Following up on last month's initial Derby Radar watch list as we begin peeking ahead to the 2020 Kentucky Derby, Collusion Illusion prevailed in Del Mar’s Best Pal Stakes (G2) and Green Light Go took the Saratoga Special (G2).
While those are obvious names to know, five others deserve adding to the virtual stable given recent results in the 2-year-old ranks.
1. Eight Rings
This well-connected son of Empire Maker, who’s trained by Bob Baffert and debuted in Starlight Racing’s silks, registered a 94 Beyer Speed Figure on Aug. 4 at Del Mar. There, he was only sprinting 5 1/2 furlongs but cruised to a 6 1/4-length victory nonetheless under jockey Drayden Van Dyke.
Two bullet five-furlong gate works preceded Eight Rings’ trip to the entry box, with this $520,000 purchase the first of many Baffert runners likely to appear here in the coming months. Eight Rings is one of 52 the Hall of Famer nominated for the Del Mar Futurity (G1) and figures to be a key player in a race where Game Winner similarly emerged in 2018.
This Flatter colt, well-touted on debut last Saturday at Saratoga, could spark some new Derby dreams for Zayat Stables after making easy work of a six-furlong maiden special weight flight. Sent to the front by jockey Ricardo Santana Jr., the chestnut finished up in 1:09.59, 4 1/2 lengths clear of his closest rival.
The $150,000 yearling purchase is trained by Steve Asmussen, and the pedigree is there to go long with Gozilla a full sibling to multiple graded stakes turf runner Icy Atlantic. Saratoga’s closing day Hopeful Stakes (G1) could lead to the Derby trail.
"It's all Gozilla and he's a monster!" @larrycollmusAugust 10, 2019
3. Glory Road
The numbers didn’t come back strong for his Aug. 3 Saratoga debut, but note that it came at a tricky distance — seven furlongs — and Glory Road ground away while wide throughout before getting up in the final strides under jockey John Velazquez.
The $220,000 purchase campaigned by China Horse Club and WinStar Farm is trained by Todd Pletcher. Pedigree could leave him a tick short of wanting 10 furlongs, as first crop sire Commissioner remains an unknown, but there’s a long way to go before worrying about that.
4. Tumbling Sky
Another for Asmussen, this one too will have a distance question to answer eventually as a son of Competitive Edge. In the meantime, he was plenty comfortable on Saturday when pressing the pace on his way to a 1 1/4-length debut victory going six furlongs at Saratoga.
The score earned a 79 Beyer Speed Figure. So while not necessarily on the level of stablemate Gozilla’s 84 at the same trip, this is another potential contender for the Hopeful in the familiar colors of Bill and Corinne Heiligbrodt.
5. Super John
Far from the glamorous summer meets at Saratoga and Del Mar is one other colt to watch. This John Servis trainee registered paltry numbers last Thursday at Laurel Park, but it’s tough to ignore any time there’s a 19 1/2-length victory from a Derby winner's barn in special weight company.
Super John’s win came going a mile in a race taken off the turf, and Servis laughed this week recalling his stretch run wandering well out into the center of the track. The trainer says the $180,000 acquisition for D.J. Stable and Cash is King got bored on the lead. He’ll seek more competition in Monmouth Park’s Sept. 1 Sapling Stakes.