by Jon White
June 10, 2020
Many, as expected, perceived last Saturday’s Grade I Santa Anita Derby as a two-horse race between 1-2 favorite and 2-1 second betting choice Honor A.P.
What happened? They did indeed run one-two.
In Santa Anita’s Grade II San Felipe Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on March 7, Authentic won by 2 1/4 lengths. Honor A.P. finished second.
In their rematch last Saturday, Honor A.P. won the 1 1/8-mile Santa Anita Derby going away and rather authoritatively by 2 3 4/lengths. Authentic had to settle for second this time, his first defeat in four career starts.
As I wrote last week, Honor A.P. had been at a pace disadvantage vis-a-vis Authentic in the San Felipe. I also wrote that if Authentic did not again get it all his own way on the front end early in the Santa Anita Derby, “it does seem to increase the possibility he won’t win, especially since he also is being asked to go 1 1/8 miles,” which would be farther than he had ever raced.
I wrote that my gut told me that “when it gets down to crunch time in the final furlong, the long-striding Honor A.P. just might turn the tables on Authentic. When push comes to shove in terms of deciding who to pick to win a race, sometimes it’s a good idea to go with one’s gut. Consequently, I am going with Honor A.P. to win.”
Yes, Authentic did taste defeat for the first time. But you know what? All in all, I thought he ran well under the circumstances. Even though Authentic did not have it all his own way early this time, I give him credit for still finishing second and recording a 98 Beyer Speed Figure.
Interestingly, that 98 Beyer matched Authentic’s figure for the San Felipe.
Thus, the Beyers suggest that in the Santa Anita Derby it was not so much that Authentic ran worse than he had in San Felipe but rather that Honor A.P. raised his game and ran much better this time than he had last time.
Seven started in the Santa Anita Derby. Authentic had the outside post and veered outward in the initial strides. That’s not unusual for a horse breaking from an outside post. But when Authentic did that, it pretty much eliminated the possibility he would be able to get a clear early lead.
Entering the clubhouse turn, Authentic found himself in a three-way battle for the lead while outside Shooters Shoot and Anneau d’Or. These three continued as pace factors through the early stages while Honor A.P. was lurking within easy striking distance in fifth.
At the quarter pole, Shooters Shoot, Anneau d’Or and Authentic were just heads apart while slugging it out for the lead. Honor A.P. now was gaining strongly while wide and loomed boldly as the field reached the top of the lane.
“Honor A.P. coming with a big, powerful, sweeping move on the outside of Authentic and Anneau d’Or!” said track announcer Frank Mirahmadi.
Surging to the front in upper stretch, Honor A.P. had so much momentum that he already was 1 1/2 lengths clear at the eighth pole. He then steadily increased his lead the rest of the way. Honor A.P. completed the race in 1:48.97 before galloping out with enthusiasm to suggest he will relish the 1 1/4-mile trip of the Kentucky Derby on Sept. 5.
It was a marvelous training job on the part of John Sherriffs to have Honor A.P. ready to run a biggie last Saturday. Meanwhile, Hall of Famer Mike Smith rode a perfect race, which is SOP for M.S. when big bucks are on the line, such as in the $400,000 Santa Anita Derby. They don’t call him “Big Money” Mike Smith for nothing.
Sherriffs and Smith teamed up to win the 2005 Kentucky Derby with Giacomo, who won in a 50-1 upset. Closing Argument finished second at the gigantic odds of 71-1, just a half-length behind Giacomo. Afleet Alex ended up third at 9-2. Bellamy Road, the 5-2 favorite, came in seventh.
My top four picks for Xpressbet.com in the 2005 Kentucky Derby were:
1. Closing Argument
2. High Fly
3. Afleet Alex
4. Bellamy Road
Though Closing Argument didn’t win, he did pay $70 for each $2 place ticket. It’s still the highest place payoff in the history of the Kentucky Derby, which this year will be run for the 146h time.
I’d have to say Closing Argument in the Kentucky Derby was the best pick I’ve ever made publicly that did not win.
The Santa Anita Derby was Honor A.P.’s first stakes victory. He now has two wins and two seconds from four lifetime starts. Lee and Susan Searing’s C R K Stable own the Kentucky-bred Honor Glide ridgling and $850,000 yearling acquisition. The dam, Hollywood Story, was a multiple Grade I-winning millionaire.
By the way, the C R K stands for the Searing’s three adult children -- Christina, Richard and Katherine. The C R K horses race beneath purple and gold silks. Why those colors? It’s because the Searings are huge fans of the Los Angeles Lakers.
Honor A.P., who missed some training for a time early this year due to a bruised foot, was credited with a career-best 102 Beyer Speed Figure for his Santa Anita Derby triumph.
In terms of the Beyer Speed Figure department, Honor A.P. sports an improving pattern. He recorded a 77 in his first race, followed by a 91, then a 95 prior to ascending to a triple-digit figure last Saturday.
These are the Beyer Speed Figures for the winner of the Santa Anita Derby going back to 1990 (the figures prior to 2020 are listed in the American Racing Manual, which is now digital only):
2020 Honor A.P. (102)
2019 Roadster (98)
2018 Justify (107)
2017 Gormley (88)
2016 Exaggerator (103)
2015 Dortmund (106)
2014 California Chrome (107)
2013 Goldencents (105)
2012 I’ll Have Another (95)
2011 Midnight Interlude (97)
2010 Sidney’s Candy (100)
2009 Pioneerof the Nile (97)
2008 Colonel John (95)
2007 Tiago (100)
2006 Brother Derek (108)
2005 Buzzards Bay (98)
2004 Castledale (103)
2003 Buddy Gil (104)
2002 Came Home (96)
2001 Point Given (110)
2000 The Deputy (109)
1999 General Challenge (108)
1998 Indian Charlie (111)
1997 Free House (110)
1996 Cavonnier (104)
1995 Larry the Legend (106)
1994 Brocco (105)
1993 Personal Hope (98)
1992 A.P. Indy (95)
1991 Dinard (108)
1990 Mister Frisky (109)
KENTUCKY DERBY FUTURE WAGERING UPDATE
Two prominent 3-year-olds, the Bob Baffert-trained duo of Charlatan and Nadal, are gone from the William Hill Sports Book’s odds to win this year’s Kentucky Derby.
Charlatan and Nadal finished first in their respective divisions of the Grade I Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park on May 2.
But Nadal has been retired from racing as a result of a condylar fracture in his left front leg following a four-furlong workout in :48.80 on May 28 at Santa Anita.
And now Charlatan will not be running in the Belmont Stakes on June 20 or even the Kentucky Derby on the first Saturday in September due to an ankle injury, according to Baffert.
“He came up with an issue,” Baffert said in a Daily Racing Form story written by David Grening. “We saw that he had a tiny aggravation there. I wouldn’t call it a chip. They’ll clear it up. It will take him out of the [Kentucky] Derby picture. He’ll be back by the fall.”
Following the Santa Anita Derby, William Hill now has Honor A.P. and Florida Derby winner Tiz the Law as co-favorites for the Kentucky Derby. Below are the prices for all the horses listed 20-1 or lower after the Santa Anita Derby:
4-1 Honor A.P.
4-1 Tiz the Law
10-1 Sole Volante
Now, stunningly, Maxfield also is out of the Kentucky Derby after he emerged from a June 10 workout with a condylar fracture of his right front cannon bone, according to Daily Racing Form’s Marty McGee.
“Trainer Brendan Walsh confirmed the injury shortly after Maxfield breezed a half-mile in :49.00 over a fast track, emphasizing the colt’s life was not in danger and that he was expected to fully recover from surgery,” McGee wrote.
Dr. Larry Bramlage, the noted equine surgeon, was scheduled to operate on Maxfield at the Rood and Riddle equine clinic in Lexington, Ky.
“It devastating, absolutely,” Walsh said, “although as far as these types of injuries go, it couldn’t have been much cleaner, thank goodness. The prognosis is very good for a full recovery, a screw or two to be inserted in the bone. That’s the main thing, that he’s going to be fine.”
Maxfield is undefeated in three career starts. The Kentucky-bred son of Street Sense won the Grade I Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland last year and Grade III Matt Winn Stakes at Churchill Downs in his 2020 debut on May 23.
CEZANNE HAS LOOK OF UP-AND-COMER
When I wrote about Cezanne back on May 20, I noted that while a June 20 Belmont certainly was not in the cards for him, I nevertheless was excited about his potential following his five-furlong workout from the gate on May 14 at Santa Anita.
Cezanne worked in company with Tapitution, a 3-year-old unraced Tapit colt who sold for $350,000 at public auction last year. Cezanne also sold at public auction last year, fetching a final bid of $3.65 million.
“Super” was the word XBTV’s Millie Ball used to described Cezanne’s May 14 workout.
“He’s definitely the goods,” Ball said May 17 on Mike William’s radio program Thoroughbred Los Angeles. Ball noted that regarding the May 14 work by Cezanne, it was the first time “Baffert said to go ahead and let him run. And Cezanne came back [after the work] and he couldn’t even have blown a candle out. I was very impressed.”
Cezanne then had two more excellent workouts at Santa Anita. He stepped five furlongs in :59.60 from the gate on May 23, third best of 42 at the distance. That was followed by another bullet drill, four furlongs in :47.60 on May 30, best of 47 at the distance.
In light of Cezanne’s expensive purchase price, snazzy workouts and considerable hype, plus the fact he hails from the powerful Baffert barn, I made him a 4-5 morning-line favorite for his first career start in last Saturday’s sixth race at Santa Anita. Bettors sent him away as a 2-5 favorite.
Away in good order and a close fourth early, Cezanne had a 1 1/2-length lead at the eighth pole. Increasing his lead thereafter while racing a bit greenly, he proved a punctual favorite by 2 1/4 lengths while completing 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:16.13. Flavien Prat was aboard the Kentucky-bred son of two-time Horse of the Year Curlin.
It appears to me that Cezanne will appreciate going farther than 6 1/2 furlongs. Baffert has said he believes the colt has the potential to have a big second half of the year like Arrogate in 2016 and West Coast in 2017.
In 2016, Arrogate made his career debut as a 3-year-old at Los Alamitos on April 17. He finished third in a six-furlong maiden special weight race. Later in the year Arrogate won the Grade I Travers Stakes by 13 1/2-lengths and broke Saratoga’s 1 1/4-mile track record in what I called a Secretariat-like performance.
After the Travers, Arrogate won the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Classic by a half-length at Santa Anita when he ran down no less a foe than the older California Chrome. Arrogate was voted a 2016 Eclipse Award as champion 3-year-old male. California Chrome was voted 2016 Horse of the Year after having previously elected 2014 Horse of the Year.
In 2017, West Coast made his career debut as a 3-year-old at Santa Anita on Feb. 18. He finished second in a one-mile maiden special weight race. Later in the year West Coast won the Grade I Travers and Grade I Pennsylvania Derby before finishing third in the Grade I BC Classic at Del Mar. He was voted a 2017 Eclipse Award as champion 3-year-old male.
Because of all the hype, some probably expected Cezenne to get a higher Beyer Speed Figure than a 90 in his career debut. But keep in mind that it stacks up well against the career-debut Beyers for Arrogate and West Coast. Those Beyers were an 80 for Arrogate and a 91 for West Coast.
Whether or not Cezanne does go on to win some big races (and I think he will), he certainly is one very big colt. Check out what Cezanne’s weight was last Saturday compared to some others who raced at Santa Anita that afternoon:
Weight Age Horse (Race, Finish)
1,258 lbs. 3 Cezanne (maiden special weight, 1st)
1,252 lbs. 5 Higher Power (Grade I Hollywood Gold Cup, 2nd)
1,143 lbs. 3 Honor A.P. (Grade I Santa Anita Derby, 1st)
1,112 lbs. 3 Swiss Skydiver (Grade II Santa Anita Oaks, 1st)
1,098 lbs. 4 Improbable (Grade I Hollywood Gold Cup, 1st)
1,090 lbs. 3 Authentic (Grade I Santa Anita Derby, 2nd)
How does Cezanne’s weight of 1,258 pounds compare to some champion 3-year-olds in the past?
The late Dr. Manuel Gilman, who passed away in 2011 at the age of 91, was best known for being the chief examining veterinarian at New York tracks for 32 years. He is credited for having pioneered the extensive pre-race examination for every horse that now is widespread in the industry.
I became familiar with Gilman’s remarkable work in anatomically measuring a multitude of the finest Thoroughbreds to ever race in America when reading the American Racing Manual. Gilman’s measurements are included in many of the profiles of the best horses of the year written by Daily Racing Form columnist Charles Hatton.
Year ago I was able to make copies of many of Gilman’s actual conformation sheets. These sheets had the handwritten measurements of numerous champions, such as Buckpasser, John Henry, Spectacular Bid, Affirmed, Seattle Slew, Ruffian, Dr. Fager and Kelso. Unfortunately, Secretariat’s sheets were not included. However, Gilman’s measurements of Secretariat can be found in the American Racing Manuals of 1972 and 1973.
In a few cases on Gilman’s conformation sheets, he made note of a horse’s weight.
In the American Racing Manual, Hatton wrote that Secretariat’s weight was on Oct. 22, 1973, prior to his final start and victory on a raw autumn afternoon at Woodbine in the Canadian International at Woodine on Oct. 28. Hatton no doubt got that piece of information from Dr. Gilman. Below is a comparison of Cezanne’s weight at 3 and Secretariat’s weight at the same age:
1,258 lbs. Cezanne
1,154 lbs. Secretariat
Dr. Gillman’s conformation sheet for Seattle Slew at 3 did not list a weight, but the respected vet did have Slew’s weight at 2 and 4, as listed below:
1,120 lbs. Seattle Slew at age 2
1,177 lbs. Seattle Slew at age 4
Dr. Gillman also did have Ruffian’s weight as of Sept. 3, 1974, which is listed below:
1,125 lbs. Ruffian at age 2
Man o’ War ranks No. 1 on my list of the Top 100 Racehorses of the 20th and 21st Centuries to have raced in North America. It has been reported that Man o’ War weighed “about 1,150 pounds” as a 3-year-old.
While Hatton certainly was a keen student of conformation, he also frequently cautioned people there was much more to what makes a champion Thoroughbred than conformation and/or size.
“A Thoroughbred’s class, character, action and soundness are not measurable by a tape or standard,” Hatton wrote.
MY BELMONT STAKES RANKINGS
Charlatan had ranked No. 1 on my Belmont Stakes rankings last week, but he exits the rankings this week due to his aforementioned injury.
Prior to Maxfield’s injury, he already had been taken off my Belmont Park rankings after his trainer had said the colt would skip the Belmont and run instead in Keeneland’s Grade II Blue Grass Stakes on July 11. Now Maxfield will not be running in the Blue Grass, either.
Without having to face Charlatan and/or Maxfield in what has become a depleted Belmont, it looks like Tiz the Law is going to be mighty tough to beat in the Belmont. It appears to me at this point that Tiz the Law probably will be an odds-on favorite.
Trained by Barclay Tagg, Tiz the Law has never lost when competing on a fast track. His lone loss in five career starts came when he had a troubled trip and finished third in the Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes on a sloppy track at Churchill last Nov. 30.
Tiz the Law is two for two in 2020. The New York-bred Constitution colt won Gulfstream Park’s Grade III Holy Bull by three lengths on Feb. 1. He then registered a 4 1/4-length victory in the Grade I Florida Derby at that track on March 28.
An interesting newcomer among those expected to run in the Belmont is Tap It to Win. Though trainer Mark Casse has held him in high esteem all along, the Florida-bred Tapit colt won only once in four 2019 starts.
When Tapit to Win made his first 2020 start, he won a six-furlong allowance/optional claiming contest by 1 1/2 lengths against state-breds at Gulfstream on May 9. And then last Thursday, Tapit to Win was dazzling when he trounced some highly regarded opponents to win a 1 1/16-mile allowance affair by five lengths at Belmont Park.
Tapit to Win’s final time of 1:39.76 was terrific. It was only .54 off the track record of 1:39.22 established by Transparent in 2014. Tapit to Win was assigned a career-best 97 Beyer Speed Figure.
Casse won last year’s 1 1/2-mile Belmont with Sir Winston. The trainer is planning to run Tapit to Win back in the Belmont even though it will mean the colt will be racing again only 16 days after his June 4 victory.
“I just think you run them when they’re good,” Casse said in a June 5 DRF story written by Grening. “That’s what Woody [Stephens] did, that’s what Allen Jerkens did. I don’t claim to be anywhere in those two guys’ category, but I do try and listen to the greatest in the game and I would say those two fall in that category.”
Probably the most famous example of a horse winning two races within a short window for either Stephens or Jerkens occurred in 1982. Conquistador Cielo as a 3-year-old in 1982 for Stephens won the Grade I Met Mile by 7 1/4 lengths on a Monday, then five days later splashed his way to a 14-length victory in the 1 1/2-mile Belmont on a sloppy track.
Conquistador Cielo was voted 1982 Horse of the Year.
The 2020 Belmont, for the first time ever, will kick off this country’s Triple Crown series for 3-year-olds. Its distance has been shortened considerably this year to 1 1/8 miles.
Right now it looks like a field of eight or nine for the Belmont (Pneumatic is considered possible). Here are my rankings:
1. Tiz the Law
2. Tap It to Win
3. Sole Volante
4. Dr. Post
7. Max Player
9. Farmington Road
Sole Volante, like Tap It to Win, is expected to return relatively quickly to run in the Belmont. A Kentucky-bred Karakontie gelding trained by Patrick Biancone, Sole Volante rallied from last at 2-1 to win a one-mile allowance/optional claiming race June 10 at Gulfstream. Finishing fourth as the 7-10 favorite was another Biancone-trained 3-year-old, Ete Indien.
Earlier this year on Feb. 8, Sole Volante won the Grade III Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs. He then ran second to King Guillermo in the Grade II Tampa Bay Derby on Mach 7 prior to his June 10 allowance victory.
HONOR A.P. LEAPS TO NO. 2 IN NTRA POLLS
While Midnight Bisou again holds the No. 1 position in this week’s NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll, Honor A.P. moved up to No. 2 in this week’s NTRA Top Three-Year-Old Poll after being No. 6 last week.
Below is the Top 10 for this week’s NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll:
Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes)
1. 383 Midnight Bisou (29)
2. 265 Mucho Gusto
3. 263 By My Standards (1)
4. 197 Code of Honor (4)
5. 150 Tom’s d’Etat
6. 144 Zulu Alpha (1)
7. 117 Vekoma
8. 109 Improbable
9. 108 Maximum Security (4)
10. 103 McKinzie
Note: Tiz the Law received two first-place votes in the Top Thoroughbred Poll. With 35 points, he ranked 14th in that poll.
Below is the Top 10 for this week’s NTRA Top Three-Year-Old Poll:
Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes)
1. 394 Tiz the Law (31)
2. 364 Honor A.P. (7)
3. 310 Maxfield (3)
4. 260 Authentic
5. 189 King Guillermo
6. 131 Charlatan
7. 119 Sole Volante
8. 99 Ete Indien
9. 84 Nadal
10. 61 Basin