The Derby Bubble Presented By Kentucky-Breds: Where Do The Baffert/Yakteen Horses Slot In? - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

The Derby Bubble Presented By Kentucky-Breds: Where Do The Baffert/Yakteen Horses Slot In?

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.

After a one-week break, the Derby Bubble is back uninterrupted until the first Saturday in May. Each week, I'll have a list of my top 20 Kentucky Derby contenders, and the list is prone to changing significantly from one week to another.

This particular one contains several seismic shifts. We saw longshots win both the G2 Risen Star and the G2 Rebel, and several of Bob Baffert's top Kentucky Derby contenders are now eligible to earn Derby points after being moved to different barns. Next week's could look very different, too, given the trio of preps on tap this weekend across the country.

Let's dive in, shall we?

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

Forte defeats Cave Rock in the G1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile

Pedigree: Violence – Queen Caroline (by Blame)

Owner: Repole Stable, St. Elias Stable

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Breeder: South Gate Farm (KY)

Kentucky Derby points: 40

It's impossible to start anywhere else. Forte was clearly the best 2-year-old of his class a season ago, when he won three straight Grade 1 races (including the Breeders' Cup Juvenile). He's been working steadily ahead of his return, which comes in Saturday's Grade 2 Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park. If Forte has moved forward at all off of his Eclipse Award-winning campaign a season ago, the rest of this group has him to catch.

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: Arabian Knight

Southwest winner Arabian Knight, with John Velazquez aboard

Pedigree: Uncle Mo – Borealis Night (by Astrology)

Owner: Zedan Racing Stables

Trainer: Tim Yakteen

Breeder: Corser Thoroughbreds LLC (KY)

Kentucky Derby points: 0

I mentioned two weeks ago that, had Arabian Knight been eligible to earn Derby points, he would not be lower than second. Now that he's able to do that, here he is. He's romped in two starts, including January's G3 Southwest at Oaklawn Park. That day's runner-up, Red Route One, came back to flatter this one a bit by running a close-up second in Saturday's Rebel. Arabian Knight may only have one chance to earn Kentucky Derby points, but it's likely he'll be a pretty heavy favorite in that outing.

Arabian Knight was bred in Kentucky by Corser Thoroughbreds, out of the unplaced Astrology mare Borealis Night. He sold to Scott and Evan Dilworth for $250,000 at the 2021 Keeneland September Sale, then he was purchased by Zedan Racing Stables for $2.3 million at last year's Ocala Breeders' Sales Co. Spring 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale. Borealis Night, a product of the Stonestreet Farm breeding program, was purchased by Corser Thoroughbreds with Arabian Knight in utero for $285,000 at the 2019 Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale.

#3: Instant Coffee

Bolt d'Oro colt Instant Coffee, with Luis Saez aboard, takes the G2 Kentucky Jockey Club

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.

#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: Litigate

Pedigree: Blame – Salsa Diavola (by Mineshaft)

Owner: Centennial Farms

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Breeder: Nursery Place, Donaldson & Broadbent (KY)

Kentucky Derby points: 20

Unlike many of his rivals in the G3 Sam F. Davis, Litigate sat a picture-perfect trip beneath Luis Saez. As a result, the Todd Pletcher trainee got the money and stamped himself as a Derby contender. He was certainly helped by others in the field having considerable traffic trouble, but he's lightly-raced and bred to improve with both distance and experience.

Litigate was bred in Kentucky by Nursery Place, Donaldson & Broadbent, out of the unplaced Mineshaft mare Salsa Diavola. Centennial Farms purchased Litigate for $370,000 at the 2021 Keeneland September sale. Salsa Diavola was acquired privately after she was claimed for $12,500 out of a Woodbine maiden claiming race in November 2016.

#6: Blazing Sevens

Blazing Sevens (Good Magic) and jockey Flavien Prat win the Champagne (Gr I) at Belmont at the Big A (Aqueduct Racetrack) 10/1/22. Trainer: Chad Brown. Owner: Rodeo Creek Racing, LLC

Pedigree: Good Magic – Trophy Girl (by Warrior's Reward)

Owner: Rodeo Creek Racing

Trainer: Chad Brown

Breeder: Tracy Farmer (KY)

Kentucky Derby points: 16

Blazing Sevens didn't do a lot wrong during his 2-year-old season. He won one Grade 1 (the Champagne), finished third in another (the Hopeful), and ran fourth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile after probably losing all chance at the start. He's been working steadily at Payson Park ahead of his 3-year-old debut, but that doesn't come in an easy spot. He'll tackle Forte (and several other prominent 3-year-olds) in the Fountain of Youth.

Blazing Sevens was bred in Kentucky by Tracy Farmer, out of the winning Warrior's Reward mare Trophy Girl. After bringing $140,000 as a newly-turned yearling at the 2021 Keeneland January Horses of All Ages Sale, Blazing Sevens sold for $250,000 that summer at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Select Yearling Sale. Farmer acquired Trophy Girl as a weanling for $62,000 at the 2013 Fasig-Tipton November Sale.

#7: Tapit Trice

Tapit 3-year-old Tapit Trice scores by eight lengths in a Gulfstream allowance-optional claiming race

Pedigree: Tapit – Danzatrice (by Dunkirk)

Owner: Whisper Hill Farm, Gainesway Stable

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Breeder: Gainesway Thoroughbreds Ltd. (KY)

Kentucky Derby points: 0

Tapit Trice turned plenty of heads in his first start against winners. He aired by eight lengths against allowance foes at Gulfstream Park and ran the last furlong of the one-mile race in just over 12 seconds. His next start will almost certainly come against much stiffer competition, but if anyone can move a 3-year-old ahead in a hurry, it's Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher.

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.

#8: Angel of Empire

Angel of Empire winning the Risen Star under Luis Saez

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

New to this list, Angel of Empire all but assured a spot in the Derby starting gate with his win in the 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.

#9: Confidence Game

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 tops the Derby leaderboard after his win in the Rebel, 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 Saturday, 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.

#10: 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: 20

Much was made about the quality (or lack thereof) in the G3 Holy Bull. Speed figures weren't kind to it, either, but Rocket Can did win while racing wide the whole way around the Gulfstream Park oval. Bill Mott's runners usually improve with experience, too, so while that prep was on the slow side, there may still be plenty to like here. We'll know more after the Fountain of Youth, which represents a much stiffer class test.

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.

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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. Assuming he's bounced out of that race in good health, the G2 Remsen winner will almost certainly get another shot at Kentucky Derby points later this season.

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

Red Route One breaks his maiden at Kentucky Downs, with Vincent Cheminaud aboard

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 on Saturday, 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: National Treasure

National Treasure

Pedigree: Quality Road – Treasure (by Medaglia d'Oro)

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

Trainer: Tim Yakteen

Breeder: Peter E. Blum Thoroughbreds, LLC (KY)

Kentucky Derby points: 0

Like the horse immediately ahead of him on this list, National Treasure is still eligible for a first-level allowance, but he's put forth big efforts in big races. He was second to Cave Rock in the G1 American Pharoah and third behind Forte in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, and I think his effort in the G3 Sham was fine. He got caught in some traffic that day and has every right to improve in Saturday's G2 San Felipe at Santa Anita.

National Treasure was bred in Kentucky by Peter E. Blum Thoroughbreds, out of the placed Medaglia d'Oro mare Treasure. He was purchased by the SF/Starlight/Madaket group for $500,000 at the 2021 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Sale. Treasure raced as a homebred for Blum, joining second dam Proposal, third dam Lady of Choice, fourth dam Chosen Lady, and fifth dam Mine Only as products of Blum's breeding program.

#14: 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, and he didn't make his career debut until Jan. 14 of this year. However, while time isn't necessarily on his side (he may only have a chance at one Kentucky Derby prep race), there's no denying this regally-bred colt's potential.

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.

#15: Lugan Knight

Lugan Knight breaks his maiden at Keeneland on Oct. 21

Pedigree: Goldencents – Sly Roxy (by Speightstown)

Owner: BG Stables

Trainer: Michael McCarthy

Breeder: BG Stables (KY)

Kentucky Derby points: 10

Lugan Knight made the lead in the Jerome, and things looked dicey when Arctic Arrogance ranged up alongside him turning for home. However, this colt found more beneath Dylan Davis and fended off a runner that came back to run second in the Withers. Lugan Knight returns in Saturday's G3 Gotham, and he'll have his work cut out for him. He's part of a full field that could number as many as 14 horses.

Lugan Knight was bred in Kentucky by BG Stables, out of the winning Speightstown mare Sly Roxy. His second dam is two-time Canadian champion Roxy Gap.

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#16: 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.

#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 also ran second in both the Remsen (behind Dubyuhnell) and the Jerome (behind Lugan Knight). He'll miss Saturday's Gotham, however, due to an illness.

#18: Two Phil's

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: 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

Curly Jack stays on this list (albeit barely) despite a one-paced sixth in the Risen Star. I don't think he had the best of trips that day, and he's shown too much at Churchill Downs to dismiss should he make the Derby field. He won the G3 Iroquois, was second in the G2 Kentucky Jockey Club, and has a right to improve off of his 2023 debut (which doubled as his first start in nearly three months).

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. 

#20: Cyclone Mischief

Cyclone Mischief

Pedigree: Into Mischief – Areyoucominghere (by Bernardini)

Owner: Albaugh Family Stables, Castleton Lyons

Trainer: Dale Romans

Breeder: Castleton Lyons & Kilboy Estate (KY)

Kentucky Derby points: 0

Dale Romans was very high on Cyclone Mischief earlier this year, and for good reason. His January allowance win, where he drubbed next-out Sam F. Davis winner Litigate by nearly six lengths, was outstanding. However, he was a non-threatening seventh as the 6/5 favorite in the Holy Bull. He makes for a fascinating study in Saturday's Fountain of Youth. If you like him, he'll be a price, but the waters are considerably deeper. Either way, we should know far more about him after that event.

Cyclone Mischief was bred in Kentucky by Castleton Lyons & Kilboy Estate, out of the unplaced Bernardini mare Areyoucominghere. He sold to Albaugh Family Stables for $450,000 at the 2021 Keeneland September sale. Areyoucominghere was purchased by Castleton Lyons, pregnant to Into Mischief, for $350,000 at the 2018 Keeneland November sale.

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