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The most prestigious race on North American soil - the G1 Kentucky Derby will be run this Saturday, May 5 at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. Some of the best three year olds in the world will take to Churchill Downs' dirt track and race 1 1/4 miles searching for the winner's share of the $2 million purse and the honor of being called a Derby Champion.
Race 12 on Churchill Downs's Saturday card with a Post Time of 6:50 PM
|1||Firenze Fire||50-1||Paco Lopez||Jason Servis|
|2||Free Drop Billy||30-1||Robby Albarado||Dale Romans|
|3||Promises Fulfilled||30-1||Corey Lanerie||Dale Romans|
|4||Flameaway||30-1||Jose Lezcano||Mark Casse|
|5||Audible||8-1||Javier Castellano||Todd Pletcher|
|6||Good Magic||12-1||Jose Ortiz||Chad Brown|
|7||Justify||3-1||Mike Smith||Bob Baffert|
|8||Lone Sailor||50-1||James Graham||Thomas Amoss|
|9||Hofburg||20-1||Irad Ortiz, Jr.||William Mott|
|10||My Boy Jack||30-1||Kent Desormeaux||J. Desormeaux|
|11||Bolt d'Oro||8-1||Victor Espinoza||Mick Ruis|
|12||Enticed||30-1||Junior Alvarado||Kiaran McLaughlin|
|13||Bravazo||50-1||Luis Contreras||D. Lukas|
|14||Mendelssohn||5-1||Ryan Moore||Aidan O'Brien|
|15||Instilled Regard||50-1||Drayden Van Dyke||Jerry Hollendorfer|
|16||Magnum Moon||6-1||Luis Saez||Todd Pletcher|
|17||Solomini||30-1||Flavien Prat||Bob Baffert|
|18||Vino Rosso||12-1||John Velazquez||Todd Pletcher|
|19||Noble Indy||30-1||Florent Geroux||Todd Pletcher|
|20||Combatant||50-1||Ricardo Santana, Jr.||Steven Asmussen|
|A/E||Blended Citizen||A/E||Kyle Frey||Doug O'Neill|
CONFIRMED - Ron Lombardi's Mr. Amore Stables finally earned their first Grade 1 victory thanks to one of their own. Homebred Firenze Fire scored in the 2017 Champagne Stakes to upset his rivals as a longshot, and this isn't the first time he's done that.
Firenze Fire is sired by Poseidon's Warrior, who won the 2012 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap and placed 14th in the 2012 Breeders' Cup Sprint. His dam, My Every Wish, never found great success as a competitor and was even less productive as a broodmare. Eventually, Lombardi and trainer Jon Servis decided to give her another go and Firenze Fire arrived.
Making his debut in June 2017 at a Monmouth maiden special weight, Firenze Fire crossed the wire first while covering 5 furlongs in :58.37. That win wasn't enough to get him noticed by the oddsmakers, who slapped him with 11/1 odds to win the 2017 Sanford. He upset Free Drop Billy, a highly touted 3/1 favorite, and 7/2 second choice Baffin to sprint through 6 furlongs in 1:11.50.
Gaining a modicum of respect, Firenze Fire entered the 2017 Hopeful as an 8/1 outside shot against a very strong field. He would fall fourth against Sporting Chance (5/1), Free Drop Billy (3/1) and Givemeaminit (6/1) in an extremely tight finish that showed off both his tenacity and determination against top level competition.
Unfazed by the result, Lombardi and trainer Jon Servis sent Firenze Fire to the Champagne Stakes. Good Magic would go off as the 4/1 favorite, while Hazit and Honorable Treasure were given 5/1 odds as co-second choices. Also in the mix were Enticed at 7/1 and Kowboy Karma at 8/1. For his part, Firenze Fire went off at 11/1.
The race unfolded with Firenze Fire well behind in second-last, but by the top of the final corner, the Servis trained upstart bolted down the backstretch to surpass Good Magic and score in the Champagne Stakes as a longshot.
Ending the 2017 2-year-old campaign for Firenze Fire was a 7th place finish in a talented Breeders' Cup Juvenile. For 2018, he would run in 4 Road to the Kentucky Derby prep races. A win in the Jerome Stakes at Aqueduct in January would be followed by a 2nd at Aqueduct in the Withers Stakes and back-to-back 4th place efforts in the Gotham Stakes and Wood Memorial Stakes.
CONFIRMED - Albaugh Family Stable acquired Free Drop Billy as a yearling at the 2016 Keeneland September sale for $200,000. He was immediately dispatched to trainer Dale Romans, who has capitalized on the colt's strong pedigree to produce a top contender.
In fact, Free Drop Billy is well on the way to living up to the same hype his sire Union Rags had to endure. Union Rags won the 2011 Saratoga Special and Champagne Stakes while finishing second to Hansen in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. He would go on to place 1st in the 2012 Fountain of Youth Stakes, 3rd in the Florida Derby and 7th in the Kentucky Derby in a race won by I'll Have Another. Weeks later, Union Rags took advantage of I'll Have Another's absence and won the 2012 Belmont Stakes.
Free Drop Billy won his maiden in June before finishing second to Firenze Fire in the 2017 Sanford Stakes. He then ran a close second to Sporting Chance in the 2017 Hopeful Stakes. Both races showed that Free Drop Billy was probably more capable at longer distances, and he had his chance to showcase his skills over a mile in the 2017 Breeders' Futurity.
Going off as a steady 3/2 favorite against a relatively lackluster field, Free Drop Billy proved that he was better at distances over a mile than he was at sprints. The colt won with grace and poise as he stormed the homestretch to earn the victory by four convincing lengths.
This was the assumption of trainer Dale Romans and his connections and it was proven true as he galloped out to a four length victory. "If you look at all his numbers on paper, every time they stretched a race a bit, he got a little bit better. Today I think we saw what he is really capable of."
One of the unique characteristics of Free Drop Billy is his propensity to lather prior to a race. It's not the best look for a two-year-old contender, but Dale Romans seems to have no problem with it. "I'd rather him not do that, but he does it, and that's just him."
In four starts, Free Drop Billy is 2-2-0 with $428,000 in career earnings.
CONFIRMED - Promises Fulfilled will enter the Kentucky Derby with 3 wins in 5 starts along with a 3rd place finish. But his $266,480 in non-restricted stakes earnings is less than all but two other Derby probables. Trained by Dale Romans, Promises Fulfilled has been ridden by three different jockeys in his last three races leading into the Kentucky Derby. Robby Albarado has ridden him three times in his five starts including his only out-of-the-money finish when he led the $1 million Florida Derby through six furlongs before finishing last in the nine horse field.
Promises Fulfilled is a son of Shackleford, and Romans purchased him for a bargain price of $37,000. He won his first two races at Churchill Downs by four lengths and his race at Keeneland by a neck. His start at Keeneland saw him rise to the betting favorite by showing great speed and ability. In his stakes debut at Churchill Downs in the 1 1/16 mile Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) last November, Promises Fulfilled set the pace as a 10-1 shot and led the race from the start into the stretch before yielding late in the drive to finish third behind his stablemate Tiz Mischief and the winner Enticed, another solid Kentucky Derby entrant.
Jockey Alex Canchari had a tough time guiding his young horse around the turns in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes, and in his 2018 debut as a 3-year-old, Promises Fulfilled ran more smoothly as a wire-to-wire long shot winner in the $400,000 Fountain of Youth (G2). Rider Irad Ortiz, Jr. confidently handled his horse turning for home, fighting off his stalker and kicking clear to win by more than 2 lengths and 4 ½ lengths in front of the heavy favorite Good Magic. Promises Fulfilled rewarded his backers with a $38.40 win ticket on a $2 wager.
Promises Fulfilled had one of the top BRIS speed ratings in the Kentucky Derby Prep and Championship series, posting a 104 BRIS in the Fountain of Youth, topped only by Audible (107) in the Florida Derby. In that race, Promises Fulfilled was washed out going to post, and he was in a super hotly contested battle up front and leading through six furlongs. But Promises Fulfilled faded badly and was overrun by all challengers before stopping in the lane and finished last in the $1 million Florida Derby.
Promises Fulfilled is from the second crop of Shackleford (by Forestry), whose wins included the 1 3/16-mile Preakness Stakes (G1), one-mile Metropolitan Handicap (G1), and the 1 1/8-mile Clark Handicap (G1) in his career. His best finish in three major classic distance races was 4th in the 2011 Kentucky Derby. Promises Fullfilled's dam was also better as a sprinter and races less than 1 1/8 miles.
Promises Fulfilled does have talent and speed, but it's unlikely he will be able to carry his speed the necessary distance with stamina a concern to go the 1 ¼ mile Derby distance.
CONFIRMED - For some horses, it just takes time before they find their footing. Bred on February 28th, 2015 by Phoenix Rising Farms, Flameaway was originally sold for $150,000. With a sire like Scat Daddy, eyes were always on Falemaway as owner John C. Oxley saw enough in the young colt to purchase him for $400,000 as a yearling.
Immediate returns on Flameaway were quite positive as he wasted no time in breaking his maiden at Woodbine over a 4 ½ furlong sprint in a time of 0:53.26. From there, he returned to the United States and made an immediate impact by winning the 2017 Skidmore Stakes at Saratoga.
Flameaway was next entered in the 2017 Iroquois Stakes, a 1 1/16th mile contest which serves as the opening leg on the Road to the Kentucky Derby. Running strong, but far from competitive as Flameaway faded to a disappointing 6th place finish in a race won by The Tabulator. The performance was not what Oxley was looking for, but trainer Mark Casse refused to yield faith.
Entering the 2017 Bourbon Stakes as a 6/1 odds second choice, behind his half-brother and 4/1 favorite Tap Daddy, Flameaway crushed the 1 1/16th mile competition with a time of 1:45.77, which essentially matched the winning Iroquois time, and was the type of outing that Flameaway needed.
From there, Flameaway's career took a curious turn. Instead of heading to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile to further establish his place as a contender for the Triple Crown races, Flameaway was sent to the 2017 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf and finished a distant 8th for his second career loss.
To begin his three-year-old campaign, Flameaway ran in the 2018 Kitten's Joy over Gulfstream's turf track and won in decisive fashion over Pony Up and Renaissance Frolic.
Returning to dirt for the first time in months, Flameaway next challenged the 2018 Sam F. Davis Stakes as a 10/1 longshot behind the heavily favored Catholic Boy at 3/5 and Vino Rosso at 2/1. His long, meandering journey back to the Road to the Kentucky Derby proved to be the x-factor as Flameaway ran undaunted the entire way and upset the two favorites with a massive return on $22.60 to win the 2018 Sam F. Davis Stakes with resounding pace. He covered the 1 1/16th mile race in 1:42.44.
Flameaway has now won on turf, synthetic, and dirt (both wet and dry), proving that he's capable of competing in a variety of circumstances. That's the type of competitive versatility that horse players like to see. Over 7 starts, Flameaway is 5-0-0 and earned $434.834 in career earnings. He is next pointed towards the 2018 Tampa Bay Derby and will remain a fixture of the Kentucky Derby prep race circuit as he continues to mature towards his potential.
CONFIRMED - Last year's Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Todd Pletcher has added another horse to his Kentucky Derby dreams after Audible won the $1 million Florida Derby (G1) March 31 at Gulfstream Park. The son of Into Mischief was a 3-length winner with jockey John Velazquez aboard in the Florida Derby, and his impressive win makes him one of the top-3 favorites to win the Kentucky Derby heading into the final Kentucky Derby Futures Wager Pool 4.
Audible went off as the 8-5 favorite in the Florida Derby, and he paid $5.20 to win covering 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.48. An eight week layoff was no issue for Audible, who won his fourth straight race in the Florida Derby. After finishing 3rd in his debut at Belmont, Audible then broke his maiden over a mile at Aqueduct Nov. 15. He followed with a 9-length allowance score over the same track Dec. 6 before winning the 1 1/16 mile Holy Bull (G2) by more than 5-lengths in his sophomore and stakes debut Feb. 3rd at Gulfstream. The Florida Derby cemented his standing as a favorite to watch heading into the Kentucky Derby.
Audible was a $175,000 yearling purchase at the Saratoga New York-bred yearling sale in August 2016. He was up for sale again at the Fasig-Tipton March sale of 2-year-olds in training, where he was purchased for $500,000 by WinStar Farm and China Horse Club, who now race him along with SF Racing for trainer Todd Pletcher.
Audible's sire, Into Mischief, was the champion sire of 2-year-olds in 2016 and champion sire of 3-year-olds in 2017. Audible's grandsire is Harlan's Holiday, who won the Blue Grass Stakes and was the favorite to win the 2002 Kentucky Derby before finishing seventh. While Audible was impressive again in the 1 1/8 mile Florida Derby, there will still be concern for handicappers and horsemen whether he can get the Classic 1 ¼ mile distance (10 furlongs) ahead of other quality Kentucky Derby contenders. Into Mischief has been a superb sire, but he has yet to sire a horse that's won stakes races at more than 9 furlongs, and there is limited distance pedigree help on his distaff line.
Pedigree has been proven wrong before, and following another impressive win in the Florida Derby, Audible will get plenty of interest and betting action for the Kentucky Derby, even though his pedigree doesn't guarantee that he'll stay the 1 ¼ mile distance.
CONFIRMED - Good Magic was the 2017 Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) winner at Del Mar following a runner-up finish in the Champagne Stakes (G1) at Belmont behind Firenze Fire and just ahead of Enticed, both Kentucky Derby qualifiers. Following a 3rd place finish in the Fountain of Youth (G2) as the heavy favorite, Good Magic showed his championship class by taking command in the stretch and holding sway over Flameway to win the $1 million Blue Grass Stakes (G2) and Keeneland April 7. That victory made Good Magic the leader in the Kentucky Derby Points standings with 134 points heading into the Kentucky Derby May 5 at Churchill Downs.
Ridden by Jose Ortiz, Good Magic was the 8-5 favorite in the 15-horse field and won the 1 1/8 mile Blue Grass in 1:50.18. Good Magic is now 2-2-1 in five starts with earnings of $1,855,000. The champion 2-year-old of 2017 was purchased for $1 million at the 2016 Keeneland September Yearling Sale.
Trained by Chad Brown, Good Magic is a son of Curlin, the 2-time Horse of the Year who competed with distinction in all three 2007 Triple Crown races. He finished 3rd in the Kentucky Derby, won the Preakness and finished 2nd in the Belmont Stakes before winning the Breeders' Cup Classic that same year. Curlin has become a powerhouse source of stamina, and the Smart Strike stallion has produced a classic winner or classic-placed runner from each of his first five crops, beginning with 2013 Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice.
Good Magic's dam, Glinda the Good, a daughter of Curlin's old racetrack rival Hard Spun, scored all her wins at a mile or longer. The mare is a half-sister to several stakes winners and producers, and this female family has been a successful cross with Curlin.
In pool 4, the last of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager pools, Good Magic closed at 9-1, behind Justify, Mendelssohn, Audible and Magnum Moon. This will be a talented and tightly-bunched group of Kentucky Derby contenders, with many well-bred challengers like Good Magic looking to capture the roses in the Kentucky Derby.
CONFIRMED - Racing in his third career start, which began at age 3, Justify lived up to anticipated hype in his stakes debut, capturing the $1 million Santa Anita Derby (G1) April 7 to earn 100 Road to the Kentucky Derby points and secure his spot in the starting gate for the Kentucky Derby May 5 at Churchill Downs.
In an impressive performance, Justify confidently handled a strong Bolt d'Oro, beating his rival by 3-lenghts to return $3.80 as the slight 4-5 odds favorite. He ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.72 over a Santa Anita surface that trainer Bob Baffert said was deep and playing slow all afternoon.
Justify is on his way to becoming a Kentucky Derby favorite, as he recorded a 114 BRIS Speed Figure in the Santa Anita Derby, which is the highest in the six-season history of the Kentucky Derby Points system. Being highly-regarded, he finished as the top horse in Pool 4 of the final Kentucky Derby Future Wager that closed April 7, at 3-1 odds.
Hiding below the surface for Justify is the attempt to overcome the curse of Apollo, who was the last horse to win the Kentucky Derby as an unraced 2-year-old more than 130 years ago in 1882. But, jockey Mike Smith says Justify is just scratching the surface as a raw talent with much room to grow.
Bred in Kentucky, Justify was a $500,000 Keeneland September Yearling purchase by China Horse Club and Maverick Racing. His sire is Scat Daddy, who died in 2015 at the young age of 11. Scat Daddy has had success as an internationally prominent sire, but has yet to sire a winner in the American Triple Crown series. He'll have a good chance this year as the sire of Justify, Flameaway and Mendelssohn, all scheduled to start in the Kentucky Derby.
Justify, called `Big Red' at the barn, will get tons of attention as the expected favorite leading into the Kentucky Derby for 4-time Derby-winning trainer Bob Baffert.
CONFIRMED - Lone Sailor was bred on March 30th, 2015 by Alexander-Groves-Matz LLC. He was sired by Majestic Warrior, a son of A.P. Indy, out of Ambitious. GMB Racing purchased Lone Sailor as a yearling for $120,000.
Trainer Thomas Amoss dispatched Lone Sailor to compete in a pair of Maiden races to test the waters during the late summer of his two-year-old season. Though he finished fifth, out of seven competitors in his debut, the colt eventually won his maiden at Saratoga during a maiden special weight.
In his stakes debut, Lone Sailor would take on a top heavy field in the 2017 Breeders' Futurity Stakes at Keeneland. Free Drop Billy would go on to win as the 2/1 favorite, with Bravazo stunning the crowd as a 30/1 longshot in second place. After trailing in second last out of 11 for much of the race, Lone Sailor rallied hard to finish a distant third. He was a 12/1 outside shot.
A few weeks later, Lone Sailor would be sent to compete in the 2017 Street Sense Stakes at Churchill Downs. This brisk, one-mile contest was taken by Gotta Go while Lone Sailor performed admirably to finish second ahead of Bravazo.
Over the course of four starts, Lone Sailor has now accomplished a record of 1-1-1 and rewarded GMB Racing with $118,117. The Benson family, who own him, will run him in the 2018 Road to the Kentucky Derby and he will have to outperform his juvenile season in order to steal some attention away from his colt contemporaries.
CONFIRMED - Hofburg will enter the 2018 Kentucky Derby with three career starts. The Juddmonte Farms homebred was an impressive maiden winner in his second start, going 1 1/16 miles on March 3 at Gulfstream Park. His trip during his maiden win left him traveling wide throughout.
His initial start at Saratoga six months earlier was a fourth-place finish, and Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott gave his talented colt some time for R&R, then he returned more mature and improved from his initial sophomore season.
Mott then entered Hofburg in the $1 million Florida Derby, a huge step up to Grade 1 company against other Kentucky Derby hopefuls. Off at 8-1 odds, after showing 20-1 on the morning line, Hofburg sat near the back of the pack through six furlongs before getting in gear near the three-eighths pole. Hofburg followed behind the 3-length winner Audible and continued his rally to finish 2nd, well clear of all others in the 1 1/8 mile distance contest. The runner-up effort earned Hofburg 40 points toward qualifying for the Kentucky Derby, which was just enough to earn his spot in the starting gate for the May 5 Run for the Roses.
Hofburg, is by leading sire Tapit, out of the Touch Gold mare Soothing Touch. Hofburg's half-sister Emollient, also trained by Mott, won six of 18 starts including four Grade 1 races from 2012-2014.
Eight days after the Florida Derby, Hofburg had his first post-race work, and the work was a terrific half-mile breeze at Payson Park according to the track clocker and writer for Daily Racing Form. While Mott notes that his horse lacks seasoning, he's been pleased with how professional Hofburg has handled his races and workouts but acknowledges that he'll face twice the field size in the Kentucky Derby with many more 3-year-olds that have more racing experience and others that have shown more speed.
CONFIRMED - My Boy Jack could be the most experienced 3-year-old entering the Kentucky Derby picture. Holding a resume that spans 10 starts, including 5 graded stakes, of which he won the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park and held on to win the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland in April. My Boy Jack also hit the board showing third in the TwinSpires.com Louisiana Derby and Sham Stakes.
Trained by Keith Desormeaux and traditionally ridden by veteran brother Kent Desormeaux, My Boy Jack is by Creative Cause, out of Gold N Shaft by Mineshaft. Creative Cause ran 5th in the 2012 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs and went on to finish 3rd in the Preakness Stakes two weeks later. My Boy Jack's dam Gold N Delcious was unraced.
The bay colt is owned by Don't Tell My Wife Stables and Monomoy Stables, LLC and bred by Brereton C. Jones in Kentucky. He boasts of $622,000 lifetime non-restricted stakes earnings.
CONFIRMED - March 10 at Santa Anita saw one of the most thrilling finishes thus far on the Road to the Kentucky Derby.
Bolt d'Oro and McKinzie, two top 3-year-old contenders, locked in a head-to-head stretch duel in the San Felipe Stakes (G2). McKinzie crossed the finish line first, but was disqualified following a stewards inquiry and placed second, making Bolt d'Oro the winner of the 1 1/16-mile race.
Bolt d'Oro earned 50 qualifying points toward the Kentucky Derby (G1) with the victory, and secured his spot in the starting gate for the Run for the Roses on May 5 at Churchill Downs. Bolt d'Oro won for the fourth time in five starts, which includes a pair of Grade 1 wins.
He's one of the leading contenders for the Derby, and in the recent Kentucky Derby Future Wager, Bolt d'Oro was the favorite (6-1) of 23 individual Derby hopefuls when Pool 3 opened on March 9. He closed at 7-1, the second favorite among the individual interests behind Justify (6-1), with the field the overall favorite at 4-1.
Bolt d'Oro will be one of the betting favorites when the morning line is released days before the May 5 Kentucky Derby. The full field will be determined following the final Kentucky Derby prep races in April.
Bolt d'Oro finished third in the 2017 Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1), but did not have a good trip breaking from the 11 post, running wide on both turns and having to rally from the back. But this well-bred Medaglia d'Oro colt owned and trained by Mick Ruis is capable of becoming the first Kentucky Derby winner for his elite sire.
Medaglia d'Oro, who sired the great Hall of Fame filly and 2009 Preakness Stakes (G1) winner Rachel Alexandra, led all stallions in North America with seven different Grade 1 winners in 2017. The prevailing trend of those winners was stamina, with influence by A.P. Indy. All but one succeeded at route distances.
Bolt d'Oro won the Del Mar Futurity (G1) at seven furlongs, then stretched out to win the 1 1/16 mile FrontRunner (G1). His 2018 debut win in the San Felipe (G2) sets him up for a final Derby prep race in the 1 1/8-mile Santa Anita Derby (G1) on April 7 before he runs for the roses in the classic 1 1/4-mile Kentucky Derby.
CONFIRMED - There won't be many 2018 Kentucky Derby contenders with a stronger Classic pedigree than Enticed. Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin has been conditioning the son of Medaglia d' Oro well, and picking the right race spots to showcase his Kentucky Derby potential.
March 10 was another step forward, as Enticed sat mid-pack in the 1-mile Gotham Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct before jockey Junior Alvarado turned him loose entering the stretch. From there, the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) winner chopped away at the long shot front runner Old Time Revival, chasing him with determination before collaring him in the final furlong and gearing down for a 2 ¾ length victory. The Gotham win was worth 50 Kentucky Derby points, giving Enticed a spot in the starting gate for the May 5 Run for the Roses.
Enticed paid $8.80 as the 3-1 choice in the Gotham with long shot Old Time Revival returning $25.80 as runner up. The two race favorites Free Drop Billy and Firenze Fire completed the trifecta and superfecta wagering.
Enticed is by the very good racehorse Medaglia d'Oro (El Prado), who stayed 1 1/4 miles and beyond. His victories included the Travers Stakes (G1), Whitney Handicap (G1) and Donn Handicap (G1), while he recorded runner-up finishes in six major races: the Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) twice, along with the Belmont Stakes (G1), Pacific Classic (G1), Dubai World Cup (UAE-G1), and Wood Memorial (G1).
Enticed is also out of the top-class racemare It's Tricky, and her victories included three at the Grade 1 level. It's Tricky also finished 2nd in the 1 1/8-mile Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic (G1), 1 1/4-mile Alabama, and 9-furlong Beldame.
In terms of class and aptitude, Enticed has many of the attributes of a Kentucky Derby contender. He'll be one to watch closely moving forward with a final prep run in the 1 1/8 mile Wood Memorial at Aqueduct April 7 before he makes his Run for the Roses in the Kentucky Derby.
CONFIRMED - As a homebred product of Calumet Farm by Awesome Again, out of Tiz o' Gold, Bravazo has been in training under Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas. Bravazo was one of the more veteran runners for the 2017 crop of two-year-old Kentucky Derby hopefuls. Bravazo's sire Awesome Again capped an undefeated season of six starts with a win in the 1998 Breeders' Cup Classic.
In eight starts, Bravazo has posted a 3-1-1 record with $359,913 in non-restricted stakes earnings. He's won 2-of-3 starts as a 3-year-old approaching the Kentucky Derby, but his poor 8th place finish as the 3-1 second choice in the $1 million Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby was disappointing. Under regular jockey Gary Stevens, Bravazo raced up close early, but faltered badly late.
Having won the Risen Star (G2) five weeks earlier over the same Fair Grounds track as a 21-1 outsider while beating 3rd place finisher Noble Indy, there was hope Bravazo's trajectory would continue. But Noble Indy won the Louisiana Derby, and there are more questions than answers for Bravazo heading into the Kentucky Derby where he will be a big long shot against a deep and talented field of 3-year-olds.
Bravazo has raced three times over the Churchill Downs main track, winning his second start by more than 4 lengths to break his maiden going one mile. That win earned him a trip to the Grade 1 Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland, where he finished 2nd, four lengths behind the favorite Free Drop Billy, another Derby horse who has finished in the money in all three Derby preps in 2018.
Just three weeks later, Bravazo finished 3rd in the Street Sense Stakes at Churchill Downs and then was a non-threatening 10th at 30-1 odds in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) at Churchill Downs.
Bravazo has posted a best BRIS speed rating of 98 in the Risen Star. While that is pretty solid and matches other Derby entries 98 BRIS figure such as Good Magic (Fountain of Youth), Quip (Tampa Bay Derby), and Bolt d' Oro (San Felipe), it's not fast enough to challenge other Derby horses with 100+ BRIS speed figures such as Lone Sailor and Noble Indy (Louisiana Derby), Magnum Moon (Rebel), Hofburg (Florida Derby), Promises Fulfilled (FOY), Enticed (Gotham) and the highest BRIS figure of 107 by Audible (Florida Derby).
At 47-1 odds in Breeders' Futurity, Bravazo did pay $25.20 to place and $12.80 to show, and his Risen Star victory by a nose as a longshot returned $44 to win and $15.40 to place. But as things have progressed into 2018, Bravazo will be very long odds again when he runs in the Kentucky Derby.
CONFIRMED - One of the most impressive Kentucky Derby prep race winners was Mendelssohn, who captured the $2 million UAE Derby March 31 at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai. The win was Mendelssohn's third straight for top Irish trainer Aidan O'Brien, who has had one of the best career's in racehorse-training history. O'Brien conditioned Mendelssohn on the turf and won the $1 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) in a stalking 1 mile trip at Del Mar Nov. 3, 2017.
Kentucky-bred Menelssohn is well-traveled, breaking his maiden Curragh in Ireland, then 7th at Doncaster in England, 2nd at Newmarket in Great Britain before winning at Del Mar in California three weeks later in the Breeders' Cup. His 3-year-old campaign started with a win at Dundalk in the 1 mile Patton Stakes over a Polytrack March 9 before his dominating front-running victory in the UAE Derby in Dubai, his dirt debut.
Mendelssohn is bred for dirt, and he's a half-brother to four-time champion Beholder, and his sire Scat Daddy won the Fountain of Youth and Florida Derby (G1) before finishing 18th in the Kentucky Derby as the third betting choice. Scat Daddy was injured running in the Kentucky Derby, which was his final race. Scat Daddy's sire was Johannesburg, who won 7-of-10 races and was also trained by Aidan O'Brien. Johannesburg was O'Brien's most prized Kentucky Derby horse, but finished 8th as one of the top-4 wagering interests.
Mendelssohn will be O'Brien's 6th Kentucky Derby runner, and he looks like he's the best-ever Derby contender for O'Brien, who is seeking his first Kentucky Derby victory.
Mendelssohn was the highest-priced American yearling of 2016, a staggering $3 million purchase. He is out of the 2016's Broodmare of the Year, Leslie's Lady (Tricky Creek), who produced Beholder and Into Mischief, the champion sire of 2-year-olds in 2016 and 3-year-olds in 2017.
Mendelssohn is a strong Kentucky Derby entrant that will be priced below a number of the other top contenders. He's 10-1 in the final Kentucky Derby Future Wager pool. Many will be concerned with other 3-year-olds poor Kentucky Derby performances after winning the UAE Derby. Of the nine UAE Derby winners that have attempted the Derby double since 2000, the best finish for any of them was 6th place in the Kentucky Derby.
Last year's UAE Derby winner Thunder Snow bucked badly at the start of the Derby and did not finish. He did however progress well and just won the Dubai World Cup.
Having already made a triumphant trip to the U.S. in the Breeders' Cup, Mendelssohn and his mount Ryan Moore are a magnificent double M combination worth supporting with some money in the Kentucky Derby.
CONFIRMED - With a strong pedigree and solid training, OXO Equine LLC made a heavy handed bid for Instilled Regard when he became available at a 2017 Ocala Sale in March. The then two-year-old colt was purchased for $1,050,000 and is being sent along the 2018 Kentucky Derby prep race circuit. With strong performances so far, he's becoming a force that's increasingly difficult to ignore.
Running out of California initially, Instilled Regard ran 2nd in his maiden special weight debut at Del Mar. Next he moved to Santa Anita and finished 3rd in a September allowance, before breaking his maiden in late October. He would make his stakes debut in the hotly contested 2017 Los Alamitos Futurity.
Going off as a 17/1 longshot, Instilled Regard was an afterthought at the window. Leaving the gate, he didn't get off to a good start and trailed the field in the early stages. Around the final turn the prized colt made a daring move for first and hounded 1/2 odds favorite McKinzie down the homestretch. The two horses were side by side until 8/5 odds second choice Solomini came roaring to battle them, bumping Instilled Regard before crossing the wire first.
While Solomini was the initial winner, he was summarily dropped to third after officials reviewed the race. McKinzie was awarded the win and Instilled Regard was promoted to second. It was great that the longshot could fare so well against two of the biggest early contenders for the 2018 Triple Crown, which should encourage OXO Equine.
Training continued through the remainder of 2017 as Instilled Regard travelled to Fair Grounds to take on the 2018 Lecomte, which he dusted handedly to win as a newly respected 2/1 second choice. Instilled Regard outlasted Principe Guilherme at 6/5 and Snapper Sinclair at 28/1 to score his first graded stakes victory. He is next expected to participate in the 2018 Risen Star on February 17th.
Instilled Regard has earned $246,000 in career earnings by finishing back-to-back 4th place efforts in the Santa Anita Derby last out and Risen Star at Fair Grounds prior. Winning the LeComte and running 2nd in the Cash Call Futurity really helped him lead the bubble horses. With a defection of Gronkowski, he is ensured a start in the Derby. Jerry Hollendorfer is getting a lot out of this contender, who boasts the type of pedigree that demands consideration along the Road to the Derby.
CONFIRMED - Last year's Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Todd Pletcher will have four horses running in the Kentucky Derby, and the most recent major Derby prep winner Magnum Moon won his fourth-straight race to start his career by capturing the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 14 at Oaklawn Park. Magnum Moon earned 100 points and completed the Derby prep season No. 1 on the leaderboard with 150 points as he also won the Rebel Stakes (G2) at Oaklawn on March 17.
Ridden by Luis Saez, Magnum Moon ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.86, going gate to wire and pulling away in the stretch to win by 4 lengths over Quip and Solomini, both Kentucky Derby qualifiers. Magnum Moon was a heavy 4-5 favorite and paid $3.60 in winning the Arkansas Derby.
Magnum Moon was a debut winner at Gulfstream in January posting a 99 BRIS Speed figure. He then came from off the pace to win an allowance races at 1-5 odds at Tampa Bay Downs in February. Pletcher than gave the Malibu Moon colt his first stakes try, and it was another success, going clear and pulling away in the stretch to defeat the favorite Solomini by more than 3 lengths in the Rebel while posting a 100 BRIS Speed figure.
The Arkansas Derby solidified Magnum Moon as one of the Derby favorites, and he'll have to buck history to win the 2018 Kentucky Derby. No horse since Apollo in 1882 has won the Kentucky Derby without a start as a 2-year-old, but Magnum Moon will attempt to break the `Curse of Apollo' on May 5 when he makes his Run for the Roses. He'll also try to become the fourth winner of the Rebel and Arkansas Derby to capture the Kentucky Derby, following Sunny's Halo (1983), Smarty Jones (2004) and American Pharoah (2015).
Bred in Kentucky, Magnum Moon was a $380,000 Keeneland September Yearling purchase in 2016 by Robert and Lawana Low. Malibu Moon, a son of A.P. Indy who has followed in his sire's hoofprints by producing route runners, is the sire of 2013 Kentucky Derby winner Orb. The A.P. Indy sireline is responsible over the past five years alone in the classics for Tapit, represented by three Belmont Stakes winners in the last four years, and Lucky Pulpit, the sire of dual classic winner and Breeders' Cup Classic champion California Chrome.
Magnum Moon is clearly among the most talented sophomores in training. He handled the 1 1/8 mile distance without issue in winning the Arkansas Derby, and looks like he has the speed, stamina, pedigree and profile of a classic champion.
CONFIRMED - Solomini was foaled on April 29th, 2015 and despite being born late in the year, the colt has already made an impact. Originally bred by Glenna R. Salyer DVM, Solomini was purchased by the renowned Zayat Stable for $270,000. Bob Baffert was called upon to train the young competitor.
Wasting no time in breaking his maiden, Solomini comfortably defeated a field of eight horses in a 6 ½ furlong sprint. His winning time was clocked at 1:16.98 and was evidence enough that the juvenile was ready to step up his game.
Baffert selected the 2017 FrontRunner Stakes as his next challenge. This field boasted 4/5 favorite Bolt d'Oro, the highly acclaimed 3/1 second choice Zatter and a number of well regarded talents. Take the One O One led the field for much of the race as Bolt d'Oro sat waiting to break. Down the homestretch, nobody could touch the favorite as Bolt d'Oro separated himself cleanly from the rest to win by seven lengths.
Solomini showed well in finishing second, well ahead of co-second favorite Zatter and a length in front of Take the One O One. Though the effort was not nearly enough to keep pace with Bolt d'Oro - perhaps the best two-year-old in the 2017 class - the performance displayed his talent.
Travelling to Del Mar to take on the best two-year-olds in the country, Solomini was inserted as a 6/1 third-choice on the opening line alongside Firenze Fire. His odds would shift to 9/1 with some taking a chance on his opening speed. The colt would prove worthy of that investment for the most part.
Cracking out of the gate alongside U.S. Navy Flag, Solomini was the early pace setter in the 2017 Breeders' Cup Juvenile. The Baffert trainee looked to be a show stealer, but was buried by a surging Good Magic down the homestretch. Solomini did just enough to hold off Bolt d'Oro, who had been caught wide on both turns.
Over just 3 starts, Solomini has now gone 1-2-0 and earned $436,000. Should he continue to improve he will remain a fixture on the 2018 Road to the Kentucky Derby.
CONFIRMED - Last year's Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Todd Pletcher has added a fourth horse to his Derby dreams after Vino Rosso won the $750,000 Wood Memorial (G1) April 7 at Aqueduct. Vino Rosso won his first stakes race and earned 100 points to qualify for the Kentucky Derby May 5 at Churchill Dows.
Ridden by John Velazquez, Vino Rosso ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.79, closing with gusto on the runaway leader Old Time Revival and zooming past him alongside the favorite Enticed as those two went heads apart into the Aqueduct stretch and opened up nearly 5-lengths on their closest pursuers. Those two bumped in rapid succession along the rail before Vino Rosso put away Enticed coming to the sixteenth pole and drew away for a 3-length victory. A stewards' inquiry followed and an objection, but after video review, there was no change to the order of finish. Vino Rosso was sent off at 4-1 odds and paid $10.40 to win while Enticed finished 2nd, Restoring Hope 3rd and Firenze Fire another six lengths back in fourth.
Vino Rosso was a debut winner at Aqueduct in November and then toyed with five rivals in winning his next allowance race in December at Tampa Bay Downs. His 3-year-old debut was a 3rd place finish in the Sam F. Davis (G3), as he re-rallied in the stretch to finish just 1 ¼ lengths behind the winner Flameway, who set a new stakes record time in the 1 1/16 mile race at Tampa Bay Downs. Vino Rosso earned a 100 BRIS speed figure and posted a 106 BRIS Late Pace Rating. He followed with a 4th place finish in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2), where the pace was slower than the Sam F. Davis but Vino Rosso rallied to post another strong 104 BRIS Late Pace Rating. His impressive stretch drive victory in the Wood Memorial against a quality favorite Enticed showed his improvement and readiness to go longer.
Vino Rosso was a Keeneland September Yearling sale purchase for $410,000 by co-owners Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable. The Kentucky-bred showed substantial ability at age 2 and has lots of stamina in his pedigree to love classic distances. His sire Curlin was a 2-time Horse of the Year who finished 3rd in the 2007 Kentucky Derby, won the Preakness and was 2nd in the Belmont Stakes before winning the Breeders' Cup Classic that year by more than 4-lengths. His dam is a half-sister to Commissioner, a graded stakes winner at 1 1/4 miles and runner-up in the Belmont Stakes. She's also a half to multiple graded stakes-winning sprinter Laugh Track, who placed in the Breeders' Cup Sprint.
Vino Rosso looks like an improving colt that has classic pedigree and the ability to come off the pace and make a Run for the Roses at double-digit odds.
CONFIRMED - Noble Indy enters the 2018 Kentucky Derby with 3 wins in 4 starts and $640,000 in non-restricted stakes earnings. The Todd Pletcher-trained colt has one stakes victory and it was a big one in his last race before the Kentucky Derby, capturing the $1 million Louisiana Derby by a neck as the 7-2 favorite. He stalked the pacesetter and took the lead at the three-quarter pole before having to battle back in the stretch after losing the lead. Jockey John Velazquez, the 2017 Kentucky Derby-winning jockey, has ridden Noble Indy in his last three starts, but he'll have to decide which horse to ride in the Derby, as Velazquez has also ridden other Road to the Kentucky Derby horses to victory with Audible in the Florida Derby and Vino Rosso in the Wood Memorial.
Noble Indy failed to meet his reserve at $45,000 at the 2016 Keeneland September yearling sale. Noble Indy is from the first crop of his sire Take Charge Indy, who won the Florida Derby in 2012, and his grandsire is A.P. Indy, a Santa Anita Derby, Belmont Stakes and Breeders' Cup Classic winner. His great grandsire is Seattle Slew, a Triple Crown winner in 1977.
Elliot Walden, owner and CEO of racing operations at WinStar Farm, noted that Noble Indy acted like a `brat' in the paddock prior to his 3rd place finish in the Risen Star, his stakes debut at the Fair Grounds and a Kentucky Derby prep race. Trainer Todd Pletcher added blinkers to Noble Indy for the Louisiana Derby, and what impressed many about that race was passed by nearly a length in the stretch, but dug in determinedly to prevail.
Noble Indy had a 101 Equibase Speed Figure in his allowance win before the Risen Star, and paired his Equibase Speed Figure from the Risen Star with another 106, which is a good sign that he could be able to improve off six weeks rest in the Kentucky Derby. He also earned a strong 100 Brisnet speed figure, a 118 Timeform figure that is within six points of the top number earned in 2018 in a Derby points race; and a solid, if unspectacular 95 Beyer Speed Figure from Daily Racing Form.
Noble Indy has shown he can battle, but his fighting mentality can be taxing physically and mentally. That could be an issue going a classic 1 ¼ mile distance in the Kentucky Derby. He's been so keen early in his races that burning all of that energy early could be problem if he needs it for the final eighth of a mile on the first Saturday in May. Velazquez said he's `still green' after the Louisiana Derby, so he has some maturing to do before the biggest race of his career, the 2018 Kentucky Derby.
CONFIRMED - Combatant broke his maiden in his second start at Churchill Downs in 2017, then proceeded to record three straight runner-up finishes, including the Smarty Jones Stakes in his 2018 debut followed by the February 19 Southwest Stakes (G3), both at Oaklawn Park. In that latter contest, he rallied five wide from seventh to finish second in the Southwest, and trainer Steve Asmussen then entered Combatant in the Rebel Stakes (G2). The bay colt rallied again from well out of it to just miss the runner-up spot by a head, finishing third behind Magnum Moon and Solomini; all three are expected to return for the April 14 Arkansas Derby (G1) at Oaklawn.
Since his debut on turf last September, Combatant has shown gradual but steady improvement with every race. His 96 BRIS speed figure in the Smarty Jones opened some eyes and he's run well in both subsequent races. Combatant appears to be blossoming as a three-year-old, and he'll try to show he can carry the distance farther when he goes 1 1/8 miles for the first time in the $1 million Arkansas Derby. The Kentucky-bred colt has 22 Derby points currently and will need a top-three finish in the Arkansas Derby to quality for the Kentucky Derby (G1).
The improving Combatant appears to mirror 2005 Kentucky Derby winner Giacomo, who was consistently placed and then fourth in the Santa Anita Derby (G1) before winning the Kentucky Derby in come-from-behind fashion as a 50-1 longshot. The 2005 Kentucky Derby was one of the largest payouts in history of the race.
Combatant is by Scat Daddy, who won the 2006 Champagne Stakes (G1) as a juvenile and the next year added victories in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) and Florida Derby (G1) to his resume. Scat Daddy's career finale came in the 2007 Kentucky Derby, as he suffered a tendon injury and was retired after finishing 18th in the Run for the Roses.
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