It’s never too early to talk Kentucky Derby and the new season officially begins with Saturday’s $150,000 Iroquois (G3) at Churchill Downs, the first of 35 Road to the Kentucky Derby series qualifiers.
Lists for the 2018 edition have been cleared and here’s a look at my early top 10 for the 2019 Kentucky Derby:
1: INSTAGRAND: An eye-catching 10 ¼-length winner of the August 11 Best Pal (G2), son of Into Mischief registered a 100 BRIS Speed rating that compares favorably to the 102 figure for 2015 Best Pal winner Nyquist, who remained unbeaten through his 2016 Kentucky Derby win. Purchased for $1.2 million, Instagrand has captured his two starts by a combined 20 ¼ lengths and Jerry Hollendorfer is readying the front-running colt for the September 29 American Pharoah (G1) at Santa Anita.
2: GAME WINNER: After winning a salty Del Mar maiden by 5 ¾ lengths, Bob Baffert-trained son of Candy Ride rallied to take the Del Mar Futurity (G1) going away by 1 ½ lengths. Game Winner has posted commendable BRIS Speed numbers (92-97) and hails from an A.P. Indy mare. He’s got big-time potential for a two-time Triple Crown-winning conditioner.
3: TALE OF THE UNION: Baffert trainee rolled to an eight-length score when unveiled at Del Mar on August 26 and New York-bred son of Union Rags registered an outstanding 101 BRIS Speed rating. Tale of the Union cost $925,000 at May’s Fasig-Tipton Maryland two-year-old sale.
4: MAGIC ON TAP: Another in a deep Baffert arsenal, Magic on Tap drew off to a 2 ½-length decision when making his first attempt at Del Mar on September 1 and gray Tapit colt netted a 95 BRIS Speed rating.
5: ENDORSED: Finished full of run to capture his first start at Saratoga on August 18. By Medaglia d’Oro and out of the Grade 1-winning Tapit mare Dance Card, Endorsed received a 95 BRIS Speed rating and may continue to evolve into a serious player for Kiaran McLaughlin.
6: MUCHO: Left a favorable impression romping by 9 ¾ lengths in his second start, an August 4 maiden at Saratoga, and Bill Mott-trained Blame colt exits a rallying second in the Hopeful (G1). Mucho is bred to appreciate longer distances.
7: MIND CONTROL: Based in New Jersey with Greg Sacco, Monmouth maiden winner shipped to Saratoga and led wire-to-wire in the Hopeful, prevailing by three-quarters of a length. Stay Thirsty colt registered a 92 BRIS Speed rating last time.
8: CODE OF HONOR: Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Shug McGaughey doesn’t put much emphasis on the first career start and Code of Honor turned heads when leading wire-to-wire in his August 18 debut at Saratoga. By freshman sire Noble Mission, the chestnut colt received a 93 BRIS Speed rating for the 1 ½-length tally.
9. ROADSTER: After winning his first start by 4 ¼ lengths at 4-5, Roadster disappointed supporters when coming up a little in the Del Mar Futurity, finishing two lengths back in third at 3-5. Well-hyped Baffert trainee remains eligible to rebound from the setback and gray son of Quality Road is a half-brother to a Grade 1 winner at 1 ¼ miles.
10. CLASSY JOHN: Travers Day maiden race has produced a pair of two-year-old champions in the last decade including 2018 Kentucky Derby runner-up Good Magic and Classy John looked special rolling to a six-length victory this year. A $12,000 two-year-old in training purchase, Louisiana-bred Songandaprayer colt was making his first start for Dallas Stewart and showed high speed from the starting gate in the front-running win. Longer distances remain a question but Classy John earned a solid 91 BRIS Speed rating.
More information on Road to the Kentucky Derby prep-races can be found at TwinSpires!