Kentucky Derby Top 10: The winds of change

March 3rd, 2020

Saturday, March 7 is going to be a busy day on the Road to the Kentucky Derby.

Three prep races are on the agenda—the San Felipe (G2) at Santa Anita, the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) at Tampa Bay Downs, and the Gotham (G3) at Aqueduct. All three will award 50 Derby qualification points to their winners.

After a couple of relatively quiet weeks, you can bet my Kentucky Derby Top 10 rankings will change significantly once the dust settles Saturday. Heading into the busy weekend, here’s how I see the top Derby contenders.

1. Nadal

He turned in a stamina-building workout Monday at Santa Anita, where he clocked 7 furlongs in 1:25.20. The son of Blame is tentatively targeting the March 14 Rebel (G2) at Oaklawn Park.

2. Tiz the Law

After he missed a couple workouts with a minor setback, Tiz the Law returned to the work tab Monday morning, when he cruised an easy half-mile in :50 flat at Palm Meadows. His victory in the Holy Bull (G3) was flattered when runner-up Ete Indien returned to crush the Fountain of Youth (G2) by 8 1/2 lengths.

3. Sole Volante

Was his victory in the Sam F. Davis (G3) the result of a perfect pace setup, or is Sole Volante getting good at the right time? We’ll find out when he faces three-time stakes winner Chance It in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) on Saturday. I’m willing to bet this beautifully bred colt can take another step forward.

4. Charlatan

He joined stablemate Nadal with a 7-furlong workout Monday at Santa Anita. Charlatan covered the distance in 1:26.60. It’s anyone’s guess where trainer Bob Baffert will choose to run Charlatan next. There aren’t any suitable stakes or allowance races on the agenda at Santa Anita through March 15, so shipping out of state might be the only option.

5. Authentic

The undefeated Baffert trainee will make his much-anticipated third start in Saturday’s San Felipe (G2), and to that end, he clocked 6 furlongs in 1:12.80 Monday at Santa Anita. Authentic was brilliant during his 7 3/4-length victory in the Sham (G3), over next-out stakes winner Azul Coast, but he was also green as could be and ducked in chaotically down the homestretch. I’ll hope to see him turn in a more professional performance in the San Felipe.

6. Thousand Words

He hasn’t been quite as flashy as stablemate Authentic, but Thousand Words turned in a quicker-than-usual workout Monday at Santa Anita, where he ran 5 furlongs in :59.80. We’ll find out which colt is better when they square off in the San Felipe.

7. Ete Indien

He was sharp as could be in the Fountain of Youth. He broke alertly from the far outside post and led all the way to win by 8 1/2 lengths. Although bred to excel on turf, Ete Indien is thriving on dirt and is expected to get a rematch with Tiz the Law in the March 28 Florida Derby (G1).

8. Cafe Pharoah

The Hyacinth winner was quietly flattered over the weekend, when compatriot Full Flat scored a decisive victory in the Saudi Derby. Full Flat beat a quality field, led by U.S. stakes winners Billy Batts and Rowdy Yates, yet if you compare Full Flat’s Japanese form lines against those of Cafe Pharoah, you can make a case for Cafe Pharoah being the better horse. Considering how well Full Flat ran in Saudi Arabia, that says a lot about Cafe Pharoah’s potential.

9. Gouverneur Morris

He got back on the work tab with an easy half-mile in :49.50 Saturday at Palm Beach Downs. With only four Kentucky Derby qualification points to his credit, he’ll likely need to run first or second in his final prep to secure a spot in the Derby starting gate.

10. Spa City

This fast maiden winner will get a stiff class test when he faces Sole Volante and Chance It in the Tampa Bay Derby. Cutting back from 1 1/8 miles to 1 1/16 miles is an unusual move, but Spa City’s form is heading in the right direction, so it might not matter. I’m hoping for a top-three finish, something Spa City can build on down the road.