Derby Rankings Handicapping & Analysis – “Law and Order…Finally”

This column marks the end of the wildest, wackiest, and most perplexing Triple Crown trail ever. Hopefully, next year we will return to a sense of normality. I want to take this time to thank all those who made the transition from Derby Dozen and Hangin’ With Haskin to and have continued to provide their comments, opinions and in depth analysis. And I want to welcome all the Secretariat fans and followers and newcomers who have joined us in this new endeavor. We will see you again in January, when we will begin what we hope will be the beginning of the traditional Derby Trail. In the meantime, please stick around for the weekly Askin’ Haskin columns, where we will continue to talk racing, both past and present, and provide more behind the scenes back stories of racing’s greats.~ Steve Haskin

Look, it doesn’t take a genius or even a novice handicapper to realize that, from the standpoint of talent, pedigree, accomplishments, and running style, there is a wide chasm that separates Tiz the Law and Honor A. P. from the rest of the horses. And there very well may be a wide chasm that separates Tiz the Law from Honor A. P. Some might put Authentic close up there as well with Art Collector dropping out, but as I have been saying, he still has to show that his pedigree and running style can get the job done. No one is doubting his talent, and his chances definitely improve now that the classy and versatile Art Collector is no longer around to possibly look him in the eye early on.

So, where does that leave you when it comes to betting on this year’s Labor Day weekend Derby, especially when so many handicapping tools are not at your disposal as in past years? Remember, we are now dealing with far more mature and experienced Derby horses, yet so many are coming off long layoffs we have no way of assessing them.

Even the overwhelming favorite, Tiz the Law, will be attempting something that has never been attempted before – winning the Derby coming off a mile and a quarter race. Will that hurt him or help him or have no affect on him at all? Unlike with your typical Derby, Tiz the Law will looking for a peak effort after having remained in peak form for seven months, with Barclay Tagg doing an excellent job spacing his races and keeping him fresh. But can he keep it going and deliver yet another bravura performance, his first being back in February in the Holy Bull Stakes? I have always referred to him as “The Machine,” and now we will see if new threats like Honor A. P., Authentic, Ny Traffic, and King Guillermo can turn him off or at least slow him down. So far, no one has been able to do either.

And then there is Honor A. P., who had his schedule disrupted early in the year, yet still would have been a leading contender for the Derby after his impressive score in the Santa Anita Derby. Now, after being cloistered away in California since then, with not many opportunities to race, he will be going into the Derby off a defeat in the non-graded mile and a sixteenth Shared Belief Stakes, which will be his only start in 13 weeks. Hardly the way trainer John Shirreffs mapped it out. But his last three works indicate he is sharp, fit, and ready to fire his best shot. Forget the Shared Belief. He was nowhere near fully cranked for that race and he made a big premature move on the first turn that I believe cost him the race. With his humongous stride, the last thing you want to do is make two moves with him. Breaking from post 16, he better break sharply and stay well clear of traffic.

With all that said, both these horses seem to tower over the others, many of whom have numerous question marks themselves. And there is an excellent chance that Tiz the Law towers over them all. His fastest Brisnet and Beyer speed figures are much faster than anything else in the race and he is the only horse who has run three negative Thoro-graph figures. So not only is he fast, he is consistently fast. And he was in a common gallop the last sixteenth of a mile in the Travers and was still drawing away.

So if you’re a big fan of Tiz the Law, who I have had ranked No. 1 for 17 straight weeks, and feel he can’t lose, you don’t want to bet him straight at odds-on, so pick three or four bombs and play them underneath or back end them on the trifecta and superfecta if you want to put Honor A. P. second.

And now we come to the post position draw, which, of course, turned out as wacky as the rest of the year with the three favorites, Honor A.P., Tiz the Law, and Authentic, drawing posts 16, 17, and 18, respectively. And remember what happened to Authentic when he broke from the outside post in the Santa Anita Derby and ducked out badly at the break. If he does that in the Derby he is cooked. As it is he will have to break very sharply and gun for the lead, as he has not shown he can win from off the pace. He has to do all that and not take too much out of himself, which means he is going to have get very lucky and have everything break perfectly for him. Fortunately, he has John Velazquez on his back, and there is no one I would rather have more under these circumstances.

Tiz the Law, who could wind up as the shortest-priced Derby favorite ever or certainly close to it, drew post 17, the only post that has never produced a Kentucky Derby winner. I don’t see this post hurting him one bit and he should get a good outside stalking position. And how about Finnick the Fierce of all horses drawing the rail? He has 17 horses outside him and is blind in his right eye. To further demonstrate what a screwball race this is, 12 of the 18 starters are listed at 30-1 or higher on the morning line.

I believe, Storm the Court, breaking from post 4 with three closers inside him, will be the first to strike the front before Authentic comes charging up from the far outside along with Ny Traffic. A fresh and sharp King Guillermo and Thousand Words will also be right up there with Tiz the Law and Honor A. P. tracking them on the outside.

With Art Collector out, watch out for King Guillermo and Ny Traffic to become the two wise guy horses, which means horses who will take a great deal of money in the wagering and get bet way down from their 20-1 morning line odds. They also will benefit from Art Collector’s absence from a strategy standpoint, as they can now sit right off the pace without having to contend with him occupying the same space. And both horses drew well with King Guillermo breaking from post 6 and Ny Traffic from post 15, where he can show his customary early speed and try to keep at least two of the three favorites parked outside him going into the first turn. Ny Traffic is the one who could be the proverbial thorn in Authentic’s side, because of his stalking style and the fact that he never goes away. He is like the terrier who grabs your pant leg and doesn’t let go. Like Authentic, it’s just a question of how far his pedigree will carry him, but he is always running hard at the wire, and having Dr. Fager in his sire’s pedigree twice doesn’t hurt when it comes to carrying your speed. I just fear he is going to be overbet.


I know none of the longshots can match the top choices in ability, and on paper should not beat them. But one thing I have learned about the Derby is that longshots have won on occasion and finished in the money on numerous occasions. Very few thought anyone could beat Bellamy Road, Afleet Alex, and Bandini, all spectacular winners of their final prep, in 2005, but somehow 50-1 shot Giacomo managed to run by them all.

That probably won’t happen this year, but in a field this large you never know. Trying to pick out longshots, with so many who look similar and are fairly slow on speed ratings, is not easy, so I am going to make it simple. I am sticking with the horses I have been high on all year and who have been prominent in previous columns.

With that said, the horse who ranks way at the top of that list is SOLE VOLANTE, who was ranked in the top six 16 times, and as high as No. 2 six times. I am not crazy about his lack of racing and not having run a meaningful race since June 10, but here is what I wrote about him on Feb. 11 when he made his debut at No. 2:

“The reason he debuts so high on the rankings is because this is what a Derby horse is supposed to look like. He has a devastating closing kick on dirt and grass, in the Sam F. Davis Stakes he blew right on by an undefeated dual stakes winner and one of the leading Derby contenders and won going away with his ears pricked, with a gap of 11 1/4 lengths to Remsen runner-up Ajaaweed in third. To show what a spectacular move he made, he ran his third quarter in an eye-catching :23.26, according to Trakus, making up 13 lengths, then just kept going, coming home the final sixteenth in :06 flat. What makes his story so great is that you had to go through 3,493 yearlings at the Keeneland September sale to get him for a paltry $6,000. He was pinhooked at the OBS April 2-year-old sale and went for only $20,000 to Biancone.”

He has run back-to-back 108 Brisnet late pace figures, which at the time was the fastest late pace figure by a 3-year-old, and I trust Patrick Biancone to put a lot of bottom in him with those two-minute licks on grass, his pair of mile works on grass, and a blazing five-furlong work in :57 4/5, also on grass. I feel he will appreciate going back to the dirt and Churchill Downs dirt has always been conducive to grass horses. Of all the closers, he has the quickest turn of foot and can get into the race in a flash, and I know he will relish every inch of the mile and a quarter.

The longshot who is starting to really intrigue me is ATTACHMENT RATE, who was ranked in the top 12 four times and was taken off mainly because he refused to change leads and was grossly underachieving. But there was always something about him I liked, including his pedigree, and I was very impressed with his maiden victory. Then came the Ellis Park Derby and it was like watching a totally different horse, who had suddenly come into his own, doing everything the right way, and wound up finishing a strong second Art Collector, with his Thoro-Graph number jumping from “4s” and “5s” to a “1/2,” which puts him right in the mix. This is now the horse I thought he’d be and why I catapulted him all the way up to No. 4. And remember, his trainer Dale Romans has already finished third in the Derby with a two longshot grass horses. Normally one to talk his horses up, he appears to be sneaking in this time holding his cards close to the vest. In short, I just feel this new, improved Attachment Rate could be sitting on a big race, especially with the turn of foot he displayed in the Ellis Park Derby and how strongly he galloped out past the wire. And wouldn’t this be a good time for the Derby gods to take over, with Romans having been born a just a few miles from Churchill Downs and in the same barn since he was a kid working for his father.

The final longshot with whom I have had a history this year is MAJOR FED, who I admit does not have the speed figures to compete with the top horses and is another who is coming into the Derby off a long layoff, but I feel he is going to love the mile and a quarter and has proven versatile enough to run well from mid-pack or from far back. But with a pair of fast bullet works at Churchill Downs recently and drawing post 5, I expect to see him closer to the pace, racing in mid-pack. But he needs to break cleanly.

Here is what I wrote about him on his in the March 24 Derby Dozen, one of his seven times ranked in the top 12: “I am looking for a horse who has the turn of foot, the pedigree, and the class to launch a bid from mid-pack. A bad start in the Louisiana Derby, in which he had his head turned at the break, cost him all position, but he still closed from 14th to finish fourth after being forced eight-wide turning for home. What I loved was the explosive move he made after being taken off the rail on the far turn, losing so much ground and shrugging off two solid bumps from Shake Some Action and then Enforceable in the stretch. The reason he couldn’t get closer than 4 3/4 lengths was because Wells Bayou was loose on an easy lead in :48 and 1:12.42 and came home his final three-sixteenths in a rapid :18.86. In his two races at two turns, Major Fed was two to three lengths off the lead and now he found himself a dozen lengths back in 14th and last. So this was a promising effort and he will be a lot more formidable when allowed to run his race, especially at 1 1/4 miles. He has a pedigree inundated with European staying power, he will run all day, and his last two races indicate there is a great deal of improvement still to come.”

So these are the three longshots I was originally going to be focusing on, considering the impression they made on me earlier in the year, with the hope they can move up and utilize their strengths going a mile and a quarter.

And then came the monkey wrench thrown into the mix at the last minute. I am referring to SOUTH BEND, who has a powerful late kick and whose pedigree has always had me drooling. Frankly, I couldn’t understand why he was not being considered for the Derby, as I have always felt he was a Derby horse, despite his disappointing fourth-place finish in the Travers Stakes, in which he was beaten over nine lengths, and according to Bill Mott had no excuses. He sure looked like Derby material when he won the Street Sense Stakes at Churchill Downs last year. But after a sixth-place finish in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes over a deep sloppy track, he went to the grass for six races, racing well on occasion but never winning. Finally he was returned to the dirt and was flying at the end of the Ohio Derby, finishing second, beaten three-quarters of a length. Then came the Travers, and if you’re willing to forgive that effort, even though he still finished on the board, then he could be an enticing prospect trying a mile and a quarter for the second time. Yes, his broodmare sire, Old Trieste, was a speedball, but you won’t find a stronger pedigree. In his first four generations he has seven different classic winners (Bernardini, A.P. Indy, St. Jovite, Seattle Slew, Avatar, Pleasant Colony, and Majestic Prince), two of them twice. So of the 15 sires in his first four generations, nine of them were classic winners. And if you go to his fifth generation, you can add Secretariat twice, Spectacular Bid, and Nashua. So now I have to throw another longshot in there.

Although I likely will have no room for him unless I really stretch my bets, I will mention ENFORCEABLE, only because he has been the horse all along I was predicting could be the typical Derby longshot who rallies for second at a big price. But you can only play so many, and I have had closer ties to those mentioned above. But I know I’m going to pressure myself to add him to the exotics right before the race when I see his monster odds, which always costs me more money and adds to my losses. I could be successful if I only knew how to bet. So, let’s include him as one of the longshots, but a lesser one along with South Bend. Because of my previous comments I have to at least bet a Tiz the Law — Enforceable exacta.

I am going to mention one more horse, who, as I said earlier, likely will be lower odds than his 20-1 morning line, and about whom I am totally perplexed. I have no idea what I am going to do with him and probably will wait until race day to see what his odds are. That horse is KING GUILLERMO, who is attempting the unthinkable, which is coming into the Kentucky Derby off a four-month layoff. Normally, I would toss him, but I am a big fan of Venezuelan horsemen and there is that nagging feeling that his trainer Juan Avila might just be able to pull this off, as unlikely as it sounds. But the main reason I moved him up to No. 5 on my Derby Rankings this week is because I believe this horse is exceptionally gifted, he has that proverbial look of eagles, and his victory in the Tampa Bay Derby was too impressive to ignore.

He has already shown he can run huge (Tampa Bay Derby) off little racing, and as I wrote on my Derby Rankings, his :58 1/5 work at Churchill Downs last week may have been the best Derby work I have seen since Smarty Jones in 2004. Also, in his all-important tail-female family you will find Irish Derby winner El Gran Senor, who was beaten a nose in the English Derby, and Stage Door Johnny, winner of the Belmont Stakes and one of my favorite classic and stamina influences. I just don’t want a horse with his talent and sheer brilliance to beat me, so I likely will play him to win if his odds are enticing enough or throw him into a few exotics with the favorites. It’s just too soon to commit to anything with him.

So, as of this writing (and it could change on race day) I will be making win bets on longshots Sole Volante, Attachment Rate, and Major Fed, and lesser bets on Enforceable and South Bend, and will play them underneath Tiz the Law and Honor A.P. in the exactas and trifectas, and possibly underneath King Guillermo as well if he continues to look great in the morning. Check my Facebook page for any late changes and how I am keying the horses.

One thing I have to mention, if you are looking for the one horse who is as fast as Tiz the Law on Thoro-Graph it is Ny Traffic. So, excluding the longshots, he is the one horse at a half decent price who possibly could beat the three favorites on his best effort

So, the one bet I know I am making is a $1 trifecta box with Tiz the Law, Attachment Rate, Sole Volante, Major Fed, and Enforceable, as well as Tiz the Law, Honor A.P., Attachment Rate, Sole Volante, and Major Fed.

Last year, I had a big win bet on Country House and had him underneath Maximum Security in the exactas, so I was in good shape either way. I can’t imagine getting that lucky again, but it’s fun trying.


With this column appearing on, we must pay homage to our founding father by devoting some space to his influence on this year’s Kentucky Derby.

Of the 18 entrants, 13 have Secretariat in their pedigree, including the top three choices – Tiz the Law, Honor A. P., and Authentic. It would have been the top four choices had Art Collector not been withdrawn. Of course, 12 come from Secretariat’s Tremendous Trio — daughters Weekend Surprise, Terlingua, and Secrettame, with the other coming from his daughter Sister Dot, the dam of Dehere.

Weekend Surprise has been one of the most powerful female influences in the sport through her prolific son A.P. Indy, while Terlingua is pretty close through her son Storm Cat. And right behind those two is Secrettame through her son Gone West.

Here are the Derby entrants who trace to Secretariat at least once – Tiz the Law (Weekend Surprise—A.P. Indy), Ny Traffic (Sister Dot—Dehere), Sole Volante (Terlingua—Storm Cat), Enforceable (Weekend Surprise—A.P. Indy), Necker Island (Secrettame—Gone West), Money Moves (Secrettame—Gone West), Mr. Big News (Terlingua—Storm Cat).

Those with a double dose of Big Red include Honor A. P. (Weekend Surprise—A.P. Indy and Terlingua—Storm Cat), Authentic (Secrettame—Gone West and Terlingua—Storm Cat), Max Player (Weekend Surprise—A.P. Indy and Terlingua—Storm Cat), Finnick the Fierce (Weekend Surprise—A.P. Indy and Terlingua—Storm Cat), and South Bend (Weekend Surprise—A.P. Indy twice).

As for all the Meadow Stable fans, last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner and 2-year-old champion Storm the Court has both Secretariat (Weekend Surprise—A.P. Indy) and Riva Ridge, his Kentucky Derby winning barnmate in his fourth generation.

313 Responses to “Derby Rankings Handicapping & Analysis – “Law and Order…Finally””

  1. Profsdottir says:

    In looking at the chart, I see HAP made up seven lengths on Authentic from the half mile pole to the finish, this while going as far wide as the nine path. It’s a shame that whatever happened happened, but he is clearly a horse with a lot of talent who wasn’t bothered by the distance at all.

    • Davids says:

      The Derby Trail is so enjoyable to follow, the pageantry surrounding the race is marvelous, but the Kentucky Derby itself is an ugly brawl with one colt having the best trip/luck that wins. Seldom does the best colt win.

      In these small tracks you wish that would limit the number of runners.

  2. Betsy says:

    This is to Peri’s post…

    I’m not sure I believe a work over track would have made a difference, though I did at some point wish HAP had shipped earlier. I never thought John would do that, though.

    • SoloSolo says:

      I’m amazed Sherriffs agreed to ship at all (think Zenyatta). I think champions should race at several US elite tracks, not just be a hometown hero. Not a fan of this trainer.

      • perimeister says:

        Some horses do not handle shipping well. Zenyatta was one of them, I believe. Swiss Skydiver is, obviously, not. A ttrainer should be praised for avoiding that which harms the horse, don’t you think?

        • SoloSolo says:

          Agree, horse comes first. But the true greats, imo, compete at our best tracks and have earned their status. Those horses who can’t ship aren’t in that category. That aside, I just think Sherriffs himself is reluctant to compete at the major tracks. To me, he’s a Cali trainer. I know many may disagree, but that’s my opinion.

  3. Betsy says:

    I’m not sure I believe a work over track would have made a difference, though I did at some point wish HAP had shipped earlier. I never thought John would do that, though.

  4. Steve Haskin says:

    For those wondering about my column, it actually is not much about the race. It is a personal column that I wrote to get out of my system. Stay tuned late morning.

  5. steve haskin says:

    My main take from the race is that I was shocked when I saw that Honor A.P. finished fourth. He showed me more in this race than any of his other races. I cant imagine where he wouldd have finished had he not gotten sawed off at the start and dropped back to last.

    • Betsy says:

      Steve, take a look at this…I’m not quite convinced that things would have been different, but it’s meaningful probably. HAP always goes wide, by choice apparently, so I don’t think going wide hurts him generally. Many are down on Mike – I mentioned this before the race – but I’m not.

      * Who ran fastest in the Derby accounting for ground loss? Honor A. P. ran 49 more feet than Authentic. He traveled a total of 6712 feet in 121.16 seconds for an avg of 55.40 ft/sec. His adjusted time for 1 1/4 (6600 ft) is 1:59.14. Fastest in the race. Ground loss from Trakus.

    • perimeister says:

      I think I would be unhappy – to say the least – as Honor APs trainer, if Mike misjudged and Honor AP finished the Derby with gas left in his tank. If he’d been able to start accelerating and picking off the others earlier in the backstretch, he wins. Amazing how he fast he ran, despite his usual gait being unavailing. On HRN, another commenter said they were expecting an Arrogate-at-Meydan move. “Why not?” is a reasonable question. It seems the horse has it in him.

  6. JanBer says:

    Just to put it out there, and you can tell me I’m making excuses, but I really do think it was the track. I also think that Tiz wasn’t the only horse that was affected by it on Saturday. Thirteen out of 14 favorites didn’t come in, and many of those were prohibitive favorites. That’s less than 10%, kind of unusual.

  7. Betsy says:

    Steve, since you are friendly with John, what do you make of his terseness, his almost abruptness in what little he’s had to say post-Derby? I know you’ve said he’s not a media guy, but still, usually trainers have something to offer about their horses when asked. He hasn’t offered his opinion on HAP’s race..He didn’t (nor did Mike) mention the start, didn’t say anything. It’s frustrating. He’s really said nothing. To me and to a few friends, he seems upset – or annoyed- in his response about future plans. What’s your opinion?

    Also, if you speak to him anytime soon, can you please ask about the status of two horses? Thunder Code and Rampion? Thank you!

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Havnt spoken to him yet bu I am hearing from someone who was next to him that he was not happy with Smith’s ride

      • Betsy says:

        Oh, interesting …my friend will be happy to hear that. Personally, I have my doubts – you can’t force a 1000 pound animal to do anything, and if it’s true that HAP wasn’t getting over the ground, I’m not sure Mike could have done anything else except do what he did. This bears watching, then.

        Eddie – no, not at all. I think I misread your response. Sorry !

      • Livewire says:

        Count me in on that answer too regarding the disappointment and the status of Thunder Code and Rampion. It is good to see Express Train back in the mix for C R K Stable.

  8. pro vet says:

    I’m telling you all right now……….HAP IS THE BEST …….i don’t understand why people don’t know how good he is……
    He is the best horse in america if he stays sound………that is the only thing that will stop him……this is Lebron James…..the
    talent is off the charts………..see what happens…….
    You tried to make a 100 beyer horse an all time great……he ran good once…… are going to see the difference soon…..
    All of this whining, crying, is ridiculous…….watch and learn……….
    And i won the derby……there is no way HAP is not better……..

    • Eddie F says:

      Do you know what “best” means? How is HAP the best? He’s not the best because you say so. You say Tiz ran good once, which is ridiculous by itself, yet HAP actually did run good ONCE. Tiz is just “a 100 beyer horse”? His last three BSFs are 100, 109, and a likely 103 or 104. HAP’s last three BSFs are 102, 102, and — uh, what? — 98 maybe. BRIS numbers are even more in Tiz’s favor. And that’s leaving Authentic out of the discussion. LeBron James was a bad example. He’s ALWAYS been great. Nobody ever said, “That James fellow, he’s gonna be the best some day.”

      • pro vet says:

        dude…….he ran 4 100 beyers in a row, more or less…….then ran 109…….THAT was good…….people were going crazy……its sept……not may…….the 105 is NOT great for sept…….i won, and im saying this……..

        This is a game you get paid for being right…….especially BEFORE it happens………there is no doubt in my mind who the best horse is……you can go ahead and bet TIZ……..that ship sailed………ALL ABOARD! sHIP hap IS ABOUT TO SAIL……

      • Betsy says:

        Obviously HAP isn’t the best right now, but I think you are being unfair saying he’s only run one good race. We’ll have to agree to disagree on his quality.

        • Eddie F says:

          I wrote that comment in response to ProVet’s silly notion that Tiz “ran good once.” Are you defending HAP’s record and not defending Tiz’s record?

      • JanBer says:

        I’ve been using equibase figures all year, pretty much the same story though.

    • Steve Haskin says:

      you may be right about HAP, but how could you have made money when your best horse in the country lock finished fourth?

  9. Betsy says:

    David, I just disagree that he doesn’t have a turn of foot…

    I’m not worried about HAP’s stud future – I don’t care about that right now; I’m more concerned with his on-track future.

  10. Paula Higgins says:

    Glad Thousand Words seems to be
    fine and uninjured per the vet. today.
    Wishing Mr. Barnes a speedy recovery.
    That was a dangerous situation for horse
    and people.

  11. Steve Haskin says:

    Well, as it turns out, I will have a column on Monday morning, as offbeat as it may be, and another post Derby column later in the week with a different twist.

  12. Betsy says:

    Someone on a message board I post on posted this, and honestly, I think it’s perfect.

    “The Awesome Again might be a good option and then go from there. If he were to win it, and comes out of it well, the BCC could be the next goal. If he runs well but the BCC looks to be too much for him this year, I think it would be fun to see him try the Hollywood Derby. They can have lots of fun with him but I think he does need to work on getting some quicks.”

    • Paula Higgins says:

      Good idea-Awesome Again. Probably wants to see how he is doing.

      • Betsy says:

        Paula, the whole thing is odd to me. John has been so terse and quiet about HAP’s race, and while I don’t want to read too much into it, he sounded almost annoyed in saying that they have no plans for HAP yet. He didn’t say anything about how he thought HAP ran, didn’t make any excuses or give any explanations. I feel like he was very disappointed – but I wanted to hear from him.

        I really wanted HAP to run in the JCGC, but now I think I’d rather them skip the BC. I don’t think the colt is ready for the big show yet.

  13. Betsy says:

    When asked what might be next for Honor A.P., Shirreffs said: “I haven’t even thought about that. He’ll head back to California Monday, and we’ll see.”

    I think my gut feeling might be correct.

  14. Betsy says:

    HAP is flying back to CA tomorrow, so obviously no Preakness. Since he doesn’t have the points for the BC Classic, I suspect that he may either skip it in favor of, say, the Clark or just get a break and point for 2021

  15. Betsy says:

    Eddie, he was last because he wasn’t handling the track. NY Traffic cutting HAP off was bad, but he could have overcome a lost length or two had he gotten into the race himself and allowed Mike to place him where he wanted.

    • Eddie F says:

      Betsy, I’ve previously expressed a disdain for race excuses, and I feel the same way now. Excuses most likely had been offered on 12 horses in the Derby for their last-race losses. And where did they finish? The two last-out winners finished first and second. If HAP wasn’t handling the track early, why did he seem to handle the track for the final 4f? HAP was able to pass 10 horses after 3/4 of a mile, and he finished fourth.

      • Betsy says:

        I’m sorry but it’s not an excuse – it’s an explanation. I don’t buy the “no excuses” thing anyway. In any case, I don’t see any reason why a horse can’t struggle with a surface initially and then figure it out – if you don’t agree, that’s fine, but it explains why HAP lagged behind in last place…which is not his style at all. I believe Mike, also…and many people noticed this. What is your explanation for HAP being dead last?

  16. Blake says:

    I had these two as my top two horses, but in reverse order. If TTL doesn’t run the 1 1/4 Travers I think he wins going away. Didn’t like that race for him at that time. Authentic was the fresher horse.

  17. Eddie F says:

    My grandpa was always saying at the track that his most confident bets were on the classiest front runner in a field. It didn’t matter if there were other speed horses if they didn’t have the class. Grandpa would have been all over Authentic.

    Listen to your elders. 😉

  18. Geoff says:

    Grade 1 animals operate on a different level. When TTL looked Authentic in the eye,TTL received a knock to his chin ( using boxing term) that really he hasn’t received this year from a lower level horses he has been facing all year.

    • Eddie F says:

      It was more about pace. Yes, Authentic had class, but so did 4-time G1 winner Tiz the Law. If your argument was that Authentic had beaten better horses, the only race that applies is the San Felipe. In that race, he beat Honor AP, who next out beat Authentic in the G1 SA Derby. He also beat BCJ winner Storm the Court in the San Felipe; StC didn’t show much as a 3yo.

      Authentic had class, but the pace advantage was the deciding factor.

      • Geoffrey says:

        I agree Eddie on a lot if not all your points. Pace is so significant when you have a talented grade 1 animal like Authentic dictating the race. Once King G, Blue Grass Winner, and Thousand Words left the field, in my view, the race was all but over except the racing. Once Smith blew the start and dropped HAP that far back, I was 100% confident it was completely over. Also, with the Derby Point system, the sprinter types no longer compete in the KD which makes speed or tactical racing more significant in the running of the KD.

  19. Betsy says:

    I just watched the race replay keying on Max Player …boy, he ran well. He’s so talented and consistent – such a cool little horse.

    I’m not as frustrated anymore…well, yes I am, but I’m back to being happy with HAP again. I know I sounded disappointed …and I was. That’s racing, I suppose.

  20. pro vet says:

    Was this a dream?……..11-1?……….2,2k………again……he never quits…….he idles on lead if he doesnt SEE ANOTHER,,…..ears didnt go up once………..

    And the best horse in the crop is HAP……..please run him in preakness……….i will bet the most ive ever bet

  21. Betsy says:

    I keep reading that HAP is a grinder – but is that true? I look at that as a big negative…like being a plodder, which he isn’t

    • Solosolo says:

      Betsy, I’ve read in more than one article that Curlin was described as a grinder, and he didn’t do so bad…lol. As I understand it, a grinder just keeps coming, wears down their opponents. The articles pointed out that Curlin had a high cruising speed, which could wear down opponents who just couldn’t keep up with him. It doesn’t sound like a compliment, I know, but I believe it refers to a strong, steady, hopefully fast, horse who does not tire easily. I too was rooting for HAP, but he’ll be back to conquer another day.

    • perimeister says:

      Betsy, people can use the term pejoratively or not, in accordance with their intentions. Without knowing what they mean by using the word — what real world events they intend it to denote — you can’t hardly decide whether to agree or disagree, much less evaluate it as good or bad.

      Regardless, you know that Honor AP is strategically and tactically versatile, certainly not one-paced and willing to come from the clouds to try to win, if needed. If someone pejoratively labels him a grinder, you can always give ’em the one fingered salute.()

      • Betsy says:

        Or I can block them, Peri, lol. Then they can talk down to me and be rude, thinking they’re hurting me when actually I have no idea that they’re even talking to me!

    • Davids says:

      Betsy, a plodder is a horse that keeps the same pace all the way. A slow, methodical gainer. Honor A. P. doesn’t not have an electric turn of foot either. Neither of the above describe Honor A. P.’s style of running, he is more a grinder with a high cruising speed.

      Honor A. P. has already won a Grade 1 race, his future is secure.

  22. Mary Lou says:

    The only number missing on my tickets was 18. At the top of the stretch I thought Tiz the Law had it. Then Authentic found another gear. It reminded me of Swaps beating Nashua.

    • Jiffy says:

      I thought of Onion beating Secretariat in the Whitney and Keen Ice beating American Pharoah in the Travers. Seeing those great horses in second place unable to get to the winner made me question my vision. But it happened–then and now.

  23. Steve Haskin says:

    In case anyone is interested, I got nothin.’ Didnt see that coming at all. Another pedigree theory down the drain. I have nothing to say about the race.

    • Cynthia Holt says:

      Well, if you ever do have anything to say, I am interested! And you were right, Steve. I didn’t have to worry about Secretariat’s record.

    • Jiffy says:

      I was absolutely convinced that Authentic couldn’t go a mile and a quarter. I never even considered him, but I have to say he ran a good race. I was disappointed because I love Tiz the Law and his people, I really wanted them to win, and I thought they would. This afternoon I was trying to remember if I ever felt emotionally involved with a Derby horse who looked lso likely to win. The only one I could think of was Honest Pleasure. Not an auspicious parallel, but they turned out to have more in common than I realized.

    • Paula Higgins says:

      I think two 1 1/4 mile races 4 weeks apart was more than Tiz could
      pull off. No other horse had that asked of him. Authentic had 7 weeks
      off. So, Tiz’s second place finish was actually pretty good. If he had the mojo
      he had in the Travers where Manny was winding him down at the end, he
      might have won the Derby. So, was the Travers a mistake in hindsight?
      Hard to know.

      What I didn’t see coming was Authentic liking the distance. Like many, I thought
      it would be HAP that ran him down if anyone did. I still think Tiz is the best 3 year old.

      The next big question is where do they go next with Tiz? I think Baffert will
      go to the Preakness with Authentic. Tiz is only one race up on Authentic for
      3 year old honors. So, does Tagg skip the Preakness and go for the BCC where Max
      awaits him? Lots of food for thought. Glad I am not making the decision.

      • Davids says:

        Good analysis Paula. Moreover, Tiz the Law has been in training 2 months longer than Authentic this year. It’s been a long year for Tiz the Law. The connections of Tiz the Law will have to decide on the best way to reach the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

        • Paula Higgins says:

          Davids, so good to see you here. Thank you. I would expect
          them to point for the BCC and skip the Preakness. I think Tiz
          needs a break. I know people think I am wrong and it could
          cost him 3 year old honors if he doesn’t win the BCC. He would
          be facing Max and Improbable. I just think another race so soon,
          even thought it is shorter, is not a great idea. He is still one up on

          • Davids says:

            Paula, I think the connections of Tiz the Law are between a rock and a hard place, as you suggested above. The Preakness Stakes is not ideally placed for Tiz the Law, and others, who ran in the Kentucky Derby but the Preakness does appear perfect for Art Collector. Danger.

            Conversely, skipping the the Preakness means forfeiting the chance to cement the 3 year old championship, having to find an alternative prep for the Breeders’ Cup Classic or, taking a chance of a long lay-off between the Kentucky Derby and the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

      • Blake says:

        Exactly! Running the Travers at that time was a head scratcher for me. I even asked Steve a few weeks ago if he thought that would be an issue. I have no doubt he wins if he is fresher. Even with that said he ran decent but Authentic had just a little more juice at the end!

        • Paula Higgins says:

          I agree Blake. I think Barclay Tagg desperately wanted the
          Travers and that was a deciding factor. It is a NY race
          after all and has a lot of meaning. I do think it may have cost
          him the Derby but of course, no way to know that for sure. If
          this was a horse from the old days, I wouldn’t be saying that but
          horses just need 5-6-7 weeks between races now. Both races were
          1 1/4. I also do not think he liked the track. I didn’t love the way he
          was moving in comparison to Authentic. Plus, Authentic ran closer to the
          rail. Great job by Johnny Velazquez. I felt bad for Manny. I felt bad for
          all of Tiz’s connections.

          • Davids says:

            Yes Paula, agree on all points. Johnny Velasquez had the right plan. Moreover, Tiz the Law was negatively affected by the scratching of Art Collector.

          • Jiffy says:

            I think all Tiz the Law’s people wanted the Travers very badly. Jack Knowlton is from Saratoga, and I read that the original goal when Sackatoga Stable was formed was to stand in the winner’s circle at Saratoga, regardless of how minor the race was. Imagine what it would be like for them to be there after winning the track’s biggest race. Also, they had already won the Derby and Preakness with Funny Cide. The Travers and the Belmont were the two that he didn’t get, and Tiz the Law took care of that. Of course, they would have liked another Derby–who wouldn’t?–but I don’t think they have any regrets about the Travers.

    • Betsy says:

      Shocked me because I never thought Authentic would get the distance, yet I feared him on an easy lead. Also, I’m not sure what to think about HAP, while I’m very happy with Max

    • Davids says:

      Don’t be too hard on yourself, Steve. When Art Collector and King Guillermo came out of the race it became much less combative for the eventual winner. Moreover, I remember you were concerned that Tiz the Law was running in, and winning, a 10f race prior to the Kentucky Derby.

      Hopefully, Art Collector makes it to the Preakness Stakes along with Tiz the Law and Authentic. Don’t miss the Prix du Moulin de Longchamp on Sunday. Should be an absolute cracker of a race.

      • Betsy says:

        I doubt he’ll run, but HAP belongs up there…

        Tagg doesn’t want to run in the Preakness.

        Steve, a friend in another board told me that HAP is not likely to make the BC Classic on points – unless he wins his next start, which could pretty much only be the JCGC, Awesome Again or Preakness. Do you think there’s any chance they don’t bother attempting to make the BC?

      • perimeister says:

        The Prix du Moulin was indeed a good race. Did it play out as you expected?

        • Davids says:

          Well, I thought Persian King would be tough to beat but was hoping Pinatubo may be returning to his form of last year. Siskin, had an outside hope. When Pinatubo started to fly the heart started pumping but Persian King is top class and had the advantage. Fantastic race.

          • perimeister says:

            Please overlook my understated comments. I think I’m experiencing sensory overload. Way too much time spent on HRN in the past 30hrs.

    • SoloSolo says:

      I too was stunned, Steve. Between Thousand Words flipping and breaking Jimmy Barnes’s arm, and being scratched, and Authentic raising a ruckus in the winner’s circle, knocking Bob Baffert to the ground, to the empty stands at Churchill—what a wacky Derby season this has been. It’s hard not to be deflated now that the Derby is finally over…..On to the Preakness. And don’t you think the Breeder’s Cup is going to be juicy with the good young guns taking on some darned good elders?
      PS I’m still bummed that my beloved Curlin didn’t have any progeny that have panned out on the Derby trail.

      • Eddie F says:

        I didn’t know about Authentic’s shenanigans in the winner’s circle. Just saw a video. Crazy! Baffert starts the year with his two best being Authentic and Thousand Words. Then Nadal and Charlatan get all the attention, then Uncle Chuck. Next comes the suspension, then Thousand Words has his paddock moment…and Baffert wins the Derby with Authentic. Who needs to write a script?

        Thought that the Curlin 2yo Pico d’Oro might do well yesterday, but no. Fifth place in the Iroquois.

        • SoloSolo says:

          Yeah, you just can’t make this stuff up regarding yesterday’s Derby, or the whole darn trail in this Year of Pandemic. Saw Pico’s race and was disappointed. So to cheer myself up, I’ve been following Curlin’s 2yo’s, and there seems to be some good ones. Say hello to Nick Carraway for me, if you happen to bump into him…lol.

    • 1JoeP says:

      Authentic ran huge and proved that an Into Mischief can get 1 1/4. I also didn’t see that coming Steve. Looking forward to the Preakness and Art Collector in the winners circle.

  24. Betsy says:

    Interesting……..John had nothing to say and Mike didn’t mention being cut off……

    John Shirreffs, trainer, Honor A. P., fourth

    “(Jockey) Mike (Smith) said he was laboring at the beginning, that he just wasn’t getting a hold of the track.”

    Mike Smith, jockey, Honor A. P.

    “I was proud that he still put in an effort and ran OK. It wasn’t his best race by no means. I never dreamed he would struggle with the track. When we saw him train over the track this week, he was bouncing over it, but it was sloppy. He seemed to like that. His deepier, cuppier track – he has a big ‘ol flat foot. He just couldn’t get a hold out of it.”

    • perimeister says:

      That was indeed a gutsy race, if he wasn’t getting a grip on the track. After he hit 42mph in his debut race at Del Mar, the fact that he didn’t even approach that maximum speed a year later, when he made his move on the far turn, I think lends credence to the theory that he wasn’t relating well to the Churchill Downs track today.

      • Betsy says:

        Peri, the problem with that is that HAP did get to running, so it was only early on that he was having trouble…

        I’m not sure what to think about him. People on Twitter made it sound like HAP was smashed by NYT, but really he was just cut off – badly, but not catastrophic. The biggest issue was that it took him awhile to get a feel for the track, and by then it was too late. He did make a long, sustained run, but seemed to run out of gas.

        Mike’s comments make me think HAP needs hard, WC tracks…and I’m not quite sure if he really proved he loves 1 1/4

    • perimeister says:

      Since we (and a few others) have beat this topic senseless over on Honor AP’s page at HRN, let me refer people there if they want to read knowledgeable opinions and reasoned discussion, rather than summarize or rehash it here. I am pleased to say we pretty much all came around to the same understanding.

  25. Geoff says:

    That was pretty much what I thought would happen. I actually tripled my bet once Thousand Word scratched. People forgot that Authentic is a May foal and was mentally childish several prior races. Baffert even said he was a goof ball in the Haskel. Racing luck was needed as HAP probably was second best with a cleaner break. TLL finally left NY and he got beat again.

    • Geoffrey says:

      BTW no way Authentic should have been 8/1. I pegged him at 3-1/7-2. Has Tiz the Law beaten a Grade 1 horse when winning a race?

      • perimeister says:

        Gouverneur Morris, twice G1-placed, is the best horse Tiz the Law has beaten, on the assumption that winning a G1 race is a valid, useful standard. Given how races for two and three year olds obtain the G1 classification – based on criteria or purse size and prior years conditions and outcomes – the grade status of a race doesn’t tell us anything about the quality of a three year old horse in relation to the qualities of other three year olds.

        • Eddie F says:

          Tiz beat TWO grade 1 winners yesterday. 🙂 🙂

          • perimeister says:

            By some logic, he actually beat three. While Storm the Court has never beaten Honor AP or Authentic, Honor AP and Authentic beat each other, and now Tiz the Law beats Honor AP. Plainly, Tiz the Law beats Authentic too!

    • Eddie F says:

      Good call, Geoff. Even though I defended his much criticized win in the Haskell (final eighth of 13 1/5 and Late Pace fig of 98 aren’t disqualifying for the Derby; had never lost when he got the early lead), I talked myself out of using him. His workouts were telling, particularly the 1m work.

    • Ethan says:

      Tiz didn’t do anything wrong in my opinion, Authentic just would not let him go by. Authentic deserves the credit for the heart of a champion. I know it was a fast track but I think this was the 6th fastest Derby ever, so it isn’t like Tiz ran slow or just didn’t fire.

      I am still in shock that Authentic did what he did in the stretch. Furthermore, he did not start well either. I actually thought he was done at the start because we all knew they wanted the lead and his start wasn’t optimal, but he still came on. You just have to give the horse credit, it was an amazing run.

  26. Eddie F says:

    Hats off to ProVet for his bet on Authentic in the final Future Wager. And to anyone else who had him.

    • pro vet says:

      thanks……i still dont get it…….8-1 and 11-1 in a 3 horse race?…….too high……..i pounced

      • Eddie F says:

        The post-time odds were unbelievable, too. The last time the odds on a 2nd choice were as high (against a favorite at 6-5 or lower) was in 1943. Do you remember that one? 🙂

  27. Eddie F says:

    No excuse for Tiz. I think he ran his race. Just that Authentic ran his biggest race ever.

    • perimeister says:

      Definitely Authentic’s biggest race ever. No complaints about the trip. Maybe without the Travers behind him, Tiz may have had more speed in the stretch. We’ll never know. It’ll be interesting to see who goes to the Preakness out of this race.

      • perimeister says:

        According to Trakus:
        Tiz the Law in the Travers ran the final quarter in 24.53 secs, averaging 37.0 mpg, after running the mile in 1:36:30, crossing the wire in 2:00.83 for 6701 feet.
        In the Kentucky Derby, he ran the final quarter in 26.01 secs, averaging 34.8 mpg, after running the mile in 1:34:72, crossing the wire in 2:00.73 for 6686 feet.

        • Eddie F says:

          Tiz ran the final Derby quarter in 25 3/5, same as Authentic but for the 1/4 length he lost in the stretch.

          • perimeister says:

            ‘Tiz true. Those extra 23 feet he ran were the difference between placing and winning by a couple of lengths —though I suspect had he more time to recover from the Travers, or hadn’t run it, that would have been enough too.

    • pro vet says:

      no,,,,,,,he regressed………like i thought………i expect a 103 or so beyer….

  28. Eddie F says:

    OK. Who had Mr. Big News in the trifecta?

  29. Cynthia Holt says:

    Steve, I know that lots of us are hoping you will give a break-down of the race. Who would have believed this scenario, right up until the final minute! If this doesn’t encapsulate the highs and lows of racing, I don’t know what does!

  30. Betsy says:

    What can I say? HAP had a terrible start and ran a big race. Kudos to Authentic.

    • perimeister says:

      I was wrong. Authentic can win the Derby.

      Honor AP and Max Player both ran with honor, even if HAP ran about twice as far as all the others. Max I thought in particular made great progress. The switch to SA seems to have been the right thing for him. If they both come out well, I’m sure they will go on to greater accomplishments.

      • Betsy says:

        HAP will win more big races – He lost nothing in defeat. I didn’t even pay attention to Max, I admit – where did he finish?

        • perimeister says:


          • Betsy Tarr says:

            Not bad for Max!

            HAP will pretty much always cover more ground because he usually goes wide…..but the problem this time was that he also was pinched back at the start and completely lost position. Mike’s other option would have been to rush the colt, and that would have been a huge mistake. He did the right thing and let HAP settle down.

            I’ve seen people say that HAP wasn’t handling the track, that he was climbing……did you see that?

            Anyway, I would love it if HAP were to run in the JCGC – rather than the Preakness or the other option someone mentioned – the Awesome Again.

    • perimeister says:

      The Trakus charts are interesting, assuming they are accurate.

      Honor AP (35.9 mph) and Max Player (36.1 mph) ran the fastest final quarters (25.31 and 25.13 secs, respectively. Mr Big News (35.2 mph/25.77 sec), Authentic (35.0 mph/25.91 sec), Enforceable (34.9 moh/25.93 sec) and Tiz the Law (34.8 mph/26.01 sec) followed.

      Honor AP ran the farthest of all, 85 feet more than Enforceable, 57 feet more than Max Player, 26 more than Tiz the Law and 49 feet more than Authentic.

      • Betsy says:

        I watched the start repeatedly just now -I think HAP was really cut off, but he wasn’t slammed into like in the SB. About climbing – I wonder if it’s more that HAP didn’t break great, got cut off and then needed to settle down…… Climbing would have been Max Player in his debut, lol.

        Races like this are why Andy Serling often says that win/loss records are overrated. I’ve seen on HRN people saying how HAP is now 2/6 in his career, etc……as if that’s a bad thing. You have to look at races in context, something some people don’t know how to do.

        • perimeister says:

          Many people don’t like to do anything resembling reasoning from evidence and disagreeing with the majority — or a vocal minority. I find it helpful to continually remind myself that racehorses’ accomplishments are a team effort, where most members of the team are human.

          Honor AP broke equally as fast as NY Traffic, and they took their first few jumps with the same quickness, but when NY Traffic veered out with the third jump, it was telegraphed by his posture on the second jump. So to me it looked like Honor AP had anticipated contact, because he wasn’t as far forward on the third and fourth jumps as NY Traffic and was aimed slightly toward the fence. The SB experience may have made him leery about breaking fast, or he just saw the crash coming – maybe even on the initial jump – and shortened up (again) to avoid catastrophe.
          Maybe questions about the starts could be posed to Mike, to hear what his sense to them is?

          I thought Max Player may have been described as climbing early on, given his high knee action visible in the first quarter. But he had a more difficult trip than Chickalicious – though shorter – and finished VERY well. It looked like maybe Honor AP didn’t like the dust heading into the first turn and maybe ran with his head higher than usual, at least until he made his move on the far turn, but I wouldn’t swear to it. The camera angles don’t make it easy to compare with his workouts.

          Regardless, Honor AP’s future is assured – and probably Max’s soon will be as well.

          • pro vet says:

            hap is the best…….trust the pro

          • Betsy says:

            Peri, Livewire is saying the same thing, that maybe HAP was affected by Cezanne slamming into him. It’s a shame John didn’t really have any comments as now we’ll never get anything from him. I’m not going to search for the start, but if I run into it, I’ll watch it again to see how HAP breaks.

            I’m honestly not thinking about HAP’s post-racing future – I care more about his future on the track. I don’t think he’s as polished as I thought….he needs to grow up. Max…too bad he’s gotten no attention as it seems he ran really well. I wonder where he will go next.

        • pro vet says:

          he is the best……they will find out

          • Eddie F says:

            Not convinced. Regardless of his start, why was he LAST after a half and 9th after a mile? My only concern with him was that he never left Cal until this week. HAP did not have the resume of a Justify or a Cal Chrome. He needed to get out of state and race more.

          • perimeister says:

            After looking at both NBC and TVG footage, I can’t see that Honor AP ever shifted into his distinctive extended running gait. So he ran the longest race, being cut off at the start, with one arm tied behind his back, and finished a good fourth. That’s pretty amazing, actually. I can’t think less of his talent after the race, but I can disparage his handling and/or the quarantine protocols that prevented him from having a fast work or prior race over the surface to give him a real chance to learn how to most effectively move over it.

      • Livewire says:

        Looking at the Trakus data. First time I had the gumption to do so since I knew it could be upsetting. So, HAP’s quarters were in succession, 24.2,23.55, 23.89, 24.21, 25.31. Obviously the first and last are the stretch which certainly adds credence to he was not getting hold of the track down the stretch. HAP is not a horse to run a final quarter in over 25 seconds if he is being asked. Also interesting is how many lengths he made up regardless. The what if is what makes this so bittersweet, had he been able to take hold of the track, one second off the final quarter has him winning this race.

        The other thing of interest is that both Honor Code’s attained an average mph of nearly 36. HAP was 35.9 and Max Player was 36.1, no other horse even came close.

        Just some food for thought. This horse ran 37 1/3 more yards than the winner.

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