Jeff Siegel’s Blog: Kentucky Derby Deluxe Dozen (updated Friday, April 14, 2023)

Chestnut colt – Mind Your Biscuits x Amour Poesie, by Neo Universe
Trainer: H. Otanashi
Jockey: C. Lemaire
Points: 100

Positives: $163k yearling (in Japan); winner of four of eight career starts, including the 9.5F UAE Derby-G2 (by five and one-half lengths) at Meydan in late March gate-to-wire while running the second fastest time (1:55.81) of 13 at the distance in race history; similar front-running tactics are likely to be employed in the Kentucky Derby-G1 in a race that appears to lack other committed speed; versatile sort has been successful from mid-pack in winning races in Japan; his victory in Dubai earned a 120 Racing Post rating, the same that was assigned to Rich Strike in his Kentucky Derby win last year; already stabled at Churchill Downs and will have more than a month of training under the Twin Spires to acclimate.

Concerns: Kentucky Derby entrants exiting the UAE Derby have performed poorly, having finished unplaced in 18 previous attempts; Mendelssohn took a similar path in 2018 after running the fastest time in UAE Derby history (1:55.19) but finished last (virtually eased) behind Justify as the third choice (6-1).


Brown colt – Violence x Queen Caroline, by Blame
Trainer: T. Pletcher
Jockey: I. Ortiz, Jr.
Points: 190

Positives: $110k Keeneland yearling; first foal of a multi (non-graded) stakes winning mare; 2-year-old champion and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile-G1 winner; successful in six of seven career races, including the 9F Florida Derby-G1 and 8.5F Fountain of Youth S.-G2 in his two starts leading up to the Kentucky Derby-G1; prefers to settle in mid-pack and quicken when given his cue; graduated in May of his 2-year-old season and has never missed a beat since; style and pedigree suggests he should enjoy the long Churchill Downs stretch; based purely on resume he is the likely and deserved Kentucky Derby favorite.

Concerns: earned a triple-digit Beyer speed figure (100 in the 8.5F BC Juvenile S.-G1) just once in his seven career races and his numbers have regressed in both of his 2023 outings (95 from 98), fostering a fear that despite having won his last five starts he has peaked and begun a downward cycle.


Bay colt – Practical Joke x Ack Naughty, by Afleet Alex
Trainer: T. Yakteen
Jockey: R. Vasquez
Points: 160

Positives: $230k OBS April; dam a stakes-placed half-sister to two stakes winners; undefeated in four starts around two turns (one via disqualification) including the 8.5F San Felipe S.-G2 in March (by two and one-half lengths from Geaux Rocket Go) and most recently the 9F Santa Anita Derby-G1 (by a nose from Mandarin Hero); earned back-to-back 100 Beyer speed figures in both, making him one of the fastest in his crop on pure numbers; has excellent tactical speed that consistently produces trouble-free trips; always finds a way to produce a second move under pressure; displayed strong, consistent juvenile form that included a dominating victory in the 8.5F Los Alamitos Futurity-G2 in December; one of the most genuine and dependable colts in the crop.

Concerns: based on pedigree, he is not certain to improve as the distances increase; fast on figures but may have reached his ceiling; was fully extended to win the Santa Anita Derby over a very fast surface while unable to produce separation under pressure in a race produced a final three furlong fraction of an average :38 2/5.


Bay colt – Classic Empire x Armony’s Angel, by To Honor and Serve
Trainer: B. Cox
Jockey: F. Prat
Points: 154

Positives: $70k Keeneland yearling; first foal from placed dam who is a half-sister to two stakes winners; successful in his last pair and three of his last four, most recently the 9F Arkansas Derby-G1 in early April by four and one-half lengths with complete authority while appearing to have plenty left in the tank and winning without being knocked about; prefers to settle in mid-pack and then accelerate from the quarter pole home; Beyer speed figures have risen in each of his six career starts; pedigree suggests he will enjoy the Derby’s classic distance; retains jockey Flavian Prat, who chose him over his other option, Louisiana Derby-G2 winner Kingsbarns.

Concerns: though he has produced a forward move in every race, the career top 94 Beyer speed figure that he earned in his Arkansas Derby victory rates several points lower of what the other major contenders have already achieved; none among those he easily handled at Oaklawn Park are considered even remote contenders in Louisville, so the next step up the class ladder will be significant.


Grey/roan colt – Tapit x Danazatrice, by Dunkirk
Trainer: T. Pletcher
Jockey: L. Saez
Points: 150

Positives: $1.3 million Keeneland yearling; third foal, dam a stakes winning half-sister to champion 2-year-old filly Jaywalk; closed belatedly to be third in his debut and since has reeled off four consecutive wins, including the 9F Blue Grass S.-G1 at Keeneland in early April; not a quick type but covers plenty of ground with long, efficient strides; earned a career top Beyer speed figure (99) despite losing ground throughout in his most recent victory (by a neck from perfect tripper Verifying, pair well clear) while giving indication that the longer Derby trip will be of benefit; likely has further improvement and development in him and will not have to improve much to be a strong threat at Churchill Downs.

Concerns: Usually breaks okay but lacks gate quickness and invariably falls several lengths behind during the early stages of his races, which costs him a preferred forward or mid-pack early position and leaves him with plenty to do; took the overland route to avoid traffic trouble in his two most recent victories but was good enough to overcome the ground loss; likely will be forced to do the same at Churchill Downs in a 20-runner affair, making a favorable trip all the more problematic.


Bay colt – Uncle Mo x Lady Tapit, by Tapit
Trainer: T. Pletcher
Jockey: TBD
Points: 100

Positives: $800k FTS March 2-year-old (breezed in :20 3/5); second foal from a stakes-placed half-sister to Gozzip Girl (American Oaks-G1, etc.); undefeated in three starts, most recently a three and one-half length pace-setting victory in the Louisiana Derby-G2 at Fair Grounds in late March while able to take full advantage of a highly favorable pace flow; has proved to be equally effective in second flight, stalking roles in his first two career starts; has yet to be truly tested and may have considerably more to give if required; Beyer numbers have risen dramatically in just three starts (95, 85, 74) while providing evidence of an extremely high ceiling.

Concerns: while it is difficult to find fault in perfection, he almost certainly will need to produce yet another significant forward move with regards to speed figures when facing the best in the division in Louisville; his three victories have been more workmanlike than brilliant, and he may be compromised if unable to secure a favorable early position and be forced to produce a rally from far off the pace.


Bay colt – Curlin x Winding Way, by Malibu Moon
Trainer: John Shirreffs
Jockey: V. Espinoza
Points: 45

Positives: $510k OBS April sale; dam a California graded stakes winning full sister 2yo Saratoga stakes winner Kauai Katie; gradually improving with racing but is a winner of only a maiden race from six career starts; produced a career top performance (99 Beyer) when third beaten a half-length in the Santa Anita Derby-G1 in early April, looming a strong threat midway on the far turn to vie for the lead but then losing a bit of his steam late in the late stages; most effective as a deep closer and has been compromised to some degree by being asked to perform over a speed favoring dirt track; seems certain to enjoy the Derby’s classic distance and would benefit enormously from a legitimate early pace, a patient ride, and a main kind to his style; certainly not without a chance to make a serious impact if conditions break his way.

Concerns: currently rated number 21 according to the intended Kentucky Derby starter points list, one shy of being assured a starting position but very likely to draw in; talented enough to make a serious run at Churchill Downs but may be compromised by a race lacking in early speed; most effective when held up early and allowed to produce a late kick; lack of tactical early speed increases his chances of encountering traffic trouble.


8 – MAGE
Chestnut colt – Good Magic x Puca, by Big Brown
Trainer: G. Delgado
Jockey: TBD
Points: 50

Positives: 290k Timonium 2-year-old; second foal; dam a stakes winning half-sister to multiple Gr. 1 winning turf stayer Finnegans Wake; lightly raced with enormous potential; was a Gulfstream Park debut maiden winner in January before finishing a respectable fourth (by seven lengths to Forte) in the Fountain of Youth S.-G2; stepped forward considerably in the Florida Derby-G1 in his most recent outing when moving a furlong too soon, hitting the front in mid-stretch, but then being worn down late in the closing stages; pedigree suggests he’ll handle a classic distance; has a good turn of foot that probably would most effectively be unleashed from the quarter pole home.

Concerns: a lack of experience and a proper foundation (see Taiba, 2022) may stunt his progress; barn has had little previous success with developing stakes-quality 3-year-olds; possibly will be ridden by his fourth different jockey in his fourth start; clearly requires a patient, waiting ride.


Brown colt – Shanghai Bobby x Namura Nadeshiko, by Fuji Kiseki)
Trainer: T. Fujita
Jockey: k. Kimura
Points: 40

Positives – began his career winning his first four starts in his native Japan, including an 8F listed stakes two races back before going down by a neck in a valuable 9F listed affair in February; was quite impressive in his U.S. debut when nosed out by Practical Move in the 9F Santa Anita Derby-G1 in early April (always within range saving ground and then staying on bravely between horses); sire was the 2012 Eclipse Award winning 2-year-old but enjoyed only modest success at stud in the States before being exported to Japan; clearly a talented colt with good tactical speed based on his Santa Anita performance and should stay the Derby trip if given the chance.

Concerns – currently listed at 24 among those intended to be entered for the Kentucky Derby and therefore is no sure thing to be among the top 20 when official entries are drawn Monday, May 1; would have to be considered at least a mid-level contender if he is able to draw in.


Chestnut colt – Hard Spun x Mia Torri, by General Quarters
Trainer: L. Rivelli
Jockey: J. Loveberry
Points: 123

Positives: homebred; dam a stakes winning sprinter and multiple graded stakes placed; visually quite pleasing winning the 9F Jeff Ruby Stakes S.-G3 at Turfway Park in late March, settling off the pace before uncorking an impressive late kick to win by more than five lengths; will boast the best Beyer figure in the Kentucky Derby field (101, a career top by 13 points); style suggests he will handle a classic distance; captured the Street Sense S.-G3 in dominant fashion over the Churchill Downs main track as a 2-year-old (sloppy surface) and has won or placed in five stakes appearances overall; has an edge in experience, as no intended Derby entrant will have had more career starts (8) than he; dangerous if he can duplicate his most recent victory.

Concerns: his Turfway Park win was accomplished in his first try over a synthetic (Tapeta) surface and far exceeded anything that he had accomplished over conventional dirt, allowing for the possibility that he is an all-weather one-hit wonder; numbers in the seven races prior to his last win were average at best; other than his dam, there is little quality in his extended female family.


Bay colt – Justify x Diva Delite, by Repent
Trainer: B. Cox
Jockey: T. Gaffalione
Points: 54

Positives: $775k yearling; seventh foal from a stakes winning dam; half-brother to top class Midnight Bisou (champion older dirt female); career best 99 Beyer figure when second in the Blue Grass S.-G1 (by a neck to Tapit Trice) in early April after prompting the pace and winding up more than five lengths clear of the rest; often displays good tactical speed that usually produces clean journeys; enjoyed a productive juvenile campaign, winning his debut at Saratoga and then finishing second (to Blazing Sevens) in the Champagne S.-G1.

Concerns: gives the indication that the 10 furlong Kentucky Derby trip might be stretching his limit; though certainly running a very good race, he failed to capitalize on a soft, perfect, pace pressing trip at Keeneland; style suggests he needs to be within range of the pacesetter throughout and will be far less effective if required to make up an appreciable amount of ground.


Brown colt – Candy Ride x Eblouissante, by Bernardini
Trainer: K. Desormeaux
Jockey: K. Tohill
Points: 57

Positives: 25k Keeneland yearling; dam a winning half-sister to horse-of-the-year Zenyatta; sprung an 18-1 upset in the Rebel S.-G2 over a sloppy track in late February; rallying from fifth of 11 to win doing his best with a solid Beyer figure (94) that represented a career top by 11 points; previously had been a distant third (beaten 7+ lengths) in the Lecomte S.-G3 behind Instant Coffee; possibly needs a wet surface to be at his best; certain to enjoy a classic distance but perhaps not classic company; versatile sort has won on the front end and from mid-pack; is a two-time winner over a dry, fast surface at Churchill Downs,

Concerns: will enter the Kentucky Derby without having the benefit of a race since late February; shows a light work tab in the interim; dry main track outings have earned weak speed figures; nothing he had done in his six races prior to his sloppy track Rebel S. win would suggest he had the quality needed to act with the best in his division; might have to pray for rain.

Jeff Siegel’s Blog: Kentucky Derby Deluxe Dozen (updated Friday, April 14, 2023)

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