BloodHorse associate editor Byron King presents his latest Derby Dozen presented by Spendthrift Farm with a look at his leading contenders for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve on May 1.
With all prep races completed, the focus how shifts to how Kentucky Derby contenders are training for the big race, either at Churchill Downs or over their home tracks before they ship to Louisville. The Derby field will be finalized on Tuesday, April 27 with the post-position draw at 11 a.m. ET.
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.
The Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve favorite did not overpower his workmate, Spa City, in a breeze April 17, though he still worked quickly with five furlongs in :59.60. Beginning about a length back, he finished on even terms, though Spa City stayed slightly in front on the gallop out. Last year's champion juvenile's finest moments have come in the afternoons, compiling a 5-for-5 race record.
2. Known Agenda
He also had a head-and-head breeze with a workmate at Churchill Downs, timed in 1:00.40 for five-eighths of a mile April 16 while working with Derby longshot Sainthood. Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. gave him some taps on his shoulder with his crop as encouragement. The Curlin Florida Derby Presented by Hill 'n' Dale Farms at Xalapa winner is typically not a fast-working type but is in stellar form since adding blinkers.
Two-time Derby-winning trainer Doug O'Neill has elected to keep him in California to prepare before the colt travels to Kentucky the week of the race. The Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby winner breezed six furlongs in 1:14.20 Saturday at Santa Anita Park, beginning about a length and a half behind Itsthattime and finishing in front of that rival by about that same margin. Flavien Prat picks up the Derby ride.
Like Hot Rod Charlie, he is readying for the Derby at Santa Anita, where he worked five furlongs in :59.60 Saturday. The Runhappy Santa Anita Derby winner (on the left in the submitted photo) dispatched workmate Tripoli and galloped out with enthusiasm. This horse was in the news for another reason over the weekend when trainer John Sadler announced that 2013 Derby winning-jockey Joel Rosario would ride him in the Derby, replacing Umberto Rispoli.
Six-time Derby-winning trainer Bob Baffert, who appeared to hold several aces in his Derby hand just a month ago, is now relying on this consistent 3-year-old, the runner-up to Rock Your World in the Santa Anita Derby (Life Is Good fell off the Derby trail due to injury, Concert Tour will await the Preakness Stakes, and Hozier will need a defection to make the Derby field). He had an excellent workout Friday at Santa Anita.
Of the Derby prospects that breezed at Churchill Downs Saturday, he was arguably the flashiest. Under a hold by jockey Florent Geroux in a team move with maiden winner Colonel Bowman, he zipped six furlongs in 1:11.40, not asked until his gallop out, timed in 1:25.20 for seven furlongs. Look for the Risen Star Stakes Presented by Lamarque Ford winner to bounce back from a Louisiana Derby sixth-place finish.
A bit keen early in his final major Derby drill at Churchill April 19, he left maiden winner Bajan Rum behind with five-eighths in :59.80, galloping out with six furlongs in 1:12.80 and seven furlongs in 1:26. He had plenty of energy left even while getting his bath after the work, getting loose momentarily before caught by a handler. He’s hit the board in all seven starts, including five straight graded stakes.
8. Super Stock
Four Kentucky Derby winners this century have exited the Arkansas Derby, a race this colt won April 10. As well as he performed in the Arkansas Derby, bear in mind his fine trip. He was able to draft behind two dueling leaders and was never more than one or two paths off the fence around the turns in a six-horse race. Navigating such a smooth journey through a much larger field in the Derby will prove challenging.
9. O Besos
Having secured entry in the Derby following recent defections, he cracks the Dozen, seeming the type that could rally to get a share of the purse. His performance in the 1 3/16-mile Louisiana Derby was telling, as he showed his stretch kick could lead to him threatening at a route. He came from last to grab third, only a head behind runner-up Midnight Bourbon. Caddo River's expected Derby participation should contribute to a lively pace to aid his charge.
10. Highly Motivated
The Keeneland track record holder for 6 ½ furlongs (1:14.99 in winning the Nyquist Stakes last fall), he was stubborn as the lone speed in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes, holding second to Essential Quality. Chief concern remains that he has only raced once around two turns and now goes 1 ¼ miles. He was sharp in a half-mile tune-up at Keeneland April 18, outworking stablemate Founder and timed in a bullet :47.20 under a hold.
Mandaloun got the highest marks for his breeze around the Churchill Downs strip Saturday, but this sophomore wasn't far behind. He settled kindly off workmate Epic Dreamer and flew past under a loose rein to complete five-eighths in :59.80. He then galloped out six furlongs in 1:12.40 and seven-eighths in 1:25.20. He’s short on seasoning with three starts and didn't switch leads until late when second in the Florida Derby.
12. Dynamic One
Bourbonic caught him late to win the Wood Memorial Stakes Presented by Resorts World Casino, but the Wood runner-up was the better of the two in a team half-mile drill at Churchill Friday. He was timed in :48.60, and was lengths superior on the gallop out. A wide trip proved costly in the Wood, but prone to slow starts, he is often in catch-up mode, leaving him more at risk for such trips.