By John Pricci

Hallandale Beach— The king lives, long live the king!

Until Saturday, anyway.

But don’t fret for Bob. He still has four in HRI’s Derby Power 10 rankings, including an exacta with Improbable and Mucho Gusto and Roadster in the bottom five, his 2018 Juvenile champion Game Winner is still perfect with the panel, sweeping all five first place votes.

The plan now is for Bob vs. Bob in Saturday’s crucial San Felipe as Improbable tries to flip the script in a battle of unbeatens. Instagrand was expected to join the party but Mr. Hollendorfer re-routed his undefeated 3-year-old debut to the shorter, one-turn Gotham.

But if Saturday’s Fountain of Youth were any indication, Eastern-based 3-year-olds are alive and kicking, most notably a much-fitter winner Code of Honor and the strong rallying runnerup, Bourbon War.

Show finisher Vekoma also appeared close to where his connections want him to be in the lead-up to Derby, and despite a decent effort from aggressively ridden favorite Hidden Scroll, it will be back to the drawing board in search of a harness to contain all that early speed.

Fleeting Fountain impressions, from the bottom up: Signalman was nowhere near ready and will improve a lot next time; he had better. Global Campaign was OK but was either not ready for this or not be of this class. Later, he was found to have a legitimate excuse in the running.

Hidden Scroll deserves a mulligan: First-time fast, two turns and the pace was ridiculously hot; 22.80 and 45.69, contested all the way. He opened ground briefly on the far turn as if he were from another world. Alas, he is merely equine and will require a make-over if he is to go farther.

Vekoma is interesting. He moved outside at the turn as the winner moved inside; tactical advantage ‘Code’ given the first finish line dynamics. At headstretch the winner accelerated and separated himself. Vekoma deserves credit for continuing on to out-nod the tiring favorite. George Weaver trainee will improve bigly next out.

Code of Honor Silences Doubters in Fountain of Youth
Gulfstream Photo
Code of Honor’s connections are playing it cautiously for the time being, doubtlessly spooked by the hiccups along the way. Shug McGaughey talked about the next big three spots but indicated he would prefer to remain at Gulfstream for the Florida Derby. That seems most likely now.

Mark Hennig was very pleased with the effort of the runnerup. Bourbon War had to await his opportunity at midstretch and when he finally shook clear to the outside, he roared down the center as if to indicate “another furlong please.” However, those can be careful-what-you-wish-for moments. But for right now, Hennig’s colt is a player.

Scores can really change next week with four preps set to go; the aforementioned San Felipe and Gotham, the Tampa Bay Derby and, yes, even the synthetic Jeff Ruby Steaks—that’s no typo—at Turfway Park.

HRI Derby Power 10, Week 2:

1-Game Winner (60) has had his workout tempo increased and should make a good account of himself in the San Felipe. Will he remain undefeated? (TimeFormUS speed figures: last 112, best 116)

2-Improbable (45) Gary West has said he didn’t want to make three long trips this spring, forsaking the Oaklawn’s million-dollar Rebel. Will Bob call some kind of audible here? (TimeFormUS speed figures: last 117, best 117)

3-Code of Honor (36) Entire camp is guardedly optimistic about their Kentucky Derby prospects. Shug said all was good Sunday morning. No reason not to improve next out. (TimeFormUS speed figures: last 118, best 118)

4- War of Will (34)
Already in the big dance by virtue of his Risen Star; lots of options for Mark Casse to consider. (TimeFormUS speed figures: last 110, best 110)

5-Bourbon War (25) The chatter is that there highly likely will be a rematch of the Fountain of Youth exacta horses in the Florida Derby; anxiously awaiting. (TimeFormUS speed figures: last 115, best 115)

6-Mucho Gusto (18) impressed winning the Lewis Memorial and has also been very good in morning trials since. (TimeFormUS last 111, best 113)

7-Tax (13) is not the flashiest individual but he handles different scenarios professionally and he wants to beat you. (TimeFormUS speed figures: last 118, best 118)

8-Instagrand (11) Hollendorfer making the right move shipping into New York next weekend rather than a longer two-turner vs. Baffert’s heavy heads. (TimeFormUS speed figures: last 109, best 112)

9-tie Harvey Wallbanger (7)
whereas the accomplished Signalman wasn’t ready for the Fountain of Youth, this guy was good taking the Holy Bull. The waters will get deeper. (TimeFormUS speed figures: last 106, best 106)

9-tie Roadster (7)
his allowance win Friday looked fairly route until he reached the sixteenth pole where it appears he first started running in earnest. Muck to prove but a very nice colt. (TimeFormUS speed figures: last 110, best 110)

ALSO RECEIVING VOTES: Gunmetal Grey (5), Hidden Scroll (4), Knicks Go (3), Mucho (2), Signalman (2), Super Steed (1)

Graded Bonanza at Gulfstream: Once again the Hallandale venue made the grade—nine times, in fact. Given the lack of strong simulcast competition and a Chamber of Commerce afternoon, handle on the Fountain of Youth card was $31.2 million, a 9% increase year over year, an $11 million increase since 2015.

Victories by A Thread of Blue (G3 Palm Beach), Krampus (G3 Canadian Turf), Recruiting Ready (G3 Gulfstream Park Sprint), Holy Helena (G3 The Very One), Cambier Parc (G3 Herecomesthebride), Precieuse (G3 Honey Fox) and Zula Alpha (G2 MacDiarmida) were courageously workmanlike.

Jeltrin’s score in the G2 Davona Dale was a 50-1 shocker, perhaps less surprising than the very dull performance by returning Juvenile Filly Champion Jaywalk who showed none of the brilliance that earned back-to-back Grade 1 titles and a championship.

©John Pricci, MAR 3, 2019,

Craig Milkowski: Hidden Scroll Rises to the Top off Loss

The following are the top 10 TimeformUS Speed Figures run so far by horses eligible for the 2019 Kentucky Derby on dirt or on a synthetic surface. Turf races are excluded as none offer points towards a spot in the gate in the first Saturday in May. For a similar reason, I stuck to races run at one mile or longer. The list does include races from the horses’ two year old season. Three big prep races will be run on Saturday, including the return of two-year-old champion Game Winner. He was bumped off the list this week with the additions of Hoffa’s Union and Code of Honor.

1) Hidden Scroll (119)
Freaked first time out over a sloppy track at Gulfstream and returned with a very good effort when fourth in the Fountain of Youth. His maiden win would be fourth on this list if listed separately. He inexplicably was sent up after a rank outsider through blazing fractions and tired late to be fourth. He will need to rate (or be rated?) better next time out to be considered a real Derby contender.

2) Not That Brady (119)
The New York bred gelding has two wins and two seconds in his last four starts, all at Aqueduct. His last race was his best yet when he finished second behind Tax in the G3 Withers Stakes. TimeformUS includes pace as part of its speed figure so the winner doesn’t always get the best number as can be seen by the 118 assigned Tax further down the list. He is listed as a probable for the Gotham Stakes this Saturday.

3) Vekoma (119)
Ran his big number last out as a two-year-old in the G3 Nashua Stakes at Aqueduct and finished a good third in his return in the Fountain of Youth where he recorded a 115 TimeformUS Speed Figure in his first race off the layoff.

4) Hoffa’s Union (118)
Burst onto the scene this past week with a scintillating debut win at Laurel in a one turn mile. He won by over 15 lengths.

5) Our Braintrust (118)
Another that exits the fast Withers Stakes, finishing just a neck back in third while well clear of the rest of the field. Worked out on Saturday but isn’t entered in any of the preps coming up this week.

6) Complexity (118)
Blitzed the G1 Champagne Stakes at Belmont before fading badly in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. He only recently started working out again and will be pointed to one turn races.

7) Code of Honor (118)
Won the Fountain of Youth Saturday getting a dream trip saving ground behind a very fast pace. Not knocking the effort one bit as he ran fast doing so while rebounding from a subpar effort in his 2019 debut.

8) Tax (118)
Impressive winner of the aforementioned Withers Stakes which followed a good third in the G2 Remsen Stakes. Former claimer has really improved with Lasix. Next start likely to be in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct or the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn.

9) Improbable (117)
Undefeated in three starts, the Bob Baffert trainee is scheduled to make his three-year-old debut in the San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita. In his last start he crushed stablemate Mucho Gusto by five lengths in the G1 Los Alamitos Futurity.

10) Trophy Chaser (117)
This one has run second in his last two starts, both ungraded stakes. Still hasn’t worked out since mid-January so unlikely this one will be on the Derby trail.