Horse racing newsletter: Jon White’s Kentucky Derby rankings are here


Hello, my name is John Cherwa, and welcome back to our horse racing newsletter as we get ready for a pretty quiet week when it comes to the road to the Kentucky Derby.

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

“I wrote last week that one wondered if some equine trash talking might be going on between three undefeated 3-year-old colt’s--Nadal, Thousand Words and Authentic--at Bob Baffert’s Santa Anita barn. Could it be that before Charlatan raced for the first time, he chimed in with some trash talking of his own? ‘Hey you guys,’ Charlatan might have said. ‘You guys think you’re hot stuff? Just wait until you see what I do when I run Sunday. I’m gonna make a lot of people think I’m another Justify!’

“If Charlatan had said something like that, he would have proved he’s a good prognosticator. He scorched a slower-than-it-used-to-be Santa Anita main track when he set a fast early pace (:21.89, :44.72) and drew away in the stretch, while just cruising, to win a six-furlong maiden race by 5 3/4 lengths. His final time was a praiseworthy 1:08.85.


“Charlatan’s debut win on Feb. 16 did indeed remind many of Justify’s scintillating performance when he kicked off his racing career for Baffert two years ago at Santa Anita on Feb. 18. Justify likewise set a fast early pace (:21.80, :44.37) before drawing away in the stretch to win at first asking by 9 1/2 lengths. He completed seven furlongs in an excellent 1:21.86. Charlatan’s final time of 1:08.85 was faster than Justify’s interior six-furlong clocking of 1:09.07.

“Justify would go on to win the Santa Anita Derby and sweep the Triple Crown before being retired to stud. Never beaten in an abbreviated racing career of six starts, Justify became the 13th Triple Crown winner. Justify and Seattle Slew are the only two to have achieved a Triple Crown sweep while undefeated.

“Charlatan debuts on my Kentucky Derby Top 10 this week at No. 7. The Kentucky-bred Speightstown colt joins fellow Baffert-trained 3-year-olds Nadal (No. 2), Thousand Words (No. 3) and Authentic (No. 6) on the list.

“As if that’s not enough sophomore power at the Baffert barn, the Hall of Fame trainer won last Saturday’s 1 1/8-mile El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields with Azul Coast. Despite racing wide, Azul Coast prevailed by 1 1/4 lengths in 1:51.58 on a synthetic surface. He collected 10 points toward a berth in the new 20-stall Kentucky Derby starting gate on May 2.

“A Kentucky-bred son of 2010 Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver, Azul Coast now has won two of three career starts. In his only loss, Azul Coast finished second to Authentic in Santa Anita’s Sham Stakes on Jan. 4.

“By the way, I thought Indian Peak gave a good account of himself to finish third in the El Camino Real Derby for trainer Quinn Howey. Indian Peak lost by just 1 3/4 lengths despite having to be checked off heels in heavy traffic on the clubouse turn, as pointed out by track announcer Matt Dinerman during his call of the race. The official Equibase chart says that Indian Peak ‘was rank on the first turn in traffic,’ but the chart makes no mention of the colt having to be checked. Indian Peak did not become rank until jockey Juan Herndandez hit the breaks to avoid clipping heels. Indian Peak, I believe, is a horse to watch for whenever he makes his next start.


“In yet another positive development at the Baffert barn, Eight Rings popped back up on the work tab on Feb. 13. He stepped four furlongs in a brisk :47.20 at Santa Anita in his first recorded workout of 2020. The Kentucky-bred Empire Maker colt has not raced since he finished sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile won by Storm the Court at Santa Anita last Nov. 1. He won Santa Anita’s American Pharoah Stakes by six lengths on Sept. 27, a race in which Storm the Court finished third.

“The El Camino Real Derby was not the only race last week offering points toward this year’s $3 million Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs. Mr. Monomoy and Modernist each earned 50 points for winning their respective divisions of the 1 1/8-mile Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds. Mr. Monomoy won his division by 2 1/2 lengths in 1:50.43. Modernist took his division by one length in 1:51.28.

“The Risen Star was Mr. Monomoy’s second win in five career starts. Trained by Brad Cox, the Kentucky-bred Palace Malice colt is a half-brother to Monomoy Girl. Palace Malice won the 2013 Belmont Stakes. Monomoy Girl was voted a 2018 Eclipse Award as champion 3-year-old filly.

“Hall of Famer Bill Mott trains Modernist, who now has put together back-to-back victories after losing his initial two career starts. Modernist’s sire, Uncle Mo, was voted a 2010 Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old male. Uncle Mo is a son of the Baffert-trained Indian Charlie, who finished third as the favorite in the 1998 Kentucky Derby won by the Baffert-trained Real Quiet. Modernist’s maternal grandsire, Bernardini, was voted a 2006 Eclipse Award as champion 3-year-old male.

“Anneau d’Or, trained by Blaine Wright, disappointed his many backers when he finished ninth as the even-money favorite in the Risen Star division won by Modernist.

“Racing with blinkers for the first time, Anneau d’Or was bounced around early. But any way you slice it, his 2020 debut was a bust. Anneau d’Or drops off my Top 10 this week after being No. 10 last week. ‘We are going to put the Risen Star behind us and move forward,’ Wright said. ‘I haven’t a clue why he didn’t run well.’ According to Wright, the plan is for Anneau d’Or to return home to Golden Gate, then ‘regroup and point to the Santa Anita Derby’ on April 4. Anneau d’Or finished a close second last year in both the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and Los Alamitos Futurity.


“Monday’s 1 1/16-mile Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park also had Kentucky Derby points up for grabs. Silver Prospector, who very nearly made my Top 10 this week, won the Southwest by one length in 1:43.01.

“Trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, Silver Prospector picked up 10 Kentucky Derby points via his Southwest victory. The Kentucky-bred Declaration of War colt captured the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes on a wet track at Churchill Downs last year. The Southwest was his third win in eight career starts.

“Maxfield was on the brink of exiting my Top 10 this week, but he was not dropped off the list after he finally had his first recorded workout of the year Monday in Florida. The Kentucky-bred son of 2007 Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense worked three furlongs in :38.20 at Palm Meadows for trainer Brendan Walsh.

“TVG’s Caton Bredar asked Walsh last Saturday if the Kentucky Derby is still in play for Maxfield. ‘I wouldn’t count him out of anything right now,’ Walsh said. ‘Obviously, the clock is ticking. But let’s see how his works go. He kind of did more than we expected of him last year, and that’s what he tends to do. So I wouldn’t write him off of anything right now.’

“Maxfield won last year’s Breeders’ Futurity by 5 1/2 lengths at Keeneland on Oct. 5. He was sent to California for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on Nov. 1, but was withdrawn when all was not well. He then underwent surgery on Nov. 18 in Kentucky to remove what was reported to be ‘a mildly displaced chip from an ankle.’

“Something to keep in mind is Gouverneur Morris and Enforceable were among the vanquished when Maxifield won the Breeders’ Futurity in a tour de force.

“In Gouverneur Morris’ victorious 2020 debut on Feb. 14 at Tampa Bay Downs, he ran one mile and 40 yards in 1:38.88 to just barely miss the track record by .02 seconds. Todd Pletcher trains the Kentucky-bred Constitution colt.

“Enforceable, conditioned by Mark Casse, won Fair Grounds’ Lecomte Stakes on Jan. 18. The Kentucky-bred Tapit colt subsequently ran second to Mr. Monomoy in a division of the Risen Star at that New Orleans track last weekend.


“There are no races this week offering Kentucky Derby points.

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

1. Tiz the Law (1)

2. Nadal (2)

3. Thousand Words (3)

4. Dennis’ Moment (4)

5. Honor A.P. (5)

6. Authentic (6)

7. Charlatan (NR)

8. Maxfield (8)

9. Sole Volante (7)

10. Storm the Court (9)

NOTE: Last week’s rankings in parentheses”

Santa Anita preview

Santa Anita, with a few days off after Presidents Day, returns with a Friday card of eight races starting at 1 p.m. Three of the races are on the turf and half the card are races written for fillies and mares 4 and up. Now, I view a starter allowance race as essentially a claiming race in which a horse can’t be claimed. If you buy into that theory, then seven of the eight races are claimers. When was the last time you’ve seen that at Santa Anita?

So, by default, the feature is the fifth, a maiden special for horses 4 and up, going a mile for $55,000. There is a field of seven. The favorite, at 9-5, is Muralist for trainer Dan Blacker and jockey Joel Rosario. Muralist is winless in four ties with two seconds, a fourth and a fifth. This gelding, which likely tells you he has been below expectations unless there was a medical issue, was a $210,000 purchase.

The second favorite is Paint Me Lucky at 2-1. This gelding (see previous) runs for Bob Baffert and Flavien Prat. He is winless in five tries and hasn’t run since Nov. 29 at Del Mar. He was a $250,000 purchase.

Here are the field sizes, in order: 7, 5, 8, 7, 7, 6, 5, 10 (2 also eligible).

Ciaran Thornton’s SA pick of the day

RACE TWO: No. 1 Remember to Smile (8-1)

Remember to Smile won by six lengths last out on dirt going six furlongs. The horse ran fourth in the lone try on turf at this distance in October. Trainer Jeff Bonde is 16% maiden winner last race and 43% in the money for a profit. This race has been run nine times with horses over 5-1 winning five times. 8-1 is excellent value in this short field with the top two choices likely to get overbet. Both of those horses do not like to win--let us go with the horse that won last out and races protected Friday.

Sunday’s result: D’s Lovely Sophia ran second for half a race and then faded into the turn to run last.

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. We’re delighted to have race caller and all-around good guy Matt Dinerman as our host for previews and other musings. Matt wasn’t with us last week because of a gas problem. No, not Matt, but Golden Gate. So, take it away, Matt.


“Live racing resumes this week at Golden Gate Fields with a three-day race week. Heading into Friday’s card, we have a Golden Pick Six jackpot carryover of just over $106,000. Leg C of the Stronach 5 wager on Friday goes as the third race, a claiming sprint, which coincidentally is also the first leg of the Golden Pick Six jackpot wager. My top pick, No. 3 Aalsmeer, comes off a better than looked third-place finish behind a next out winner and gets the services of Hall of Famer Kent Desormeaux. Other major players include class droppers No. 1 Going Away Party (the morning-line favorite), No. 5 Mirror Image and No. 6 King Eddie.

“The feature race on Saturday is the ninth, a field of 11 filly and mare allowance sprinters going six furlongs. My top pick, No. 7 Morning Cynn, is a trip play. She showed a new dimension when stalking the pace last time out and wound up fourth. She was behind horses throughout the stretch and never got a chance to fully stride out. I feel she could have won with a better trip. We’re hopeful she will receive a traffic-free journey this time. We were also encouraged to see that she was able to relax nicely off the leaders in her last start and is not a ‘need the lead’ type. The rival to beat is Princess Vivien, last seen winning the Bear Fan Stakes for fillies and mares in December. The Sergio Ledezma trainee freshens up after the aforementioned stakes. Although a stake winner, she is still eligible for this first-level allowance given her last win (which was her first against winners) came in a California-bred race.

“A couple updates from last week. Azul Coast, winner of Saturday’s El Camino Real Derby, is back at Bob Baffert’s barn at Santa Anita and will train there in preparation for his next start. Although still undetermined where he will race next, the son of Super Saver received 10 Kentucky Derby points and a free berth into the Preakness Stakes. Baffert will nominate Azul Coast to numerous top graded stakes races for 3-year-olds, but indicated that the Sunland Derby on March 22 or the Rebel at Oaklawn on March 14 are two possibilities.”

Los Alamitos weekend preview

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

“Trainers Oscar Heredia and Jorge Rosales are off to nice starts with their thoroughbreds at Los Alamitos. Heredia has won with five-of-24 starters this meet with 17 in the money. Meanwhile, Rosales has won with four-of-six local starters this year.

“The two will be well represented on Friday as Heredia will saddle five while Rosales will send out three. Eight races are on tap on Friday with first post at 6 p.m. The card has a Pick 6 carryover of $11,151.

“Heredia will have a trio of runners in the first race in recent winners Heat Things Up and Thomas Henry plus the hard-knocking Our Maneki Cat. He’ll also sadde Havasu Hunni in the second and Stay Golden in the third. Rosales will saddle recent runaway winner The Supply Program in the third and multiple local winner Bound To Go in the fourth. He’ll have another strong contender in the fifth in Back Beauty, who won by three two weeks ago.


“On Saturday, For Sweet Jess will go after his second straight victory when he faces a group of speed demons in the 110-yard seventh-race feature. Jesus Rios Ayala will ride for trainer Lindolfo Diaz, For Sweet Jess is coming off a solid half-length victory over the stakes runner Golden Boy Gonza for $30,000 claimers at 330 yards. For Sweet Jess returns for a $20,000 claiming tag, while cutting back in distance to face the always sharp-breaking runner Whiskeys Quicker.

“The Arizona-bred For Sweet Jess has hit the board in all three of his Los Alamitos starts, including a runner-up finish to the red-hot Jimbosecrets. Prior to his arrival, the gray son of One Sweet Jess finished second to Kool Odds in the $61,200 Bank of America Emerald Downs Championship Challenge.

“Whiskeys Quicker has gotten the last call in four straight races -- all at 110 yards - including twice here. Simply put, this Arizona mare adores this short distance.

“Recapping last week’s $109,500 Los Alamitos Maiden Stakes, Sass Mo Blue overcame a troubled start and surged late in the 350-yard race. Ridden by Jesus Rios Ayala, Sass Mo Blue quickly recovered to find his stride and then powered his way into contention before outdueling Aint Working by a neck. Trained by Mike Casselman, the homebred gelding covered the distance in :17.547.

“Jimbosecrets continues his steady climb to possible stakes contender. The gelding by No Secrets Here has won his last two starts and has now finished in the top two in five out of his last seven outings. His recent wins have been impressive, particularly his half-length victory last Saturday night when posting the meet’s fastest time of :15.290 at 300 yards. Jimbosecrets drifted in during the race, but winning jockey Oscar Andrade, Jr. explained that he anticipating that type of a move from the 4-year-old.

“’He has a little problem in one of his eyes,’ Andrade said. “He can’t really see too well out of it. He broke in front and saw no company around him so he started to drift down. That was my main thought when he broke in front, just keep him corrected. He finished nicely.’

Mike Robbins, who has saddled three Champion of Champions winners in his career, has been selected for induction into the Texas Horse Racing Hall of Fame. A Texas native, Robbins trained such greats as world champion and all-time leading sire First Down Dash, world champion Special Leader, world champion Sgt Pepper Feature and world champion Dashs Dream. Robbins trained Special Leader, Sgt Pepper Feature and Dashs Dream to victories in the Champion of Champions. Robbins has continued to win major races at Los Alamitos Race Course, saddling Conquering Marie to victory in last year’s Golden State Derby and Big Lew to victory in the 2016 Los Alamitos Super Derby.”

Chris Wade’s LA pick of the day

RACE SIX: No. 4 Hitters Last Swing (6-1)

This gelding lost all chance in his most recent start 13 nights ago when he threw his head at the gate opening to lose multiple lengths and his racing lane. After a difficult start, this runner finished fairly while under wraps during the final half of the race. He’ll add the flipping halter Friday, which should help him leave the gate sharper. I really like him at this 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, the star of the show, Friday’s entries.

Santa Anita Entries for Friday, February 21.

Santa Anita, Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, California. 28th day of a 60-day meet.


1 Mile. Purse: $23,000. Maiden Claiming. Fillies. 3 year olds. Claiming Price $30,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1CircleofcolorGeovanni Franco122John C. Ivory15-130,000
2Turkish AngelJuan Ochoa122Marcelo Polanco5-130,000
3Excess CoilVictor Flores115Robert A. Bean15-130,000
4Vannavanna Bo BanaTiago Pereira122Steve Knapp3-130,000
5Subtle RideJorge Velez117Craig Anthony Lewis7-230,000
6First EmpressUmberto Rispoli122Peter Eurton3-130,000
7Queen AryaAgapito Delgadillo122Richard Baltas5-230,000


5½ Furlongs Turf. Purse: $33,000. Starter Allowance. Fillies and Mares. 4 year olds and up.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Remember to SmileRuben Fuentes124Jeff Bonde8-1
2Roses and CandyDiego Sanchez122Ronald L. McAnally3-1
3Smiling AnnieFlavien Prat122Mark Glatt7-5
4QuerelleJoel Rosario122Peter Miller5-2
5Hot On the TrailAbel Cedillo122Mark Glatt4-1


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

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Queen CarmelitaJorge Velez119Rafael DeLeon7-212,500
2Jabber NowEswan Flores124Gary Stute4-112,500
3Laker JetVictor Flores117Robert A. Bean15-112,500
4EncountressEdgar Payeras124Kelly Castaneda15-112,500
5PurdueEdwin Maldonado124Eddie Truman4-112,500
6PromnesiaAssael Espinoza124Reed Saldana3-112,500
7At the MarginFernandez Rojas124Jairo B. Monascal10-112,500
8Daddy's MelodyAbel Cedillo124Craig Dollase4-112,500


5½ Furlongs. Purse: $24,000. Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 4 year olds and up. Claiming Price $16,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Naughty SophieTiago Pereira122Javier Jose Sierra5-1
2Emmy and IJ.C. Diaz, Jr.124Vann Belvoir3-116,000
3RattleEswan Flores124Jorge Periban12-116,000
4WinsinfashionAgapito Delgadillo122George Papaprodromou20-116,000
5Tiz ToffeeAssael Espinoza124Rosemary Trela3-116,000
6Christy JacksonJorge Velez117Steven Miyadi5-116,000
7Love a HoneybadgerEdwin Maldonado124Brian J. Koriner9-516,000


1 Mile. Purse: $55,000. Maiden Special Weight. 4 year olds and up.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Cardiff CayGeovanni Franco124Don Chatlos10-1
2MuralistJoel Rosario124Dan Blacker9-5
3Paint Me LuckyFlavien Prat124Bob Baffert2-1
4StrugarJorge Velez119Peter Eurton8-1
5Hudson River ParkAbel Cedillo124Clifford W. Sise, Jr.4-1
6Striking a PoseUmberto Rispoli124Mark Glatt12-1
7Mongolian LegendAssael Espinoza124Enebish Ganbat7-2


1 Mile Turf. Purse: $33,000. Starter Allowance. 4 year olds and up.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Good Bye PutinVictor Espinoza122Carla Gaines4-1
2Order and LawJoel Rosario122Vladimir Cerin2-1
3Sea of LibertyJorge Velez119John W. Sadler7-2
4East RandTiago Pereira122Javier Jose Sierra8-1
5Silken PrinceJose Valdivia, Jr.122Matthew Chew6-1
6TakeoBrice Blanc124John A. Shirreffs5-2


6½ Furlongs. Purse: $33,000. Starter Allowance. Fillies and Mares. 4 year olds and up.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1SamandahDavid Mussad112George Papaprodromou15-1
2JaccatFlavien Prat122Leonard Powell5-2
3Tinsel Town QueenEdwin Maldonado124Kristin Mulhall6-1
4TamaraandtheboysAssael Espinoza122Mark Glatt7-2
5Mucho Macho WomanJose Valdivia, Jr.124Ronald W. Ellis4-5


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

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Dude's DreamEvin Roman122Robert B. Hess, Jr.15-175,000
2Dr. HoffmanAssael Espinoza122Mark Glatt20-175,000
3Best ChanceJoel Rosario122John W. Sadler4-175,000
4RailsplitterAbel Cedillo122Doug F. O'Neill4-175,000
5Palace PrinceTiago Pereira122William Spawr5-175,000
6Master RecoveryEswan Flores122Hector O. Palma6-175,000
7ChampersMike Smith122Robert B. Hess, Jr.7-275,000
8Golden SparkleVictor Espinoza122James M. Cassidy15-175,000
9Brother ReidUmberto Rispoli122Vladimir Cerin5-175,000
10NegotiatorBrice Blanc122Gary Mandella20-175,000
Also Eligible
11Canadian PrideEdwin Maldonado122Peter Eurton10-175,000
12Keno'dMario Gutierrez122Doug F. O'Neill5-175,000