Award-winning BloodHorse senior correspondent Steve Haskin presents his Derby Dozen this week with a look at his leading contenders for the 146th Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve, now rescheduled for Sept. 5.
Bob Baffert-trained Charlatan and Nadal won the two divisions of the May 2 Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park, each earning 100 qualifying points for the Sept. 5 Kentucky Derby. The entire summer racing season remains in flux with the order of the Triple Crown still to be determined, but Churchill Downs announced that it would start its spring meet on May 16. The Matt Winn Stakes, scheduled for May 23, has been made a Kentucky Derby qualifying race, with points distributed on a 10-4-2-1 scale to the top four finishers.
Check out America's Best Racing's Triple Crown page to keep up to date with stories and statistics on the Road to the Kentucky Derby.
1. Tiz the Law
Despite the Arkansas Derby Day assault by the Bob Baffert Brigade May 2 at Oaklawn Park, this one holds on to the No. 1 spot as we head into May with stakes schedules just starting to trickle in. Whenever a firm stakes list is handy, the Curlin Florida Derby winner will be ready, having remained in steady training, breezing five furlongs May 2 in 1:01 2/5. This colt seemingly has no flaws.
He gets the nod over Charlatan because he was a bit more professional in the second division of the May 2 Arkansas Derby, beat a more talented and deeper field, did it from off the pace, and has a much stronger pedigree for 1 ¼ miles. What was most impressive was his acceleration inside the eighth pole when hit right-handed.
His romp in the first division of the Arkansas Derby was a thing of beauty and stamped him as an extraordinary talent with a limitless future. The reason he is behind Nadal is he had everything go his way, from drawing into the weaker division, breaking from the rail, having the only other speed horse scratch, and totally controlling the race.
4. Honor A. P.
Not only did the San Felipe Stakes runner-up work five furlongs May 2 in 1:00, but it was the third fastest of 92 works at the distance at Santa Anita Park. He picked up unscheduled company from another horse working a half with jockey Kenny Black aboard who got his head in front. Black told trainer John Shirreffs he was on a fast horse. That put Honor A. P., as Shirreffs said, in a competitive mode.
The San Felipe winner still might well be the best of the Bob Baffert-trained bunch, but right now you have to give the edge to the "now" horses, who both took huge steps forward. Much like Charlatan, Authentic still has to show what he can do under pressure and if he can rate. But also much like Charlatan he has an easy-going stride that is anything but speed-crazy.
6. Sole Volante
Despite his inactivity, I am still very high on him. I love what I've seen from him visually. With the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve four months away, trainer Patrick Biancone feels there is no point in rushing him. The colt hasn't worked since March 15 but has been galloping every day at Palm Meadows, and Biancone said he has had an excellent month of training.
Although he wasn't as sharp as he was when winning the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby and was under pressure early in the second division of the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn, he showed he was capable of running a big race away from Tampa, and I liked the way he was striding out in the final furlong of the Arkansas Derby behind Nadal, who did open up on him late.
He worked six furlongs May 2 in 1:13 1/5 at Keeneland. I can't remember having a horse jump around the Top 12 so much, but that is what happens when you're dealing with a colt who hasn't run yet this year and we're already in May … and has had just two lifetime starts. So, frankly, no one can know for sure what to expect when he returns.
9. Ete Indien
It's time to bring this one back into the mix. His third-place finish in the March 28 Curlin Florida Derby was disappointing in that he went head and head and got outrun for second by a horse, Shivaree, who had been sprinting. But you can't ignore his three consecutive triple-digit Brisnet Speed Figures.
The only chance he had to be competitive in the first division of the Arkansas Derby against Charlatan was to sit right off him and use his grinding style to keep plugging away. But once again he was back in fifth between horses, and he just doesn't have the turn of foot to get into contention once he's clear, especially if there is a fast, classy horse loose on the lead.
11. Major Fed
I've been on his bandwagon for so long, since he broke his maiden on Jan. 1, I have to keep him in this bonus version of the Derby Dozen. He is improving, he's versatile and adaptable, and he has as strong a pedigree as you will find. He ran a terrific race in the March 21 Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby, dropping back to last in the 14-horse field and rallying wide to finish fourth.
As well as he's run this year, he is one horse who should be much improved by September. He is a bruiser of a colt who will be more polished later in the year, especially with his stamina-laden pedigree top and bottom. His third in the Louisiana Derby going five-wide on the first turn from the 14-post was an excellent effort.