As expected there was quite a bit of movement in the Derby Dozen from two weeks ago, including a massive shake-up at the top that saw our top 2 horses falling out of the dozen. In all, we have four new horses who made the dozen which means four dropped out. This is a big month on the Derby trail as we’ll start to see who is legit and has a chance and who’s only pretending. Let’s see where we are at in the first week of February.
- Titanic Ghost (California Chrome x Smart Strike) trained by punter34 was a late entry to the board and debuts at #1. It’s a massive debut but one I feel which is warranted. He won the G3 7f LA Prevue as a 2yo and followed that up with a 2nd place finish in the G3 Happy New Year at 8.5 where he ran a 102 SP. That 2nd is the only blemish on his record which now stands at 5 wins in 6 starts. Since he’s already accumulated stakes points he hasn’t debuted yet in 2020 and will make his first start of the year this month. A precocious California Chrome is a rarity so this colt could be special.
- NYSP Trooper (Distorted Humor x Seattle Slew) trained by doodlegbs also was a late entry and he locks down the second spot. Like Titanic Ghost, he has a near-perfect record with 4 wins from 5 starts. Trooper also has an impeccable pedigree with loads of Derby class. After losing his debut, Trooper has won four straight. He has flashed remarkable speed taking leads of over 5-lengths in his last two races, both allowances, at a mile. Trooper must still get faster, his high SP is a 94 and he has to prove his mettle against stakes horses, but with his firm foundation and excellent pedigree there is every reason to believe he will pass the test.
- Running With Beto (Constitution x Galileo) trained by waremblem holds his spot in anticipation of his graded debut. The 3-5 spots actually held as none of them ran. Scheduled to run in the G2 Sleepy Fan in two weeks, the elevation in class will test whether or not his two-race winning streak is legitimate. He doesn’t need to win the race, but he must finish top 3 to maintain his ranking.
- Imbil Baleen (Maclean’s Music x Giant’s Causeway) trained by kymar. A key stakes race awaits next week. Baleen will need to win the open stakes to accumulate the points. A tough decision faces every trainer in the push for stakes points, do you make the grab for the graded bounty or try to build up your horse in open company for a far lesser payoff? Chasing stakes points isn’t a great position to be in, but you really only need enough to make one of the G1 Locks, then of course win. Easy, right?
- Draconomicon (Empire Maker x A.P. Indy) trained by waremblem will determine his fate this weekend in the Risen Star. He’s 8/1 morning line which makes him tied with an astonishing 5 other horses for 2nd choice. Since the favorite is 7/1, the oddsmakers basically have no idea what’s going to happen at the Fair Grounds. Draconomicon is one of six stakes winners in what looks to be a deep field. Still, I feel this is a good spot for him and if he’s good enough he is set up to do well. Judgment day for Draconomicon.
- Forest Costa (Forestry x Encosta de Lago) trained by robd is the first horse to move from the knocking on the door group onto the dozen. He made his 2020 debut in the G3 Giant Slayer Classic where he ran 98 SP which was good enough for 4th. Although running 4th is terrible for trainers because it yields no stakes points, this was a strong seasonal debut and an increase of 5 SPs on the double up at 8.5 furlongs. This is an interesting gelding with an unconventional pedigree. His next race should be fascinating on whether he continues to move forward or if he’s reached his ceiling.
- Kymard Persav (Stratford Hill x Super Saver) trained by kymar falls one spot as we await his 2020 debut next week. Again, he is ranked high on a hunch and I believe he’s due for a big race. If he’s successful he may have to push a bit to get stakes points but first things first.
- NYSP Sergeant (More Than Ready x Deputy Minister) trained by doodlegbs is our last debuting member on the dozen. In his eight starts, he has never been off the board picking up three wins. Most impressively was his debut in January where he ran 3rd in the G3 Legoland at a mile leading the field until fading in the last furlong. This could be distance limitations as he’s won twice in sprints and once in routes. However, after putting up a 99 SP at a mile, I’m not ready to say he can’t go longer, especially with his brilliant pedigree.
- Rebel Cavalry (Constitution x Curlin) trained by waremblem. Down a spot, his 90 SP high suddenly seems slow as the colts pick up their times. He runs in stakes next week so he’ll decide whether or not he keeps his position. It’s always fascinating to see horses like this face their big moment. In many ways, this one race will define his season and determine which path he takes. Almost career-defining. Horses, like people, don’t have as much time as you think.
- Imbil Hajun (Exaggerator x Candy Ride) trained by kymar also falls a spot and like Rebel Cavalry he’ll need to increase his career SP which right now stands at 88. He’s set to run in stakes on the 21st. Only 3 starts under his belt Hajun will need to develop rapidly. Exaggerator got really good between February and April and kymar is hoping that Hajun can follow his sire’s path.
- Haashim (Casino Drive x Broken Vow) trained by johnk. How does a horse win a race and fall from 7th to 11? Well, its a matter of competition and sometimes a horse can be trained too conservatively, especially if it has an eye toward a major prize. Haashim won another HOT race, which makes him 5 for 5 in HOT races. That’s great if you’re looking to be the HOT race champion but I’m not sure how much it pushes you toward a Derby win. Really need to see Haashim test something stronger to keep him in the dozen.
- Detract (Curlin x War Chant) trained by robd holds his position as we await his 2020 debut. Everything will be about proving he can route in his next start. With classic sire Curlin as his dad, you have to at least bet on his chances.
Top horse Kim the Animal dropped out as he’s no longer in a residency supporting stable. Number two-horse Heritage House did indeed increase his speed time to a 94 but he finished 9th in a stakes effort. That’s a tough finish to rebound from. It’s not impossible, but he’ll have to work his way back up. Mystical Seance ran 2nd in an allowance race which wasn’t enough to maintain his 10th position. Filly Straight Toda Moon dropped down from 11th without racing as stronger colts were given precedence.
Knocking on the Door
An intriguing Justify colt is Just Wild who ran 5th in a stakes with a 97 SP. Divisidario just missed the dozen running his record to 3-3 with an allowance win. Only his SPs are holding him back at this point but should the Carpe Diem colt make a statement in stakes he will move way up the dozen. Khaliwaki had a set back running 12th in the G3 Sham. Maiden winners Foxies Joke and Third Gear will look to build upon their success next time out. Imbil Bonzai faces stakes company next week. Alamzeb had a major setback running 9th in a stakes for his first off the board finish in 7 starts. Class may be an issue.