Horse racing newsletter: Another round of Kentucky Derby rankings

Hello, my name is John Cherwa and welcome to our horse racing newsletter as we introduce a slightly different look to the newsletter.

Before we get to the important stuff, just a quick word that we look a little different today. It’s nothing to be concerned about, just part of the evolutionary process that the entire portfolio of Times newsletters is constantly going through.

OK, a little news first. The Breeders’ Cup report on the death of Mongolian Groom in the Classic came out and it was very frank. The report, headed by the respected Dr. Larry Bramlage, said that Mongolian Groom’s death could have been prevented. It wasn’t a big mea culpa, but instead a lesson to be learned on how some of the processes don’t work as well as they could.

It was also an indictment on how the science and medicine to prevent these things is just not widely available yet. Santa Anita was held blameless and there was no medication subtext. I was most impressed with how thorough the 25-page report was.


I was on a conference call with Bramlage on Thursday and there was little asked and answered that was not in the report. It’s a tribute to the job he did. It drew stark contrast to the report by the L.A. County District Attorney, which could find no causes for the spate of breakdowns at Santa Anita.

Anyway,want to know more? Just click here for my story.

Enjoying this newsletter? Consider subscribing to the Los Angeles Times

Your support helps us deliver the news that matters most. Become a subscriber.

Jon White’s Kentucky Derby Top 10

Time for the good stuff. As always, we’re lucky to have top expert Jon White take a look at what’s happening on the Kentucky Derby trail. 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

“Will all the celebrating in Louisiana after LSU’s 42-25 victory over Clemson in New Orleans on Monday to claim college football’s national championship have died down by the time the Lecomte Stakes is run in Louisiana this Saturday?

“Don’t bet on it. Not the way people in that area know to have a good time, as exemplified by an annual party known as Mardi Gras.

“The Lecomte, which will be contested at Fair Grounds, is the first 2019 Louisiana race on the Road to the Kentucky Derby. It has drawn a bulky field of 14, though it is doubtful all 14 will start. The 1 1/16-mile race offers 10-4-2-1 points toward the Kentucky Derby.

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

“This year’s Lecomte appears to be wide-open. Fair Grounds oddsmaker Mike Diliberto has installed Scabbard as the 7-2 morning-line favorite. Scabbard will be making his first start since he finished fourth at 5-1 in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita last Nov. 1. The More Than Ready colt finished second in a pair of stakes races last year, the Saratoga Special (won by Green Light Go) and Iroquois at Churchill Downs (won by Dennis’ Moment).

“The 2019 Lecomte was taken by the Mark Casse-trained War of Will, who went on to win the Preakness Stakes. Casse has two entered in Saturday’s Lecomte. They are Enforceable, who drew post 10 and is 15-1 on the morning line, and Lynn’s Map, who had the misfortune to get post 14 and is 6-1.

“Because Lynn’s Map drew post 14, Casse told Daily Racing Form’s Marcus Hersh that the Liam’s Map colt might instead run in the one-mile Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn Park on Jan. 24. Like the Lecomte, there are 10-4-2-1 Kentucky Derby points up for grabs in the Smarty Jones.

“There are three horses besides Scabbard and Lynn’s Map listed at under 10-1 in the Lecomte. They are 9-2 Mr. Monomoy, 5-1 Silver State and 6-1 Sycamore Run.

“Mr. Monomoy, trained by Brad Cox, comes off a narrow lost to Lynn’s Map on a wet track Dec. 21 in New Orleans. He is a half-brother to Monomoy Girl, who was voted a 2018 Eclipse Award as champion 3-year-old filly.

“Silver State is coming off a narrow defeat on a wet track Nov. 30 at Churchill Downs. Steve Asmussen trains the Hard Spun colt.

“Sycamore Run splashed his way to a front-running 3 1/2-length debut victory in a six-furlong maiden race Dec. 21 at the Fair Grounds. Joe Sharp conditions the son of 2007 Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense.

“There are no Lecomte entrants on my current Kentucky Derby Top 10 list. We shall see if anyone from the Lecomte makes it onto my Top 10 next week.

“Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Storm the Court, who occupies the top spot on my Top 10, is scheduled to make his 2020 debut in Santa Anita’s seven-furlong San Vicente Stakes on Feb. 9, according to Daily Racing Form’s Steve Andersen.

“Storm the Court had a workout last Sunday at Santa Anita that did not go as planned, Andersen reported. It was supposed to have been a solo spin, but shortly after Storm the Court began the drill, two horses from a rival stable stormed up to join him. The solo workout thus turned into a team drill for Storm the Court, who was clocked in 1:00.60 for five furlongs.

“Meanwhile, No. 2 Dennis’ Moment had his first recorded workout of the year last Saturday at Gulfstream Park. He was timed in 50.80 seconds for four furlongs. Dale Romans trains Dennis’ Moment, who along with Storm the Court and Structor are the three finalists for a 2019 Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old male. The Eclipse Award winners will be announced next Thursday.

“Trainer Bob Baffert, who goes into Friday’s Santa Anita card only four wins away from a milestone of 3,000 career thoroughbred victories, is represented by No. 3 Thousand Words and No. 7 Authentic on the Top 10.

“Thousand Words won the 1 1/16-mile Los Alamitos Futurity on a wet track on Dec. 7. He is headed to Santa Anita’s Robert B. Lewis Stakes at the same trip on Feb. 1. He had a sharp four-furlong workout Monday at Santa Anita in 47.40 seconds.

“Authentic registered a resounding 7 3/4-length win in Santa Anita’s one-mile Sham Stakes on Jan. 4 despite zigzagging in the lane when he raced greenly. He worked four furlongs Wednesday at Santa Anita in 49.60 seconds.

“Honor A.P., who missed the Sham when all was not well, debuts on the Top 10 this week following a positive update on the 3-year-old’s status by Ed Golden in last Saturday’s Santa Anita stable notes. Golden wrote: ‘Trainer John Shirreffs reports X-rays were negative on Honor A.P. after he was ‘off in his right front’ causing him to miss the Jan. 4. Sham Stakes, but the son of Honor Code is back jogging. ‘Maybe he wrenched it,’ the trainer speculated.

“In Honor A.P.'s first career start, he finished a fast-closing second in a six-furlong maiden race at Del Mar last Aug. 17. He then won a one-mile maiden race in front-running fashion by 5 1/4 lengths at Santa Anita on Oct. 13 in his most recent start.

“No. 9 Untitled is being aimed for Gulfstream’s Swale Stakes at seven furlongs on Feb. 1, according to Thoroughbred Daily News’ Michael Sherack. In Untitled’s only start to date, he streaked home to an 11-length triumph in a six-furlong maiden race at Gulfstream on Dec. 14 for trainer Ralph Nicks. Mark Casse has taken over as Untitled’s conditioner following a private sale in which Gary Barber now is the majority owner. ‘I really like him,’ Casse was quoted as saying of Untitled. ‘I’ve been impressed by him so far.’

“Because Untitled has just one race, some may question whether he could possibly win the May 2 Kentucky Derby at 1 1/4 miles.

“But keep in mind that at this point in 2018, Justify had not raced at all yet. Justify made his career debut on Feb. 18. He would go on to win the Kentucky Derby and sweep the Triple Crown.

“At this point in 2019, Maximum Security had started just once, like Untitled. Maximum Security would go on to finish first in the Kentucky Derby, though he was disqualified and placed 17th for causing interference.

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

1. Storm the Court (1)

2. Dennis’ Moment (2)

3. Thousand Words (3)

4. Honor A.P. (NR)

5. Maxfield (4)

6. Tiz the Law (5)

7. Authentic (6)

8. Independence Hall (7)

9. Untitled (10)

10. Anneau d’Or (9)

NOTE: Last week’s rankings in parentheses”

Santa Anita preview

I’m not the person who has to fill these cards but Friday’s is one that doesn’t scream, “Please come and bet me.” There are seven races starting at 1 p.m. There are three turf races. Two of the races have five horses and two have six. The feature is the third, a 5 ½ furlong maiden special for 4-year-olds and up. It’s on the turf with a purse of $55,000.

We’ll dispense with this quickly. Silenced is the 2-1 favorite in the feature for trainer Peter Eurton and jockey Flavien Prat. He hasn’t won in three races and finished fifth and second in his last two maiden races. He was a $300,000 purchase. The 5-2 second choice is Sky Jumper for Bob Baffert and Drayden Van Dyke. It’s his first start. He was a $200,000 purchase.

Here are the field sizes, in order: 6, 5, 8, 5, 7, 6, 8 (3 also eligible).

Ciaran Thornton’s SA pick of the day

RACE FIVE: No. 5 Brickyard Ride (6-1)

Brickyard Ride won last out under Jorge Velez in October and hit the bench. They move the horse up in class Friday and race it protected. The best of the day sharp works in the last two weeks look great. Highest last race speed this horse tries turf for the first time. Trainer Craig Lewis is 21% with a profit on this move. Jockey Velez is 27% for this trainer, 45% in the money and they have a big ROI when they team up. The 6-1 odds is great value in a wide open race. This is my top choice in this race.

My Full Card is Free to All L.A Times readers today including two other value plays I like a lot. Just head over to my website and click on “Santa Anita Free Plays”.

Sunday’s result: Chickatini tracked second throughout the race and was in great position into the turn before being swallowed up. The horse ran well on turf and next out, hopefully, they run at 5 ½ furlongs. Make a note!

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.

“This is a five-day race week, which started on Thursday and ends with a Martin Luther King Jr. day card on Monday. First post each day is 12:45 p.m. Leg C of the Stronach 5 wager goes as Race 3 at on Friday. Seven 3-year-old fillies go one mile on the Tapeta in a sharp allowance race. The morning-line favorite is No. 4 Paige Anne, a Southern California invader from Simon Callaghan’s barn that comes off a maiden win at Los Alamitos. Leading Golden Gate jockey Juan Hernandez has the call.

“Also entered is impressive maiden winner Mila’s Dream, a debut victor for the Ari Herbertson. Mila’s Dream was purchased out of last year’s Tattersalls auction in Ireland and is a daughter of Canford Cliff out of the Danehill mare St Roch. Reiwa, who ran second at this condition last month for leading trainer Jonathan Wong, and undefeated Mollie O’ McEvoy also seem to fit the bill as potential players.

“A number of Northern California contenders journey south for the California Cup Day card at Santa Anita Park this Saturday. In the Donald Valpredo California Cup Sprint, trainer Blaine Wright saddles Oakland Stakes winner Baja Sur, who earned a triple digit Beyer speed figure in his last start. Juan Hernandez rides and has three other mounts on the card: Indian Peak in the California Derby and Pike Place Dancer Stakes winner Wise Rachel in the California Oaks for trainer Quinn Howey, and Clem Labine in a California-bred allowance for trainer Andy Mathis.

“Two other runners enter the California Derby for 3-year-olds on dirt: Golden Nugget and Gold Rush Stakes winner Bettor Trip Nick tries dirt for the first time under the care of trainer Bill Delia and jockey Catalino Martinez while Gold Rush Stakes runner up finisher Sacred Rider races for well-respected horseman Steve Specht in the ‘Derby. Reina Gonzalez trains 3-year-old filly, Smokin Hot Bobbie, in the California Oaks on turf one race later, and Andy Mathis saddles a separate ‘Oaks contender in Midnight Sunrise.

“An allowance race on Sunday afternoon looks like a key local prep for the $100,000 El Camino Real Derby on Feb. 15. Among the leading contenders are Southern California shipper The Stiff (trained by Michael McCarthy) and runner up allowance finisher Final Final (Bill McLean) Another major player in the race, Ajourneytofreedom, is the half sibling to last year’s El Camino Real Derby winner Anothertwistafate and runs for the same connections in this spot. His last start resulted in a maiden special weight win routing. The El Camino Real Derby is 1 1/8 miles with two enticing incentives. The winner receives 10 Kentucky Derby points and a free, all-expenses paid berth into the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico on the third Saturday in May.

“We’ll end with my Friday Daymaker. This play comes in the nightcap on Friday: a full field of 12 is sprinting six furlongs for a maiden $25,000 claiming condition. My top pick is first time starter Mister McClean, by the brilliantly fast Maclean’s Music and out of multiple sprint winning dam Oak Flat. The only winning sibling to Mister McClean was a sprinter as well. Mister McClean has top human connections on his side in the form of trainer Tim McCanna and jockey Frank Alvarado, known as a solid jockey/trainer combo over the years, and sits at 5-1 on the morning line.”

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.

“Los Alamitos Race Course will feature a new earlier post time on Fridays effective now. It’s 5 p.m. tonight but will generally be between 30 to 40 minutes after the final daytime thoroughbred race in Southern California. The early Pick Four will always start with the first race, while the late Pick Four will be the final four races.

“Los Alamitos had an early post time for the opening Friday program of this meet and it resulted in the highest handle for a Friday card so far this season. Tonight’s card will be highlighted by a strong group of nine older horses racing in the Cypress Handicap at 350 yards. Multiple Grade 2 stakes winner One Proud Eagle and multiple stakes winners Jess A Cowboy and Tac Me Up are also entered. Eight of the nine horses have won at least one stakes race.

“The American Quarter Horse Association announced its 2019 racing champions on Wednesday. Ed Allred’s homebred He Looks Hot was voted World Champion Racing American Quarter Horse, which is the equivalent of Horse of the Year, on the strength of wins in the Grade 1 Champion of Champions, Restricted Grade 1 Spencer Childers Championship and Moonist Handicap. He also earned the title of champion aged horse and champion aged gelding after five wins in 10 starts and $420,036 in earnings.

“Other California-based horses honored were Grade 1 Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity winner Cartel Jess Rockin as champion 2-year-old filly, Grade 1 Los Alamitos Super Derby winner Flash And Roll as champion 3-year-old filly and Grade 1 Mildred Vesses Memorial Handicap runner-up As And Js as champion aged mare.

“Earning his first champion breeder title is Dr. Steve D. Burns of Menifee, California, who topped the breeder category with earnings of $3,241,760 and an 18% win rate. On the strength of their Grade 1 siblings Runforyourlife and Powerful Favorite, Rosenthal Ranch is the champion owner, with earnings of $1,064,854 and a 38% win rate. The trainer of Rosenthal Ranch’s Grade 1 horses is Christopher G. O’Dell, who earns his first nod as the Blane Schvaneveldt champion trainer, with earnings of $2,105,020. He also saddled Thermonuclear Energy to victory in the Grade 1 Charger Bar Handicap and Jest Famous to the Grade 3 Town Policy Handicap along with being the leading quarter-horse trainer at Los Alamitos. The champion jockey is James A. Flores, who topped all riders with an outstanding year and $4,068,492 in earnings. The complete list of AQHA champions is available at

Ron Hartley’s Cartel Jess Rockin and Grade 1 Golden State Million Futurity winner Runforyourlife are among the 31 top sophomores racing in Saturday’s trials to the Grade 1, $190,550 Los Alamitos Winter Derby. Cartel Jess Rockin and Runforyourlife will meet in the second of four trials over 400 yards. For both Cartel Jess Rockin and Runforyourlife, this will be their first outings since the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity on Dec. 15 won by the champion filly at 20-1 odds. Runforyourlife had a troubled trip and finished seventh, but should be tough to beat in his return start.

“The first Winter Derby trial will feature Circle City, who put together a terrific three-race win streak before running second by a whisker to Runforyourlife in the Golden State Million final. Sass Go Blue, the winner of the Grade 2 PCQHRA Breeders Futurity, will take on Robert Adair Kindergarten Futurity runner-up Mental Error in the third trial. The final trial will include a pair of Los Alamitos Two Million finalists in Nomadic and Up And Coming. The horses with the 10 fastest times will advance to the Winter Derby final to be held on Feb. 8. First post for Saturday’s eight-race program is 6 p.m.

“World Champion He Looks Hot is one of 19 that will compete in Sunday’s Winter Championship trials. He’ll be in action in the second of the three trials at 400 yards. Other top names are Hotstepper, third in the Champion of Champion and the 2018 champion 3-year-old, Grade 1 Vessels Maturity winner Katies Easy Moves, Grade 1 Los Alamitos Winter Derby winner Powerful Favorite, and 2019 All American Derby runner-up Jess Macho Corona.”

Chris Wade’s LA pick of the day

RACE EIGHT: No. 4 CM Boom Shakalaka (8-1)

In a solid field of older horses going in the Cypress Handicap, here’s a horse that provides a nice price from the up and coming barn of trainer Luke Lindsey. A stakes winner at Los Alamitos, CM Boom Shakalaka enters this race after a troubled outing 33 nights ago in which the 5-year-old bobbled and was crossed by quicker rivals that were exiting a 110-yard speed sharpening event. After the slow start, this runner angled out for a clear path past the gap and he finished strongly late for a quality third place finish on his own followed by a solid gallop out past the wire. If he can break with the leaders, CM Boom Shakalaka has a chance to add another local stakes win to his name at a nice price.

A final thought

I love getting new readers of this newsletter, and you certainly can’t beat the price. If you like it, tell someone. If you don’t like it, you’re probably not reading this.

Either way, send this along to a friend, and just have them click here to sign up. Remember, it’s free, and all we need is your email address, nothing more.

Any thoughts, you can reach me at You can also feed my ego by following me on Twitter @jcherwa.

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

Santa Anita Entries for Friday, January 17.

Santa Anita, Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, California. 10th day of a 60-day meet.


1 Mile. Purse: $18,000. Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 4 year olds and up. Claiming Price $12,500.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Discrete Stevie BJuan Ochoa124Marcelo Polanco15-112,500
2Laker JetJorge Velez119Robert A. Bean8-112,500
3ZillindaTiago Pereira124Bruce Headley3-112,500
4Shanghai BarbieRuben Fuentes124Neil D. Drysdale3-112,500
5Flying BlueAbel Cedillo124Eoin G. Harty5-212,500
6Reds Sacred AppealEvin Roman124Lisa Bernard2-112,500


1 Mile. Purse: $20,000. Maiden Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 4 year olds and up. Claiming Price $20,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Lily's StormFlavien Prat124Thomas M. Dubaele5-220,000
2Gotta Be LuckyJ.C. Diaz, Jr.119Carla Gaines7-220,000
3Info's TreasureJorge Velez119Ian Kruljac4-120,000
4ManresaBrice Blanc124Thomas Ray Bell, II9-520,000
5ProbableJose Valdivia, Jr.124Matthew Chew4-120,000


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

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Tyrannical RexJ.C. Diaz, Jr.119Jack Carava10-1
2R Matineigh IdolAgapito Delgadillo124Daniel Dunham15-1
3SilencedFlavien Prat124Peter Eurton2-1
4Big Headed BabyAbel Cedillo124Steve Knapp8-1
5OdysseusJorge Velez119Richard E. Mandella6-1
6OnceinabluemoonUmberto Rispoli124Brian J. Koriner8-1
7Sky JumperDrayden Van Dyke124Bob Baffert5-2
8Big CheddarTiago Pereira124Doug F. O'Neill5-1


6 Furlongs. Purse: $23,000. Maiden Claiming. Fillies. 3 year olds. Claiming Price $30,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1It's a RiddleAbel Cedillo122Robert B. Hess, Jr.4-530,000
2Kuda HuraaAndrea Atzeni122George Papaprodromou12-130,000
3La Rosa DriveJ.C. Diaz, Jr.117David E. Hofmans8-530,000
4Queen AryaAgapito Delgadillo122Richard Baltas6-130,000
5Golden MelodieHeriberto Figueroa122Craig Anthony Lewis8-130,000


1 Mile Turf. Purse: $33,000. Starter Optional Claiming. 3 year olds. Claiming Price $40,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Knifes EdgeMario Gutierrez122George Papaprodromou8-1
2LeatherneckHeriberto Figueroa120Jeff Bonde6-1
3Ardenlee StarJ.C. Diaz, Jr.115Michael W. McCarthy3-140,000
4Commander Abel Cedillo120Philip D'Amato5-240,000
5Brickyard RideJorge Velez115Craig Anthony Lewis6-1
6Govenor CinchDrayden Van Dyke122Tim Yakteen5-140,000
7Fly the SkyUmberto Rispoli122Steven Miyadi4-1


7 Furlongs. Purse: $22,000. Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 4 year olds and up. Claiming Price $12,500.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Beau RocketRafael Bejarano122Mark Glatt9-212,500
2Desert SmokeAbel Cedillo122Jonathan Wong2-112,500
3Bragging RightsAssael Espinoza122Edwin Alvarez12-112,500
4ConformationMario Gutierrez124Ben D. A. Cecil3-112,500
5Majestic DivaTiago Pereira122David Bernstein5-112,500
6RattleRuben Fuentes124Reed Saldana5-212,500


5½ Furlongs Turf. Purse: $25,000. Claiming. 4 year olds and up. Claiming Price $25,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1HarlissJorge Velez119Val Brinkerhoff10-125,000
2Mike OperatorRafael Bejarano124Victor L. Garcia8-125,000
3Lucky RomanoRuben Fuentes124Rafael DeLeon6-125,000
4ReedleyEdwin Maldonado124Reed Saldana9-225,000
5ExultationFlavien Prat124Peter Eurton8-5
6RineshaftJ.C. Diaz, Jr.119Hector O. Palma6-125,000
7Suances SecretEvin Roman124Santos R. Perez20-125,000
8Cunning MunningsAbel Cedillo124Mark Glatt4-125,000
Also Eligible
9Soul BeamRafael Bejarano124Jorge Periban6-125,000
10You Must ChillMario Gutierrez124George Papaprodromou4-125,000
11MoonoverthebayouUmberto Rispoli124Robert B. Hess, Jr.5-125,000