Gary’s top-ranked Derby Prospect: Dennis’ Moment, impressive winner of Churchill Downs’ G3 Iroquois (shown here with Ira Ortiz up) before stumbling badly a the start of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. He’s currently in Florida. (Photo by Coady Photography)
On the road to Kentucky
By Gary West
The $3 million Kentucky Derby will be run May 2 at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., over the classic distance of 1 1/4 miles. Based on points accumulated in designated stakes (including races in Japan and Europe), the field will be limited to 20 starters, with four also-eligibles.
1. Dennis’ Moment #Dale Romans#4-2-0-0#$167,800#Tiznow#
He clipped heels in his debut and stumbled to his knees in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, but except for a couple of troubled moments he has been sensational. He’s in Florida preparing for his return to competition next month in the Fountain of Youth Stakes.
2. Independence Hall #Michael Trombetta#3-3-0-0#$210,000#Constitution#
Despite his choleric pre-race misbehavior, a slow start and a wide trip, he still won the Jerome Stakes by four lengths. He’ll return to competition next month at Tampa Bay.
3. Nadal #Bob Baffert#1-1-0-0#$33,000#Blame#
After a hesitant start, he grabbed the lead faster than you could say “Justify redux” and then went on to score a handy victory in his debut at Santa Anita. He looks like he could become Baffert’s next superstar.
4. Tiz The Law #Barclay Tagg#3-2-0-1#$347,000#Constitution#
He won the Champagne with a jaw-dropping performance, but then disappointed on a sloppy track at Churchill Downs. He appears to be training sharply for his return Saturday in the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park.
5. Thousand Words #Bob Baffert#2-2-0-0#$151,000#Pioneerof The Nile#
A million-dollar yearling, he won the Los Alamitos Futurity in only the second start of his career. Another ace in Baffert’s strong hand, he returns in Saturday’s Robert Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita.
6. Honor A.P. #John Shirreffs#2-1-1-1#$42,200#Honor Code#
A graceful, long-striding colt, he romped to an easy victory at Santa Anita in October and has been training steadily in Southern California for his return.
7. Anneau d’Or #Blaine Wright#3-1-2-0#$399,000#Medaglia d’Oro#
The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile runner-up is talented, professional and improving. He’ll probably make his seasonal debut next month at Golden Gate in the Camino Real Derby.
8. Authentic #Bob Baffert#2-2-0-0#$91,200#Into Mischief#
He dominated in the Sham Stakes, controlling the pace and winning easily despite ducking towards the inside rail in mid-stretch. He finished in hand, but off-stride. He’s conspicuously fast and talented, but he’s also inexperienced, with considerable room for improvement. Blinkers or earplugs could be in his future, according to his trainer.
9. Basin #Steve Asmussen#3-2-1-0#$261,000#Liam’s Map
#In September, with an explosive move, he won the Hopeful at Saratoga by more than six lengths. Preparing for his seasonal debut, he has had a couple half-mile workouts and will probably return March 14 in the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn, according to his trainer.
10. Storm The Court #Peter Eurton#4-2-0-1#$1,172,951#Court Vision#
Having won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at 45-1, the champion, strange to say, might be underrated. Several challengers could line up on Feb. 9 to take him on at Santa Anita in the San Vicente Stakes.
11. Green Light Go #Jimmy Jerkens#3-2-1-0#$254,000#
Hard Spun#Last year, he won the Saratoga Special and finished second in the Champagne. He appears to be training well for his return Saturday in the Swale Stakes, where he’ll take on the swift maiden winner Untitled.
12. Maxfield #Brendan Walsh#2-2-0-0#$354,412#Street Sense#
He gave one of the best juvenile performances of 2019 when he won the Breeders’ Futurity in October by more than five lengths. With some time off, he has developed and progressed, and he’s galloping strongly to prepare for his return, according to his trainer. “We’ll let him tell us when to step it up,” Walsh said.
13. Silver State #Steve Asmussen#3-1-2-0#$96,106#Hard Spun#
So far in his brief career, he has experienced more trouble than success. He had a troubled trip, from start to finish, for example, when second in the Lecomte Stakes at Fair Grounds. But the potential appears to be there for him to join the division’s leaders.
14. Eight Rings #Bob Baffert#4-2-0-0#$236,951#Empire Maker#
After the colt’s dismal showing in the Breeders’ Cup, Baffert decided to give him some time off. Winner of last year’s American Pharoah Stakes, Eight Rings could be part of his trainer’s annual invasion of Oaklawn Park, probably returning in the Rebel Stakes.
15. Gouverneur Morris #Todd Pletcher#2-1-1-0#$149,500#Constitution#
The big gray colt finished second at Keeneland after a wide journey in the Breeders’ Futurity. He’s in Florida preparing for his return.
16. Enforceable #Mark Casse#7-2-1-2#$267,150#Tapit#
Improving steadily, he took a significant step forward to win the Leomte despite a wide trip, and he looks like a colt whose progress can only continue with added distance.
17. Ajaaweed #Kiaran McLaughlin#4-1-1-0#$119,850#Curlin#
He rallied to finish second in the Remsen, and although he’s a bit of a plodder he looks like he’ll continue to improve as the distances stretch out.
18. Great Power #Simon Callaghan#1-1-0-0#$30,000#Blame#
Back in September, the huge colt raced a little wide and didn’t switch strides in the lane, but he won his debut in a fast clocking and was about 15 lengths in front by the time he was pulled up, flashing tremendous potential. On Monday in California, he had his first official workout of the season.
19. Silver Prospector #Steve Asmussen#7-2-0-2#$263,051#Declaration of War#
He rallied from last to finish fourth over a speed-friendly muddy surface in the recent Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn Park, but he was a stakes winner last year at Churchill.
20. Answer In #Brad Cox#3-1-2-0#$153,412#Dialed In#
He disappointed when second as the odds-on favorite in the Springboard Mile at Remington Park, but he had a troubled trip and might have been best. He’s at Oaklawn preparing for his seasonal debut.
21. Blackberry Wine #Joe Sharp#6-2-0-3#$112,622#Oxbow#
Disregard his turf efforts, and he has won two of three, most notably stepping forward to win his last in a fast clocking with a powerful gallop-out.
22. Mailman Money #Bret Calhoun#2-2-0-0#$79,012#Goldencents#
In his recent outing, the bald-faced colt raced wide around both turns before drawing clear to win by nearly six lengths, and then he galloped out strongly as if to suggest he’s ready for stakes company.
23. As Seen On TV #Kelly Breen#4-2-2-0#$108,205#Lookin At Lucky#
He never has run a poor race, and he has improved steadily. He’ll get his big test in the Fountain of Youth.
24. War Stopper #Rudy Rodriguez#4-1-0-0#$41,070#Declaration of War#
With the addition of blinkers, he recently leaped forward to win by four lengths. He’s aimed at the Gotham in early March.
Gary West is a nationally acclaimed turf columnist, racing analyst, author and handicapper who helped pioneer pace figures.