Anticipation builds for big weekends on the Kentucky Derby trail, and Feb. 1 will be important with three prep races on deck. Thousand Words and Tiz the Law are among the principals running this Saturday.
A top prospect for five-time Kentucky Derby winner Bob Baffert, Thousand Words brings an unbeaten record to the $100,000 Robert B. Lewis (G3) at Santa Anita after posting a neck decision over Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) runner-up Anneau d’Or in the Dec. 7 Los Alamitos Futurity (G2). Flavien Prat, who won last year’s Kentucky Derby via disqualification with Country House, retains the mount.
Tiz the Law, a smashing winner of the Champagne (G1) at Belmont Park two starts back, will seek to rebound from his first career loss when lining up for the $250,000 Holy Bull (G3) at Gulfstream Park. He’s a New York-bred like Funny Cide (but not a gelding), and has the same connections (Sackatoga Stable and Barclay Tagg) as the 2003 Kentucky Derby winner.
The $250,000 Withers (G3) at Aqueduct is also part of the festivities, and the Road to the Kentucky Derby series qualifiers will award points on a 10-4-2-1 scale to the top four finishers.
Let’s review last week’s action before taking a closer look at this weekend’s fields.
Gold Street sped forward to establish a clear lead from the starting gate and drew off to a 2 3/4-length triumph in the Jan. 24 Smarty Jones at Oaklawn Park. The Steve Asmussen-trained colt stretched out to a two-turn mile off a pair of 6-furlong wins, breaking his maiden at Churchill Downs and taking the Dec. 21 Sugar Bowl at Fair Grounds, and Gold Street registered a career-best 99 Brisnet Speed rating while posting a 10-1 upset over the muddy track.
Out of a dam by 2000 Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus, Gold Street still has much to prove to be considered a viable Kentucky Derby contender. Oaklawn played favorably toward front-running types all afternoon, and the speedy colt loves off conditions, with both previous wins coming in the slop. I want to see him back up this performance on a fast track next time.
Three Technique got away from the gate slowly and after making a move into contention on the far turn, he wound up a clear second in the stakes debut. The Jeremiah Englehart trainee remains eligible to keep progressing.
A pair of contestants exiting wins in Kentucky Derby qualifiers, Shoplifted and Silver Prospector, were never a factor finishing more than 5+ lengths behind the winner in third and fourth, respectively. Silver Prospector was exiting a win in the Nov. 30 Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) at Churchill Downs.
3-year-olds to watch
Todd Pletcher sent out a pair of maiden winners on the Jan. 25 Pegasus World Cup undercard at Gulfstream, with Candy Tycoon breaking through at 1 1/16 miles and Market Analysis capturing his career debut at 7-furlongs.
Candy Tycoon burned a lot of money dropping his first four starts, but he showed resolve while stretching out to two turns on dirt for the first time, turning back a challenge from stablemate Gimme Some Mo to win going away by four lengths. The son of Twirling Candy didn’t resemble the faulty favorite who lost three attempts at odds-on, and Arkansas Derby (G1) winner Omaha Beach had a similar profile last year (three consecutive seconds) before breaking his maiden by open lengths. Candy Tycoon easily netted a career-best 93 BRIS Speed rating.
Market Analysis quickly advanced into contention on the backstretch after breaking a step slowly. He opened a clear lead rounding the far turn and held by about a length as the 1.30-1 favorite. By Honor Code, Market Analysis received a 94 Brisnet Speed rating.
Modernist will probably head to a qualifier for Bill Mott following a four-length score at Aqueduct on Jan. 25. Stretching out to two turns in the 1 1/8-mile maiden, Modernist beat up on a weak group and got away with slow fractions on a short lead, but he did draw away nicely in the stretch to a four-length decision (100 Brisnet Late Pace figure). The Uncle Mo colt is the first foal out of the Bernardini mare Symbolic Gesture, a daughter of 2009 Broodmare of the Year Sweet Life.
Wells Bayou showed speed from the start and rolled to a four-length win over entry-level allowance foes at Oaklawn Park Jan. 26. From the same female family of 2008 Kentucky Derby winner Big Brown, the Keeneland debut maiden winner rebounded after recording an unplaced finish behind Necker Island in a Nov. 30 allowance at Churchill Downs. Brad Cox trains the son of Lookin at Lucky, and Wells Bayou garnered a 96 Brisnet Speed rating.
Along with three Derby qualifiers, Saturday’s Martha Washington at Oaklawn Park is of interest due to the presence of Taraz. The Cox-trained unbeaten filly will make her first two-turn start in the Kentucky Oaks qualifier, and she could earn a shot at the March 14 Rebel (G2) against males with another resounding win.
#1 Toledo: A smashing maiden winner at Aqueduct the second time out, Chad Brown-trained son of Into Mischief could not run down a front-running winner last time, but still netted a 100 Brisnet Speed rating in the Gulfstream allowance. He figures to be running late with Irad Ortiz Jr.
#2 Uncork the Bottle: Former claimer is unbeaten in three starts, but last-out Tampa turf winner is probably in too tough here.
#3 Tiz the Law: Did not receive a favorable trip when beaten less than a length in third over a sloppy track in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) at Churchill Downs, stuck down along the inside during the middle stages, but gained valuable seasoning in the setback. He ran huge in his first two races and appears to be sitting on go following a recent half-mile bullet work at Palm Meadows.
#4 Ete Indien: Following a pair of turf starts, Summer Front colt took to the main track while upsetting Toledo last out. It’s fair to question whether he can run back to the performance, especially when considering he probably won’t be able to shake loose early again, but the Patrick Biancone trainee did post a bodacious 103 Brisnet Speed rating.
#5 Clear Destination: Woodbine-based colt hasn’t run fast enough in previous starts to challenge.
#6 Relentless Dancer: A dead-heat maiden winner at Churchill Downs, Louisiana-bred colt rolled to a 10-length romp over restricted foes at Delta Downs last time. Two-turn distances remain a question, but he enters in good form for Mike Maker and shows a pair of 5-furlong bullet works at Gulfstream in preparation.
#7 Mayberry Deputy: Last-out maiden scorer faces a difficult challenge stretching out to two turns vs stakes foes.
Robert B. Lewis:
#1 Encoder: Eddie Logan winner will make first dirt attempt in seventh career outing for John Sadler.
#2 Thousand Words: Unbeaten colt can race up close if necessary, and it’s easy to admire his determination in both wins. Son of Pioneerof the Nile appears built to relish longer distances and could be any kind this spring.
#3 Tizamagician: Broke through with a good-looking maiden win for Richard Mandella last time, and he has the tactical speed to receive a favorable trip.
#4 Royal Act: Peter Eurton adds blinkers and American Pharoah colt will try the main track after a disappointing fifth in Eddie Logan.
#5 HighVelocity: Grade 3 sprint winner faltered after dueling on contested pace in Los Alamitos Futurity. Baffert trainee is eligible to last longer if lone speed Saturday.
#6 Zimba Warrior: Not a serious factor in his first three stakes attempts.
#1 Mr. Shortandsimple: Earned only a 76 Brisnet Speed rating winning a $50,000 claiming race in the last start.
#2 Monday Morning Qb: Laurel stakes winner figures to show speed from inside post on the stretch out, and his Brisnet Speed numbers fit if he can stay the trip.
#3 Max Player: Steps up off convincing maiden tally in Parx slop; turf will be an option with his classy female family.
#4 New Commission: Georgia-bred colt may be better suited for one-turn distances.
#5 Shotski: The lone contestant with graded experience, he looks formidable against this cast despite having everything his own way in a wire-to-wire Remsen (G2) upset. But may have to change tactics with other speed present.
#6 Prince of Pharoahs: New York-bred maiden winner offered solid bid on far turn before dead-heating for second behind Independence Hall in Jerome. Merits serious consideration for Linda Rice.
#7 Vanzzy: Woodbine stakes winner did not display encouraging dirt form in his first three starts.
#8 Portos: Todd Pletcher trainee didn’t beat much breaking his maiden by 10 lengths over a sloppy track at Aqueduct. Tapit colt favors a route of ground, but minor award may be more realistic.
Kentucky Derby Top 10
1 Independence Hall: Unbeaten Jerome winner targeting Feb. 8 Sam F. Davis or Risen Star a week later
2 Thousand Words: Likely odds-on choice in Saturday’s Robert B. Lewis
3 Maxfield: Breeders’ Futurity winner is back at Walsh’s barn, waiting for return to worktab
4 Anneau d’Or: Golden Gate-based colt exits seconds in BC Juvenile and Los Alamitos Futurity
5 Dennis’ Moment: Romans pointing Churchill stakes winner to Feb. 29 Fountain of Youth
6 Tiz the Law: The one to beat in Saturday’s Holy Bull
7 Enforceable: Lecomte winner is being pointed to Risen Star
8 Silver State: Finished well for second in Lecomte
9 Nadal: Crushed maiden foes for Baffert in mid-January debut
10 Storm the Court: Champion 2yo starts Derby campaign in 7f San Vicente on Feb. 9
Next week’s edition will include a preview of the Feb. 8 Sam F. Davis (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs.