Although some of the pecking order has changed in the three months since the original date of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1), the top spot has not. Tiz the Law, perfect in three starts this year, most recently won the 1 1/8-mile Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets (G1) June 20, the first leg in a COVID-19 shuffled Triple Crown. He appears to have flourished at Saratoga Race Course leading up to the Aug. 8 Runhappy Travers Stakes (G1), turning in five furlongs Aug. 1 in :59 4/5.
Also 3-for-3 in 2020, this bay colt captured two allowance optional claiming races before winning the July 11 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G2) by 3 1/2 lengths—not bad for a colt that the trainer quipped was only fit enough to go a half-mile May 2. His Blue Grass earned a "5 1/2" on the Ragozin Sheets. A :48 4/5 breeze at Churchill Downs Aug. 1 indicates he's sharp for the Aug. 9 Runhappy Ellis Park Derby.
Scratched from the Aug. 1 Shared Belief Stakes in favor of the Travers, his already-high stock rose, his form flattered by stablemate Thousand Words' upsetting Honor A. P. at Del Mar. Recall that Uncle Chuck had beaten Thousand Words by four lengths in winning the July 4 Los Alamitos Derby (G3). If his inexperience doesn't impede him in the Travers, he has the raw ability to challenge Tiz the Law.
From a Beyer Speed Figure standpoint, Honor A. P. didn't regress when second in the 1 1/16-mile Shared Belief, equaling the 102 figure he posted in winning the June 6 Runhappy Santa Anita Derby (G1). The eyes told another story. Mike Smith called it "not his day," suggesting Honor A. P. had not gotten enough out of his breezes this summer.
Though he won the July 18 TVG.com Haskell Stakes (G1) at Monmouth Park, his final furlong of the 1 1/8-mile race was not one of beauty. In front by 2 1/2 lengths over Ny Traffic, he lasted by a nose, completing his final eighth in :13.23. That early lead didn't materialize in his lone defeat by Honor A. P. in the Santa Anita Derby, when he broke outward and pressed the pace. If anyone can squeeze another furlong from the colt, it's Baffert.
"No quit" describes his runner-up finish in the Haskell. Unable to keep pace with Authentic in the early stretch after chasing him throughout, he cut into Authentic's lead late and fell a stride short at the wire. A start earlier he had given the now-sidelined Maxfield a battle when second in the May 23 Matt Winn Stakes (G3). Before that, he was second in the TwinSpires.com Louisiana Derby (G2).
7. King Guillermo
Juan Avila/Victoria's Ranch
Uncle Mo—Slow Sand, by Dixieland Band
Carhue Investments, Grouseridge, and Marengo Investments (Ky.)
Although his preparation for the Derby is unconventional—he is set to make his first start following a four-month layoff in the Sept. 5 race—the colt has already performed well off the bench. On March 7 he won the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby (G2) following a layoff of more than three months and ran second behind Nadal in the second division of the May 2 Arkansas Derby (G1). The Florida-based colt arrived at Churchill Downs July 27.
8. Max Player
Linda Rice/George Hall and SportBLX Thoroughbreds
Honor Code—Fools in Love, by Not For Love
K & G Stables (KY)
He was no match for Tiz the Law in the Belmont, finishing third, beaten 5 1/4 lengths, but his closing effort was encouraging following a spring in which his racing schedule had been derailed by COVID-19. Away for more than four months after winning the Feb. 1 Withers Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct Racetrack, he had every right to return in need of a race. He should be a stronger horse in the Travers.
He seemed disinterested in running in the Haskell four weeks after his second in the Belmont, being urged along by jockey Joe Bravo and taking a step backward with a third-place finish. Even in the final eighth, when victorious Authentic began to tire, Dr Post picked up just a half-length, compared to 2 1/2 lengths for runner-up Ny Traffic. Pletcher is giving him seven weeks leading into the Run for the Roses.
10. Thousand Words
Bob Baffert / Albaugh Family Stables LLC and Spendthrift Farm
Pedigree: Pioneerof the Nile—Pomeroys Pistol, by Pomeroy
Breeder: Hardacre Farm (FL)
Off form after a fourth in the March 7 San Felipe Stakes (G2) and an 11th in the April 11 Oaklawn Stakes. Now, after a comeback second to Uncle Chuck in the Los Alamitos Derby, he upset Honor A. P. in the Shared Belief. The race earned him a 104 Beyer—the highest speed figure by a 3-year-old male in a stakes race this year. The colt is a three-time stakes winner.
This gelding returned to the work tab July 31 with a five-furlong workout in 1:02 over the Palm Meadows turf. Biancone believes he erred in running Sole Volante in the Belmont, in which he ran sixth, just 10 days after winning an allowance optional claiming race at Gulfstream Park.
Exiting a fifth in the Louisiana Derby "a little banged up and worn out," the colt regrouped at Casse Training Center near Ocala, Fla., before returning in the Blue Grass. The result, a fourth-place finish, wasn't what his trainer desired, but it provided a race from which to build on. He breezed five furlongs at Churchill Aug. 1 in 1:02 3/5.