Mohaymen and Mor Spirit are still my top two Kentucky Derby 2016 contenders but I made some changes to the list after the Tampa Bay Derby and San Felipe Stakes were run on March 12.
Someone failed to tell Brody’s Cause, one of my top Derby contenders, that he was running last weekend because he never lifted a hoof in the Tampa Bay Derby. He only has one Derby prep remaining (Blue Grass) and that is the problem with two prep campaigns. There is not much wiggle room left if something goes wrong. He is my biggest dropper going from #3 to #11.
Fountain of Youth runner-up Zulu was expected to take on Mohaymen and Nyquist in the Florida Derby but it took him 20 days to return to the worktab and it was a very slow four furlong breeze in :50.98 (15/16) on March 18. Pletcher may end up shipping him out of town for his final Derby prep. The combination of his lack of experience and light morning activity since his last has me concerned. He drops off the list and is replaced by another Pletcher trainee with more experience and more Derby points (Destin).
Malibu Sunset has a ton of potential but with only two lifetime starts (no Derby points) and some big efforts in graded points races last weekend, I no longer have room for him on my list. He worked six furlongs in 1:14.80 (8/12) at Santa Anita on March 17.
The Grade 2 Rebel Stakes is the Derby prep this week and it is worth a total of 85 Derby points (50-20-10-5). A full field of fourteen will line up in what promises to be a competitive betting event.
Keep a close eye on Cupid. The Bob Baffert runner was originally targeting the Sunland Derby but when that race was canceled, he was entered in the San Felipe. Baffert, as he is apt to do, especially with his sophomores, changed his mind and scratched Cupid from the San Felipe. He worked him a strong six furlongs late last week and was redirected to the Rebel, and Baffert is deadly when he ships his 3-year-olds to Oaklawn Park to run in stakes races.
Graded Recaps (2016 Derby Points Races)
G2 Tampa Bay Derby (3-12-16, 100 BSF): Sam F. Davis hero Destin made all the right moves under Javier Castellano. He smartly stalked stablemate Outwork and wore that one down to win by a length. The latter set the pace and was seven lengths clear of show finisher Star Hill. Sam Davis runner-up Rafting failed to move forward on the speed figure scale and ended up 4th. Post time favorite Brody’s Cause was last after six furlongs and only managed to pass two rivals in a surprising non-effort.
G2 San Felipe (3-12-16, 100 BSF): Danzing Candy was one of four early runners but went straight to the front and discouraged the other pace players in a good looking 2-length wire-to-wire score under Mike Smith. Mor Spirit was too fresh under Gary Stevens and wanted to go early. He ended up rallying for the place after all was said and done and he galloped out well. Exaggerator was last early and made an eye-catching premature move before running out of gas and finishing a clear 3rd.
Jarrod Horak’s “Exceptional Eleven” Kentucky Derby 2016 Contenders
(1) MOHAYMEN (Tapit – Justwhistledixie, by Dixie Union)
Trainer (Kiaran Mclaughlin) – Owner (Shadwell Stable)
Latest Workout: 5f bullet in 1:01 (1/10) at Palm Meadows on March 18.
Comments: The $2.2 million purchase ran his record to 5-for-5 after comfortably winning the Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park on Feb 27. He took the G2 Nashua and G2 Remsen as a juvenile (both at Aqueduct), and easily captured his sophomore debut in the Holy Bull at the Gulf on Jan 30. He continues to train forwardly in advance of the Florida Derby on April 2. He maintains at number one, a spot he has occupied since I started my list September 30, 2015.
Derby Points (70)
(2) MOR SPIRIT (Eskendereya – Im a Dixie Girl, by Dixie Union)
Trainer (Bob Baffert) – Owner (Michael Lund Petersen)
Comments: Bob Baffert’s $650k purchase is a 2-time graded winner (G1 Los Al Futurity, G3 Robert Lewis) and he got valuable shipping experience in a place finish over wet footing in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill last fall. He has never finished out of the exacta including a better than appears place finish behind wire job winner Danzing Candy in the G2 San Felipe at Santa Anita on March 12. In the San Felipe, jockey Gary Stevens said he was too fresh and eager to go early and after settling he passed Exaggerator for the place and galloped out nicely. Baffert and company keep learning more about him and the versatile sort will take on Danzing Candy again in the Santa Anita Derby on Saturday, April 9. He stays put at #2, a spot he has occupied since Oct 24.
Derby Points (44)
(3) GREENPOINTCRUSADER (Bernardini – Ava Knowsthecode, by Cryptoclearance)
Trainer (Dominick Schettino) – Owner (St. Elias Stable)
Latest Workout: 5f in 1:02.30 (6/10) at Palm Meadows on March 18.
Comments: The G1 Champagne winner was too far back early as the favorite in the BC Juvenile and ended up 7th after getting fanned very wide in the lane. He exited the Juvenile with an eye ulcer, probably caused by flying dirt during the running of the race. He resurfaced in the Jan 30 Holy Bull and the patient sort surprisingly took up the running in the paceless affair and was clearly second best. His future plans are set with the G2 Louisiana Derby next but I do not like the wide gaps between his three-year-old starts. He moves up on notch to #3 and must run big in the LA Derby on March 26.
Derby Points (14)
(4) NYQUIST (Uncle Mo – Seeking Gabrielle, by Forestry)
Trainer (Doug O’Neill) – Owner (Reddam Racing LLC.)
Latest Workout: 5f in 1:01.40 (21/53) at Santa Anita on March 18.
Comments: The 2-year-old champion looked like the real deal in his sophomore debut in the G2 San Vicente at seven furlongs. He ran fast throughout at Santa Anita on Feb 15, stopping the timer in 1:20.71 (100 BSF) and winning by 1.5 lengths over Exaggerator. He keeps on winning but I am not sure he wants to go ten furlongs and I do not like his one sprint/one route path to the Derby. He will have his final Derby prep in the G1 Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park on April 2. He jumps back in front of Exaggerator and makes his debut in the Top 5.
Derby Points (30)
(5) EXAGGERATOR (Curlin – Dawn Raid, by Vindication)
Trainer (Keith Desormeaux) – Owner (Big Chief Racing, LLC)
Comments: He uncorked a new career top BSF (98) in his San Vicente return but so did Nyquist and he had to settle for a clear place finish after giving the champ a scare in mid-stretch. In his second sophomore start in the San Felipe, he was much farther back than normal after a less than ideal start and unleashed a strong, premature run at Danzing Candy before understandably flattening out and finishing 3rd (96 BSF). Trainer Keith Desormeaux is concerned that he is a miler but will give him another Derby prep race shot in the Santa Anita Derby. I am not sure if he wants to go run longer distances but he is tough, durable, battle-tested, and deserves every chance to make the Derby. If he does not want to go that far, there is always races like the G1 King’s Bishop (seven furlongs) at Saratoga this summer. He stays put at #5 for now.
Derby Points (26)
(6) SUDDENBREAKINGNEWS (Mineshaft – Uchitel, by Afleet Alex)
Trainer (Donnie K Von Hemel) – Owner (Samuel F. Henderson)
Latest Workout: 5f in 1:02 (7/22) at Oaklawn Park on March 14.
Comments: He replaced stablemate Synchrony on the list after rallying powerfully and going last-to-first in the G3 Southwest. He has fired Exacta shots in all six career starts and has a smart route-oriented pedigree. He had his final G2 Rebel Stakes work March 14 and is all set for his next Oaklawn Park test on March 19. He drew post 14 in the Rebel but the late runner won the Southwest from post 13 so his wide draw may not matter.
Derby Points (10)
(7) MATT KING COAL (Cool Coal Man – Donna Marie, by Came Home)
Trainer (Linda Rice) – Owner (Lady Sheila Stable)
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 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 much better number than the G3 Gotham the day before. He was getting tired late and My Man Sam was closing but he had enough gas in the tank to get the job done despite being much less than 100% fit. The Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 9 is next and he should be much fitter for that engagement.
(8) DESTIN (Giant’s Causeway – Dream of Summer, by Siberian Summer)
Trainer (Todd Pletcher) – Owner (Twin Creeks Racing Stables, LLC)
Comments: The improving newcomer to my list responded in a big way in his last two 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.
Derby Points (51)
(9) DANZING CANDY (Twirling Candy – Talkin and Singing, by Songandaprayer)
Trainer (Clifford Sise Jr.) – Owner (Halo Farms)
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 he 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 is a new addition to the “exceptional eleven.”
Derby Points (50)
(10) JENSEN (Haynesfield – Spun Lake, by Hard Spun)
Trainer (Larry Jones) – Owner (Larry and Cindy Jones)
Latest Workout: 5f in 1:02.60 (27/51) at Fair Grounds on March 13.
Comments: Fired exacta shots in all four starts at Fair Grounds including a romping two turn entry level wire job Feb 25 (89 BSF). He seems to be developing at the right time and Jones says he reminds him of Hard Spun. The Louisiana Derby was being discussed but now it looks as though they will target the Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park. He moves up one spot to #10.
(11) BRODY’S CAUSE (Giant’s Causeway – Sweet Breanna, by Sahm)
Trainer (Dale Romans) – Owner (Albaugh Family Stable)
Comments: The closer ended his 2YO season with a win in Keeneland’s G1 Breeders’ Futurity and a show finish in the BC Juvenile. He made his much anticipated 3-year-old debut in the G2 Tampa Bay Derby March 12 and never picked his feet up in a very surprising non-effort. He is expected to return to Kentucky for his final Derby prep in the G1 Blue Grass at Keeneland on April 9 and he needs a big performance to make the Derby cut. He plummets from #3 to #11.
Derby Points (14)
The Next Nine: (12) Mo Tom, (13) Gun Runner, (14) Zulu, (15) Malibu Sunset, (16) Shagaf, (17) My Man Sam, (18) Kasseopia, (19) Outwork, (20) Cupid