by Jon White
December 3, 2019
Even though Tiz the Law was upset as a big favorite in last Saturday’s Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs, he nevertheless ended up being the 11-1 favorite among 22 individual horses in Pool One of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager (KDFW) that closed last Sunday.
Next at 12-1 was Dennis’ Moment, who was followed by both Independence Day and Maxfield at 13-1. No other individual horses were lower than 24-1.
Pool Two of the 2020 KDFW is set for Feb. 7-9, Pool Three for March 6-8 and Pool Four for April 3-5.
The 2020 Kentucky Derby will take place May 2.
In last Saturday’s 1 1/16-mile Kentucky Jockey Club, which was contested on a sloppy track, Tiz the Law had to settle for third at odds of 3-5. But in his defense, not only was he racing on a wet track for the first time, the New York-bred Constitution colt had far from the best of trips.
Tiz the Law was bottled up all the way until in the vicinity of the eighth pole. A seam then finally did materialize. But when jockey Manny Franco hit the gas pedal and asked Tiz the Law to scoot through between rivals, the colt simply did not produce the needed punch.
It was Silver Prospector who emerged victorious in the 1 1/16-mile KJC. Never far back in the field of eight 2-year-olds, he advanced on the far turn while wide. Silver Prospector then resolutely kept to his task in the lane and won by three-quarters of a length at 7-1 with Ricardo Santana Jr. in the saddle. Finnick the Fierce outran his 87-1 odds to finish second. Tiz the Law came in third, a head behind Finnick the Fierce. Time of the race was 1:45.94.
Tiz the Law, coming off a win in the Grade I Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park on Oct. 5, was two for two going into the KJC. If Tiz the Law had won the KJC to keep his unblemished record intact, I think he would have become the favorite to be voted a 2019 Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old male. But Tiz the Law’s chances for that award took a severe blow when he was defeated last Saturday.
Storm the Court, winner of the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in a 45-1 shocker at Santa Anita on Nov. 1, now appears to be in the driver’s seat to get the Eclipse Award in the 2-year-old male category. The Kentucky-bred Court Vision colt, conditioned by Peter Eurton, is scheduled to make his 2020 debut in Santa Anita’s Grade II Robert B. Lewis Stakes on Feb. 1.
Someone else who might get a good deal of Eclipse Award support in the 2-year-old male category is Structor. The Kentucky-bred Palace Malice colt won the Grade I BC Juvenile Turf at Santa Anita for trainer Chad Brown to remain undefeated in three starts.
However, in terms of Pool One of the 2020 KDFW, neither Storm the Court nor Structor proved very popular with bettors. Structor ended up at 24-1, while Storm the Court closed at 41-1.
Silver Prospector, trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, now has won two of five starts. In his most recent race prior to the Kentucky Jockey Club, the Kentucky-bred Declaration of War colt had finished third in Churchill’s Street Sense Stakes on Oct. 27. But even though Silver Prospector lost, Asmussen felt that the colt actually ran well in defeat in the Street Sense because he was coming back rather quickly -- in just two weeks -- after a strong maiden win at Keeneland in which he recorded a 91 Beyer Speed Figure.
By the way, Asmussen and Santana also collaborated to win last Saturday’s Grade II Golden Rod Stakes for 2-year-old fillies with Finite. Backed down to 4-5 favoritism, Finite -- like Silver Prospector -- prevailed by three-quarters of a length. The Kentucky-bred Munnings filly completed 1 1/16 miles in 1:45.99. That was nearly identical to Silver Prospector’s final time in the KJC. The way I see it, it’s to Finite’s credit that she essentially ran 1 1/16 miles as fast as Silver Prospector, Finnick the Fierce and Tiz the Law.
Silver Prospector was credited with an 81 Beyer Speed Figure for his KJC victory. Finite received an 80 Beyer for her Golden Rod win.
Dennis’ Moment received much respect from those playing Pool One of the 2020 KDFW despite his Breeders’ Cup debacle. He stumbled badly at the start of the BC Juvenile and was never a factor, finishing last as a 9-10 favorite in the field of eight.
According to trainer Dale Romans, Dennis’ Moment is fine physically after having been checked out thoroughly after the Breeders’ Cup. Gulfstream Park’s Grade II Fountain of Youth Stakes on Feb. 29 is being targeted as the 2020 debut for the Kentucky-bred Tiznow colt.
When all was not well with Maxfield, he was withdrawn from the BC Juvenile. BloodHorse recently reported that Maxfield “is expected to return to racing in early in 2020 after having surgery Nov. 18 to remove a mildly displaced chip from an ankle, according to [the colt’s owner] Godolphin.”
Maxfield won the Grade I Breeders’ Futurity this year at Keeneland. Brendan Walsh is sky high on the Kentucky-bred Street Sense colt. Maxfield’s team is hoping he can emulate his sire by becoming a Kentucky Derby winner. Street Sense won the Run for the Roses in 2007.
Independence Hall, two for two, is headed to Aqueduct’s Jerome Stakes on New Year’s Day. His camp decided to bypass this Saturday’s Grade II Remsen Stakes at Aqueduct in order to give the Kentucky-bred Constitution colt more time to recover from his lights-out victory in the Grade III Nashua Stakes at the Big A on Nov. 3. Independence Hall won the Nashua by 12 1/4 lengths and received a 101 Beyer Speed Figure. The 101 is the highest Beyer recorded by a 2-year-old so far in 2019.
Michael Trombetta trains Independence Hall. The Jerome “falls well on the calendar” for the colt, Trombetta explained in Sunday’s Aqueduct notes disseminated by NYRA.
“Off such a big win, the Remsen was a little close,” Trombetta added. “The Jerome allows us to run over a track and distance [one mile] that he’s familiar with.”
“ALL OTHER 3-YEAR-OLD MALES” OPTION FAVORED
Not surprisingly, the “All Other 3-Year-Old Males” option ended up being the favorite in Pool One of the 2020 KDFW. It closed at even money.
Keep in mind that the last three Kentucky Derby winners -- Always Dreaming in 2016, Justify in 2017 and Country House in 2018 -- weren’t one of the individual horses in Pool One of the KDFW.
Silver Prospector and Finnick the Fierce, who finished one-two in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes, have already added to the appeal of the “All Other 3-Year-Old Males” option in Pool One of the 2020 KDFW. If you went ahead and took the short price on “All Other 3-Year-Old Males,” Silver Prospector and Finnick the Fierece are two of the very many horses you are banking on to win the 2020 Run for the Roses.
1-1 “All Other 3-Year-Old Males”
11-1 Tiz the Law
12-1 Dennis’ Moment
13-1 Independence Hall
24-1 Eight Rings
25-1 Honor A.P.
29-1 Gouverneur Morris
31-1 Anneau d’Or
34-1 Thousand Words
39-1 Three Technique
40-1 High Velocity
41-1 Storm the Court
46-1 Green Light Go
54-1 American Theorem
57-1 “All 3-Year-Old Fillies”
60-1 Great Power
64-1 Answer In
72-1 South Bend
86-1 Wrecking Crew
The Kentucky Derby Sire Future Wager once again was offered this year at the same time as Pool One of the KDFW.
In terms of sire wagering, the “All Others” option closed as the 9-2 favorite. Constitution had the lowest odds among the 23 individual sires at 5-1.
Constitution is the sire of three of the 22 individual horses in Pool One of the KDFW -- Gouverneur Morris, Independence Hall and Tiz the Law.
Below are the final odds for the 2020 Kentucky Derby Sire Future Wager:
9-2 “All Others”
12-1 American Pharoah
12-1 Uncle Mo
14-1 Street Sense
17-1 Into Mischief
19-1 Honor Code
21-1 Medaglia d’Oro
26-1 Liam’s Map
28-1 Empire Maker
30-1 Quality Road
31-1 Hard Spun
32-1 Pioneerof the Nile
37-1 Declaration of War
38-1 Candy Ride
49-1 More Than Ready
54-1 Union Rags
Corey Nakatani, a winner of nearly 4,000 races, including 10 Breeders’ Cup victories, recently announced his retirement as a jockey last week. He was honored in a winner’s circle ceremony between races at Del Mar last Saturday.
The news of Nakatani’s retirement at the age of 49 came via a press release issued by his son, Matt, a jockey agent.
“The time has come to officially announce my retirement from the sport of horse racing,” Nakatani said in the press release. “Although I never imagined this was how my career would end, I am very proud of my accomplishments and know that I competed at the very highest of levels, which gives me a sense of satisfaction.”
A native of Covina, Calif., Nakatani demonstrated at an early age that he was a terrific athlete. He was a champion wrestler in high school and would become an excellent golfer.
Nakatani rode his first winner as a jockey when aboard Blue King at Caliente on Oct. 2, 1988. He would go on to win a combined 10 riding titles at Del Mar, Hollywood Park and Santa Anita while competing against a slew of jockeys who currently are in the Hall of Fame.
In all, Nakatani won 3,909 races, including 120 Grade I events. His mounts earned more than $234 million in purse money. Nakatani ranks 12th on the all-time money list. All 11 jockeys ahead of him on that list currently are members of the Hall of Fame.
Below, according to Equibase, are North America’s 12 all-time leading money-winning jockeys through Dec. 2:
$414,597,532 John Velazquez
$341,628,072 Javier Castellano
$327,610,507 Mike Smith
$297,914,839 Pat Day
$296,113,529 Jerry Bailey
$285,495,347 Kent Desormeaux
$269,226,750 Edgar Prado
$263,986,005 Chris McCarron
$258,217,768 Gary Stevens
$238,405,472 Alex Solis
$237,120,625 Laffit Pincay Jr.
$234,554,534 Corey Nakatani
Serena’s Song and Lava Man were two of the many top horses ridden by Nakatani. Serena’s Song was voted a 1995 Eclipse Award as champion 3-year-old filly. Lava Man, one of the greatest claims in the history of the sport, joined Native Diver as the only two horses to ever win the prestigious Grade I Hollywood Gold Cup three times. Pat Valenzuela guided Lava Man to his first Gold Cup triumph in 2005. Nakatani then rode Lava Man to his 2006 and 2007 Gold Cup victories. Native Diver won the Gold Cup in 1965, 1966 and 1967 with Jerry Lambert aboard.
Nakatani was seriously injured in the last race on the card at Del Mar on Aug. 4, 2018. He rode Irish Spring, who clipped heels, unseating Nakatani. It turned out to be the final race of Nakatani’s riding career.
In 1996, Nakatani won a pair of Breeders’ Cup races, the Sprint with Lit de Justice and the Distaff with Jewel Princess. Nakatani’s subsequent Breeders’ Cup victories were aboard Elmhurst in the 1997 Sprint, Reraise in the 1998 Sprint, Silic in the 1999 Mile, Sweet Catomine in the 2004 Juvenile Fillies, Thor’s Echo in the 2006 Sprint, My Miss Aurelia in the 2011 Juvenile Fillies, Regally Ready in the 2011 Turf Sprint and Tapizar in the 2012 Dirt Mile.
Below are the Top 10 all-time leading Breeders’ Cup jockeys in wins through 2019:
26 Mike Smith
16 John Velazquez
15 Jerry Bailey
14 Frankie Dettori
13 Garrett Gomez
12 Javier Castellano
12 Pat Day
11 Joel Rosario
11 Gary Stevens
10 Corey Nakatani
There have been a number of extremely shrewd claims made in Southern California in the last 15 years. One thinks of the likes of Lava Man, Soi Phet and Vasilika. And this year Zuzanna has proven to be yet another marvelous claim on the Southern California circuit.
Lava Man was claimed for $50,000 at Del Mar on Aug. 13, 2004. The California-bred Slew City Slew gelding subsequently earned $5,170,103 while trained by Doug O’Neill.
At Hollywood Park on May 23, 2013, Soi Phet was claimed for $16,000. Leonard Powell trained him after that. After Powell took over the training duties, Soi Phet earned $986,486. Soi Phet was retired from racing earlier this year.
Vasilika was claimed for $40,000 in a race at Santa Anita on Feb. 11, 2018. After that, Vasilika earned $1,722,320 through this year’s Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf. As icing on the cake, after this year’s Breeders’ Cup, Vasilika sold for $1.5 million at the Fasig-Tipton November Sale.
Zuzanna, an $8,000 claim, won last Saturday’s 1 3/8-mile Red Carpet Handicap, a $100,000 grass race at Del Mar with a Grade III ranking. Virtually ignored in the wagering, Zuzanna got the job done by 1 1/4 lengths for trainer Bob Hess Jr. and paid $48 for each $2 win ticket.
One of Zuzanna’s current owners is Kurt Hoover, a longtime racing broadcaster in Southern California. I spent many years working alongside Hoover in television at Santa Anita. Another person involved as an owner of Zuzanna is Brian “Ferg” Ferguson, one of the most enthusiastic racing fans I have ever known. Hoover and Ferguson have been friends since the seventh grade. Hoover has participated in racing as an owner off and on for many years. This is the first time Ferguson has had an ownership interest in a Thoroughbred.
Members of Zuzanna’s current ownership group claimed her for $8,000 at Los Alamitos on Sept. 13, 2018. Since then, the mare has earned $143,851.
The day after the Red Carpet, Hoover was effusive in his praise for Hess’ training job with Zuzanna, saying it was “off the charts.” Hoover made the comment on Mike Willman’s radio program Thoroughbred Los Angeles.
Hoover said it took a lot of work “to get her right” after they claimed her, a process that included tie-back surgery to address a throat issue.
“It was a long journey to even get her to a race,” Hoover added.
Early this year it appeared Zuzanna might not make it back to the races.
“Bob and I had a long conversation and I said, ‘Look, if you can’t get her right, I’ve got some friends, we’ll give her away and make her a riding horse or whatever,” Hoover said. “We’ll find a home for her. Up to that point she was battling a lot of stuff. So it was a lot work. And Bob’s dad [trainer Bob Hess Sr.] did a lot of work with her too when we sent her up north [to Golden Gate]. He’s an outstanding, old-school horseman.”
Zuzanna finally did return to the races at Golden Gate last March 29. She won for an $8,000 claiming price at one mile on synthetic footing by 1 1/2 lengths. For Hoover and company prior to the Red Carpet, Zuzanna won three times from eight starts.
Bob Hess Jr. conceded Hoover “pushed him” to run Zuzanna in the Red Carpet. The trainer admitted that he felt it would be more prudent to send Zuzanna to Gulfstream Park for this Saturday’s Claiming Crown. Hess said that he was reluctant to run the mare in the Red Carpet “because I’ve never trained an $8,000 claimer to win a Grade III.”
Well, Hess now can say he has trained an $8,000 claimer to win a Grade III. That’s because the trainer wisely acquiesced to Hoover’s suggestion to take a shot in the Red Carpet. Hoover believed the Red Carpet presented a golden opportunity for Zuzanna to enhance her residual value as a broodmare by possibly hitting the board in a Grade III race.
Through the years as a broadcaster, Hoover typically has been quick to recognize the enhanced value of a filly or mare whenever they have won or placed in a graded stakes race for the first time, especially if the filly or mare had done so after being claimed. When that’s happened, Hoover often will say something like “they hit a home run with that claim.”
And now that $8,000 claim Zuzanna has become a Grade III winner, I am tickled to say that this time it is none other than Kurt Hoover who has hit a home run with this 5-year-old Kentucky-bred Wilburn mare.
Hess said Monday to Steve Byk on his SiriusXM radio program At the Races that Zuzanna will be campaigned at Gulfstream this winter.