Kentucky Derby contender profile: King Guillermo

March 9th, 2020

Turf or dirt, it doesn’t matter to King Guillermo. Give him a suitable route of ground—no sprints, please!—and he’ll handle either surface just fine, which makes him a dangerous contender for the 2020 Kentucky Derby (G1).

King Guillermo has always had the pedigree of a high-class racehorse. A son of champion Uncle Mo, who sired 2016 Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist, King Guillermo’s dam is the Dixieland Band mare Slow Sand, whose previous foals include several long-winded European grass runners.

As a 2-year-old-in-training, King Guillermo was purchased for $150,000 by Victor Martinez, a former Major League Baseball player who named the colt after his father. Placed under the care of trainer Juan Avila, King Guillermo was favored to win his debut sprinting 5 1/2 furlongs on dirt at Gulfstream Park last September. But with his pedigree geared strongly toward success in two-turn routes, it wasn’t a huge shock to see King Guillermo break slowly and rally only mildly to finish sixth, beaten 11 1/4 lengths.

King Guillermo understandably took a big step forward when he stretched out to a mile on grass at Gulfstream Park West. King Guillermo led by daylight all the way around and eventually crossed the wire in front by 6 1/4 lengths.

A jump into stakes company produced mixed results, as King Guillermo made an early move into fast fractions in the 1-mile Pulpit S. at Gulfstream, which caused him to weaken late and finish third behind future Sam F. Davis (G3) winner Sole Volante. But following a three-month winter break, King Guillermo returned better than ever in the March 7 Tampa Bay Derby (G2), where he the tables on his Pulpit conqueror with a stellar performance.

Disregarded at 49-1 by bettors, who evidently doubted the colt’s ability to transition back to dirt, King Guillermo made a mockery of the seemingly competitive 1 1/16-mile race. After he tracked modest fractions of :23.89, :48.16, and 1:12, King Guillermo seized the lead and sprinted clear to dominate by 4 3/4 lengths over Sole Volante. He stopped the timer in 1:42.63.

With his victory in the Tampa Bay Derby, King Guillermo secured 50 qualification points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, which virtually assures the colt a spot in the Derby starting gate. Tactical speed and stamina are a dangerous combination on the first Saturday in May, and King Guillermo’s performances to date suggest he has both.

King Guillermo won’t be 49-1 at Churchill Downs.