Head-to-Head: Handicapping the 2020 Ellis Park Derby

Head-to-Head: Handicapping the 2020 Ellis Park Derby
Photo: Cady Coulardot

A full field of 3-year-old colts and geldings will contest 1 1/18-miles on Saturday in the $200,000 Ellis Park Derby, a qualifying race for the 2020 Kentucky Derby. Art Collector will be looking to double down on his Blue Grass (G2) victory, but Ohio Derby (G3) winner Dean Martini and Indiana Derby (G3) winner Shared Sense will have something to say about that.

So will the big favorite take home the win or will a new shooter make good on a previous success? Laurie Ross of Pedigree Power and Ashley Tamulonis of Coast To Coast wade through the field searching for contenders.



1.  Trident Hit

Trident Hit had his tail handed to him when facing winners for the first time in Indiana. Brisnet speed figures are slow. Pass.


Out of Dontgetinmyway, that’s exactly what the other jocks and runners will likely be thinking about this longshot. Trident Hit will run with first time blinkers, but this is a hard pass for me.

2.  Anneau d’Or

Anneau D'or has strong early speed but goes flat in the stretch like a 3-day old soda. Still hoping they’ll try him on turf. Pass.

Y’all are probably tired of hearing me say this, but I really wanted to like Anneau d’Or. Unfortunately, this colt never took a step forward this year. He could run well enough to hit the board, but I would not play him on top. Exotics only.

3.  Sprawl

In the Ohio Derby, Sprawl rewarded my confidence in him with a distant fifth-place finish. Fool me once… Pass.


Sprawl, what we’ve all been doing for the last several months, made a move in the stretch of the Ohio Derby (G3) to get up into fourth before leveling out and finishing fifth. This is a tougher field, so I expect about the same.

4.  Art Collector

Art Collector brings a four-race win-streak to Ellis Park, including a comfortable 3 1/2-length victory in the Blue Grass Stakes. Going to state the obvious. Win contender.


Perfect in 2020, Art Collector is the deserving odds on favorite after never being threatened in his last four starts, which he won by a combined 20 ¼-lengths. He strung together back-to-back triple digit speed figures when winning the Blue Grass (G2) last out, giving him the best dirt speeds in the field. Play on top and hope some long shots come in underneath to give your ticket value. Win Contender.

5.  Necker Island

Necker Island is the Ellis Park Derby’s redheaded stepchild. He’s been beaten by Art Collector, Attachment Rate, and Shared Sense. Necker Island stumbled at the start of the Indiana Derby, yet still finished in the money. He’s had two sharp works at Churchill for new trainer Chris Hartman. Plus, Necker Island is a son of Hard Spun and should be maturing any time now. Worth a look for lower exotics.


Poor Necker Island had a go of it last out in the Indiana Derby (G3), stumbling at the start. He recovered nicely to be close to the pace, ultimately finishing third, beaten by just 3 ½-lengths for it all. He drops in class here, supposedly, but is facing a tougher field than he saw in Indiana. Previously he has not been able to keep up with the top of the class, something I suspect will happen here, as well.

6.  Little Menace

Little Menace is an intriguing colt. Into Mischief lends speed, while his distaff line includes Arch and the excellent sire Seeking the Gold, so it’s no surprise that Little Menace won his first 2-turn start. His dam is a half sister to multiple graded stakes winning turf horse Balance The Books, and Little Menace’s third dam is thrice champion European turf mare Kooyonga. This Asmussen trainee could surprise. Contender.

Little Menace took them coast-to-coast in the Grand Prairie Derby at Lonestar. That was his first attempt going two turns, a test he passed with flying colors. BUT, he is now facing some of the best in his class.

7.  Truculent

Truculent has only a maiden win to his name. He’s hit the board in three of five starts all against lesser quality than he’ll face here. Pass.

Truculent’s one foray into graded company resulted in a thumping to the tune of a 25-length loss. He turned around and broke his maiden next out. Jack Sisterson adds blinkers to the front-runner, but an equipment change is not going to help much, if at all. Pass.

8.  Rowdy Yates

Rowdy Yates was in a tough spot in the Ohio Derby, but he didn’t do too badly. He did the speed/fade thing, and finished fourth in a full field. His post-race works are decent. I think he’s better as a miler and his pedigree and performances agree. Pass.

Rowdy Yates began the year with a win at Sunland Park, but has only managed a pair of fourth place finishes since. I have to agree with Laurie, in that this colt seems more like a miler. He could hit the lower exotics again, but this is a better field than he saw in Ohio.

9.  Dean Martini

An off the pace running style suited Dean Martini as he gave a stirring performance in the Ohio Derby. Maybe he can shake things up here too. He should be fit, since it is his third start at nine furlongs. Contender.

Dean Martini went from maiden claimer to grade three winner in the span of just over a month. It took him eight tries and a class drop to get that first win, though it was not as if he ran poorly to begin with. I’m interested to see how he fares against a tougher field, but he should at least hit the board. Contender.

10. Attachment Rate

Attachment Rate found trouble in his last two starts, and also faced higher quality fields. He gets a class break, and if Talamo keeps him out of trouble, maybe they can hit the board. Exotics.

I don’t know, Laurie. Attachment Rate had an outside draw in the Blue Grass (G2), like he does here, and Talamo could not keep him out of trouble. However, I don’t think the start hindered him that much. Maybe he hits the board, maybe not. I’m on the fence.

11. Winning Impression

Winning Impression lives up to his name on sloppy tracks, and hasn’t impressed against stakes quality horses. Pass.

This gelding’s last two starts, both in graded stakes, told me all I needed to know. Pass.

12. Shared Sense

I had high hopes for Shared Sense last year. He has the kind of pedigree that makes me wipe drool off the keyboard. His dam is a full sister to Grade 2 winner Penwith, plus a three-quarter sister to multiple graded winner Centring. Shared Sense’s second dam is Grade 1 winner Composure. Shared Sense has the pedigree to handle classic distances and to improve with maturity. If his last two outings are any indication, it’s starting to happen. Contender.

Laurie summed it up best. Shared Sense (not Shared Belief like I typed at first) has the pedigree and the budding talent to be a good one. That 102 speed figure in the Indiana Derby (G3) put his squarely in the same league as Art Collector. With Florent Geroux still aboard, watch out for this one!

13. Rogue Element AE

Rogue Element is zero for seven. Forays into graded stakes have not gone well. Pass.

Yep…nope. Even if Rogue Element manages to draw in, I’m not touching this one with a 10 foot pole. Pass.




Final Thoughts


The best way to handicap a full field is with reverse handicapping. Tossing the wannabees and see what you’re left with.

I came up with six legitimate contenders in no particular order; Art Collector, Little Menace, Dean Martini, Shared Sense, Attachment Rate, and Necker Island. The last two, both sons of Hard Spun, could shore up the exotics with a decent trip.

That leaves me with four possible win contenders. Coincidently, all four have the highest late-pace speed figures in the field.  I like Shared Sense a lot, yet his late run will take him either through or around a large field. He could be fast enough to run them down, or he could find trouble. 

Dean Martini likes to be closer to the pace, but he’s also stuck on the outside, getting a wide trip.

Art Collector and Little Menace have tactical speed. Art Collector is the obvious favorite and class of the field, Little Menace is stretching out, but I think he’ll enjoy the distance. Last weekend all we saw were upset favorites. Here’s hoping the trend continues, at least in the Ellis Park Derby.


Unless you were trying to beat the favorites, all of whom looked really solid, last weekend was a total bust for picking winners. Art Collector beat me in the Blue Grass, so lesson learned there. Like Laurie, I have narrowed my selections down to nearly the same runners.

This race is a bit weird, in that it is a step down in class for many in this field; however, this spot came up tougher than a few of those graded races. So, do I go with a perfect season or a runner on the upswing. Decisions, decisions.







#12 Shared Sense (9-2)

#6 Little Menace (20-1)

#4 Art Collector (4-5)

#4 Art Collector (4-5)

#9 Dean Martini (10-1)

#12 Shared Sense (9-2)

#10 Attachment Rate (20-1)

#9 Dean Martini (10-1)


Meet Ashley Tamulonis

Despite growing up in a non-horse racing state, Ashley has been a fan of the sport since a young age. Her love for horse racing was fostered through the kids’ book series Thoroughbred by Joanna Campbell, which led her to educate herself on the ins and outs of the sport. Since becoming actively involved in the industry just a few years ago, Ashley has had the opportunity to meet many important players in the industry, attend the Eclipse Awards, see personal favorite Mucho Macho Man race twice in person, and befriend many of the fantastic fans and horsemen involved in the sport.

Ashley began her time with Horse Racing Nation covering racing in South Florida but also blogged about nationwide racing, industry issues and, from time to time, offered her opinion on how various changes could be beneficial to the industry. A move North to New Hampshire began both a new chapter in both Ashley's personal life and professional life. She currently pens the From Coast to Coast blog for HRN. Ashley also participates as a voter in the NTRA Top Thoroughbred Polls.

An alumni of Macon State College, Ashley is from Central Georgia but is currently living in New Hampshire with her husband, Chris, and their two sons Charlie and Michael. A stay-at-home mom, Ashley juggles parenting with blogging and her other passions. Aside from horse racing, Ashley is a fervent football fan, enjoys reading and studying history, and hopes to someday author a historical work covering the Tudor period as well as biographies of horse racing’s stars, equine and human alike.

Top Stories

Saratoga continues to suffer from short fields. Fo...
Louisville, Ky. If the question is who will train...
Saratoga Springs, N.Y. Q: Talk about D. Wayne Luka...
Louisville, Ky. There was a time long ago when the...
Horse Racing Nation 's Andrew Capone will be hitti...