East Coast scouting report: 19 Derby hopefuls to know about

East Coast scouting report: 19 Derby hopefuls to know about
Photo: NYRA / Joe Labozzetta

The East Coast Division of the 2021 Kentucky Derby trail includes Derby prep races that will be run in New York and Florida. That means stakes at Aqueduct, Gulfstream Park and Tampa Bay Downs.

Thus far, two official points races have been run on the East Coast: The Champagne (G1) which was won by Jackie’s Warrior, and most recently the Remsen (G2), won by Brooklyn Strong.

[RELATED: Check out new choices (and old ones) in Kentucky Derby odds]

Here’s a look at where the current contenders stand:
(Circa Sports odds (if available) - Sire - Trainer - Owner - Derby points)

The Leader

Brooklyn Strong
(100-1 - Wicked Strong – D. Velazquez – Mark Schwartz -10) – This son of Wicked Strong has far exceeded the expectations that come with a horse purchased for $5,000 in April of this year at Ocala. It was the fourth time he went to auction, failing to meet his reserve price twice as a yearling after selling for $30,000 as a weanling.

The New York-bred went to the Delaware Park base of trainer Danny Velazquez, where he made a winning debut in a maiden claimer for $40,000. From there, he was third in a state-bred stakes at Belmont Park in October. Three weeks later, he became a stakes winner going a mile and beating New York-breds by more than two lengths.

He scored 10 points on the Kentucky Derby trail in the Remsen, handling the nine-furlong distance on the trying Aqueduct surface by a neck with a closing move to rundown the pacesetter. The win earned a 93 Beyer Speed Figure, which was one of the top 2-year-old figures of the year. The Jerome (G3) at the Big A on Jan. 1 is expected to be his next start.

Although Brooklyn Strong was not part of Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool 1, he is currently ranked No. 7 on the
Horse Racing Nation list of Kentucky Derby 2021 contenders. He is 100-1 in the latest Circa Sports Derby Futures in Las Vegas and 85-1 at William Hill.

First Tier

These contenders are 2-year-old stakes winners; some of them appeared in Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool #1 and/or have earned Derby qualifying points.

Highly Motivated
(35-1 - Into Mischief – C. Brown – Klaravich Stables, LLC – 0) Improvement in all three starts makes Highly Motivated a talented Derby contender. He was second in his debut at Saratoga to a stablemate and then beat a firster from the barn of Todd Pletcher. His victory in the Nyquist at Keeneland earned a 96 Beyer Speed Figure and helped the Klaravich Stable runner close at 18-1 in KDFW#1, which was the fourth choice among the individual betting interests.

Jackie’s Warrior
– (45-1 - Maclean’s Music - S. Asmussen – J. Kirk and Judy Robison - 12) With three graded stakes wins to his credit, including the Champagne (G1) and its 10 Derby points, Jackie’s Warrior has the best overall record in this East Coast report. However, his fourth-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) exposed distance limitations that could hamper his progress on the Derby trail. Still, he closed at odds of 18-1 in KDFW#1.

Pickin’ Time
– (250-1 - Stay Thirsty – K. Breen – John Bowers Jr. - 1) This New Jersey-bred is long on experience with six starts, including a win in the Nashua at Aqueduct. He returned to run fourth in the Remsen, picking up one Derby point. After the Nashua, Pickin Time closed at odds of 96-1 in KDFW #1.

Never Surprised
– (100-1 - Constitution – Repole Stable - T. Pletcher) This $200,000 yearling was a winner at first asking at Aqueduct on the turf and came back three weeks later to score in the Central Park at the Big A going a mile and a sixteenth, also on the grass, while racing on the front end.

Eagle Orb
– (200-1 - Orb – R. Rodriguez – E. V. Racing Stable – 0) This New York-bred was a debut winner at Saratoga who has come into his own while running second behind Brooklyn Strong and then winning the Notebook last month at the Big A. This has prompted trainer Rudy Rodriguez to give him a shot on the Derby trial in the Jerome.

Second Tier

Reinvestment Risk
(100-1 - Upstart – C. Brown – Klaravich Stables, Inc. - 4) This $240,000 2-year-old purchase was an impressive first-out winner at Saratoga, earning a 90 BSF. Since then, trainer Chad Brown sent him out in three Grade 1s, where he was second in the Hopeful and the Champagne behind Jackie’s Warrior and then was 10th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. His early record placed him in KDFW #1 with closing odds of 35-1. He has not posted an official workout since his last race.

Ten for Ten
(100-1 - Frosted – S. McGaughey – Courtlandt Farms - 4) – The $410,000 yearling purchase has three second-place finishes in his record. Two of them came in front-running efforts at Aqueduct in the Nashua and then in the Remsen on the Derby trail. As part of KDFW#1, the son of Frosted was bet to odds of 51-1.

Known Agenda
(175-1 - Curlin – T. Pletcher – St. Elias Stable - 2) This home-bred son of Curlin is out of a graded stakes-winning mare. He broke his maiden in his second try for Todd Pletcher at Aqueduct and came right back to run third in the Remsen, earning two Derby points.

Ones to Watch

This is a list of 2-year-olds with impressive maiden victories who may be preparing to make starts in Kentucky Derby prep races.

(200-1 - Frosted – T. Pletcher – Repole Stable, St. Elias Stable, and Stonestreet Stables LLC) Stonestreet is the breeder of Likeable and they decided to keep a piece of this colt after he sold for $350,000 as a yearling. He broke his maiden by almost nine lengths at Belmont in his second start, prompting Pletcher to give this guy a shot in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, where he finished near the back of the field. He is back in training in Florida.

Manor House
(100-1 – Upstart – M. Stidham – Newtown Anner Stud Farm) In his debut at Laurel Park on Dec. 12, the son of Upstart went straight to lead and did not look back while winning the mile maiden special weight by more than 12 lengths. His dam has produced four to win from five to start, including one stakes winner at Gulfstream Park.

(45-1 - Speightstown – B. Mott – Grandview Equine, Cheyenne Stables, LLC, and LNJ Foxwoods) Bill Mott rarely wins with first-time starters, so it was no surprise that this $700,000 yearling purchase would run third in his debut, although it was behind Reinvestment Risk at Saratoga. He returned as the favorite to win easily in his next start going seven furlongs closing weekend at the Spa. He has not posted an official work since then.

Prime Factor
(30-1 - Quality Road - T. Pletcher – CHC Inc. and WinStar LLC) This $900,000 yearling purchase prepped for his Gulfstream Park debut at Todd Pletcher’s Florida base at Palm Beach Downs training center. He was sent off at odds of 2.10-1 and he won the six-furlong maiden special weight by almost nine lengths. The dam is an unraced daughter of Bernardini who has produced three winners from three to start.

(100-1 - Violence – T. Pletcher – Repole Stable) This son of Violence sold three times at auction, most recently as a 2-year-old in March for $175,000. He made an early debut in June at Belmont and won by almost five lengths, but he has not raced or had an official work since then.

Risk Taking
(85-1 - Medaglia d’ Oro – C. Brown – Klaravich Stables, LLC) It took three tries for this $240,000 yearling purchase to break his maiden for Chad Brown. To his credit, he did it at Aqueduct going nine furlongs, which is a feather in his cap, and he earned a solid 81 BSF.

Speaker’s Corner
(75-1 - Street Sense – B. Mott – Godolphin, LLC) Much of what was said about Olympiad applies to Speaker’s Corner. He was third in his debut and then won his next start. This Godolphin home-bred was an odds-on favorite who broke slowly in his first race and then came back at Belmont to beat Caddo River, who would become an impressive maiden winner. Speaker’s Corner is back in training at Belmont.

– (75-1 at William Hill - Nyquist – C. Munoz – CM Thoroughbreds) At Tampa Bay Downs on Dec. 9, this son of Nyquist was a first-out winner by 13 3/4 lengths going six furlongs, earning a noteworthy 85 BSF. His dam placed in a stakes race at Aqueduct as a 3-year-old while earning $152,000 and has produced three winners from four to make it to the track.

Wolfie’s Dynaghost
(Ghostzapper – T. Albertrani – Woodslane Farm) – This home-bred is a half-brother to the millionaire turf star Sadler’s Joy. He was a rare debut winner from Albertrani when he stalked the early pace and drew off to win a seven-furlong maiden special weight at Aqueduct. Albertrani said he would be sent to Florida to train for a try on the road to the Kentucky Derby.

Remaining East Coast Division Preps

• Jerome (G3) – Aqueduct - Jan. 1 [10-4-2-1]

• Holy Bull (G2) – Gulfstream Park – Jan. 30 [10-4-2-1]

• Withers (G3) – Aqueduct – Feb. 6 [10-4-2-1]

• Sam F Davis (G3) – Tampa Bay Downs – Feb. 6 [10-4-2-1]

• Fountain of Youth (G2) – Gulfstream Park –Feb 27 [50-20-10-5]

• Gotham (G3) – Aqueduct – March 6 [50-20-10-5]

• Tampa Bay Derby (G2) – Tampa Bay Downs - March 6 [50-20-10-5]

• Florida Derby (G1) – Gulfstream Park – March 27 [100-40-20-10]

• Wood Memorial (G2) – Aqueduct – April 3 [100-40-20-10]

About the Derby Radar

Back for the 2021 Kentucky Derby trail, Horse Racing Nation's Derby Radar seeks to identify promising maiden, allowance and even stakes winners who could target points-paying preps down the line. We'll cover the buzz horses, of course, then using a systematic approach based on past years' Derby contenders identify other talented colts moving up the ladder.

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