Jon White: Kentucky Derby Top 10, Plus Secretariat Revisited

Tapit Trice’s Tampa Bay Derby victory last Saturday (March 11) and a Tweet posted later the same day concerning Arabian Knight prompted changes on my Kentucky Derby Top 10 this week.

I think it’s fair to say there was good news and bad news in terms of Tapit Trice’s Tampa Bay Derby performance.

The good news is that after a tardy start and trailing early in the field of 12, Tapit Trice charged home to win going away by two lengths before galloping out a block in front. Tapit Trice was eighth with a furlong to go. Any way you slice it, it was impressive that he swept past seven foes in the final furlong.

Tapit Trice was 4 1/4 lengths off the lead at the eighth pole. Winning a race with being that far behind a furlong out in a stakes race certainly isn’t something you see every day.

The farthest stretch-runner extraordinaire Zenyatta was with an eighth of a mile remaining in any of her 19 career victories was 4 1/2 lengths when she got up to win Del Mar’s Grade I Clement L. Hirsch Stakes by a neck at 1 1/16 miles in 2009.

Without question, the most famous come-from-behind horse in history was Silky Sullivan. The farthest he ever was behind with a furlong to go in a race he won occurred in 1958. When Silky Sullivan amazingly came from 41 lengths off the pace to win a 6 1/2-furlong allowance race by a half-length at Santa Anita that year, he was seven lengths behind at the eighth pole.

When Pacific Northwest superstar Turbulator won Longacres’ Washington Championship by a half-length at 1 1/16 miles in 1972, he was even farther behind at the eighth pole than legendary Silky Sullivan in any of his 12 career victories. Turbulator won the 1972 Washington Championship despite being 8 1/2 lengths behind at the eighth pole. That is what you call closing with a rush!

In the Daily Racing Form recap of the 1972 Washington Championship, Dick Cartney wrote: “In a fitting climax to the finest season in Longacres history, Crawford Estate and Farnsworth’s Turbulator came from far back to capture the 28th running of the $23,000 Washington Championship by a half-length.”

Turbulator ran down a quality foe, a razor-sharp pacesetting Grey Papa, who one week earlier had completed six furlongs at Longacres against allowance company in a sizzling 1:07 1/5 to break the world record.

“Larry Pierce contributed a strong ride aboard Turbulator, who carried 119 pounds over the 1 1/16 miles and was timed in 1:41 2/5, just two-fifths of a second off his own track record,” Cartney’s recap continued. “The 7-year-old gelded son of Cold Command and Fur Piece went off as the 7-2 third choice of the 8,068 fans on hand in perfect weather and returned $9.10, $4.60 and $3.70 across the board.”

As for Tapit Trice’s final time in the Tampa Bay Derby, he completed his 1 1/16-mile journey in 1:43.37.

Though Tapit Trice’s win last Saturday was visually impressive, the bad news is his Beyer Speed Figure was a modest 88. His Beyer was only a bit better than Classic Causeway’s 86 when he won last year’s renewal. How did Classic Causeway later do in the Kentucky Derby? He finished 11th at odds of 78-1.

Tapit Trice’s best Beyer to date is a 92. That’s the figure that the $1.3 million auction purchase received when he won a one-mile allowance/optional claiming race by eight lengths at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 4.

History tells us that Tapit Trice must do a whole lot better than a 92 in order to win the May 6 Kentucky Derby.

Going back to 1989, no horse who finished first in the Kentucky Derby has recorded a Beyer Speed Figure below 100 in the 1 1/4-mile classic. Maximum Security received a 101 Beyer when he finished first in 2019, but he was disqualified and placed 17th for causing interference. The official winner became Country House, who was credited with a 99 Beyer.

Of the 39 individual horses in last week’s Kentucky Derby Future Wager, Forte and Practical Move are the only two to have recorded a triple-digit Beyer Speed Figure in a race at one mile or longer.

Forte reached 100 on the Beyer Speed Figure scale when he won the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at 1 1/16 miles at Keeneland last Nov. 4.

Practical Move likewise logged a 100 Beyer Speed Figure when he won Santa Anita’s Grade II San Felipe Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on March 4.

Tapit Trice does have some catching up to do Beyer-wise vis-a-vis Forte and Practical Move.

I had Tapit Trice at No. 4 on my Kentucky Derby Top 10 last week. I originally had planned to keep him at No. 4 this week following the Tampa Bay Derby. Off his performance in that race, I didn’t think he deserved to be moved up or down.

But it turns out that Tapit Trice does move up a notch to No. 3 this week due to the Arabian Knight news.

Arabian Knight, who had been No. 3 last week, has been removed from Kentucky Derby consideration, a development revealed on Twitter last Saturday evening.

The tweet by Zedan Racing stated: “Arabian Knight is no longer under consideration for the KY Derby. Trainer Tim Yakteen wasn’t happy with his last work & we feel it’s in Arabian Knight’s best interest not to rush & allow him more time to develop. We know he’s a superior talent & our plan is to point him toward a summer and fall campaign.”

The workout referenced in the tweet was six furlongs in 1:13.80 at Santa Anita on March 9. It was a surprisingly slow time by him on a morning when another Kentucky Derby candidate, Reinarnate, worked four furlongs in a sharp :47.80 at Santa Anita. On March 4, Arabian Knight recorded a sharp workout of his own at Santa Anita, five furlongs in :59.20.

Prior to Arabian Knight’s March 4 drill, he had not had a published workout since Feb. 13.

“After talking with Amr, he’s a super-gifted horse, but we’re up against it,” Daily Racing Form’s Steve Andersen quoted Yakteen as saying with respect to Arabian Knight and the Kentucky Derby. “We want to give him a chance to be the best horse he can be.

“We’re under a time constraint, the weather. Look at what we’ve been dealing with [a rainier winter than usual in Southern California]. You don’t want to put a square peg in a round hole. It’s going to be a fun summer to watch him campaign. I think you’ll see him a lot sooner than you think.”

Arabian Knight had ranked high on most Kentucky Derby lists after winning his first two career starts by a combined 12 3/4 lengths. Following a 7 1/4-length maiden victory at Keeneland last Nov. 5, he splashed home to a 5 1/2-length win in Oaklawn Park’s Grade III Southwest Stakes on Jan. 28.

Hall of Famer Bob Baffert trained Arabian Knight for those two races. The Kentucky-bred Uncle Mo colt was one of a number of 3-year-old colts transferred from Baffert to Yakteen last month prior to a Feb. 28 deadline in order for the horses to become eligible to earn qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby.

Churchill Downs, in reaction to Medina Spirit’s disqualification in the 2021 Kentucky Derby, suspended Baffert from running horses in the Kentucky Derby last year and this year. Medina Spirit’s disqualification in the 2021 Kentucky Derby resulted from testing positive for traces of betamethasone, a medication that is legal to use but not on race day.

With the Run for the Roses now ruled out for Arabian Knight, Yakteen said the colt would be returned to Baffert’s Santa Anita barn, according to Andersen.

Arabian Knight’s defection from my Kentucky Derby Top 10 this week opened the door for Hit Show to move onto the list at No. 10.

Trained by Brad Cox, Hit Show made his stakes debut a winning one in his most recent start on Feb. 11 at Aqueduct. The Kentucky-bred Candy Ride colt won the Grade III Withers Stakes by 5 1/2 lengths (91 Beyer, a new top) in his fourth career start.

My Kentucky Derby Top 10 for this week is below:

1. Practical Move
2. Forte
3. Tapit Trice
4. Instant Coffee
5. Geaux Rocket Ride
6. Skinner
7. Angel of Empire
8. Reincarnate
9. Confidence Game
10. Hit Show

Bubbling Under My Top 10 (in alphabetical order):

Congruent, Denington, Disarm, Eyeing Clover, Hard to Figure, Henry Q., Kingsbarns, Litigate, Mandarin Hero, National Treasure, Please Be Nice, Raise Cain, Red Route One, Rocket Can, Slip Mahoney, Sun Thunder, Tall Boy, Two Eagles River, Two Phil’s, Worcester and Verifying.


Just as he was in Pool 2, Pool 3 and Pool 4, Eclipse Award-winning 2-year-old male Forte was the favorite among 39 individual horses in Pool 5 of Churchill Downs’ Kentucky Derby Future Wager (KDFW) when betting closed last Sunday (March 12). His odds were 3-1.

The individual favorites in Pool 1 through Pool 5 are listed below:

12-1  Extra Anejo (Pool 1 on Nov. 3)
10-1  Forte (Pool 2 on Nov. 27)
 7-1  Forte (Pool 3 on Jan. 22)
 8-1  Forte (Pool 4 on Feb. 12)
 3-1  Forte (Pool 5 on March 12)

There is no way I would put any money on Forte at such a low price this far away from the Kentucky Derby. In my opinion, 3-1 is a terrible price, especially considering there are no refunds in future wagering if the horse doesn’t start.

Tapit Trice closed at 8-1. I also had absolutely no interest in betting him at this low of a price.

Practical Move closed at 12-1. I didn’t feel any need to bet him at 12-1 because I already put $200 on him at 83-1 in Pool 4 for a possible profit of nearly $17,000.

Geaux Rocket Ride closed at 30-1 in Pool 5. He finished second to Practical Move in Santa Anita’s Grade II San Felipe Stakes on March 4. I had no real interest to bet anything on him in Pool 5 because I already put money on him him at 25-1 in Pool 4.

The only wager I did make in Pool 5 was $100 on Skinner at 45-1. He ran a respectable third in the San Felipe. Inasmuch as it’s not hard for me to picture trainer John Shirreffs having Skinner ready to run a biggie in the Kentucky Derby, I decided to put money on him.

Shirreffs won the 2005 Kentucky Derby with 50-1 Giacomo, who paid $102.60 for each $2 win ticket. Giacomo prevailed by a half-length when he caught my pick in the final strides, Closing Argument, who had to settle for second at the enormous odds of 71-1.

One more KDFW pool will be conducted this year. Pool 6 will run from March 30 to April 1.

Below are the final odds reported by Churchill Downs last Sunday (March 12) for Pool 5 of the 2023 KDFW:

   3-1 Forte
   8-1 Tapit Trice
 10-1 All Other 3-Year-Olds
 12-1 Practical Move
 19-1 Instant Coffee
 28-1 Hit Show
 30-1 Confidence Game
 30-1 Geaux Rocket Ride
 38-1 Angel of Empire
 43-1 Kingsbarns
 53-1 Hejazi
 60-1 Disarm
 65-1 General Jim
 66-1 Blazing Sevens
 66-1 Litigate
 75-1 Cairo
 75-1 Mage
 85-1 Classic Car Wash
 89-1 Cyclone Mischief
 94-1 Congruent
116-1 Mandarin Hero
141-1 Major Dude
179-1 Arabian Lion
179-1 Classic Catch
189-1 Cagliostro
241-1 Denington
SCR  Arabian Knight


Below are the final odds reported by Churchill Downs last Sunday (March 12) for the 2023 Kentucky Oaks Future Wager:

   4-1 Wet Paint
   6-1 Wonder Wheel
   7-1 Hoosier Philly
 11-1 Punchbowl
 14-1 All Other 3-Year-Old Fillies
 14-1 Julia Shining
 15-1 Pretty Mischievous
 20-1 Guns n’ Graces
 24-1 Munnys Gold
 26-1 Dorth Vader
 31-1 Botanical
 36-1 Occult
 36-1 The Alys Look
 39-1 Mimi Kakushi
 40-1 Shidabhuti
 46-1 Red Carpet Ready
 48-1 Dreaming of Snow
 55-1 Miracle
 61-1 And Tell Me Nolies
 66-1 Gaming Girl
 67-1 Clearly Unhinged
 69-1 Justique
 76-1 Affirmative Lady
 89-1 Chop Chop
 94-1 Atomically
105-1 Grand Love
106-1 Asset Purchase
113-1 Ami Please
121-1 Capella
125-1 Seduction
129-1 Flashy Gem
132-1 She’s Lookin Lucky
147-1 Southlawn
150-1 Flying Connection
159-1 Blessed Touch
163-1 Interpolate
164-1 Condensation
224-1 Royal Spa
229-1 Merlazza
298-1 Homecoming Queen


I developed my Derby Strikes System back in 1999. The purpose is to try and identify those horses having the best chance to win the Kentucky Derby from BOTH tactical and historical perspectives.

Various “rules” for the Kentucky Derby once were quite popular. A “Derby rule” meant that a horse needed to have done this or that, or not done this or that, in order to win the Kentucky Derby. However, through the years, many of the “Derby rules” were broken, which caused their popularity to wane.

I believe that it’s the marriage of the TACTICAL with the HISTORICAL that makes the Derby Strikes System better than any single “Derby rule.”

A number of the categories in the Derby Strikes System are tied to a Kentucky Derby being run on the first Saturday in May. Consequently, when the 2020 running was switched from May 2 to Sept. 5 due to COVID, it rendered the Derby Strikes System unworkable that year. But when the Kentucky Derby again was contested on its traditional date of the first Saturday in May in 2021 and 2022, the Derby Strikes System again was viable.

A horse’s number of strikes can’t be determined until it’s known that a horse’s next race will be the Kentucky Derby. Tapit Trice is scheduled to run next in Keeneland’s Grade I Blue Grass Stakes on April 8.


It was half a century ago this week that Secretariat began his 3-year-old campaign with a dominant triumph on a sloppy track in Aqueduct’s seven-furlong Bay Shore Stakes on March 17 (St. Patrick’s Day).

I was writing about horse racing back then in my high school newspaper, the Lewis and Clark Journal, while attending that school in Spokane, Wash. I felt fortunate that Michael Aleman, my journalism teacher and the school’s newspaper advisor, kindly allowed me to write about horse racing. Not only that, Mr. Aleman was nice enough to allow me to post my early odds for the 1973 Kentucky Derby for many weeks leading up to the race in a tiny corner on the chalkboard in his classroom.

In the sports section of the Lewis and Clark Journal in 1972, I picked Riva Ridge to win the Kentucky Derby. I even went so far as to say that he might sweep the Triple Crown.

What a thrill it was for me to watch Riva Ridge lead from start to finish in the 1972 Kentucky Derby. Trained by Lucien Laurin and ridden by Ron Turcotte, Riva Ridge won by 3 1/4 lengths as the 3-2 favorite.

Riva Ridge did not become a Triple Crown winner, though. The sort of weather that makes umbrellas important was his undoing. Sent off as a 1-5 favorite in the 1 3/16-mile Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course, Riva Ridge did not care for the wet track and finished fourth in the Preakness. Bee Bee Bee, an 18-1 longshot, relished the sloppy going and won in front-running fashion by 1 1/2 lengths.

Back on dry land in the 1 1/2-mile Belmont Stakes, Riva Ridge won in splendid isolation by seven lengths as the 8-5 favorite.

With Riva Ridge winning two legs of the Triple Crown after I had written that he might sweep the series in 1972, I was emboldened to go even further when I wrote about Secretariat in my high school sports column on March 22, 1973.

By the way, included in the notes at the end of that column, I predicted that Roosevelt would defeat Richland in the title game at the 1973 basketball tournament for the division consisting of the largest high schools in the state. It turned out that Roosevelt did indeed beat Richland by a score of 67-59 on March 24. And my prediction of what Secretariat would do also came true.

My sports column from 50 years ago is below:


“A Look at Triple Crown

“By Jon White

“Going out on a limb and living dangerously, I dare say that 1973 will be a historic year as Secretariat will become the first Triple Crown winner since the great Citation in 1948.

“The 1972 Horse of the Year made his [1973] debut an impressive one as he exploded to a 4 1/2-length triumph in the $27,750 Bay Shore Stakes at Aqueduct last Saturday.

“Ridden by regular rider Ron Turcotte, Secretariat put on his usual late burst of speed to easily put away Champagne Charlie and Impecunious, who finished second and third.

“Running the seven furlongs in 1:23 1/5 over a sloppy track, the outstanding son of Bold Ruler appears to be able to beat anybody, anywhere, anytime and at any distance.

“Secretariat is owned by Meadow Stables and trained by Lucien Laurin, who produced last year’s winner of the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes, Riva Ridge.

“Secretariat currently is the ‘people’s choice’ and looks to be odds-on at this stage to win the Kentucky Derby in May.”

“ODDS AND ENDS: The state AAA basketball finals occur this weekend as this writer picks Roosevelt to edge Richland for the title…The Spokane Indians continue to prepare for the April 18th opening as interest and ticket sales are going well…Washington’s 1972 Horse of the Year, Koko’s Pal, made his latest effort a winning one as he captured an allowance race at Golden Gate…Former LC student Bob Aoki had good success as a starter as a freshman on the University of Idaho’s baseball team…Jack Nicklaus is hitting his first slump in a while as it is coming at a bad time with the Masters just around the corner.”


Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes)

1. 297 Art Collector (24)
2. 244 Country Grammer (5)
3. 231 Elite Power (2)
4. 185 Stilleto Boy
5. 117 Secret Oath (1)
6. 105 Cody’s Wish
7.   73 Defunded
8.   67 Atone
9.   66 Taiba
10. 65 Nest


Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes)

1. 319 Forte (31)
2. 217 Practical Move (1)
3. 208 Tapit Trice
3. 206 Instant Coffee
5. 125 Confidence Game
6. 104 Arabian Knight
7.   92 Rocket Can
8.   85 Angel of Empire
9.   76 Hit Show
10. 63 Cave Rock

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