OPINION: “The Pressbox’s KY Derby Rankings” — Edition 2

(War of Will winning the G2 Risen Star Stakes / Photo by Holly M. Smith)

HorseTrainerJockeyLast RaceNext RaceComments
1Game WinnerBob BaffertJoel Rosario1st in Breeders’Cup JuvenileG2 San Felipe Stakes on 3/9/19Undefeated 2YO Champ
2War of WillMark CasseTyler Gaffalione1st in the G2 Risen StarG2 Louisiana Derby on 3/23/19Wow. Again. Next.
3ImprobableBob BaffertDrayden Van Dyke1st in Cash Call FuturityG2 San Felipe Stakes on 3/9/19Yet To Be Tested
4InstagrandJerry HollendorferDrayden Van Dyke1st in Best Pal StakesG2 San Felipe Stakes on 3/9/19Spectacular Until Shelved
5Dream MakerMark CasseFlorent Geroux1st in FG AllowanceG2 Tampa Bay Derby on 3/9/19Maybe Most Raw Talent
6RoadsterBob BaffertMike Smith2nd in Del Mar FuturityUndecidedTraining Really Well for Next
7Maximus MischiefRobert E. Reid, Jr.Jose Ortiz3rd in G2 Holy BullG2 Fountain of Youth Stakes on 3/2/19Too Good To Give Up On
8Mucho GustoBob BaffertJoe Talamo1st in G3 Robert B. LewisUndecidedComing On Strong
9Gunmetal GrayJerry HollendorferMike Smith2nd in Robert B. Lewis StakesG2 San Felipe Stakes on 3/9/19Despite Cut, He’s Back
10Standard DeviationChad BrownIrad Ortiz2nd in GP AllowanceG2 Fountain of Youth Stakes on 3/2/19Watch Out
11Country HouseBill MottLuis Saez2nd in the G2 Risen StarG2 Louisiana Derby on 3/23/19Green, but Talented
12GalileanJerry HollendorferFlavien Pratt1st in California CupUndecidedWow Time in Cal Cup
13Long Range ToddySteve AsmussenRichard Eramia3rd in G3 Southwest StakesUndecidedBetter Than Looked
14Sparky VilleJeff BondeJoel Rosario1st in G2 San Vicente StakesG2 San Felipe Stakes on 3/9/19Getting Better
15MihosJames JerkensJohn Velazquez5th in G2 Holy Bull StakesG2 Fountain of Youth Stakes on 3/2/19Another Shot
16SignalmanKen McPeekBrian Hernandez1st in KY Jockey Club StakesG2 Tampa Bay Derby on 3/9/19Long Delay
17Well DefinedKathleen O’ConnellPablo Morales1st in Sam F. Davis StakesG2 Tampa Bay Derby on 3/9/19Speedy Type
18Harvey WallbangerKen McPeekBrian Hernandez1st in G2 Holy Bull StakesG2 Fountain of Youth Stakes on 3/2/19Must Step Up Next Out
19Bourbon WarMark HennigIrad Ortiz, Jr.1st in GP AllowanceG2 Fountain of Youth Stakes on 3/2/19My Longshot Special
20Knicks GoBen ColebrookAlbin Jimenez5th in G3 Sam F.Davis StakesG2 Tampa Bay Derby on 3/9/19What Happened?
1Hidden ScrollBill MottJoel Rosario1st in GP MSWG2 Fountain of Youth Stakes on 3/2/19Another Justify? Not Me
2AnothertwistafateBlaine D. WrightJuan Hernandez1st in El Camino Real DerbyUndecidedWon by 7. Son of Scat Daddy
3RoilandTom AmossJames Graham3rd in the G2 Risen StarG2 Louisiana Derby on 3/23/19If Breaks Better? Watch Out
4Our BraintrustMark CasseJose Lezcano3rd in G3 Withers StakesG2 Rebel Stakes on 3/16/19Didn’t Finish Strong Enough
5TaxDanny GarganJunior Alvarado1st in G3 Withers StakesGotham Stakes on 3/9/19Guts
6DessmanBob BaffertFlavien Pratt2nd in G2 San Vicente StakesUndecidedDeep Bench
7Global CampaignStanley HoughLuis Saez1st in GP AllowanceUndecidedNeed to See Again
8Mr. MoneyW. Bret CalhounGabriel Saez7th in G2 Risen Star StakesG2 Louisiana Derby on 3/23/19Dull. Maybe Needed a Race?
9KinglyBob BaffertDrayden Van Dyke2nd in El Camino Real DerbyUndecidedBeaten 7 lengths. Ouch

Here’s a look at “The Pressbox’s” Kentucky Derby Rankings” — Edition #2. Not a lot of movement, but definitely some — after the impressive performance of War of Will in the G2 Risen Star Stakes and the emergence of both Galilean in the California Cup and Anothertwistafate in the El Camino Real Derby over the weekend.

I don’t know yet what to make of the G3 Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park. Watched the race several times now, and, to be honest, I don’t know what to think. Or opine. Or what the horses that ran in it are truly like. For me, the most impressive run in the entire deal may have come from Long Range Toddy, who rallied along the rail to be third. He was the only one making up any ground or posting any speed at the end of the affair, and with a little better luck may have been good enough to be better placed. But that may be a stretch, too.

It was, for me, purely Ho. And his entry mate Hum.

The real tests are still to come, obviously. And, the real horses with a chance to change history on the “First Saturday in May” may be still in their respective stalls waiting for the calendar to flip, and the gates to pop.

But, for my money?

The real deal right now is War of Will.

This son of War Front has yet to be tested on the dirt, or at the Fair Grounds. He was overpowering in the LeComte Stakes. He was overpowering again in the G2 Risen Star this past Saturday. And, that came from the far outside, #14 post position — which has been a death knell for most every other horse to have ever sprung from that slot position.

Yet, it was no issue for War of Will. He looks powerful. He looks speedy enough. And, he looks like he can finish. So far, distance has proven to be no issue. No sweat. no strain.

It will be interesting to see who shows up in Louisiana to contest him in the G2 Louisiana Derby next.

Could it be Country House, runner-up in the Risen Star, who tries him again?

Maybe. But I am not buying the hype that “if he had run straight,” or “if he had not been so green,” that the colt would have won the race.

That is more horse manure than fact.

In my view?

Country House was not going past War of Will in a million years, or another trip around the racetrack. The winner was the winner. Pure. Simple. And, in kick-ass style.

Now, that does not mean that Country House can’t get better.

And, it does not mean that War of Will can’t regress.

Surely, both are possible.

But last Saturday? War of Will whipped Country House and made him like it.

And, for now, War of Will is the one making the run at the 2YO Champ Game Winner, and make a serious run up the ladder of contenders. By the way, Game Winner worked at Santa Anita this morning (Tuesday — Feb. 19) for trainer Bob Baffert. He went 7 furlongs in 1:25 flat at “The Great Race Place,” and was the only horse on the day to clock a time at that distance.

Yet, for now, War of Will is the horse on the move, for my money.

Here’s a closer look at what others are saying:

(Kentucky House of Representatives Speaker David Osborne and Loren Hebel-Osborne)

Loren Hebel-Osborne:

“Thanks for even including me in a response opinion… I would move Knicks Go out of the top twenty and I would definitely put Hidden Scroll on. I’m biased about Well Defined because he gave me a nice payday. Otherwise — not gonna argue about your top choices. War of Will is super impressive thus far, but how do you knock Game Winner out of number one spot given’s he’s done nothing wrong!

“Can’t wait to read further :)”

(Jonathan Lintner)

Jonathan Lintner, HorseRacingNation and former turf writer for the “Louisville Courier-Journal”:

“The Bob Baffert big horses Game Winner and Improbable may very well restore order once back to the races next month. In the meantime, though, it’s tough to ignore the charges lined up by trainers Mark Casse (War of Will, Dream Maker) and Jerry Hollendorfer (Galilean, Instagrand, Gunmetal Gray). Hold off on engraving the trophy for Baffert’s record-tying sixth Kentucky Derby win for now.”
Dan Liebman
(Dan Liebman)
Dan Liebman, former Editor-in-Chief of “The Blood-Horse” and Columnist for the “Daily Racing Form”:
“I’m on the beach relaxing. Will watch videos this weekend to catch up.”
(Editor’s Note: Way to go, Dan. Wished I was with you, pal.”
Dave Baker
(Dave Baker)
Dave Baker, Sports Anchor for WKYT-TV in Lexington, KY, and regular host of “The Pressbox” Weekly Stakes Preview Show:
“Agree with your order — keeping my eye on the rapidly improving Mucho Gusto.”
(Rob Murphy)
Robert A. Murphy, Jr., former MLB pitcher, handicapper extraordinary, and current “Breeding Analyst” for “The Pressbox:”
“I’ll take “Bob Baffert” for $500, Alex. “
(Ryan Dickey)

“With news today that Improbable MAY run in the San Felipe against Game Winner and Instagrand, look for that to be a very short—think four or five-field.

“War of Will’s victory in the Risen Star was impressive inasmuch as he survived that pace better than all of the other front-runners. He’s a lock to win the Louisiana Derby unless a defector from Gulfstream or Oaklawn gets in the field.

“I’m still high on Mucho Gusto and hope he’ll try his luck out East.”

The horse broke well today,” Gaffalione said. “I had the horse inside, Dunph, going to the lead and then (Gun It) showed a little bit of speed. When I saw they were intent on going I just tried to get him back and got him to relax. He came back to me nicely and settled well down the backside. Got a little keen going into the far turn and wanted to move a little early. But I didn’t want to take too much away from him so I tried to sit as long as I could. He was waiting on horses down the lane but I kept him at task and there was plenty of horse there.”

“Mark (Casse, the trainer) and his team have done a great job,” Gaffalione said. “They’ve had a ton of confidence in this horse the whole way. It’s just an honor to be able to ride the horse. He’s just so professional, trains great and he’s a pleasure to be around.”

Tyler Gaffalione, Rode of War of Will to victory in the G2 Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds
  • Gene McLean

    Gene McLean

    Gene McLean began his professional career in 1977 as a sportswriter and columnist for the Lexington Herald-Leader in Lexington, Ky., and was recognized as one of the state’s best writers, winning the prestigious “Sportswriter of the Year” honor in 1985. Now the President and Publisher of The Pressbox, McLean sets ...

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