By Richard Rosenblatt
And now comes the big test for Silver Prospector, at least the biggest test for now on the road to the Kentucky Derby (G1), with a few out-of-towners visiting Oaklawn Park to take him on in the $1 million Rebel Stakes (G2) on Saturday.
The best-known will be Nadal, just one of a bunch of Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert’s brigade of Derby contenders. While unbeaten Nadal (2-for-2) has wowed ‘em in races and morning workouts at Santa Anita — 5 furlongs in 59.60 on March 8 – Southwest (G3) winner Silver Prospector took things a bit easier with a 4-furlong work in 49.80 at Oaklawn on March 8.
And, despite the gate-to-wire victory for Baffert’s unbeaten Authentic in the San Felipe (G2) last week over a bunch of other Derby prospects, I’m still sticking with Silver Prospector as No. 1 in this week’s usracing.com/news Derby Top 10 list of contenders.
Tiz the Law remains No. 2 as the Barclay Tagg-trained colt prepares for the Florida Derby (G1) on March 28, while Authentic is still third. Ete Indien, impressive winner of the Fountain of Youth (G2) two weeks ago, moves to No. 4, and Nadal moves up three spot to No. 5 simply based on his workout the other day.
The Rebel at 1 1/16 miles should give us a much better idea whether Silver Prospector, a gray son of Declaration of War, is the real deal for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen, in search of his first win in the Derby.
After the Southwest, in which Silver Prospector had a perfect trip under Asmussen’s go-to rider Ricardo Santana, Jr., owner Ed Orr of Greeley, Colorado, was pleased with the outcome. Derby fever could strike by Saturday evening.
“We’re going to have to have another good showing somewhere, I think, with the points system to make it,’’ Orr said after the Southwest. “We obviously have hope, but not a fever.”
Storm the Court, the 2-year-old champion off his Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) win was third in the San Felipe and Thousand Words, yet another Baffert colt, was fourth. Both dropped out of the Top 10.
New this week are Honor A.P. at No. 7 off his strong second-place effort in the San Felipe for trainer John Shirreffs in his 3-year-old debut, and Mischevious Alex at No. 8 after his victory in the one-mile Gotham (G3) last week at Aqueduct for trainer John Servis.
Here’s my latest Top 10:
1. Silver Prospector (Steve Asmussen, Ricardo Santana, Jr.)
May not be the fastest in the morning, as indicated by latest work of 4 furlongs in 49.80 (67th of 144 at the same distance) on March 8 at Oaklawn … But right now, who cares as long as the Ed and Susie Orr-owned colt saves is his best work for the races … Purchased for $190,000 at 2019 Ocala Breeders’ Spring Sale for 2-year-olds in training … Career record of 8-3-0-2 and coming off win in Southwest on Feb. 17 … No. 10 on points leaderboard (21) … Next start: Rebel, Oaklawn Park, Saturday … Derby Future Wager Odds: 24-1
2. Tiz the Law (Barclay Tagg, Manny Franco)
Worked 5 furlongs in 1:01.90 at Palm Meadows on March 8, fastest of 11 at the distance … Bruised heel appears to no longer be an issue .. … No. 9 on points leaderboard (22) … Next start: Florida Derby, Gulfstream, March 28 … Derby Future Wager Odds: 7-1.
3. Authentic (Bob Baffert, Drayden Van Dyke)
Won San Felipe gate-to-wire, dusting off three other Derby prospects … Is this the one who gives Baffert record-tying No. 6 Derby win? … 3-for-3 and likely staying home for final prep … No. 1 on points leaderboard (60) … Next start: Santa Anita Derby, Santa Anita, April 4 … Derby Future Wager Odds: 6-1.
4. Ete Indien (Patrick Biancone, Florent Geroux)
Showdown with Tiz the Law taking shape … Worked 4 furlongs on turf in 50.85 on March 8 at Palm Meadows … Won Fountain of Youth by 8 ½ lengths while breaking from the outside post … No. 2 on points leaderboard (54) … Next start: Florida Derby, Gulfstream, March 28 … Derby Future Wager Odds: 16-1
5. Nadal (Bob Baffert, Joel Rosario)
Moves up three spots just off a workout? Sure, when it’s 5 furlongs in 59.60 on March 8 at Santa Anita (fastest of 58 at the same distance … 2-for-2 after San Vicente win on Feb. 9 … 0 Derby qualifying points … Next start: Rebel, Oaklawn, Saturday … Derby Future Wager Odds: 10-1.
6. Enforceable (Mark Casse, Julien Leparoux)
Made it back to work tab after nearly a month off, going 5 furlongs in 1:01 on March 7 at the Fair Grounds (11th of 53 at the same distance) … Lecomte winner who ran second in first division of Risen Star behind Mr Monomoy (off Derby trail) … No. 5 on points leaderboard (33) … Next start: Louisiana Derby, Fair Grounds, March 21 … Derby Future Wager Odds: 23-1.
7. Honor A.P. (John Shirreffs, Mike Smith)
Rallied well for second in San Felipe in first start since October … Sure looks talented enough to keep going longer … Owner: C R K Stable … Pedigree: Honor Code-Hollywood Story, by Wild Rush … No. 11 on points leaderboard (20) … Next start: Santa Anita Derby, Santa Anita, April 4 … Derby Furue Wager Odds: 14-1.
8. Mischevious Alex (John Servis, Kendrick Carmouche)
Blinkers on? 3-for-3 so far for after dominating win in the Gotham last week … With Derby-winning trainer making the calls, colt could wind up in the starting gate at Churchill Downs … Owners: Chuck Zacney’s Cash is King and LC Racing … Pedigree: Into Mischief-White Pants Night, by Speightstown … Record of 7-4-1-1 for $344,230 … No. 3 on points leaderboard (50) … Next star: Wood Memorial, Aqueduct, April 4 … Derby Future Wager Odds: (4-1, mutuel field).
9. Sole Volante (Patrick Biancone, Florent Geroux)
A loss to 49-1 long shot King Guillermo in Tampa Bay Derby last week not super disappointing … Colt staged nice rally to finish second … Sticks around for another week … No. 7 on points leaderboard (30) … Next start: Undecided … Derby Future Wager Odds: 20-
10. Independence Hall (Mike Trombetta, Jose Ortiz)
Jose Ortiz has been cleared to ride after being out with a broken wrist … Colt worked 7 furlongs in 1:28 at Tampa Bay on March 7 … No. 16 on points leaderboard (14) … Next start: Florida Derby, Gulfstream, March 28 … Derby Future Wager Odds: 27-1.