Under-the-radar Kentucky Derby contenders, volume 1

January 27th, 2020

While many handicappers are busy debating the merits of Road to the Kentucky Derby prep race winners, there’s a good chance the 2020 Kentucky Derby (G1) victor is still an unheralded, inexperienced colt flying under the radar.

Let’s check out four promising sophomores who could make an impact on the first Saturday in May, even though they’ve yet to officially join the Road to the Kentucky Derby.

Blackberry Wine

Enforceable made headlines with his win in the Jan. 18 Lecomte (G3) at Fair Grounds, but Blackberry Wine ran half-second faster when he battled to victory in a 1 1/16-mile allowance earlier in the afternoon. A stoutly bred son of Oxbow, Blackberry Wine posted a solid 95 Brisnet Speed rating to bring his record running long on dirt to 2-for-2. This Joe Sharp trainee should continue to improve with maturity and figures to challenge Enforceable in the Feb. 15 Risen Star (G2) at Fair Grounds.

Liam’s Lucky Charm

He hasn’t attracted much attention yet, but Liam’s Lucky Charm has run some fast races against good company. As a juvenile he defeated future Mucho Macho Man S. winner Chance It by a head in the 2019 Florida Sire Affirmed S., and on Jan. 18 he blazed 7 furlongs in 1:21.75 to win the Pasco S. at Tampa Bay Downs by 5 1/2 lengths. Conditioned by Ralph Nicks, the Florida-bred son of Khozan is under consideration for the Risen Star, Fountain of Youth (G2), or Tampa Bay Derby (G2).

Steely Danza

This son of Danza experienced an odd trip in his debut on Dec. 28 at Fair Grounds—he raced to the front, took back off a blazing pace, reclaimed the lead on the far turn, and finally settled for second behind late-running winner Digital. The latter flattered Steely Danza’s performance by returning to finish second in Blackberry Wine’s allowance race. With a more reasonable trip, Steely Danza should graduate without difficulty in his second start, especially since trainer Steve Margolis does his best work with experienced runners.

War Stopper

Broke slowly in his first three starts and never challenged, but looked like a different horse when adding blinkers in a one-mile maiden race on Jan. 11 at Aqueduct. Racing to the front and carving out fast fractions of :23.10 and :46.63, War Stopper powered clear on the turn and won by four lengths over Continuation, who pulled 21 3/4 lengths clear of the rest. War Stopper’s final time of 1:37.54 was legitimately fast and produced a solid 97 Brisnet Speed rating. Rudy Rodriguez conditions this stoutly-bred son of Declaration of War, who may target the Feb. 1 Withers (G3) at Aqueduct.