Kentucky Derby Top 10: Authentic flatters Honor A. P.

July 20th, 2020

Keeler Johnson shares his weekly list of Top 10 contenders for the 2020 Kentucky Derby.

1. Honor A. P.

His victory in the Santa Anita Derby (G1) was flattered when distant runner-up Authentic returned to win the Haskell (G1) on Saturday, hence Honor A. P.’s ascent to the #1 spot in my rankings. Honor A. P. himself is taking an easier route to the Derby, with the Aug .1 Shared Belief S. looming as his final prep. To that end, the son of Honor Code turned in any easy maintenance workout on Sunday at Del Mar, clocking 5 furlongs in 1:02.60.

2. Tiz the Law

Shipped to Saratoga and really turned up the heat in his preparations for the Aug. 8 Travers (G1), blazing 5 furlongs in a bullet :59.63 on Saturday. If there’s one potential chink in Tiz the Law’s armor, it’s the fact he hasn’t faced any of the top challengers from California yet, and we don’t know how he stacks up against the best from the West Coast.

3. Art Collector

While it’s possible Art Collector could train up to the Kentucky Derby, trainer Tom Drury has indicated the colt will also be considered for a start in the Aug. 9 Ellis Park Derby at Ellis Park, which would give the son of Bernardini an ideally-spaced sharpener leading into the Run for the Roses.

4. Uncle Chuck

Baffert has reiterated plans for Uncle Chuck to face Tiz the Law in the Travers, so we won’t have to wait and wonder whether this improving son of Uncle Mo can hold his own traveling 1 1/4 miles against top competition. We’ll be able to see for ourselves on Aug. 8, a unique side effect of the Kentucky Derby postponement.

5. Authentic

Rebounded to win the Haskell (G1) in front-running fashion, but he was all-out to hang on in the final furlong, prevailing by a nose over Ny Traffic after leading by 2 1/2 lengths at the eighth pole. As a son of Into Mischief out of a Mr. Greeley mare, Authentic is bred to be a sprinter/miler, and it’s fair to wonder if 1 1/8 miles is pushing the limits of his stamina. The 1 1/4-mile distance of the Derby will be even more imposing.

6. King Guillermo

Tackled a muddy track on Sunday at Gulfstream Park and clocked 5 furlongs in a bullet 1:00.22, his third quick move since returning to serious training at the beginning of the month. To compensate for the fact King Guillermo will enter the Derby off a four-month layoff, trainer Juan Availa appears to be giving King Guillermo plenty of stiff morning exercise to build his fitness.

7. Country Grammer

Improving colt showed a lot of tenacity to rally up the rail and win Thursday’s Peter Pan (G3) at Belmont Park by a neck. As a son of 2014 Belmont Stakes (G1) winner Tonalist, Country Grammer is bred to relish long distances and improve with maturity, so he still has lots of upside. We’ll get a clearer picture of his talent when he squares off against Tiz the Law and Uncle Chuck in the Travers.

8. Dr Post

On a day when speed was generally dominant at Monmouth Park, Dr Post didn’t run all that badly in the Haskell. After rating near the back of the pack early on, Dr Post unleashed a sustained rally around the far turn and down the stretch to finish third, 4 1/2 lengths behind the top pair but well clear of everyone else. Considering the early pace was modest, Dr Post’s effort was likely better than it appears at first glance.

9. Ny Traffic

Though Ny Traffic has yet to win a stakes race, he’s accumulated 110 Kentucky Derby qualification points by placing in four consecutive Road to the Kentucky Derby prep events. He came closest to victory in the Haskell, rallying with determination in the final furlong to miss by a nose against Authentic, a career-best effort suggesting Ny Traffic hasn’t reached his peak yet.

10. Cezanne

Max Player, Shared Sense, and Dean Martini were all considered for the final spot on my list, but the latter two aren’t Triple Crown nominees and Max Player has been hesitant to race through kickback (almost a necessity for late runners in the Derby), so I’m giving the nod to Cezanne. As with Uncle Chuck, we’ll soon find out whether Cezanne can hold his own against tough company, as he’s slated to make his stakes debut against Honor A. P. in the Shared Belief.

The Kentucky Derby returns to Churchill Downs on Saturday, Sept. 5.