Kentucky Derby Top 10: Uncharted waters

April 1st, 2020

The Road to the Kentucky Derby has entered uncharted waters.

The postponement of the “Run for the Roses” from May 2 to Sept. 5 figures to significantly impact the complexion of the race. Early maturing colts aiming to peak on the first Saturday in May might burn out by the time Labor Day weekend rolls around. On the other hand, late-maturing runners who wouldn’t have been ready for a spring Derby could develop into major players.

With five months remaining until the great race, there’s no telling which contenders will handle the grind. But here’s my best guess at how they might stack up.

1. Charlatan

The postponement of the Kentucky Derby (G1) will give the inexperienced Charlatan plenty of time to develop. The progeny of sire Speightstown tend to improve with maturity, with his most long-winded progeny (Golden Ticket, Haynesfield, etc.) excelling during the second half of their 3-year-old seasons and beyond.

2. Tiz the Law

He left no doubt about his superiority in the Florida Derby (G1), when he powered clear in the homestretch to defeat a quality field by 4 1/4 lengths.

Tiz the Law’s effort received a 100 Brisnet Speed rating, his second straight triple-digit number, and it’s clear the son of Constitution has taken a step forward as a 3-year-old. Now he just needs to hold his form for five more months.

3. Nadal

Two weeks ago I had Nadal ranked at the top of my list, but this imposing colt is already a beast of a physical specimen. As he matures through the spring and summer, I wonder whether he’ll be able to maintain his impressive winter form.

Recall the exploits of 2015 Santa Anita Derby (G1) winner Dortmund, a similarly massive and talented colt who struggled to string peak efforts together and stay sound as he grew older.

4. Honor A. P.

He turned in a sharp workout Saturday at Santa Anita, where he clocked 5 furlongs in 1:00.20, but the suspension of racing in Southern California means the Santa Anita Derby won’t be run this weekend, which leaves Honor A. P. without an immediate target.

The good news is trainer John Shirreffs has taken a very patient approach with Honor A. P., so this stoutly bred son of Honor Code should have plenty left in the tank for the summer.

5. Authentic

Like Honor A. P., Authentic will have to regroup because of the Santa Anita Derby postponement. He was ready to roll after a 6-furlongs work in 1:12.40 Sunday, but now the undefeated San Felipe (G2) winner will have to back off and wait for another day.

6. Mystic Guide

There’s almost no way Mystic Guide would have been ready to vie for victory on the first Saturday in May, but with five months to prepare for the Kentucky Derby, this Godolphin homebred could develop into a major threat for trainer Michael Stidham.

A beautifully bred son of Ghostzapper, out of the five-time Grade 1-winning A.P. Indy mare Music Note, Mystic Guide was a powerful maiden winner March 21 at Fair Grounds. He rallied from three lengths off the pace to win with authority, and sprinted the final five-sixteenths in approximately 30 seconds flat to win by five lengths.

Mystic Guide was full of run and is now one of the most exciting prospects on the Derby trail.

7. Sole Volante

With Saturday’s Wood Memorial (G2) off the agenda, the Daily Racing Form reports Sole Volante will be rerouted to the May 2 Arkansas Derby (G1).

The Sam F. Davis (G3) winner hasn’t posted a timed workout since March 15, but given the uncertainty surrounding racing schedules across the country, there’s no need for him to be firing off bullets right now.

8. King Guillermo

He hasn’t recorded a workout since he defeated Sole Volante in the March 7 Tampa Bay Derby (G2), but early plans called for him to skip the final round of Kentucky Derby prep races. With the Derby postponed, there isn’t any reason for King Guillermo to rush back into serious training.

His victory at Tampa remains one of the fastest races run by a Derby contender this year.

9. Cafe Pharoah

His impressive triumph in the Hyacinth S. was flattered when distant fifth-place finisher Herrschaft returned to win the Fukuryu S. on the Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby. The undefeated Cafe Pharoah has to be viewed as a clear standout on the Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby.

10. Maxfield

The postponement of the Kentucky Derby has brought the 2019 Breeders’ Futurity (G1) winner back into the picture.

A stoutly bred son of Street Sense, out of a Bernardini mare, Maxfield was breathtaking in the Breeders’ Futurity, when he swept past rivals with a huge rally on the far turn to win by 5 1/2 lengths over Gouverneur Morris, Enforceable, and Ajaaweed.

Surgery to remove an ankle chip delayed Maxfield’s return to training this winter, but now he has plenty of time to prepare for a peak effort in the Derby.