equine families restricted, charted and managed through the studbook is your empirical evidence of their overall intent to seize mother nature’s living clay and thru human will and resource throw a living art form to honor here on Earth… and it intrigues us still today. Are you not entertained? Be still and revel in time.

  8. EddieF says:

    Steve, if Concert Tour performs the equivalent of a game-winning 575-ft grand slam homer in the bottom of the ninth inning in a World Series, I won’t envy your dilemma. If you move CT up, does the champ EQ drop to 4th? Maybe you should rank them as 1A, 1B, 1C, and 1D, with the group of longshots starting at #5. The top 4 are the only ones so far that have a good (i.e., reasonable) shot at winning the Derby. Ranking any of them as #3 or #4 would be an injustice. Just a suggestion….

  9. Mary Ellen says:

    Aaaaarrrrrrrgggghhhhh! Just saw Shug decided to pull Greatest Honour from the Derby and give him 60 days off. I really liked that horse, although I’d also like him to have a long career and longer life. On a brighter note, just spotted a pileated woodpecker in my side yard.

    • Steve Haskin says:

      That is exciting, especially when you hear them, too. Magnificent birds. You must have lots of mature trees.

      • Mary Ellen says:

        We sure heard one hammering. So loud the one we could see flew away.

        • Laura Lanham says:

          Used to have a lot of them where I used to live. They looked very awkward to me when they flew through my woods. You may have some of the smaller breeds around as well.

          • Mary Ellen says:

            Yes, Laura, we have five different kinds of woodpeckers we’ve seen here in the New York Catskills: Downy, Hairy, Flicker, Red Belly, and pileated. Almost as rare and beautiful as Steve’s top five!

  10. 1JoeP says:

    Hello Steve, Proxy with Johnny V. aboard drew perfectly PP7 in a field of 10 in the Lexington. Proxy should be forward with his tactical speed and when given the cue by Johnny V. should dominate this field and punch his ticket to Louisville.

    • Steve Haskin says:

      He is certainly the class of the field. He just has to get rid of that bearing out. This is not about getting points; he has enough. This is all about how much he can improve professionally

    • Davids says:

      If Godolphin can pass the Kentucky Derby with Rebel’s Romance there wouldn’t be much hope for Proxy unless the colt wins overwhelmingly. Essential Quality looks more than capable of winning the Derby for them especially with the withdrawal of Greatest Honour.

      • Blake says:

        I’m baffled that in a year like this Godolphin passes on the Derby with RR. If They’re putting all their eggs in the EQ basket they’re going to be disappointed!

    • Betsy Tarr says:

      Dominate? I think Proxy should be the favorite, but by no means is he a lock. Michael Stidham doesn’t seem to have a lot of confidence in him.. that’s why he’s in this race; he wants Proxy to prove he belongs. Just by what he’s saying, it seems the colt is on the lazy side.

      The horse I’ve been waiting on is in here…….Unbridled Honor. Per Todd, he’s still figuring things out, but he is doing well. I loved the way he closed in the Tampa Bay Derby, and I think he has more improvement in him. I won’t predict that he’s going to win, but I think he’s going to run a big race.

  11. Porgy Kowalski says:

    I haven’t heard the diagnosis on Greatest Honour but he didn’t look like the same horse in his last race. it sucks, but is also good he is getting the needed time off including pasture time which more should have anyway. Brown should just go with Highly Motivated even if the others have the points. I think Caddo River will be in. Pletcher could win this year, not seeing a Baffert win. Rock Your World is just getting started and could be tough to beat and is the one most likely to win by 5+ lengths. Otherwise it is anyone’s guess unless there is a standout from Oaklawn. I do not like losing Greatest Honour. He is tremendous when healthy and was a Triple Crown threat. Enjoy the grazing big boy.

    • Jeff says:

      With GH not able to run in the KD, if your gambling the race, all other contenders odds have been shortened. I wouldn’t dismiss Baffert’s horse CT. As Steve has said, Baffert thought CT was top dog in his barn. CT and RYW are my top picks but at what odds?

      • Porgy Kowalski says:

        That is true Jeff. If Concert Tour is awesome on Sat I would probably change my mind. I see them letting Caddo River run his race this time, and I see him winning. I would be surprised if Caddo doesn’t at least get second and gets into the Derby. Whether he is a need the lead or not you have to let him run his race. If he burns out that is his problem, but if he does get the lead he relaxes giving him a better chance of carrying his speed. Only six horses but I am excited about this race. If Concert Tour doesn’t get an easy lead, which he won’t we’ll see how he does. I think he is quite capable of stalking though and I think that is what he will do. Anyone other than those two for the win would surprise me unless it is real fast early and is a duel and neither can last but I don’t see that either. I hope Caddo romps but another dogfight wouldn’t bother me. CR or CT wins.

    • Lynda B King says:

      Issue is with his ankles and will not require surgery. Dr. Bramlage, Shug and the owners came to the decision that a 60 day layoff was in the colt’s best interest.

  12. Matthew W says:

    I was looking at Candy Ride’s races, he changed leads throughout, too—he also had speed and stamina….like Rock Your World…..Candy Ride is one of the few brilliant racehorses that sired his brilliance, I’m talking about Shared Beluef and Gun Runner…..

  13. EddieF says:

    So Proxy with 34 points is now #20 after the defection of Rebel’s Romance and Greatest Honour. I’m certain there will be more dropping out — maybe Mandaloun if he doesn’t impress Brad Cox in workouts; Weyburn, Crowded Trade, and Rombauer are other possibilities for opting out. Defections could be offset by the results in the Ark Derby and the Lexington, but there’s still hope for O Besos.

    • Matthew W says:

      I’ll be using Rombauer in my Derby exotics. He was coming from behind in the Bluegrass, and there wasn’t pace…perhaps they’ll tire chasing after Rock Your World, perhaps Rombauer and Known Agenda will benefit…..I’m starting to think about how the race will be run, no more soft leads in Louisville!

      • EddieF says:

        It’s always tough to predict the pace and the positions, especially before the draw. But Rombauer is an excellent choice to hit the tri.

        • Matthew W says:

          I’m thinking not so hard to figure the pace THIS year—20 horses tend to have pace, but a horse like Rock can stave off the other up-front horses, and make the closers more attractive, I’m thinking a 3-horse box of Rock, Rombauer and Known Agenda…..its still early, but I love to throw out scenarios!

      • EddieF says:

        Rombauer’s trainer said they may go straight to the Preakness. The horse earned an automatic berth with the win in the El Camino Real Derby.

    • Jerry Murphy says:

      O Besos if he gets in has a huge shot at the three or four slot underneath the top 4.. Mandaloun a total throw out so hoping the O gets in. Proxy needs to show some professionalism if he has any hope to run underneath in the Derby.

      • Matthew W says:

        Yes, if he gets in O Besos is another closer who may benefit from Rock fending off the other pace types….of course Essential Quality can come from behind, too.

    • Steve Haskin says:

      I doubt Rombauer will drop out. He looks like your typical 30-1 Derby runner-up

  14. 1JoeP says:

    Hello Steve, I just read a DRF article stating that Proxy still might run in the KY Derby if he wins the Lexington. Johnny V. will retain the mount and Proxy looks like the horse to beat. I will be rooting for Proxy to get the win and Godolphin sends him to the Derby off of that win. Best case scenario for Proxy would be a convincing win on Saturday, news that he will go to the Derby, and finally Johnny V. keeping the Derby mount on Proxy. Johnny V. already rides Medina Spirit and Souo and Sanswich who are both Derby bound.

    • Steve Haskin says:

      I said in my comment above this will be his one final shot to get into the Derby. At first they werent going, but then Stidham texted me they were going in the Lexington. The only reason to run is to see if he can straighten himself out and earn his way into the Derby.

      • Jerry Murphy says:

        Maybe Proxy gets it together as he hugely disappointed with his last when I thought he should have been a tight 1-2 with the winner. Maybe he can reprise my all time Lexington favourite Charismatic but still see Proxy as an underneath filler behind the Haskin top 4.

    • DES says:

      Watch out for Rombauer, he ran a sneaky good race in the Bluegrass. I hope Proxy wins the Lexington and Caddo River wins the Arkansas Derby and go on to Kentucky

  15. 1JoeP says:

    Hello Steve, bad news that Greatest Honour is out of the Derby. I was surprised to read that if Proxy wins the Lexington he is still unlikely for the KY Derby. I hope Proxy wins the Lexington in convincing fashion and Godolphin sends him to the Derby. Rebel’s Romance is pointed to the Belmont and you would think that Godolphin would want 2 strong contenders in Louisville.

    • EddieF says:

      Hey, Joe! Proxy and Mandaloun are my last hopes for the future wager, and I have little hope for Mandy. Do you remember that Charismatic was a distant 4th in the SA Derby, then won the Lexington convincingly with a 108 BSF and a 104 Brisnet rating? Someone should tell Stidham and Godolphin. 😉

      GO DOLPHINS!

      • Steve Haskin says:

        If he wins the Lexington impressively I’m sure he’ll run in the Derby.

      • EddieF says:

        Oh…I didn’t know that Proxy was entered in the Lexington. Now I know!

      • 1JoeP says:

        Hello Eddie, Looks like it’s Proxy or bust on our Future Wagers. I am glad Proxy keeps Johnny V. for the Lexington because he knows the horse and Proxy should handle that field and get the win. Proxy may be your best chance to cash because Mandaloun will have to run big in the Derby after a dull effort in the LA Derby. Proxy has always fired in his races, even the 4th in the LA Derby was a good effort, losing only by 3 lengths. Getting squeezed at the start IMO caused Proxy a better placing in the LA Derby. for Proxy on Saturday Eddie!

  16. Kay says:

    After watching Bourbonic win at 72-1, I looked up his pedigree….and that was all I needed to see! Would love to see Calumet have another Derby winner.

  17. Bill Dawson says:

    Hi Steve

    I was wondering if Rock Your World’s Thoro-Graph number has been determined yet, just as a comparison to the other speed figures that are as follows;
    Timeform: 124
    Equibase: 103
    Bris: 102
    Beyer: 100

    Thanks Steve

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Not yet but I texted Jerry Brown to get an idea and it looks like it’s going to be slower than I thought, so this is one time I’m going to go by the pure speed figs that you listed. I knew about the Timeform fig which is a huge number, much faster than the Blue Grass (118), which is still pretty fast.

      • EddieF says:

        Maybe you texted the former governor of California by mistake. He doesn’t get much attention these days, so he figured he would answer even though he knows nothing about horse racing.

      • Bill Dawson says:

        Thanks for the reply Steve

        BTW, I’m not that familiar on how to interpret Thoro-Graph numbers, is there any chance you could give a brief explanation on how Thoro-Graph numbers are configured? I’m not sure if “configured” is the correct word, but I think you get the drift of my question.
        Many thanks Steve.

  18. Matthew K Wohlken says:

    Rock Your World and Known Agenda….Rock because he’s the best in the front group and Known cuz he best out of the closer group…..Rock could take them all the way but if not–I think you look to the closers…I see Bezos is in the Lexington, Bob’s working on a foursome!

    • Jeff says:

      Interesting, what has Bezos done since his initial flop?

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Do you really think 20 points is going to get in the Derby? The only horse in the Lexington who can get in the Derby with a win is Hockey Dad, who has 20 points. Unbridled Honor has 5 points and I dont know if 25 points can get him in. It would take several no shows. O Besos has the same 25 points

  19. Dewey Hebert says:

    Here we go again! Greatest Honour off the Derby trail. In all probability there will be more defections in the next 24 days. It happens every year with the breed being more fragile…. where’s the damn bubble wrap???

  20. 100 lengths says:

    Steve – Yes I’m still here…..hunkered down during this “lost” year…thanks for asking. But as Paula said, I still follow you regularly. As with you, I was blown away by Rock Your World’s Santa Anita Derby performance. The “breakout” prediction in your week 11 blog was prescient! His raw speed, multiple gears, ability to switch leads seamlessly, flexibility, focus, long stride, and stamina all signal something special, as you said. Speaking of his pedigree, I must point out that he has 27 connections to Man o’ War – one of the highest numbers in that regard. And in fact, in all the years I’ve been following your “Derby Dozen” I don’t recall another horse going from being unranked in your week 8 blog to #1 in your week 12 blog!! With the rest of this strong field of 3 year olds (even with Life is Good out of the picture), it sets up what hopefully will be a memorable Derby! Keep up the great work! Best, Dave

    • Steve Haskin says:

      So great to see you again. Thanks for returning for the party. I did have Rock ranked #7 in Week 9 off 2 grass race when most people didnt know anything about him. So I fl good about that. sometimes a horse just looks different and special and you go by your gut feeling. Now we just have to see just how special he is if hes to win the Derby off only 3 starts. He is exciting, though. Hope to see you back here.

    • Laura Lanham says:

      Nice to know about the Man O War in the pedigree.

  21. Pine Island says:

    Welp, GH is out now. This sucks.

  22. EddieF says:

    Steve, I don’t believe that Rosario will let JUST Caddo River get the early lead. Seems to me that Get Her Number will need to rediscover his early speed in the second race after a long layoff. With CR and GHN fighting it out early, Concert Tour should have no excuse if he doesn’t blow by them in the stretch.

  23. Profsdottir says:

    One thing I haven’t seen mentioned, either by commentators and broadcasters live, or in post-race analysis, is how far Highly Motivated came over coming down the lane, causing EQ to move over at least two paths as he was trying to get by. There was no contact made, just race riding, but it makes me appreciate EQ’s effort in the Bluegrass even more. The past couple of weekends had some fantastic efforts by “sleepers,” and it makes for a much more exciting race in anticipation. Thanks, as always, for your knowledgeable analysis, Steve, and for the opportunity to chime in!

    • Steve Haskin says:

      You apparently didnt read my comment above, but as you will read I believe it helped Essential Quality because he wasnt going by Highly Motivated until he drifted out. The reasoning is in HM’s comment.

      • Profsdottir says:

        You are right, I hadn’t read what you wrote about Highly Motivated, only about Essential Quality. I went back to take a look. In the moment, I thought it might be a little gamesmanship, but maybe it did help EQ more than hurt him.

    • EddieF says:

      Hi, Profsdottir. After your comment, I took another look at the BG. Movement in the stretch is easy to determine due to the rail shadow. But it seems to me that both horses were drifting out slightly…simultaneously. I didn’t see HM cause EQ to drift out. The head-on view would be more telling.

      • Profsdottir says:

        I kept hoping for a head-on, but it looks like there wasn’t one (or they didn’t broadcast or save the head-on). It did look to me in the moment like Saez had to redirect him a little to avoid making contact. Hard to say, though.

        • Davids says:

          Go to the Thoroughbred Daily News website. In their archives option click Sunday, April 4, there is a video option at the end of the Blue Grass Stakes write up. The video offers Pan, Head-On, and HD Pan.

  24. King Barbaro says:

    Even though Steve confirmed they went slow early in the Bluegrass, the splits in the second half of the race are too strong to deny, especially battling head to head. So Essential Quality is my Derby horse at this point.

  25. Lynda B King says:

    Rock Your World certainly rocked my world. That was impressive! Love his pedigree and his looks. Just a bit of trivia (forgive please if already mentioned). His dam goes back to Majestic Prince who won the Santa Anita Derby and went into the Derby undefeated. He went on to win the Preakness and placed second in the Belmont (he was racing with an injury and I think it was the only race he lost). I remember Majestic Prince….LOL. I am just that old.
    Always hard for me to come up with more than 4 or 5 on a list.
    I think the winner will come from Essential Quality, Rock Your World, Hot Rod Charlie or Greatest Honor.
    Been reading your column every week, just do not comment much. So appreciate all the work you put into it!
    Hope everyone had a nice weekend and had the opportunity to spend time with family and friends.