• A round-up of the main trials – plus ante-post prices generally available in Britain
By Nicholas Godfrey
12-1 Tiz The Law (Barclay Tagg/Manny Franco)
Gulfstream Park: Holy Bull Stakes G3, $350,000, 1m½f, dirt
Likely target: Florida Derby (March 28)
Tiz The Law is now clear favourite for the Kentucky Derby in ante-post lists with several British bookmakers after overcoming an eventful trip before pulling three lengths clear of the runner-up Ete Indien.
A G1 winner in the Champagne Stakes at two, the son of Constitution was getting back on the right foot after a lacklustre effort at Churchill Downs on his final start as a juvenile. He represents the Funny Cide team associated with the popular 2003 Kentucky Derby winner in the shape of trainer Barclay Tagg and owners Sackatoga Stable.
Jack Knowlton (owner Sackatoga Stable): “Obviously, we were disappointed in Kentucky. Going in, we felt we had the best horse after he won the Champagne the way he did. He had a lot of things against him that day. I think he proved today he’s the horse we saw in the Champagne. As you know, things can always change but we’re talking about going to the Louisiana Derby. It’s hard to believe that we’re in the same position after all of the success that we had with Funny Cide. It was a once in a lifetime experience.“
16-1 Thousand Words (Bob Baffert/Flavien Prat)
Santa Anita: Robert E Lewis Stakes G3 $100,000, 1m½f, dirt
Sire: Pioneerof The Nile
Likely target: unconfirmed
Solid but unspectacular. Winner of the G2 Los Alamitos Futurity in December, odds-on favourite Thousand Words took his unbeaten record to three after challenging between horses to beat Royal Act by three-quarters of a length in a gritty performance from off the pace. In the process, the $1 million yearling reached a notable landmark for trainer Bib Baffert as the 3,000th North American victory of a legendary career.
Bob Baffert (trainer): “Being stuck down on the inside, he got the worst of it. Usually, a young horse like that, they won’t run that well and they don’t respond, but he’s got that big long stride and the further the better with him. You could tell about the last 50 yards, he was really getting going. He came back and he wasn’t even tired, so that is a good sign. He is progressing with every race and to win three in a row like that is pretty impressive.”
25-1 Max Player (Linda Rice/Dylan Davis)
Aqueduct: Withers Stakes G3 $250,000 1m1f, dirt
Sire: Honor Code
Likely target: Wood Memorial (April 7)
Max Player clearly appreciated the step up in trip as he threw his name into Kentucky Derby calculations with a determined effort. Hard ridden on the turn and four wide into the stretch, he was doing all his best work at the end with a strong rally to beat Remsen Stakes winner Shotski by 3¼ lengths.
Linda Rice (trainer): “The nice thing about him is that he’ll get the distance, and he got enough points to help us down that road. It’s exciting. I would think the Wood Memorial would be the right spot; I don’t want to shorten him up to one-turn in the Gotham.”
? Taraz (Brad Cox/Florent Geroux)
Oaklawn Park: Martha Washington Stakes $150,000 1m, dirt, 3yo fillies
Sire: Into Mischief
Likely target: Rebel Stakes (March 14)
Juddmonte filly who has been turning heads Stateside waltzed to another easy victory as 1-10 favourite for this four-horse stakes race on her debut around two turns. Making most of the running after a slowish start, she scored by nearly four lengths; she has now won her three career starts by a cumulative total in excess of 22 lengths.
While she is a leading fancy for the Kentucky Oaks, the big question is whether connections will try her against her male counterparts, though she is yet to be quoted in Derby markets.
Brad Cox (trainer): “It was a big effort in her first race around two turns. We knew she would be tough to catch, but she has a lot of improving to do. Her talent is there but she needs to settle down mentally.”