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Kentucky Oaks 2016 with Rachel’s Valentina & Cathryn Sophia (Video)

Kentucky Derby 2016 Contenders: Post Positions Drawn Wednesday

The final Kentucky Derby 2016 workouts are complete and the last piece of business is the all-important post position draw on Wednesday, May 4.

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Outwork is not in my Top 11 but is knocking at the door at #12 and continues to impress in his morning activity leading up to the Derby. The Wood Memorial winner in 3-for-4 with his lone loss a length defeat to his stablemate Destin in the productive Tampa Bay Derby. His lack of experience is a big drawback but the likely pace player is sharp and talented.

On the other end of the workout spectrum, UAE Derby winner Lani is a temperamental son of Tapit. He is playable on pedigree but has been a hot mess in the mornings, sometimes refusing to work. He clearly has a mind of his own and getting him into the Derby starting gate could be an adventure.

After post positions are drawn, I will come back with a final look at the top Derby contenders later this week.

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

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

Trainer (Kiaran Mclaughlin) – Owner (Shadwell Stable)

Latest Workouts: 4f in :47.40 (5/67) at Churchill Downs on April 29. 4f bullet in :46.80 (1/27) at Churchill Downs on April 20.

Comments: He shipped to Churchill Downs April 17, uncorked a strong four furlong bullet April 20, and galloped out with interest. He has been aggressive and energetic since arriving in Kentucky. He is a dangerous rebound threat if he settles into a nice stalking rhythm under the Twin Spires on May 7. He maintains his #1 ranking, a spot he has occupied since I first started my 2016 Derby contender list more than six months ago.

Derby Points (80)  

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

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

Latest Workouts: 5f in :59.80 (2/27) at Churchill Downs on May 2. 5f in :59.80 (2/18) at Churchill Downs on April 26.

Comments: Both of his five furlong moves at Churchill were identical in time. In his April 26 move, he was fast early and slow late. On May 2, he was fast early but looked a bit better in the late stages. Neither of the works had that “wow” factor and he should be forwardly placed based on his recent morning activity. He stays put at #2, a spot he has occupied for more than five months.

Derby Points (84)

(3) NYQUIST (Uncle Mo – Seeking Gabrielle, by Forestry) Nyquist

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

Latest Workout: 8f in 1:41 (1/3) at Keeneland on April 29.

Comments: His final Derby work at Keeneland was solid but not spectacular. My main concern has always been his one sprint/one route prep schedule this year. When the real running begins, I fear that he will not be able to outmaneuver fitter foes.

Derby Points (130)

(4) EXAGGERATOR (Curlin – Dawn Raid, by Vindication) exaggerator silks

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

Latest Workouts: 5f in 1:02.60 (48/57) at Churchill Downs on April 30. 5f in 1:00 (7/40) at Santa Anita Park  on April 23.

Comments: Starting with the Delta Jackpot and ending with the SA Derby, his speed figures went over the century mark and three of those numbers were in two turn races. He moves up on a wet track but the track is expected to be fast on May 7. Nyquist beat him three times but he keeps getting closer to that rival and I love the way he has been prepared for the Derby (7f, 8.5f, 9f) by trainer Keith Desormeaux. He stays put at #4 and looks like a solid threat to wear the blanket of roses.

Derby Points (126)

(5) DESTIN (Giant’s Causeway – Dream of Summer, by Siberian Summer) destin silks

Trainer (Todd Pletcher) – Owner (Twin Creeks Racing Stables, LLC)

Latest Workout: 5f in 1:01.40 (29/53) at Churchill Downs on April 29.

Comments: He was impressive in the productive Tampa Bay Derby but still needs to prove he can run a big race away from Tampa Bay Downs. He has never raced beyond a mile and a sixteenth and the Kentucky Derby will be his first start in two months. His tactical speed is an asset on the first Saturday in May.

Derby Points (51)

(6) SUDDENBREAKINGNEWS (Mineshaft – Uchitel, by Afleet Alex)

Trainer (Donnie K Von Hemel) – Owner (Samuel F. Henderson)

Latest Workout: 5f in :59.60 (8/53) at Churchill Downs on April 29.

Comments: The impressive Southwest winner could not overcome a troubled trip from the outside post in the Rebel Stakes but bounced back with a much better effort to land the place in the Arkansas Derby. He has plenty of stamina and is one of several quality late running Derby closers. He has made a nice impression in his Derby training sessions.

Derby Points (50)

(7) CREATOR (Tapit – Morena, by Privately Held)

Trainer (Steve Asmussen) – Owner (WinStar Farm)

Latest Workouts: 4f in :50.60 (47/56) at Churchill Downs on May 2. 5f in 1:02.40 (25/34) at Churchill Downs on April 25.

Comments: He might win the most improved horse award. It took him six starts to graduate and after a 3rd in the Rebel he had his breakout performance in the Arkansas Derby. The late runner has impressed clockers at Churchill and should ready to pounce if the Derby pace gets hot and heavy.

Derby Points (110)

(8) BRODY’S CAUSE (Giant’s Causeway – Sweet Breanna, by Sahm)

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

Latest Workouts: 5f in 1:00.20 (4/57) at Churchill Downs on April 30. 5f in 1:01.80 (35/65) at Churchill Downs on April 23.

Comments: He broke his maiden at Churchill Downs but his three Keeneland numbers stand out and I am not sure he can earn that kind of figure away from the Lexington oval. The Blue Grass pace fell apart and the number did not come back particularly strong. He has been part of my Derby list all along so I have obviously been a fan for quite some time.

Derby Points (114)

(9) GUN RUNNER (Candy Ride – Quiet Giant, by Giant’s Causeway)

Trainer (Steve Asmussen) – Owner (Winchell Thoroughbreds and Three Chimney Farms)

Latest Workouts: 6f in 1:12.20 (1/2) at Churchill Downs on April 25. 5f bullet in 1:00 (1/16) at Churchill Downs on April 18.

Comments: From a running style standpoint, he is a strong Derby threat, but speed figures tell a different story. He may not have beaten the toughest fields in the Risen Star and LA Derby but has room to improve in his third start of 2016. He has looked okay at Churchill in advance of the Derby.

Derby Points (151)     

(10) DANZING CANDY (Twirling Candy – Talkin and Singing, by Songandaprayer)

Trainer (Clifford Sise Jr.) – Owner (Halo Farms)

Latest Workouts: 5f in :59.80 (2/17) at San Luis Rey Training Center on April 30. 6f bullet in 1:12 (1/12) at San Luis Rey Training Center on April 23.

Comments: The sharp wire-to-wire San Felipe winner probably did not like the wet track in the SA Derby. In the latter race, he was sent to the lead and faded badly in a too bad to be true effort. He whipped Mor Spirit and Exaggerator in the San Felipe but finished well behind those rivals in the SA Derby. His biggest obstacle is his ability to relax and finish. He is fast and talented but looks like a one-dimensional speed horse with stamina issues. He is better than his last and would appreciate a fast, speed favoring track but ten furlongs looks like a daunting trip.

Derby Points (60)

(11) MO TOM (Uncle Mo – Caroni, by Rubiano)

Trainer (Tom Amoss) – Owner (G M B Racing)

Latest Workout: 4f in :48.60 (28/67) at Churchill Downs on April 29. 4f in :47 (2/27) at Churchill Downs on April 20.

Comments: The hard luck closer has made a decent impression training for the Derby at Churchill Downs. He is close in ability to Gun Runner but the latter has tactical speed and some quickness to help him avoid traffic woes. He has not run fast yet and the main reason he keeps getting into trouble is probably because he is not nimble enough to avoid it. He is due for some good luck but finding clear sailing on the first Saturday in May will not be an easy task.

Derby Points (32)

THE NEXT NINE +1: (12) Outwork, (13) My Man Sam, (14) Whitmore, (15) Shagaf, (16) Tom’s Ready, (17) Lani, (18) Majesto, (19) Oscar Nominated, (20) Trojan Nation, (21) Fellowship

Kentucky Derby 2016 Preview Video

We are closing in on the post position draw for Kentucky Derby 2016 and with less than a week to go it is time to take a look at the possible pace scenario and strong pedigree players.


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Video Race of the Week: Charles Town Classic with Donworth and Page McKenney

With the Triple Crown preps in the book, we jump over to the Handicap Division and head to Charles Town Races for the Grade 2 Charles Town Classic.

The key to this race might be the horses exiting the productive Santa Anita Handicap. Last weekend at Oaklawn Park, three Big ‘Cap runners, Effinex, Melatonin, and Point Piper, returned to finish 1-2-3 in the Oaklawn Handicap.

Donworth, Imperative, and Hard Aces are the three Big ‘Cap runners entered in the 2016 Charles Town Classic.

Kentucky Derby 2016 Contenders: Creator Storms Home in Final Points Race

The long and winding road to Kentucky Derby 2016 made a final stop at Oaklawn Park on April 16 and Creator roared home from off the pace to capture the Arkansas Derby.

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Now that all of the points races are complete, it is time to focus on final workouts and the post position draw. The horses are beginning to gather under the Twin Spires and the excitement is starting to build.

Graded Recaps (2016 Derby Points Races)

G1 Arkansas Derby (4-16-16, 96 BSF): Creator’s late rally fell short in the G2 Rebel but the extra distance helped propel him to victory in the Arkansas Derby. He is clearly on the upswing for Steve Asmussen and I like it when closers rally through traffic, something fellow Derby hopeful Mo Tom has not been able to do. Suddenbreakingnews seemed to be struggling but kept plugging away, found his best stride in the lane, and was up for the place in a solid effort. Whitmore hit the board in the Southwest and Rebel and grabbed show dough on Saturday. To give us a gauge on the LA Derby, the show finisher in that heat, Dazzling Gem, finished an even 4th (beaten 4.75 lengths) in this affair. As for post time favorite Cupid, the wheels fell off the cart in the Arkansas Derby. His race was basically over after a less than ideal break. Garcia tried to push him forward but he was squeezed a bit and was chasing fast fractions before fading badly and crossing the line in 10th place. He surprisingly set the pace in the Rebel and they seemed intent on using the same tactics again but to no avail this time. He exited the Oaklawn showcase with an entrapped epiglottis and will miss the Kentucky Derby. The Preakness is still an option for the Baffert trainee. The pace fell apart in this race, something that has happened quite a bit on the Derby trail recently.

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 :46.80 (1/27) at Churchill Downs on April 20.

Comments: I thought he was the best 3-year-old in the country prior to the G1 Florida Derby and I am sticking to my guns for several reasons. In the G1 Florida Derby, he made a mild bid before ending up a well beaten 4th but that does not begin to tell the story. He never looked happy, raced wide from an outer post, was not handling the wet surface, and had to be coaxed to keep up instead of cruising along like he usually does. I will toss-out his final Derby prep and look for him to run a much better race on the first Saturday in May. He shipped to Churchill Downs April 17, uncorked a strong four furlong bullet April 20, and galloped out with interest. He maintains his #1 ranking, a spot he has occupied since I first started my 2016 Derby contender list more than six months ago.

Derby Points (80)  

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

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

Latest Workout: 5f in 1:01.60 (39/55) at Santa Anita on April 21.

Comments: Exaggerator really turned the tables on him in the SA Derby but the first Saturday in May is the big prize. He has never finished out of the Exacta, handles any footing, and was 2nd in the G2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs last fall. The one-paced, grinding type lacks explosiveness and that is a major concern but he is a gem of consistency and might be the most reliable of the Derby contenders. He stays put at #2, a spot he has occupied for more than five months.

Derby Points (84)

(3) NYQUIST (Uncle Mo – Seeking Gabrielle, by Forestry) Nyquist

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

Latest Workout: 5f in 1:02.60 (22/28) at Keeneland on April 15.

Comments: With Mohaymen swimming upstream, the undefeated, two-year-old champion had a very easy time of it on the front end against severely overmatched pace rivals in the G1 Florida Derby. I never liked his one sprint/one route path to the Kentucky Derby and he will take more money than he should on the first Saturday in May. Many question his ability to get ten furlongs based on his pedigree and that might be the case but I just don’t think he is fast enough around two turns to win the Derby. His best career number was earned in the G2 San Vicente at seven furlongs earlier this year and his Florida Derby speed figure was nothing special. He shipped to Keeneland to begin Derby preparations April 3 and is scheduled to work next on April 23.

Derby Points (130)

(4) EXAGGERATOR (Curlin – Dawn Raid, by Vindication) exaggerator silks

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

Comments: Both of his two turn wins (Delta Jackpot, SA Derby) were accomplished on wet tracks and he totally freaked at Santa Anita last time. He has turned into a strong late runner, has plenty of seasoning, and I love the way trainer Keith Desormeaux has handled him this year in regards to distance progression (7f San Vicente, 8.5f San Felipe, 9f SA Derby). Kent Desormeaux was more patient with him in the SA Derby and his well-timed ride resulted in a strong finish in his final Derby prep. A wet track at Churchill Downs would make him the one to beat but I am not sure what he will do on dry land. He stays put at #4.

Derby Points (126)

(5) DESTIN (Giant’s Causeway – Dream of Summer, by Siberian Summer) destin silks

Trainer (Todd Pletcher) – Owner (Twin Creeks Racing Stables, LLC)

Latest Workout: 5f in 1:00.94 (1/2) at Palm Beach Downs on April 16.

Comments: He was impressive in his final Derby prep (Tampa Bay Derby) and was flattered when a pair of his vanquished foes from that race (Outwork, Brody’s Cause) returned to win the G1 Wood Memorial and G1 Blue Grass. I like his positional speed and improving form but he still needs to prove he can run a big race away from Tampa Bay Downs. His connections were worried about a bounce so they decided to skip his final prep and train up to the Derby. He won the Tampa Bay Derby on March 12, returned to the work tab April 2, has never raced beyond a mile and a sixteenth, and the Kentucky Derby will be his first start in two months. He has positives and negatives like many top Derby contenders this year.

Derby Points (51)

(6) SUDDENBREAKINGNEWS (Mineshaft – Uchitel, by Afleet Alex)

Trainer (Donnie K Von Hemel) – Owner (Samuel F. Henderson)

Comments: The impressive Southwest winner could not overcome a troubled trip from the outside post in the Rebel Stakes but bounced back with a much better performance in the Arkansas Derby. It looked like he was going nowhere in his final Derby prep but eventually started advancing in the middle of the track and got up for the place to secure a spot on the first Saturday in May. He has plenty of stamina and is one of several quality late runners but has shown some running style versatility in the past.

Derby Points (50)

(7) CREATOR (Tapit – Morena, by Privately Held)

Trainer (Steve Asmussen) – Owner (WinStar Farm)

Comments: He broke his maiden in his sixth career start Feb 27, rallied for the show in the G2 Rebel Stakes March 19, and went last-to-first while working his way through traffic to capture his first graded stakes race in the G1 Arkansas Derby April 16. He is getting good in a hurry, has stamina influences throughout his pedigree, and could be heard from late on May 7.

Derby Points (110)

(8) BRODY’S CAUSE (Giant’s Causeway – Sweet Breanna, by Sahm)

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

Comments: The G1 Breeders’ Futurity winner proved once again that Keeneland is his favorite venue after a solid off the pace effort in the G1 Blue Grass. The G1 BC Juvenile show finisher threw in a clunker in his G2 Tampa Bay Derby return on March 12 but some horses do not handle the Tampa Bay surface and he bounced back as expected on April 9. He broke his maiden at Churchill so a return to Kentucky was definitely what the doctor ordered. The Blue Grass pace fell apart and the number did not come back strong. He has been part of my Derby list all along so I have obviously liked him for quite some time.

Derby Points (114)

(9) GUN RUNNER (Candy Ride – Quiet Giant, by Giant’s Causeway)

Trainer (Steve Asmussen) – Owner (Winchell Thoroughbreds and Three Chimney Farms)

Latest Workout: 5f bullet in 1:00 (1/16) at Churchill Downs on April 18.

Comments: He looked good in a pair ground saving, stalk and pounce wins this year in the G2 Risen Star and G2 Louisiana Derby. He did not run fast in either race but jockey Florent Geroux put him in the right spot and gave him every chance to succeed both times. His tactical speed and ability to get the jump on his opponents are big assets when it comes to a race like the Kentucky Derby but he will need to run quite a bit faster to be considered a serious threat to wear the blanket of roses.

Derby Points (151)     

(10) DANZING CANDY (Twirling Candy – Talkin and Singing, by Songandaprayer)

Trainer (Clifford Sise Jr.) – Owner (Halo Farms)

Comments: The sharp wire-to-wire San Felipe winner did not show the same brilliance in the SA Derby. In the latter race, he was sent to the lead and faded badly in the mud. He whipped Mor Spirit and Exaggerator in the San Felipe but finished more than thirteen lengths behind that latter this time. What a difference four weeks and a longer distance can make on the Derby trail. Prior to the SA Derby, his biggest obstacle was his ability to relax and finish. Exaggerator clearly passed his test but not this colt. He is fast and talented but looks like a one-dimensional speed horse with stamina issues. He is better than his last and would appreciate a fast, speed favoring track but ten furlongs looks like a daunting trip.

Derby Points (60)

(11) MO TOM (Uncle Mo – Caroni, by Rubiano)

Trainer (Tom Amoss) – Owner (G M B Racing)

Latest Workout: 4f in :47 (2/27) at Churchill Downs on April 20.

Comments: Everything went right to kick off his sophomore campaign in the G2 LeComte but he has become the poster child for bad racing luck ever since. He was a troubled 3rd in the Risen Star and an even more unlucky 4th in the LA Derby. Closers frequently find trouble but a pair of questionable rides by jockey Corey Lanerie did not help matters. He is very close in ability to Gun Runner but the latter has tactical speed and some quickness to help him avoid traffic woes. He has not run fast yet and the main reason he keeps getting into trouble is because he is not nimble enough to avoid it. He is due for some good luck but finding clear sailing on the first Saturday in May will not be easy.

Derby Points (32)

THE NEXT NINE +1: (12) Outwork, (13) My Man Sam, (14) Whitmore, (15) Shagaf, (16) Tom’s Ready, (17) Lani, (18) Majesto, (19) Oscar Nominated, (20) Trojan Nation, (21) Fellowship

Kentucky Derby 2016 Contenders: Arkansas Derby Video

The road to Kentucky Derby 2016 makes a final stop at Oaklawn Park in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby on Saturday, April 16.

arkansas derby odds

The last race to offer 170 Derby points attracted a 12-horse field and G2 Rebel hero Cupid is the morning line favorite for trainer Bob Baffert.

Cupid is a lightly raced, $900,000 son of Tapit, and an impressive performance at Oaklawn on Saturday might make him the second choice in the Kentucky Derby behind undefeated 2-year-old champ Nyquist.

Graded Recaps (2016 Derby Points Races)

G1 Wood Memorial (4-9-16, 93 BSF): Racing on a muddy (sealed) surface, Outwork battled hard throughout and beat 81-1 maiden Trojan Nation by a head. Adventist closed well to edge Matt King Coal for the show. Post time favorite Shagaf was never a serious factor in 5th. The winner flattered stablemate and Tampa Bay Derby hero Destin. Matt King Coal set a pressured pace and ran well but failed to qualify for the Derby. I do not think that this was a strong Derby prep.

G1 Blue Grass (4-9-16, 91 BSF): The pace fell apart and Keeneland lover Brody’s Cause took full advantage in a solid 1-3/4 length score. He flopped in the productive Tampa Bay Derby but bounced back in a big way here. My Man Sam rallied from post 14 to edge Cherry Wine by a neck for the place. Zulu’s flop was not a big surprise. It took him quite some time to return to the work tab after the Fountain of Youth and he was not ready for the the Florida Derby so they chose this race instead. I think the FOY wore him out and not qualifying for the Derby is a very good thing for the lightly raced runner. The Top 3 are are all solid closers and could make some late noise if the Derby pace is hot but the Blue Grass speed figure was mediocre at best.

G1 SA Derby (4-9-16, 103 BSF): Exaggerator loves the mud and on this day he had no problem handling nine furlongs. He steadily advanced outside, blew by the early runners, and coasted home by 6-1/4 lengths. Mor Spirit seemed to be struggling with the sloppy (sealed) main track but he has no quit in him and ended up a clear 2nd. Uncle Lino stalked and was best of the rest in 3rd. Danzing Candy set a fast pace and was a fading 4th, beaten 13+ lengths. He dusted the top three in the San Felipe and may not have cared for the footing. Also, there were questions about his ability to ration his speed and he went too fast, too soon in this spot.

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)

Comments: The $2.2 million purchase lost some of his luster after a very disappointing effort in the G1 Florida Derby but he never looked happy, raced wide from an outer post, was not handling the wet surface, and had to be coaxed to keep up instead of cruising along like he usually does. I will toss-out his final Derby prep and look for him to bounce back on the first Saturday in May if he trains well in the coming weeks. His trio of 95 BSF’s put him squarely in the mix this year and I think he is capable of running faster based on how easy he won his stakes races prior to the Florida Derby. He still needs to run the fastest race of his life at Churchill if he expects to be competitive and I think he can and will be a much better horse under the Twin Spires. He is expected to ship to Churchill Downs to begin Derby preparations April 17. He maintains his #1 ranking, a spot he has occupied since I first started my 2016 Derby contender list more than six months ago.

Derby Points (80)  

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

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

Comments: I will admit that I was expecting a much better effort in the SA Derby and was fully prepared to move him to the top of my list but his 2nd behind runaway winner Exaggerator was not damaging in the grand scheme of things. His biggest strength is that nothing seems to bother him and he has been part of the Exacta in all seven of his starts. Another plus is his 2nd over wet footing in the G2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill last fall. His one-pace, grinding style concerns me but the gem of consistency might be the most reliable of the Derby contenders. He stays put at #2, a spot he has occupied for more than five months.

Derby Points (84)

(3) NYQUIST (Uncle Mo – Seeking Gabrielle, by Forestry) Nyquist

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

Latest Workout: 5f in 1:02.60 (22/28) at Keeneland on April 15.

Comments: After Mohaymen failed to fire, the 2-year-old champion had a very easy time of it on the front end against severely overmatched pace rivals in the G1 Florida Derby. I never like his one sprint/one route path to the Kentucky Derby and he will take more money than he should on the first Saturday in May. Many question his ability to get ten furlongs based on his pedigree and that might be the case but I just don’t think he is fast enough around two turns to win the Derby. His best career number was earned in the G2 San Vicente at seven furlongs earlier this year. He shipped to Keeneland to begin Derby preparations April 3.

Derby Points (130)

(4) EXAGGERATOR (Curlin – Dawn Raid, by Vindication) exaggerator silks

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

Comments: He made a big, premature move before flattening out in the G2 San Felipe but turned the tables on More Spirit and Danzig Candy in a visually impressive, rallying effort in the G1 SA Derby. He rolled through the mud last Saturday, rumbling past the wire more than six lengths clear and earning a solid 103 BSF, easily the best nine furlong stakes number so far. That is precisely why I did not jump ship after the San Felipe. He was too talented to jump to conclusions in regards to his true two turn ability after one less that ideal outcome. He has plenty of seasoning and foundation and I like the way trainer Keith Desormeaux has handled him this year in regards to distance progression (7f San Vicente, 8.5f San Felipe, 9f SA Derby). Kent Desormeaux was more patient with him last Saturday and his well-timed ride resulted in a strong finish in his final Derby prep. Blowout wet track wins are not frequently repeated under a different set of circumstances next time out and he stays put at #4 for the time being.

Derby Points (126)

(5) DESTIN (Giant’s Causeway – Dream of Summer, by Siberian Summer) destin silks

Trainer (Todd Pletcher) – Owner (Twin Creeks Racing Stables, LLC)

Latest Workouts: 5f in 1:00.94 (1/2) at Palm Beach Downs on April 16. 5f in 1:01.04 (3/12) at Palm Beach Downs on April 8.

Comments: The improving Tampa Bay Derby hero was flattered when vanquished foes Outwork and Brody’s Cause returned to win the G1 Wood Memorial and G1 Blue Grass last weekend. He owns fine positional speed and is peaking at the right time but still needs to prove his worth away from the friendly confines of Tampa Bay Downs. His sheets-oriented connections were worried about a bounce so they decided to skip his final prep and train up to the Derby. He won the Tampa Bay Derby on March 12, returned to the work tab April 2, has never raced beyond a mile and a sixteenth, and the Kentucky Derby will be his first start in two months.

Derby Points (51)

(6) SUDDENBREAKINGNEWS (Mineshaft – Uchitel, by Afleet Alex)

Trainer (Donnie K Von Hemel) – Owner (Samuel F. Henderson)

Latest Workout: 4f in :48.40 (9/45) at Oaklawn Park on April 9.

Comments: He looked very good after a strong last-to-first score from post 13 in the G3 Southwest, his sixth exacta finish from as many starts up to that point. In his last start in the G2 Rebel Stakes on March 12, he was wide early from post 14, raced in traffic, briefly lost action, steadied, and missed 4th by a head in a troubled, inconclusive effort. He deserves another chance and drew post 4 (5-1 morning line) in the Arkansas Derby on Saturday, April 16. A show finish would put him on the bubble so he needs a top two finish to secure a Derby berth.

Derby Points (10)

(7) CUPID (Tapit – Pretty ‘n Smart, by Beau Genius)

Trainer (Bob Baffert) – Owner (Michael B. Tabor, Mrs. John Magnier, and Derek Smith)

Latest Workouts: 4f in :48.20 (24/54) at Santa Anita Park on April 12. 7f in 1:24.60 (1/3) at Santa Anita Park on April 6.

Comments: The late bloomer is getting good in a hurry and his improvement can be attributed to racing over a route of ground. He lost his first two sprint starts (finished 2nd Jan 9) and proceeded to easily graduate at a mile and a sixteenth Feb 7 and followed that up with a gritty prominent throughout score in the G2 Rebel Stakes March 19. He is the morning line favorite for the Arkansas Derby and could give Baffert a strong 1-2 Derby punch if he turns in another big effort at Oaklawn Park.

Derby Points (50)

(8) BRODY’S CAUSE (Giant’s Causeway – Sweet Breanna, by Sahm)

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

Latest Workout: 5f in :59.82 (2/19) at Gulfstream Park on April 2.

Comments: The G1 Breeders’ Futurity winner proved once again that Keeneland is his favorite venue after a solid off the pace effort in the G1 Blue Grass. The G1 BC Juvenile show finisher threw in a clunker in his G2 Tampa Bay Derby return on March 12 but some horses do not handle the Tampa Bay surface and he bounced back as expected on April 9. He broke his maiden at Churchill so a return to Kentucky was definitely what the doctor ordered. The Blue Grass pace fell apart and the number did not come back strong so I will not move him back into the top five at this stage.

Derby Points (114)

(9) DANZING CANDY (Twirling Candy – Talkin and Singing, by Songandaprayer)

Trainer (Clifford Sise Jr.) – Owner (Halo Farms)

Comments: The sharp wire-to-wire San Felipe winner did not show the same brilliant form in the SA Derby. In the latter race, he was sent to the lead and faded badly in the mud. He whipped Mor Spirit and Exaggerator in the San Felipe but finished more than thirteen lengths behind that latter this time. What a difference four weeks and a longer distance can make on the Derby trail. Prior to the SA Derby, his biggest obstacle was his ability to relax and finish. Exaggerator clearly passed his test but not this colt. He is fast and talented but looks like a one-dimensional speed horse with stamina issues. He is better than his last and would appreciate a fast, speed favoring track but ten furlongs looks like a daunting task.

Derby Points (60)

(10) GUN RUNNER (Candy Ride – Quiet Giant, by Giant’s Causeway)

Trainer (Steve Asmussen) – Owner (Winchell Thoroughbreds and Three Chimney Farms)

Latest Workout: 5f in 1:01 (5/12) at Churchill Downs on April 11.

Comments: He looked good in a pair ground saving, stalk and pounce wins this year in the G2 Risen Star and G2 Louisiana Derby. He did not run fast in either race but jockey Florent Geroux put him in the right spot and gave him every chance to succeed both times. His tactical speed and ability to get the jump on his opponents are big assets when it comes to a race like the Kentucky Derby but he will need to run quite a bit faster to be considered a serious threat to wear the blanket of roses.

Derby Points (151)  

(11) MO TOM (Uncle Mo – Caroni, by Rubiano)

Trainer (Tom Amoss) – Owner (G M B Racing)

Latest Workout: 4f in :48.40 (5/32) at Churchill Downs on April 13.

Comments: Everything went right to kick off his sophomore campaign in the G2 LeComte but he has become the poster child for bad racing luck ever since. He was a troubled 3rd in the Risen Star and an even more unlucky 4th in the LA Derby. Closers frequently find trouble but a pair of questionable rides by jockey Corey Lanerie did not help matters. He is very close in ability to Gun Runner but the latter has tactical speed and some quickness to help him avoid traffic woes. He has not run fast yet and the main reason he keeps getting into trouble is because he is not nimble enough to avoid it. He is due for some good luck but finding clear sailing on the first Saturday in May will not be easy.

Derby Points (32)

THE NEXT NINE: (12) Outwork, (13) My Man Sam, (14) Whitmore, (15) Shagaf, (16) Tom’s Ready, (17) Fellowship, (18) Lani, (19) Majesto, (20) Oscar Nominated

Kentucky Derby 2016 Contenders: Blue Grass, SA Derby, and Wood Memorial video analysis

The road to Kentucky Derby 2016 makes pit stops in California, New York, and Kentucky this week with a trio of 170 Derby points races.

Mor Spirit

Mor Spirit tries to get his revenge in the SA Derby – photo by Eclipse Sportswire

The Santa Anita Derby is a rematch between the top three finishers in the San Felipe – Danzing Candy, Mor Spirit, and Exaggerator. The pace scenario might favor Mor Spirit but if the track comes up wet (a real possibility) all bets are off!

The Wood Memorial at Aqueduct features undefeated Gotham hero Shagaf but he is light on numbers. Watch for fast stakes newcomer Matt King Coal to attempt a wire job.

Finally, the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland features a full field of fourteen with two also-eligibles. Fountain of Youth runner-up Zulu is the 5-2 morning line favorite and Keeneland lover Brody’s Cause tries to bounce back after his non-effort in the Tampa Bay Derby.

Graded Recaps (2016 Derby Points Races)

G2 Spiral Stakes (4-2-16, 82 BSF): In a five-horse blanket finish, Oscar Nominated got the neck victory and 50 Kentucky Derby points. He is not nominated to the Triple Crown series but owner Ken Ramsey is expected to pay the $200,000 supplemental fee to get him into the starting gate on the first Saturday in May. Azar was 2nd for Todd Pletcher and local hope Surgical Strike was 3rd. Disappointing efforts were turned in by Ralis (5th), Kasseopia (7th), Airoforce (8th), and Jensen (10th). The speed figure came back low and this was not a strong Derby prep.

G1 Florida Derby (4-2-16, 94 BSF): Nyquist remained undefeated with an easy wire-to-wire score, a result became a foregone conclusion when Mohaymen failed to handle the wet track. Nyquist is now the clear Kentucky Derby favorite. Majesto held 2nd by a length over late running Fellowship. The latter was dusted by Mohaymen in the Holy Bull and FOY but beat him by four lengths in this spot. Mohamen was wide and never looked comfortable over the off going. Common sense tells us that he is much better than Fellowship and he probably would have won the Florida Derby if he repeated his easy Fountain of Youth triumph. The other six entrants were hopelessly overmatched and ran to their long odds. The top four finishers are all expected to target the Kentucky Derby.

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)

Comments: The $2.2 million purchase was a perfect 5-for-5 heading into the G1 Florida Derby but never looked happy in a very disappointing 4th place finish. He raced wide from an outer post, was clearly not handling the wet surface, and had to be coaxed to keep up instead of cruising along like he usually does. This is a toss-out race for him and he could easily bounce back on the first Saturday in May if he trains well in the coming weeks. His top BSF of 95 is not going to win the Derby but I think he is capable of running faster based on how easy he made it look in his stakes races prior to the Florida Derby. Still, he needs to run the fastest race of his life at Churchill if he expects to be competitive. I think he can and will be a much better horse under the Twin Spires and he maintains his #1 ranking for now. He no longer has a stranglehold on the top spot and an impressive effort from Mor Spirit on Saturday could shake things up a bit.

Derby Points (80)  

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

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

Latest Workout: 4f in :47 (2/58) at Santa Anita on April 4.

Comments: He has never finished out of the Exacta and his speed figure in the San Felipe was his best yet. He received valuable shipping experience in a place finish over wet footing in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill last fall and appears primed for a big effort in the Santa Anita Derby on Saturday, April 9. He is training well for his Saturday engagement and should get pace to chase. He might be the most reliable of the Derby contenders. He stays put at #2, a spot he has occupied for more than five months, and Mohaymen can hear his footsteps now.

Derby Points (44)

(3) NYQUIST (Uncle Mo – Seeking Gabrielle, by Forestry) Nyquist

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

Comments: The 2-year-old champion sure has a nose for the wire and ran his record to 7-for-7 with an easier than expected wire job win in the G1 Florida Derby. His task became much easier when his only competition Mohaymen failed to fire. I never like his one sprint/one route path to the Kentucky Derby and the 2-year-old champ will take more money than he should on the first Saturday in May. Many question his ability to get ten furlongs based on his pedigree and that might be the case but I just don’t think he is fast enough around two turns to win the Derby. His best overall number was earned in the G2 San Vicente at seven furlongs earlier this year. He shipped to Keeneland April 3 and had a slightly elevated white blood cell count (possibly caused by stress) April 7.

Derby Points (130)

(4) EXAGGERATOR (Curlin – Dawn Raid, by Vindication) exaggerator silks

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

Latest Workout: 5f in 1:02.80 (56/70) at Santa Anita Park on April 2.

Comments: He made a big, premature move in the G2 San Felipe before flattening out and finishing 3rd behind Danzig Candy and Mor Spirit last time. Many have seemingly jumped ship and decided that he has distance limitations but I want to see what he does in the SA Derby before making any final conclusions. He has plenty of seasoning and foundation and I like the way trainer Keith Desormeaux has handled him this year in regards to distance progression (7f, 8.5f, 9f). Hopefully Kent Desormeaux is more patient with him this Saturday because he needs a well-timed ride and a strong finish in his final Derby prep. He stays put at #4.

Derby Points (26)

(5) MATT KING COAL (Cool Coal Man – Donna Marie, by Came Home) Matt King Coal

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

Latest Workout: 7f in 1:25.28 (1/1) at Belmont Park (dirt training) on March 30.

Comments: He ran fast twice last year in a clear place finish at 8.5 furlongs at Belmont Oct 3 (93 BSF) and a got 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 made his first 2016 start in the third race on Sunday, March 6 at Aqueduct (inner dirt). In that Optional Claiming event at a mile and a sixteenth, he went wire-to-wire and earned a 97 BSF, a number much better than the G3 Gotham a day earlier. The Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 9 is next and he should be a strong factor from start to finish in that event. He will get a class and distance test in Saturday’s Wood and we will know if he is the real deal after that affair. He stays put at #5 and the Wood is his one and only chance to make the Derby.

(6) DESTIN (Giant’s Causeway – Dream of Summer, by Siberian Summer)

Trainer (Todd Pletcher) – Owner (Twin Creeks Racing Stables, LLC)

Latest Workout: 4f in :48.98 (6/17) at Palm Beach Downs on April 2.

Comments: The improving son of Giant’s Causeway exits back-to-back stakes wins in the Sam F. Davis (91 BSF) and G2 Tampa Bay Derby (100 BSF). Creative Cause’s brother owns fine positional speed and is getting good at the right time but still needs to prove his worth away from the friendly confines of Tampa Bay Downs. He finally returned to the work tab on April 2 but they have decided to skip his final prep and train up to the Derby. He has never raced beyond a mile and a sixteenth and the Kentucky Derby will be his first start in two months.

Derby Points (51)

(7) DANZING CANDY (Twirling Candy – Talkin and Singing, by Songandaprayer)

Trainer (Clifford Sise Jr.) – Owner (Halo Farms)

Latest Workout: 5f in 1:00.60 (13/70) at Santa Anita Park on April 2.

Comments: Ran his win streak to three with a sharp wire-to-wire score in the G2 San Felipe, smartly beating quality Derby contenders Mor Spirit and Exaggerator. He is fast and talented but still has some stamina and versatility questions to answer. I would consider him a very serious Kentucky Derby contender if he relaxes and finish strongly in the SA Derby at nine furlongs. He drilled a faster than expected five furlong bullet on March 26 and his connections need to harness his speed and leave something in the tank for the SA Derby on April 9. He should get tested early and often on Saturday.

Derby Points (50)

(8) SUDDENBREAKINGNEWS (Mineshaft – Uchitel, by Afleet Alex)

Trainer (Donnie K Von Hemel) – Owner (Samuel F. Henderson)

Latest Workout: 4f in :48.80 (8/39) at Oaklawn Park on April 1.

Comments: He made his way onto my list after a strong last-to-first score in the G3 Southwest, his sixth exacta finish from as many starts up to that point. In his last start in the G2 Rebel Stakes on March 12, he was wide early from post 14, raced in traffic, briefly lost action, steadied, and missed 4th by a head in a troubled, inconclusive effort. He deserves another chance and will get a shot at redemption in the Arkansas Derby on Saturday, April 16.

Derby Points (10)

(9) BRODY’S CAUSE (Giant’s Causeway – Sweet Breanna, by Sahm)

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

Latest Workout: 5f in :59.82 (2/19) at Gulfstream Park on April 2.

Comments: The G1 Breeders’ Futurity winner and G1 BC Juvenile show finisher threw in a clunker in his G2 Tampa Bay Derby return on March 12. Some horses do not handle the Tampa Bay surface so he gets a mulligan and will have his final Derby prep in the G1 Blue Grass Stakes on Saturday, April 9. We know he likes Keeneland (1st Breeders’ Futurity, 3rd BC Juvenile) and he broke his maiden at Churchill so a return to Kentucky might be just what the doctor ordered. He will remain on the list until he runs in the Blue Grass Stakes, a make or break race for him.

Derby Points (14)

(10) CUPID (Tapit – Pretty ‘n Smart, by Beau Genius)

Trainer (Bob Baffert) – Owner (Michael B. Tabor, Mrs. John Magnier, and Derek Smith)

Latest Workout: 7f in 1:24.60 (1/3) at Santa Anita Park on April 6.

Comments: The late bloomer is getting good in a hurry and his improvement can be attributed to racing over a route of ground. He lost his first two sprint starts (finished 2nd Jan 9) and proceeded to easily graduate at a mile and a sixteenth Feb 7 and followed that up with a gritty prominent throughout score in the G2 Rebel Stakes March 19. He will return to Oaklawn Park for the Arkansas Derby and could give Baffert a strong 1-2 Derby punch if he turns in another big effort on April 16.

Derby Points (50)

(11) ZULU  (Bernardini – Temporada, by Summer Squall)

Trainer (Todd Pletcher) – Owner (Stonestreet Stables, Tabor, Magnier, and Smith)

Latest Workout: 4f in :49.07 (8/17) at Palm Beach Downs on April 2.

Comments: Trainer Todd Pletcher decided to skip the Florida Derby and he has been redirected to the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland. He is the 5-2 morning line favorite in the Blue Grass and will add blinkers for that engagement. He is light on seasoning and needs a strong test in his final Derby prep. We will see how talented he is after the Keeneland showcase but even if he runs well the Derby might be too much too soon.

Derby Points (20)

THE NEXT NINE: (12) Mo Tom, (13) Gun Runner, (14) My Man Sam, (15) Shagaf, (16) Whitmore, (17) Outwork, (18) Tom’s Ready, (19) Fellowship, (20) Lani

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