Some of the bigger names on the list of KENTUCKY DERBY hopefuls will be in action this weekend in stakes races for 3-year-olds from New York to Florida to California.

Making their 3-year-old debuts are the exciting THOUSAND WORDS (Pioneerof the Nile – Pomeroys Pistol by Pomeroy), a Bob Baffert colt who is at Santa Anita for the Robert B. Lewis on Feb. 1, TIZ THE LAW (Constitution – Tizfiz by Tiznow), owned by the Sackatoga Stable of Funny Cide fame, who is at Gulfstream and SHOTSKI (Blame – She Cat by Bluegrass Cat), who is in the Withers at Aqueduct.

It is still 4 months to the Derby but these young colts are getting some big tests this weekend in route races and Derby chatter will heighten following these events.

There is some Canadian content in the Holy Bull as JOHN BURNESS’ CLEAR DESTINATION makes his sophomore debut in the 1 1/16 mile dirt race. A winner of 2 of 9 races as a juvenile, Clear Destination won his final race of 2019 in a 7 furlong race at Woodbine on Tapeta with an 80 Beyer Speed Figure.

The Florida bred by Seek Again was a $24,000 October Ocala yearling purchase by Burness’ Colebrook Farms. The colt has had two workouts at Classic Mile Training Centre in Ocala with trainer Ashlee Brnjas.


HOLY BULL STAKES PREVIEW from Gulfstream media:

Grade 1 winner Tiz the Law has been installed as the 3-5 morning-line favorite for Saturday’s $250,000 Holy Bull (G3) at Gulfstream Park, where trainer Barclay Tagg used the 1 1/16-mile stakes in 2003 as a springboard for Funny Cide’s 3-year-old season, that included victories in the Kentucky Derby (G1) and the Preakness Stakes (G1).

Unbeaten in three previous starts, all against fellow New York-breds, Funny Cide finished fifth after a troubled start from his far-outside No. 13 post position.

“I was pretty upset until [jockey agent] Ron Anderson called me right after he crossed the finish line and asked me if I would put Jerry on him,” said Tagg, who would stick with Jose Santos instead of replacing him with Jerry Bailey. “I said, ‘Ron, he finished fifth.’ He said, ‘I know but he came down the stretch better than any other horse, or something like that.”

With Santos aboard, Funny Cide went on to finish third and was placed second in the Louisiana Derby (G2) before finishing second in the Wood Memorial (G1), a half-length behind Empire Maker, who was ridden by Bailey. In the Derby, Funny Cide and Santos got the better of Empire Maker and Bailey by 1 ¾ lengths. The rivalry got more interesting when Empire Maker captured the Belmont Stakes (G1) after skipping the Preakness while Funny Cide came in third in his failed bid to sweep the Triple Crown. The two rivals would never meet again. Empire Maker was retired after finishing second in his next start in the Jim Dandy (G2), in which Funny Cide did not run.

Sackatoga Stable’s Funny Cide would go on to win 11 races, including the 2004 Jockey Club Gold Cup, and earn more than $3.5 million in purses, despite his often erratic behavior.

Sackatoga’s Tiz the Law has a tough act to follow, but his demeanor is considerably more agreeable.

“I’m very happy with him. He’s doing everything right. He’s been no problem at all. He’s calm, cool, collected,” said Tagg while Tiz the Law was schooling in the Gulfstream Park walking ring this week. “We’re trying to get him used to things. Nothing fazes him.”

Tiz the Law, which is carded as Race 11 on a 12-race program, will meet eight rivals in the prep for the March 28 Florida Derby (G1) at Gulfstream. Manuel Franco has the mount on Tiz the Law, who won the Champagne (G1) at Belmont last fall.


ROBERT B. LEWIS PREVIEW from Santa Anita Media:

A Grade II winner in his second start on Dec. 7, Bob Baffert’s Thousand Words heads a field of six Derby hopefuls going a mile and one sixteenth in Saturday’s Grade III, $100,000 Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita.

Also prominent are Baffert’s High Velocity, who finished third behind Thousand Words in the Grade II Los Alamitos Futurity and Richard Mandella’s recent maiden winner Tizamagician, who put it all together in a 2 ½ length score going a flat mile here on Jan. 1.

The Lewis winner will receive 10 Kentucky Derby qualifying points, with four to second, two to third and one point to the fourth place finisher.


Owner: Albaugh Family Stables, LLC and Spendthrift Farm, LLC
Trainer: Bob Baffert

A first-out 6 ½ furlong maiden winner as the 6-5 favorite here Oct. 26, this $1 million Keeneland September Yearling by Pioneerof the Nile pressed a fast pace over an off track in the Los Alamitos Futurity and emerged with a hard fought neck win in a game effort. Idle since, he’ll again be ridden by Flavien Prat and it looks like “All systems go,” for his third engagement on Saturday.


Owner: Gary & Mary West
Trainer: Bob Baffert

A two length first-out maiden winner going 5 ½ furlongs on Oct. 13, he then took the Grade III, seven furlong Bob Hope Stakes on Nov. 16 at Del Mar, going gate to wire and winning by 1 ¼ lengths. Head and head to the top of the lane with Thousand Words in the Los Alamitos Futurity, this Quality Road colt tired late to be third, beaten 5 ¼ lengths. He’ll get the first time services of leading man Joel Rosario on Saturday.


Owner: & Spendthrift Farm, LLC
Trainer: Richard Mandella

Second in four out of his first five starts, this colt by Tiznow, in his fourth consecutive one mile maiden assignment, made short work of seven rivals here on Jan. 1, as he pressed the early pace and went on to an impressive 2 ½ length win under regular rider Victor Espinoza. With his seasoning, foundation and sharp recent win to his credit, Tizamagician has to be accorded a huge chance in the Lewis on Saturday.



Wachtel Stable, Gary Barber, Pantofel Stable and Mike Karty’s Shotski headlines a talented field of eight in Saturday’s Grade 3, $250,000 Withers, a nine-furlong test for sophomores at Aqueduct Racetrack.

Trained by Jeremiah O’Dwyer, the bay son of Blame earned 10 Kentucky Derby qualifying points winning the Grade 2 Remsen on December 7 at the Big A and he will look to double that total in the Withers, which offers 10-4-2-1 points to the top-four finishers.

Shotski graduated on October 3 at Laurel Park, dominating a nine-horse field by four lengths in a six-furlong maiden sprint. He followed up with a solid fourth in the Street Sense at Churchill Downs, just three-quarters of a length in arrears of third-place Silver Prospector, who came back to win the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club.

Sent to post at odds of 8-1 in his two-turn debut in the Remsen, Shotski led the way under a well-managed trip by Luis Saez and held off a furious charge from Ajaaweed to secure a half-length win.

O’Dwyer credited the heady ride by Saez, who retains the mount from post 5, as a key factor in Shotski’s Remsen score, which garnered an 86 Beyer Speed Figure.

“What I liked most about his Remsen win was that he put four lengths on the field at the top of the stretch. He ended up only winning by a half-length, but it was his first time going two turns,” said O’Dwyer.

Shotski has breezed six times at Laurel Park since the Remsen, including a January 24 five-eighths effort in 1:02 flat. O’Dwyer said Shotski has continued to improve and mature as he prepares for his 3-year-old debut.

“We know he likes the track, and we know he can get the distance,” said O’Dwyer. “We’re very happy with his training and he’s had a good series of works. Physically, he looks very strong.”

O’Dwyer said he expects another forwardly placed trip in the Withers.

“He’s very adaptable. He showed us that he can be up close to the pace,” said O’Dwyer. “He’s good from the gate. I would have to think that he would probably be in the first three early on.”

Shotski is in 10th place on the Derby points leaderboard making O’Dwyer cautiously optimistic of earning a spot in the starting gate on the first Saturday in May.

TIZ THE LAW, by first year sire Constitution, looks to emulate his owners’ big star Funny Cide as he starts on the Derby trail – NYRA photo

Saturday, Gulfstream, post time: 5:04 p.m. EST
HOLY BULL S.-GIII, $250,000, 3yo, 1 1/16m
1 Toledo                    Into Mischief Juddmonte Farms, Inc. Brown Ortiz, Jr. 118
2 Uncork the Bottle Colonel John Bassett Stables Joseph, Jr. Zayas 118
3 Tiz the Law          Constitution Sackatoga Stable Tagg Franco 124
4 Ete Indien           Summer Front Shanahan, L, Bacon, Sd, Dream With Me Stable, Biancone Panici 120
5 Clear Destination   Seek Again Colebrook Farms Brnjas Lopez 120
6 Relentless Dancer Midshipman Paradise Farms Corp., Raymond, T & Wagner, J Maker Ortiz 122
7 Mayberry Deputy Majesticperfection Walking L Thoroughbreds, LLC McPeek Leparoux 118

Breeders: 1-Juddmonte Farms Inc, 2-Kenneth L Ramsey & Sarah K Ramsey, 3-Twin Creeks Farm, 4-Robert B. Tillyer & Eric Buckley, 5-Seek Again
Syndicate & Cedar Gate FarmLLC, 6-Paul Pruett, 7-Marianne Stribling

Saturday, Santa Anita, post time: 6:00 p.m. EST
ROBERT B. LEWIS S.-GIII, $100,000, 3yo, 1 1/16m
1 Encoder         English Channel Hronis Racing LLC Sadler Smith 124
2 Thousand Words Pioneerof the Nile Albaugh Family Stables & Spendthrift Farm LLC Baffert Prat 124
3 Tizamagician      Tiznow and Spendthrift Farm LLC Mandella Espinoza 120
4 Royal Act             American Pharoah C R K Stable LLC Eurton Cedillo 120
5 High Velocity       Quality Road West, Gary and Mary Baffert Rosario 120
6 Zimba Warrior Khozan Marquis, Charles K. and Marquis, Cynthia F. Desormeaux Valdivia, Jr. 120

Breeders: 1-Peter Lamantia & Greg Ramsby, 2-Hardacre Farm, 3-Woodford Thoroughbreds, 4-Stonehaven Steadings, 5-Dell Ridge Farm, LLC,
6-Stonehedge, LLC

Saturday, Aqueduct, post time: 4:25 p.m. EST
WITHERS S.-GIII, $250,000, 3yo, 1 1/8m

1 Mr. Shortandsimple    Pioneerof the Nile Rudy R. Rodriguez Rodriguez Gutierrez 118
2 Monday Morning Qb Imagining Cash is King LLC and LC Racing LLC Reid, Jr. Vargas, Jr. 120
3 Max Player           Honor Code George E. Hall Rice Davis 118
4 New Commission Field Commission Diane M. Day Day Adorno 118
5 Shotski           Blame Barber, Gary, Wachtel Stable, Pantofel Stable and O’Dwyer Saez 123
Howling Pigeon Farms, LLC
6 Prince of Pharoahs American Pharoah Bilinski, Darlene and Patten, Harry Rice Carmouche 118
7 Vanzzy      Verrazano Daniel M. Ryan Pino Alvarado 120
8 Portos       Tapit Wertheimer and Frere Pletcher Lezcano 118

Breeders: 1-WinStar Farm, LLC, 2-Bowman & Higgins Stable & Cary Frommer, 3-K & G Stables, 4-Harold Lee Jordan, 5-Springland Farm & Prime
Bloodstock LLC, 6-Dr. Jerry Bilinski & Harry Patten, 7-Alexander-Groves Thoroughbreds, 8-Wertheimer et Frere

Saturday, Gulfstream, post time: 4:04 p.m. EST
SWALE S.-GIII, $150,000, 3yo, 7f

1 Mischevious Alex  Into Mischief Cash is King LLC and LC Racing LLC Servis Ortiz, Jr. 122
2 Untitled Khozan Barber, Gary and Sebastian, Michael B. Casse Ortiz 118
3 Flash Pass Gemologist Frank Anthony Occhigrossi Loza, Jr. Prado 118
4 Green Light Go Hard Spun Stronach Stables Jerkens Castellano 124
5 Shivaree Awesome of Course Jacks or Better Farm, Inc. Nicks Jaramillo 122
6 Necker Island  Hard Spun Sagamore Farm LLC and Hough, Stanley M. Hough Gaffalione 120
7 Inter Miami Big Drama Santa Rosa Racing Stables Delgado Lopez 118
8 Point Winner  Liam’s Map Pet Go Racing Stables, LLC Gonzalez Gonzalez 118

Breeders: 1-WinStar Farm, LLC, 2-Brent Fernung, Crystal Fernung,Mike Sebastian Jr. & Mike Sebastian, 3-Orlyana Farm, 4-Adena Springs, 5-Jacks or
Better Farm Inc., 6-Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings LLC, 7-Sergio Ripamonti, 8-Nancy C. Shuford