Jon White: Latest Kentucky Derby Top 10, Sam F. Davis, El Camino Real Derby Selections

Holy Bull? Holy moly!

Most people expected to see Eclipse Award winner Fierceness win Gulfstream Park’s Grade III Holy Bull Stakes as the overwhelming 1-5 favorite last Saturday (Feb. 3).

It didn’t happen.

Granted, Fierceness did not have the best of starts. But in my opinion, that alone should not have been enough to keep him out of the winner’s circle in his 3-year-old debut. Once he poked his neck in front going into the far turn, the expectation on the part of most observers was he would go on about his business and kick off his 2024 campaign with a victory after his dynamite Breeders’ Cup performance in his final 2023 start.

In the Grade I BC Juvenile at Santa Anita on Nov. 3, Fierceness was one of the most impressive winners in the 40-year history of that race. Trouncing his eight foes, Fierceness registered a 6 1/4-length triumph. He recorded a 105 Beyer, a figure that’s been topped by just five of the previous BC Juvenile winners.

I imagine most people were not looking for Fierceness to run a Beyer of 105 or thereabouts last Saturday due to it being his first start following a layoff. I thought he probably would run well enough last Saturday to get a Beyer in the 95 to 99 range. That would have meant a Holy Bull figure somewhere between Fierceness’ 95 Beyer when debuting victoriously in the mud at Saratoga last summer and his 105 in the BC Juvenile.

As it turned out, a Beyer in the 95 to 99 range by Fierceness would have been plenty good enough for him to win this year’s Holy Bull. But he plummeted to an 84. He finished third in the Holy Bull, 3 1/2 lengths behind the winner, Hades (pictured above), who remained undefeated in three career starts while scoring his first stakes victory.

With Paco Lopez in the saddle, Hades was a pace factor from the beginning and completed 1 1/16 miles in 1:46.07 to win the Holy Bull by two lengths at odds of 9-1. Domestic Product finished second in the field of seven, 1 1/2 lengths in front of Fierceness.

A Florida-bred Awesome Slew gelding, Hades at first was credited with an 85 Beyer Speed Figure for his Holy Bull victory. Monday morning on Steve Byk’s SiriusXM radio program At the Races, Andy Beyer referred to Hades’ Holy Bull figure as being an 85. But the figure has been increased to a 90.

In his first career start, Hades won a 5 1/2-furlong maiden/optional claimer in come-from-behind fashion by a half-length at Gulfstream on Dec. 9. After recording a lowly 60 Beyer Speed Figure at first asking, Hades then won a seven-furlong maiden contest by eight lengths on Dec. 31.

Hades’ Beyer for his Dec. 31 race originally was an 84. That figure now also has been changed to a 90.

On Byk’s SiriuxXM radio program Wednesday morning, network television commentator Randy Moss, who is a member of the team that doles out Beyer Speed Figures, explained how Hades’ Beyers have been raised from an 84 to a 90 for his Dec. 31 win and from an 85 to a 90 for his Holy Bull victory.

“Well, first of all, doing figures in general -- anyone who does figures, whether you do it for yourself or you use Beyer or Thoro-Graph or Ragozin or Timeform or whatever -- making figures at Gulfstream Park is at best challenging or at worst almost impossible,” Moss said. “It’s extremely difficult because they have three distinctly separate racing surfaces. Oftentimes you’ll have only two or three dirt races to try to make a variant off of, and of those, a lot of them can be 2-year-old races with very little established form. So how do you figure out how fast the racing surface was? How do you figure out how fast those races should have been run, with a lot of first-time starters and horses with very limited experience?

“When I was looking pre-Holy Bull at the Hades allowance race on Dec. 31, I saw that on that day there were only three dirt races, and they were all at seven furlongs and they were all for 2-year-olds. And the [Beyer] figures that Mark Hopkins made on that day made perfect sense. But then I noticed that horses that had been running back out of that race had substantially improved their figures, even more than you would expect the general first to second race improvement for horses.

“And so it had become pretty apparent to me that we had inadvertently kind of undershot the number for Hades in that allowance race. After he wins the Holy Bull, Mark assigns a figure of 85. And so I reached out to Mark and Andy and said that we might want to look at that Dec. 31 allowance race before we lock in this 85 Holy Bull figure.

“Because the Holy Bull figure itself had to be taken separately, it was an educated guess because of the [slow] pace. If you did the track variant and you just used the track variant for the Holy Bull, you get a number of 74 [for Hades]. And clearly those horses are not going to run a 74. So you’ve got to put your best foot forward in estimating what those horses probably ran based on their prior experience.

“Mark and Andy went back and looked at March 31 and said, ‘Yeah.’ We [originally gave Hades] an 84 and we changed it to a 90. And once they changed that race to a 90 it became pretty apparent that Hades had run at least that good when he won the Holy Bull. So now the next time he runs, you’ll see Hades with a 90 in each of his last two starts, and I think that’s much more accurate than what we would’ve had.”

Moss pointed out that Beyer Speed Figures “are not alone” in retroactively changing a speed figure when it’s deemed that doing so would make the figure more accurate.

“Every speed-figure maker has human element involved,” Moss said. “I think Equibase speed figures are done by a computer, but I’m talking Ragozin, Thoro-Graph and TimeformUS -- all of us mark races, mark days, that are particularly challenging to make a variant and to make figures. Whether it’s because of, as in Gulfstream a lack of sample size, whether it’s because of weather, a sudden rainstorm in the middle of the card, whether it’s because a track started off muddy and then dried out as the day progressed and the racetrack clearly got faster. There are many situations which can pose challenges for fig makers. And you just note those days and you watch the horses that run back out of those days. And you go back and you say, ‘Okay, I did the best I could on this day. In hindsight, was I right or was I wrong?’ To make it as accurate as possible, all of us, all fig makers, go back and adjust figs from time to time to try and get them accurate.”

Joe Orseno trains Hades. Orseno is probably best known for his three nationally significant Grade I victories in 2000 -- Red Bullet in the Preakness Stakes (upsetting Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus), Macho Uno in the BC Juvenile and Perfect Sting in the BC Filly & Mare Turf.

On Byk’s show Tuesday morning, Oreseno discussed Hades’ first three races.

“In his first race, he had to go 11 wide and was rolling when he went by some maidens [late],” Orseno said. “In his second and third races, when he changed leads, he did find another gear. That’s something special in a horse. That’s not something you can teach a horse. They either have to have it or they don’t. We can keep them happy and keep them sound and make sure everything’s good going into the race. But when it comes time turning for home, that’s when the running starts and he finds another gear.”

Orseno went on to say of Hades that “the beauty of it is, I don’t think we’ve gotten to the bottom of this horse yet. Paco told me that in the seven-furlong race, this horse tried harder than he did in the Holy Bull. Paco said that he was still playin’ in the Holy Bull, still figuring it out, kind of loafing going down the backside. I know the fractions were slow [:25.03 for the opening quarter-mile, :50.53 for the half, 1:14.25 for six furlongs] and the whole bit with the numbers [such as the Beyer Speed Figure not being higher]. But you know what? He ran as fast as he had to run.

“I don’t know what people expect or why anybody has anything [negative] to say. We did what we had to do. We got to the wire first. And everything was fine…It was a learning curve, two turns, and he handled the whole process fine. So hopefully now he can handle the next step.”

The next step for Hades, according to Orseno, will be either Gulfstream’s Grade II Fountain of Youth Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on March 2 or Grade I Florida Derby at 1 1/8 miles on March 30.

“The horse will tell us,” Orseno said.

Orseno is of the opinion that Hades “will run all day.”

After the finish of the Holy Bull, Hades “just kept going,” Orseno said. “It really was some gallop-out. He’s a big, strong, powerful horse and he does have no quit in him.”

In terms of what we saw from Fierceness in the Holy Bull, it was a case of deja vu all over again, as Yogi Berra would put it. Up to now, each time Fierceness has won, he’s won big, only to then get beat in his next start for trainer Todd Pletcher.

“Let’s just say that this colt is immensely talented and can beat anyone at anytime and anywhere…when everything goes perfectly,”’s Steve Haskin wrote this week of Fierceness. “He just, so far, has not been able to handle adversity. We saw it in the Champagne and we saw it in the Holy Bull.”

Fierceness flexed his muscles with an 11 1/4 length debut win at Saratoga, but then he lost -- and lost badly -- as the 1-2 favorite in the Grade I Champagne Stakes. Following a troubled start, he ended up seventh in the Champagne while losing by 20 1/4 lengths on a sloppy track. He rebounded to win the BC Juvenile for fun, but then had a troubled start and could finish no better than third in the Holy Bull.

Fierceness went from a 95 Beyer Speed Figure in his first race, down to a 59 in the Champagne, back up to a 105 in the BC Juvenile, then down to an 84 in the Holy Bull.

Talk about an up-and-down Beyer pattern.

My initial inclination after Fierceness’ defeat in the Holy Bull was to move him out of the top spot on my Kentucky Derby Top 10 this week. But Fierceness does stay at No. 1 this week. That’s mainly because, at this point, I really don’t have anyone else I want to put at the top, and because I am willing to go ahead and give him a mulligan for his Holy Bull.

I’m not the only one wrestling with who to currently rank No. 1 for the Kentucky Derby.

Haskin, like yours truly, is keeping Fierceness at No. 1 this week in spite of the champ’s setback in the Holy Bull. And Haskin’s reasons for not lowering Fierceness out of the top spot mirror mine.

“There are two reasons I’m keeping him at No. 1,” Haskin wrote. “The first is that there is no one else to put there…really. The second is to give him the benefit of the doubt [for his loss in the Holy Bull].”


The only reason I don’t have Nysos ranked No. 1 on my Kentucky Derby Top 10 is he, like all 3-year-olds trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, is not eligible to earn qualifying points toward the Run for the Roses. That’s due to Churchill Downs Inc. continuing to bar Baffert from running any horses at CDI-owned tracks through the calendar year 2024.

T.D. Thornton does a marvelous job with the TDN Derby Top 12. But I do not agree with his decision to have Baffert-trained 3-year-olds on his Kentucky Derby Top 12. Three colts conditioned by Baffert are on Thornton’s Top 12: No. 1 Nysos, No. 2 Muth and No. 7 Maymun.

“As if ranking the contenders for the Grade I Kentucky Derby isn’t enough of a challenge in and of itself, the crystal ball-gazing becomes even more hazy when you factor in the ban imposed by Churchill Downs Inc. on trainees from Bob Baffert’s stable,” Thornton wrote.

“Even though the official [Kentucky] Derby qualifying points leaderboard omits those horses, TDN’s Top 12 will continue to include them for the time being on the basis that 1) the situation could change; 2) the performances of those horses represent significant benchmarks in establishing the pecking order for everyone else, and 3) there is no point at this still-early stage of the Triple Crown campaign to dismiss the accomplishments of the nation’s top colts, regardless of whether they end up in the Derby or not.”

I just think it’s nonsensical to include horses on a Kentucky Derby Top 10, Top 12 or Top Anything if those horses are not eligible to earn qualifying points.

Thornton wrote that “the situation could change.” That’s true. Anything is possible. But as I said last week, there seems to be almost no chance that Churchill Downs is going to lift Baffert’s ban for 2024.

“I’d say there is a better chance that I will be elected president of the United States than Churchill doing that,” I wrote.

Byron King has moved Dornoch into the No. 1 spot in BloodHorse’s Derby Dozen rankings this week. Fierceness slips down a notch to No. 2.

While I don’t see eye-to-eye with King having Dornach ranked No. 1, at least Dornach is eligible to run in the Kentucky Derby, unlike TDN No. 1 Nysos.

“If Churchill Downs Inc. had not extended its ban of Bob Baffert from competition at their tracks, Nysos -- the Baffert-trained Grade III Robert B. Lewis winner -- would be leading the Derby Dozen,” King wrote.

David Aragona has Locked as the 8-1 favorite this week in his Kentucky Derby odds for Daily Racing Form’s first Derby Watch of 2024. Sierra Leone is next at 10-1. The others horses the DRF lists are Dornoch (12-1), Fierceness (12-1), Hall of Fame (15-1), Mystik Dan (15-1), Track Phantom (15-1), Catching Freedom (20-1), Conquest Warrior (20-1), Honor Marie (20-1), Timberlake (20-1), Forever Young (30-1), Hades (30-1), Liberal Arts (30-1), Snead (30-1), Speak Easy (30-1), Domestic Product (50-1), Just Steel (50-1), Stronghold (50-1) and Uncle Heavy (50-1).

According to’s Ron Flatter, Dornoch now is the Kentucky Derby favorite in Las Vegas future wagering. Dornoch is 8 1/2-1 at Caesars and 9-1 at Circa. Fierceness is the second choice at both books. He is 10-1 at Caesars and 13-1 at Circa.

Churchill Downs this year imposed a Jan. 29 deadline for horses to be transferred from Baffert to another trainer in order for them to become eligible to earn qualifying points toward the 150th running of the $5 million Kentucky Derby on May 4.

When the Jan. 29 deadline passed, not a single owner transferred a 3-year-old from Baffert to another trainer. In a united demonstration of loyalty to Baffert, those owners were willing to stay with him and thereby forego the chance of possibly having any of those horses compete in the Kentucky Derby.

As a consequence of not one of Baffert’s owners moving a 3-year-old to a different trainer this year, Baoma Corp.’s Nysos and such other talented Baffert-trained sophomores as Amr Zedan’s Muth, Maymun and Coach Prime will not be able to possibly run in the Kentucky Derby.

Baffert originally was handed a two-year suspension that prevented him from running horses at CDI-owned tracks in 2022 and 2023. The ban stemmed from Medina Spirit being disqualified from his win in the 2021 Kentucky Derby after testing positive for the presence of betamethasone, a medication that was legal to use, but not on race day.

Churchill Downs last July 3 arbitrarily decided to extend Baffert’s ban through 2024. In a statement, Churchill said it was “extending the suspension of Bob Baffert through calendar year 2024 based on continued concerns regarding the threat to the safety he poses to CDI-owned racetracks.”

Was it right for Churchill Downs to extend Baffert’s ban through 2024 despite the trainer having a clean record medication-wise in 2022 and 2023? Like many others, I don’t think so.

“I’m glad the owners unanimously did what they did, because I think in the view of most people in racing, okay, Baffert committed an offense, but he served his time and we’re ready to move on,” Andy Beyer said Monday morning on Steve Byk’s SiriusXM radio program At the Races. “For Churchill to just tack on another year, and do it in a way that would penalize all of Baffert’s clients, I thought was just really unfair. And as things are going to turn out, it was very stupid.

“I was just looking the other day at the list of Baffert’s horses who are owned by major stables and major breeders who won 2-year-old races last year, like potential Kentucky Derby candidates,” Beyer continued. “To bar all of them, why would you penalize the owners that support the game? It’s just so petty and short-sighted on Churchill’s part. And this, I think, is going to blow up in their faces.”

As for Nysos’ performance last Saturday in the one-mile Lewis with Flavien Prat aboard, it was terrific with a capital T. The son of 2016 Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist was nice and relaxed when close up early in his first race around two turns. Turning for home, Prat pushed the button and Nysos blasted past Scatify and Wine Mine Up to take command at the top of the lane.

“Nysos blows by the competition and turns it on,” said track announcer Frank Mirahmadi as the 1-10 favorite was drawing away in the stretch. “Wine Me Up in a battle for second with Scatify. Nysos, passing the two-turn test beautifully, geared down, to stroll in by seven lengths.”

Mirahmadi is an extremely accurate track announcer in terms of his margins during his race calls. I know that he takes much pride in this particular aspect of being a race caller. Mirahmadi did an excellent job when saying Nysos strolled in “by seven lengths.” What did the official margin of victory turn out to be? According to the Equibase chart, it was 7 1/2 lengths.

Nysos’ final time was 1:36.65.

In Nysos’ three starts so far, he has won by 10 1/2, 8 3/4 and 7 1/2 lengths.

The Beyer Speed Figures for Nysos’ three wins have been 96, 97 and 105.

By winning his first three career starts by a combined 26 3/4 lengths, Nysos has emerged as the most exciting racehorse on the Southern California circuit since the great Flightline.

Nysos’ 105 Beyer Speed Figure in the Lewis happens to match the Beyer recorded by Flightline in his first career start. When launching his racing career at Santa Anita on April 24, 2021, Flightline won a six-furlong maiden race by 13 1/4 lengths and posted a 105 Beyer Speed Figure. All of his subsequent Beyers would be even higher.

After Flightline’s first career start, he reeled off Beyer Speed Figures of 114, 118, 112, 126 and 121 before retiring undefeated, having won all six career starts by a mind-boggling total of 71 lengths.

In his final two appearances under silks, Flightline won Del Mar’s Grade I Pacific Classic at 1 1/4 miles by a record 19 1/4 lengths and the Grade I BC Classic at the same distance at Keeneland by a record 8 1/4 lengths.

Flightline is No. 1 on my list of the Top 100 Thoroughbreds of the 21st century so far to have won in North America. The others on my Top 10 are No. 2 American Pharoah, No. 3 Zenyatta, No. 4 Arrogate, No. 5 Ghostzapper, No. 6 Curlin, No. 7 Rachel Alexandra, No. 8 Justify, No. 9 Shared Belief and No. 10 California Chrome.

Andy Beyer, father of the Beyer Speed Figures, raved about Nysos’s Lewis victory when discussing him Monday (Feb. 5) with host Steve Byk on the SiriusXM radio program At the Races.

“Nysos, after those two blockbuster races as a 2-year-old, to come back and blow the field away and earn a figure of 105, there’s not much doubt this is a major talent and a real star,” Beyer said.

Gee, wouldn’t we like to see “a major talent and a real” star like Nysos in the Kentucky Derby? But, nope, that’s not going to happen.

“When horses like this come along, I think we all get jazzed up with the thought of just how good they might be,” Beyer added. “Baffert said that he thinks this horse is going to be up there with his biggest stars. And I hope so.”

Two of Baffert’s biggest stars, of course, were Triple Crown winners American Pharoah in 2015 and Justify in 2018.

I did some research and, from a Beyer Speed Figure standpoint, Nysos’ 105 in his third lifetime start stacks up quite well vis-a-vis American Pharoah and Justify early in their careers.

American Pharoah did not reach 105 on the Beyer scale until his fifth career start. He recorded a 105 Beyer when he won the Grade I Arkansas Derby by eight lengths in April of his 3-year-old campaign. His previous Beyers had been a 75 at first asking, followed by figures of 101, 101 and 100 prior to the Arkansas Derby.

Justify likewise did not get a Beyer of 105 or higher until April at 3 when he recorded a 107 for his three-length win in the Grade I Santa Anita Derby in his third career start. His previous Beyers had been 104 and 101.

You can add the aforementioned Randy Moss to those observers dazzled by Nysos’ latest tour de force.

“I thought Nysos was absolutely spectacular,” Moss said. “To me, if you just look at a snapshot of where Nysos is right now and you compare him to where Justify was after his first start, or two, or three, I think Nysos looks at least as good as Justify was. And I think Nysos would be, right now, from what we’ve seen and he stays healthy, a legitimate contender to sweep the Triple Crown.”


As I mentioned earlier, I have reluctantly kept Fierceness at No 1 on my Kentucky Derby Top 10 this week.

How good is Hades? We really don’t know yet, not when he’s been able to win all three of his races to date. After Hades’ Holy Bull victory by a clear margin (while defeating the colt I rank No. 1), he makes his first appearance on my Kentucky Derby Top 10 this week all the way up at No. 2.

Hades debuts this week at No. 3 on Dan Illman’s Daily Racing Form divisional rankings. Nysos is No. 1. Fierceness is No. 2.

Mystik Dan is a newcomer on my Kentucky Derby Top 10 this week at No. 3 after his eight-length win in Oaklawn Park’s Grade III Southwest Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on a muddy track last Saturday.

Not surprisingly, the Kentucky Derby future odds for both Hades and Mystick Dan have been lowered in Las Vegas after their victories last Saturday.

Hades was an especially big market mover at Circa. His odds there were slashed from 175-1 to 23-1, according to Flatter. Mystic Dan’s odds at Circa were cut from 200-1 to 50-1.

Below is my current Kentucky Derby Top 10:

 1. Fierceness
 2. Hades
 3. Mystik Dan
 4. Locked
 5. Sierra Leone
 6. Dornoch
 7. Hall of Fame
 8. Track Phantom
 9. Timberlake
10. Born Noble

Bubbling Under My Top 10: Book’ em Danno, Catching Freedom, Change of Command, Conquest Warrior, Domestic Product, El Grande O, Forever Young, Honor Marie, Just a Touch, Liberal Arts, Lightline, Maycocks Bay, Nash, Just Steel, Real Macho, Real Men Violin, Snead, Speak Easy, Stretch Ride, The Wine Steward, Tuscan Gold, Tuscan Sky, Timberlake, Uncle Heavy and Victory Avenue.

Exiting my Top 10 this week are Speak Easy and Victory Avenue, who were No. 9 and No. 10, respectively, last week. Speak Easy and Victory Avenue finished one-two in a seven-furlong maiden race at Gulfstream on the Jan. 27 Pegasus World Cup undercard.

Yes, I know that in the Southwest, Mystik Dan might have benefited from a so-called “golden rail.” In other words, the inside seemed to be the best place to be on the muddy oval. And, yes, maybe Mystik Dan won by such a large margin because he relished a muddy surface.

But I thought the way Mystik Dan powered home was visually impressive. And my visual impression is backed up by his 101 Beyer Speed Figure.

Another reason I like Mystik Dan is his 101 Beyer isn’t his first robust speed figure. In his second career start, he got a 96 Beyer when he won a 5 1/2-furlong maiden dash by 7 3/4 lengths at Churchill Downs on Nov. 12.

In his maiden graduation, Mystik Dan showed early zip going 5 1/2 furlongs. In the Southwest, he rallied from sixth in the field of 11. Such versatility in terms of running style is something I like to see.

It appears to me that trainer Kenny McPeek has a pretty darn good 3-year-old on his hands with Mystik Dan, a Kentucky-bred Goldencents colt.

Meanwhile, watch out for Liberal Arts next time. In his first start since winning Churchill’s Grade III Street Sense last Oct. 29, the Kentucky-bred Arrogate colt rallied from ninth to finish third, just a neck behind Just Steel. I especially liked the verve Liberal Arts exhibited while galloping out after the finish.

I nearly took Born Noble off my Kentucky Derby Top 10 this week after his narrow loss as an odds-on favorite to 26-1 longshot Real Macho in a one-mile allowance/optional claimer at Gulfstream last Saturday on the Holy Bull undercard. Though Born Noble does barely remain on the Top 10, he tumbles all the way to No. 10 after being No. 2 last week.

Born Noble got involved in an early pace duel with Merit. After disposing of Merit coming into the stretch, Born Noble passed the eighth pole with a three-length lead and looked like he was on his way to staying undefeated. But he lost by a neck when nailed in the final yards by Real Macho.

“I was really looking forward to seeing Born Noble tackle some other serious late developers and thrust himself into the [Kentucky] Derby picture,” Haskin wrote. “Sent off at 2-5, once he took on the speedy Merit from the start and the pair got away with a :24 1/5 opening quarter, I figured this would be a match race that would take both colts at least to the top of the stretch before one asserted himself.

“Then they really picked it up with a :22 3/5 second quarter and even a sharp :23 4/5 third quarter. They were still at each other’s throat until Born Noble began to inch away at the top of the stretch, with only one horse, Real Macho, within radar range, but still with a lot of ground to make up.

“Born Noble opened a clear lead turning for home, but it was apparent by the way that he was trying to lug in that he was getting tired. Real Macho, taking advantage of the slow :26 4/5 final quarter, kept coming and gave a final surge near the wire to win by a neck in 1:37 2/5 for the mile, with Born Noble 5 1/4 lengths ahead of Merit. Born Noble now has to figure out how to move forward off this race.”


The Grade III Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs this Saturday (Feb. 10) has attracted a dozen to do battle at 1 1/6 miles.

From the rail out, the field consists of El Principito, Tireless, Patriot Spirit, Crazy Mason, No More Time, Agate Road, Copper Tax, Everdoit, Change of Command, West Saratoga, Fulmineo and Elysian Meadows.

Grade I winner Locked, trained by Hall of Famer Pletcher and No. 4 on my Kentucky Derby Top 10, had been targeting this race and would have looked formidable. But he was not entered in the Davis after spiking a temperature.

A lot of people are going to go with Change of Command. Trained by Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey, Change of Command is likely to be sent away as the favorite. After losing his first three starts, the $1,050,000 auction purchase won a seven-furlong maiden race by 6 1/2 lengths at Gulfstream on Dec. 27.

Change of Command then was game to eke out a neck victory in a 1 1/16-mile allowance race at Gulfstream on Jan. 5. The Kentucky-bred Into Mischief colt will be racing with blinkers for the first time this Saturday.

I’m just not all that enthused to make Charge of Command my top pick at what will probably be a very short price. In his two wins, his Beyer Speed Figures have been 77 and 83. Those figures suggest to me that he is beatable Saturday.

Inasmuch as Agate Road probably is going to be a better price than Charge of Command, I am going with Agate Road as my choice to win the Davis.

Agate Road, like Locked a Pletcher trainee, finished second in Gulfstream’s Dania Beach Stakes at Gulfstream on Jan. 6 in his 2024 debut. The $650,000 auction purchase will be switching back to the dirt Saturday.

At Saratoga last summer in his first career start, Agate Road closed strongly from far off the early pace and lost by a scant nose when second in an off-the-turf maiden race at one mile. That shows that he’s capable of running well on the dirt, though he recorded only a 60 Beyer Speed Figure.

Since Agate Road’s narrow defeat on the dirt, the Kentucky-bred Quality Road colt has been credited with Beyers of 72, 76, 81 and 76, all on the turf.

Below are my Sam F. Davis selections:

1. Agate Road
2. Change of Command
3. Copper Tax
4. West Saratoga


Multiple graded stakes winner Endlessly makes his first 2024 start this Saturday (Feb. 10) in the El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields. The 1 1/8-mile affair will be contested on synthetic footing.

From the rail out, the field of eight is made up of Come Out Fighting, Grogu, Wild Jewels, Arctic Breeze, Old Triangle, Endlessly, Tapalo and Guy Named Joe.

Below are my El Camino Real Derby selections:

1. Endlessly
2. Wild Jewels
3. Tapalo
4. Guy Named Joe

Michael McCarthy trains Endlessly. McCarthy won Santa Anita’s Grade II Santa Monica Stakes last Saturday with Three Witches, a 5-year-old mare who was making her first start since finishing third in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint last Nov. 4.

Last Friday, McCarthy sent out Sweet Azteca for a sparkling 12-length victory in a 6 1/2-furlong allowance/optional claimer at Santa Anita. The 4-year-old filly is expected to make her next start in Santa Anita’s Grade I Beholder Mile on March 9.

Endlessly’s four starts last year all came in one-mile races on the grass. Following a win in a one-mile maiden race at Del Mar on July 30, he won the Grade III Del Mar Juvenile Turf by 2 1/4 lengths at the same trip on Sept. 10.

Next, Endlessly won Santa Anita’s Grade III Zuma Beach Stakes on Oct. 8, again by 2 1/4 lengths. But then his perfect record ended when he ran eighth in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Santa Anita on Nov. 3.

Wild Jewels also has the look of a major player in the El Camino Real Derby. He’s returning to synthetic after finishing fifth in Santa Anita’s California Cup Derby on the grass Jan. 13.

In the hands of high-percentage trainer Steve Specht, Wild Jewels is three for three when racing on synthetic at Golden Gate, with two of those victories coming in stakes races. The California-bred Tamarando gelding won the Golden Nugget Stakes at six furlongs on Nov. 11 and Gold Rush Stakes at one mile on Dec. 2.

Tapalo, Southern California shipper trained by John Sadler, is making his stakes debut in his fifth lifetime start Saturday. He sports an improving Beyer Speed Figure pattern of 58, then 63, then 78, then 80.

Guy Named Joe also is a SoCal invader. Trained by Doug O’Neill, the Kentucky-bred colt by Triple Crown winner American Pharoah is coming off a one-length victory in a one-mile maiden race on Santa Anita’s turf course Dec. 29.

With Golden Gate scheduled to cease racing in June, this will be the last running of the El Camino Real Derby. According to the conditions of the race, the winner “will automatically be given an entrance into the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico. The horse must be nominated to the Triple Crown to be eligible.”


Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes)

 1. 294 National Treasure (18)
 2. 251 White Abarrio (11)
 3. 194 Idiomatic (2)
 4. 192 Senor Buscador
 5. 166 Saudi Crown
 6. 107 Newgrange
 7. 106 Warm Heart
 8.   83 Didia
 9.   52 Speed Boat Beach
10.   45 Goodnight Olive


After being ranked No. 1 last week when receiving 23 first-place votes, Fierceness drops to No. 3 this week after finishing third in the Holy Bull Stakes.

Undefeated Robert B. Lewis Stakes winner Nysos is the new No. 1 this week. He received all but two of the 32 first-place votes.

Muth, who is ranked No. 2, and Maymun, who is just outside the Top 10 at No. 11, each received one first-place vote this week.

Below is the Top 10 in this week’s NTRA Top Three-Year-Old Poll:

Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes)

 1. 318 Nysos (30)
 2. 204 Muth (1)
 3. 177 Fierceness
 4. 169 Track Phantom
 5. 158 Hades
 6. 151 Locked
 7. 127 Mystik Dan
 8.   99 Dornoch
 9.   54 Sierra Leone
10.   38 Timberlake
10.   38 Uncle Heavy

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