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Horse racing newsletter: Jon White’s Kentucky Derby rankings are here

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Time for the good stuff. As always, we’re lucky to have top expert Jon White take a look at what’s happening on the Kentucky Derby trail. Jon makes the morning line at Santa Anita, he’s a licensed steward, and he’s the pre-eminent historian on racing. We’re lucky to have him. So, here’s his Kentucky Derby rankings, brought courtesy of Xpressbet.com.

“One wonders if there is some equine trash talking going on these days between three undefeated 3-year-old colts at trainer Bob Baffert’s Santa Anita barn. These three colts--Nadal, Thousand Words and Authentic--are a combined seven for seven. They occupy three of the Top 10 spots on my Kentucky Derby rankings.

“Nadal, who is two for two, moves up to No. 2 on my Top 10 this week following his victory in last Sunday’s San Vicente Stakes. No. 3 Thousand Words, who is three for three, won the Los Alamitos Futurity last year and Robert B. Lewis Stakes this year. No. 6 Authentic, who is two for two, took last month’s Sham Stakes by nearly eight lengths.

“Did Nadal crush his San Vicente foes like Authentic did in the Sham? No, he won the San Vicente by just three-quarters of a length. Did Nadal come home fast? No, his 13.54 second clocking for the final furlong certainly left something to be desired.

“Nevertheless, Nadal showed a lot last Sunday. Bear in mind that Baffert had not planned to run Nadal in the San Vicente. Baffert called an audible to do so. The Hall of Fame horseman has become known for sometimes doing this type of thing when choosing where and when to run a horse, such as his recent last-moment decision to send Mucho Gusto to Florida for the Pegasus World Cup, a $3 million race that Mucho Gusto won.

“It’s to Nadal’s credit that he won the San Vicente even though Baffert said he had trained the big colt ‘light’ following his impressive maiden victory at first asking on Jan. 19.

“Apprentice J.C. Diaz Jr. rode Nadal in his maiden victory. That’s because Joel Rosario was unable to get back to Santa Anita from Saudi Arabia in time to ride the colt that day. In Nadal’s debut, he broke a tad slowly, rushed up early and went on to win the 6 1/2-furlong contest by nearly four lengths.

“Rosario did ride Nadal in the San Vicente. Baffert said he told Rosario, ‘Don’t get cute, just go. We can rate him some other day.’ Riding to instructions, Rosario gunned Nadal away from the gate. Nadal began in alert fashion this time. But it turned out that Nadal had to run very hard from the start to finish. He vied for the lead with Ginobili from the outset all the way to the finish. A sizzling pace of :21.81, :44.09, 1:09.05 certainly mitigated Nadal’s less-than-stellar final furlong in :13.54.

“Nadal won the San Vicente by three-quarters of a length in 1:22.59 as a 3-10 favorite. It was a fine final time on a slower-than-it-used-to-be Santa Anita main track.

“When Nadal was locked in a fierce battle for the lead with Ginobili at the top of the lane, Baffert admitted he thought Nadal was going to get beat. ‘He had to gut it out, so he’s got a good foundation now,’ Baffert said. ‘This should set him up pretty good. I think we’ll go to the Rebel.’

“The 1 1/16-mile Rebel Stakes will be run at Oaklawn Park on March 14. There were no Kentucky Derby points available in the San Vicente. The first four finishers in the Rebel will receive Kentucky Derby points on a 50-20-10-5 scale. Since the point system was introduced in 2013, it has taken an average of 26 points to make the field of 20 for the Kentucky Derby.

“While Nadal exhibited the kind of sheer zip to nearly run a half-mile in 43 and change and six furlongs in 1:08 and change, his pedigree suggests he might well be a very tough customer when going farther then seven furlongs. He figures to benefit from what likely would be a much softer pace in a longer race like the Rebel.

“Churchill Downs’ Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool 2 closed last Sunday about a half-hour before Nadal won the San Vicente. The ‘all others’ option was the 2-1 favorite. Of the 23 individual horses, Nadal and Tiz Law had the lowest odds at 8-1 apiece. Nadal was the actual favorite among individual horses with $1,484 more bet on him than Tiz the Law.

“Tiz the Law holds onto the No. 1 spot on my Kentucky Derby rankings this week after vaulting to the top last week following his three-length victory in Gulfstream Park’s Holy Bull Stakes. The Constitution colt worked five furlongs in Florida on Monday in :50.00 at Palm Meadows. Tiz the Law is scheduled to make his next start for trainer Barclay Tagg in the Florida Derby at Gulfstream on March 28.

“Dennis’ Moment, well supported at 10-1 in the Kentucky Derby Future Wager, continues to gear up for his 2020 debut in Gulfstream’s 1 1/16-mile Fountain of Youth Stakes on Feb. 29. Daily Racing Form’s Jay Privman reported that Dennis’ Moment will have a new rider, Flavien Prat, for the Fountain of Youth. The mount became open due to Irad Ortiz Jr. being out of the country that day. Ortiz rides Mucho Gusto in the new $20 million Saudi Cup on Feb. 29. Ortiz has been aboard Dennis’ Moment in his last two races. The plan, according to trainer Dale Romans, is for Dennis’ Moment and Ortiz to be reunited after the Fountain of Youth.

“I have Dennis’ Moment ranked at No. 4. The Tiznow colt has not started since he stumbled badly at the start and finished eighth as the 9-10 favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita last Nov. 1. Dennis’ Moment worked five furlongs in 1:00.22 last Saturday at Gulfstream.

“Ginobili finished a bang-up second in the San Vicente while making his first start since Oct. 6. Trained by Richard Baltas, the Munnings colt had won just once in four starts prior to the San Vicente. But it should be remembered that when Ginobili won a maiden race at Del Mar last summer by 2 1/2 lengths, the runner-up was the highly regarded Honor A.P.

“Honor A.P. currently is No. 5 on my Kentucky Derby Top 10. After he finished a fast-closing second to Ginobili in a six-furlong maiden race at Del Mar, Honor A.P. won a one-mile maiden affair in front-running fashion by 5 1/4 lengths at Santa Anita on Oct. 13, the last time he raced. Trainer John Sherriffs was quoted by Ed Golden in the Santa Anita stable notes as saying ‘we’ll try to make the San Felipe’ with Honor A.P., who worked five furlongs in 1:00.80 at Santa Anita last Saturday. Santa Anita’s 1 1/16-mile San Felipe on March 7 offers 50-20-10-5 points toward the $3 million Kentucky Derby on May 2.

“The only race last week offering Kentucky Derby points (10-4-2-1) was the 1 1/16-mile Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs won by Sole Volante for trainer Patrick Biancone. As far back as 15 lengths early, Sole Volante rallied to win going away by 2 1/2 lengths at odds of 5-1. The Karakontie colt now has won three of four career starts. His lone defeat came when he finished third behind Chance It and As Seen On Tv (cq) in the Mucho Macho Man Stakes at Gulfstream on Jan. 4.

“Biancone trained 1983 Horse of the Year All Along and 2004 Kentucky Derby runner-up Lion Heart. Smarty Jones won the 2004 Run for the Roses.

“Sole Volante debuts on my Top 10 this week at No. 7. One reason I decided to not rank him higher is no winner of the Sam F. Davis Stakes has ever gone on to win the Kentucky Derby.

“Exiting my Top 10 this week is Independence Hall, who finished second as the 7-10 favorite in the Davis. It was his first loss in four lifetime starts. Though Independence Hall was overtaken by Sole Volante during the stretch run of the Davis, at least there was an 11 1/2-length gap at the finish back to Ajaaweed in third. But this effort by Independence Hall does seem to raise a question as to whether or not he possesses the stamina to win going the Kentucky Derby distance of 1 1/4 miles.

“Storm the Court, the Eclipse Award-winning 2-year-old male of 2019, moves down to No. 9 after being No. 3 last week following his defeat in the San Vicente. Making his first start since winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in a 45-1 upset last Nov. 1, Storm the Court finished fourth in the San Vicente for trainer Peter Eurton. But Storm the Court did not lose by a lot (2 1/2 lengths) and was returning after a layoff.

“With the San Vicente under Storm the Court’s belt, he certainly has a right to move forward in his next race. Eurton told Daily Racing Form’s Steve Andersen the San Felipe is a strong possibility for the Court Vision colt’s next start. Also on the table are the Louisiana Derby on March 21 and Sunland Derby on March 22.

“Saturday’s 1 1/8-mile Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots will be run in two divisions after drawing 23 entries. Each division offers 50-20-10-5 Kentucky Derby points to the first four finishers.

“Enforceable heads a field of 11 in the first division. He is the 7-2 favorite on Mike Diliberto’s morning line. In the second division, which has a dozen entered, Anneau d’Or deserves top billing and is the 9-5 morning-line favorite.

“Mark Casse conditions Enforceable, who won Fair Grounds’ Lecomte Stakes in come-from-behind fashion on Jan. 18. Blaine Wright trains Anneau d’Or, narrowly beaten last year as the runner-up in both the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and Los Alamitos Futurity. Anneau d’Or is having blinkers added to his equipment for the Risen Star.

“Saturday’s 1 1/8-mile El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields, which has attracted a field of 11, will have 10-4-2-1 Kentucky Derby points up for grabs. The Baffert-trained Azul Coast is the 2-1 favorite on Steve Martinelli’s morning line.

“On Monday at Oaklawn, the 1 1/16-mile Southwest Stakes is another race offering 10-4-2-1 points toward a berth in the new 20-stall Kentucky Derby starting gate.

“Here are this week’s Kentucky Derby rankings, courtesy of Xpressbet:

1. Tiz the Law (1)

2. Nadal (5)

3. Thousand Words (2)

4. Dennis’ Moment (4)

5. Honor A.P. (6)

6. Authentic (7)

7. Sole Volante (NR)

8. Maxfield (8)

9. Storm the Court (3)

10. Anneau d’Or (10)

NOTE: Last week’s rankings in parentheses”

Santa Anita is back to a four-day week with a Monday card on President’s Day. Friday’s card is eight races starting at 1 p.m. There are three allowance/optional claimers, four claiming races and one maiden special weight. There are three races on the turf,

The feature is the seventh, an allowance/optional claimer for older fillies and mares going 1 1/16 miles. The race only drew five entrants. The favorite, at 6-5, is First Star for trainer Ron Ellis and jockey Drayden Van Dyke. She’s pretty lightly raced with only four starts, two of which she won. Her last race was a fourth in the Grade 1 La Brea and she finished second in a Grade 2 at Keeneland the race before that.

Dr Lu is the second favorite at 7-5 for Baffert and Abel Cedillo. She is two-of-six lifetime and coming off a second in the Grade 3 La Canada. Back in 2018, she was fourth in the Grade 1 Chandelier Stakes.

Here are the field sizes, in order: 7, 6, 6, 8, 7, 9, 5, 9.

RACE FIVE: No. 1 Lucky Ms Jones (8-1)

Lucky Ms Jones gets the first time Joel Rosario angle for trainer Phil D’Amato and what jumps off the page Friday is that best of 122, 47 second, four-furlong workout last week. The rail is winning 21% right now, Phil is 23% going from route to sprint and he is 28% beaten favorite. If we get this 8-1 morning line price jump all over it! This is also the “other D’Amato” as he saddles the favorite Miss Megan with Flavien Prat riding. The thing is Flavien is 0 for 9 for this trainer, so a beatable favorite and makes Lucky even more attractive. They also try dirt for the first time as well and second start off the layoff.

Sunday’s result: Fast Enough went off at 14-1 but was no match for Nadal and ran 3rd. The horse did finish ahead of the second choice Storm the Court.

Ciaran Thornton is the handicapper for Californiapick4.com, which offers daily full card picks, longshots of the day, best bets of the day.

Here’s our weekly look at the best racing going on at Golden Gate Fields. We’re delighted to have race caller and all-around good guy Matt Dinerman as our host for previews and other musings. Matt wasn’t with us last week because of a gas problem. No, not Matt, but Golden Gate. So, take it away, Matt.

“We’ve got four more racing days this week, Friday through Monday, with first post at 12:45 p.m. Of course, the headliner is Saturday’s $100,000 El Camino Real Derby. A field of 11 3-year-olds has been assembled. The race also offers 10 Kentucky Derby points to the winner and a free berth into the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico on May 16. In order for the latter incentive to be granted, the horse must be nominated to the 2020 Triple Crown series.

In 2019, trainer Bob Baffert saddled Grade 3 winner Kingly to a second-place finish. This year, Baffert is represented by Azul Coast, a son of Super Saver coming off a runner-up performance in the Grade 3 Sham Stakes at Santa Anita. Azul Coast is the 2-1 morning-line favorite.

Another Southern California-based entrant, Czechmight, broke his maiden at Keeneland in October and has joined the barn of Richard Baltas. A son of Street Sense, he makes his 3-year-old debut for the new barn in the El Camino Real Derby. The Stiff rounds out the trio of Southern California invaders. The Michael McCarthy trainee beat an allowance group over this track last month and should be OK with added distance. The second- through fifth-place finishers who ran behind The Stiff all enter back in this race as well.

My top pick, Indian Peak, suffered a traffic filled trip in his most recent start at Santa Anita. The local by Comic Strip blew the doors off the competition in his last start over this track, which resulted in an impressive allowance win for Quinn Howey. He looks like a promising colt to watch in the future. Although Azul Coast has proven class, I feel Indian Peak can compete with him over a surface he clearly enjoys racing over. Just take a look at his replay from Dec. 27. I think you’ll be impressed.

“The El Camino Real Derby will go as the seventh race on a nine-race card with a post listed as 3:52 p.m. We are delighted to have Zoe Cadman from XBTV, who will join the simulcast feed throughout the card, and Joaquin Jaime, set to provide on-track coverage of the day’s racing action for TVG. The El Camino Real Derby will also be shown on Fox Sport 2’s “America’s Day At The Races” program.”

It’s time to turn things over to marketing and meda guru Orlando Gutierrez, who will tell us about things going on at Los Alamitos. Orlando, the floor is yours.

“Jus Cuz, a two-time futurity winner at Turf Paradise in 2018, is back at Los Alamitos Race Course for the first time since her 2-year-old season and will head a solid field in the 300-yard eighth race on Friday night. First post is 6 p.m.

“Jus Cuz finished second in a pair of local maiden races before traveling to Turf Paradise to win the Arizona QH Racing Assn. Futurity and the AQHRA Southwest Futurity. She remained in Arizona last year but is now back at the Orange County oval. Friday’s eight-race card will also include a $12,000 allowance at 870 yards led by recent local winner Hoss Cartwright from the barn of trainer Jack Carava. Both races are part of the Pick 6 sequence, which features an $8,576 carryover. The Pick 6 will start in the third race and should have a total pool of around $27,000.

“Saturday’s eight-race program will also get started at 6 p.m. and will feature multiple graded derby finalist Jess Flashee taking on local stakes winner CM Boom Shakalaka and three-time stakes runner-up Arizona Favorite in a $12,400 allowance for older horses. Trained by Felix Gonzalez, Jess Flashee qualified to the Grade 2 Golden State Derby, Grade 2 Southern California Derby, and finished third in the Jamie Jay Handicap last year.

“The richest race of the weekend is Sunday evening with the $109,500 Los Alamitos Maiden Stakes. Sass Mo Blue, second in a trial to the 2019 Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity, is the one to beat after winning his Maiden Stakes trial by 1 ¼ lengths in the fastest qualifying time of 17.617 seconds on Jan. 26.

“Sass Mo Blue has been a solid performer his entire career and had finished fourth or better in each of his four starts. His runner-up effort in his Two Million trial came against multiple futurity finalist Cattail Cove, who would go on to run second in the Two Million final. Sass Mo Blue also finished third to Royally Significant in a trial to the Golden State Million Futurity last year. Jesus Rios Ayala, leading quarter-horse rider each of the past three years, will ride Sass Mo Blue for trainer Mike Casselman.

“Vegas Corona is another talented runner to watch after winning his trial in the second fastest qualifying time. Prior to his trial win, the colt by Corona Cartel finished third in his local debut and before that he faced Grade 1 futurity finalist Kiss Thru Fire and Grade 2 Dash For Cash Futurity winner Chilitos in a 440-yard trial to the All American Futurity at Ruidoso Downs.”

“Last weekend, longshots dominated the Los Alamitos Winter Series. Tell Cartel, at 17-1, pulled away late to win the Grade 1 $190,500 Los Alamitos Winter Derby on Saturday night. The colt by Favorite Cartel gave owner and breeder Martha Wells her first ever Grade 1 stakes victory.

“Wells has campaigned quarter horses since the late 1990s and before that she spent three years as a Quarter Horse trainer after the passing of her husband, trainer Dwayne Wells. “Mimi”, as she’s affectionally known was presented with the Frank Vessels, Sr. Memorial Award in appreciation for her contributions to the sport and has won the Pacific Coast Quarter Horse Racing Assn. Breeder Special Achievement Award in 2019 and 2012.

“Bos Time Machine was the surprising winner of the Grade 1 $159,000 Brad McKinzie Los Alamitos Winter Championship on Sunday night. Sent off at 12-1 odds, Bos Time Machine led the entire way to help extend trainer Paul Jones’ record of six Winter Championship victories. Ridden by Carlos Huerta, Bos Time Machine’s win also earned the first provisional starting berth of the year to the Grade 1 $600,000 Champion of Champions on Dec. 12.”

RACE SEVEN: No. 7 Wrong Impression (5-1)

He is from the barn of highly successful trainer Paul Jones. This trouble-prone runner deluxe enters this event sporting many competitive numbers with trouble and track variant factored in and the long strider prepped strongly for this race with an 18.10 second gate drill 13 days ago. Throw out this runner’s previous out when he broke slow and was in tight quarters, and in my opinion all he needs is a decent journey to be a major player tonight.

Now, the star of the show, Friday’s entries.

Santa Anita Entries for Friday, February 14.

Santa Anita, Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, California. 24th day of a 60-day meet.

FIRST RACE.

6½ Furlongs. Purse: $23,000. Maiden Claiming. Fillies. 3 year olds. Claiming Price $30,000.

SECOND RACE.

6½ Furlongs. Purse: $18,000. Claiming. 4 year olds and up. Claiming Price $12,500.

THIRD RACE.

6 Furlongs. Purse: $32,000. Maiden Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 4 year olds and up. Claiming Price $50,000. State bred.

FOURTH RACE.

1 Mile Turf. Purse: $57,000. Allowance Optional Claiming. Fillies. 3 year olds. Claiming Price $50,000. State bred.

FIFTH RACE.

6 Furlongs. Purse: $57,000. Allowance Optional Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 4 year olds and up. Claiming Price $20,000. State bred.

SIXTH RACE.

1 1/8 Mile Turf. Purse: $33,000. Claiming. 4 year olds and up. Claiming Price $35,000.

SEVENTH RACE.

1 1/16 Mile. Purse: $59,000. Allowance Optional Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 4 year olds and up. Claiming Price $62,500.

EIGHTH RACE.

1 Mile Turf. Purse: $55,000. Maiden Special Weight. Fillies and Mares. 4 year olds and up. State bred.

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