Kentucky Derby Countdown

With a quiet weekend of American racing facing us, at least on the Kentucky Derby countdown front, Peter Fornatale is in reflective mood, looking at the Derby picture as it stands.

  • Friday 21 February
  • Blog
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It’s a quiet weekend on the prep race front, and that affords us an opportunity to step back and take a look at the market for this year’s Derby.

We’ll start by looking back at last weekend. The biggest story just might be the debut of Charlatan for Bob Baffert at Santa Anita, who demolished a small but talented field, earning a 105 Beyer Speed Figure in the process. For reference, that’s a point higher than Justify back in his maiden win in February of 2018, and obviously that much faster than Nadal’s impressive 98 earned earlier this season. 

Charlatan’s pedigree alone does not scream “10 furlongs.” He’s be Speightstown out of a Quiet American dam named Authenticity. But it’s important to note that he was picked out by Starlight West, an operation whose whole business model is trying to make stallions. I have to think there is something about Charlatan as an individual that makes Baffert and the team think he’ll get better as distances get longer – the debut was just going 6 furlongs. He strengthens Baffert’s strong hand that much more. He is available at 25-1 for the Derby.

The rest of Baffert’s team consists of the aforementioned Nadal, the bet of the bunch for me still at 12-1, Authentic (14-1), and Thousand Words (16-1).

Last Friday at Tampa Bay Downs, Gouverneur Morris made his return to the races a winning one, earning an 88 Beyer Speed Figure. The Constitution colt, owned in partnership by Winstar Farm and Team Valor, appeared on many Derby “lists” after a smashing win at Saratoga at the end of the meet last year.

In his second start he was bested by the ultra-impressive Maxfield, and now things look headed back in the right direction for Gouverneur Morris, who is listed at 25-1 in the betting.

Speaking of Maxfield, he is apparently back working and could make his seasonal debut in the Tampa Bay Derby on March 7 – a night I’m happy to report I’ll be on Sky Sports Racing Stateside.

Another promising two-year-old scheduled to debut soon is Dennis’ Moment. Unraced since the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, where he lost his chance at the start, the son of Tiznow is working steadily with the goal of returning to the races next weekend in the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park.

The other co-market leader for Derby, along with Nadal, is another Tiznow colt, Tiz the Law. He won the Holy Bull when last seen in the afternoon, and connections are torn between sending him to the Florida Derby or the Louisiana Derby, both on March 21. The latter route was chosen by these same connections – trainer Barclay Tagg and owner – for their Derby winning colt Funny Cide back in 2003.

In other news from last weekend, Mr. Monomoy and Modernist won the two divisions of the Risen Star stakes at Fair Grounds. Mr. Monomoy’s division appeared the stronger of the two and he’s a great story – being a half-brother to the great filly Monomoy Girl.

He will have to keep improving to make an impact in this year’s Triple Crown races but that’s certainly not out of the question. Modernist is a little interesting just because of the hands he’s in – he goes out for Hall of Famer Bill Mott, whose Country House was promoted to first in last year’s Derby.

Mott isn’t known for asking a lot of his younger charges so this one could continue to be progressive. But he’d better be able to find a few several lengths if he wants to compete with the best of generation on the biggest stages.

Kentucky Derby Countdown
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