Kentucky Derby Top 10: Pneumatic is a newcomer to watch

August 17th, 2020

Keeler Johnson shares his weekly list of Top 10 contenders for the 2020 Kentucky Derby (G1).

1. Tiz the Law

Since the Travers shifted to 1 1/4 miles in 1904, only four horses have won the “Midsummer Derby” in a faster time than Tiz the Law.

With his proven ability to handle the Kentucky Derby distance — an uncommon achievement in a normal year — Tiz the Law will enter the Run for the Roses with a seemingly unbeatable résumé.

He has easily defeated all comers this season, and with his impressive speed figures and ideal running style, it’s hard to come up with any knocks against him.

2. Honor A. P.

He really picked up the pace in a Saturday workout at Del Mar, where he flew through 5 furlongs in :59.40 with Mike Smith in the saddle. It was easily his stiffest workout since the Santa Anita Derby (G1), which hints Honor A. P. will be fit and ready to run for the roses.

3. Art Collector

His 3 1/2-length victory in the Blue Grass (G2) was flattered when runner-up Swiss Skydiver returned to crush fellow fillies in Saturday’s Alabama (G1) at Saratoga, where she cruised by 3 1/2 lengths and was eased up at the finish.

Tiz the Law and Honor A. P. are understandably drawing most of the headlines, but Art Collector hasn’t been challenged this season and has crossed the wire first three times at Churchill Downs. There is a chance he’ll enter the Derby as the only horse with a win over Louisville’s legendary oval.

4. Caracaro

Caracaro’s 109 Brisnet Speed rating from the Travers (G1) technically makes him the second-fastest horse in the prospective Derby field.

This is significant, because Caracaro is likely to be overlooked in the wagering, with Tiz the Law, Honor A. P., Art Collector, Authentic, and even Thousand Words destined to attract more attention.

This could make the rapidly improving Caracaro a valuable horse to use in exotic wagers.

5. Authentic

Five days after he cruised an easy 5 furlongs in 1:03, the Haskell (G1) winner stepped up with a much sharper workout Thursday at Del Mar, where he blazed 6 furlongs in a bullet 1:12.60.

With three graded stakes wins, Authentic will enter the Derby as one of the most accomplished contenders, though his sound defeat against Honor A. P. in the Santa Anita Derby is hard to overlook.

6. King Guillermo

The Tampa Bay Derby (G2) winner continues to fly under the radar, even though he is training up a storm.

On Saturday at Churchill Downs, King Guillermo blazed 5 furlongs in a bullet :59.80, his sixth work since he returned to serious training in early July.

He’ll enter the Derby off a four-month layoff, but it appears trainer Juan Avila is giving King Guillermo exactly the stiff exercise he needs to stay sharp.

7. Thousand Words

You can count Thousand Words among the major beneficiaries of the Kentucky Derby postponement.

He was burned out and on a downward spiral by April, but time off during spring and early summer has allowed him to bounce back stronger than ever.

His relentless, grinding style has carried him to three stakes wins, but does he have the tactical brilliance so often a requisite for success in the Kentucky Derby?

8. Pneumatic

This stoutly bred son of Uncle Mo, out of a Tapit mare, is bred to thrive running long on dirt and took a nice step forward in Saturday’s 1 1/16-mile Pegasus S. at Monmouth Park, where he tracked the pace and pulled clear to win by 2 1/4 lengths.

He’ll need another step forward to vie for victory at Churchill Downs, but with 45 Road to the Kentucky Derby qualification points, Pneumatic’s spot in the Derby starting gate is secure.

9. Ny Traffic

On Thursday at Saratoga, Ny Traffic turned in his first serious workout since he finished second in the Haskell (G1). He breezed 5 furlongs in a bullet 1:00.38.

Although he has the tactical speed to be involved from the outset, he also has a solid finishing kick, with Brisnet Late Pace ratings of 99 and 100 in his last two starts.

10. Max Player

While Max Player was no match for Tiz the Law and Caracaro in the Travers (G1), he plugged on down the stretch to finish third, by a clear margin.

An improving son of Honor Code, Max Player has a late-running style perfect for picking up the pieces at Churchill Downs. You can usually count on a longshot to rally from out of the clouds and nab a spot in the Derby superfecta.