Horse racing newsletter: Kentucky Derby rankings are here


Hello, my name is John Cherwa, and welcome back to our horse racing newsletter as we get ready for Sunday’s San Vicente Stakes and the Storm the Court-Nadal showdown.

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

“Tiz time for a new No. 1.

“In light of Tiz the Law’s dominant three-length victory in last Saturday’s Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park, he takes a giant leap from No. 7 to the top spot on my Kentucky Derby Top 10 this week.

“Tiz the Law proved a punctual 13-10 favorite in the Holy Bull while making his first start as a 3-year-old. He regained his winning ways after finishing a troubled third as a 3-5 favorite on a wet track in Churchill Downs’ Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes in his final start as a 2-year-old. The Constitution colt now has won three of four lifetime starts.


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Barclay Tagg trains New York-bred Tiz the Law for Sackatoga Stable. Tagg and Sackatoga collaborated to win the 2003 Kentucky Derby with New York-bred Funny Cide.

“Tagg told Daily Racing Form’s Mike Welsch that both the Louisiana Derby and Florida Derby ‘are in play’ for Tiz the Law’s next start, with the trainer adding that he ‘probably is leaning towards the Florida Derby.’

“The Louisiana Derby will be run at 1 3/16 miles on March 21 at Fair Grounds Race Course in New Orleans on March 21. The Florida Derby will be contested at 1 1/8 miles at Gulfstream on March 28.

“Moving up to No. 2 on this week’s Kentucky Derby rankings after being No. 5 last week is Thousand Words. The $1 million yearling is three for three after winning last Saturday’s Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita in his 3-year-old debut. A Pioneerof the Nile colt trained by Bob Baffert, Thousand Words won the Los Alamitos Futurity in his final start as a 2-year-old.

“Baffert has won the Kentucky Derby five times and the Triple Crown twice. He trained Pioneerof the Nile, who won the Lewis 10 years ago. Pioneerof the Nile went on to sire 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, a superstar trained by, yes, Bob Baffert.

“According to Baffert, he might have Thousand Words join two-for-two Authentic in Santa Anita’s San Felipe Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on March 7.

“Authentic won Santa Anita’s Sham Stakes by nearly eight lengths on Jan. 4 for Baffert. ‘We don’t know how good he is,’ Baffert said Tuesday when discussing Authentic on Steve Byk’s SiriusXM radio program At the Races. Authentic, who zigzagged during the final furlong of the Sham when racing greenly, ran straight as a string down the lane Wednesday at Santa Anita when he worked five furlongs in 1:01.20.


“Storm the Court, who is No. 3 this week after being No. 1 last week, makes his first 2020 start Sunday against five opponents in Santa Anita’s San Vicente Stakes at seven furlongs. The Court Vision colt, trained by Peter Eurton, has not raced since his shocking Breeders’ Cup Juvenile win at odds of 45-1 last Nov. 1 at Santa Anita. Storm the Court was voted a 2019 Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old male.

“There are no races shorter than one mile offering points toward the $3 million Kentucky Derby. Consequently, beginning a 3-year-old campaign in a race at seven furlongs or shorter is not done very often these days due to trainers usually opting instead for races at one mile or longer that do offer Kentucky Derby points.

“Storm the Court is better able to make his first start as a 3-year-old in a seven-furlong race than most horses because he already has accumulated 22 Kentucky Derby points. That puts him in a tie with Tiz the Law for the most points at this time.

“Nyquist, who like Storm the Court was an Eclipse Award-winning 2-year-old male, kicked off his 3-year-old campaign in 2016 with a victory in the San Vicente. Exaggerator finished second. Nyquist and Exaggerator went on to finish first and second in the Kentucky Derby.

“Justify, in 2018, won a seven-furlong maiden race on Feb. 18 at Santa Anita when making his first career start. He would go on to win the Kentucky Derby and sweep the Triple Crown for Baffert.

“BloodHorse’s Steve Haskin has pointed out that many Kentucky Derby winners in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s made their first start as a 3-year-old in a race at seven furlongs or shorter. Those to do so were Chateaugay (the 1963 Kentucky Derby winner), Northern Dancer (1964), Majestic Prince (1969), Riva Ridge (1972), Little Current (1974), Secretariat (1973), Foolish Pleasure (1975), Bold Forbes (1976), Seattle Slew (1977), Affirmed (1978), Spectacular Bid (1979), Swale (1984), Spend a Buck (1985) and Sunday Silence (1989).


“Also entered in the San Vicente is the highly regarded Nadal, an impressive 3 3/4-length winner in a 6 1/2-furlong maiden race when unveiled at Santa Anita on Jan. 19. The Blame colt had a sharp workout Tuesday at Santa Anita, four furlongs in 47.80 seconds.

“Dennis’ Moment is targeting a 1 1/16-mile race on Feb. 29, Gulfstream’s Fountain of Youth Stakes, for his initial 2020 start. The Tiznow colt zipped five furlongs in a 58.47 second workout at Gulfstream last Sunday. In his final start as a 2-year-old, Dennis’ Moment finished eighth after stumbling badly at the start as the 9-10 favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

Dale Romans trains Dennis’ Moment. Albaugh Family Stables is the owner of Dennis’ Moment in addition to being co-owner with Spendthrift Farm of Thousand Words.

“The lone race this week offering Kentucky Derby points is the Sam F. Davis Stakes. The 1 1/16-mile affair, which will be contested Saturday at Tampa Bay Downs, has 17 Kentucky Derby points up for grabs to the first four finishers on a scale of 10-4-2-1.

“Undefeated Independence Hall is the 6-5 morning-line favorite in the Davis, which has attracted a field of eight. Ranked No. 9 on my Top 10, the Constitution colt is three for three. Trained by Michael Trombetta, Independence Hall won the Nashua Stakes by a little more than 12 lengths at Aqueduct last Nov. 3, then took the Jerome Stakes by four lengths on a wet track at the Big A on New Year’s Day.

“Untitled drops off my Top 10 this week following his loss as a 7-5 favorite in last Saturday’s seven-furlong Swale Stakes at Gulfstream. He got bumped around early and finished fourth, 7 1/4 lengths behind the victorious Mischevious Alex.


John Servis, who won the 2004 Kentucky Derby with Smarty Jones, trains Mischevious Alex. However, it does not appear the Kentucky Derby is in the cards for Mischevious Alex even though he drew off during the stretch run of the Swale. Servis indicated he intends to keep him racing around one turn rather than head down the Kentucky Derby trail. ‘Is he a mile-and-a-quarter horse? I don’t think so,’ Servis said after the Swale. Mischevious Alex, who now has won two stakes races by nearly 10 and seven lengths since having blinkers added to his equipment, probably will run next in Aqueduct’s one-mile Gotham Stakes on March 7, according to Servis.

“The defection of Untitled from my Top 10 this week opened the door for Anneau d’Or to slide into the No. 10 spot. Trained by Blaine Wright, the Medaglia d’Oro colt is scheduled to make his first 2020 start in the 1 1/8-mile Risen Star Stakes in New Orleans on Feb. 15. That most likely would be followed by the Santa Anita Derby at the same distance on April 4. Anneau d’Or last year finished a close second in both the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and Los Alamitos Futurity.

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

1. Tiz the Law (7)

2. Thousand Words (5)

3. Storm the Court (1)

4. Dennis’ Moment (2)

5. Nadal (3)

6. Honor A.P. (4)

7. Authentic (8)

8. Maxfield (6)

9. Independence Hall (9)

10. Anneau d’Or (NR)

NOTE: Last week’s rankings in parentheses”

Santa Anita preview

It’s a seven-race card starting at 1 p.m. Four of the races are on the furf. The feature is the $75,000 Baffle Stakes, whch didn’t fill on Sunday, which is back with seven starters. Don’t know if it was a better fit for some of the horses or trainers Doug O’Neill and Peter Miller were doing the track a solid, but they have three and two horses in the race. It’s a 5 ½ furlong turf race for 3-year-olds.

The favorite is Billy Batts at 8-5 for Miller and jockey Umberto Rispoli. He’s been running in pretty heavy company. He was second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, third in the Zuma Beach and second in the Del Mar Juvenile Turf. He has one win in seven starts with three seconds and one third.

Miller has the second favorite in Bulletproof One at 2-1. She is a filly and was supplemented into the race. She has won three-of-seven races and has mostly been running in black type Cal-bred stakes races. Post time is around 3 p.m.

Here are the field sizes, in order: 8 (3 also eligible), 5, 7, 6, 7, 7, 9.

Ciaran Thornton’s SA pick of the day

RACE SIX: No. 3 Uno Dancer (8-1)

Uno Dancer makes the first start since April of last year at Laurel Park for trainer Paddy Gallagher. This horse is owned by Stronach Stables. The horse has as much back speed and class as the lower priced horses in the race and is giving us 8-1. We have some nice workouts for the comeback and the horse races protected today. Uno was first or second in four of his last five races.


Sunday’s result: An Eddie Surprise was bet down to 8-1 and tracked nicely in third throughout the race before making a nice stretch run to finish second. Eddie paid $7.60.

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

Where’s Golden Gate?

No fears, they are back and racing. The personable Matt Dinerman will be back on Saturday with his weekend preview.

Los Alamitos weekend preview

It’s time to 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.

“Los Alamitos Race Course returns after an off week with a new Friday night post time of 6 p.m. for the eight-race program. Friday’s card will kick off a weekend of racing headed by the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Winter Derby on Saturday and the Grade 1 Brad McKinzie Los Alamitos Winter Championship on Sunday. The Winter Championship winner will earn a provisional berth to the 2020 Champion of Champions on Dec. 12. Friday’s program will also have a $6,774 Pick 6 Carryover starting in race three.

“On Saturday night, 10 of the best sophomores will run in the Grade 1, $190,550 Los Alamitos Winter Derby. Leading the way will be You Can Run, a gelding who continues to get better with each start. Trained by Mike Casselman, You Can Run won back-to-back starts last fall before posting a runner-up effort in the $30,000 Los Alamitos Juvenile Invitational on Dec. 15. He returned with an easy victory in his Winter Derby trial, one that could have been even more impressive had he not lugged in during a big portion of the 400-yard dash. He still finished with the fastest time of 19.76 seconds and will be a major force if he can maintain a straight course. Jesus Rios Ayala, the meet’s leading quarter-horse jockey the past three years, will ride the homebred gelding.

“The 2019 AQHA champion 2-year-old filly Cartel Jess Rockin will be the sentimental pick for many, as she was owned by Ron Hartley, who died on Jan. 27. Now racing for Ron’s wife, Jeryl Hartley, the filly posted a 3/4 length win in her trial – an impressive return effort following her scintillating victory at 20-1 odds in the Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity on Dec. 15. The Favorite Cartel filly showed in the trials that her Two Million win was no fluke, as she led from start to finish with the second fastest time of 19.82 seconds.

Ed Allred, the sport’s all-time leading owner and breeder, has yet to win the Los Alamitos Winter Derby in his Hall of Fame career, but that could change on Saturday night. He’ll be represented by a trio of homebred geldings led by the talented full-brothers Nomadic and Circle City. Autumn Handicap winner Just Be Real will complete the Allred trio. All three are trained by Scott Willoughby. Circle City is probably the top choice among this triumvirate after finishing second in the Grade 1 Golden State Million Futurity last year. He also won his Winter Derby trial in the third fastest qualifying time of 19.85 seconds. Sass Go Blue, winner of Grade 1 PCQHRA Breeders Futurity at 28-1, Tell Cartel, second to Sass Go Blue in the Breeders Futurity, are among the other top contenders.


“On Sunday, nine older horses will go in the Grade 1, $159,550 Brad McKinzie Los Alamitos Winter Championship at 400 yards. Now in its 20th running, the Winter Championship will feature a nice mix of familiar stars and fresh faces squaring off for a chance at a starting berth in the Champion of Champions. Powerful Favorite and Jess My Kiss will get top billing in this race as they’ll each look to sweep the Winter Stakes Series. Powerful Favorite won the (G1) Winter Derby in 2019, while Jess My Kiss was the winner of the (G1) Winter Derby in 2018. Whosleavingwho and A Stoli Mare are the only horses to have won both the Winter Derby and Winter Championship since the event’s inception in 2001.

“Ridden by Eduardo Nicasio for AQHA champion trainer Chris O’Dell, Powerful Favorite had a monster season in 2019. He won seven of eight starts with the Winter Derby being his first of three derby victories last year. After winning the Winter Derby, Powerful Favorite won the Grade 3 El Primero Del Ano Derby and the Governor’s Cup Derby. In his only loss of 2019, he finished a nose behind millionaire and three-time AQHA champion Flash And Roll in the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Super Derby. Powerful Favorite will start from post 10.

Mark McKinzie, brother of the late Brad McKinzie, will present the trophy to the winning connections. Brad McKinzie was a 30-year executive at Los Alamitos Race Course, a co-founder of the Finish Line Self Insurance Group, and one of the driving forces to bring daytime Southern California Thoroughbred racing back to Los Alamitos. He died August 6, 2016 from kidney cancer. He was 62.”

Chris Wade’s LA pick of the day

RACE EIGHT: No. 1 Monarch (6-1)

He exits a better than looked fourth against tougher rivals 13 nights ago while earning a very competitive number for this event when factoring in trouble and track variant. Gelding was fractious prior to breaking slow and being crossed by eventual winner in that outing. He did finish fairly well to light the board and had a solid gallop out through the clubhouse turn. He’s drawn up against a slow-into-stride runner tonight, which could help him find a clear running lane. Will benefit from a top jockey/trainer combo that wins at a 21% clip.

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

Santa Anita Entries for Friday, February 7.

Santa Anita, Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, California. 21st day of a 60-day meet.


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

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1World O LuckAgapito Delgadillo122Mike Puype10-1
2Equipo AEfrain Hernandez122Lorenzo Ruiz10-1
3Austin's BoyUmberto Rispoli122J. Eric Kruljac3-1
4Blue BlitzAaron Gryder122Mike Harrington4-1
5Zero DownMario Gutierrez122Doug F. O'Neill5-2
6SqualotoroJose Valdivia, Jr.122Mike Puype8-1
7Perfect AffectionAbel Cedillo122Philip D'Amato7-2
8King ArthurJuan Ochoa122Marcelo Polanco20-1
Also Eligible
9Sierra MelodyEvin Roman122Marcia Stortz8-1
10Mr. ClutchFlavien Prat122Jorge Gutierrez5-1
11Hammering LemonMario Gutierrez122Doug F. O'Neill5-1


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

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Friendly SteveAgapito Delgadillo124Blake R. Heap3-112,500
2Brazilian SummerJose Valdivia, Jr.124Matthew Chew3-112,500
3Canadian GameRuben Fuentes124Andrew Lerner8-512,500
4Indy JonesJorge Velez119Val Brinkerhoff4-112,500
5NorskiEswan Flores124Hector O. Palma9-212,500


5½ Furlongs Turf. Purse: $57,000. Allowance Optional Claiming. Fillies. 3 year olds. Claiming Price $50,000. State bred.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Slewbury ParkJ.C. Diaz, Jr.115Edward R. Freeman15-150,000
2HomehomeMario Gutierrez122Doug F. O'Neill4-1
3Florentine DiamondAgapito Delgadillo122Paula S. Capestro9-2
4Win OftenAssael Espinoza120Dean Pederson5-2
5Smiling to ExcessTiago Pereira120Paul G. Aguirre4-1
6Smiling ShirleeUmberto Rispoli122Jeff Bonde2-1
7For My BrotherBrice Blanc120Juan Carlos Lopez30-1


1 Mile. Purse: $20,000. Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 4 year olds and up. Claiming Price $10,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1All Tea All ShadeVictor Flores115Jorge Periban12-110,000
2Semi SweetEswan Flores124Manuel Ortiz, Sr.5-110,000
3Tiki Bar LogicAgapito Delgadillo122William Spawr5-210,000
4Desert SmokeAbel Cedillo122Jonathan Wong9-510,000
5ConformationMario Gutierrez124Ben D. A. Cecil3-110,000
6Discrete Stevie BJuan Ochoa124Marcelo Polanco5-110,000


5½ Furlongs Turf. Purse: $75,000. 'Baffle Stakes'. 3 year olds.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1RagerDrayden Van Dyke120Andrew Lerner5-1
2Rookie MistakeMario Gutierrez120Doug F. O'Neill4-1
3Bulletproof OneAbel Cedillo119Peter Miller2-1
4Billy BattsUmberto Rispoli120Peter Miller8-5
5Phast PharoahFlavien Prat120Jeff Bonde5-2
6Big ReturnsRuben Fuentes124Doug F. O'Neill12-1
7Air Force Jet Rafael Bejarano122Doug F. O'Neill6-1


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

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Royal InsiderTiago Pereira122Steve Knapp4-1
2SynthesisRafael Bejarano124George Papaprodromou12-1
3Uno DancerJose Valdivia, Jr.124Patrick Gallagher8-1
4Seven ScentsJorge Velez119Craig Anthony Lewis7-240,000
5KylemoreGeovanni Franco124Gary Stute6-1
6Mongolian HeroAssael Espinoza122Enebish Ganbat4-1
7LambeauVictor Espinoza124John A. Shirreffs2-1


1 Mile Turf. Purse: $36,000. Maiden Claiming. Fillies. 3 year olds. Claiming Price $75,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Violent SpeedRafael Bejarano122Doug F. O'Neill15-175,000
2Flamigo Bay Abel Cedillo122Anna Meah12-175,000
3Wine At SunsetMike Smith122J. Eric Kruljac10-175,000
4Cosmic CowgirlUmberto Rispoli122Richard Baltas3-175,000
5I Give UpTiago Pereira122Hector O. Palma5-175,000
6Lucia's DesignJorge Velez117Craig Anthony Lewis4-175,000
7Turkish AngelJose Valdivia, Jr.122J. Keith Desormeaux15-175,000
8Olive You MoreVictor Espinoza122Michael W. McCarthy8-175,000
9Going to VegasFlavien Prat122Peter Miller5-275,000