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Kentucky Derby Hopefuls Gearing Up

by Jon White

January 31, 2018

Three-year-olds with Kentucky Derby ambitions will do battle this Saturday in a trio of graded stakes races in Florida, California and New York.

These three races on the Road to the Kentucky Derby are Gulfstream Park’s Grade II Holy Bull at 1 1/16 miles, Santa Anita Park’s Grade III Robert B. Lewis at 1 1/16 miles and Aqueduct’s Grade III Withers at 1 1/8 miles.

Each of these three races is worth 10 Kentucky Derby points to the winner, four for finishing second, two for third and one for fourth.

The Holy Bull, Lewis and Withers certainly are eligible to have an impact on my Kentucky Derby Top 10 list next week. Here is my current Top 10:

1. McKinzie
2. Instilled Regard
3. Good Magic
4. Bolt d’Oro
5. Mask
6. Solomini
7. Enticed
8. Untamed Domain
9. Catholic Boy
10. Firenze Fire

Mask, who had been No. 3, moves down to No. 5 this week due to a “setback.”

Daily Racing Form’s Jay Privman reported: “The unbeaten 3-year-old colt Mask, considered a top prospect for the Kentucky Derby, has had a setback ‘that will require him to miss approximately two weeks of training,’ trainer Chad Brown said.”

Added Privman: “Brown said the timing of the setback, details of which he did not want to disclose, would keep Mask out of his next scheduled start, the Grade II, $400,000 Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds on Feb. 17.”

Mask is two for two. The Kentucky-bred Tapit colt won a 6 1/2-furlong maiden special weight race by three lengths at Belmont Park last Oct. 20, then registered a sparkling 6 1/4-length victory in Gulfstream Park’s Mucho Macho Man at one mile on Jan. 6.

Brown also trains No. 3 Good Magic, who won the BC Juvenile by a widening 4 1/4 lengths as a maiden. The Kentucky-bred Curlin colt recorded his first 2018 workout on Jan. 21 in Florida when he was timed in :36.95 for three furlongs at Palm Meadows. He then worked four furlongs in a sharp :48.45 there last Sunday.

Good Magic is slated to make his first start of the year in Gulfstream’s Grade II Xpressbet.com Fountain of Youth at 1 1/16 miles on March 3.

No. 4 Bolt d’Oro had his first 2018 workout last Saturday at Santa Anita, covering three furlongs in :36.80. Mick Ruis trains Bolt d’Oro.

In late December, Bolt d’Oro was diagnosed with a pulled muscle in his hind end that kept him out of training for a time. The Kentucky-bred Medaglia d’Oro colt
is targeting Santa Anita’s Grade II San Felipe at 1 1/16 miles on March 10 as his first 2018 start, followed by the Grade I Santa Anita Derby at 1 1/8 miles on April 7.

Bolt d’Oro won last year’s Grade I Del Mar Futurity and Santa Anita’s Grade I FrontRunner. Undefeated in three starts going into the BC Juvenile, he was backed down to 3-5 favoritism and finished third after an absurdly wide trip.

Ruis has announced that Javier Castellano will be Bolt d’Oro’s new rider when the colt returns to the racing wars. Castellano replaces Corey Nakatani.

No. 7 Enticed is entered in this Saturday’s Holy Bull. The Kentucky-bred Medaglia d’Oro colt, trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, has won two of three career starts. He won a six-furlong maiden race in the mud at Saratoga last Sept. 4, ran third in Belmont Park’s Grade I Champagne at one mile on Oct. 7, then won Churchill Downs’ Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club at 1 1/16 miles on Nov. 25. Tiz Mischief, who lost by just a head when runner-up in the Kentucky Jockey Club, also is entered in the Holy Bull, along with Free Drop Billy, winner of last year’s Grade I Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland.

Trainer Graham Motion has opted to run No. 8 Untamed Domain in Gulfstream’s Grade III Dania Beach at one mile on turf rather than in the Holy Bull. The Kentucky-bred Animal Kingdom colt hasn’t been seen under silks since he finished second to Mendelssohn in the Grade I BC Juvenile Turf at Del Mar last Nov. 3.

No. 10 Firenze Fire, who won Aqueduct’s one-mile Jerome in his 2018 debut, heads the field in this Saturday’s Withers. He won the Champagne, but subsequently failed to fire and ran seventh in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at 1 1/16 miles on Nov. 4 at Del Mar. The Florida-bred Poseidon’s Warrior colt, conditioned by Jason Servis, had been sick for a time prior to the BC Juvenile.

By the way, No. 1 McKinzie, No. 2 Instilled Regard and No. 6 Solomini were flattered by the result of last Sunday’s $106,600 Riley Allison at Sunland Park.

Runaway Ghost finished fifth, beaten by 36 lengths, in the Grade I Los Alamitos CashCall Futurity at 1 1/16 miles on Dec. 9 against McKinzie, Instilled Regard and Solomini. Last Sunday, Runaway Ghost was able to run away to a 7 3/4-length victory in the one-mile Riley Allison while making his first start since the Los Al Futurity.


Bolt d’Oro is a slight Kentucky Derby favorite over McKinzie at the Wynn Race Book in Las Vegas.

As of last Thursday (Jan. 25), these were the 49 horses whose odds were under 100-1 at the Wynn:

7-1 Bolt d’Oro (listed at 12-1 on Nov. 27)
8-1 McKinzie (20-1)
14-1 Good Magic (14-1)
18-1 Montauk (22-1)
18-1 Solomini (30-1)
20-1 Enticed (20-1)
20-1 Instilled Regard (125-1)
20-1 Mask (60-1)
25-1 Peace (150-1)
25-1 Principe Guilherme (45-1)
30-1 Catholic Boy (150-1)
30-1 Vino Rosso (100-1)
35-1 Untamed Domain (50-1)
40-1 Marconi (125-1)
40-1 Mendelssohn (50-1)
40-1 Sporting Chance (40-1)
40-1 St Patrick’s Day (40-1)
40-1 Tiz Mischief (30-1)
45-1 Avery Island (45-1)
45-1 Noble Indy (no odds)
50-1 Copper Bullet (60-1)
50-1 Dak Attack (50-1)
50-1 Free Drop Billy (50-1)
50-1 Restoring Hope (125-1)
50-1 World of Trouble (200-1)
50-1 Zulfikhar (65-1)
60-1 Alkhaatam (no odds)
60-1 Analyze It (100-1)
60-1 Bal Harbour (175-1)
60-1 Combatant (150-1)
60-1 Navistar (100-1)
60-1 Strike Power (no odds)
65-1 Firenze Fire (75-1)
65-1 Life’s a Parlay (no odds)
65-1 Nero (65-1)
65-1 Promises Fulfilled (50-1)
75-1 Ax Man (no odds)
75-1 Hollywood Star (60-1)
75-1 Mississippi (75-1)
75-1 Retirement Fund (no odds)
75-1 Supreme Aura (100-1)
75-1 Talent Scout (75-1)
75-1 Tricks to Doo (175-1)
75-1 Vision (no odds)
85-1 Airtouch (85-1)
85-1 Argosy Fleet (85-1)
85-1 Curlin’s Honor (85-1)
85-1 Reride (100-1)
85-1 Saxon Warrior (85-1)


In yet another stellar performance, Gun Runner won the world’s richest race, Gulfstream Park’s $16,300,000 Pegasus World Cup, by 2 1/2 lengths last Saturday despite having to start from a disadvantageous No. 10 post position. He once again was exquisitely ridden by Florent Geroux. Credit also goes to Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen for his superb training job with Gun Runner, who now exits the racing stage for good with 12 victories from 19 lifetime starts and earnings of $15,988,500.

First prize in the Pegasus was $7 million. As Gun Runner moves on to stud duty at Three Chimneys Farm in Kentucky, the 5-year-old Kentucky-bred son of Candy Ride is second only to Arrogate and his $17,422,600 on the list of North America’s all-time leading money earners. California Chrome is third on the list with a bankroll of $14,752,650.

Gun Runner’s final time in the 1 1/8-mile Pegasus was 1:47.41. He was assigned a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 119, exceeding the 117 he recorded in the BC Classic.

West Coast recorded a career-best 115 for his Pegasus runner-up effort. Unlike Gun Runner, West Coast is to continue racing this year.

Arrogate’s final time of 1:46.83 when he won the 2017 Pegasus broke the track record. He, like Gun Runner this year, was assigned a 119 Beyer Speed Figure for his Pegasus win. Prior to Arrogate’s Pegasus victory, he had recorded Beyers of 122 in the 2016 Travers and 120 in the 2016 BC Classic.


The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) this week released the results of its first national polls of 2018.

The NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll is conducted weekly through the Monday following the Breeders’ Cup World Championship, which this year will be held at Churchill Downs. The NTRA Top 3-Year-Poll is conducted weekly through the Monday following the Belmont Stakes. Members of the media that regularly cover Thoroughbred racing cast votes for their Top 10 horses, with points awarded on a 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 bases.

This was the final Top 10 in the 2017 Top Thoroughbred Poll on Nov. 6:

Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes)

1. 400 Gun Runner (40)
2. 322 Collected
3. 265 Forever Unbridled
4. 243 World Approval
5. 219 West Coast
6. 205 Arrogate
7. 128 Beach Patrol
8. 97 Abel Tasman
9. 95 Roy H
10. 63 Lady Eli

This is this week’s first NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll of 2018:

Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes)

1. 360 Gun Runner (36)
2. 341 West Coast (2)
3. 219 World Approval
4. 162 Forever Unbridled
5. 151 Gunnevera
6. 130 Abel Tasman
7. 98 Roy H
8. 94 Sharp Azteca
9. 78 Beach Patrol
10. 75 Unique Bella

Others receiving votes: Collected (70 points), Good Magic (33), Seeking the Soul (28), Stellar Wind (20), Oscar Nominated (19), Fear the Cowboy (19), Mind Your Biscuits (19), Bolt d’Oro (17), Always Dreaming (17), With Approval (16), McKinzie (12), X Y Jet (10), Elate (10), Battle of Midway (8), Oscar Performance (8), Giant Expectations (6), Caledonia Road (6), Itisinthepost (5), Paradise Woods (5), Awesome Banner (5), Tommy Macho (4), Instilled Regard (4), Mask (4), Vale Dori (4), Farrell (3), Off Limits (3), Good Samaritan (3), Stormy Victoria (3), Diversify (3), Bigger Picture (3), Hoppertunity (3), Imperial Hint (2), Tiger Moth (2), Rushing Fall (2), Grand Jete (2), Cloud Computing (1), Tiz Mischief (1), Afleet Willy (1), Rainbow Heir (1), Blackjackcat (1).

This was the Top 10 in the first NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll of 2017:

Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes)

1. 300 Arrogate (30)
2. 227 Songbird
3. 189 Tepin
4. 146 Shaman Ghost
5. 103 Gun Runner
6. 70 Drefong
7. 67 California Chrome
8. 52 Neolithic
9. 44 Classic Empire
10. 38 Lady Eli

Here is this week’s first NTRA Top 3-Year-Old Poll of 2018:

Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes)

1. 355 Good Magic (24)
2. 329 Bolt d’Oro (11)
3. 244 McKinzie (2)
4. 198 Solomini
5. 189 Instilled Regard
6. 154 Catholic Boy
7. 113 Mask
8. 107 Firenze Fire
9. 85 Enticed
10. 73 Mourinho

Others receiving votes: Caledonia Road (29), Free Drop Billy (23), Mendelssohn (22), Copper Bullet (17), Tiz Mischief (17), Rushing Fall (16), Greyvitos (15), Principe Guilherme (13), Ax Man (9), Untamed Domain (9), World of Trouble (9), Noble Indy (7), Sporting Chance (7), Retirement Fund (6), New York Central (5), Mash (5), Montauk (5), Avery Island (5), Vino Rosso (4), Impact Player (2), Combatant (2), Trangress (2), Midnight Bisou (2), Sea Foam (2), Alluring Star (2), Moonshine Memories (2), Still Having Fun (2), Faversham (1), Marconi (1), Hollywood Star (1), Promises Fullfilled (1).

While McKinzie tops my Kentucky Derby Top 10 list, one of his two first-place votes in the NTRA Top 3-Year-Old Poll did not come from me. I put Good Magic at No. 1. I think it is the Eclipse Award-winning 2-year-old male champion who deserves to have the No. 1 spot in the first NTRA Top 3-Year-Old Poll of the year.

This was the Top 10 in the first NTRA Top 3-Year-Old Poll of 2017:

Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes)

1. 288 Classic Empire (28)
2. 209 McCraken
3. 204 Mastery (1)
4. 175 Gormley
5. 144 Mo Town
6. 141 Practical Joke
7. 90 American Anthem
8. 77 Uncontested
9. 59 Guest Suite (1)
10. 58 El Areeb


In terms of my Eclipse Award predictions last week, I apologize for any confusion regarding my choice in the wide-open filly and mare sprinter category.

While my original prediction was Unique Bella, I switched at the last minute to Paulassilverlining. However, in the top part of that category, I listed Unique Bella as my prediction inasmuch as I neglected to change that after having made my final decision. I went on to say “Paulassilverlining is my prediction.”

The filly and mare sprinter category was the first one announced. And darn if my last-minute decision to switch my prediction to Paulassilverling turned out to be a bad move. Unique Bella did receive the Eclipse Award in this category.

It also turned out that Daily Racing Form’s Mike Watchmaker was right to be confident that Breeders’ Cup winners Good Magic and Caledonia Road would be the winners in the 2-year-old male and female divisions. Though I correctly predicted those two Eclipse Award winners, I was not confident like Watchmaker. I had thought that Bolt d’Oro could possibly get the award in the 2-year-old male category and Rushing Fall might get it in the 2-year-old female category.

After I goofed by not going with Unique Bella, I did correctly predict the winner in each of the other 16 other categories.