Racing! Kentucky Derby rankings are back

Flavien Prat, right, starts to celebrate after Storm the Court edged out Anneau D'or, left, for the win in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.
Flavien Prat, right, starts to celebrate after Storm the Court edged out Anneau D’or, left, for the win in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
(Associated Press)

Hello, my name is John Cherwa and welcome to our horse racing newsletter as we get ready for two of the next three weeks at Santa Anita being three-day weeks.

Before we get to the main event, Jon White returning to guide us to the Kentucky Derby, we’ve got a little news to break.

The California Horse Racing Board, which said it was shooting for Jan. 15 to release its much-anticipated report, is now pushing it back to the end of the month. I believe all the data has been gathered, it’s just a matter of editing it into a cohesive report. The individual looks at each of the horses may follow in a couple of weeks after the summary of the findings.

Of course, the big thing to come from it will be if there is any conclusion as to the role the racing surface played in the deaths of 30 horses at Santa Anita during the winter-spring meeting. The Los Angeles District Attorney investigation came to no conclusions on any of the causes. The hope is this report will be more insightful.

OK, on to today’s feature item.

Jon White’s Kentucky Derby Top 10


Yes, it’s that time of year and Jon White, racing historian, morning-line maker at Santa Anita and every now and then a steward, will lead you through this year’s march to the Kentucky Derby with his weekly rankings. We welcome Jon back and here is his first report. Jon, it’s your turn to enlighten us.

“The first steps on the 2020 Road to the Kentucky Derby were taken by newly turned 3-year-olds last week. The Jerome Stakes at Aqueduct on Jan. 1 and the Sham Stakes at Santa Anita on Jan. 4 both offered points toward a starting berth in the May 2 Run for the Roses.

“The Road to the Kentucky Derby is a series of races that award points to the first four finishers. It has determined preference for the 20-horse Kentucky Derby field since 2013.

“Storm the Court, trained by Peter Eurton, gets the nod for the top spot on my first Kentucky Derby Top 10 of 2020. He won the Nov. 2 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in a 45-1 shocker and has a good chance to be voted an Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old male. Now that I have put the Court Vision colt at No. 1, it will be up to him in upcoming weeks to prove that he deserves to stay there.

“Eurton told Daily Racing Form’s Steve Andersen it is ‘unlikely’ Storm the Court will be ready to make his 2020 debut in Santa Anita’s Robert B. Lewis Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on Feb. 1. Two subsequent races at Santa Anita under consideration are the San Vicente Stakes at seven furlongs on Feb. 9 and San Felipe Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on March 7.

“Dennis’ Moment no doubt would be No. 1 on my Top 10 if he had won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, but he stumbled badly at the start and finished eighth as the 9-10 favorite. The Tiznow colt, trained by Dale Romans, is scheduled to make his first 2020 start in Gulfstream Park’s Fountain of Youth Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on Feb. 29. Prior to the Breeders’ Cup, Dennis’ Moment won a seven-furlong maiden race at Ellis Park by a little more than 19 lengths in July and Churchill Downs’ Grade III Iroquois Stakes by nearly two lengths at 1 1/16 miles in September.

Bob Baffert, who has won the Kentucky Derby five times and the Triple Crown twice, is represented by No. 3 Thousand Words and No. 6 Authentic. Thousand Words, two for two, won the Los Alamitos Futurity on Dec. 7. The Pioneerof the Nile colt is slated to make his next start in the Feb. 1 Lewis. American Pharoah, a Pioneerof the Nile colt conditioned by Baffert, swept the Triple Crown in 2015.

“Authentic won last Saturday’s Sham Stakes at Santa Anita by nearly eight lengths with Drayden Van Dyke aboard. He’s undefeated and untested in two career starts. It should be kept in mind, though, that Authentic pretty much had it all his own way in both races. And the Into Mischief colt’s mischievous behavior during the stretch run of the Sham is a concern.

“After Authentic opened up an eight-length lead at the eighth pole, his inexperience showed when he raced greenly. In the final furlong, he ducked in sharply, then ducked out, then ducked back in. Van Dyke said he thought Authentic initially ducked in when reacting to the crowd noise. Baffert said he thought that when Authentic ducked in and nearly hit the rail, it scared him, which is why he then ducked out before ducking back in.

“Fortunately for Authentic, he was so much the best in the Sham it did not matter that he did not run a straight course in the stretch. But if he acts like that when reacting to the crowd noise from 7,145 fans at Santa Anita on the first Saturday in January, then what might he do when he has to race before a throng of well over 100,000 at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May? Baffert has talked about adding blinkers and/or earplugs to Authentic for his next race.

“In any case, it is clear that Authentic is a talented individual. And he is just one of a number of Kentucky Derby candidates who reside at the Baffert barn, which is nothing unusual.

“I considered putting the Baffert-trained Eight Rings in the Top 10. Remember him? The Empire Maker colt won the American Pharoah Stakes by six lengths at Santa Anita last September before finishing sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Eight Rings was supposed to run in the Los Alamitos Futurity, but then he skipped the race. The Feb. 9 San Vicente then was mentioned as a target, but that idea was scrapped and Baffert now says he is going to “try and make the Rebel” with Eight Rings. The 1 1/16-mile Rebel Stakes will be run on March 14 at Oaklawn Park. The constantly changing plans for Eight Rings is the main reason he is not on the Top 10.

“Baffert also trains High Velocity, who nearly made the Top 10. The Quality Road colt finished third behind Thousand Words and Anneau d’Or in the Los Al Futurity. Inasmuch as High Velocity did get a bit keyed up before that race, he might be capable of doing better next time.

“Undefeated Independence Hall acted up before the one-mile Jerome. The 1-10 favorite then broke tardily, but won anyway by four lengths against five overmatched opponents. The Constitution colt, who won Aqueduct’s Nashua Stakes by a little more than 12 lengths in November, is expected to make his next start in Tampa Bay Downs’ Sam F. Davis Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on Feb. 8. Michael Trombetta trains Independence Hall.

“Maxfield, who is two for two, appears to have a ton of ability. He won Keeneland’s Breeders’ Futurity by 5 1/2 lengths last October, then was withdrawn from the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile when all was not right. He is back in training in Florida with trainer Brendan Walsh, though Walsh said earlier this week on Steve Byk’s SiriusXM radio program that the Street Sense colt will not be pushed to make the Kentucky Derby. Maxfield underwent surgery Nov. 18 to remove a mildly displaced chip from an ankle.

“Tiz the Law is owned by Sackatoga Stable and trained by Barclay Tagg. Sackatoga and Tagg collaborated to win the 2003 Kentucky Derby with Funny Cide. Tiz the Law, a four-length winner of the Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park last October, finished a close third on a wet track when he had a troubled trip in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs on Nov. 30 in his final start at 2. He is slated to make his first start at 3 in Gulfstream’s Holy Bull Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on Feb. 1.

“Anneau d’Or, based at Golden Gate Fields with trainer Blaine Wright, narrowly lost the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and Los Al Futurity when finishing second in both races. The Medaglia d’Oro colt is likely to make his first start of 2020 in Golden Gate’s El Camino Real Derby at 1 1/8 miles on Feb. 15 or at Santa Anita in the Lewis or San Felipe.

“Omaha Beach debuted at No. 9 on my Top 10 last year following a big maiden win. Untitled is No. 9 on my first Top 10 this year following a big maiden win. After an 11-length victory at Gulfstream on Dec. 14 for trainer Ralph Nicks, the Khozan colt was sold privately and now is being trained by Mark Casse in Florida. Casse won the 2019 Preakness Stakes with War of Will.

“Chance It was an ultra-game winner of Gulfstream’s Mucho Macho Man Stakes last Saturday by a head. He has won four of six career starts. The Fountain of Youth probably is next for the Currency Swap colt, according to trainer Sophie Joseph Jr.

“Honor A.P. had been seriously considered for the No. 1 spot, but the highly regarded Honor Code colt is not even on the Top 10 now after missing the Sham due to an issue with his right foreleg. Initial X-rays taken were OK, according to trainer John Shirreffs. But Honor A.P.'s status remains up in the air. Daily Racing Form’s Brad Free reported Wednesday that Shirreffs said Honor A.P. would be undergoing further examination in the coming days.

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

1. Storm the Court

2. Dennis’ Moment

3. Thousand Words

4. Maxfield

5. Tiz the Law

6. Authentic

7. Independence Hall

8. Anneau d’Or

9. Untitled

10. Chance It

Santa Anita preview

Friday’s card is eight races starting at 1 p.m. and it makes you wonder what a Thursday card would have looked like if Santa Anita had one this week. And I don’t mean that in a good way. But, the way the racing office used to be run under Rick Hammerle was that you limped through the first couple of months so you could be strong in March, April and May. So this tapered back racing schedule early on is a good thing, I think.

And, as long as I’m half up on a soapbox (I think this is the only part of today’s newsletter that I’m actually writing) let me throw this out there. Do you think it’s smart to have three different post times? Let’s see, it’s noon if there are 10 races, 12:30 p.m. if there are nine, and 1 p.m. if there are eight. And, of course, when the days were shorter it was 11:30 a.m. for 10 races.

Maybe just picking one time, I don’t know, maybe 12:30 p.m., and sticking with it unless it’s a big card would not confuse customers as much. I can see some seven-race cards on a Thursday, and does that mean 1:30 p.m.?

OK, the feature is the seventh a 6 ½ furlong allowance/optional claimer for older horses. Its purse is $59,000. The favorite at 2-1 is Royal Trump for trainer Mark Glatt and jockey Edwin Maldonado. He won last out in an allowance at Del Mar and has won four of his last six, at various levels from claiming to allowance. He’s six-of-21 lifetime.

The second facorite, at 5-2, is McKale for Bob Baffert and Drayden Van Dyke. After his maiden victory in hs first race he has never raced below the allowance level. He was fourth in his last two starts and prior got a win at Los Alamitos. He is two-of-nine lifetime. Post is around 4 p.m.

Here are the field sizes, in order: 6, 7, 5, 7, 8, 6, 6, 8 (4 also eligible).

Ciaran Thornton’s SA pick of the day

RACE SIX: No. 1 She’s A Dime (12-1)

She’s A Dime won last out and was claimed by trainer Doug O’Neill, a year ago. Abel Cedillo gets the mount Friday and they try turf for the first time. Dam has one turf winner and this trainer is 24% first off the claim. First start since last November they move the horse up in class and risk it for a claim. Could be live at a price and placed high to pay the bills of the last year. The workouts are as good as the top choices. The rail post is not ideal but we have an excellent jockey riding. This is a great price backup to the 9/5 favorite and we will likely get higher than this 12-1 morning line price.

Sunday’s result: Muralist saw big early money drive the price down to 4-5 but by post time drifted up to 7-2. The horse tracked perfectly in second and looked ready to dominate down the stretch but ran out of gas and faded to fourth.

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

Golden Gate weekend preview

Here’s our weekly look at the best racing going on at Golden Gate Fields. As with the last meeting, 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.

“Jockey Catalino Martinez had a sensational afternoon on Sunday, picking up five wins from eight mounts. The 34-year-old journeyman rider won the first four races with maidens When Jesus Walked and Boyson, claiming sprinter Hopscotchy and starter allowance winner Smokin Blackjack. Martinez completed his five-bagger in the eighth race with impressive maiden special weight winner Johnny Podres, owned and bred by Nick Alexander and conditioned by Steve Miyadi. After two weeks of racing, Martinez is second in the jockey standings with 13 wins. We also give a shoutout to William Antongeorgi III, who returned to racing last Friday after his mount stumbled on the far turn, tossing him at the 3/8ths pole one week before. (His mount was OK.) Antongeorgi III reminds us all just how tough our jockeys are.

“Live racing resumes Friday with an eight-race card, and the third race goes as Leg D (the second to last leg) of the Stronach 5 wager. It’s competitive with the morning-line favorite in the field of eight is 3-1 shot No. 7 Candy Crew. I could make a strong case for six of the eight in the maiden special weight. The morning-line favorite, No. 1 Sloane Garden, makes her career debut in the U.S. for trainer Manny Badilla after four straight in-the-money finishes to kick off her career in Britain. She posts a number of fast workouts leading up to this race.

“Saturday afternoon has nine races. The eight race is the feature: a first-level allowance for fillies and mares sprinting six furlongs. The morning line favorite, No. 7 Gotham Desire, is 4-1 in the field of 10. It’s the best betting race of the day, for sure, and any filly and mare in the race has a solid chance to win. Also in the mix is the seventh race, a maiden special weight for 3-year-old fillies featuring a pair of Tommy Town Thoroughbred first-time starters who are well regarded, and a few fillies who have shown promise.

“A trio of allowance races highlights the nine-race Sunday card. The late Pick 4 begins with what I would call the feature of the day: an allowance for older fillies and mares sprinting six furlongs. In this race, we find the return of 2018 Camilla Urso Stakes winner Mother of Dragons, who has not competed in the afternoons since 2018. The Andreas Psarras-trained filly draws the outside post and has been training well for her return. I spoke with Psarras about this filly about a month ago and he told me she was ready to race, so she should be fit enough off by now. Among the other main contenders are Bear Fan Stakes third-place finisher Ima Happy Cat and recent second- level allowance winner Coco Bee.”

Los Alamitos weekend preview

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

“Local daytime thoroughbred winner Forty Six Carats will headline the featured 870-yard allowance in the fifth race on Friday night. First post is 7 p.m. Trained by Martin Jones, Forty Six Carats posted an easy three-length victory during the L.A. County Fair Meet at Los Alamitos on Sept. 18. The 4-year-old filly dueled early on and took the lead during the long stretch to win the 5 1/2 furlong race for $8,000 claimers. Forty Six Carats finished third when taking on $12,500 claimers on Dec. 12. She’ll likely be just off the pace on Friday night when she faces several speedsters.

J.R. Ramirez, one of the most successful jockeys in quarter-horse racing history, is back riding at Los Alamitos and will pilot the quarter horse Up N Fly in the sixth race on Saturday night. The Favorite Cartel filly enters after back-to-back third-place finishes. Up N Fly makes a slight move up the claiming ranks for this race, $8,000 to $10,000.

“Ramirez, who ranks 22nd all-time in quarter-horse wins with 1,517 and 25th in earnings with more than $21.4 million, made a brief appearance in December and said that he was looking forward to spending several months riding at Los Alamitos.

“Ramirez piloted champions Higher Fire and Jess You And I to million dollar futurity wins at Los Alamitos. He guided the filly Higher Fire to wins in the Ed Burke Million Futurity and Golden State Million Futurity in 2005. He then piloted Jess You And I to victory in the 2006 Golden State Million Futurity. Ramirez has finished in the top 10 nationally in wins five times and in earnings five times as well.

“The eighth race is the feature with six quarter horses facing off at 300 yards. Miss Montielita is one of the top contenders after winning two of her last four starts. Special JB, a two-time winner in 2019, is another top contenders in this race.

“Sunday’s feature is the $16,000 Barbra B Handicap at 550 yards. The field will be headed by Martha Wells’ Yanque, who has looked unbeatable in his last two starts at 550-yards, including a 1 ½ length victory in the Paul Ford Handicap on Dec. 1. Ballast Point, winner of the second division of the Snowbound Superstar at 870 yards, will shorten and face Yanque once again. The two met at 550 yards in the Scott Lewis Handicap on Nov. 8 with Yanque winning by 1 ½ lengths. Run Raging Rhino Run, winner of this race last year, will have to be at his very best to beat the razor sharp Yanque.

“Tequila Sangria became the seventh mare to win both of the open Grade 1 stakes races for distaffers offered annually at Los Alamitos after outdueling multiple stakes winner As And Js and eight other rivals in the Grade 1, $100,000 Charger Bar Handicap here last Sunday night.

“Ridden by Jesus Rios Ayala from the post 10, Tequila Sangria took the lead shortly after the start and quickly opened up a ¾-length advantage over As And Js. Tequila Sangria lugged out while still on the lead, but still posted a half-length victory in the 400-yard race. … The AQHA Racing Champions Ceremony for the 2019 champions will take place on Jan. 15, at Heritage Place Sale Company in Oklahoma City. It will be aired at”

Chris Wade’s LA pick of the day

RACE SIX: No. 1 Jsgstorkerslittlesis (9-2)

She has a tendency to get into trouble, but exits a race in which she earned a career topping figure in my charts based on trouble and track variant when running third 43 nights ago. Filly got fractious prior to breaking slowly and was crossed by quicker break rivals. She still finished well and passed a pair of rivals to finish third. She fits nicely with Friday’s group and a repeat effort of her last finis should put her in contention at a nice price.

Final thought

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

Santa Anita Entries for Friday, January 10.

Santa Anita, Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, California. 7th day of a 60-day meet.


5½ Furlongs Turf. Purse: $55,000. Maiden Special Weight. Fillies and Mares. 4 year olds and up.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Malibu CatFlavien Prat124Mark Glatt3-1
2Dance CostumeJoel Rosario124Tim Yakteen7-2
3Va Va VoomAgapito Delgadillo124Antonio Garcia20-1
4Lavender Jose Valdivia, Jr.124Matthew Chew3-1
5Mela JonesAbel Cedillo124Jack Carava7-2
6RaneemDrayden Van Dyke124Bob Baffert5-2


6½ Furlongs. Purse: $22,000. Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 4 year olds and up. Claiming Price $16,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1CimarronAgapito Delgadillo124George Papaprodromou7-216,000
2Busy PaynterAbel Cedillo124Brian J. Koriner2-116,000
3Incredibly LuckyGeovanni Franco124William Spawr3-116,000
4Leading IndicatorAssael Espinoza124Dean Pederson6-116,000
5All Tea All ShadeRafael Bejarano124Jorge Periban8-116,000
6WinsinfashionHeriberto Figueroa124Charles S. Treece8-116,000
7Pacifica Jorge Velez119Leonard Powell8-116,000


1 Mile. Purse: $57,000. Allowance Optional Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 4 year olds and up. Claiming Price $40,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1PersepolisFlavien Prat122Richard E. Mandella5-2
2Velvet QueenRafael Bejarano122Richard Baltas2-1
3Pink ScatillacJoel Rosario124Mark Glatt4-1
4AmataraMario Gutierrez124Richard Baltas5-2
5Miss FiaAgapito Delgadillo122David E. Hofmans5-1


6½ Furlongs. Purse: $32,000. Maiden Claiming. 3 year olds. Claiming Price $50,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Moonlight BeachAbel Cedillo122Doug F. O'Neill6-150,000
2Palace PrinceUmberto Rispoli122Mark Glatt3-150,000
3ConnectionEswan Flores122John W. Sadler8-150,000
4Promise NothingRuben Fuentes122Rafael Becerra5-150,000
5Benny ChangJoel Rosario122Peter Miller5-250,000
6Handsome MichaelDavid Mussad112George Papaprodromou10-150,000
7Big Hoof DynamiteFlavien Prat122Jay Nehf3-150,000


6 Furlongs. Purse: $32,000. Maiden Claiming. Fillies. 3 year olds. Claiming Price $50,000. State bred.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Kleen KarmaJorge Velez117Craig Anthony Lewis10-150,000
2StateforestJ.C. Diaz, Jr.117Leonard Powell4-150,000
3H and R's GirlUmberto Rispoli122J. Eric Kruljac4-150,000
4Hay BellesFrank Johnson122Russell G. Childs50-150,000
5Rickie Nine Toe'sRafael Bejarano122Jorge Periban5-250,000
6NikkileaksEdwin Maldonado122Mark Glatt3-150,000
7Smart GirlEfrain Hernandez122J. Eric Kruljac4-150,000
8AkubaEvin Roman122Marcia Stortz20-150,000


5½ Furlongs Turf. Purse: $35,000. Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 4 year olds and up. Claiming Price $32,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1She's a DimeAbel Cedillo122Doug F. O'Neill12-132,000
2SwirlingEvin Roman122Santos R. Perez6-132,000
3Mongolian WindowAssael Espinoza122Enebish Ganbat6-132,000
4Drift AwayFlavien Prat122Andrew Lerner9-532,000
5Bako SweetsAgapito Delgadillo122Blake R. Heap3-132,000
6Classy AtlanticEdwin Maldonado122Mark Glatt2-132,000


6½ Furlongs. Purse: $59,000. Allowance Optional Claiming. 4 year olds and up. Claiming Price $62,500.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1McKaleDrayden Van Dyke122Bob Baffert5-2
2Seven ScentsJorge Velez117Craig Anthony Lewis8-162,500
3Oiseau de GuerreJoel Rosario124Michael W. McCarthy3-162,500
4Manhattan UpGeovanni Franco122Philip A. Oviedo4-1
5Royal TrumpEdwin Maldonado124Mark Glatt2-1
6Pepe TonoAbel Cedillo122Victor L. Garcia8-1


5½ Furlongs Turf. Purse: $55,000. Maiden Special Weight. Fillies. 3 year olds. State bred.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Time for SallyRafael Bejarano122Edwin Alvarez20-1
2Bella VitaDrayden Van Dyke122Simon Callaghan7-2
3Warren's EmpressJorge Velez117Craig Anthony Lewis10-1
4Bella DAgapito Delgadillo122Mike Puype6-1
5She's DevotedJoel Rosario122Richard Baltas3-1
6Sara CreweJ.C. Diaz, Jr.117Leonard Powell5-1
7Kissable UMario Gutierrez122Doug F. O'Neill7-2
8Ride Sally RideAbel Cedillo122Jack Carava5-1
Also Eligible
9Too Much SmokeHeriberto Figueroa122Peter Miller5-1
10Rose's CrystalEdwin Maldonado122Anna Meah15-1
11On the VergeEdwin Maldonado122Kristin Mulhall15-1
12What a FamilyMario Gutierrez122Ben D. A. Cecil8-1