By John Pricci

HALLANDALE BEACH—Not having the San Felipe Stakes results to ponder in Week 3 of HRI’s Derby Power 10 for 2019 is just wrong on so many levels. Let’s just say for the moment that the sport needs the Santa Anita horse population alive and well, and leave it at that.

Absent that stepping stone to the Santa Anita Derby and beyond, the remaining three Kentucky Derby preps on Saturday likely will have little effect on anyone’s list of leading three-year-olds.

The unbeaten Bafferts remain unblemished as each still continues his preparations for belated seasonal debuts.

Following workouts this morning, the connections of Game Winner and Improbable will decide what’s next, Saturday’s potentially split Rebel Stakes being the logical stop for either or both.

Whatever the decisions, these colts need to get started right now.

The winners of the Gotham Stakes and Tampa Bay Derby, Haikal and Tacitus, respectively, both cracked the Derby Power 10 in a dead heat for the eighth spot, the voters eschewing the synthetic-track Jeff Ruby winner, Somelikeithotbrown.

Despite a moniker that screams Kentucky, trainer Mike Maker, who won this renewal for a fifth time, indicated he likely will take his turf/all-weather lover to the Blue Grass in search of big time dirt credentials.

A paragon of try and consistency, Somelikeithotbrown should not be disrespected as a matter of course. He deserves some acclaim and respect until proven otherwise.

Bullet Bob brought speed into Gotham City in the form of Much Better who almost lived to tell the tale despite early gambits of 22.36 and 44.42, separated by a mere length and a half behind victorious Haikal, who emulated his Winkfield victory almost to the letter.

The Daaher bay from the mare Sablah--also the mother of Takaful, who could not be more of a polar opposite—runs down his rivals very late with dogged determination. Saturday’s hot pace and a clever Rajiv Maragh proved his best friends on the day.

While the first defeat of odds-on Instagrand was disappointing, the future remained hopeful with a show finish that appeared to be something to build on. Instagrand showed some rust and lack of staying power, as if short of top condition.

Runnerup Mind Control didn’t impress the majority of HRI pollsters even though he deserves props with an inspiring placing. Making a turn move that gained ground into a third quarter of 24.81, he gamely fought off rail pressure the entire stretch but was unable to withstand the tripped-out last-run winner.

In Northern Florida, it turned out that Tacitus made it three viable Derby contenders at this juncture for Bill Mott, joining Fountain of Youth pace-sacrificed Hidden Scroll and the
late-running, albeit green Risen Star runnerup, Country House.

Unable to stay with Hidden Scroll in late February workout at Payson Park, Tacitus found the pace and competition much more to his liking and was given a dream inside run by Jose Ortiz, who nearly eclipsed the stakes record he set two years ago aboard Tapwrit.

Although still a bit green as he appeared to stall once he gained the lead in deep stretch, he showed class to hold a determined Outshine safe, as well as a very-wide rallying Win Win Win, who launched from surprisingly far back in a gritty and beneficial performance.

Tacitus, by Tapit from the brilliant racemare, Close Hatches, has every right to improve just as much as the runners-up, as will fifth finisher Sir Winston who hit his best stride far too late. Well regarded stablemate Dream Maker was nowhere in an abysmal performance.

All of yesterday’s heroes and near heroes will need to step it up in a big way to handle those who had previously distinguished themselves this year – not to mention the highly regarded exacta at the top of the class who have yet to make any impression at all.


-- The champ remains at the top and as of this posting, no word from SoCal as to the colt’s final work for his 3YO debut and where it will be. (TimeFormUS speed figures: last 116, best 112)

– He, too, is scheduled to work and ship somewhere for the first of two Derby preps. But owner Gary West didn’t want to ship East thrice. Are there alternatives? (TimeFormUS speed figures: last 117, best 117)

– His suicidal Fountain of Youth speed duel took on a little added significance after his vanquished workmate qualified for the Derby Saturday in Oldsmar. (TimeFormUS speed figures: last 120, best 120)

– Shug does not play coy. When he says he still wants the colt to convince him about his ability at 10 furlongs, he means it. Florida Derby will illuminate. (TimeFormUS speed figures: last 118, best 118)

5-WAR OF WILL (25) – Love, love, love his brilliance but there sure are a plethora of fast horses in the 2019 Derby class. With a spot secured, the Louisiana Derby should be educational, indeed. (TimeFormUS speed figures: last 110, best 110)

– It’s embarrassing riches when you can send what—your sixth string to New York and nearly steal the Gotham with a sub-45 half-mile, as the very lightly raced Much Better nearly pulled off on Saturday. (TimeFormUS speed figures: last 111, best 113)

6-BOURBON WAR (17) -- The strong finishing Fountain of Youth runnerup sure will appreciate an anticipated hot Kentucky Derby pace; Florida Derby rematch next up. (TimeFormUS speed figures: last 115, best 115)

8-TACITUS (9) – I just keep repeating, by Tapit out of Close Hatches, wow! Normally don’t care for top race mares in their second careers but this one may make that theory moot. (TimeFormUS speed figures: last 117, best 117)

8-HAIKAL (9) – That’s twice in succession, lengthening his stride to deny his rivals victory just as the wire approaches. Would like to see that move repeated rounding a second turn. (TimeFormUS speed figures: last 118, best 118)

10-TAX (5) -- His Withers lost some luster as something went awry Saturday with Withers runnerup Not That Brady in the Gotham. But got to love tactical speed, rate-ability, and his fighting will to win. (TimeFormUS speed figures: last 118, best 118)

Point totals: 12 for first, 9 for second, 8 for third...


©John Pricci, MAR 10, 2019,

TimeformUS Top 10 Speed Figures for Kentucky Derby Eligibles

By Craig Milkowski

Ratings are for dirt or 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. There are some big changes this week, largely driven by some crazy, fast paced races in all three of the points races. Expect another shake up next week after the Rebel Stakes is run, possibly with two divisions:

1) Much Better 120
Huge leap in the Gotham when finishing fourth after setting a blazing pace. This one doesn’t look like a horse that will run better with more distance and a second turn, but he definitely helped cause a pace meltdown on Saturday.
2) Hidden Scroll 120
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.
3) Zenden 120
Another that set a fast pace in a Saturday Kentucky Derby points race, this one in his first try around two turns. He would have to rate much better going longer to be considered a serious contender.
4) Not That Brady 119
Ran an absolute clunker in the Gotham, would be shocked if he keeps pointing towards the Derby.
5) 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.
6) Instagrand 118
Returned from a long layoff with a good effort in the Gotham. Tracked the blazing fast pace, moved up to engage the leaders at the top of the lane before tiring late. Promising effort but needs to show more when presumably trying two turns next out.
7) Outshine 118
Nice effort in two turn debut for trainer Todd Pletcher. Tracked the fast pace in third, was wide on the turn, and finished well.
8) 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. Recently sold and turned over to trainer Mark Casse and a race in a Derby prep race next out seems likely.
9) 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 for the third week in a row.
10) 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.