©2016 Calvin L. Carter. All rights reserved.
Once again, it’s time to take a look at the young Thoroughbreds on the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” and prepare the 2016 Kentucky Derby Outlook which is an annual tradition here at the Classic Champion Thoroughbreds blog. I always enjoy researching this blog and, by far, my best pick was in December of 2010 when I wrote in my 2011 Kentucky Derby Outlook that Animal Kingdom would most likely be my Derby favorite. At that time, Animal Kingdom had a 1-1-0 record in two starts – both were maiden special weight races on all-weather tracks.
I had no idea if the connections planned to give Animal Kingdom a classic campaign. But research of his pedigree showed me that, given a chance, he had the potential to become a Classic Champion Thoroughbred.
At this time of year, it is very difficult to pick the Kentucky Derby winner when one only looks at the current list of top twenty horses (see 2016 Kentucky Derby Leaderboard). And, I documented that difficulty a year ago in my December 26, 2014 blog where I analyzed the results of 14 years of two-year-old Thoroughbreds on the Kentucky Derby Trail.
The races used in that analysis were the major end-of-year prep races: the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1), Hollywood Futurity (G1), Remsen (G2), Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) and Boyd Gaming’s Delta Jackpot (G3).
Historically, those prep races have produced a few runners that went on to compete in the Kentucky Derby. However, since 2000 only four horses that competed in those prep races went on to win the Kentucky Derby.
Street Sense won the 2006 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and the 2007 Kentucky Derby; Super Saver won the 2009 Kentucky Jockey Club and the 2010 Kentucky Derby.
Giacomo finished second in the 2004 Hollywood Futurity and won the 2005 Kentucky Derby. Mine That Bird finished 12th (dead last) in the 2008 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and won the 2009 Kentucky Derby.
Since 2000, there have been no winners of the Remsen Stakes (G2) that went on to win the Kentucky Derby and the same is true for the Delta Downs Jackpot (G3) which began racing in 2002.
With that in mind, let’s look at the top 20 and see how they fared in the previously mentioned end-of-year prep races:
2016 KENTUCKY DERBY LEADERBOARD
(Updated December 19, 2015)
Rank, Horse, Points, Trainer, Non-Restricted Stakes Earnings
1. Nyquist, 30, Doug O’Neill, $1,580,000
2. Exaggerator, 16, Keith Desormeaux, $940,000
3. Brody’s Cause, 14, Dale Romans, $500,000
4. Mor Spirit, 14, Bob Baffert, $246,800
5. Swipe, 12, Keith Desormeaux, $597,130
6. Airoforce, 10, Mark Casse, $444,080
7. Greenpointcrusader, 10, Dominick Schettino, $300,000
8. Mohaymen, 10, Kiaran McLaughlin, $300,000
9. Cocked and Loaded, 10, Larry Rivelli, $280,840
10. Riker, 10, Nicholas Gonzalez, $182,375
11. Sunny Ridge, 8, Jason Servis, $355,600
12. Rated R Superstar, 6, Ken McPeek, $80,200
13. Toews On Ice, 4, Bob Baffert, $228,400
14. Flexibility, 4, Chad Brown, $100,000
15. Kasseopia (GB), 4, Charlie Fellowes, 22,809
16. Harlan Punch, 2, Tom Amoss, $138,000
17. Hollywood Don, 2, Peter Miller, $96,250
18. I’malreadythere, 2, Jerry Hollendorfer, $86,000
19. Mo Tom, 2, Tom Amoss, $68,326
20. Sail Ahoy, 1, Claude “Shug” McGaughey, $60,000
BREEDERS’ CUP JUVENILE
NYQUIST: a bay colt by Uncle Mo, out of Seeking Gabrielle by Forestry, currently tops the 2016 Kentucky Derby Leaderboard with 30 Kentucky Derby points. Nyquist is undefeated in five starts for trainer Doug O’Neill and he’s shown much versatility winning both sprint and route races.
Four of his wins have been in stakes competition, including the Best Pal Stakes (G2), Del Mar Futurity (G1), FrontRunner Stakes (G1) and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Stake (G1). Here’s a look at the video and chart call of the Juvenile:
NYQUIST was bumped hard at the start then bumped again shortly thereafter, raced wide through the first turn and the backstretch, swung into the six path in the far turn, took over command in the stretch, inched clear nearing the sixteenth pole and held off the rival in the late stages.
Nyquist has a low Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile® score and grade rating but his Behavior Index and other data mining variables makes him competitive. If he stays healthy, I look for Nyquist to be in the Derby starting gate. However, it remains to be seen if he has any classic potential, especially when you consider that approximately six lengths separated Nyquist from the top 11 finishers in the 14-horse field of this race.
Uncle Mo, the sire of Nyquist, was undefeated in three starts as a two year old with wins in the Champagne Stakes (G1) and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Stakes (G1) and he was picked as the 2010 Eclipse Champion Two Year Old Colt.
As a three year old, Uncle Mo won the Timely Writer Stakes and finished third in the Wood Memorial Stakes (G1). The Friday before the Kentucky Derby, Uncle Mo was scratched from the race with a mysterious ailment which was later diagnosed as a liver disease called cholangiohepatitis.
Swipe (ranked fifth with 12 Derby points) finished second a half-length behind Nyquist. He trailed most of the race and began a good run at the three quarter pole to close the gap.
Brody’s Cause (ranked third with 14 points) was in 11th place at the three quarter pole and he made up a lot of ground to finish third, only 2¾ lengths shy of victory.
Greenpointcrusader (ranked seventh with 10 points) was in 12th place at the top of the stretch and he closed the gap to finish seventh, approximately 4¼ lengths shy of the victor, Nyquist.
All of those three have room to improve as three year olds and I look for them to be competitive.
Other top 20 horses that ran in this race include: Exaggerator (ranked second with 16 points), Cocked and Loaded (ranked ninth with 10 points), Riker (ranked 10th with 10 points) and Rated R Superstar (ranked 12th with 6 points). However, they will have to improve their game considerably in order to wear the garland of Roses on the first Saturday in May.
LOS ALAMITOS FUTURITY
(Former the Hollywood and CashCall Futurity)
MOR SPIRIT: a dark bay ridgling by Eskendereya, out of Im a Dixie Girl by Dixie Union, is ranked fourth with 14 points. Mor Spirit has compiled a 2-2-0 record in four starts for trainer Bob Baffert, including a second-place finish in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) and a 1¼ length win the Los Alamitos Futurity (G1). Here’s the video and chart call of his Futurity win:
MOR SPIRIT pulled early and stalked between horses on the first turn then three deep or off the rail, went three wide on the second turn and four wide into the stretch, drifted in and rallied to a short lead a sixteenth out under a couple left handed cracks of the whip and proved best.
Mor Spirit has a C Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile® and that shows he should be competitive on the Derby trail. However, despite his last win, Mor Spirit has yet to show the same “spirit” on the racetrack as that of his sire, Eskendereya, who has an A Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile®.
Eskendereya was my 2010 Kentucky Derby favorite until an injury took him off the trail. During his career, Eskendereya compiled a 4-1-0 record in six starts which culminated in a 9¾ length romp in the 2010 Wood Memorial Stakes (G1).
Other key stakes Eskendereya won include a runaway win by 8½ lengths in the Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) and an impressive 7¼ length victory Pilgrim Stakes.
Toews On Ice, (ranked 13th with 4 points) is a stablemate of Mor Spirit and he finished a respectable second. Previously, he won the Barrett’s Juvenile Stakes, Speakeasy Stakes and the Bob Hope Stakes (G3). He could, perhaps, make it into the Derby starting gate. However, he also will need to improve his game considerably in order to score a Derby win.
Imalreadythere (ranked 18th with 2 points) finished third, six lengths behind Toews On Ice and Hollywood Don (ranked 17th with 2 points) finished sixth. I’m not too keen on either of them and both will need to improve in order to make it into the Derby starting gate.
MOHAYMEN: a gray, roan colt by Tapit, out of Justwhistle Dixie by Dixie Union, is ranked eighth with 10 Derby points. Mohaymen is undefeated in three starts for trainer Karian McLaughlin, including wins in the Nashua Stakes (G2) and Remsen Stakes (G2). Here’s a look at the video and chart call of his win in the Remsen:
MOHAYMEN secured a prominent position after appearing to get away in good order, was patiently handled keeping an eye on the leader, alternating between the inside and the left border of the two path down the backstretch, pulling a bit on the bit but otherwise rating kindly, eased out into the two path past the five-sixteenths pole, continued to bide time until set down at the head of the stretch, won the duel with the runner up that followed to poke a head down in front with a furlong remaining, edged away while drifting out several paths in the course of doing so.
Mohaymen has a B Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile® and I look for him to be competitive as a three year old.
Tapit, the sire of Mohaymen, was undefeated in two starts as a 2-year-old including a win in the Laurel Futurity (G3). As a 3-year-old, Tapit was troubled by a lung infection for much of the season but did win the nine-furlong Wood Memorial Stakes (G1) in route to a ninth-place finish in the 2004 Kentucky Derby.
Flexibility (ranked 14th with 4 points) finished second in this race and I look for him to be competitive next year. His sire, Bluegrass Cat, won the 2005 Remsen Stake (G2) and finished second in the 2006 Kentucky Derby (G1).
Since finishing second in the Remsen, Flexibility won the Jerome Stakes (G3) which was run this past Saturday and he’s off to a good start in his season as a three year old.
Sail Ahoy (ranked 20th with 1 point) finished fourth for trainer Claude “Shug” McGaughey and, overall, he’s 1-0-2 in five starts. He has a high Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile® score, but he’s yet to live up to his breeding.
KENTUCKY JOCKEY CLUB
AIROFORCE: a gray, roan colt by Colonel John, out of Chocolate Pop by Cuvee, is ranked sixth with 10 points. To date, Airoforce has compiled a 3-1-0 record in four starts for trainer Mark Casse, including a second-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Stakes (G1) and wins in the Dixiana Bourbon Stakes (G3) and the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2). Here’s the video and chart call of his win in the Jockey Club:
AIROFORCE was unhurried early, fanned into the five path in the far turn, made a bid in the stretch three wide then took over command swiftly and cleared the field in the final stages.
Mor Spirit finished second in this race and you can see what I wrote about him in the Los Alamitos Futurity write-up.
Mo Tom (ranked 19th with 2 points) made a good move from dead last over a sloppy track to finish third. Despite that performance, I’m not too keen on him and he’ll have to improve significantly.
DELTA DOWNS JACKPOT
EXAGGERATOR: a dark bay colt by Curlin, out of Dawn Raid by Vindicator, is ranked second with 16 points and, to date, he’s compiled a 3-1-0 record in six starts for trainer Kent Desormeaux, including a second-place finish in the Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity Stakes (G1) and wins in the Saratoga Special (G1) and Delta Downs Jackpot Stakes (G3). Here’s a look at the video and chart call of the Jackpot:
EXAGGERATOR away in good order from the outside, gained a short margin entering the backstretch, dueled up the backstretch, fought through the second turn with SUNNY RIDGE, remained engaged with that one through the drive and just lasted over his rival after a stretch long drive in a solid try.
Exaggerator has a C Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile® and I look for him to be competitive as a three year old. However, he’ll have to step up his game in order to win the Derby.
Curlin, the sire of Exaggerator, was an outstanding racehorse that compiled an 11-2-2 record in 16 career starts with $10,501,800 in earnings. Curlin won the 2007 Preakness Stakes (G1), finished second in the Belmont Stakes (G1) and third in the Kentucky Derby (G1). In addition, Curlin won the Breeders' Cup Classic (G1), Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1), twice, Dubai World Cup (G1), Stephen Foster Handicap (G1), Woodward Stakes (G1), and the UAE Jaguar Trophy Handicap.
Sunny Ridge (ranked 11th with 8 points) finished second but I’m inclined to look elsewhere.
So, there’s how the current top 20 fared in their end-of-year prep races. I’ve narrowed that list down to 10 that may have the best chance of getting into the Derby starting gate and I’ve ranked them according to their Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile® score which is a measurement of their potential. However, it’s still a long way to the Derby and it remains to be seen if these young horses will live up to their potential.
Brody’s Cause has an A+ Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile® grade rating while Mohaymen, Greenpointcrusader and Flexibility have B ratings. The other horses have lower grade ratings but their Behavior Index and other data mining variables, makes them competitive.
1. Brody's Cause
8. Mor Spirit
10. Mo Tom
In addition to this top ten list, there are a lot of other horses not ranked in the top 20 that could perhaps have an impact on the Derby Trail. Some of them have only raced once and some are still in training. Let’s take a look at some of those horses.
SUDDENBREAKINGNEWS: a bay gelding by Mineshaft, out of Uchitel by Afleet Alex, also has an A+ Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile® grade rating and he’s compiled a 2-3-0 record in five starts for trainer Donnie Von Hemel.
The sole stakes win for Suddenbreakingnews was in the Clever Trevor Stakes at Remington Park and he finished second in the Remington Springboard Mile Stakes. Here’s the video and chart call of the Springboard Mile:
SUDDENBREAKINGNEWS was allowed to settle then rallied on the far turn, was three wide in the stretch and gaining ground but lost the head bob on the wire.
At the top of the stretch, Suddenbreakingnews did not have any running room but he finally managed to squeeze between horses in the final strides to narrowly lose by a head bob to Discreetness. If he had a clear path, I think that he would have won easily and look for him to move forward off of that effort.
Suddenbreakingnews is working well at Oaklawn Park and the Horse Racing Nation has him listed as an early bird nomination to the Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby (G2).
ZULU: a bay colt by Bernardini, out of Temporada by Summer Squall, has an A+ Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile® grade rating. Zulu is trained by Todd Pletcher and so far only has a maiden win to his credit which he won by two lengths. Here’s the video and chart call of his maiden win:
ZULU hustled up at the start, dueled for early lead, continued to match strides along the inside of SHARP AZTECA around far turn, had more in reserve in upper stretch and began to move away from rival at furlong marker.
Zulu led from gate to wire, setting fast fractions in this six furlong sprint. With only one start, he has some catching up to due. But he has the breeding to be a factor on the trail and he’s been training well at Palm Beach Downs.
KNIGHTS KEY: a bay colt by Giant’s Causeway, out of Lemon Kiss by Lemon Drop Kid, also has an A+ Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile® grade rating. Knights Key is trained by Steve Hobby and has a maiden win to his credit. Here’s the video and chart call of his win:
KNIGHTS KEY broke in a tangle to get away behind his field, made a sweeping move five wide, reeled in SCONNIE ALUMNI in the final yards.
Knights Key got off to a slow start and trailed the leaders by about 10 lengths. He made a good, sweeping move on the far turn to overtake the leaders and looked professional running down the stretch to score the win.
He’s training well at Oaklawn Park and Horse Racing Nation has him listed as a probable for the one mile Smarty Jones Stakes on January 18.
DESTIN: a gray, roan colt by Giant’s Causeway, out Dream of Summer by Siberian Summer, is a full brother to Creative Cause and he has an A Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile® grade rating.
Destin is trained by Todd Pletcher and, to date, he has a 1-1-0 record in two starts. He finished second in his last race. Here’s the video and chart call of that race:
DESTIN pressed the pace of the winner while racing three-wide, dropped back slightly through the turn, re-bid with a furlong to run but could not gain on that rival late.
Destin has the breeding to be a factor on the trail, but, he’ll need to improve going forward if he’s going to be competitive. Time will tell if Pletcher can get him to the Derby.
SHAGAF: a bay colt by Bernardini, out of Muhaawara by Unbridled’s Song, has an A+ Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile® grade rating. Shagaf is trained by Chad Brown and he has a maiden win to his credit. Here’s the video and chart call of his win:
SHAGAF chased the pace inside in aim of the front, came under coaxing seven-sixteenths out and angled three to four wide midway on the turn, advanced through the latter portion nearing the quarter pole, swung five wide for home rallying to seize command three-sixteenths out, drew clear under a drive kept busy to the wire.
Shagaf won by an impressive six lengths. He’s just returned to the work tab at Palm Meadows Training Center and has room to improve as a three year old.
INSPECTOR LYNLEY: a bay colt by Lemon Drop Kid, out of Criminologist by Maria’s Mon, has an A+ Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile® grade rating. Inspector Lynley has yet to break his maiden and he’s compiled a 0-2-0 record in three starts for trainer Shug McGauhey. Here’s the chart call of his last race:
INSPECTOR LYNLEY settled off the leaders early, moved three-wide through the second turn and was steadily gaining on the winner late. CLOONTIA pressed the pace of the winner throughout and failed to gain on that rival in the drive.
Inspector Lynley was closing fast and only lost by half a length in his debut as a three year old and has room to improve off of that performance.
PATH OF DAVID: a bay gelding by Istan, out of Rimini Road by Dynaformer, has an A+ Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile® grade rating. Path of David has compiled a 2-1-1 record in six starts for trainer Kristin Mulhall, including a win in the Eddie Logan Stakes. Here’s the video and chart call of the race:
PATH OF DAVID angled in and chased inside then just off the rail leaving the backstretch, went three deep on the second turn and four wide into the stretch, bid outside the leader, gained the advantage past the eighth pole and proved best under a couple taps with the whip turned down, some hand urging and steady handling.
Path of David raced about six lengths off the leaders until entering the far turn when he made a wide sweeping move to rally and take the lead and secure the win. I love the way Santa Anita track announcer Frank Mirahmadi called his run in the stretch as “gobbling up the dirt…very confidently handled and wrapped up to win by a deceptive length and a half.”
Indeed, Path of David is on a winning path with two back-to-back turf wins and he has room to improve as a three year old. I’d like to see his connections give him a run at the Derby.
ADMIRAL SHEPARD: a bay colt by Malibu Moon, out of Flying Spur by Giant’s Causeway, has an A+ Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile® grade rating. In one start for trainer Steve Asmussen, Admiral Shepard finished third to Seymourdini in a maiden special weight race at Aqueduct on November 22. Here’s the video and chart call of that race:
ADMIRAL SHEPARD just off the pace along the inside, came under coaxing three furlongs out, cut the corner into upper stretch, proved no match for the top one, dueled through the final furlong with SEAT OF HONOR trading light bumps in the last jumps and lost the place by a whisker in a good first effort for the show honors while well clear of the rest.
Admiral Shepard narrowly missed second-place by a nose to Seat of Honor and should continue to move forward as a three year. He’s working at the Oaklawn Park and he’s also an early bird nominee to the Louisiana Derby (G2).
DISCREETNESS: a bay colt by Discreet Cat, out of Fondness by Elusive Quality, has a B Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile® grade rating. Discreetness has compiled a 3-0-0 record in five starts for trainer William Fires, including a narrow win by a nose in the Remington Springboard Mile Stakes. Here’s the video and chart call of that race:
DISCREETNESS was settled then rallied heading into the far turn, was five wide in upper stretch and was in a long drive then was up in the final stride winning on the head bob.
Discreetness raced and the back of the herd for most of the race. He began gradually moving up at the three quarter pole and took the lead in the final strides to win by a nose.
Since that race Discreetness been working at Oaklawn Park and he’s listed by Horse Racing Nation as a probable for the Smarty Jones Stakes on January 18.
SEYMOURDINI: a bay, roan colt by Bernardini, out of Graeme Six by Graeme Hall, has an A Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile® grade rating.
To date, Seymourdini has compiled a 1-2-0 record in three starts for trainer Linda Rice and just broke his maiden on his last start. Here’s the video and chart call of that race:
SEYMOURDINI brushed the off side stall at the start then bumped lightly with SNOW FIGHTER, established the front crossing to the inside to show the way in hand, came under pressure from a pair to the outside and remained patiently handled, shook away from the field midway on the turn under brief light coaxing, swung three then two wide for home straightened away, went clear in hand until nearing the sixteenth marker before being put to hand urging through to the wire.
Seymourdini broke his maiden by an impressive nine lengths. He’s yet to return to the work tab, but he has room to improve as a three year old off of that maiden win.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: If I could have a Derby wish list, Souper Colors and Mr. Shook would be at the top of that list. However, they are still in training and have a lot of catching up to do. Never So Few has the best breeding of all the horses I’ve looked at on the Derby trail but an eighth-place finish in his maiden debut Saturday does not bode well for him making it to the Derby. Others include: Delta Prince, Giant Run, Ravenheart, Black Ops and Z Royal.
Of the profiled horses not in the top 20, here is how they are ranked according to their Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile®.
2. Admiral Shepard
4. Knights Key
7. Inspector Lynley
8. Path of David
It remains to be seen if any of these horses can make it into the Derby starting gate and while there are no clear-cut standouts in this herd, 2016 looks like it could be another exciting racing season on the Derby Trail.
Next race on the trail will be the one mile Sham Stakes at Santa Anita Park on January 9.