The Derby Bubble Presented By Kentucky-Breds: Sorting Out Key Departures And The Tampa Bay Derby - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

The Derby Bubble Presented By Kentucky-Breds: Sorting Out Key Departures And The Tampa Bay Derby

The Kentucky Derby prep schedule is starting to ramp up, which means it's time for detailed looks at the horses that could fill the starting gate with Andrew Champagne of Catena Media and The Saratogian's Pink Sheet.

Check back with the Paulick Report regularly for updated rankings that include news, notes, and opinions on the 3-year-olds that figure to take center stage.

There was pretty major news on and off the track this week. We had a 50-point prep won by a highly-touted Todd Pletcher trainee, but that news was bumped off the front pages by the Kentucky Derby trail's first major defections.

Arabian Knight, who'd been sitting in the #2 spot for the past few weeks, was taken out of training. High-profile horses miss the Derby every year, and this time around, he's the first one to cause significant shifts near the top of this list. G3 Sam F. Davis Stakes winner Litigate's defection on Wednesday led to a further reshuffling of the top 10.

The top spot, however, remains unchanged. In fact, he's an even heavier favorite now that Arabian Knight won't be targeting the Run for the Roses…

Kentucky-bred contenders will be highlighted in red, and will receive additional analysis into their breeders, broodmares, and auction histories. Pedigree notes are written by Joe Nevills.

#1: Forte

Irad Ortiz, Jr. gives Forte a pat after his victory in the Fountain of Youth

Pedigree: Violence – Queen Caroline (by Blame)

Owner: Repole Stable, St. Elias Stable

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Breeder: South Gate Farm (KY)

Kentucky Derby points: 90

It's impossible to start anywhere else. Forte was clearly the best 2-year-old of his class a season ago, and he never looked like a loser in the G2 Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park. Even scarier for his rivals is the fact that this was his first race since the Breeders' Cup, and an effort he may very well have needed. If there's further improvement in store between now and the first Saturday in May…yikes.

Forte was bred in Kentucky by South Gate Farm, out of the multiple stakes-winning Blame mare Queen Caroline. He sold for $110,000 at the 2021 Keeneland September Yearling Sale. Amy Moore of South Gate Farm bought Queen Caroline as a yearling for $170,000 at the 2014 Keeneland September sale.

#2: Instant Coffee

Bolt d'Oro colt Instant Coffee, outside, en route to victory in the G3 Lecomte

Pedigree: Bolt d'Oro – Follow No One (by Uncle Mo)

Owner: Gold Square LLC

Trainer: Brad Cox

Breeder: Sagamore Farm (KY)

Kentucky Derby points: 32

Instant Coffee rallied from last to first to win the G3 Lecomte, and he runs like a horse that will have no problem getting the Derby's 1 1/4-mile distance. He also has a graded stakes win over the Churchill Downs surface, which came in last year's Kentucky Jockey Club. He's back on the work tab, which is great to see, and his next start will likely come in the G2 Louisiana Derby.

Instant Coffee was bred in Kentucky by Sagamore Farm, out of the stakes-placed Uncle Mo mare Follow No One. He hammered for $200,000 at the 2021 Keeneland September sale. Sagamore Farm purchased Follow No One for $100,000 at the 2016 OBS Spring 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale.

#3: Tapit Trice

Pedigree: Tapit – Danzatrice (by Dunkirk)

Owner: Whisper Hill Farm, Gainesway Stable

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Breeder: Gainesway Thoroughbreds Ltd. (KY)

Kentucky Derby points: 50

Tapit Trice was visually impressive in Saturday's G2 Tampa Bay Derby. He broke slowly and was pumped on throughout by Luis Saez, but ran by them all and looked like a horse that will have no problems with even more distance. There are some red flags here, though. He's broken slowly a few times now, and it's not like he was rallying past world-beaters Saturday afternoon. It might be far tougher to run like that against tougher competition, but the plan is for him to get that test in next month's G2 Blue Grass at Keeneland.

Tapit Trice was bred in Kentucky by Gainesway Thoroughbreds Ltd., out of the Grade 3-placed multiple stakes-winning Dunkirk mare Danzatrice. Tapit Trice sold to Mandy Pope's Whisper Hill Farm for $1.3 million at the 2021 Keeneland September sale. A half-sister to champion Jaywalk, Danzatrice was a $105,000 purchase by Gainesway at the 2014 OBS Spring 2-Year-Olds In Training Sale.

#4: Hit Show

HIt Show and Manny Franco en route to winning the G3 Withers

Pedigree: Candy Ride – Actress (by Tapit)

Owner: Gary and Mary West

Trainer: Brad Cox

Breeder: Gary & Mary West Stables Inc. (KY)

Kentucky Derby points: 20

A winner of three of four starts to date, Hit Show cruised home to win the G3 Withers at Aqueduct. It didn't seem like a great field, but he won the right way, overcoming some traffic and having plenty left when the field turned for home. Last year's Withers produced an eventual Preakness winner in Early Voting, and this year's renewal might age well, too.

Hit Show was bred in Kentucky by Gary & Mary West Stables Inc., out of the Tapit mare Actress, who was herself a Grade 2 winner as a homebred for the Wests. 

#5: Practical Move

Practical Move and jockey Ramon Vazquez win the Grade II $400,000 San Felipe Stakes Saturday, March 4, 2023 at Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, CA. Benoit Photo

Pedigree: Practical Joke – Ack Naughty (by Afleet Alex)

Owner: Amestoy, Amestoy, and Beasley

Trainer: Tim Yakteen

Breeder: Chad Brown & Head of Plains Partners (KY)

Kentucky Derby points: 60

Practical Move's win in the G2 San Felipe assures him of enough points to make the Kentucky Derby field, and it was his second straight graded stakes win on the SoCal circuit. If there's anything to nitpick, it's that he had a perfect trip Saturday at Santa Anita, but on the other hand, it was his tactical speed that got him into striking position in the first place.

Practical Move was bred in Kentucky by Chad Brown and Head of Plains Partners, out of the stakes-placed Afleet Alex mare Ack Naughty. He sold to his current ownership for $230,000 at the 2022 OBS Spring sale. Ack Naughty was recently sold, pregnant to Upstart, to Chester and Mary Broman for $500,000 at this year's Keeneland January sale.

#6: Geaux Rocket Ride

Candy Ride colt Geaux Rocket Ride is a stylish debut winner January 29 at Santa Anita

Pedigree: Candy Ride – Beyond Grace (by Uncle Mo)

Owner: Pin Oak Stud

Trainer: Richard Mandella

Breeder: OXO Equine LLC (KY)

Kentucky Derby points: 20

It spoke volumes that Richard Mandella opted to run Geaux Rocket Ride in the San Felipe off of a single prior outing. The colt rewarded his Hall of Fame conditioner with a strong second, one where he re-rallied after being shuffled back on the far turn. In doing so, he showed plenty of grit, and that, combined with a pedigree that hints more distance will be right up his alley, inspires some confidence moving forward.

Geaux Rocket Ride was bred in Kentucky by Larry Best's OXO Equine, out of the the unplaced Uncle Mo mare Beyond Grace. He sold for $350,000 at the 2021 Fasig-Tipton July Yearling Sale. Best purchased Beyond Grace for $1.5 million at the 2017 Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream Selected 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale.

#7: Angel of Empire

Angel Of Empire (left), with Luis Saez aboard, takes the 51st running of the Risen Star at Fair Grounds

Pedigree: Classic Empire – Armony's Angel (by To Honor and Serve)

Owner: Albaugh Family Stables

Trainer: Brad Cox

Breeder: Forgotten Land Investment Inc & Black Diamond Equine Corp. (PA)

Kentucky Derby points: 54

Angel of Empire all but assured a spot in the Derby starting gate with his win in the G2 Risen Star. He was a big price that day, but outside of a turf try at Kentucky Downs last fall, he hasn't run a bad race to date. His lone other defeat was a second to Victory Formation in the Smarty Jones when that one got loose on the lead, and a win going 1 1/8 miles isn't something most of these horses have on their resumes yet.

#8: Confidence Game

Confidence Game and James Graham en route to Rebel (G2) triumph

Pedigree: Candy Ride – Eblouissante (by Bernardini)

Owner: Don't Tell My Wife Stables

Trainer: Keith Desormeaux

Breeder: Summer Wind Equine LLC (KY)

Kentucky Derby points: 57

Confidence Game rallied from fifth to win the Rebel at a price, and there are reasons to be enthusiastic. He won that race the right way and defeated what seemed like a pretty solid group. The big question: Was it early-season development that moved him forward, or was it the sloppy track he's bred up and down to absolutely love? Hopefully, we'll get an answer sooner rather than later.

Confidence Game was bred in Kentucky by Summer Wind Equine, out of the winning Bernardini mare Eblouissante. Desormeaux signed the ticket on Confidence Game for $25,000 at the 2021 Keeneland September Sale. Eblouissante, a half-sister to Hall of Famer Zenyatta, was purchased by Summer Wind Farm for $1,434,279, pregnant to Dansili, at the 2016 Tattersalls December Mares Sale.

#9: Rocket Can

Into Mischief colt Rocket Can, guided by Junior Alvarado, wins the G3 Holy Bull from stablemate Shadow Dragon

Pedigree: Into Mischief – Tension (by Tapit)

Owner: Frank Fletcher Racing

Trainer: Bill Mott

Breeder: Woodford Thoroughbreds, LLC (KY)

Kentucky Derby points: 40

Much was made about the quality (or lack thereof) in the G3 Holy Bull, which Rocket Can won. However, he came back to run second behind Forte in the Fountain of Youth, and there's no shame in chasing last year's Champion 2-Year-Old Male home. Bill Mott knows how to develop a horse with experience and seasoning, so this one can't be counted out (especially since he likely already has enough points to make the Derby field).

Rocket Can was bred in Kentucky by Woodford Thoroughbreds LLC, out of the placed Tapit mare Tension. Woodford Thoroughbreds bought Tension pregnant to Curlin for $750,000 at the 2017 Keeneland November sale, and sold her at this year's Keeneland January sale.

#10: Raise Cain

Jose Lezcano guides Raise Cain to victory in the G3 Gotham

Pedigree: Violence – Lemon Belle (by Lemon Drop Kid)

Owner: Andrew and Rania Warren

Trainer: Ben Colebrook

Breeder: Rock Ridge Thoroughbreds, LLC (KY)

Kentucky Derby points: 50

I'd wager I have Raise Cain higher than many who author similar lists. It's true there are things to nitpick about his win in the G3 Gotham. However, I really liked that he overcame some adversity. He was stopped going around the far turn and had an excuse to spit the bit, but he resumed his rally and wound up romping by more than seven lengths. Raise Cain's record looks far better if you toss the clunker he ran over Turfway Park's synthetic surface, and I think there's plenty to intrigue those looking for bigger prices on the Derby trail.

Raise Cain was bred in Kentucky by Rock Ridge Thoroughbreds, out of the winning Lemon Drop Kid mare Lemon Belle. He sold for $180,000 at the 2021 Keeneland September sale. Rock Ridge Thoroughbreds acquired Lemon Belle, pregnant to Violence, for $285,000 at the 2018 Keeneland November sale.

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#11: Dubyuhnell

Good Magic colt Dubyuhnell, ridden by Jose Ortiz, takes the G2 Remsen

Pedigree: Good Magic – Wild Gams (by Forest Wildcat)

Owner: West Paces Racing, Stonestreet Stables

Trainer: Danny Gargan

Breeder: Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings LLC (KY)

Kentucky Derby points: 10

Dubyuhnell ran a non-threatening eighth in the Sam F. Davis, but that effort looks like one you can draw a line through. Like several other runners in that race, he had a nightmarish trip, and the finish was a result of that rather than a regression or lack of ability. He's been working steadily at Palm Meadows for a few weeks now, and there's still time for him to get one more shot at Kentucky Derby points.

Dubyuhnell was bred in Kentucky by Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings, out of the multiple Grade 3-winning Forest Wildcat mare Wild Gams, whose runners also include Grade 2 winner Cazadero, stakes winner Mt. Brave, and Grade 3-placed Almost Famous. Dubyuhnell brought $400,000 at the 2021 Keeneland September Sale, while Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings secured Wild Gams as a broodmare prospect for $1 million at the 2008 Keeneland November sale.

#12: Red Route One

Pedigree: Gun Runner – Red House (by Tapit)

Owner: Winchell Thoroughbreds

Trainer: Steve Asmussen

Breeder: Winchell Thoroughbreds, LLC (KY)

Kentucky Derby points: 33

Red Route One picked up another significant check when he rallied to finish second behind Confidence Game in the Rebel. He's still eligible for a first-level allowance race, but he's run enough big races in big spots to be fourth on the Derby leaderboard as of this writing. He doesn't appear to be quite as talented as Epicenter, who ran second for these connections one year ago, but he could give Steve Asmussen another shot at the Derby win that has, to this point, eluded him.

Red Route One was bred in Kentucky by Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC, out of the unraced Tapit mare Red House, and he is a full-brother to stakes-winner Red Run. Red House is herself a Winchell homebred, out of 2014 Broodmare of the Year Fun House, making her a full-sister to champion Untapable and a half-sister to Grade 1 winner Paddy O'Prado.

#13: Kingsbarns

Pedigree: Uncle Mo – Lady Tapit (by Tapit)

Owner: Spendthrift Farm

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Breeder: Parks Investment Group, LLC (KY)

Kentucky Derby points: 0

One day after Litigate won the Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs, stablemate Kingsbarns demolished a first-level allowance group by nearly eight lengths over the same surface. It was just his second lifetime start, he didn't make his career debut until Jan. 14 of this year, and he's worked just twice since that last-out runaway score. However, there's no denying his potential, and he'll almost certainly get a shot at a 100-point Kentucky Derby prep race in a few weeks.

Kingsbarns was bred in Kentucky by Parks Investment Group, out of the Grade 3-placed Tapit mare Lady Tapit, who is herself a half-sister to Grade 1 winner Gozzip Girl. After bringing $250,000 at the 2021 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale, the colt sold to Spendthrift Farm for $800,000 at last year's Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream Select 2-Year-Olds In Training Sale.

#14: Sun Thunder

Sun Thunder

Pedigree: Into Mischief – Greenfield d'Oro (by Medaglia d'Oro)

Owner: R.T. Racing, Cypress Creek Equine

Trainer: Ken McPeek

Breeder: Southern Equine Stables, LLC (KY)

Kentucky Derby points: 24

Sun Thunder couldn't keep up with Arabian Knight two back in the Southwest, where he ran a distant fourth, but stepped forward to run a close-up second in the Risen Star. He broke last that day but put forth a big rally and was outkicked by only Angel of Empire. Another in-the-money finish likely puts him in the Derby starting gate, which would give McPeek a chance at the one Triple Crown race he has yet to win.

Sun Thunder was bred in Kentucky by Southern Equine Stables, out of the placed Medaglia d'Oro mare Greenfield d'Oro. He sold as a weanling for $400,000 at the 2020 Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale. Greenfield d'Oro, a daughter of champion sprinter Maryfield, is a homebred for Southern Equine Stables.

#15: Mage

Mage breaks his maiden at first asking at Gulfstream Park

Pedigree: Good Magic – Puca (by Big Brown)

Owner: OGMA Investments, Restropo, Sterling Racing, and CMNWLTH

Trainer: Gustavo Delgado

Breeder: Grandview Equine (KY)

Kentucky Derby points: 10

Like Geaux Rocket Ride, Mage was aggressively placed in a graded stakes race after a first-out maiden win, and he had an unlucky trip in the Fountain of Youth. He moved early (and wide) after a slow start, was between horses around the far turn, and couldn't keep up with Forte. An argument can be made he was second-best in that event, and I hope he gets another shot at Derby points in a few weeks.

Mage was bred in Kentucky by Grandview Equine, out of the Grade 1-placed stakes-winning Big Brown mare Puca. He brought $235,000 at the 2021 Keeneland September sale, then he sold for $290,000 at last year's Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale. Puca sold to Grandview Equine, pregnant to Gun Runner, for $475,000 at the 2018 Fasig-Tipton November Sale.

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#16: Skinner

Curlin colt Skinner kicks clear to break his maiden going a mile Feb. 12 at Santa Anita

Pedigree: Curlin – Winding Way (by Malibu Moon)

Owner: C R K Stable

Trainer: John Shirreffs

Breeder: Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings LLC (KY)

Kentucky Derby points: 15

Skinner made a big middle move in the San Felipe before flattening out a bit to be third. It's possible he was asked for too much too early, and he didn't save much ground while making his move. A luckier trip next time out may very well get him the points he needs to make the Derby field, and he's got a pedigree that indicates more distance won't be an issue.

Skinner was bred in Kentucky by Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings, out of the Grade 3-winning Malibu Moon mare Winding Way. He sold for $40,000 at the 2021 Keeneland September Sale, then he was pinhooked for $510,000 at the 2022 OBS Spring Sale. Stonestreet bought Winding Way for $660,000 at the 2015 Keeneland November sale.

#17: Arctic Arrogance

Arctic Arrogance wins the Sleepy Hollow Stakes, with Jose Lezcano aboard, during the Belmont at the Big A meeting.

Pedigree: Frosted – Modest Maven (by Uncle Mo)

Owner: Chester and Mary Broman

Trainer: Linda Rice

Breeder: Chester Broman & Mary R. Broman (NY)

Kentucky Derby points: 16

Arctic Arrogance has yet to finish out of the top two through six career starts. He set a pressured pace in the Withers and had little left when Hit Show came running, but he held second while well clear of the rest of that field. He missed the Gotham, which was unfortunate, but he's returned to the work tab and remains possible for next month's G2 Wood Memorial.

#18: Two Phil's

Hard Spun colt Two Phil's, ridden by Jareth Loveberry, rolls to a convincing win in the G3 Street Sense

Pedigree: Hard Spun – Mia Torri (by General Quarters)

Owner: Patricia's Hope, Phillip Sagan

Trainer: Larry Rivelli

Breeder: Phillip Sagan (KY)

Kentucky Derby points: 23

Rivelli? I'll include Rivelli (yes, this will be a running gag for as long as this horse is in the mix). The Risen Star wasn't kind to horses near the front. Of the top six after six furlongs, only Two Phil's, who was third then and at the wire, finished in the top five. In finishing third, he beat some pretty accomplished horses, and that's enough to keep him (and the homages to the greatest horse racing commercial in media history) on this list.

Two Phil's was bred in Kentucky by Phillip Sagan, out of the Grade 3-placed stakes-winning General Quarters mare Mia Torri, who Sagan acquired privately during her on-track career.

#19: Reincarnate

Reincarnate and jockey Juan Hernandez win the G3 Sham

Pedigree: Good Magic – Allanah (by Scat Daddy)

Owner: SF Racing, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables, Robert Masterson, et al

Trainer: Tim Yakteen

Breeder: Woods Edge Farm, LLC (KY)

Kentucky Derby points: 15

One Tim Yakteen trainee leaves this list, but another comes on. Reincarnate wasn't eligible for Derby points when he won the G3 Sham, since he was still in the Bob Baffert barn at the time. However, he did get on the leaderboard when third in the Rebel despite a troubled trip. I'd argue his losing effort was more impressive than his winning one, and he'll have every chance to build on that in one of the final prep races on the calendar.

Reincarnate was bred in Kentucky by Woods Edge Farm, out of the stakes-winning Scat Daddy mare Allanah. He sold for $775,000 at the 2021 Keeneland September sale. Woods Edge Farm acquired Allanah, pregnant to Street Boss, for $105,000 at the 2018 Keeneland November sale.

#20: Curly Jack

Good Magic colt Curly Jack takes the 2022 Iroquois (G3) at Churchill Downs

Pedigree: Good Magic – Connie and Michael (by Roman Ruler)

Owner: Michael McLoughlin

Trainer: Tom Amoss

Breeder: Breeder: Betz/J.Betz/Burns/Camaquiki/C.Kidder/et al (KY)

Kentucky Derby points: 17

Returning to this list after a few defections, Curly Jack might have needed his one-paced run in the Risen Star. That was his first effort in a few months, and he had a very busy 2-year-old campaign that included a win in the G3 Iroquois at Churchill Downs. His likely next start comes in the Louisiana Derby, where a top-three finish would almost certainly be enough to ensure a return trip to Louisville.

Curly Jack was bred in Kentucky by the partnership of Betz/J.Betz/Burns/Camaquiki/C.Kidder/et al., out of the Grade 1-placed Roman Ruler mare Connie and Michael, whose runners also include stakes-placed Fannie and Freddie. Curly Jack sold to owner Michael McLoughlin for $180,000 at the 2021 Keeneland September sale. 

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