Racing! Jon White has his Kentucky Derby rankings

Hello, my name is John Cherwa and welcome to our horse racing newsletter as we head into a three-day racing weekend at Santa Anita.

Before we get to Jon White’s Derby rankings let’s tell you about a couple of things that aren’t happening. (Oh, that’s a great way to sell it.)

--First, the Caifornia Horse Racing Board postponed its Friday meeting to discuss what to do about Santa Anita’s dates, should they become available. Just click here.

--And, the Jockeys’ Guild called off its no-whip Friday, which was billed as an experiment to see its impact on the races (and mutuel handle, although it never said that). Instead, the Guild settled for some love from the Thoroughbred Owners of California. Just click here.

Jon White’s Kentucky Derby rankings

Time to turn our attention to the Kentucky Derby. As always, we’re lucky to have the top expert Jon White take a look at what’s happening there. Jon makes the morning line at Santa Anita, he’s a licensed steward, and he’s the pre-eminent historian on racing. We’re lucky to have him. So, here’s his Kentucky Derby rankings, brought courtesy of

“As the May 4 Kentucky Derby approaches, trainer Bob Baffert has managed to put himself in a position to take a serious run at tying the record for most Kentucky Derby winners by a trainer.

“Baffert has won the Kentucky Derby five times: Silver Charm in 1997, Real Quiet in 1998, War Emblem in 2002, American Pharoah in 2015 and Justify in 2018.

“Ben Jones holds the record with six wins: Lawrin in 1938, Whirlaway in 1941, Pensive in 1944, Citation in 1948, Ponder in 1949 and Hill Gail in 1952.

“Baffert strengthened his hand for this year's $3 million Kentucky Derby when he sent out Roadster to win last Saturday's $1 million Santa Anita Derby. Roadster went into the Santa Anita Derby with no Kentucky Derby points. He emerged from last Saturday's race with 100 points, more than enough to secure a berth in the Run for the Roses.

“When Roadster dropped well back on the backstretch in the 1 1/8-mile Santa Anita Derby, it looked like he might not fire. His chances to get into the Kentucky Derby appeared in jeopardy. But he generated a sustained rally in the final three furlongs to get the job done. Finishing second was Game Winner, who also resides in the powerful Baffert barn.

“According to Churchill Downs officials, a record number of points could be needed in order to get into this year's 1 1/4-mile Kentucky Derby. Since the points systems was instituted in 2013, Mo Tom's 32 points in 2016 were the most required to get into the Kentucky Derby.

“Game Winner has accumulated 85 Kentucky Derby points, a sum that is sufficient to get into the race. Game Winner won last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile and was voted a 2018 Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old male.

“Some are knocking Game Winner for having lost both of his 2019 starts. But it should be kept in mind that he has run well both times this year when finishing second. He lost a division of Oaklawn Park's Rebel Stakes on March 16 by a nose to Omaha Beach, then lost the Santa Anita Derby by just a half-length. And Game Winner might have won the Santa Anita Derby if not for a wider trip than Roadster.

Despite being winless in two starts this year, Game Winner definitely remains a big-time threat to win the Kentucky Derby. He moves down just one notch on my Kentucky Derby list this week to No. 3. Meanwhile, Roadster jumps up to No. 4 after being No. 8 last week.

“Three horses on this week's Top 10 are entered in Saturday's $1 million Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park. They are No. 1 Omaha Beach, No. 6 Improbable and No. 7 Long Range Toddy.

“A total of 170 qualifying points (100-40-20-10) are up for grabs in the 1 1/8-mile Arkansas Derby, which has attracted a field of 11. Improbable is the 8-5 morning-line favorite. Omaha Beach is 2-1. Long Range Toddy is 5-2.

“Long Range Toddy is in good shape with 53.5 Kentucky Derby points. Omaha Beach and Improbable both could use a points-boost Saturday. Omaha Beach, based at Santa Anita with trainer Richard Mandella, has 37.5 points. Improbable has 25 points. Baffert's strong hand will become even much stronger in his bid for a sixth Kentucky Derby victory if Improbable does indeed collect enough points to get into the field.

“The only other race to offer qualifying points toward the 2019 Kentucky Derby that still remains to be run is Saturday's $200,000 Lexington Stakes at Keeneland. A total of 34 qualifying points (20-8-4-2) are there for the taking in the 1 1/16-mile Lexington. Heading the field of 10 is Anothertwistafate, the 2-1 morning-line favorite.

“Trained by Blaine Wright, Anothertwistafate finished second, a neck behind Cutting Humor, in the $800,000 Sunland Derby at 1 1/8 miles on March 24. Wright had hoped to go straight to the Kentucky Derby from the Sunland race with the colt. But Anothertwistafate is running in the Lexington because it appears he will need more than the 30 points he currently has in order to get into the Kentucky Derby.

“Sueno is 5-1 on the Lexington morning line. He goes into Saturday's race with 28 Kentucky Derby points. Trained by Keith Desormeaux, Sueno finished third in the $1 million Louisiana Derby at 1 1/8 miles on March 23. Desormeaux won last year’s Lexington with My Boy Jack, who subsequently finished fifth in the Kentucky Derby.

“War of Will is back on my Top 10 this week after his sharp four-furlong workout in 48.80 seconds at Keeneland last Saturday with jockey Tyler Gaffalione in the saddle. Trained by Mark Casse, War of Will won the Lecomte Stakes and Risen Star Stakes in New Orleans this year before finishing ninth as the 4-5 favorite in the Louisiana Derby.

“In the first few strides of the Louisiana Derby, War of Will abruptly lost his footing. He came out of the race with a strained patellar ligament, according to Casse. But in what Casse has termed a small miracle, it appears War of Will is now fine physically and back on track for the Kentucky Derby.

“War of Will was No. 4 on my Top 10 going into the Louisiana Derby. He returns to my Top 10 this week at No. 5.

“Also new to the Top 10 this week are Tacitus, winner of the $750,000 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct last Saturday, and Vekoma, victorious in the $1 million Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland the same day.

“Tacitus won the 1 1/8-mile Wood by 1 1/4 lengths despite getting knocked around early. Tacitus previously had won the $400,000 Tampa Bay Derby at 1 1/16 miles on March 9 for trainer Bill Mott.

“Vekoma finished third in Gulfstream Park's $400,000 Fountain of Youth Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on March 2, his first defeat in three career starts. He rebounded from his loss in the Fountain of Youth to register a 3 1/2-length triumph in the 1 1/8-mile Blue Grass. George Weaver trains Vekoma.

“Exiting my Kentucky Derby Top 10 this week are Cutting Humor (No. 7 last week), By My Standards (No. 9 last week) and Code of Honor (No. 10 last week).

“Here are this week's rankings, courtesy of Xpressbet:

1. Omaha Beach (1)

2. Maximum Security (3)

3. Game Winner (2)

4. Roadster (8)

5. War of Will (NR)

6. Improbable (4)

7. Long Range Toddy (5)

8. Anothertwistafate (6)

9. Tacitus (NR)

10. Vekoma (NR)

NOTE: Last week's rankings in parentheses.”

Santa Anita preview

As a reminder, this was a scheduled three-day racing week as next week will be. Sprints down the hill have been suspended for now, meaning about the only turf racing you’ll see is a mile on the turf. (There are three of them on Friday.) The field sizes are good, especially considering this was supposed to be the no-whip day, which was called off on Wednesday. There are eight races, starting at 1 p.m.

Can’t get real fired up over the feature, an allowance optional claimer for Cal-bred fillies and mares going 6 ½ furlongs on the dirt. The favorite, at 5-2, is Tapitha Bonita for trainer Bill Spwar and jockey Tiago Pereira. She has won two of 18 races, both claimers early last year. She was a $6,000 purchase at the Barrett’s sale.

Wandering Patrol is the second choice at 3-1 for Ben Cecil and Mario Gutierrez. She is one-for-two lifetime but hasn’t raced since May of last year. She is a homebred for Paul Reddam. OK, folks, you figure it out from here. Post is around 4:15 p.m.

Here are the field sizes, in order: 8, 6, 5, 9, 11, 9, 7, 9.

Bob Ike’s SA pick of the day

SIXTH RACE: No. 7 Acclimate (5-1)

Older gelding from the Phil D'Amato barn stretches back out around two turns and should do better in this mile turf event. He beat Cal-breds one back despite encountering some traffic trouble, has tactical speed to ensure a good trip and likes this course.

Sunday’s result: Dreams of Valor (9-1) fired big but was outkicked late and had to settle for second.

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 of 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.

“Every winter, Golden Gate Fields lets its turf course rest from mid-January to early April. Well, turf action is back in the Bay beginning with Friday’s seventh race, a $20,000 claimer for 3-year-olds. My top pick is 10-1 morning-line shot No. 6 Spider Jorgensen, coming off a third-place finish in a starter allowance race. The Nick Alexander homebred makes his turf debut and is bred to love the grass. He is by Grade I turf router Boisterous, out of the seven-time turf-winning dam Welken. Worth a shot. On Saturday, we have one turf race with 10 entrants. We are easing back into turf racing with minimal races on the grass this week, but it will become very prominent as the meet rolls on.

“Another week and another $100,000 guarantee in the $1 Stronach 5 this Friday. Leg C of the wager goes as the fifth race 5 at Golden Gate: a field of 11, 3-year-old fillies sprint six furlongs in a maiden-claiming event. I made a strong case for 7 of the 11 entrants. Tough race. No. 4 Hong Kong Flew is probably the one to beat. She finished second in her past two races and finds a field that looks manageable. In fact, she outfinished No. 8 Chamboozel for second last time out and the aforementioned rival is 4-1 on the morning line in this race.

“Golden Gate Fields Kentucky Derby hopeful Anothertwistafate runs in the Grade 3 Lexington Stakes at Keeneland on Saturday. Top North American jockey Javier Castellano rides for the first time. The Blaine Wright trainee worked a bullet 46 and 4 half-mile drill over the dirt at Sunland Park on April 4, where he has been stabled since finishing second in the Sunland Derby. He flew to Keeneland last weekend and, according to Blaine, is doing very well.

“’He shipped to Kentucky good, he’s eating well and he’s happy,’ said Wright, when I bumped into him after the Golden Gate races on Sunday. ‘Our goal is to get into the Kentucky Derby and that is why we are running in this race at Keeneland. We need to pick up more [Kentucky Derby] points. He’s doing great and we’re looking forward to the Lexington on Saturday.’

“Anothertwistafate earned a start in the Preakness with a victory in the El Camino Real Derby, a race which offered the winner an all-fees paid entry into the Preakness for the first time. If Anothertwistafate were to lose in the Lexington Saturday, he would not have enough points to make it to Churchill Downs. If that were to happen, he would freshen up for the Preakness.

“A reminder to all horsemen that nominations close on Thursday, April 18 for the eight stakes races on Gold Rush Weekend, April 27-28. Six stakes will be run on Saturday, led by the $250,000 Grade 3 San Francisco Mile on turf and the $100,000 California Derby for 3-year-olds on Tapeta. The Sunday program has two stakes, the Campanile Stakes and Silky Sullivan Stakes, both for California-bred or California sired 3-year-old fillies and 3-year-old colts and geldings, respectively. Each race is run at a mile on the turf. I’ll be detailing more info on Gold Rush Weekend in next week’s newsletter … stay tuned.”

Los Alamitos weekend preview

It’s time to turn things over to marketing and media guru Orlando Gutierrez, who will tell us about the upcoming weekend at Los Alamitos. Orlando, the floor is yours.

“Los Alamitos Race Course will host its first two races of the meet for 2-year-old quarter horses when 15 juveniles run on Friday night. The eight-race program starts at 6 p.m. Seven 2-year-old fillies will go in the fifth race, while eight 2-year-olds will race in the seventh.

“Oklahoma-based Reliance Ranches LLC began its local 2018 campaign in great form thanks to terrific early wins from juveniles SC Coronada and SC Money Maker. Both runners won their first Los Alamitos starts before qualifying to the Grade 2 Robert Adair Kindergarten Futurity in early May.

“Reliance Ranches has the filly Dreams Divine in the fifth race and the gelding Invader in the seventh. Dreams Divine and Invader have twice worked together in preparation for their races with the filly looking the more impressive of the two. Bradbury Racing's O Yes I Can, who had the fastest of 26 works on March 16, is among the top contenders in the fifth. In the seventh, EG High Desert Farms' Hawks Valentine figures to challenge in the seventh.

“After giving longtime trainer Robert Bean his first ever stakes victory at Los Alamitos, the 4-year-old thoroughbred colt Candy Zip heads a solid field of eight in the $20,000 Wheatland Handicap at 870 yards on Saturday night. First post is 6 p.m.

“Owned by the trainer, Candy Zip pulled away from talented Run Raging Rhino Run and Bound To Bet to score an impressive four-length victory in the Rossmoor on March 6. His winning time of 44.453 seconds is the meet's fastest at 870 yards. Candy Zip had previously run second to multiple local winner Oil at this distance. For Bean, scoring his first Los Alamitos stakes win was special, but the longtime horseman has enjoyed other memorable moments in racing.

“For actor Jack Klugman, Bean hot walked multiple stakes winner Jaklin Klugman, who ran third to the filly Genuine Risk in the 1980 Kentucky Derby. Bean and Klugman were the co-breeder of the stakes winner Barbie Karen, who won the Lady Morvich Handicap at Bay Meadows and finished third in the Grade 3 Hillsborough Handicap in 1985. Candy Zip will be ridden by this track's all-time thoroughbred leading rider Ramon Guce from post eight. The field will also feature Barbra B Handicap winner Run Raging Rhino Run and Foxy Fresh, who posted a six-length win in her last start.

“Recapping last week’s James Smith Memorial Handicap, Singles Cruise was a three-time stakes winner in Canada in 2018. She’s now a stakes winner at Los Alamitos after outdueling Callender by a nose to win Sunday’s James Smith at 12-1 odds.”

Ed Burgart’s LA pick of the day

SEVENTH RACE: No. 1 Hawks Valentine (3-1)

I loved the improvement from the first to second drills for this debuting freshman colt. In his last 12.3 gate drill when drawn on the inside of two horses, he reached out nicely during the final 1/16 after getting bumped in at the start and easily outworked his company. I suggest a win bet and also key in the exactas and trifectas over the 3,6,7.

Final thought

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

Santa Anita Entries for Friday, April 12.

Santa Anita, Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, California. 1st day of a 41-day meet.


6 Furlongs. Purse: $24,000. Maiden Claiming. Fillies. 3 year olds. Claiming Price $30,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1New Year New MeMario Gutierrez124George Papaprodromou3-130,000
2GadotJ.C. Diaz, Jr.117Vladimir Cerin4-130,000
3Stellar WayEvin Roman124John Cisneros30-130,000
4Tick TockHeriberto Figueroa124Andrew Lerner5-230,000
5Miss OmnipotentMartin Garcia124George Papaprodromou20-130,000
6AppolinaAssael Espinoza124Bob Baffert9-530,000
7Rhine DaughterAgapito Delgadillo124Patrick Gallagher15-130,000
8Acadia FleetEdwin Maldonado124Peter Miller12-130,000


5½ Furlongs. Purse: $18,000. Claiming. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $12,500.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Curly's MarkTiago Pereira124Philip A. Oviedo6-112,500
2Buck DuaneRuben Fuentes124Steve Knapp5-212,500
3Royal SeekerJorge Velez117Marcelo Polanco20-112,500
4Iron CurtainAlonso Quinonez124Val Brinkerhoff2-112,500
5CayateMartin Garcia124Kristin Mulhall8-512,500
6Night At the OperaEswan Flores124Jorge Periban8-112,500


1 Mile Turf. Purse: $33,000. Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $35,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Imperial CreedJ.C. Diaz, Jr.111Michael W. McCarthy8-135,000
2Take a LeapAaron Gryder124Manuel Ortiz, Sr.2-135,000
3Silken SpyGeovanni Franco124J. Eric Kruljac9-535,000
4Wind Tartare Drayden Van Dyke124Vann Belvoir3-135,000
5WhirlingEdwin Maldonado124George Papaprodromou7-235,000


1 Mile. Purse: $18,000. Claiming. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $12,500.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Spend ItHeriberto Figueroa124Rafael Becerra6-112,500
2Derby FactorFelipe Martinez124Ruben Gomez20-112,500
3GryffindorEdgar Payeras124Richard Rosales4-112,500
4Liberty ParkEvin Roman124Clifford W. Sise, Jr.7-212,500
5Smokin BRuben Fuentes124Jack Carava8-112,500
6Sunset SevenMartin Pedroza124David E. Hofmans10-112,500
7Rolls Royce DealGeovanni Franco124Gus Headley6-112,500
8Lighthouse PointJ.C. Diaz, Jr.117Robert B. Hess, Jr.10-112,500
9ImplicitlyEdwin Maldonado124Michael Pender3-112,500


6 Furlongs. Purse: $55,000. Maiden Special Weight. Fillies. 3 year olds.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1California LoveEdgar Payeras124Salvador Orozco30-1
2Thought I'dmissyouGeovanni Franco124J. Eric Kruljac12-1
3Gas CanJ.C. Diaz, Jr.117Michael Pender15-1
4HoneyfromthesouthMartin Garcia124Bob Baffert9-5
5Into ChocolateEvin Roman124Clifford W. Sise, Jr.8-1
6Ce CeVictor Espinoza124Michael W. McCarthy5-1
7Hang a StarJoseph Talamo124Ian Kruljac15-1
8Royally BlandDrayden Van Dyke124Michael W. McCarthy8-1
9Mind for MischiefMario Gutierrez124Peter Eurton4-1
10Heathers GreyAaron Gryder124Sean McCarthy10-1
11CarressaTiago Pereira124John A. Shirreffs20-1


1 Mile Turf. Purse: $33,000. Starter Allowance. 3 year olds and up.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Jimmy ChilaJoseph Talamo122Ronald W. Ellis4-1
2Combat ZoneMartin Pedroza124John W. Sadler6-1
3Incredible LuckEdgar Payeras122Dan L. Hendricks6-1
4Chosen VesselEdwin Maldonado122Craig Dollase10-1
5North County GuyMario Gutierrez122Richard Baltas7-2
6Little No WayAaron Gryder122Peter Miller5-1
7AcclimateTiago Pereira124Philip D'Amato5-1
8Soul BeamGeovanni Franco122Genaro Vallejo15-1
9BellerinDrayden Van Dyke124Carla Gaines8-1


6½ Furlongs. Purse: $57,000. Allowance Optional Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $20,000. State bred.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Wandering PatrolMario Gutierrez124Ben D. A. Cecil3-1
2Chasin LucasAssael Espinoza124Mark Glatt4-1
3Empress of LovJ.C. Diaz, Jr.117Ronald W. Ellis4-1
4Pied N TrueAlonso Quinonez124Matthew Chew6-1
5Sunrise RoyaleGeovanni Franco124J. Eric Kruljac6-1
6Mixed EmotionsRuben Fuentes122J. Eric Kruljac12-1
7Tapitha BonitaTiago Pereira122William Spawr5-2


1 Mile Turf. Purse: $55,000. Maiden Special Weight. Fillies and Mares. 3 year olds and up.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Playa ChicaJorge Velez117Richard Baltas5-2
2Haughty GirlJ.C. Diaz, Jr.111John A. Shirreffs12-1
3Scattering MinkRafael Bejarano124Richard E. Mandella5-1
4SunriserGeovanni Franco124J. Eric Kruljac12-1
5Over EmphasizeDrayden Van Dyke118Michael W. McCarthy6-1
6Molly McGeeHeriberto Figueroa118Jerry Hollendorfer12-1
7Magical GrayJoseph Talamo124Victor L. Garcia4-1
8Cuyahoga FallsBrice Blanc118J. Eric Kruljac20-1
9Storming LadyTiago Pereira124Alfredo Marquez3-1