Kentucky Derby 2020 Scouting Report: West Coast Division I

December 13, 2019 11:05am

Trainer Bob Baffert’s out not just to own California’s 2020 Kentucky Derby preps, but to tie the all-time leader, “Plain Ben” Jones, with a sixth victory on the first Saturday in May. Curiously, he doesn’t have what we’re calling the early “West Coast Division” leader on the trail in this first Scouting Report for the region’s contenders. Of course, that could quickly change as we track prospects in the coming months.

RELATED REPORTS: East Coast | Central Division

Here’s a look at where the current contenders stand:

(Sire — Trainer — Owner — Derby Points)

The Leader

Anneau d’Or
(Medaglia d’Oro — Blaine Wright — Peter Redekop — 12): He went from a turf debut winner to the longshot Breeders’ Cup Juvenile runner-up, then solidified he’s a top name to know in California by running second in the Los Alamitos Futurity (G2). While Anneau d’Or did look eligible to go on by in both those races, only to come up a bit short, the Futurity in particular presented a scenario where he had more work to do trying to rally over a sloppy, sealed track. We’ll see what happens when the dirt’s fast again this spring at Santa Anita Park.

First Tier

Eight Rings
(Empire Maker — Bob Baffert — SF Racing, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables, etc. — 10): An all-or-nothing type so far, he dazzled on debut but then lost his jockey at the start of the Del Mar Futurity (G1). After bouncing back in the American Pharoah Stakes (G1), he had no apparent excuse when fading off the board in the Breeders’ Cup. Baffert’s going to give this colt time off, get him right and then aim for two prep races in the spring, likely starting by leaving town for Oaklawn Park’s Rebel Stakes (G2).

Storm the Court (Court Vision — Peter Eurton — Exline-Border Racing, David Bernsen, David Wilson and Dan Hudock — 22): The longshot Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner could be legit, as in his stakes debut, he was tangled in the early mess with Eight Rings when both horses lost their jockeys. Storm the Court went on to be third in the American Pharoah (G1) on an afternoon when closing just didn’t happen. Notably, blinkers went on in the Juvenile, and Storm the Court showed logical progression.

Thousand Words (Pioneerof the Nile — Bob Baffert — Albaugh Family Stables and Spendthrift Farm — 10): He shot to the top of the Baffert barn’s prospect list when moving to 2-for-2 in the Los Al Futurity. With a career arc so far mirroring McKinzie, this colt put blinkers on for his second start and re-engaged in deep stretch once jockey Flavien Prat moved him out and over for a look at Anneau d’Or. Perhaps this one should be the leader, but as lightly raced as he is, look forward to Thousand Words' chance to prove it in a few months' time.

Second Tier

American Theorem
(American Pharoah — George Papaprodromou — Kretz Racing — 4): After a second in the American Pharoah, he was pulled late from consideration for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and hasn’t been seen on the work tab since. Connections say it’s to prepare for the Derby trail, but this is the type you’d like to see back sometime soon if he’s to get the sort of conditioning needed to contend on the first Saturday in May. American Theorem is twice raced with a debut win Aug. 31 at Del Mar.

High Velocity (Quality Road — Bob Baffert — Gary and Mary West — 2): While he set the pace and came up short in the Los Al Futurity, that seems more a case of wearing down on the day than reason to dismiss him in future endeavors around two turns. This guy will look to continue a recent run of success for the Wests, whose 2019 3-year-olds include Maximum Security and Game Winner. High Velocity’s was a stakes winner of Del Mar’s seven-furlong Bob Hope (G3) before last weekend’s battle with Thousand Words and Anneau d’Or.

Honor A. P. (Honor Code — John Shirreffs — C R K Stable — 0): After thinking we’d see him in the Los Al Futurity, Honor A. P. will instead point to the Jan. 4 Sham Stakes (G3) over the same Santa Anita track where he showed dramatic improvement second out. Stretching from 3/4 of a mile on debut to a mile, he coasted to a 5 1/4-length victory that announced the $850,000 yearling purchase as a serious member of this crop.

Ones to Watch

Baffert’s charges don’t hinge on just those already discussed, especially not after a big last weekend for the barn at Los Al.

Amid winning the Futurity and Starlet (G1) for fillies, he also sent out Ra’ad for a maiden win on Saturday. Appearing out of it at the top of the stretch, the son of Twirling Candy campaigned by Dubai interests stormed by late in the slop. Ra’ad is a candidate to travel for the UAE Derby (G2).

On Sunday, Baffert won at Los Al with a sixth straight entry from his barn when Azul Coast was squeezed at the break, pulled wide, ran last into the far turn and yet circled the field for an easy victory. Karl Watson, Mike Pegram and Paul Weitman own the son of Super Saver, who’s looking like a relative bargain at $320,000.

One other to keep an eye on is Authentic. He’s campaigned by the same group of owners as Eight Rings, and they actually parted with some members of this crop at auction. That they kept Authentic, a Nov. 9 debut winner by Into Mischief, speaks to his potential. This colt continues working toward a likely try at the Derby trail.

He’ll have nowhere to race in California this spring being that Ancient Warrior is trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, so look for the impressive Nov. 23 Del Mar maiden winner at Oaklawn Park, where the Hall of Fame trainer will be operating after the new year. This Constitution colt won with ease going 3/4 of a mile and was back on the work tab this week.

As for a few others to keep an eye on, Wrecking Crew, last of four in the Los Al Futurity, eased across the wire, but only after appearing a bit rank into the first turn. He has been right there in other stakes on fast tracks.

Great Power could be Simon Callaghan’s Derby horse, as he debuted an easy 3 1/4-length winner on Sept. 29 over a respectable opponent from the John Shirreffs barn, Thunder Code. By Blame, Great Power went on the shelf after that and should reappear in the new year.

Others we’ll be looking for coming back include Del Mar Futurity winner Nucky, who may have simply been a benefit of others’ misfortune; Collusion Illusion, Del Mar’s Best Pal (G2) winner who did little running in the American Pharoah Stakes; and Express Train, yet another Shirreffs trainee who broke his maiden at Del Mar by 14 1/4 before flopping in the American Pharoah.

With Santa Anita’s track expected to play a bit faster when the meet opens Dec. 26, horses that didn’t run well over it in the fall will deserve another shot.

Remaining West Coast Division Preps

 Sham Stakes — Santa Anita — Jan. 4 — [10-4-2-1]

 Robert B. Lewis Stakes — Santa Anita — Feb. 1 — [10-4-2-1]

 El Camino Real Derby — Golden Gate Fields — Feb. 20 — [10-4-2-1]

 San Felipe Stakes — Santa Anita — March 7 — [50-20-10-5]

 Sunland Derby — Sunland Park — March 22 — [50-20-10-5]

 Santa Anita Derby — Santa Anita — April 4 — [100-40-20-10]


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