Under the radar Kentucky Derby contenders, volume 7

March 9th, 2020

A weekly look at under-the-radar 3-year-olds who could step up and make an impact on the Road to the 2020 Kentucky Derby.

Azul Coast

Azul Coast was trounced by stablemate Authentic in the Jan. 4 Sham (G3) at Santa Anita, where he finished second by 7 3/4 lengths. But since Authentic came back to decisively win the San Felipe (G2) over a superb field, that makes Azul Coast pretty good, right?

Azul Coast himself came back to win the 1 1/8-mile El Camino Real Derby over the Tapeta track at Golden Gate Fields, a gutsy effort that could lead to a start in the March 28 UAE Derby (G2) at Meydan in Dubai. A strong performance against easier competition abroad could secure Azul Coast a ticket to the Kentucky Derby (G1).

Danon Pharaoh

Though he was beaten during a fifth-place finish in the Cattleya Sho last fall, Japan-based Danon Pharaoh may still have Kentucky Derby aspirations. The son of American Pharoah is nominated to the Triple Crown and kicked off 2020 with an impressive allowance victory Feb. 15.

Running 1,800 meters (about 1 1/8 miles) at Kyoto, Danon Pharaoh tracked the pace before he took command and pulled away to win by four lengths in 1:52.80, a respectable time given the generally slow nature of dirt tracks in Japan.

The 1 1/8-mile Fukuryu at Nakayama or the 1 3/16-mile UAE Derby (G2) in Dubai (both March 28) could be next on the agenda for Danon Pharaoh.

Eight Rings

Last year’s runaway American Pharoah (G1) winner has been largely forgotten, after a winter break and late return to training. But the stoutly bred son of Empire Maker has been making up for lost time.

He has fired off a series of eye-catching workouts for trainer Bob Baffert. Eight Rings rocketed 6 furlongs from the Santa Anita starting gate in 1:11.80 Wednesday, the fastest time of the morning.

He is nominated for the March 14 Rebel (G2) at Oaklawn Park and the March 22 Sunland Derby (G3) at Sunland Park, so don’t be surprised if Eight Rings pops up in the entries sooner than expected.