1. Essential Quality
Trainer/Owner: Brad Cox/Godolphin
Pedigree: Tapit —Delightful Quality, by Elusive Quality
Breeder: Godolphin (KY)
Nyquist and American Pharoah were the last champion juvenile males to win the Run for the Roses, doing so in 2016 and 2015, respectively. Since then, the best finish of four other champions was a second from Good Magic in 2018. None of those four won their 3-year-old debuts—a trend this colt will look to reverse Feb. 15 in the Southwest Stakes (G3) at Oaklawn Park.
2. Fire At Will
Mike Maker/Three Diamonds Farm
Declaration of War—Flirt, by Kitten’s Joy
Troy Rankin (KY)
Though most stakes progeny of Declaration of War are turf horses (Gufo, Decorated Invader), one of his colts, Silver Prospector, took the 2019 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) and last year’s Southwest, both on dirt. He could return in the Feb. 27 Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) at Gulfstream, a race that should shed light on his legitimacy against elite 3-year-old dirt horses.
3. Life Is Good
Bob Baffert/China Horse Club and WinStar Farm
Into Mischief —Beach Walk, by Distorted Humor
Gary and Mary West Stable (KY)
After a couple of easy half-mile workouts Jan. 27 and Feb. 1, he was cut loose in a breeze Feb. 8 at Santa Anita Park, smoking six furlongs in 1:12—without any urging. This front-runner can be keen at times, which explains why trainer Bob Baffert often works him without company. Aside from leaving the starting gate, he has yet to trail in two races, including a victory over Medina Spirit in the Jan. 2 Sham Stakes (G3). So many similarities to 2020 Horse of the Year Authentic at this early stage in his 3-year-old season.
4. Greatest Honour
Courtlandt Farms/Shug McGaughey
Tapit—Tiffany’s Honour, by Street Cry
Courtlandt Farm (KY)
Like Orb , the 2013 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1) winner for trainer Shug McGaughey, this colt has shown improvement around two turns and in Florida, capturing the Holy Bull Stakes (G3). Orb took the Besilu Stables Fountain of Youth (G2) and Besilu Stables Florida Derby (G1) leading up to the Kentucky Derby—races at Gulfstream Park under consideration for this colt.
5. Medina Spirit
Bob Baffert/Zedan Racing Stables
Protonico —Mongolian Changa, by Brilliant Speed
Gail Rice (FL)
He stayed 1 1/16 miles Jan. 30 in narrowly winning the fast-paced Robert B. Lewis Stakes (G3) over a demanding, drying-out track at Santa Anita and galloped out with energy. Sire Protonico was successful as far as 1 1/8 miles, but never won a grade 1. His second to Life Is Good in the Sham was dynamite, but he dips a spot in the ranks upon reflection of the slow Lewis time and the resulting 97 Equibase Speed Figure.
6. Caddo River
Brad Cox/Shortleaf Stable
Hard Spun —Pangburn, by Congrats
Shortleaf Stable (KY)
Besides winning the Jan. 22 Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn by 10 1/4 lengths, he also handily won a maiden race at Churchill Downs last fall. Before then he twice finished in front of Greatest Honour when they were second and third, respectively, in a pair of seven-furlong maiden races in New York—so every race indicates quality. The March 13 Rebel Stakes (G2) at Oaklawn is on deck.
7. Concert Tour
Bob Baffert/Gary and Mary West
Street Sense —Purse Strings, by Tapit
Gary and Mary West Stables (KY)
He climbs a spot after wearing down his comebacking stablemate Freedom Fighter by a half-length Feb. 6 in the San Vicente Stakes (G2). His pedigree suggests he should route, being by a Derby winner and with his dam twice a runner-up at 1 1/16 miles. He conjures images of Nadal, who won the Rebel and a division of the Arkansas Derby (G1) last year for Baffert.
8. Senor Buscador
Todd Fincher/Joe R. Peacock Jr.
Mineshaft —Rose’s Desert, by Desert God
Joe R. Peacock Sr. and Jr. (KY)
This colt has caught the eye with two last-to-first scores at Remington Park against modest competition. Cowan, second, beaten 5 3/4 lengths, to this colt in the Dec. 18 Remington Springboard Mile Stakes, is the best opponent he’s faced, and Caddo River left Cowan 10 1/4 lengths behind in the Smarty Jones. Gets a test of quality Feb. 13 in the Risen Star Stakes Presented by Lamarque Ford (G2) at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.
9. The Great One
Doug O’Neill/ERJ Racing, Train Wreck Al Racing Stables, Niall Brennan, Tom Fritz, and William Straus
Nyquist —Little Ms Protocol, by El Corredor
Coteau Grove Farms (LA)
Doug O’Neill trains this son of Nyquist, who gave the trainer his second Kentucky Derby victory in 2016 after first winning it in 2012 with I’ll Have Another. Nyquist youngsters are runners, just as he was. His daughter, Vequist, is the champion 2-year-old filly of 2020, and this colt’s prospects are bright following a Los Alamitos Futurity (G2) placing and a 14-length maiden victory Jan. 23 at Santa Anita.
10. Jackie’s Warrior
Steve Asmussen/Kirk and Judy Robison
Maclean’s Music —Unicorn Girl, by A. P. Five Hundred
J & J Stables (KY)
Should horseplayers entirely forgive his fade to fourth in the fast-paced TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Presented by Aftercare Alliance (G1) last fall? Results from two other pace players from the race suggest not. Juvenile speedsters Dreamer’s Disease and Likeable were both unplaced next out at odds of 3-5 and 5-2, respectively. A showdown with Essential Quality looms in the Southwest.
Robertino Diodoro/Cypress Creek and Arnold Bennewith
Laoban —Inclination, by Victory Gallop
Southern Equine Stables (KY)
He was entered in the Risen Star, giving his connections another option besides the Southwest at Oaklawn, a track where he has been working through the winter. The Southwest, with dual grade 1 winners Essential Quality and Jackie’s Warrior expected, figures to have the shorter field, conditions that can sometimes be unfavorable for a late-runner, as he is. Also, Monday temperatures at Oaklawn may not rise above freezing. A race choice is expected mid-week.
12. Highly Motivated
Chad Brown/Klaravich Stables
Into Mischief—Strong Incentive, by Warrior’s Reward
Klaravich Stables (KY)
Talent is not the question with this colt, who sizzled 6 1/2 furlongs in a track-record 1:14.99 Nov. 6 at Keeneland—his co-longest race in three starts. Distance is the great unknown. He could be a sprinting Into Mischief type like Covfefe, or more in the mold of Authentic, with speed and stamina. The one-mile Gotham Stakes (G3) March 6 at Aqueduct Racetrack is targeted.