Horse racing newsletter: Jon White’s latest Kentucky Derby rankings

Dynamic Duo makes a run from the back on the final stretch at Del Mar Race Track.
(Nelvin C. Cepeda / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Hello, my name is John Cherwa and welcome to our horse racing newsletter as we review the Travers Stakes and look toward the Derby.

As is usually the case, we’ve got a lot to get to, but first let get a few items out of the way.

--The Kentucky Derby will have a crowd of around 23,000 on Derby Week (only a real problem on Oaks and Derby days). There will be no general admission tickets (a change in policy) and the reserved section will be at 40% capacity. The announcement was made the same day as the Masters golf tournament deemed there would be no spectators at its event. Of course, in this time we’re in, every day can bring a change and we don’t think those changes would be in lessening restrictions. If you are really interested in the safety precautions, just click here to see the full 62-page report.

--Hall of Fame trainer Wayne Lukas has the coronavirus, but is doing well. Marty McGee of the Daily Racing Form has the story. Just click here.

--Speaking of legends, we’re sad to report the death of trainer Mel Stute. He was 93. To read Mike Willman’s Santa Anita news release, just click here.


--And speaking of legends, part 2, Mac McBride, the head of media at Del Mar, put out this tribute to Dan Smith (who’s still alive), who was a mainstay in the Del Mar press box for decades. He’s not there this summer, making the almost empty press box is even more empty. You can read the story, just click here.

Now, on to more good stuff.

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Jon White’s Kentucky Derby rankings

As always, we’re lucky to have top expert Jon White take a look at what’s happening on the Triple Crown trail. Jon makes the morning line at Santa Anita, he’s a licensed steward, and he’s the preeminent historian on racing. We’re lucky to have him. So, here are his Kentucky Derby rankings, brought courtesy of

“Graveyard of favorites? Tiz the Law thumbed his nose at that nickname for Saratoga Race Course with his resounding victory in last Saturday’s 151st running of the 1 1/4-mile Travers Stakes.

“Not surprisingly, Tiz the Law is No. 1 in my rankings this week for the 1 1/4-mile Kentucky Derby after being No. 2 last week. He has established himself as a strong favorite for the coveted Run for the Roses at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in September.


“A clue as to how strong a Kentucky Derby favorite Tiz the Law might be was provided by last Sunday’s odds in the latest Kentucky Derby Future Wager pool. Tiz the Law closed at odds of 11-10, just slightly higher than even money (a $2 wager would return $4.20). There was a sizable gap to the 8-1 odds shared by Art Collector and Honor A.P. (Wagering closed about a half-hour before Art Collector won Sunday’s Ellis Park Derby.)

“Meanwhile, looking down the road past the Kentucky Derby, what about the mouth-watering prospect of what possibly could occur on the first Saturday in October? What if Tiz the Law proves a punctual favorite in the Sept. 5 Kentucky Derby? And what if the filly Gamine, brilliant winner of the Acorn Stakes and Test Stakes, proves a punctual favorite in the Sept. 4 Kentucky Oaks?

“Can you imagine how tremendously exciting it would be if Tiz the Law and Gamine then met on Oct. 3 in the 1 3/16-mile Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course? Tiz the Law would be attempting a Triple Crown sweep against a dynamite filly. Is this scenario out of the question? At this point it is not. That’s because Bob Baffert, Gamine’s trainer, has not closed the door on running the filly in the Preakness after the Kentucky Oaks.

“As for last Saturday’s $1 million Travers, Southern California invader Uncle Chuck set the early pace while carving out fractions of :23.65, :48.36 and 1:11.95. Swinging into backstretch, Uncle Chuck led by a half-length. Both 77-1 longshot Shivaree and Tiz the Law were forcing the issue. Tiz the Law, ridden by Manny Franco, was sitting pretty at this stage when three wide and in the clear.

“With about five furlongs to go, Shivaree began to retreat. He eventually lost by 36 1/2 lengths when finishing last in the field of seven.

“Going into the far turn, Tiz the Law moved up willingly to take on Uncle Chuck in earnest. Approaching the quarter pole, it was clear which of the pair was going better. Soon after passing the quarter pole, Tiz the Law drew clear while Uncle Chuck began to drop back.

“Tiz the Law built a 4 1/2-length advantage with a furlong to go before being geared down for the final sixteenth. Tiz the Law did not run a straight course in the lane, but it didn’t matter because he was always so well clear. After being allowed to ‘cruise home,’ Tiz the Law won ‘in impressive fashion’ by 5 1/2 lengths, according to the Equibase race chart.


“Caracaro, off at odds of 11-1, finished second. Max Player, who also was 11-1, came in third. Uncle Chuck, the 5-2 second choice in the wagering, finished sixth and lost by 11 lengths.

“It was Uncle Chuck’s first defeat in three career starts. Prior to last Saturday’s race, the long-striding Uncle Chuck had been compared to Arrogate, the record-smashing 13 1/2-length Travers winner. But Uncle Chuck is no Arrogate, at least not at this point.

“Daily Racing Form’s David Grening reported Tuesday that after the Travers, Max Player changed trainers from Linda Rice to Steve Asmussen, according to majority owner George Hall. No specific reason was given. According to Grening, Hall did say he wanted a trainer based in Kentucky to prepare the horse for the Kentucky Derby.

“Another impressive aspect to Tiz the Law’s Travers performance was he registered an excellent time of 2:00.95 in hundreds or 2:00 4/5 in fifths. These are the six-fastest editions of the Travers in fifths:

“Time Horse (Year)

“1:59 1/5 Arrogate (2016)

“2:00 flat General Assembly (1979)

“2:00 1/5 Honest Pleasure (1976)

“2:00 4/5 Tiz the Law (2020)

“2:00 4/5 Thunder Rumble (1992)

“2:00 4/5 Easy Goer (1989)

“Sackatoga Stable owns Tiz the Law. Barclay Tagg trains the New York-bred Constitution colt. Sackatoga and Tagg in 2003 collaborated to win the Kentucky Derby and Preakness with the New York-bred gelding Funny Cide.

“With Tiz the Law being a heavy Travers favorite, Jack Knowlton, who heads Sackatoga Stable, was keenly aware of Saratoga’s reputation for being the Graveyard of Favorites and the Graveyard of Champions. Through the years such equine luminaries as Man o ‘War, Gallant Fox, Secretariat and American Pharoah have been upset at Saratoga.


“Just a week prior to the Travers, Midnight Bisou lost Saratoga’s Personal Ensign Stakes as a 3-10 favorite when she finished second to 9-1 Vexatious. Knowlton was hoping that Tiz the Law would avoid becoming yet another big-name thoroughbred to get ambushed at Saratoga.

“This time, there would not be an upset-like defeat of Man o’ War, a Jim Dandy-like defeat of Gallant Fox, an Onion-like defeat of Secretariat, a Keen Ice-like defeat of American Pharoah or a Vexatious-like defeat of Midnight Bisou.

“For Tagg, a Travers win had been on his wish list for many years. ‘I’ve been doing this a long time and I’ve always wanted to win the Travers,’ Tagg said. ‘This has been in my head my whole life. And now it happened so it couldn’t be better.’

“Tiz the Law now is four for four in 2020. Not only that, he has trounced his opponents in all four starts this year. He won the Holy Bull Stakes by three lengths, Florida Derby by 4 1/4 lengths and Belmont Stakes by 3 3/4 lengths prior to his 5 1/2-length Travers triumph.

“When Tiz the Law won the Belmont, which this year was shortened to 1 1/8 miles from its traditional distance of 1 1/2 miles, the 82-year-old Tagg became the oldest trainer to have ever won that race.

“If Tiz the Law does win the Kentucky Derby, Tagg will also become the oldest trainer to have won this race. Art Sherman was 77 when he sent out California Chrome to win the 2014 Kentucky Derby.


“Tagg and assistant trainer/exercise rider Robin Smullen have done an outstanding job to keep Tiz the Law in peak form from the Feb. 1 Holy Bull to the March 28 Florida Derby to the June 20 Belmont to the Aug. 8 Travers.

“And now Tiz the Law will resume his quest to become this country’s 14th Triple Crown winner when he makes his next start in the Kentucky Derby.

“Art Collector, like Tiz the Law, is four for four this year. In last Sunday’s Ellis Park Derby, Art Collector led past every pole and completed 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.02. Brian Hernandez Jr. rode the Kentucky-bred Bernardini colt.

“Sent off as a 2-5 favorite in the field of 12, Art Collector prevailed by 3 1/4 lengths. Tom Drury Jr. trains Art Collector for owner Bruce Lunsford.

“Art Collector, like Tiz the Law, has not had any close calls this year. Art Collector’s winning margins this year have been 2 3/4, 6 1/2, 3 1/2 and 3 1/4 lengths.

“The sole race left to be run offering points toward the 2020 Kentucky Derby is this Saturday’s $150,000 Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth Park. The 1 1 1/16-mile contest has a field of eight.

“The 5-2 favorite on Brad Thomas’ morning line for the Pegasus is Pneumatic, who has not started since finishing fourth in the June 20 Belmont Stakes. Joe Bravo rides the Kentucky-bred Uncle Mo colt. Asmussen is the trainer.

“In addition to Pneumatic, Jesus’ Team (3-1) and As Seen On Tv appear to be contenders. Jesus’ Team ran fourth in Monmouth’s Haskell Invitational on July 18. As Seen On Tv has not competed since he was eighth in Gulfstream Park’s Florida Derby on March 28. Earlier at Gulfstream, As Seen On Tv finished second in the Mucho Macho Man Stakes and fourth in the Fountain of Youth Stakes.

“The first four finishers in Saturday’s Pegasus will earn 20-8-4-2 Kentucky Derby points.

“Tiz the Law’s 372 makes him the runaway leader in terms of Kentucky Derby points. Those who have accumulated 80 or more points are Authentic (200), Art Collector (150), Honor A.P. (140), Ny Traffic (110), King Guillermo (90), Thousand Words (83) and Dr. Post (80).


“The Kentucky Derby points determine the order of eligibility if more than 20 are entered. According to Daily Racing Form’s Jay Privman, ‘there is the very real possibility fewer than the maximum 20 horses could enter the Derby, which has not happened since 2003.’

“Haskell winner Authentic, who is No. 6 in my Kentucky Derby rankings, had a workout Thursday at Del Mar for Baffert. Authentic, whose only loss in five career starts came when he finished second to Honor A.P. in the Santa Anita Derby, worked in company Thursday with Bronn, according to XBTV. Authentic was timed in 1:12.60 for his six-furlong drill, while Bronn was credited with a five-furlong workout in 1:00.60. Bronn has won one of four career starts.

“Ny Traffic, who is back on my Kentucky Derby Top 10 this week after not being ranked last week, also had a workout Thursday. He worked five furlongs in company with Math Wizard on Saratoga’s main track. Both were timed in 1:00.38. Ny Traffic finished second in the Haskell when he lost by a scant nose. Math Wizard, a 4-year-old, won the 2019 Pennsylvania Derby and recently ran second in the Monmouth Cup. Saffie Joseph Jr. trains both Ny Traffic and Math Wizard.

“Here are this week’s Kentucky Derby rankings, courtesy of Xpressbet:

1. Tiz the Law (2)

2. Honor A.P. (1)

3. Art Collector (3)

4. Caracaro (NR)

5. Thousand Words (5)

6. Authentic (6)

7. Dr Post (7)

8. King Guillermo (9)

9. Ny Traffic (NR)

10. Max Player (8)

NOTE: Last week’s rankings in parentheses”

Del Mar preview

Del Mar starts its three-day week with a nine-race card beginning at 2 p.m. There are no stakes races but three allowance/optional claimers. Seven of the races are restricted to fillies and more than half (that means five) are on the turf.

The feature is likely to be the fifth, a one-mile turf allowance for fillies and mares going for a purse of $59,000. The favorite, at 9-5, is Raymundos Secret for trainer Phil D’Amato and jockey Flavien Prat.

This 4-year-old has only run five times, winning three of them. Her two losses were in stakes, an eighth in the Del Mar Oaks and a fifth in the Autumn Miss, her last start, on Oct. 26 of last year.

The second favorite is Strike at Dawn, at 3-1, for Richard Baltas and Umberto Rispoli. She has won two-of-nine lifetime, but hasn’t won in her last five races, Last out, she was the beaten favorite with Prat aboard, who has switched to Raymundos Secret. Post is around 4 p.m.


Here are the field sizes, in order; 9, 6, 8, 8, 6, 12, 9, 8, 9.

Bob Ike’s DM pick of the day

SIXTH RACE: No. 8 Run Like Kona (10-1)

Bob Hess-trained filly faced tougher in her first two starts but lands a much easier chance today as she drops to the maiden claiming $20,000 level. Sophomore miss ran third from the rail in her debut and was overmatched against straight maidens in her last start on June 7. Not real quick early but gets six furlongs to work with and might be along in time under Jose Valdivia.

Sunday’s result: Smooth Like Strait ($3.60) was bet down to odds-on but won the way a short-priced favorite should, taking heat from his outside, then disposing of that rival and cruising home by 2 1/2 lengths.

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

Ciaran Thornton’s DMr pick

RACE ONE: No. 1 Saints Paynter (12-1)

Saints Paynter went 22 for the quarter and 45 seconds for the half routing for the first time last out and led them to deep stretch before being swallowed up. ‘Saints looked a winner until late in that race. Mario Gutierrez gets the mount today for the third start off the layoff. From the outside post the horse now gets the inside ground-saving rail. This race from 19 times has a 5-1 or more winner a whopping 48% of the time.

Sunday’s result: Luvluv made a four-wide move into the turn and it looked like Umberto Rispoli had a horse but they were overmatched and finished fifth. That was the first start since January so make a note of the horse for the next start.

Ciaran Thornton is the handicapper for, which offers daily full card picks, longshots of the day, best bets of the day.


Los Alamitos weekend preview

Los Alamitos is the only track in California racing at night. So, let’s turn things over to marketing and media guru Orlando Gutierrez, who will tell us about things going on at Los Alamitos. Orlando, the floor is yours.

“The Grade 2, $204,200 Golden State Derby on Sunday night will headline weekend racing at Los Alamitos Race Course. The 400-yard final will be headed by Ed Allred’s Circle City, who posted fastest qualifying time when beating two-time derby winner Tell Cartel in their derby trial matchup on Aug. 2.

“Circle City will look to become the second derby winner of the family after his full brother Nomadic won the Governor’s Cup Derby July 25. Jockey Vinnie Bednar and trainer Scott Willoughby, who won with Nomadic in the Governor’s Cup, also handle Circle City.

“’The two full brothers are pretty sharp,’ Willoughby said. ‘They are hard to beat when they are running well. Nomadic was the fastest qualifier last time and Circle City is the fastest qualifier this time. Maybe we can have the same result with Circle City.’

“Circle City is in the two and will start to the inside of Mimi Wells’ Tell Cartel, winner of the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Winter Derby and Grade 3 El Primero Del Año Derby. Circle City needs a fast start because Tell Cartel has been like a locomotive in the second half of his races.

“The racing programs on Friday and Saturday night will both feature quarter-horse stakes races. Friday’s seven-race program will be headed by the $44,132 Los Alamitos Championship Challenge at 440 yards. The Valentin Zamudio-trained John Carter Cash, who has been a bright star in the local sophomore division, will take on four top older horses in this quarter-mile race.

The foursome includes Ballast Point, who has been the top quarter horse at 870 yards at Los Alamitos in the past 12 months; Kissed By An Eagle, winner of more than $350,000; Firecracker Derby winner Santander and top mares Fenian Faith, who ran second in the Remington Park Championship earlier this year. First post time on Friday is 6:40 p.m.


“Saturday’s eight-race program will be headed by the $50,000 Los Alamitos Juvenile Stakes at 350 yards. Apollitical Patty will look to remain undefeated when she makes her fourth career start as the 4-5 favorite. First post on Saturday is 7:40 p.m.

“The card include a maiden event led by Terrific Temper, the runner-up in the Grade 1 Ed Burke Million Futurity, and an allowance headed by multiple stakes winner Tac Me Up.”

Chris Wade’s Friday LA pick

RACE SIX: No. 1 Interragator (4-1)

He has improved with each start for a top-notch shed row that has excelled with juveniles this year. Any of Interragator’s last three efforts would rate comparably with this well-matched group of 2-year-olds. In his most recent outing 28 nights ago, Interragator broke on the lead and went on comfortably from there to score his first victory in five career starts for a solid jockey/trainer (33%) combination. The figure earned from that race was a career topping number and that effort, if repeated, should put this entrant in the mix at a good price for a barn that is a super 23% with return winners.

A final thought

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

Del Mar Entries for Friday, August 14.

Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, Del Mar, California. $2 Win, Place and Show; $1 Exacta, $2 Quinella, 50-cent Trifecta, $2 Rolling Double, 50-cent rolling Pick 3; 10-cent Superfecta; 50-cent Pick 4 last 4 races; 50-cent Players Pick 5 first 5 races; $2 Pick 6 last 6 races; $1 Place Pick All; $1 Super High Five last race. Trifecta needs 4 betting interests; Superfecta needs 6. 14th day of a 28-day meet.


5 Furlongs Turf. Purse: $57,000. Allowance Optional Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $40,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Saints PaynterMario Gutierrez122Andrew Lerner
2Road RagerUmberto Rispoli124Brian J. Koriner
3Tip Top GalEdwin Maldonado124Quentin B. Miller40,000
4Mariah Girl Juan Hernandez122Mike Puype
5Rakassah Flavien Prat120Philip D'Amato
6Gotham DesireTiago Pereira124Ed Moger, Jr.40,000
7Magic At MidnightAbel Cedillo122Mark Glatt
8Sold ItHeriberto Figueroa124Doug F. O'Neill40,000
9Norma's LoveBrice Blanc120Peter Miller


5½ Furlongs. Purse: $28,000. Maiden Claiming. Fillies. 2 year olds. Claiming Price $50,000. State bred.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Bingos SystemTiago Pereira120Matthew Chew50,000
2JoymakerJorge Velez120Quinn Howey50,000
3Miss GloriousAbel Cedillo120Andrew Lerner50,000
4Mucha WomanFlavien Prat120Sal Gonzalez50,000
5Stars of BluegrassUmberto Rispoli120Andrew Lerner50,000
6Big Mama SueRuben Fuentes120Paul G. Aguirre50,000


5 Furlongs Turf. Purse: $55,000. Maiden Special Weight. 2 year olds.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Run SnappyJuan Hernandez120John W. Sadler
2Hot Rod CharlieAbel Cedillo120Doug F. O'Neill
3Harlan EstateRuben Fuentes120Peter Eurton
4StratofortressUmberto Rispoli120Jerry Hollendorfer
5Ready Jet GoRicardo Gonzalez117Peter Miller
6Commander KhaiHeriberto Figueroa120Richard Baltas
7Get Her NumberFlavien Prat120Peter Miller
8GhosterMike Smith120Jeff Bonde


1 Mile. Purse: $26,000. Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Prices $16,000-$14,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Take a LeapJorge Velez119Manuel Ortiz, Sr.16,000
2Avalon RideAbel Cedillo119Craig Anthony Lewis16,000
3Perfect Ice StormUmberto Rispoli119Peter Eurton16,000
4Mongolian WindowRuben Fuentes121Enebish Ganbat16,000
5OperaticFlavien Prat119Robert B. Hess, Jr.16,000
6LesediTiago Pereira117Molly J. Pearson14,000
7SenoradiabloEswan Flores119Manuel Ortiz, Sr.16,000
8Destiny's JourneyEdwin Maldonado118Steve Knapp16,000


1 Mile Turf. Purse: $59,000. Allowance Optional Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $62,500.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Strike At DawnUmberto Rispoli121Richard Baltas
2Love and Peace Edwin Maldonado121Neil D. Drysdale
3Raymundos SecretFlavien Prat121Philip D'Amato
4TapwaterMike Smith121Richard E. Mandella
5Ellie ArrowayVictor Espinoza123John W. Sadler
6Zee DropAbel Cedillo121Philip D'Amato


6 Furlongs. Purse: $19,000. Maiden Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $20,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Vive l'AmourEdwin Maldonado120J. Keith Desormeaux20,000
2SuezaaanaAlexis Centeno116Duff Shidaker20,000
3Big Game PlanRicardo Gonzalez120Art Sherman20,000
4Forehead KissesBrice Blanc120George Papaprodromou20,000
5Chris Is ReadyTiago Pereira123William Spawr20,000
6Warren's EmpressFlavien Prat120Craig Anthony Lewis20,000
7Enriched by DebHeriberto Figueroa120Richard Baltas20,000
8Run Like KonaJose Valdivia, Jr.120Robert B. Hess, Jr.20,000
9Arya's DaggerJ.C. Diaz, Jr.120Jorge Periban20,000
10ChollimaJorge Velez120Lorenzo Ruiz20,000
11Caught in a TrappeAbel Cedillo123Val Brinkerhoff20,000
12Sweet RegardsJuan Hernandez120Kristin Mulhall20,000


5 Furlongs Turf. Purse: $41,000. Claiming. Fillies. 3 year olds. Claiming Prices $50,000-$45,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Le TubTiago Pereira120Doug F. O'Neill50,000
2Brittle and YooUmberto Rispoli120John W. Sadler50,000
3Jewel ThiefAbel Cedillo120Philip D'Amato50,000
4Majestic GigiVictor Espinoza120Hector O. Palma50,000
5Sadie BluegrassRicardo Gonzalez120Jonathan Wong45,000
6Mean SophiaJuan Hernandez118Peter Miller45,000
7Rain DivaJorge Velez122Mark Glatt50,000
8MunnyEdwin Maldonado120Mark Glatt50,000
9Sugar PickelFlavien Prat120Peter Eurton50,000


1 Mile. Purse: $19,000. Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Prices $16,000-$14,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Billy KEdwin Maldonado119Ryan Hanson14,000
2First EmpressAbel Cedillo121Dean Pederson16,000
3Midnight GardenJuan Hernandez124Clifford W. Sise, Jr.16,000
4Info's TreasureTiago Pereira122Ian Kruljac14,000
5SamandahJorge Velez124George Papaprodromou16,000
6Miss BennetAlexis Centeno117Matthew Chew16,000
7ManresaEswan Flores124Gary Stute16,000
8Awesome AmandaFlavien Prat122Dan Blacker14,000


1 1/16 Mile Turf. Purse: $57,000. Allowance Optional Claiming. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $20,000. State bred.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Make It a TripleEdwin Maldonado123Daniel Azcarate20,000
2Cali CalienteRuben Fuentes123J. Eric Kruljac
3Offshore AffairAbel Cedillo123Carla Gaines
4Sea of LibertyUmberto Rispoli123John W. Sadler
5Mr Right NowBrice Blanc120Ryan Bratcher
6Whooping JayMario Gutierrez123Doug F. O'Neill
7JetovatorFlavien Prat123Peter Eurton
8Golden DoughnutMike Smith123James M. Cassidy
9Bench JudgeJuan Hernandez123John W. Sadler