Racing! Jon White’s Kentucky Derby Top 10

Hello, my name is John Cherwa and welcome back to our horse racing newsletter as we look at why Stormy Liberal is in the first race at Santa Anita.

If it’s Friday, it must be time for Jon White’s Derby Top 10. It’s a must read for anyone who is interested in the road to the Kentucky Derby. Take it away, Jon.

“Daily Racing Form's Jay Privman broke the surprising news earlier this week that trainer Bob Baffert said ‘there is a very good chance’ that Game Winner and Improbable could run against each other in Santa Anita's San Felipe Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on March 9.

“It had appeared that the two highly ranked 3-year-olds would not be running against each other so early in the year. Game Winner ranks No. 1 and Improbable is No. 2 on my current Kentucky Derby Top 10. They are one-two on many such lists. Earlier this month, Hall of Famer Baffert had indicated that one of the two probably would run in the San Felipe, while the other likely would go to Oaklawn Park for the Rebel Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on March 16.

“But on Tuesday, regarding the San Felipe, Baffert said to Privman: ‘I have a feeling they'll both be in there. It might be Clemson versus Alabama.’

“The San Felipe would be the first 2019 start for both Game Winner and Improbable. Baffert explained that the main reason they could run against each other in the San Felipe rather than sending one of them to Arkansas for the Rebel is a desire to keep shipping to a minimum before they make the trip to Churchill Downs for the May 4 Kentucky Derby. The thinking is that after the San Felipe, one of the two then would stay home to run in the Santa Anita Derby on April 6, while the other could go to the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn on April 13.

“Game Winner and Improbable are both undefeated. Game Winner, who took the Breeders' Cup Juvenile in his final start as a 2-year-old, is four for four. He was voted a 2018 Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old male. Improbable, who won the Los Alamitos Futurity in his final 2018 start, is three for three.

“Another undefeated 3-year-old, Instagrand, also is a candidate for the San Felipe. Hall of Famer Jerry Hollendorfer conditions Instagrand, who last year won a maiden race at Los Alamitos by 10 lengths and Del Mar's Best Pal Stakes by a little more than 10 lengths in his only two starts.

“Instagrand is No. 4 on my Kentucky Derby Top 10. Thus, right now there is a possibility that the horses I have ranked No. 1, No. 2 and No. 4 might meet in the San Felipe.

“In terms of this week's rankings, War of Will has climbed to No. 3 in the wake of his 2 1/4-length victory in last Saturday's Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots. He now is three for three since switching to the dirt. War of Will had lost his first four career starts, all when competing on the grass.

“After War of Will's Risen Star triumph, trainer Mark Casse said: ‘I've been fortunate to train a lot of good horses. He's one of the best. I think he's a superstar.’

“Casse has trained Eclipse Award winners Tepin, Classic Empire, World Approval and Shamrock Rose. The veteran horseman again is a finalist this year for induction into this country's racing Hall of Fame. He also was on the Hall of Fame ballot in 2017 and 2018.

“A member of Canada's racing Hall of Fame, Casse has another Kentucky Derby prospect in Dream Maker, who won a 1 1/16-mile allowance/optional claiming race by 8 1/2 lengths in New Orleans on Feb. 9 while making his first 2019 start. Dream Maker likely will run next in the Tampa Bay Derby at 1 1/16 miles on March 9.

“Galilean is a newcomer to my Kentucky Derby Top 10 this week. Sent off as a 1-20 favorite in Monday's California Cup Derby at Santa Anita, the California-bred son of Uncle Mo prevailed by 4 1/2 lengths against four overmatched foes. He now has three wins and a second from four career starts. Hollendorfer trains Galilean, a son of 2010 Eclipse Award-winning 2-year-old male Uncle Mo.

“In 2014, Cal-bred California Chrome used a Cal Cup Derby win as a springboard to victories that same year in the Santa Anita Derby, Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. California Chrome then was thwarted in his bid for a Triple Crown sweep when he finished in a dead heat for fourth in the Belmont Stakes.

“To make room for Galilean on my Top 10, I dropped Vekoma. Undefeated in two starts and winner of last year's Nashua Stakes at Aqueduct, Vekoma is gearing up for his 2019 debut in Gulfstream Park's Fountain of Youth Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on March 2. If Vekoma wins the Fountain of Youth, you can bet that he will go right back onto my Top 10. Even a good performance in defeat could find him back on the Top 10.

“War of Will has secured a spot in the Kentucky Derby field by earning 50 qualifying points in the Risen Star, raising his total to 60, which currently tops the leaderboard. Game Winner is second on the points list with 30.

“Anothertwistafate earned 10 points when he won last Saturday's 1 1/8-mile El Camino Real Derby by seven lengths as the 6-5 favorite at Golden Gate Fields. He now has been victorious in three of four career starts. The El Camino Real Derby was Anothertwistafate's first stakes victory. He has won all three starts on Golden Gate's synthetic surface by a combined 16 lengths. The only time Anothertwistafate has raced on dirt, he finished ninth in a maiden race at Santa Anita last Nov. 3. Blaine Wright trains Anothertwistafate, a son of Scat Daddy. Justify, who won the 2018 Triple Crown and was voted 2018 Horse of the Year, also is a son of Scat Daddy.

“Super Steed stunned bettors by winning Monday's 1 1/16-mile Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn. He paid $126.60 for each $2 win ticket. By virtue of this victory, Super Steed collected 10 Kentucky Derby points. Larry Jones trains Super Steed, a son of 2010 Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver. The Southwest was the initial stakes win for Super Steed, who has been victorious in two of five career starts."

“Here are this week's rankings:

1. Game Winner (1)

2. Improbable (2)

3. War of Will (5)

4. Instagrand (3)

5. Hidden Scroll (4)

6. Mucho (6)

7. Signalman (7)

8. Mucho Gusto (8)

9. Omaha Beach (9)

10. Galilean (NR)

NOTE: Last week's rankings in parentheses

Santa Anita preview

Well, when was the last time you saw a Breeders’ Cup winner (actualy two-time winner) running in the first race at Santa Anita or any other track? Well, that’s what you’ve got on Friday’s nine-race card beginning at 1 p.m.

Stormy Liberal, winner of the last two Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprints, is the 3-5 favorite in a $67,000 alllowance feature going five furlongs on the turf. Now, there is a back story here. Stormy was supposed to go in the Gulfstream Turf Spring on Pegasus day in South Florida, Trainer Peter Miller shipped Stormy and Surrender Now and Paiting Corners all to run in stakes races at Gulfstream. But the two races they were entered in got pulled off the turf course because of rain and Miller scratched his horses. (At least that’s the official reason but protecting the turf course for the $6 million Pegasus World Cup Turf likely played into it.)

Miller, as you can imagine, was not happy.

“It’s unbelievable, really,” Miller told Marty McGee of the Daily Racing Form. “It’s total disregard for the owners of these horses. We shipped these horses across the country to run in turf stakes, and this happens.”

So, that is how Stormy Liberal ended up in the first race in a field of five on a Friday afternoon. Drayden Van Dyke will ride.

Eddie Haskell, at 4-1, is the second choice for trainer Mark Glatt and jockey Joel Rosario. He’s won two of his last three at the allowance and low grade stakes level.

The first three races have only five horses, so that’s not good. The average field size is 6.8 and there are four races on the turf.

Here are the field sizes, in order: 5, 5, 5, 7, 10 (2 also eligible), 7, 7, 7, 8.

Bob Ike’s SA pick of the day

FIFTH RACE: No. 1 Spy Ring (7-2)

Liked this mare in her comeback race but she never got a clear path and had to settle for third before galloping out strongly past the wire. Although not a fan of the rail post coming down the hillside course, the Cassidy-trained mare obviously likes this layout and should fire a good shot if she works out the right trip. Main threat and exacta partner might be Animosity, who drops in class, gets back on the hill and gets Rosario.

Monday’s result: Longshot Lexington Grace broke alertly but didn't keep up, then was caught wide and didn't do much running.

Bob Ike is a Partner/VP of (here's a video) and the proprietor of (full-card picks, 3 Best Plays and betting strategy).

Golden Gate weekend preview

We’re back with our weekly look at the best racing at Golden Gate Fields. As with the last couple meetings, we’re delighted to have race caller and all-around good guy Matt Dinerman as our host for previews and other musings. So, take it away, Matt.

“We kick off our Friday through Sunday racing week with a carryover in the $.50 early Pick 5 of $46,201. It has a low 14% takeout making it a very popular wager. Track officials are expecting at least $250,000 in new money to be added into the pool. Four of the five legs look competitive, but I think a lot of people are going to single No. 5 Blue Diva in the second race. She hit the wire first in her last start, a starter allowance, but was disqualified for interference. She remains at the starter allowance condition on Friday and arguably faces an easier group than what she saw last time. Steve Sherman trains and leading rider Abel Cedillo rides for the first time.

“Also, we’ve got the $1 Stronach 5 carryover of more than $169,000 this Friday. As much as a half million could be added to the pool. Leg D (second to last) goes as the fifth race at Golden Gate, a 12-horse maiden claimer over five furlongs. I give the nod to No. 6 Twice as Windy, a second time starter from the Jeff Bonde barn that has some major appeal after a troubled trip in her career debut. She was a sluggish early-double digit lengths behind the leader by the far turn run, was wide on the turn and swinging for home, but eventually made up a ton of ground down the stretch to run third. The second time starter angle is at play and Cedillo opts to ride again after navigating last time.

“All eyes were tuned in to the El Camino Real Derby last Saturday, and racing fans were treated to one of the most impressive victories in the race’s 36-year history. The local horse, Anothertwistafate, proved his two previous wins against much easier company were no fluke, easily defeated 10 others in the 2019 ‘Derby, setting the pace before disposing of his rivals in upper stretch, showing an amazing acceleration and hitting the wire 7 lengths ahead of the second place finisher, the Baffert-trained Kingly. Anothertwistafate earned a 94 Beyer speed figure for his effort and was quickly marked down by many as a 3-year-old to pay attention to. His last eighth of a mile was timed in 12 seconds flat; that’s flying on this track, which produces slower times.

“Trainer Blaine Wright and owner Peter Redekop were on very happy after the race. They purchased Anothertwistafate, along with bloodstock agent Alistair Roden, for $360,000 as a 2-year-old at the OBS Training Sale last spring. According to Wright, it was apparent while training for his first race in the fall that this horse might have been worth every penny. They’ve known he was good for a while.

“Team Anothertwistafate have yet to decide where their star 3-year-old will run next, but we do know he is now officially on the ‘Derby trail. He earned 10 Kentucky Derby points with the win in the El Camino Real, and a free berth into the Preakness. They could run him in The Jeff Ruby Steaks (previously known as The Spiral) at Turfway over their synthetic surface, but he is not nominated, so they’ll have to supplement him into the race if they decide to run there. He may just wait until the Santa Anita Derby and take on the big dogs down South, or even run in the Sunland Derby next month at Sunland Park, a race that has a large $800,000 purse with 50 Kentucky Derby points to the winner, but typically does not attract the top 3-year-olds.

“His breeding is a bit ‘turfy,’ by Scat Daddy, who sires plenty of nice grass runners, out of a half sibling to a French Oaks winner. He runs like a turf horse, too, with a pretty high knee action. That said, I think you cross out his first run on dirt (a maiden special weight at Santa Anita in November in which he was a no-show). He is not a sprinter, and he clearly didn’t like the kickback in his face in the debut. Remember, American Pharoah ran very poorly in his first start … and look what he went on to do. Either way, I’m crossing my fingers and hoping this horse has a great career, because he clearly has a plethora of raw talent.”

Los Alamitos weekend preview

This weekly segment is in the hands of Orlando Gutierrez, marketing and media maven at Los Al. So, the floor is yours, Orlando.

“A competitive nine-horse field of thoroughbreds racing in a condition claiming race at 4 ½ furlongs will kick off the racing week at Los Alamitos on Friday night. First post is 7 p.m.

“Seattle Encounter is among those running. The 4-year-old gelding has some easy victories at Los Alamitos, including a 6 ¼-length win on Feb. 9 and a 6-length victory on Aug. 12. Seattle Encounter is the 5-2 second choice behind 8-5 morning line favorite Great Bambino, who has a pair of consecutive runner-up efforts at this ($4,000) claiming level.

“Friday’s eighth race is an $11,525 allowance at 100 yards with all five runners exiting the Blink of an Eye Handicap. While the winner of that race, Rite Quick, is not in on Friday, the field will include runner-up Kiss N Air and third-place finisher Snowy Coronitas. La Sierran, who is the current track record holder at this distance, is also part of this field.

“On Saturday night, the Run Raging Rhino Run returns for the first time since giving owner Dan J. Wilson his first ever stakes victory, when he faces the lightning quick thoroughbred mare Foxy Fresh in the fifth race -- a $12,000 allowance at 870 yards. Run Raging Rhino Run’s stakes win came in the Barbra B Handicap at 550 yards on Jan. 13.

“’Thirty five years as an owner and that was my first stakes win,’ Wilson said. ‘This is a special horse. We also raced his mom, who was a stakes- placed filly, but Run Raging Rhino Run was an orphan (as a baby). My mom, Esther, actually raised him since he was a couple of weeks old. Every four hours she was getting up to give him his milk.’

“A quarter-horse sired by FDD Dynasty, Run Raging Rhino Run has also done well at 870 yards, running second at that distance while battling for the lead in the Snowbound Superstar Handicap on Dec. 9.

“Foxy Fresh, the track record holder, will give Run Raging Rhino Run all he can handle. The Keith Craigmyle-trained mare won six-of-11 starts last year and enters after a five-length victory at this distance on Jan. 25. In her career, Foxy Fresh has finished in the top two in 10-of-18 outings. She also set the Los Alamitos track record at four furlongs when winning in 44 seconds on Dec. 9.

“Last weekend, gelding My Favorite Cartel posted the fastest 300 yards since Sept. 2011 when he covered the distance in a blistering 15.103 seconds over a wet fast track Saturday. Better Tobe Separate posted a 15.054 seconds in 2011. The track record of 14.863 seconds was set by Go Love A Lark Go on Oct. 29, 2009.

“Ridden by Erasmo Gasca for trainer Matt Fales, My Favorite Cartel led from start to finish en route to a 1 ¾- length victory. While My Favorite Cartel’s winning time was aided by a 15 m.p.h. tailwind, he is a star on the rise. The son of Favorite Cartel won the Town Policy Handicap last year and was fourth to Black Fryday in the Grade 2 Southern California Derby on Dec. 14. He is a star on the rise. The $101,000 Los Alamitos Maiden Stakes held last Sunday night went to fastest qualifier Apollitical Flying, who overcame some early trouble to win in the meet’s fastest 350-yard clocking of 17.29 seconds. He also raced over a wet- fast track with a 20 mile-per-hour tailwind. The $35,000 Denim N Diamonds Handicap was won by Ed Allred’s Time To Leave at 18-1 odds. It was Allred’s 98th career stakes victory.”

Chris Wade’s LA pick of the day

RACE FIVE: No. 5 Literally (8-1)

I am taking a shot on this big-bodied gelding, who has shown ability in both career starts despite encountering much troubled journeys in each of those outings. Literally enters this race after a long layoff of 278 nights, but trainer Jose Flores does well with entrants returning off respites of six months or longer, winning with 21% of those runners. In his last start, the Walk Thru Fire gelding leaned back as the gates opened and right away he lost not only all chance to win, but also the majority of his racing lane. He still finished with a “much better than looked” effort, thanks to a strong finish and a promising gallop out past the wire and through the clubhouse turn. He arrives after a series of solid morning preps in preparation for this race and is worth a good look in this race for $16,000 maiden claimers.

(No worries, Ed Burgart hasn’t gone away, he’s just on vacation. Chris Wade has been the racing analyst and host of the Los Alamitos night simulcast broadcast for nearly two decades. While Ed is on vacation, Chris also fills in as the nighttime morning-line maker.)

Final thought

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Now, the star of the show, Friday’s entries.

Santa Anita Entries for Friday, February 22.

Santa Anita, Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, California. 35th day of a 61-day meet.


5 Furlongs Turf. Purse: $67,000. Allowance. 4 year olds and up.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1CistronTyler Baze124John W. Sadler7-2
2Tough SundayJoseph Talamo124Philip D'Amato5-1
3Stormy LiberalDrayden Van Dyke124Peter Miller3-5
4Eddie HaskellJoel Rosario122Mark Glatt4-1
5CalculatorHeriberto Figueroa119Peter Miller15-1


6 Furlongs. Purse: $38,000. Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 4 year olds and up. Claiming Price $40,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1ConvinceMario Gutierrez122Peter Eurton4-140,000
2TorenoMartin Pedroza124Philip A. Oviedo10-140,000
3Time for EbbyAssael Espinoza117Steve Knapp5-240,000
4Li'l GrazenJoel Rosario124Peter Miller9-540,000
5Lady NinjaFlavien Prat122Richard Baltas2-140,000


6 Furlongs. Purse: $28,000. Claiming. 3 year olds. Claiming Price $20,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Two Fifty CoupAaron Gryder122Doug F. O'Neill2-120,000
2Stay in Yo LaneHeriberto Figueroa117Doug F. O'Neill4-120,000
3Mad MikeTiago Pereira122Craig Anthony Lewis10-120,000
4CooneyAssael Espinoza117William E. Morey9-520,000
5Lead StarKent Desormeaux124J. Keith Desormeaux5-220,000


6 Furlongs. Purse: $25,000. Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 4 year olds and up. Claiming Price $25,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Dannie JoeAaron Gryder124Mike Puype4-125,000
2WinsinfashionJorge Velez114Charles S. Treece15-125,000
3Lovely RaquelAgapito Delgadillo124Victor L. Garcia4-125,000
4Tiz ToffeeAssael Espinoza119Philip D'Amato5-225,000
5KindredMario Gutierrez124John A. Shirreffs3-125,000
6Chay Up and AwayIgnacio Puglisi124Paul G. Aguirre10-125,000
7We All Have DreamsJoseph Talamo124Michael W. McCarthy4-125,000


About 6½ Furlongs Turf. Purse: $57,000. Allowance Optional Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 4 year olds and up. Claiming Price $40,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Spy Ring Kent Desormeaux124James M. Cassidy7-2
2Team HollywoodHeriberto Figueroa119William E. Morey12-1
3TrustiniDrayden Van Dyke122Mike Puype8-1
4TyfoshaRafael Bejarano124Doug F. O'Neill10-1
5BatiquitosMartin Pedroza124William Spawr6-1
6Space Talk Andrea Atzeni124Anna Meah8-1
7AnimosityJoel Rosario124Patrick Gallagher5-1
8Merger ArbitrageAaron Gryder124Philip D'Amato10-1
9Nice IceTiago Pereira124Brian J. Koriner10-1
10Special Purpose Flavien Prat124Simon Callaghan4-1
Also Eligible
11AlgorhythmicTyler Baze124Val Brinkerhoff6-140,000
12The CraicGeovanni Franco124Vladimir Cerin5-140,000


1 Mile. Purse: $23,000. Maiden Claiming. Fillies. 3 year olds. Claiming Price $30,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Discrete Stevie BTiago Pereira122Marcelo Polanco5-130,000
2SamandahJoel Rosario122George Papaprodromou9-530,000
3AlystarJose Leon115Javier Jose Sierra20-130,000
4Tick TockHeriberto Figueroa117William E. Morey5-230,000
5West Stowey LassAlonso Quinonez122Neil D. Drysdale12-130,000
6West Way DreamsDiego Sanchez122Walther Solis20-130,000
7ThanksEvin Roman122Robert B. Hess, Jr.2-130,000


1 Mile Turf. Purse: $57,000. Allowance Optional Claiming. 4 year olds and up. Claiming Price $20,000. State bred.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1OstiniGeovanni Franco124J. Eric Kruljac7-2
2Cool GreenKent Desormeaux124J. Keith Desormeaux2-120,000
3Jet Set RulerRafael Bejarano124Richard Baltas5-2
4Plain WrapAgapito Delgadillo124Javier Jose Sierra20-1
5Continental DivideJoel Rosario122James M. Cassidy8-1
6Hot PerfectionHeriberto Figueroa117Gary Mandella10-1
7Push ThroughMario Gutierrez124Edward R. Freeman4-1


1 Mile. Purse: $33,000. Claiming. 4 year olds and up. Claiming Price $35,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Hey SequoiaFlavien Prat124Alfredo Marquez6-135,000
2FergusonTyler Baze124Martin F. Jones2-135,000
3Treasure HunterEswan Flores124Hector O. Palma4-135,000
4Super Duper CooperJoel Rosario124Michael W. McCarthy5-235,000
5I Can Do ThisJoseph Talamo124Mark Glatt20-135,000
6Liberty ParkEvin Roman124Clifford W. Sise, Jr.8-135,000
7Upper RoomTiago Pereira124Philip A. Oviedo9-235,000


1 1/8 Mile Turf. Purse: $25,000. Claiming. 4 year olds and up. Claiming Prices $25,000-$22,500.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Gray AdmiralAssael Espinoza117Vann Belvoir20-122,500
2TopgallantMartin Pedroza124Dan L. Hendricks8-125,000
3Georgie Hyphen Heriberto Figueroa119Peter Miller4-125,000
4Friendly SteveAgapito Delgadillo124Blake R. Heap8-125,000
5DignitaireEdwin Maldonado124Gary Mandella9-225,000
6Mr. MagicoGeovanni Franco122Leonard Powell8-1
7Camino de EstrellaJoel Rosario124Tim Yakteen3-125,000
8Hot AmericanTyler Baze124Ryan Hanson5-225,000

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