by JOE KRISTUFEK
The Road to the 2020 Kentucky Derby series got underway with Dennis’ Moment’s victory in the Iroquois (G3) at Churchill Downs on September 14, and 35 qualifying races will be offered in the American schedule leading up to Run for the Roses on Saturday, May 2.
Some young horses are precocious and others need time to develop both physically and mentally. The next six months will separate the contenders from the pretenders, and Top 10 lists will be turned upside down and inside out along the way.
With the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) looming on Future Stars Friday, November 1 at Santa Anita, let’s take a closer look at some exciting Kentucky Derby prospects to keep an eye on in the months ahead.
Part 1 of my Top 10 list, profiling Kentucky Derby hopefuls ranked sixth-through-tenth, was published Thursday. Here is Part 2:
#1 – TIZ THE LAW
Trainer: Barclay Tagg
Sales/History: $110,000 2018 Fasig-Tipton August New York-breds yearling
Credentials: New York-bred broke his maiden at first asking sprinting at Saratoga against restricted company and returned to take down the Champagne (G1) at Belmont Park in similar stalk-and-pounce fashion. A loaded gun all the way around the one-turn mile, Tiz the Law negotiated traffic trouble and won going away without ever being truly asked. Trainer Barclay Tagg won the Kentucky Derby for Sackatoga Stables with Funny Cide in 2003, but he hasn’t started a horse in the race since 2008 (5-1-0-0).
Pedigree: By the dynamic first crop sire Constitution and the fifth foal out of the Tiznow mare Tizfiz. Tiz the Law is a half-brother to the classy Tapit filly Awestruck ($357K), who is more of a sprinter/miler type (AWD 6.88), and dam Tizfiz ($410K) was a multiple stakes winning turf router (AWD 8.05) and interestingly enough, she never ran on dirt in a 20-race career. Tizfiz does have several siblings who were successful around two turns on the main track.
Crystal Ball: Following the Champagne romp, Tagg immediately dismissed a run in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in favor of a more conservative road to the first Saturday in May. His sire Constitution, a son of Tapit, won the Florida Derby (G1) and Donn Handicap (G1) during an abbreviated eight-race career, and he has been an early sensation at stud and the leading freshman sire already has three graded stakes winners. Tiz the Law has yet to try two turns but based on talent and pedigree, this colt is a serious Kentucky Derby prospect.
#2 – DENNIS’ MOMENT
Trainer: Dale Romans
Sales/History: $400,000 2018 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling
Credentials: Hyped up big time by Dale Romans entering the debut, Dennis’ Moment clipped heels early on and lost the rider. He did serve notice in the follow-up start, breaking his maiden by 19 lengths in a seven-furlong race at Ellis Park. Winning by that much at that distance is virtually unheard of and he did it the right way, sealing the deal with a 102 BRIS Late Pace rating. Forced into a wide trip in his two-turn debut in the Iroquois (G3), Dennis’ Moment had to work harder in the middle of the race and responded when asked, winning under wraps and galloping out much the best. Romans, who is 10-0-0-2 overall, and owner Albaugh Family Trust have teamed up to run three horses in the Kentucky Derby previously – Brody’s Cause (7th in 2016), J Boys Echo (15th in 2017) and Free Drop Billy (16th in 2018).
Pedigree: By Tiznow and the second foal (first to race) out of the Elusive Quality mare Transplendid. The dam’s only win from 11 career starts came over a mile on turf. There is a little stamina sprinkled throughout the pedigree.
Crystal Ball: Tiznow won the Breeders’ Cup Classic twice and there are some stamina influences on the dam’s side of the pedigree. With a combination of ratable speed and finishing punch, Dennis’ Moment handled 1 1/16 miles like a champ and looks like a legit Kentucky Derby prospect to me.
#3 – MAXFIELD
Trainer: Brendan Walsh
Sales/History: Godolphin homebred
Credentials: Off slowly in his career debut at Churchill over a one-turn mile, Maxfield finished strongly and got up in time to win by nearly a length. Stretched out to 1 1/16 miles for the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at Keeneland, he once again spotted the field a few lengths at the start but in the blink of an eye on the turn for home, Maxfield went from eighth to in front and drawing away. The racetrack did favor wide, off-the-pace types. Brendan Walsh’s first Kentucky Derby starter came last year when Plus Que Parfait finished eighth.
Pedigree: By Street Sense and the second foal out of the Bernardini mare Velvety. The dam raced just three times, winning once, but she is a half-sister to Sky Mesa ($633K), a two-time graded stakes winner and runner-up in the Haskell (G1) from just six career starts; and multiple graded stakes-winning router Golden Velvet ($297K).
Crystal Ball: He’s by a Kentucky Derby winner and Street Sense is the sire of likely Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) favorite McKinzie. There are stamina influences on the dam’s side of the pedigree. Maxfield is talented, but he has no early speed and poor gate breaks are a bad habit worth monitoring. It will be interesting to see what path he takes in the next few months.
#4 – EIGHT RINGS
Trainer: Bob Baffert
Sales/History: $520,000 2018 Keeneland September yearling
Credentials: Has won two starts by open lengths, taking a 5 ½-furlong maiden at Del Mar and the American Pharoah (G1) over 1 1/16 miles at Santa Anita. Sandwiched in between, Eight Rings lost the jockey at the start of the Del Mar Futurity (G1). There’s no denying his speed, but he did tire in deep stretch of the American Pharoah, switching back to his left lead late. Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert (32-5-3-3) has won the Kentucky Derby five times and two of those horses went on to capture the Triple Crown (American Pharoah in 2015 and Justify in 2018).
Pedigree: By Empire Maker and the second foal out of the Pure Prize dam Purely Hot. Only sibling to race is winless from five tries. Dam was a 12-time winner from 32 lifetime starts ($426K). She won on all surfaces but was strictly a sprinter (5.54 AWD).
Crystal Ball: Sure, his dad won the Belmont, but the dam side is all about sprinting. Eight Rings is an early developer and his 83 BRIS Late Pace rating from the American Pharoah does not inspire Kentucky Derby confidence moving forward. If forced to guess, I’d peg him as a turf miler.
#5 – ENFORCEABLE
Trainer: Mark Casse
Sales/History: $775,000 RNA 2018 Keeneland September yearling
Credentials: It took him four tries to break his maiden, but he did so over nine furlongs of dirt and then followed up with a respectable third in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1). Enforceable seems to have improved since adding blinkers. Owner John Oxley won the 2001 Kentucky Derby with Monarchos and Mark Casse has yet to hit the board from seven tries.
Pedigree: By Tapit and the fifth foal out of the super mare Justwhistledixie, who has produced Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner New Year’s Day (sire of DQ’ed Kentucky Derby winner Maximum Security); four-time graded stakes winner Mohaymen; and Grade 3 winner Kingly. Justwhistledixie was a two-time graded stakes winner herself.
Crystal Ball: The pedigree is incredible with plenty of stamina built in. Enforceable has shown slow, but steady improvement and gotten even better since stretching out and adding blinkers. In order to be a major player, he’ll need to keep progressing.