Kentucky Derby Update: The Derby Dispatch for Thursday, Feb. 27

Feb 27, 2020

Following a rare weekend off, the Road to the Kentucky Derby Championship series is back in full swing Saturday with the $400,000 Fountain of Youth Stakes (Grade II) at Gulfstream Park in South Florida.

  The Fountain of Youth, which serves as a steppingstone to the $1 million Florida Derby (GI) on March 28, will award 85 points to the Top 4 finishers on a 50-20-10-5 scale.

  Run at 1 1/16 miles, the Fountain of Youth will see the return of the highly-touted colt Dennis’ Moment for owners Albaugh Family Stables and trainer Dale Romans. Dennis’ Moment has not been seen since his enigmatic eighth-place finish in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI) where he stumbled badly out of the starting gate and spotted the field more than six lengths in the early stages.

  The European Road to the Kentucky Derby will continue Friday with the one-mile Woodford Reserve Patton Stakes (Listed) over the all-weather surface at Dundalk in Ireland. The Patton Stakes features four Triple Crown nominees, including the Aidan O’Brien-trained trio of Battle of Liege, King of Athens and New World Tapestry.

  The Patton Stakes will offer points to the Top 4 finishers on a 20-8-4-2 scale.

  The penultimate leg of the European Road to the Kentucky Derby will take place on Wednesday with the Road to the Kentucky Derby Condition Stakes at Kempton. The one-mile contest will also offer the Top 4 finishers points on a 20-8-4-2 scale. The series will conclude on April 2 at Chelmsford City with the Cardinal Condition Stakes (30-12-6-3 points).


DENNIS’ MOMENT FAVORED AT 2-1 IN FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH RETURNDennis’ Moment did everything right twice last year, breaking his maiden by a 19 ¼-length margin and posting a convincing win in the Iroquois (GIII), but misfortune struck in a pair of starts as he clipped heels in his career debut and stumbled out of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI) starting gate as the 4-5 favorite. Unraced since early November, the well-regarded colt will look to confirm himself as a serious Kentucky Derby contender when he returns to action in Saturday’s $400,000 Fountain of Youth (GII) at Gulfstream Park.

  Installed as the 2-1 favorite among 12 runners, the Dale Romans-trained Dennis’ Moment will get a substitute jockey in Flavien Prat due to Irad Ortiz Jr. being in Saudi Arabia to ride. The 1 1/16-mile Fountain of Youth will award points on a 50-20-10-5 scale to the top four finishers as part of the Road to the Kentucky Derby series.

  A $400,000 2-year-old in training purchase, Dennis’ Moment is by two-time Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Tiznow. His dam is by Elusive Quality, sire of 2004 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Smarty Jones, and Dennis’ Moment has been backed in both Kentucky Derby Future Wager pools, bet down as the 12-1 second favorite among individual interests in Pool 1 and the 10-1 third choice in Pool 2. He drew well in post 5 Saturday.

  Chance It comes next at 7-2 on the morning line following a game head score in the Jan. 4 Mucho Macho Man. He was flattered when third-placer Sole Volate came back to capture the Sam F. Davis (GIII) at Tampa Bay Downs next out, and the Florida-bred son of Currency Swap appears to be training forwardly for his first graded attempt with a recent bullet drill over the track. Chance It has registered excellent Brisnet Speed ratings in his last three starts (103-102-103), and won his lone two-turn try by open lengths, but the front-running colt must overcome the extreme outside post with Tyler Gaffalione.

  Ete Indien merits respect after finishing a clear second to Tiz the Law in the Feb. 1 Holy Bull (GIII), netting a field-best 104 Brisnet Speed number, and he’s really come on for Patrick Biancone after switching from turf to dirt two starts ago. However, the Summer Front colt likes to be forward (triple-digit E1 Pace ratings) and drew poorly in post 11 with a short run to the first turn. Florent Geroux picks up the mount.

  As Seen On Tv will try two turns after a head second in the Mucho Macho Man. Paco Lopez guides the Florida-bred son of Lookin at Lucky, and As Seen on Tv will likely look to settle just off the speed from post 6. Kelly Breen trains the early 9-2 third choice. Shotski invades from his Maryland base for Jeremiah O’Dwyer. An upset winner of the Remsen (GII) two back, the front-running son of Blame weakened to second after dueling on the lead in the Feb. 1 Withers (GIII) at Aqueduct. Shotski figures to add to pace with new pilot John Velazquez.

  Country Grammer and Candy Tycoon will jump to stakes competition off convincing maiden wins for Chad Brown and Todd Pletcher, respectively. Fourth when debuting on turf, Country Grammer graduated stylishly when switching to dirt in a 1 1/8-mile test at Aqueduct in mid-November, and the son of Tonalist adds the services of Javier Castellano. Candy Tycoon earned his first win by four-length margin when stretching out to two turns at Gulfstream on Jan. 25, and the Twirling Candy colt drew well at the rail with new rider Manny Franco. Both sophomores are 15-1 on the morning line. – James Scully/




Notable quotes provided by owners, trainers and jockeys to track officials:


Fountain of Youth:


#5 Dennis’ Moment: “I’m feeling a lot of pressure. I’m not usually in this situation where I feel pressure. I usually like being the underdog because there’s not much pressure. With this horse, there’s so much hype with him – well deserved, he’s very talented. I put pressure on myself because of what I think of him. I think he’s ready to roll. … All horses are different. Kitten’s Joy has always been my gold standard. He’s the best horse I’ve ever had. This horse is good, right there with.” – trainer Dale Romans


#10 Shotski: “It’ll be nice to get him away from the Aqueduct course – it’s pretty deep – and see if he can compete with the big boys on a faster surface, which I think he will.” trainer Jeremiah O’Dwyer


#11 Ete Indien: “Tiz the Law was the best horse that day (in the Feb. 1 Holy Bull). We ran a big race and left the rest of the field far behind. If he can’t do better than that, I don’t think he has a chance on Saturday, but I think he has improved though. … We are in America. Dirt is the tradition this time of year. There are no good turf races anyway until July. We tried him (on dirt) and he won brilliantly but was a bit green. He was much better the second time. He’s a big baby. He’s a very talented big horse who needs to learn and improve.” – trainer Patrick Biancone


#11 Ete Indien: “It’s a shame what happened to Luca (Panici) breaking his collar bone and not being able to ride. I was able to get on him (Wednesday) morning and he felt like a big, strong colt and moved very well. It’s always nice to get on horses before you ride them.” – jockey Florent Geroux


#12 Chance It: “As far as fitness goes, he’s spot-on fit. We just need to have a good week. Hopefully, everything goes to plan for the rest of the week, and we should go over there with a good chance. … He’s so good that I never want to get him beat. If he gets beat, it’s our fault. That’s why I wanted to make sure he was fit enough (for the Jan. 4 Mucho Macho Man) that if he had to belly down he could, and he did. I have a ton of respect for him. He’s a really good horse.”  – trainer Saffie Joseph Jr.


#12 Chance It: “I think he’s only going to keep improving, especially off that kind of layoff, to fight like that (in the Jan. 4 Mucho Macho Man). It really shows the kind of heart he has. He’ll run all day, he’s just a big, long-striding colt.”  – jockey Tyler Gaffalione


PAST PERFORMANCES & HISTORY Kentucky Derby Contenders Past Performances


Fountain of Youth Past Performances


Fountain of Youth Stakes History




BAFFERT WAITING IN THE WINGS – Next Saturday features a trio of Road to the Kentucky Derby Championship Series contests, including the $400,000 San Felipe where Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert is expected to enter $100,000 Sham Stakes (GIII) winner Authentic and $100,000 Robert B. Lewis (GIII) hero Thousand Words.

  Baffert, a five-time Kentucky Derby-winning conditioner appears loaded for bear this year with several horses targeting the Kentucky Derby. Along with Authentic and Thousand Words, Baffert also campaigns the improving $200,000 San Vicente Stakes (GII) winner Nadal, $100,000 El Camino Real Derby (Listed) winner Azul Coast and eye-catching maiden winner Charlatan.

  Another Baffert trainee waiting for his 3-year-old debut is the Grade I-winner Eight Rings, who has been working toward a return to the races following his sixth-place finish in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. 


OUTSIDE POSTS NOT THE PLACE TO BE IN FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH – In the last 25 years, only two horses have won the Fountain of Youth from posts 10, 11 or 12: Promises Fulfilled (2018) and Quality Road (2009).

   Chance It, one of the top contenders for this year’s Fountain of Youth, will have to overcome post 12 in order to win the 1 1/16-mile race. At the current Gulfstream meet, there have been 25 races run at this distance and only two horses have won form posts 8-12.


SPRING STALL APPLICATIONS DUE FRIDAY, MARCH 6 – Churchill Downs Spring Meet stall applications are due Friday, March 6.

  For more information and to download a stall application, visit:


ADDITIONAL TRIPLE CROWN NEWS AND NOTES – Trainer Jimmy Jerkens reported Saratoga Special (GII) winner Green Light Go was not entered in Saturday’s Fountain of Youth due to a fever. The colt’s next race plans remain in flux. … Major Fed will have a new jockey for the $1 million Louisiana Derby (GII). Joel Rosario has the call on the Risen Star (GII) runner-up, according to trainer Greg Foley.




·     Arguably, one of the most highly-touted horses on the Road to the Kentucky Derby has been $200,000 Iroquois Stakes (GII) winner Dennis’ Moment. The colt will attempt to prove his victory in the Iroquois wasn’t a fluke in Saturday’s $400,000 Fountain of Youth (GII) – his first start since stumbling badly in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI).

·     Owner information: Dennis Albaugh is a billionaire businessman from Ankeny, Iowa. The entrepreneur and Chairman of Albaugh LLC. Made his fortune through a crop protection products used by farmers around the world. Albaugh is an avid car collector and has more than 180 Chevrolets that are in a museum at his house in Iowa. The collection features every Chevrolet convertible built between 1913 and 1975.  


·     Trainer information: Dale Romans is Churchill Downs’ all-time leading trainer with 736 victories. The Louisville-native has won some of the world’s biggest races including the 2011 Preakness Stakes (GI) with Shackleford and the 2005 Dubai World Cup (GI) with Roses in May. Romans is a second-generation trainer and grew up on the backstretch of Churchill Downs where his late father Jerry trained horses. Romans began his training operation when he was 18-years-old and achieved arguably his greatest honor in 2012 by winning the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Trainer. Romans’ Kentucky Derby record is 10-0-0-2. 




The Road to the Kentucky Derby series resumes Saturday with the Fountain of Youth (GII) at Gulfstream Park, and Dennis’ Moment will be the center of attention in his 2020 opener. A jaw-dropping maiden scorer, the Dale Romans-trained colt followed with a comfortable win in the Iroquois (GIII) at Churchill Downs, earning favoritism in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI), but Dennis’ Moment must rebound after losing all chance at Santa Anita due to a stumbling start.

  Fifteen qualifiers for the May 2 Kentucky Derby will take place over the next seven weekends. Here are three storylines entering crunch time:


1 – Tiz the Law separated himself in the Feb. 1 Holy Bull (GIII), registering a towering 108 Brisnet Speed rating for the three-length triumph.

  It can be difficult to trust 1 1/16-mile races at Gulfstream Park due to the short stretch configuration (finish line at the traditional sixteenth pole), and Tiz the Law was the lone graded stakes winner in the seven-horse Holy Bull field. He will look to solidify his status as the early Kentucky Derby favorite when stretching out to 1 1/8 miles against deeper competition in the March 28 Florida Derby (GI).

  His propensity to lug in during the stretch drive, and the reluctance to settle while experiencing an inside trip down the backstretch of the Kentucky Jockey Club (GII) in his juvenile finale, are potential concerns, but Tiz the Law remains very imposing for Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Barclay Tagg.


2 – Bob Baffert seeking milestone win with a deep contingent. Synonymous with America’s most famous race, the Hall of Famer trainer is pursuing a record-equaling sixth Kentucky Derby victory with a collection of talented 3-year-olds. Authentic, Charlatan, Nadal and Thousand Words are all unbeaten for the Baffert barn.

  Authentic, a smashing 7 ¾-length hero of the Jan. 4 Sham (GIII), could meet Robert B. Lewis (GIII) and Los Alamitos Futurity (GII) winner Thousand Words in the March 7 San Felipe (GII) at Santa Anita. Nadal, who improved to 2-for-2 in the Feb. 9 San Vicente (GII) and was favored among individual interests in Pool 2 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager, will stretch to two turns for the March 14 Rebel (GII) at Oaklawn Park. Baffert is considering options for Charlatan, who netted a 101 Brisnet Speed rating recording an impressive debut tally on Feb. 16, and he also has El Camino Real Derby winner Azul Coast and Grade III scorer High Velocity readying for upcoming prep races.

  It will be fascinating to see the Baffert brigade sort itself out over the coming weeks.


3 – Breakout performances to come. This is the time of year for emerging contenders. In 2019, first-time stakes winners captured four of the seven major final prep races, and the majority of Kentucky Derby victors this century recorded their initial stakes win in the previous two starts.

  Big Brown came out of nowhere in 2008. A debut winner on Saratoga’s turf, he didn’t make his second career start, and first on dirt, until taking a Gulfstream allowance on March 5. Two appearances later, Big Brown captured the Kentucky Derby by 4 ¾ lengths as the favorite.

  Nyquist (2016), American Pharoah (2015) and Super Saver (2010) are the only unrestricted juvenile stakes winners to wear the roses in the last decade.


Other 3-year-olds


Americanus appears headed to a qualifier for Mark Hennig following an entry-level allowance win at Gulfstream on Feb. 22, rallying to win the seven-furlong event going by a length. Out of a Mineshaft mare, the son of War Front received a career-best 91 Brisnet Speed rating in his fourth start.

  Kiss Today Goodbye got the better of a pair of well-regarded rivals in a Feb. 22 maiden at Santa Anita. By Cairo Prince, the Eric Kruljac-trained colt edged Divine Armor by a neck. Exaulted, the 4-5 favorite after finishing second to Nadal in a Jan. 19 maiden, weakened to be another 4 ¾ lengths back in third.




The second of the three Kentucky Derby qualifiers at Gulfstream Park, Saturday’s Fountain of Youth will award a total of 85 points to the top four finishers (50-20-10-5). Here is a quick look at each contestant:


#1 Candy Tycoon: Held in high regard earlier in his career (odds-on in first three dirt starts), he improved significantly when trying two turns last out, breaking his maiden by a widening four lengths. Faces class check jumping straight to stakes company, but intriguing for Pletcher at long odds.


#2 Makabim: Cheap claiming performer has no business cluttering up the field.


#3 Masterday: Gulfstream Park West maiden winner looks too slow to factor.


#4 The Falcon: Winless from two starts, including a setback against maiden claiming foes.


#5 Dennis’ Moment: No questioning his skills from a talent perspective last year, but his mental fortitude must continue to develop. Excited to see the major Kentucky Derby contender open his 3-year-old campaign.


#6 As Seen On Tv: Game finishing a head second in Mucho Macho Man, and his improving Speed numbers are easy to appreciate. However, two-turn distances represent a possible hurdle for the Florida-bred sprint stakes winner.


#7 Country Grammer: Switched from turf to dirt and posted a convincing maiden win going 1 1/8 miles at Aqueduct last out in mid-November, receiving a solid 94 Brisnet Speed rating. Stalker shows a half-mile bullet work at Payson Park in preparation for Chad Brown, and son of Tonalist adds Javier Castellano for stakes debut.


#8 Gear Jockey: Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (GI) third-placer took a step back when switching to dirt at Gulfstream last time, finishing a well-beaten fifth in a maiden special weight. Turf makes sense, not this placement.


#9 Liam’s Lucky Charm: Wheels back two weeks later after well-beaten setback in weaker second division of the Risen Star (GII). His only bad races have come at two turns.


#10 Shotski: Remsen (GII) upsetter invades South Florida off a runner-up effort in Feb. 1 Withers (GIII) at Aqueduct. May appreciate the cutback to 1 1/16 miles, but should have company on the front end from an outside post.


#11 Ete Indien: Holy Bull runner-up has turned in two big races since switching from turf for Biancone, and he can’t be dismissed with new rider Florent Geroux. Registered field-best 104 Brisnet Speed rating last time, but outside post does the front-runner no favors.


#12 Chance It: Mucho Macho Man winner merits serious respect based upon recent form, easily capturing his lone two-turn start two starts back, but early-presser must overcome extreme outside post.


Kentucky Derby Top 10


1 Tiz the Law: Earned 108 Brisnet Speed romping in Holy Bull; Florida Derby next


2 Thousand Words: Unbeaten colt targeting March 7 San Felipe


3 Maxfield: Breezed half-mile Monday, second work back for unbeaten G1 winner


4 Enforceable: Solid runner-up effort in Risen Star first division


5 Dennis’ Moment: Returns as the favorite in Saturday’s Fountain of Youth


6 Nadal: His first two-turn test comes in March 14 Rebel


7 Sole Volante: Joined Kentucky Derby picture with late-running upset in Sam F. Davis


8 Wells Bayou: Good second making stakes debut in Southwest


9 Mr. Monomoy: Wire-to-wire winner of tougher Risen Star first division


10 Ete Indien: A clear second to Tiz the Law, he drew outside for the Fountain of Youth


Up next


I will recap the Fountain of Youth, and preview a trio of March 7 qualifiers: the San Felipe, Tampa Bay Derby (GII) and Gotham (GIII). – James Scully/




Like her sire, Curlin, Spice Is Nice was a runaway winner at first asking over Gulfstream Park’s main track. That 12-length romp on Jan. 12 punched her ticket to Saturday’s $200,000 Davona Dale (GII) over the same one-mile distance.

  One of the few fillies nominated early to the Triple Crown, Spice Is Nice already carried high expectations having sold for slightly more than $1 million as a yearling. She can claim a spot in the Kentucky Oaks (GI) with a win here, as the Davona Dale offers qualifying points of 50-20-10-5 to the top four placers.

  However, Spice Is Nice will need to get past Tonalist’s Shape, who brings a 4-for-4 mark into the race, including back-to-back wins in the 7-furlong Forward Gal (GIII) and the one-mile Hut Hut S. by a combined margin of 12 3/4 lengths.

  “After the Hut Hut, we said we were going to give her a break,” said trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. “We looked at the calendar and the Forward Gal looked like a good spot to start her back up. It was seven-eighths. I don’t think she wants to be doing that, but we thought it would be a good spot to start off her 3-year-old campaign, and it worked out well.

  “We think stretching back out in distance is going to help her. She has a lot of stamina.”

  Bayerness went 2-for-2 in Kentucky last fall and makes her stakes debut for Cherie DeVaux here, while Reluctant Bride tries dirt for the first time after running sixth in the Sweetest Chant (GIII) on turf. She has a dirt-oriented pedigree, by Speightstown and out of Sassy Image.

  Nikki and Papa was a credible third in the Forward Gal in her career debut and is eligible to improve. – Vance Hanson/

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