The East Coast Division of the 2020 Kentucky Derby trail comprises horses who will be heading to prep races in the coming months at Aqueduct, Gulfstream Park and Tampa Bay Downs.
Thus far, two official points races have been run: the Champagne Stakes (G1) won by Tiz the Law and then more recently the Remsen Stakes (G2) taken by Shotski. However, based on his speedy, open-lengths victory in the Nashua (G3), Independence Hall looks like the one to catch from this group.
Here’s a look at where the current contenders stand:
(Sire – Trainer – Owner - Derby points)
Independence Hall (Constitution – M. Trombetta – Eclipse Thoroughbreds, Twin Creeks Racing, Kathleen and Robert Verrati - 10): Perfect in two starts with the first coming in a maiden special weight at Parx, he romped to a 12 ¼-length victory in the Nashua at Aqueduct. He earned at 101 Beyer Speed Figure in that stakes win, which is the highest for any 2-year-old this year. In the first Kentucky Derby Future Wager pool, Independence Hall closed at 13-1 as the fourth choice as an individual betting interest. We'll expect to see him back Jan. 1 in the Jerome Stakes.
Green Light Go (Hard Spun – J. Jerkins – Stronach Stables - 4): The winner of his first two starts, including the Saratoga Special (G2), he ran second in the Champagne and has already become a bit of a forgotten horse as indicated by his 46-1 final odds in the Future Wager and No. 22 ranking in HRN's Kentucky Derby contenders list. The big colt has been given time since that loss to mature and should resurface in Florida.
Tiz the Law (Constitution – B. Tagg – Sackatoga Stable -12): The New York-bred was a $110,000 yearling purchase and the winner of his Saratoga debut before rolling in the Champagne Stakes. After skipping the Breeders’ Cup, he had a less than ideal trip in Churchill Downs' Kentucky Jockey Club (G2), in which he managed to finish third. Even after that disappointing finish, he was still the favored 11-1 horse in the Future Wager. Now training in Florida, he is expected to run next in the Holy Bull (G2) on Feb. 1 at Gulfstream Park.
Shotski (Blame – J. O’Dwyer – Wachtel Stable, Gary Barber, Pantofel Stable, and Mike Carty - 10): The Maryland-based January foal broke his maiden at Laurel Park and then travelled to Churchill Downs to run fourth in a strong Street Sense. Trainer Jeremiah O’Dwyer sent him to Aqueduct, where he won the Remsen in frontrunning fashion. O'Dwyer, who made that his first graded victory, insists Shotski's more than just pure speed.
Structor (Palace Malice – C. Brown – Jeff Drown, Don Rachel - 0): The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf winner became a Derby contender immediately after the race, when trainer Chad Brown said his next start could come on dirt. Future Wager participants were on board when he closed at odds of 24-1. The son of Palace Malice has a perfect 3-for-3 record and, in the meantime, is eligible to become the first turf horse to win the Eclipse Award for top 2-year-old male.
Ajaaweed (Curlin – K. McLaughlin – Shadwell Stable - 5): One of the more experienced horses in this report, he has made four starts, with a maiden win at Belmont Park, fourth in the Breeders' Futurity (G1) at Keeneland and a recent, fast-closing runner-up in the Remsen to secure some Derby qualifying points.
Chance It (Currency Swap - S. Joseph Jr. – Shooting Stars Thoroughbred – 0): This Florida-bred shows three wins at Gulfstream Park, which includes two victories in the Florida Stallion Series, with the most recent score going around two turns. He'll take three consecutive 90 Beyer Speed Figures into open company for the Jan. 4 Mucho Macho Man at Gulfstream.
Chase Tracker (Verrazano -T. Pletcher – St. Elias Stable - 2): He debuted with a victory at Parx Racing and followed that with two third-place finishes at Aqueduct in the Nashua and then the Remsen.
Embolden (The Factor - M. Stidham – Dare to Dream Stable – 0): This gray colt has been racing in turf sprints against the top horses in that division and has one victory to show. Next, however, Stidham will send Embolden back to dirt for Sunday's Springboard Mile at Remington Park.
Gouverneur Morris (Constitution – T. Pletcher – Team Valor and WinStar - 4): He made an eye-catching nine-length debut victory on closing day at Saratoga as a heavily bet favorite. From there, he went to Keeneland to run second in the Breeders’ Futurity. As part of the first Future Wager pool, he closed at odds of 29-1.
Meru (Sky Mesa – J. Duarte, Jr. – Colts Neck Stable - 0): He was a winner of his first two races at Monmouth Park, and a victory in the Smoke Glacken Stakes earned a 95 Beyer, third-highest for any 2-year-old this season. Stretched out to a mile in the Nashua at Aqueduct, he ran second to Independence Hall.
Soros (Commissioner – G. Delgado – OGMA Investments - 0): He just debuted in November in Florida to run second in a maiden special weight and came back that same month to get his first victory in the Smooth Air going a mile at Gulfstream Park. This trainer, a Venezuelan legend, made it to the Derby earlier this year with Bodexpress.
Three Technique (Mr Speaker - J. Englehart – August Dawn Farm - 0): Owned by Super Bowl-winning coach Bill Parcels, this colt needed three races to break his maiden at Saratoga, which he accomplished with a visually impressive rally. After a few months off, Three Technique came back to win an allowance at Aqueduct by more than four lengths. He closed at odds of 39-1 in the Future Wager pool.
Ones to Watch
This is a list of 2-year-olds with impressive maiden victories who can be expected to start down the line in Kentucky Derby prep races:
Bellavia (Honor Code -T.Pletcher – Robert La Penta, Madakat Stables, Wonder Stables, Fred Rosen, and Gallo Stables) - Belmont Park, Oct. 23.
Chestertown (Tapit - S. Asmussen – West Point Thoroughbreds, Mary and Chester Broman, Woodford Racing, Siena Farm, Robert Masiello) - Aqueduct Dec. 1.
Glory Road (Commissioner – T. Pletcher – China Horse Club, WinStar Farm) - Saratoga, Aug. 3.
Prince of Pharoahs (American Pharoah - L. Rice – Darlene Bilinski and Harry Patten) - Belmont Park, Oct. 13.
Sonneman (Curlin – M. Hennig - Courtland Farms and Arnold Zetcher) – Belmont Park, Oct. 15.
Toledo (Into Mischief - C. Brown – Juddmonte Farms) – Aqueduct, Nov. 9.
Took Charge (Take Charge Indy - C. Englehart – Wachtel Stable) Belmont Park, June 14.
Remaining East Coast Division Preps
• Jerome (G3) – Aqueduct - January 1 [10-4-2-1]
• Withers (G3) – Aqueduct – February 1 [10-4-2-1]
• Holy Bull (G2) – Gulfstream Park – February 1 [10-4-2-1]
• Sam F Davis (G3) – Tampa Bay Downs – February 8 [10-4-2-1]
• Fountain of Youth (G2) – Gulfstream Park – February 29 [50-20-10-5]
• Gotham (G3) – Aqueduct – March 7 [50-20-10-5]
• Tampa Bay Derby (G2) – Tampa Bay Downs - March 7 [50-20-10-5]
• Florida Derby (G1) – Gulfstream Park – March 28 [100-40-20-10]
• Wood Memorial (G2) – Aqueduct – April 4 [100-40-20-10]