Posted Friday, November 20, 2020
Matt Shifman gives you several chances to beat the favorite in a game at Aqueduct on Saturday.
Posted Tuesday, November 10, 2020
Authentic got 34 out of 37 No. 1 votes as the top Thoroughbred of 2020.
Posted Tuesday, October 6, 2020
The top trio in the new NTRA Top 3-Year-Old Poll are the winners of this year’s Triple Crown races.
Posted Tuesday, September 29, 2020
Improbable moves to the top of the NTRA's Top Thoroughbred Poll.
Posted Tuesday, September 15, 2020

With three weeks until the 2020 Preakness date of Oct. 3 and just under two months until the Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 7, Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert has the No. 1 horse in both of the NTRA Top Thoroughbred Polls.

Maximum Security
leads the Top Thoroughbred Poll after 27 out of the 37 media members put him in the first position on their ballots. In the Top Three-Year-Old Poll, Authentic received 23 of the 37 votes to earn the No. 1 spot among the sophomores.

That pair of top-ranked runners was joined in the top 10 lists by three others from the Baffert barn.
Improbable showed up in the No. 5 position behind Maximum Security. Thousand Words was ranked at No. 6 and the filly Gamine was No. 8, following their stablemate Authentic.

Having a trainer with two horses ranked on top of both of these polls is unusual, but not for Baffert. During Justify's campaign for the Triple Crown in 2018 he was the top 3-year-old in the June 4 poll,
 while West Coast was the No. 1 older Thoroughbred.

The Baffert barn, which clearly has had its ups and downs in 2020, is looking strong heading toward the Preakness and the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Those two races will play a significant part in the determination of year-end poll rankings.

Authentic and Thousand Words will give Baffert the opportunity to win his eighth Preakness, which would make him the winningest trainer in the history of that race. Baffert is tied with R. Wyndham Walden, who won his seven during the late 1800s.

Authentic gave Baffert his sixth Kentucky Derby victory, which put him in a tie with the legendary Ben Jones for the most wins in the Run for the Roses. Baffert knows how to prepare for the Preakness whether it is with the usual two weeks after the Derby or this year’s month between races.

“He came out very well, very well,” Baffert said of Authentic. “He’s ready to go. We would have been ready to go in two weeks.”

After getting scratched in the paddock before the Derby, Thousand Words will head to Baltimore with a longer-than-expected layoff. A win in the Preakness also would give Baffert his 17th Triple Crown victory.

“Thousand Words, he’s fine,” Baffert said. “When he went up he sort of lost his footing and was on his side. He was OK and was checked out. He’s doing well.”

Maximum Security and Improbable give Baffert the opportunity to win his fourth Breeders’ Cup Classic. His three wins came when he won the race in consecutive years, beginning in 2014 with Bayern, followed by American Pharoah and Arrogate.

The reigning 3-Year-Old Champion Maximum Security is unbeaten this year, with victories in the Saudi Cup, the San Diego Handicap (G2) and the Pacific Classic (G1). Improbable heads to the Classic in the best form of his career, with a pair of Grade 1 wins in the Hollywood Gold Cup and the Whitney.


 Consensus Top 10

 Matt Shifman's Top 10

 1. Maximum Security (27)

 1. Maximum Security

 2. Vekoma (7)

 2. Authentic

 3. Tom’s d’Etat (3)

 3. Tiz the Law

 4. Monomoy Girl

 4. Improbable

 5. Improbable

 5. Monomoy Girl

 6. By My Standards

 6. Vekoma

 7. Midnight Bisou

 7. By My Standards

 8. Tiz the Law

 8. Tom’s d’Etat

 9. Authentic

 9. Midnight Bisou

 10. Rushing Fall

 10. Rushing Fall


Posted Wednesday, September 9, 2020

In the first NTRA Top Thoroughbred polls since the 2020 Kentucky Derby, it was the Bob Baffert trainees Maximum Security and Kentucky Derby winner Authentic who sat atop the Top Thoroughbred and 3-Year-Old polls, respectively.

The week before the Run for the Roses,
Tiz the Law received 10 first-place votes in the Top Thoroughbred poll, which includes horses of all ages and gender. After finishing second behind Authentic in the Derby, those 10 votes moved to Maximum Security who now sits securely as the No. 1 ranked horse in the country.

In the Top 3-Year-Old Poll, Authentic jumped from fourth to the No. 1 spot with 21 votes. Interestingly, Tiz the Law still retained 16 votes saying he is the best sophomore in the land. In the ballots of all 37 media members, the top two finishers in the Derby were No. 1 or 2, which meant that Authentic totaled 354 points and Tiz the Law was close behind at 349.

Admittedly, I was one of the 10 who switched his Top Thoroughbred vote from Tiz the Law to Maximum Security and also placed Authentic on top of the poll for 3-year-olds.

Tiz the Law headed into the Kentucky Derby with three Grade 1 wins in the Florida Derby, Belmont Stakes, and the Travers. Authentic left Churchill Downs with two Grade 1s in the Haskell and the Derby. No doubt, the 16 voters who stuck with Tiz the Law on top used that Grade 1 count as the measuring stick.

However, the Kentucky Derby is the country’s most famous race and is highly coveted in thoroughbred racing. Authentic won the Derby and in their only head-to-head race he defeated Tiz the Law and that earned the Bob Baffert runner 21 first-place votes.

In a bit of a surprise in the Top Thoroughbred poll, the first two finishers in the Kentucky Derby were ranked lower than I expected with Tiz the Law at No. 8 and Authentic at No. 9, separated by 17 points.

Trainer Barclay Tagg said that Tiz the Law is likely to skip the
Preakness to prepare for the Breeders’ Cup Classic, while Baffert will send Authentic to Pimlico for the final race in the 2020 version of the Triple Crown.

 NTRA Top 10

 Matt Shifman's Top 10

 1. Maximum Security (26)

 1. Maximum Security

 2. Vekoma (8)

 2. Authentic

 3. Tom’s d’Etat (3)

 3. Tiz the Law

 4. Improbable

 4. Improbable

 5. Monomoy Girl

 5. Monomoy Girl

 6. By My Standards

 6. Vekoma

 7. Midnight Bisou

 7. By My Standards

 8. Tiz the Law

 8. Tom’s d’Etat

 9. Authentic

 9. Midnight Bisou

 10. Rushing Fall

 10. Rushing Fall


Posted Friday, September 4, 2020
When you look at the career record of the jockeys in the 2020 Kentucky Derby, you have to keep in mind the race happens just once a year and includes the largest field of any in America. Therefore, most riders’ Derby stats are going to look very poor in comparison to their regular record or to their Breeders’ Cup performance.

Hall of Famer Mike Smith is the perfect example. His Breeders’ Cup stats [145: 26-16-8] are fantastic, but his Derby record [25: 2-4-1] pales in comparison. Javier Castellano, another Hall of Famer, has never won the Run for the Roses, but sports 12 victories in the World Championships.

This year, all but Smith and John Velazquez [21: 2-2-0] are seeking a first Kentucky Derby win. It might be easier as only three regular New York riders are making the trip to Churchill Downs. Superstar jockeys like the Ortiz brothers, Irad and Jose, and Joel Rosario are staying at Saratoga because of Covid-19 travel restrictions.


There are 17 jockeys who have won two Kentucky Derbys. Ron Turcotte and Eddie Delahoussaye did it in consecutive years. Turcotte had his Meadow Stable double with Riva Ridge in 1972 and Secretariat in the following year. Delahoussaye had Gato Del Sol in 1982 and then Sunny’s Halo.

Mike Smith
[Honor A. P. - 25: 2-4-1] – Smith won his first Derby in 2005 when Giacomo pulled his stunning 50-1 upset and he reunites with trainer John Shirreffs this year. In 2018, Justify brought Smith his second win in the Run for the Roses. He just missed a third victory when favorite Bodemeister got caught near the wire in 2012. Smith also rode the favorite in 1993 with Prairie Bayou, 1994 on Holy Bull, and on Unbridled’s Song in 1996.

John Velazquez
[Authentic – 21: 2-2-0] – Johnny V. won the Derby in 2011 with Animal Kingdom when he inherited the mount at the last minute from Robby Albarado. Then in 2017, the favorite Always Dreaming gave Velazquez his other victory in the Derby. He has a pair of second-place finishes in 2001 with Invisible Ink and Code of Honor last year.

A victory by Smith or Velazquez would move them into the elite group of seven riders with three wins in the Derby that includes Victor Espinoza, Angel Cordero Jr., Gary Stevens, Kent Desormeaux, Calvin Borel, Earle Sande and Isaac Murphy.

With the difficult travel restrictions from the jockey colonies in New York and California, many Kentucky based riders will get a rare chance to ride in the Run for the Roses.

Javier Castellano
[Money Moves – 13: 0-0-1] – Castellano rode the favorite Bellamy Road to seventh place in 2005. His best finish was third in 2018 on Audible.

Manny Franco
[Tiz the Law – 2: 0-0-0] will be on the biggest favorite in recent history this year with two uncompetitive mounts in his prior two starts.

Tyler Gaffalione
[South Bend – 2: 0-0-0] left Saratoga where he was having a very good meeting to head to Kentucky for his third try in the Derby. His best finish came last year when he was seventh on War of Will.

Florent Geroux
[Thousand Words – 4: 0-0-1] - Geroux’s rookie performance on Gun Runner in 2016 was a good one when he got third place.

James Graham
[Major Fed – 1: 0-0-0] finished eighth in his only Derby mount in 2018 on Lone Sailor.

Julien Leparoux
[Storm the Court – 11: 0-0-0] – Leparoux was fourth in 2017 with Classic Empire in addition to a pair of fifth place finishes.

Paco Lopez
[Ny Traffic – 1: 0-0-0] was 11th in his only mount on Firenze Fire two years ago.

Joe Rocco Jr.
[Winning Impression – 1: 0-0-0] was 17th in 2017 on fan favorite Vinceremos.

Gabriel Saez
[Mr. Big News – 3: 0-1-0] – Saez was second in the 2008 Derby as a rookie on the ill-fated filly Eight Belles. The following year, he was on the favorite Friesan Fire, who finished 18th.

Ricardo Santana Jr.
[Max Player – 5: 0-0-0] – Santana rode the 13th place finisher, Creator, in 2015 and Plus Que Parfait, who was eighth last year.

Joe Talamo
[Attachment Rate – 2: 0-0-0] gets up on a horse that has a bit of a buzz around him this year after two finishes at the back of the field.


Don’t be upset if your Derby horse is ridden by a rookie — 27 jockeys won the race in their first try. The most recent rookie winners were Mario Gutierrez in 2012 on I’ll Have Another and Stewart Elliot, who rode Smarty Jones in 2004. Steve Cauthen began his 1978 Triple Crown with his rookie Derby win on Affirmed.

Adam Beschizza

Luca Panici
[Sole Volante]

Posted Wednesday, September 2, 2020

When Tiz the Law was assigned 3-5 morning line odds for the 2020 Kentucky Derby the Sackatoga Stable runner was placed in a very familiar position as the favorite.

The road to the 2020 Derby spanned an entire year, from the Iroquois on Sept. 14, 2019 to the first Saturday in September, instead of the usual eight months. Tiz the Law was a constant presence on the Derby trail since he won the Champagne in the third points prep race on Oct. 5, 2019.

After that victory at Belmont Park, Tiz the Law was the favorite in almost every instance as he piled up a record number of qualifying points with 372. The only time he was not top betting choice happened in Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool 3 right after Authentic won the San Felipe (G2) at Santa Anita over Honor A. P. and Storm the Court.

The timeline below shows the odds that Tiz the Law carried in his races on the Derby trail along with all seven of the Kentucky Derby Future Wagers and the William Hill Derby futures.

Since the points system was instituted in 2013, there are three factors that have stood out for the horse that crossed the finish line in first in the Kentucky Derby – they were undefeated in their 3-year-old year, a winner of a 100-point prep race, and possess a stalking running style. In this year’s field of 18, Tiz the Law is the only horse that meets those three criteria.

On Saturday, Tiz the Law will try and complete a trip as the favorite from the entire Derby trail to the winner’s circle at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in September.


•Oct. 5, 2019 – 1st Champagne (G1) – 1.40-1 - 10 Derby points

•Nov. 30, 2019 – 3
rd Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) – .60-1* - 2 Derby points (total 12)

•Dec. 1, 2019 – Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool 1: 11.90-1*

•Dec. 1, 2019 – Kentucky Derby Sire Wager: Constitution, 5.80-1*

•Jan. 20, 2020 – William Hill Kentucky Derby future odds: 8-1*

•Feb. 1, 2020 – 1
st Holy Bull (G3) – 1.30-1* - 10 Derby points (total 22)

•Feb. 9, 2020 - Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool 2: 8.80-1*

•Feb. 24, 2020 – William Hill Kentucky Derby future odds: 6-1*

•Mar. 8, 2020 – Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool 3: 7.20-1

•Mar. 28, 2020 – 1
st Florida Derby (G1) – 1.40-1* - 100 Derby points (total 122)

•Mar. 30, 2020 – William Hill Kentucky Derby future odds: 7-2*

•Apr. 5, 2020 – Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool 4: 5.80-1*

•Jun. 20, 2020 – 1
st Belmont Stakes (G1) – .80-1* - 150 Derby points (total 272)

•Jun. 28, 2020– Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool 5: 2.20-1*

•Jul. 19, 2020– Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool 6: 2.60-1*

•Aug. 1, 2020 – William Hill Kentucky Derby future odds: 2.20-1*

•Aug. 8, 2020 – 1
st Travers (G1) – .60-1* - 100 Derby points (total 372)

•Aug. 9, 2020 – Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool 7: 1.10-1*

•Aug. 28, 2020 – William Hill Kentucky Derby future odds: 4-5*

•Sept. 1, 2020 – Kentucky Derby morning line favorite: 3-5*

Posted Tuesday, August 18, 2020
Matt Shifman looks at Swiss Skydiver and Gamine, tied for fifth in the top 3-year-old poll
Posted Monday, August 10, 2020
More voters believe Tiz the Law deserves the No. 1 spot in the NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll.
Page 1 of 70
Meet Matt Shifman

Matt Shifman has been on the Horse Racing Nation staff since 2011 and currently serves as Assistant Editor. Matt covers Aqueduct, Belmont Park, Monmouth Park, and Saratoga in his two HRN blogs, Racing at the Jersey Shore and New York State of Racing.

Since 2012, Matt has been a voter in the NTRA weekly polls for the Top Thoroughbred and Top Three-Year-Old.

Recently, Matt helped launch Derby Day Racing, a new 2-year-old racing partnership, that just purchased a promising Lookin At Lucky filly named Sooner Schooner.

You may also know Matt by his Twitter, Facebook, and HRN screen nameAndyScoggin.

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