Kentucky Derby contender profile: Charlatan

May 4th, 2020

Speed and stamina are two requisites for a champion Thoroughbred. And how can you beat a horse who seems to possess a perfect blend of both traits? That’s the million-dollar question horsemen and handicappers will have to ponder if they want to defeat the brilliant Charlatan in the 2020 Kentucky Derby (G1).

A son of champion sprinter Speightstown, out of the graded stakes-winning route runner Authenticity, Charlatan has made a habit of beating quality competition with impressive ease. Sold for $700,000 as a yearling, the flashy chestnut has found a winning formula he employs in every race — sprint straight the lead, carve out a fast pace, and blow everyone away in the homestretch.

Under the care of trainer Bob Baffert, Charlatan debuted Feb. 16 in a 6-furlong maiden sprint at Santa Anita. Though he wasn’t favored in the betting, Charlatan made a mockery of his rivals. After he shot to the front through quick fractions of :21.89 and :44.72, he powered clear to win by 5 3/4 lengths, over Shooters Shoot (who returned to win his next two starts), and stopped the clock in 1:08.85.

Charlatan was even more breathtaking in a 1-mile allowance race March 14, when he led all the way to beat next-out winner Rushie by 10 1/4 lengths, in the fast time of 1:36.24. Multiple Grade 1 winner Ce Ce required 1:37.33 to win the Beholder Mile (G1) on the same afternoon.

These eye-catching performances stamped Charlatan as a 2-5 favorite to win the first division of the $500,000 Arkansas Derby (G1) on May 2 at Oaklawn Park.

Even at 1 1/8 miles, Charlatan had no difficulty leading his rivals on a merry chase. After he set splits of :22.88, :46.08, and 1:09.68 — fast enough to tire out most speed horses — Charlatan found another gear and widened his advantage down the lane to score by half dozen lengths, over Grade 1 winner Basin, and stopped the timer in 1:48.49.

Bred in Kentucky by Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings, Charlatan races for the partnership of SF Racing, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables, Stonestreet Stables, Frederick Hertrich III, John Fielding, and Golconda Stables. His Arkansas Derby victory secured Charlatan 100 qualification points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, which virtually guarantees him a spot in the “Run for the Roses” starting gate.

Some might question whether Charlatan can handle the Derby’s testing 1 1/4-mile distance, considering his sire was best running 7 furlongs or shorter. But Speightstown has been passing on surprising stamina at stud. He has sired a large handful of Grade 1 winners at 1 1/4 miles, and Charlatan’s blinding speed will make him difficult to catch over any distance.

The sky is the limit for Charlatan, as Baffert takes aim at a record-equaling sixth victory in the Kentucky Derby.