By: Gary West
The Kentucky Derby 2020 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.
No. Horse (Trainer) Starts–Wins-Seconds-Thirds Earnings Sire
1. Dennis’ Moment (Dale Romans) 4–2-0-0 $167,800 Tiznow
Comment: Sunday at Gulfstream Park, he worked five-eighths of a mile in 58.47 seconds in preparation for his seasonal debut Feb. 29 in the Fountain of Youth Stakes. That same morning, a maiden worked five-eighths in 1:00.10, and a colt that scored his maiden victory in his last outing worked five-eighths in :59.83 (from the gate), the second-fastest move at the distance. So the surface was extrememly fast, as Gulfstream tends to be. Still, 58.47 is the sort of clocking that only a racehorse of genuine quality could deliver.
2. Tiz The Law (Barclay Tagg) 4–3-0-1 $498,900 Constitution
Comment: Despite being checked and having to alter course on the backstretch, he delivered an authoritative performance in Saturday’s Holy Bull Stakes, running the fourth quarter-mile in about 24.50 seconds and drawing clear to win by three lengths. He already has moved well beyond his juvenile level of performance. He’ll probably return in either the Florida (March 28) or the Louisiana Derby (March 21).
3. Independence Hall (Michael Trombetta) 3–3-0-0 $210,000 Constitution
Comment: Sunday at Tampa Bay, he worked a half-mile in 48.40 seconds, his final bit of serious preparation for Saturday’s Sam Davis Stakes. Trombetta pronounced him “ready as can be.” This should be an ideal starting point for Independence Hall’s campaign and a good place to demonstrate how far he has progressed since the Jerome, where he did virtually everything wrong, but still won.
4. Thousand Words (Bob Baffert) 3–3-0-0 $211,000 Pioneerof The Nile
Comment: By splitting rivals in the stretch and winning Saturday’s Robert Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita, he basically matched his best juvenile performance, which he delivered when he won the Los Alamitos Futurity. In other words, even though it wasn’t especially fast and didn’t pack the “wow” power of Tiz The Law’s Holy Bull, this Robert Lewis effort was the perfect starting point for Thousand Words. Although lightly raced, he’s tractable and professional, and he’s talented. The essential question for this million-dollar yearling, as it is for all these young horses, is how far can he progress in the next three months?
5. Nadal (Bob Baffert) 1–1-0-0 $33,000 Blame
Comment: Having made a flashy debut on Jan. 19, he returned for an easy workout Tuesday at Santa Anita: He began about a length behind War Path, a nice War Front colt who recently ran third in a maiden race, drew alongside his stablemate in the turn and without being asked moved clear to complete a half-mile in 47.80 seconds. Nadal went out strongly and only added to the initial impression he made a few weeks ago, when, after a hesitant start, he grabbed the lead faster than you could say “Justify redux” and then cruised. Baffert has won 15 Triple Crown races and has trained two Triple Crown winners. Nadal could become his next superstar.
6. Honor A.P. (John Shirreffs) 2–1-1-0 $42,200 Honor Code
Comment: 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. He worked an easy five-eighths Sunday in 1:02.40. Next month’s San Felipe could be a logical goal for him.
7. Anneau d’Or (Blaine Wright) 3–1-2-0 $399,000 Medaglia d’Oro
Comment: He’s a neck and a head away from being unbeaten, having finished second in both the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and the Los Alamitos Futurity. He worked seven-eighths Saturday at Golden Gate in 1:29.80 and is aimed to start his campaign in the El Camino Real Derby on Feb. 15.
8. Authentic (Bob Baffert) 2–2-0-0 $91,200 Into Mischief
Comment: 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. He worked five-eighths of a mile in 1:01.20 on Wednesday at Santa Anita.
9. Basin (Steve Asmussen) 3–2-1-0 $261,000 Liam’s Map
Comment: Winner of the Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga by more than six lengths in September, Basin is a nose and a wide trip away from being undefeated. Saturday, he had his fourth workout in preparation for his return, going an easy five-eighths of a mile in 1:02 at Fair Grounds in New Orleans. He should be ready for a return to stakes competition next month, according to his trainer.
10. Storm The Court (Peter Eurton) 4–2-0-1 $1,172,951 Court Vision
Comment: The champion worked five-eighths of a mile at Santa Anita in 1:01.20 in preparation for Sunday’s San Vicente Stakes. Having won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, he leads the way, along with Tiz The Law, in qualifying points for the Derby, with 22.
11. Silver State (Steve Asmussen) 3–1-2-0 $96,106 Hard Spun
Comment: Silver State worked five-eighths of a mile Monday at Fair Grounds in 1:01.00. He had a troubled trip from start to finish when he ran second in the Lecomte Stakes. But he appears to possess considerable potential, which he’ll have an opportunity to display on Feb. 15 in the Risen Star Stakes.
12. Gouverneur Morris (Todd Pletcher) 2–1-1-0 $149,500 Constitution
Comment: The big gray colt worked five-eighths Sunday at Palm Beach Downs in 1:00.45, finishing on even terms with another promising colt from the Pletcher barn, Farmington Road. Named for one of the youngest and most brilliant members of the Continental Congress who was a signer of the Constitution, Gouverneur Morris finished second despite a wide trip in the Breeders’ Futurity. For his return, he has many options, including the Risen Star and the Southwest Stakes.
13. Enforceable (Mark Casse) 7–2-1-2 $267,150 Tapit
Comment: He took a significant step forward when he won the Lecomte Stakes despite a wide trip, and he looks like a colt whose progress can only continue with added distance. He worked an easy half-mile in 49.80 seconds on Sunday in New Orleans, where he’s expected to return in the Risen Star.
14. Ajaaweed (Kiaran McLaughlin) 4–1-1-0 $119,850 Curlin
Comment: An intriguing colt who rallied to finish second in the Remsen, he looks like he’ll continue to improve as the distances stretch out. He worked five-eighths last week at Palm Meadows in 1:00.65 and will take on Independence Hall in the Sam Davis.
15. Silver Prospector (Steve Asmussen) 7–2-0-2 $263,051 Declaration of War
Comment: A stakes winner at Churchill Downs last year, he has 11 qualifying points for the Derby. In his seasonal debut, he rallied from last to finish fourth over a speed-friendly muddy surface in the Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn Park. He turned in a bullet workout (fastest of the day at the distance) in Hot Springs, Ark., on Wednesday, going five-eighths in 1:00.60.
16. Answer In (Brad Cox) 3–1-2-0 $153,412 Dialed In
Comment: 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 stabled in Hot Springs, Ark., where he has had five workouts since the first of the year, the most recent being Sunday’s five-eighths move in 59.40. He’s expected for the Southwest Stakes on Feb. 17 at Oaklawn.
17. Maxfield (Brendan Walsh) 2–2-0-0 $354,412 Street Sense
Comment: He gave one of the best juvenile performances of 2019 when he won the Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland by more than five lengths. Coming back from an injury, he has developed and progressed, according to his trainer, but will he be able to catch up on the road to Kentucky? Walsh is patient, and the thought here is that down the road Maxfield could indeed prove himself to be one of the best his generation.
18. Blackberry Wine (Joe Sharp) 6–2-0-3 $112,622 Oxbow
Comment: Disregard his turf efforts, and he has won two of three, most notably stepping forward three weeks ago in New Orleans to win in a fast clocking (about two lengths faster than the Lecomte Stakes the same day) with a powerful gallop-out. He’ll probably return in stakes company.
19. Max Player (Linda Rice) 3–2-1-0 $173,500 Honor Code
Comment: Despite racing wide, he won the Withers with a powerful finish by more than three lengths. It wasn’t a fast race, and he’ll have to improve significantly if he’s to join the leaders, but he’s inexperienced, with plenty of improvement possible, and he has the upcoming longer distances to encourage his development.
20. Mailman Money (Bret Calhoun) 2–2-0-0 $79,012 Goldencents
Comment: His wasn’t regarded as a precocious type, but he has developed quickly. 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. He’ll take the next step up and try stakes company in his next outing, according to his trainer.
21. War Stopper (Rudy Rodriguez) 4–1-0-0 $41,070 Declaration of War
Comment: With the addition of blinkers, he leaped forward to win by four lengths last month. Since then he has worked a bullet at Belmont Park. He’s aimed at the Gotham in early March.
22. Sole Volante (Patrick Biancone) 3–2-0-1 $76,310 Karakontie
Comment: He won his first two races on turf, including the Pulpit Stakes, before finishing third in the Mucho Macho Man Stakes, where he made up some ground in the lane. On Monday at Palm Meadows, he worked five-eighths on the turf in 58.25 seconds, putting a head in front of the 4-year-old I Am Magical at the wire. Unquestionably talented, Sole Volante is probably better on turf, but he’s entered in the Sam Davis.
23. Green Light Go (Jimmy Jerkens) 4–2-1-1 $268,550 Hard Spun
Comment: Making his seasonal debut, he disappointed in the Swale Stakes, finishing a distant third and appearing to be, more than anything, simply outrun by Mischevious Alex, who’ll probably remain in one-turn races. But last year, Green Light Go won the Saratoga Special and finished second in the Champagne, looking like one of the best of his class. He should move forward from the Swale.
24. Great Power (Simon Callaghan) 1–1-0-0 $30,000 Blame
Comment: A speculative inclusion on the basis of potential, Great Power has had two workouts as he prepares to return to competition. 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 clear by the time he was pulled up, flashing tremendous potential.
Gary West is a nationally acclaimed turf columnist, racing analyst, author and handicapper who helped pioneer pace figures.