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 make time to talk about timing.

Amid the myriad of problems that racing is facing comes another: the accurate timing of races.

On Thursday, Del Mar responded to criticism that its new timing system, the Equibase GPS System, will no longer be used on turf races for the official time. Instead, the races will be hand-timed. The new system will be used on dirt races, which Del Mar says, “have proven to be highly accurate.”

“Del Mar racetrack will be utilizing hand timing for turf races for the remainder of the summer meet,” the statement said. “… Last week, we discovered some inconsistencies with respect to the GPS survey and our historical survey relating to the turf course that we will work to rectify before Del Mar’s November meet. The GPS system will continue to provide the full running order for all types of races.”

The implications of accurate times are obvious. Handicappers use them to help evaluate how a horse may run, especially if they are changing distances. Currently, Equibase, which owns the new system and also provides the official charts, has been altering times, when necessary, from what is seen on the toteboard to what eventually appears on the chart.


Anyone familiar with GPS knows it can be suspect at times, although the GPS we use isn’t near as refined as that used at the race track. It’s not uncommon, when I check to see if my wife is home through Find My Friends, to find her location in the middle of the lake in back of our house. Don’t worry, she’s not there.

In addition to Del Mar, this system is used at Golden Gate Field, Canterbury Park (MN), Colonial Downs (VA), Laurel Park (MD), Mahoning Valley (OH), Oaklawn (AR), Penn National (PA), Pimlico (MD) and San Houston (TX) and Woodbine in Canada.

It’s also used in a lot of tracks in the United Kingdom.

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In the past, timing has been done with a beam that records data when a horse breaks the beam. There is also a system where chips are placed in the saddlecloth, very similar to what is used to time marathons and other long foot races.

Del Mar’s change to the GMax system has also had an impact to those watching on TVG. No longer can you see the order of the horses at the bottom of the screen.

Many tracks, including Santa Anita, use a Trakus timing system. TVG has a Trakus gfx system in its studio.


“We were working on integrating this new data feed into our TVG gfx package,” a TVG spokesman said “But due to COVID-related staffing restrictions that testing was put on hold.”

TVG hopes to get that system running as soon as it can.

If you want a more detailed description of this situation, check out this story by Bill Finley in the Thoroughbred Daily News. Just click here.

OK, enough about timing, on to the good stuff.

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

“Normally, the $3 million Kentucky Derby already would have been contested back on May 2. But, of course, due to the coronavirus nightmare of 2020, there is much that is not normal these days.

“The 2020 Kentucky Derby will be held two weeks from Saturday. Recent Travers Stakes winner Tiz the Law is expected to be the strongest favorite in the Run for the Roses since Point Given was sent away at odds of 9-5 in 2001. Point Given let his backers down in the Kentucky Derby by finishing fifth in the field of 17. It was the only time in Point Given’s 13-race career that he did not finish first or second.


“Monarchos won the 2001 Kentucky Derby at 10-1. Point Given then won the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes, defeating Monarchos both times. Monarchos finished sixth in the Preakness and third in the Belmont.

“In the Sept. 5 Kentucky Derby, Tiz the Law will be resuming his quest to become this nation’s 14th Triple Crown winner. He won the first leg of this year’s rearranged Triple Crown series, the 1 1/8-mile Belmont Stakes, on June 20. The final event in this year’s Triple Crown will be the 1 3/16-mile Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course on Oct. 3.

“Tiz the Law has dominated his opponents in all four starts this year. It almost hasn’t seemed fair. Tiz the Law has looked like a man among boys. He won the Holy Bull Stakes by three lengths in early February, the Florida Derby by 4 1/4 lengths in late March, the Belmont by 3 3/4 lengths on June 20, then the Travers Stakes by 5 1/2 lengths on Aug. 8.

“Such a glittering 2020 record to date is why it appears that Tiz the Law will be a Kentucky Derby favorite in the neighborhood of 4-5 to 6-5. He was the 4-5 favorite in William Hill’s Kentucky Derby odds as of Aug. 16. The New York-bred Constitution colt was a 6-5 favorite in Daily Racing Form’s odds listed this week by Marty McGee.

“Will Tiz the Law be a winning Kentucky Derby favorite? Or will he be a Point Given? At least recent history is on Tiz the Law’s side. The favorite has won the Kentucky Derby in six of the last seven years. In other words, in the last seven years, the Kentucky Derby favorite has won 85.7% of the time.

“A streak of six straight winning Kentucky Derby favorites was snapped last year when Country House won in a 65-1 upset via the controversial disqualification of Maximum Security. But even if Maximum Security had not been DQ’d for committing a foul when he caused interference, the streak of winning favorites would have come to an end. Maximum Security was the 9-2 second choice in the wagering. Improbable was the 4-1 favorite. Improbable finished fifth and was moved up to fourth as a result of Maximum Security being disqualified and placed 17th.

“That six of the last seven Kentucky Derby winners were favored coincides (coincidentally, or perhaps not) with Churchill Downs’ introduction of a points system seven years ago.


“Keep in mind that Kentucky Derby favorites have not always fared as well as they have in recent years. In fact, from 1980 through 1999, the Kentucky Derby favorite failed to win for 20 straight years. Fusaichi Pegasus finally broke the dry spell when he got the job done as the betting choice in 2000.

“After Country House’s upset victory in 2019, it will be interesting to see if Tiz the Law comes through this year to make it seven winning Kentucky Derby favorites in the eight years from 2013-2020.

“The terrific filly Swiss Skydiver has accumulated 40 points for the Kentucky Derby, a total that is sufficient to get her into the 1 1/4-mile race. However, following her emphatic 3 1/2-length win in last Saturday’s 1 1/4-mile Alabama Stakes at Saratoga, Swiss Skydiver will be running in the 1 1/8-mile Kentucky Oaks rather than in the Kentucky Derby, according to NYRA communications.

“Pneumatic won last Saturday’s 1 1/16-mile Pegasus Stakes by 2 1/4 lengths at Monmouth Park. That was the final race offering points toward the 2020 Kentucky Derby. Pneumatic earned 20 points, raising his total to 45. But Pneumatic’s connections have indicated they plan to bypass the Kentucky Derby with him and instead target the Preakness.

“Here are this week’s rankings for the Sept. 5 Kentucky Derby, courtesy of Xpressbet:

1. Tiz the Law (1)

2. Honor A.P. (2)

3. Art Collector (3)

4. Caracaro (4)

5. Thousand Words (5)

6. Authentic (6)

7. Dr Post (7)

8. King Guillermo (8)

9. Ny Traffic (9)

10. Max Player (10)

NOTE: Last week’s rankings in parentheses”

Del Mar preview

Friday has 10 races including a graded stakes race. Post time is the usual 2 p.m. (Those waiting for the sunset time … I only do on 11-race cards.) Half the races are on the turf and there are two allowance/optional claimers and one maiden special.


The feature is the Grade 3 $100,000 Rancho Bernardo Handicap for fillies and mares going 6 ½ furlongs. The favorite, at 8-5, is Sneaking Out for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer and jockey Umberto Rispoli. She is coming off a win in the Grade 2 Great Lady M on that fateful July 4 card at Los Alamitos. She has won five-of-11 lifetime with four seconds, so she’s usually around near the wire.

Unique Factor is the second favorite, at 4-1, for Peter Miller and Flavien Prat. She won an allowance at Churchill Downs two back and finished sixth in her last start in the Grade 1 Madison at Keeneland. She has won four of 19 with six seconds. Post is around 6:07 p.m.

Here are the field sizes, in order: 7, 8, 5, 10, 10 (1 also eligible), 12, (2 ae), 10 (4 ae), 11 (2 ae), 8, 12 (2 ae).

Bob Ike’s DM pick of the day

FIRST RACE: No. 5 Hurley (7-2)

Competitive mid-grade claimer going 1 1/16 miles on turf and I will take this Blaine Wright-trained filly, who comes off a good runner-up try over the course last month. She was protected (not entered for claiming tag off the six-month layoff) in that spot and settled for second after challenging for the lead in mid-stretch. She figures to fire again while hopefully staying close enough to what figures to be a modest pace.

Sunday’s result: Betito attempted to break through the gate just as latch was sprung, appearing to be held by the assistant starter. He was declared a non-starter with wagers refunded.


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 SIX: No. 7 King Parker (15-1)

Flavien Prat is riding King Parker at 15-1 on the morning line. We see a couple best-of-the-day workouts to get ready for Friday’s claimer. Yes, those works could be claim bait but we have a tight jockeys’s title race and Prat deciding to stay here to win it versus going to the Derby tells me this horse is live at a price. This is a wide-open race with a suspect favorite in Aidens Dream who nosedives off the claiming ladder after running third last out at $25,000. Aiden may win at low odds but this is the type of race I go value shopping in.

J Serino has won two in row and ships in from Arlington Park for the ship and win bonus money. It’s a jump in class but they want the winner’s picture and bonus money.

Sunday’s result: Signofthecross was bet down to 9-1 and was given a perfect ride by J.C. Diaz Jr. sitting right off the pace. When they hit the top of the stretch Diaz inched out 3-wide and powered down the stretch for the win. ‘Sign paid $21.60 for the win.

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.

“Quarter-horse racing aficionados will love the late Pick Four on Friday night, as each race is a straightaway event of well-matched and talented juveniles at Los Alamitos. First post time for the seven-race program is 7:05 p.m.

“Race four gets the late sequence started and will have a super competitive eight-horse field for $12,500 claimers led by the Monty Arrossa-trained Fair And Wise, who was too strong for $10,000 claimers in her last start. She will face Holiday Hocks, who broke her maiden against $20,000 opponents in her second career start, and L Bar D Rosie Lee, who qualified to the $60,000 Firecracker Futurity at Grants Pass.

“The fifth race will feature a maiden field led by Expedited, who figures to improve in a big way in her second career start. She was purchased for $95,000 at the Los Alamitos Equine Sale. Maidens will also race in the sixth and will feature Nuclear Option, a Favorite Cartel filly out of the Grade 1 stakes winning mare Thermonuclear Energy, and Kindergarten Futurity finalist Hi High Hopes. The sequence will close with an $11,925 allowance with eight fillies. Reason To Fly MV was a good looking winner in her first career start and looks to make it two for two .

“On Saturday, Fire By Night will look for his second victory in 17 career starts when he heads the $12,300 allowance feature for non-winners of two races. The 300-yard dash is the eighth and final on the card, which starts at 7:35 p.m. Fire By Night has finished third or better 10 times and more importantly, he’s qualified to three major stakes races at the Orange County oval. The Walk Thru Fire gelding was in the Grade 2 PCQHRA Breeders Futurity last year and this season he ran third to stablemate Tell Cartel in the Grade 3 El Primero Del Año Derby and also raced in the Governor’s Cup Derby. The field also includes El Soverign and Peek It Up, both runners-up at this level in their most recent starts. The eight-race program will have two allowance races at 1,000 yards.

“The $20,000 Pat Hyland Handicap for 2-year-olds is the main event on Sunday night. Six juveniles will be in this 350-yard race with SC Divas Cartel Man, the sixth-place finisher in the Ed Burke Million Futurity, and Favorite Colossus, the fourth-place finisher in the Governor’s Cup Futurity, headlining the field. The Juan Aleman-trained Dreamland Express, who debuted at Remington Park in the spring and has back-to-back victories at Los Alamitos, is another top contender in the Pat Hyland.

“On Thursday afternoon, the Los Alamitos Racing Office unveiled the nominations to the Grade 1, $100,000 Go Man Go Handicap to be held on Aug. 30. Chocolatito, who won the Grade 1 Vessels Maturity in his last start on July 5, plus Jess Macho Corona and Mister Appolitical, who finished second and third, respectively, in the Vessels Maturity head the list of nominees. The list also features two former California Horse of the Year winners in Zoomin For Spuds, the 2016 recipient, and Jesstacartel, who received the award in 2018.”


Chris Wade’s Friday LA pick

RACE SEVEN: No. 8 Heatedly (4-1)

She just crushed a solid cast of maidens 21 nights ago after showing a good amount of ability in her career debut when breaking multiple lengths slow and being crossed by clean tripped rivals on either side. Back to her winning effort on July 31, she got a tad fractious prior to breaking a bit slow at the gate opening. Following her decent start, she put forth a big run past the gap to wrestle control of the affair and complete her victory with run left in the tank. She now draws a good post for her style of racing and should be a big player in this competition for a super jockey/trainer (41%) combo.

A final thought

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

Del Mar Entries for Friday, August 21.

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. 17th day of a 28-day meet.


1 1/16 Mile Turf. Purse: $35,000. Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Prices $32,000-$28,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Miss Flawless Jose Valdivia, Jr.120Vladimir Cerin3-132,000
2Clearly GoneBrice Blanc120Sean McCarthy15-132,000
3Kittyhawk LassUmberto Rispoli120Hector O. Palma5-132,000
4Lexington Grace Geovanni Franco120Reed Saldana4-132,000
5HurleyRicardo Gonzalez120Blaine D. Wright7-232,000
6Peach TimeHeriberto Figueroa118Ryan Bratcher15-128,000
7QuinnieFlavien Prat120Carla Gaines5-232,000


6½ Furlongs. Purse: $37,000. Claiming. 3 year olds. Claiming Prices $40,000-$35,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1TizhotndustyRuben Fuentes117J. Eric Kruljac8-135,000
2Great UlyssesHeriberto Figueroa119Doug F. O'Neill15-140,000
3Natural HistoryVictor Espinoza119Robert B. Hess, Jr.4-140,000
4Hidden PromiseUmberto Rispoli119John W. Sadler4-140,000
5Promise NothingFlavien Prat119Rafael Becerra7-240,000
6Shootin MoneyRicardo Gonzalez119Philip A. Oviedo15-140,000
7Drippin SauceAbel Cedillo121Jonathan Wong5-240,000
8EustaceJuan Hernandez119Ed Moger, Jr.8-140,000


1 1/16 Mile Turf. Purse: $63,000. Allowance Optional Claiming. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $100,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1BuilderJuan Hernandez123Isidro Tamayo4-1
2Murad Khan Abel Cedillo121Doug F. O'Neill9-5
3Big ScoreFlavien Prat121Tim Yakteen8-5
4CalexmanJose Valdivia, Jr.121Vladimir Cerin12-1
5Jasikan Umberto Rispoli121John W. Sadler7-2


6 Furlongs. Purse: $28,000. Maiden Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $50,000. State bred.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Buy Wave BuyBrice Blanc123Alexis Barba20-150,000
2Jan Jan CanJuan Hernandez123Mike Puype12-150,000
3Evening SonnetJose Valdivia, Jr.123Jay Nehf15-1
4Faded LoveGeovanni Franco120Steven Miyadi10-150,000
5Keep It ClassyEswan Flores120Joe Herrick20-150,000
6Get'em TigerAaron Gryder120Quinn Howey5-150,000
7Shez Our ArchUmberto Rispoli120Jorge Gutierrez7-250,000
8Little Miss EllieAbel Cedillo120Vladimir Cerin3-150,000
9Ole SilverFlavien Prat120Philip D'Amato5-150,000
10Magnolia's HopeRicardo Gonzalez123Jonathan Wong6-150,000


1 Mile Turf. Purse: $55,000. Maiden Special Weight. 2 year olds. State bred.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1ScoobyFlavien Prat120Jerry Hollendorfer3-1
2Warrens Candy ManJuan Hernandez120Craig Anthony Lewis8-1
3Teton ValleyGeovanni Franco120Ryan Hanson5-1
4IngestMario Gutierrez120Doug F. O'Neill6-1
5Govenor's PartyHeriberto Figueroa120Daniel Franko20-1
6Big FishUmberto Rispoli120David E. Hofmans7-2
7Finding SilverRuben Fuentes120Luis Mendez8-1
8Investment AccountJorge Velez120Rafael Becerra12-1
9Big TalkerMike Smith120Tim Yakteen12-1
10Proud MusketEdwin Maldonado120Vann Belvoir15-1
Also Eligible
11Dennis CeleryAbel Cedillo120Doug F. O'Neill5-1


6 Furlongs. Purse: $19,000. Claiming. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Prices $8,000-$7,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Papa TurfAbel Cedillo118Peter Miller4-17,000
2Black StormEswan Flores122Jeff Mullins6-18,000
3Castle GateAaron Gryder120Eddie Truman8-18,000
4R Cha ChaMario Gutierrez122George Papaprodromou15-18,000
5J SerinoGeovanni Franco122Molly J. Pearson15-18,000
6King ParkerFlavien Prat118Craig Anthony Lewis15-17,000
7Mike OperatorHeriberto Figueroa120Jeffrey Metz20-18,000
8Royal SeekerJorge Velez120Marcelo Polanco20-18,000
9Adens DreamJ.C. Diaz, Jr.120Adam Kitchingman7-28,000
10Fire When ReadyJose Valdivia, Jr.120Robert B. Hess, Jr.9-28,000
11Rickey BEdwin Maldonado120Manuel Ortiz, Sr.12-18,000
12Write Me a SongRicardo Gonzalez120George Papaprodromou12-18,000
Also Eligible
13Midnight DestinyJuan Hernandez120Jonathan Wong8-18,000


1 Mile. Purse: $19,000. Maiden Claiming. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $20,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Sharp SpeakerMario Gutierrez120George Papaprodromou8-120,000
2Hudson River ParkJuan Hernandez123Doug F. O'Neill8-520,000
3KazanskyRuben Fuentes123Eddie Truman12-120,000
4Agent ZeroHeriberto Figueroa123Leonard Powell12-120,000
5Tiger's SongFlavien Prat120Alfredo P. Marquez8-120,000
6Drink to ThatEswan Flores123Sal Gonzalez20-120,000
7Starship ChewyBrice Blanc123Howard L. Zucker30-120,000
8World AffairsAbel Cedillo123Mark Glatt3-120,000
9Street BehaviorRicardo Gonzalez120Kristin Mulhall6-120,000
10Next RevoltUmberto Rispoli120Dan Blacker4-120,000
Also Eligible
11Bigfoot CityHeriberto Figueroa120Tim McCanna20-120,000
12Gee Gee WhizJ.C. Diaz, Jr.120Michael S. Wilson20-120,000


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

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Adorably SweetJose Valdivia, Jr.125Mike Puype12-1
2Shylock EddieAaron Gryder123Brian J. Koriner20-1
3Marjorie EBrice Blanc123Patrick Gallagher20-1
4Leggs GaloreRicardo Gonzalez120Philip D'Amato7-2
5HabobaneroEswan Flores120Reina E. Gonzalez8-1
6HotitudeJuan Hernandez125Kristin Mulhall6-1
7Plum WildEdwin Maldonado123Adam Kitchingman12-1
8Smiling AnnieAbel Cedillo123Mark Glatt9-2
9QueensbeccaandjaneGeovanni Franco120Gary Stute8-1
10LiberalismUmberto Rispoli120Brian J. Koriner5-1
11Give Me a HintFlavien Prat125Peter Miller5-120,000
Also Eligible
12Square PeggyMario Gutierrez125Javier Jose Sierra12-120,000


6½ Furlongs. Purse: $100,000. 'Rancho Bernardo Handicap'. Stakes. Fillies and Mares. 3 year olds and up.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1GinghamMike Smith119Bob Baffert6-1
2Into ChocolateAbel Cedillo119Clifford W. Sise, Jr.8-1
3Mother of DragonsRicardo Gonzalez119Andreas Psarras12-1
4Artistic DivaRuben Fuentes120John W. Sadler8-1
5Sneaking OutUmberto Rispoli123Jerry Hollendorfer8-5
6AmuseDrayden Van Dyke120Richard E. Mandella5-1
7Mucho AmorJuan Hernandez118Blaine D. Wright15-1
8Unique FactorFlavien Prat120Peter Miller4-1


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

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Rockie CausewayFlavien Prat120Richard Baltas2-1
2Nina En FuegoUmberto Rispoli120Tim Yakteen8-1
3New HeatJorge Velez120Anthony K. Saavedra15-1
4Eddie's SisterAbel Cedillo120Philip D'Amato8-1
5Kiss of CongratsHeriberto Figueroa120Rene Amescua20-1
6Rose's CrystalJuan Hernandez120Carla Gaines6-1
7Starship SkyBrice Blanc123Howard L. Zucker30-1
8Ride Sally RideEdwin Maldonado120Jose Hernandez, Jr.15-1
9Too Hot for CurlinGeovanni Franco123Philip D'Amato20-1
10Cassie BelleAaron Gryder123Sean McCarthy4-1
11Pushing SixtyMario Gutierrez120Ben D. A. Cecil12-1
12LakayaJose Valdivia, Jr.120Robert B. Hess, Jr.20-1
Also Eligible
13Spanish ChannelJorge Velez123Javier Jose Sierra20-1
14Big MinxJ.C. Diaz, Jr.120Daniel Dunham30-1