Kentucky Derby 2016 Contenders: Southwest Stakes Preview (Video)

Mohaymen has had a stranglehold on the top spot since I started my Kentucky Derby 2016 contenders list last September, and his visually impressive win in the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park on Saturday, January 30 was a great start to his sophomore campaign.

Mor Spirit

Mor Spirit wins 2016 Robert Lewis Syakes – photo by Eclipse Sportswire

Last week, my second ranked Derby contender Mor Spirit made his 3-year-old debut a winning one in the G2 Robert Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita Park on Saturday, February 6.

This week, four races (2 points races) may have Derby implications. The Sam F. Davis Stakes (non-points race) at Tampa Bay on Saturday, Feb 13 is the local prep for the Tampa Bay Derby and it is my HRN Play of the Day.

The G3 El Camino Real Derby (points race) will also be contested on Feb 13 and I will be talking about that race on The Fast Track with Steve Bortstein Saturday morning at 10am (eastern time).

On Monday, Feb 15, juvenile champ Nyquist makes his much anticipated return in the G2 San Vicente (non-points race), and Oaklawn Park presents their second two turn Derby prep, the G3 Southwest Stakes (points race).

Graded Recaps (2016 Derby Points Races)

G2 Robert Lewis Stakes (2-6-16, 92 BSF): Mor Spirit figured to sit a dream trip behind honest fractions and that is exactly what happened. He stalked, pounced, and pulled clear late to win by 1.5 lengths over Uncle Lino and early runner I Will Score.

Jarrod Horak’s “Exceptional Eleven” Kentucky Derby 2016 Contenders

(1) MOHAYMEN (Tapit – Justwhistledixie, by Dixie Union) mohaymen silks 2016

Trainer (Kiaran Mclaughlin) – Owner (Shadwell Stable)

Latest Workout: 4f bullet in :47.75 (1/31) at Palm Meadows on Feb 12.

Comments: The $2.2 million yearling purchase went 3-for-3 as a juvenile and rattled off back-to-back graded wins in the G2 Nashua and G2 Remsen, both at Aqueduct. He was training well for his sophomore debut in the Holy Bull and did not disappoint with an easy stalk/pounce victory at the Gulf on Jan 30. I love his professionalism and tactical speed. He has been my top ranked Derby contender since I started my list last September and he is in peak form in advance of the Fountain of Youth Stakes on Saturday, Feb 27 at Gulfstream Park.

Derby Points (20)  

(2) MOR SPIRIT (Eskendereya – Im a Dixie Girl, by Dixie Union) more spirit silks 2016

Trainer (Bob Baffert) – Owner (Michael Lund Petersen)

Comments: Last year’s G1 Los Al Futurity picked up where he left off with another graded win in the Robert Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita on Feb 6. Baffert’s stalker keeps improving and picking up Derby points. He stays put at #2, a spot he has occupied since Oct 24.

Derby Points (24)

(3) BRODY’S CAUSE (Giant’s Causeway – Sweet Breanna, by Sahm) brody's cause silks 2016

Trainer (Dale Romans) – Owner (Albaugh Family Stable)

Latest Workout: 5f in 1:02.97 (8/19) at Gulfstream Park on Feb 7.

Comments: The patient runner looked good from off the pace in back-to-back wins at Churchill (one mile maiden race) and Keeneland (G1 Breeders’ Futurity). He worked his way through traffic to finish a decent 3rd in the BC Juvenile. He is wintering in Florida and figures to have two Derby preps, beginning with the G2 Tampa Bay Derby March 12 and ending with the G1 Blue Grass at Keeneland on April 9. He remains at #3.

Derby Points (14)

(4) GREENPOINTCRUSADER (Bernardini – Ava Knowsthecode, by Cryptoclearance) greenpointcrusader silks 2016

Trainer (Dominick Schettino) – Owner (St. Elias Stable)

Comments: The well bred colt with low profile connections put it all together from off the pace in a strong 4-1/2 length victory in the G1 Champagne last fall. The BC Juvenile favorite was too far back early and ended up a better than appears 7th after getting fanned very wide in the lane at Keeneland Oct 31. He exited the BC Juvenile with an eye ulcer, probably caused by flying dirt during the running of the race. He is wintering in Florida, returned to the work tab Dec 28, and resurfaced in the Holy Bull. In the paceless Holy Bull, the patient sort surprisingly took up the running and was clearly second best. He retains his #4 ranking and remains a solid Derby prospect.

Derby Points (14)

(5) AIROFORCE (Colonel John – Chocolate Pop, by Cuvee) airoforce silks

Trainer (Mark Casse) – Owner (John C. Oxley)

Latest Workout: 4f in :48.30 (2/31) at Palm Meadows on Feb 12.

Comments: His first three turf races produced two wins (MSW, G3 Bourbon) and a second (G1 BC Juvenile Turf). They switched to dirt (wet track) in the G2 Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Nov 28 and he wrapped up his juvenile campaign with a victory over subsequent graded stakes winners Mor Spirit (Los Al Futurity) and Mo Tom (LeComte). He returned to the worktab Jan 11, missed his next work with an elevated temperature, and resumed morning activity Jan 25. His sire Colonel John was my Derby horse in 2008. He is entered in the G2 Risen Star at Fair Grounds on Feb 20. He makes his debut in the top five.

Derby Points (10)

(6) NYQUIST (Uncle Mo – Seeking Gabrielle, by Forestry)

Trainer (Doug O’Neill) – Owner (Reddam Racing LLC.)

Latest Workout: 5f in :59.20 (2/48) at Santa Anita on Feb 7.

Comments: The recently named 2-year-old champ ran his record to 5-for-5 and overcame an outer post and wide trip in the BC Juvenile, a race that was more than a second slower than filly counterpart Songbird in the BC Juvenile Fillies. He is in great shape in regards to Derby points and is preparing to make two starts prior to the first Saturday in May. First up is the G2 San Vicente Stakes (non-points race) at Santa Anita on February 15, followed by the G1 Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park on April 2. He stays put at #6.

Derby Points (30)

(7) EXAGGERATOR (Curlin – Dawn Raid, by Vindication)

Trainer (Keith Desormeaux) – Owner (Big Chief Racing, LLC)

Latest Workout: 4f in :47.40 (2/23) at Santa Anita on Feb 9.

Comments: He had a busy juvenile campaign with six starts and wins in the G2 Saratoga Special and G3 Delta Jackpot. He was also 2nd in the G1 Breeders’ Futurity and 4th in the G1 BC Juvenile. He will begin his Derby march in the San Vicente and got serious with a bullet work on Feb 2. He is up one notch.

Derby Points (16)

(8) SYNCHRONY (Tapit – Brownie Points, by Forest Wildcat)

Trainer (Donnie K Von Hemel) – Owner (Pin Oak Stable)

Latest Workout: 5f in 1:00.80 (2/45) at Oaklawn Park on Feb 6.

Comments: After finishing 2nd in his career debut, he won back-to-back races at Keeneland and Churchill to end his 2-year-old season. He put in a nice late run to finish 3rd in the Smarty Jones and was gaining on the top two in a promising effort at Oaklawn Jan 18. He moves up two places and goes next in the Southwest on Feb 15.

Derby Points (2)

(9) MATT KING COAL (Cool Coal Man – Donna Marie, by Came Home)

Trainer (Linda Rice) – Owner (Lady Sheila Stable)

Latest Workout: 5f in 1:02.55 (10/31) at Belmont Park (dirt training) on Feb 7.

Comments: Earned two of the better juvenile speed figures in a clear place finish at 8.5 furlongs at Belmont Oct 3 (93 BSF) and a 96 BSF for his easy flat mile wire job maiden win at that same venue Oct 29. Following a respiratory infection, he spiked a fever, missed the G3 Jerome on Jan 3, and went to the farm for a vacation. He returned to the work tab Feb 7 and is pointing to the G3 Gotham at Aqueduct March 5. He moves up a couple of notches.

(10) GIFT BOX (Twirling Candy – Special Me, by Unbridled’s Song)

Trainer (Chad Brown) – Owner (W. S. Farish)

Latest Workout: 4f in :49 (25/71) at Palm Meadows on Jan 25.

Comments: Beat Matt King Coal by a nose at 8.5f (Belmont Park, Oct 3) and was flattered when that one returned to win impressively four weeks later. He fought restraint in the Remsen and ended up an even 3rd in his first stakes try. He missed a recent work and is not longer under consideration for the Risen Star. He drops five spots.

(11) CONQUEST BIG E (Tapit – Seeinsbelieven, by Carson City)

Trainer (Mark Casse) – Owner (Conquest Stables, LLC.)

Comments: The Holy Bull was supposed to be his coming out party but it did not work out that way. I thought Mike Smith would send him to the lead in the paceless Holy Bull but he stalked the pace and finished a flat 4th after a bit of a slow start. He drops to the bottom of the list.

Derby Points (1)

Honorable Mention: (12) Mo Tom, (13) Zulu, (14) I Will Score, (15) Rafting, (16) Malibu Sunset, (17) Danzing Candy, (18) Shagaf, (19) Rally Cry, (20) Awesome Banner

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