The 2020 Road to the Kentucky Derby series is now complete and the field is somewhat set. Now comes the wait for final works and possible defections, among other things. Here are general thoughts on each of the top point qualifiers (plus a few extras) that we know are either pointing for the race or considering it.
Possesses a record that’s about as flawless as you might wish for in a Derby favorite. Has developed into an impressive specimen, both physically and mentally, while reeling off consecutive Grade 1 victories in the Florida Derby, Belmont S., and Travers. The latter was over 1 1/4 miles, thus he’ll be the only one in the field that’s a proven winner at the Derby trip. Opposition will have to hope that lack of fondness for the Churchill Downs strip was the primary reason for his only loss to date in last November’s Kentucky Jockey Club (G2). He’s vastly better now.
A consistent winner (as are most of the top tier candidates), with his lone setback in the Santa Anita Derby (G1) due in part to a slow start. However, narrowly avoided last-second defeat in the Haskell (G1) going nine panels and a bit hard to envision him fending off more talented rivals over an extra furlong.
Has improved tremendously under the care of Drury this year, winning well in the Blue Grass (G2) in his most serious prep. Has crossed the wire first in three of his four previous trips at Churchill, and wouldn’t have to improve much to give Tiz the Law a scare.
Appeared after an impressive Santa Anita Derby victory that he might vie for Kentucky Derby favoritism, but the continued ascent of Tiz the Law, combined with his own minor setback in the Shared Belief S. relegates him to second, or possibly third, choice. Nonetheless, not putting much stock in that loss at Del Mar as he was unlikely cranked to run his best race there. Like the San Felipe (G2) was for the Santa Anita Derby, it was a means to an end. Very dangerous.
A bit of a hard-luck horse this year with three-consecutive runner-up finishes, but did a put a big scare into Authentic in the final strides of the Haskell. Win-shy type (2-for-9) doesn’t seem quick enough to take down all the marbles, though, and 1 1/4 miles possibly stretching it for this hard-trying New York-bred.
Attempting to buck nearly a century of Derby history trying to win off a four-month break, the equivalent of turning in your final prep on the first week of January for a conventionally scheduled Run for the Roses. Was certainly trending in the right direction during the spring, has been eye-catching working over the Churchill surface, and is definitely a wild card for the exotics. Probably not for the win, though.
Snapped a three-race losing skid in the Shared Belief and it was easily his quickest effort to date. However, memories of ugly mid-season slump still linger, and even when in better form to start the year he hardly stood out, even among his fellow Baffert barn mates.
There was no catching a more experienced Tiz the Law in the Belmont, and third in the Haskell was sneaky-good considering pace scenario was against him. Seven-week break from Monmouth to Derby Day probably works against him as it’s a bit long even in a normal year, but an intriguing longshot for the lower rungs of the exotics as best is surely to come at this distance.
Seemingly benefited from return to two turns in the Travers, though no threat to Tiz the Law or runner-up Caracaro. One of several in the field that can outstay most and possibly earn one of the minor slices with some improvement.
Brings a similar profile as Max Player, who he out-finished for second in the Travers by two lengths. If Art Collector and/or Honor A. P. regress some, this one has the wherewithal to complete the exacta again behind Tiz the Law.
Only a little more than a length behind Tiz the Law in the KJC last fall, but gulf between the two on paper has widened considerably this term. One-run sort would need an absolute pace meltdown and there’s just too many capable members in this crop to envision something like that happening.
Owns a respectable form line from a third-place run in the Santa Anita Derby, though similar finish in the Blue Grass not nearly so fine. Talented horse probably perhaps has a major win or more in him going forward, but this likely not one of them and eight-week gap since final prep not ideal.
Has had his share of troubled trips this year, but simply hasn’t demonstrated yet that he’s up to this year’s Derby standard while garnering minor shares in softer preps.
Returns to the Derby radar following a runner-up finish in the La Jolla (G3) on turf at Del Mar, a necessary spotting after failing to build on his Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) upset last fall in several dirt preps. Brings to the Derby arguably the weakest credentials of any reigning juvenile champion in many, many years.
Narrowed the gap some between himself and Art Collector from the Blue Grass and Ellis Park Derby, but it’s not like that rival was on full tilt for the “Pea Patch” fixture. Second-place finish to Dr Post earlier this year also worth noting, but that one has improved at a faster rate.
Somewhat of a forgotten horse as he looked a live Derby prospect during the winter at Tampa Bay Downs. Lost a lot of luster with a dud in the Belmont 10 days after scoring in a one-turn allowance at Gulfstream. A victory likely out of reach given the long layoff, but wouldn’t talk anyone off tossing him on superfecta or hi-5 tickets.
Finnick the Fierce
Remember when he out-finished Tiz the Law in the KJC? Few do, and Tiz probably doesn’t either. A tremendous shock if it happens again.
Dallas Stewart has had some memorable classic placings with longshots, but another seems a bit out of reach with a horse well beaten in the Arkansas (G1), Indiana (G3), and Ellis Park Derbies.
Much improved since being claimed by present connections for $25,000 in May, but has form to find against Haskell rivals and horse he just ran second to in the Pegasus is heading to the Preakness (G1) instead.
A multiple winner on the Churchill surface at two, but has consistently proven this year to be a fringe Grade 3/Listed type.
Kiss Today Goodbye
A surprisingly close third in the Shared Belief off an ugly first attempt against allowance foes. Don’t think either performance is truly representative of his relative talents, thus not expecting him to seriously threaten here.
The vagaries of this late Derby means the last three on the list have a grand total of ZERO qualifying points. This regally-bred colt has turned heads in Canada after just two starts, one of which was the Marine (G3) in his first try around two turns. The sky is the limit but concedes plenty of experience on multiple fronts, including racing on dirt.
Son of 2010 Derby winner Super Saver has aired in both starts to date, the latter a 9-furlong allowance at Saratoga. Descends from influential broodmare Weekend Surprise so he could develop into a very good one, but this would seem a tall order.
Brings a similar profile as fellow Pletcher trainee Happy Saver, though he missed in his most recent start in a Spa allowance following a four-month break. Barn’s best chance undoubtedly lies with the sneaky longshot Dr Post, and this one arguably better meant for something less severe at this time.
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