By Richard Rosenblatt
From expected favorite Tiz the Law to a horse without a single qualifying point, the field for the 146th Kentucky Derby is nearly complete.
Kentucky Derby Post Position
In the past week or so, a few horses on the Derby top 20 leaderboard were declared out, including Pneumatic, Jesus’ Team (1-2 finishers in last week’s Pegasus Stakes), and the filly Swiss Skydiver (now Kentucky Oaks-bound). Others were declared in, including Sole Volante, Finnick the Fierce, and Necker Island.
A most surprising turn of events occurred a few days ago, when Shirl’s Speight was given the OK to be entered even though he did not compete in any of the 40-plus Derby point-qualifying races over the past 11 months.
Since it’s clear that not all of the qualified horses will run in the Derby, likely leaving the race without a full field of 20, Shirl’s Speight is next up based on stakes earnings from his win in the Marine Stakes (G3) at Woodbine in July. The son of Speightstown, trained by Roger Attfield, is 2-for-2 and could be among the pace-setters in the race.
Tiz the Law continues to train well at Saratoga under the watchful eye of trainer Barclay Tagg and Sackatoga’s managing partner Jack Knowlton. Unlike a slew of Derby horses, Tiz the Law will have his regular rider, Manny Franco, aboard.
Due to strict health and safety measures, including quarantines, some of the nation’s top jockeys won’t be at the Derby – the main reason being that they would lose business because of required quarantine periods by tracks. Among those sitting out the Derby are brothers Irad and Jose Ortiz, Joel Rosario, Luis Saez (who finished first in the 2019 Derby aboard Maximum Security but was DQ’d to 17th for interference), and Flavien Prat.
Art Collector and Honor A.P., both considered top challengers to Tiz the Law (4-for-4 in 2020), also will be ridden by their regular jockeys, Brian Hernandez, Jr. (Art Collector), and Hall of Famer Mike Smith (Honor A.P.).
Five-time winning Derby trainer Bob Baffert looks to send out two in the Run for the Roses, Haskell (G1) winner Authentic with Hall of Famer John Velazquez aboard and Shared Belief winner Thousand Words with Florent Geroux riding.
Not all the pieces are in place, but among recent announcements are Julien Leparoux will ride Storm the Court, Adam Beschizza gets the call on Enforceable, Miguel Mena on Necker Island, Corie Lanerie on Shirl’s Speight, and Ricardo Santana, Jr. on Max Player.
“Win and You’re In” races at Del Mar, Spa
The Breeders’ Cup challenge series has three “Win and You’re In’’ races on tap Saturday: the Pacific Classic (BC Classic) featuring Maximum Security and the Del Mar Handicap (BC Turf) at Del Mar; and the Fourstardave Handicap (BC Mile) at Saratoga.
$400,000 Fourstardave Handicap (G1), 3-year-olds and up, one mile, turf
Got Stormy (8-1) takes on champion turf female Uni (3-1) in an attempt for a repeat in the 36th running of the Fourstardave (formerly known as the Daryl’s Joy until 1996). Got Stormy, trained by Mark Casse, became the first female to win the race named for the horse who won at least one race at the Spa from 1987-1994. Uni, third in last year’s edition of the race, is one of four entries from trainer Chad Brown. The others are Raging Bull (5-2), Valid Point (12-1) and Without Parole (4-1).
$200,000 Del Mar Handicap (G2), 3-year-olds and up, 1 3/8 miles, turf
A perfect 3-for-3 in stakes this year, 8-5 favorite United tops the 11-horse field. United, trained by Richard Mandella, drew the No. 1 post and comes into the race off a win the Eddie Read (G2) at Del Mar on July 26.
$500,000 Pacific Classic (G1), 3-year-olds and up, 1 ¼ miles
Star-crossed champion Maximum Security, the even-money favorite, makes his second start for trainer Bob Baffert as he takes on five rivals in Del Mar’s marquee race.
Abel Cedillo has the call as “Max” looks to finish first for the 11th time in 12 career starts (the first 10 under currently indicted trainer Jason Servis). He won the San Diego Handicap (G2) by a nose over Midcourt in his previous start.
The only race in which “Max” failed to cross the finish line first came in the 2019 Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth Park, when he was second by a length in his first race since the Derby (and his DQ to 17th from first).
Among the top challengers are last year’s winner Higher Power at 3-1 and Midcourt at 7-2.
$500,000 Diana Stakes (G1), 4-year-olds and up fillies and mares, 1 1/8 miles, turf
Trainer Chad Brown shoots for his fifth Diana win in a row. And boy will he ever have a loaded hand with former Breeders’ Cup winners Rushing Fall and Sistercharlie. Sistercharlie has won the Diana the past two years, while Rushing Fall is a five-time Grade 1 winner, including her most recent win in the Jenny Wiley on July 11 at Keeneland.