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

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Hello, my name is John Cherwa, and welcome back to our horse racing newsletter as we get ready for a big week of racing, but not in California.

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

“The chase for the Kentucky Derby continues Saturday when a dozen 3-year-olds go in the Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park.

“The first four finishers in the 1 1/16-mile Fountain of Youth will earn points on a 50-20-10-5 scale toward a berth in the new 20-stall Kentucky Derby starting gate at Churchill Downs on May 2. This is the only U.S. race offering Kentucky Derby points this week.


“Since the introduction of the points system in 2013, it has taken an average of 26 points to make the field in the 1 ¼-mile race. The five leading point earners currently are Mr. Monomoy (52), Modernist (50), Enforceable (33), Storm the Court (22) and Tiz the Law (22).

“Heading the Fountain of Youth is the highly regarded Dennis’ Moment, who makes his first start since his Breeders’ Cup Juvenile debacle when he stumbled badly at the start and finished eighth as the 9-10 favorite at Santa Anita last Nov. 1.

“Gulfstream oddsmaker Jay Stone has pegged Dennis’ Moment as the 2-1 morning-line favorite. Chance It is 7-2. As Seen On Tv is 9-2. Ete Indien is 8-1. All others are 10-1 or higher.

Dale Romans trains Dennis’ Moment, who sold for $400,000 as a yearling. The colt’s sire is California-bred Tiznow, who was voted Horse of the Year in 2000. Tiznow won the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs as a 3-year-old in 2000, then took that race again at Belmont Park in 2001. He remains the only two-time winner of the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

“Romans talked up Dennis’ Moment even before his first race. When the colt made his first career start last year on June 23, he clipped heels and unseated his jockey, Robby Albarado Jr., in a maiden race at Churchill Downs. Dennis’ Moment then lived up to Romans’ high expectations with a jaw-dropping 19 1/4-length triumph in a seven-furlong maiden race at Ellis Park on July 27.

“The margin of victory was considerably smaller in Dennis’ Moment next out when he made his stakes debut in the 1 1/16-mile Iroquois at Churchill Downs on Sept. 14. He won by 1 3/4 lengths, but the margin is misleading in that he was far from all out that day. Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. did not ask the youngster for any run during the last part of race.

“Because Ortiz will be out of the country Saturday to ride Pegasus World Cup winner Mucho Gusto in the new $20 million Saudi Cup in Saudi Arabia, Dennis’ Moment will have a different person aboard Saturday. Realizing Ortiz would not be able to ride Dennis’ Moment in the Fountain of Youth, jockey agent Derek Lawson lobbied Romans to have Flavien Prat get the mount, and it paid off.

“Jay Privman, of the Daily Racing Form, reported that the plan, according to Romans, is for Dennis’ Moment and Ortiz to be reunited after the Fountain of Youth.


“Dennis’ Moment has had seven recorded workouts at Gulfstream from Jan. 11 to last Sunday while gearing up for the Fountain of Youth. He worked four furlongs in :48.05 last Sunday. Romans gave a thumbs up to the drill. ‘I thought it went perfect,’ he was quoted as saying in the Gulfstream Park barn notes. Romans went on to say he was pleased to see Dennis’ Moment gallop out as strongly as he did.

“Romans acknowledged that he is ‘feeling a lot of pressure’ with Dennis’ Moment. ‘I’m not usually in this situation where I feel pressure,’ Romans said. ‘I usually like being the underdog because there’s not much pressure. With this horse, there’s so much hype with him--well deserved, he’s very talented. I put pressure on myself because of what I think of him. I think he’s ready to roll.’

Saffie Joseph Jr. trains Chance It, who has won four of six career starts. In Chance It’s 2020 debut, he won Gulfstream’s one-mile Mucho Macho Man Stakes by a head on Jan. 4. That performance was flattered when Sole Volante, who finished third in the Mucho Macho Man, subsequently won the Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on Feb. 8.

“Chance It sports a number of excellent workouts in preparation for Saturday’s race. However, the Kentucky-bred Currency Swap colt was unlucky at the draw when he landed post 12. Privman reported Thursday that owing to Chance It drawing post 12, Joseph was ‘pondering whether to run or await another spot if there are no defections by race day.’

“As Seen On Tv ran too good to lose when he finished a close second in the Mucho Macho Man. Trained by Kelly Breen, As Seen On Tv has won two of four lifetime starts. The sire of As Seen On Tv is Lookin At Lucky, who was voted Eclipse Awards as champion 2-year-old male in 2009 and champion 3-year-old male in 2010.

“Ete Indien finished second to Tiz the Law in Gulfstream’s Holy Bull Stakes on Feb. 1. Patrick Biancone trains Ete Indien, a Kentucky-bred Summer Front colt.

“Tiz the Law is No. 1 on my Kentucky Derby rankings. The Fountain of Youth was never in the plans for him. Tiz the Law is scheduled to make his next start in the Florida Derby on March 28, a race offering 100-40-20-10 points toward the Kentucky Derby.

“Privman reported Thursday that Tiz the Law missed a couple of works this month after he had sprung a shoe. ‘He pulled a shoe off,’ Tagg said. ‘Fortunately there was nothing there. It was very minor. He’ll work Sunday or Monday.’ Tiz the Law’s workout Sunday or Monday will take place at the Palm Meadows training center in Florida, where Tagg is based. Tagg won the 2003 Kentucky Derby with Funny Cide.

“Looking ahead, Santa Anita’s San Felipe Stakes, the Tampa Bay Derby at Tampa Bay Downs and Aqueduct’s Gotham Stakes will be March 7. Each of the three races will have Kentucky Derby points doled out to the first four finishers in a 50-20-10-5 fashion.

“Trainer Bob Baffert is expected to run the undefeated colts Thousand Words and Authentic in the 1 1/16-mile San Felipe. Thousand Words is No. 3 on my Kentucky Derby Top 10. Authentic is No. 6.

“Thousand Words, three for three, won the Los Alamitos Futurity as a 2-year-old and Santa Anita’s Robert B. Lewis Stakes on Feb. 1 in his initial start at 3. Authentic, two for two, won Santa Anita’s Sham Stakes by nearly eight lengths on Jan. 4.

“Honor A.P., who is No. 5 on my Kentucky Derby Top 10, is scheduled to make his 2020 debut in the San Felipe. Trained by John Sherriffs, Honor A.P. has not raced since an impressive 5 1/2-length maiden triumph at Santa Anita Oct. 13 in his second career start.

“Storm the Court, who ranks No. 10 on my Top 10, is a possibility for the San Felipe. Victorious in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Nov. 1 in a 45-1 upset, he was voted a 2019 Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old male. Storm the Court, trained by Peter Eurton, finished fourth in Santa Anita’s San Vicente Stakes on Feb. 9 in his first 2020 start.

“Nadal, the San Vicente victor, had a terrific six-furlong workout in 1:11.80 last Sunday at Santa Anita for Baffert. Nadal makes his next start in Oaklawn Park’s Rebel Stakes on March 14, according to Baffert. The Rebel will have 50-20-10-5 Kentucky Derby points on the line.

“There were no American races last week offering Kentucky Derby points. Sir Rick appears headed to such a race, the Sunland Derby, following his four-length victory in the Mine That Bird Derby at Sunland Park last Sunday. Robertino Diodoro trains Sir Rick, who now has won four of six career starts. The Sunland Derby is slated for March 22. It will have 50-20-10-5 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 (7)

8. Maxfield (8)

9. Sole Volante (9)

10. Storm the Court (10)

NOTE: Last week’s rankings in parentheses”

Santa Anita preview

If Friday’s card is a glimpse in the state of the Santa Anita horse population than it’s past time to start worrying. There are eight races, three with five starters and two with six. Three races are on the turf. Seven of the eight are claiming races. First post is 1 p.m.

The only non-claiming race is the fifth, a 1 1/8-mile turf maiden special. There are seven starters. The favorite, at 8-5, is Border Town for Richard Mandella and Flavien Prat. The horse is winless in four tries, having run at Monmouth, Belmont and twice at Santa Anita. This is his third start this year at Santa Anita. He was a $325,000 purchase.

The second favorite is Commanding Chief at 5-2 for John Sadler and Umberto Rispoli. He is winless in nine tries, all in Southern California. He has finished second twice and third five times. He was a $180,000 purchase as a 2-year-old.

Here are the field sizes, in order: 5, 5, 8, 5, 7, 6, 6, 7.

Ciaran Thornton’s SA pick of the day

RACE FIVE: No. 5 Mulholland Highway (15-1)

Mulholland Highway makes the first start on turf for trainer Neil Drysdale after racing on the all-weather course up North. Abel Cedillo gets the mount, his first for this trainer but I have to wonder if this northern jockey was given a tip to ride. Dam has one winner from two starters on turf and they add Lasix for the first time today. 15-1 morning line is the best value I have seen on Friday’s card in a race that is won by value horses 33% of the time.

Sunday’s result: Rstars and Stripes broke nicely and that is all I can say as the horse was out for exercise. Mountain Spirit also broke great and tracked in second place. Into the turn he looked ready to blast home but was cut off and had to move out and lost momentum.

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. So, take it away, Matt.

“The Golden Hour Double, a $5 minimum daily double wager with the last races at Santa Anita and Golden Gate, begins Saturday with a 15% takeout and $50,000 guaranteed. Race nine at GGF (the second leg) is a very competitive Cal-bred maiden special weight for 3-year-old fillies sprinting 5 1/2 furlongs. First time starter Sweet Regards makes her career debut for trainer Kristin Mulhall and is likely to get bet, especially considering leading jockey Juan Hernandez will ride. Trouble N Paradise from the Steve Sherman barn has been running consistently well at this level and figures to be a major player. The same can be said for Sheza Girly Girl.

“With the $167,000 carryover in the Stronach 5 wager, plenty of people will be partaking of the low, 12% takeout wager. Leg C of the Stronach 5 this week goes as the third race at Golden Gate. The 9-5 morning-line favorite is Mister McLean, very arguably the horse to beat after two decent runs at the maiden $25,000 condition, the same as Friday. My top pick is Thatsabadboy, who cuts back from a route to a sprint and drops in class after running against the likes of El Camino Real Derby runner-up American Farmer, third-place finisher Indian Peak, Santa Anita allowance caliber colt Johnny Podres and well-bred Ajourneytofreedom. Thatabadboy is 4-1 on the morning line.

“In other news, Miss America Stakes winner Blue Diva is back at Golden Gate Fields in the Friday feature, a 1 1/16 mile allowance for fillies and mares 4 and older. The event is slotted as the fourth race, the first leg of the late Pick 4. Without question, Blue Diva is the headliner. The last time we watched her race on the Tapeta, she won the Miss America Stakes under jockey Hernandez, who retains the mount on Friday. Also entered is Kathryn Crosby Stakes winner Wicked Old Fashion, stakes-placed Vronilla Parfait, stakes-placed Renny’s Lady, and allowance winner Qafilah.

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.

“Southern California Derby finalist Galloping Goddess and the stakes-placed distaffer Madam Of Fire MV will meet each other in the seventh race Friday, one of three allowance races at Los Alamitos. First post is 6 p.m. While Galloping Goddess has posted some terrific performances, Madam Of Fire MV is the one to beat based on her consistent efforts over the past year. She ran second in both the Rebagain Handicap on Dec. 14 and against the boys in the Sprint Stakes on July 27. She’s also faced the top older mares on several occasions, most recently when fifth in the Grade 1 Charger Bar Handicap on Jan. 5. Cruz Mendez will ride the Jose Flores-trained 5-year-old mare.

“Fashin Icon, who ran second to Dreams Divine in the AB What A Runner Handicap on Jan. 25, will head the $11,025 allowance in the sixth race. The other allowance is the fifth race and will be headed by 2019 Governor’s Cup Futurity finalist Come Forth.

“On Saturday night, track record holder Rite Quick will look to defend his title in the 110-yard Blink Of An Eye Handicap when he takes on a field headed by the red-hot Jimbosecret and the lightning quick Spirit Foose.

“Rite Quick set the 110-yard track record at Los Alamitos of 6.99 seconds in July, 2019 and remains the only runner to have covered the distance in less than 7 seconds. He also won last year’s Blink Of An Eye in a sizzling time of 6.53 seconds when the race was held at 100 yards. Since last February, he’s raced five times at either 100 or 110 yards and won four and finished second in his other start. The lightning fast son of Favorite Cartel enters this race after finishing second to Tac Me Up in the Cypress Handicap at 350 yards on Jan. 17.

“Jimbosecret is one of the sharpest horses following back-to-back strong victories. His last was an allowance win resulting in the meet’s fastest 300-yard time of 15.29 seconds. He’s not as consistently quick out of the gate as Rite Quick, but he could be picking up the most speed in the final 10 to 20 yards of this race. Expect a photo finish.

“Eagle Empire and Jess Lyndes Reason were among the talented 2-year-olds during the first morning of gate workouts this past Tuesday. A total of 34 freshmen posted works, including 24 juveniles from the barn of trainer Paul Jones and six from trainer Mike Robbins. All morning gate works are available for viewing online at

“Eagle Empire posted the bullet drill of the morning with a time of 12.20 seconds at 220 yards. Jess Lyndes Reason stopped the clock in 12.50 seconds while outworking filly Danjerous. Owned and bred by Turner Farms, Jess Lyndes Reason is a half-sister to Jess Macho Corona, the runner-up in last year’s All American Derby.

Fred Scane, a quarter-horse owner, breeder and stallion manager for more than 40 years, died on Tuesday at 82. Scane owned leading stallion Merridoc, whose sons included the legendary three-time distance champion Griswold, who is best known for his match race with Valiant Pete at Santa Anita in the early 1990s. Over the past few decades, Scane was Ed Allred’s stallion manager and stallion syndication manager. He also served on the Pacific Coast Quarter Horse Racing Association board of directors.”

Chris Wade’s LA pick of the day

RACE THREE: No. 5 Virginia Hall (4-1)

She returns to face a similar cast of rivals from her last start, led by the third, fourth and fifth place finishers from that event. The 4-year-old was sitting in a perfect position behind a four-horse speed duel at the top of the lane but lost all chance when she had to take up in close quarters inside the 1/16th pole with lots of run in the tank. She was unlucky on that night and I think the race should set up more to her liking.

A final thought

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

Santa Anita Entries for Friday, February 28.

Santa Anita, Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, California. 31st day of a 60-day meet.


1 1/16 Mile. Purse: $28,000. Maiden Claiming. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $40,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Mongolian LegendAssael Espinoza126Enebish Ganbat8-540,000
2Irish SpiritGeovanni Franco126Michael W. McCarthy5-240,000
3T Bones TrickFlavien Prat126Andy Mathis5-240,000
4Tyrannical RexAbel Cedillo126Jack Carava8-140,000
5SalahDavid Mussad116Eoin G. Harty4-140,000


5½ Furlongs Turf. Purse: $33,000. Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 4 year olds and up. Claiming Price $35,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Point Hope Flavien Prat124Mark Glatt2-135,000
2Classy AtlanticEdwin Maldonado124Vladimir Cerin5-235,000
3WishfulJorge Velez119Leonard Powell5-135,000
4DearbornUmberto Rispoli124Jeff Bonde4-135,000
5Untouched EleganceMario Gutierrez124Richard Baltas5-235,000


5½ Furlongs. Purse: $32,000. Maiden Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $50,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Enriched by DebAssael Espinoza118Richard Baltas6-150,000
2Sparkling GemBrice Blanc126Brian J. Pitnick12-150,000
3Fresh FaceAaron Gryder126John W. Sadler4-150,000
4Pammi DearestJorge Velez121Gary Mandella12-150,000
5Malibu CatFlavien Prat126Mark Glatt3-150,000
6RaneemJ.C. Diaz, Jr.126Bob Baffert5-250,000
7Enchanting MoonEswan Flores118Hector O. Palma12-150,000
8Palm d'OroUmberto Rispoli126Art Sherman4-150,000


1 1/16 Mile. Purse: $18,000. Claiming. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $12,500.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Super ClassicDavid Mussad116Ruben Gomez5-112,500
2Gorky ParkJose Valdivia, Jr.118J. Keith Desormeaux5-212,500
3R B EyeEvin Roman126Vann Belvoir5-112,500
4Will DancerTiago Pereira126Eddie Truman5-212,500
5Indy JonesJorge Velez121Val Brinkerhoff8-512,500


1 1/8 Mile Turf. Purse: $55,000. Maiden Special Weight. 3 year olds and up.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Silent MusketierJorge Velez121Jesus Mendoza30-1
2On Easy StreetVictor Espinoza126Patrick Gallagher6-1
3Capital CallGeovanni Franco118Neil D. Drysdale6-1
4Trojan MagicRuben Fuentes126Andrew Lerner3-1
5Mulholland Highway Abel Cedillo118Neil D. Drysdale15-1
6Commanding ChiefUmberto Rispoli126John W. Sadler5-2
7Border TownFlavien Prat126Richard E. Mandella8-5


6 Furlongs. Purse: $20,000. Maiden Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $20,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Winning BellsEdwin Maldonado126Jorge Periban5-220,000
2Sweet SassafrassyAgapito Delgadillo126Mike Puype6-120,000
3Caught in a TrappeAssael Espinoza126Val Brinkerhoff6-120,000
4Swingn ItJorge Velez121John W. Sadler5-120,000
5Dorita's LemonUmberto Rispoli126J. Eric Kruljac4-120,000
6It's a RiddleAbel Cedillo118Robert B. Hess, Jr.9-520,000


5½ Furlongs Turf. Purse: $43,000. Claiming. 4 year olds and up. Claiming Price $50,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Snazzy DresserAaron Gryder122George Papaprodromou7-2
2Kazan Umberto Rispoli122Doug F. O'Neill5-250,000
3ReedleyEdwin Maldonado122Reed Saldana5-150,000
4Restless RamblerFlavien Prat122Mark Glatt2-150,000
5Truth SeekerAbel Cedillo122Mark Glatt7-250,000
6Midnight SwapGeovanni Franco122J. Keith Desormeaux12-150,000


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

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1TejonAbel Cedillo126Richard Baltas3-150,000
2World O LuckUmberto Rispoli118Mike Puype6-150,000
3GuinesseyAgapito Delgadillo118Paul G. Aguirre30-150,000
4Risk CalculatedJ.C. Diaz, Jr.118Jonathan Wong10-150,000
5Seizetheday RexyFlavien Prat118Doug F. O'Neill2-150,000
6Perfect AffectionJorge Velez113Philip D'Amato5-250,000
7Very IrishEswan Flores118Cesar DeAlba5-150,000