Archived: Top 20 Kentucky Derby Rankings

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Tony Russo’s Top Derby Contenders

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1. Omaha Beach

Derby Points/Rank: 37.5 – 19th

Race Record: (6) 2-3-1

Earnings: $521,800

Breeding: War Front – Charming

Owner: Fox Hill Farms, INC.

Trainer: Richard Mandella

Last Race: Rebel Stakes (G2) at Oaklawn Park, Finished 1st

Analysis: This horse ran huge in the Rebel Stakes (G2), proving to be a high-class animal that we must take seriously moving forward. Coming into the race, it was reasonable to question his ability; however, there is no reason to question it now. His pedigree should benefit him moving forward and his running style will suit the Kentucky Derby very well. He’ll try to build on his resume this week in the Arkansas Derby (G1).

2. Long Range Toddy

Derby Points/Rank: 53.5 – 11th

Race Record: (7) 4-1-1

Earnings: $851,125

Breeding: Take Charge Indy – Pleasant Song

Owner: Willis Horton Racing LLC

Trainer: Steve Asmussen

Last Race: Rebel Stakes (G2) at Oaklawn Park, Finished 1st

Analysis: He became a serious contender after the Rebel Stakes (G2) at Oaklawn Park when he ran down our then #1-ranked horse to win by a nose in the final stages. He has progressively gotten better with each start and possesses a pedigree that should only see him get better as the distances get longer. He is now a serious player heading into this weekend’s Arkansas Derby (G1), where he will square off with our top horse on this week’s list.

3. Roadster

Derby Points/Rank: 100 – 4th

Race Record: (4) 3-0-1

Earnings: $706,200

Breeding: Quality Road – Ghost Dancing

Owner: Speedway Stable LLC

Trainer: Bob Baffert

Last Race: Santa Anita Derby (G1) at Santa Anita Park, Finished 1st

Analysis: Welcome to the show, Roadster. After looking like he was dropping to the back of the field in the Santa Anita Derby (G1), he then came with a furious rally on the far turn before passing Game Winner late in the stretch to win. This ultra-impressive performance made him a primetime Kentucky Derby contender. He could move up even further on the list, pending what happens this weekend in Arkansas.

4. Game Winner

Derby Points/Rank: 85 – 7th

Race Record: (6) 4-2-0

Earnings: $1,846,000

Breeding: Candy Ride – Indyan Giving

Owner: Gary and Mary West

Trainer: Bob Baffert

Last Race: Santa Anita Derby (G1) at Santa Anita Park, Finished 2nd

Analysis: He had another solid effort in the Santa Anita Derby (G1), which should set him up perfectly for the Kentucky Derby. He was likely not fully cranked up for this effort; however, it is a little concerning that he’s now closely lost two in a row. There are many, including myself, who believe that he is still a solid Kentucky Derby pick, yet the two losses do cause a slight pause for concern.

5. Improbable

Derby Points/Rank: 25 – 27th

Race Record: (4) 3-1-0

Earnings: $419,520

Breeding: City Zip – Rare Event

Owner: China Horse Club, Starlight Racing, and WinStar Farm

Trainer: Bob Baffert

Last Race: Rebel Stakes (G2) at Oaklawn Park, Finished 2nd

Analysis: After getting hung wide on both turns in the Rebel Stakes (G2), he just couldn’t hold on for the win, getting passed late by Long Range Toddy to lose by a nose. The loss was disappointing; however, he should have gotten a lot out of the effort from a fitness standpoint. He should be ready to fire a big one this weekend in the Arkansas Derby (G1).

6. Tacitus

Derby Points/Rank: 150 – 1st

Race Record: (4) 3-0-0


Breeding: Tapit – Close Hatches

Owner: Juddmonte Farms, LLC

Trainer: Bill Mott

Last Race: Wood Memorial Stakes (G2) at Aqueduct, Finished 1st

Analysis: Tacitus joined War of Will as the only horse so far to win two Kentucky Derby Prep Races with a big win in the Wood Memorial Sakes (G2) at Aqueduct. Despite getting a fairly rough trip, he kept to task before wearing down Tax in the stretch. The field for the race was a bit questionable, plus the pace set up well for him, but he still proved quite a bit with the performance. His consistency is a major positive.

7. War of Will

Derby Points/Rank: 60 – 10th

Race Record: (8) 3-1-1

Earnings: $501,569

Breeding: War Front – Visions of Clarity

Owner: Gary Barber

Trainer: Mark Casse

Last Race: Louisiana Derby (G2) at Fair Grounds, Finished 9th

Analysis: The Louisiana Derby (G2) turned into a complete disaster for him after he took a couple of bad steps right out of the gate. At first, it sounded like he had injured himself in a serious way; however, he is doing much better now. He will still likely run in the Kentucky Derby, where he could be dangerous at a price.

8. Maximum Security

Derby Points/Rank: 100 – 6th

Race Record: (4) 4-0-0


Breeding: New Year’s Day – Lil Indy

Owner: Juddmonte Farms, LLC

Trainer: Gary and Mary West

Last Race: Florida Derby (G1) at Gulfstream Park, Finished 1st

Analysis: The former $16,000 claimer is now a stakes winner after capturing the Florida Derby (G1) in wire-to-wire fashion. His 101 Beyer speed figure makes him very competitive on the first Saturday in May, while his early speed might be dangerous against this year’s crop. If he wins, it would be one of the greatest “rags to riches” story of all time.

9. Vekoma

Derby Points/Rank: 110 – 2nd

Race Record: (4) 3-0-1

Earnings: $788,850

Breeding: Candy Ride – Mona De Momma

Owner: R. A. Hill Stable and Gatsas Stables

Trainer: George Weaver

Last Race: Blue Grass Stakes (G2) at Keeneland, Finished 1st

Analysis: Running second off the layoff, the Blue Grass Stakes (G2) was thought to be a solid spot for him, which ended up being the case. After stalking the early pace, Vekoma simply took over in the stretch, kicking clear to win by multiple lengths. He sat a perfect trip in this spot, with the pace setting up very well for him, making this a race that many will be critical of moving forward. Still, he has a running style that could make him dangerous in the Kentucky Derby.

10. Anothertwistafate

Derby Points/Rank: 30 – 24th

Race Record: (5) 3-1-0

Earnings: $263,505

Breeding: Scat Daddy – Imperfection

Owner: Peter Redekop B. C., Ltd.

Trainer: Blaine D. Wright

Last Race: Sunland Derby (G3) at Sunland Park, Finished 2nd

Analysis: There is no doubt he looked like the best horse in the Sunland Derby (G3) even though he came up a neck short. With a better trip, he would have gotten there; however, the most important factor for him was proving he could run on the dirt. That mission was accomplished, which makes him a very interesting prospect heading into the first Saturday in May, if he runs well enough in this weekend’s Lexington Stakes (G3).

11. Cutting Humor

Derby Points/Rank: 50 – 13th

Race Record: (6) 2-2-1

Earnings: $516,967

Breeding: First Samurai – Pun

Owner: Starlight Racing

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Last Race: Sunland Park (G3) at Sunland Park, Finished 1st

Analysis: Pletcher has a couple of Kentucky Derby hopefuls after all, with Cutting Humor definitely being one of them. After a disastrous start in the Southwest Stakes (G3), he bounced back with an excellent win in the Sunland Derby (G3). The Kentucky Derby will be a big ask for him, but he has earned the right to give it a shot.

12. Code of Honor

Derby Points/Rank: 74 – 8th

Race Record: (5) 2-1-1

Earnings: $478,820

Breeding: Noble Mission – Reunited

Owner: W.S. Farish

Trainer: Shug McGaughey

Last Race: Florida Derby (G1) at Gulfstream Park, Finished 3rd

Analysis: With the slow pace in the Florida Derby (G1), his chances were over quickly. This horse is showing that he can be consistent, but there is no question that he is pace-dependent. He will likely get a better setup in the Kentucky Derby, though, if he’s good enough to get the job done.

13. Tax

Derby Points/Rank: 52 – 12th

Race Record: (5) 2-2-1

Earnings: $326,300

Breeding: Arch – Toll

Owner: R. A. Hill Stable, Reeves Thoroughbred Racing, Lynch, Hugh and Corms Racing Stable

Trainer: Danny Gargan

Last Race: Wood Memorial Stakes (G2) at Aqueduct, Finished 2nd

Analysis: He was one of the only horses in the Wood Memorial Stakes (G2) able to avoid trouble. That led to a perfect trip that nearly saw him pull off the win. This is a “grind it out” type of runner who might have something to say in the underneath positions of the Kentucky Derby.

14. Haikal

Derby Points/Rank: 70 – 9th

Race Record: (5) 3-1-1

Earnings: $373,900

Breeding: Daaher – Sablah

Owner: Shadwell Stable

Trainer: Kiaran McLaughlin

Last Race: Wood Memorial Stakes (G2) at Aqueduct, Finished 3rd

Analysis: Predictably, he came with a run in the Wood Memorial Stakes (G2), but it was lacking just a bit compared to his efforts going shorter. This horse has proven that he will try hard, though, which could make him a dangerous underneath contender on the first Saturday in May.

15. By My Standards

Derby Points/Rank: 100 – 5th

Race Record: (5) 2-2-1

Earnings: $653,710

Breeding: Goldencents – A Jealous Woman

Owner: Allied Racing Stable, LLC

Trainer: Bret Calhoun

Last Race: Louisiana Derby (G2) at Fair Grounds, Finished 1st

Analysis: After a shocking victory in the Louisiana Derby (G2), this horse now sits near the top of the Kentucky Derby Points Standings. He is light in the experience department, which puts him in a difficult spot, but his running style suits the Kentucky Derby.

16. Win Win Win

Derby Points/Rank: 50 – 14th

Race Record: (6) 3-2-1

Earnings: $367,300

Breeding: Hat Trick – Miss Smarty Pants

Owner:  Live Oak Plantation

Trainer: Michael Trombetta

Last Race: Blue Grass Stakes (G2) at Keeneland, Finished 2nd

Analysis: He’s back in the Kentucky Derby picture after a fast-closing stretch run to finish second in the Blue Grass Stakes (G2). Once again, this horse got a poor trip, which most likely cost him the win. It’s hard to imagine him getting a better trip in a 20-horse field, which is his biggest downfall.

17. Spinoff

Derby Points/Rank: 40 – 16th

Race Record: (4) 2-1-1

Earnings: $260,000

Breeding: Hard Spun – Zaftig

Owner: Wertheimer and Frere

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Last Race: Louisiana Derby (G2) at Fair Grounds, Finished 1st

Analysis: The good news is that his second in the Louisiana Derby (G2) earned him a spot in the Kentucky Derby. The bad news is that there is no way he should have lost that race if he was a serious prospect after looking like he was home free. He’ll have to greatly improve if he wants to make an impact.

18. Plus Que Parfait

Derby Points/Rank: 104 – 3rd

Race Record: (7) 2-1-2

Earnings: $1,590,400

Breeding: Point of Entry – Belvedera

Owner: Imperial Racing, LLC

Trainer: Brendan Walsh

Last Race: UAE Derby (G2) at Meydan Race Course, Finished 1st

Analysis: He finally put it all together last time out when upsetting the UAE Derby (G2). He is still a big long shot for the Kentucky Derby, but at least he was able to get back to some of the solid form that he showed as a 2-year-old.

19. Bodexpress

Derby Points/Rank: 40 – 17th

Race Record: (5) 0-3-0

Earnings: $208,700

Breeding: Bodemeister – Pied a Terre

Owner:  Top Racing, LLC, Global Thoroughbred and GDS Racing Stable

Trainer: Gustavo Delgado

Last Race: Florida Derby (G1) at Gulfstream Park, Finished 2nd

Analysis: Obviously, it’s very hard to get excited about a maiden in the Kentucky Derby. At least is improving with each race, though, and has a pedigree that could make him better when going longer.

20. Master Fencer

Derby Points/Rank: Japanese Qualifier – 20th

Race Record: (6) 2-2-0

Earnings: $234,392

Breeding: Just a Way – Sexy Zamurai

Owner: Katsumi Yoshizawa

Trainer: K. Tsunoda

Last Race: Fukuryu Stakes at Nakayama, Finished 2nd


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