Authentic winning the Sham (G3) at Santa Anita Park - © Benoit Photo

Authentic winning the Sham (G3) at Santa Anita Park – © Benoit Photo

The new year is underway and the Road to the 2020 Kentucky Derby has already taken a few interesting twists.

At the close of 2019, Honor A. P. sat atop my Kentucky Derby Top 10 rankings, but a training setback forced him to miss the Jan. 4 Sham Stakes (G3) at Santa Anita Park. Since it’s unclear how long he’ll be out of action, I have at least temporarily removed him from my list.

I have also chosen to drop Independence Hall. Although he was victorious in Aqueduct’s Jerome Stakes on New Year’s Day, he once again raced greenly and wasn’t as dominant as in the Nashua (G3). He’ll need to develop a more professional attitude to racing if he’s going to remain a key contender for the 2020 Kentucky Derby.

Dropping Honor A. P. and Independence Hall has made room for a couple of new names, including Authentic, who capitalized on Honor A. P.’s absence to crush the Sham.

Here’s how my Top 10 is shaping up to start the new year.

1. Anneau d’Or

Anneau d’Or inherits my top spot, following Honor A. P.’s setback. This colt is bred for stamina and has been competitive against top company but needs to work on finishing off his rallies. He hasn’t yet shown the competitive fire to dig deep and pass rivals when it counts.

2. Thousand Words

One of several promising colts from the always-dangerous barn of Bob Baffert, he breezed a half-mile in :47 2/5 on Jan. 6, but next-race plans are still unannounced. The Feb. 1 Robert B. Lewis (G3) could be a logical target.

3. Maxfield

A finalist for champion 2-year-old male at the Eclipse Awards, Maxfield is back in light training, according to the Daily Racing Form. His powerful triumph in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) was the most visually impressive performance from a juvenile in 2019.

4. Dennis’ Moment

The form of his Iroquois (G3) victory continues to take hits, as fifth-place finisher Rowdy Yates disappointed in the Remington Springboard Mile. With his flashes of brilliance and moments of struggles, Dennis’ Moment is becoming one of the toughest Derby contenders to get a clear read on.

5. Storm the Court

He returned to the work tab in December and has already posted three workouts, including five furlongs in 1:01 3/5 on Jan. 5. He’s expected to be named champion 2-year-old male at the Eclipse Awards, increasing the pressure for this son of Court Vision to prove his Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1)triumph wasn’t a fluke.

6. Authentic

Authentic dominated the Sham, even though he raced greenly down the homestretch. His pedigree is questionable for the Derby distance, and he needs to improve his mental game, but his :12.12 penultimate furlong in the Sham was terrific. He was really motoring until he started spooking at the crowd.

7. Eight Rings

Baffert’s most accomplished juvenile is getting some time off, with an eye on running twice prior to the Kentucky Derby, a strategy that has worked for eight of the last 13 Derby winners. Eight Rings already has a solid foundation, and Baffert is a master at prepping horses for peak efforts off workouts and limited racing.

8. Tiz the Law

He fired off five furlongs in 1:00 4/5 on Jan. 5 at Palm Meadows. He never had a fair chance when he finished third with an awkward trip in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) and will try to bounce back in the Holy Bull (G3) on Feb. 1 at Gulfstream Park.

9. Dieu du Vin

Japanese raiders Lani and Master Fencer outran expectations during their Triple Crown campaigns, and they weren’t even the best members of their foal crops. If/when a division leader from Japan makes the trip to Churchill Downs—and Dieu du Vin certainly ranks high up the pecking order with his victory in the Cattleya Sho—victory will be within reach.

10. As Seen On Tv

The final spot on my list is essentially a tie between Chance It and As Seen On Tv, who finished a head apart in a fast renewal of the Mucho Macho Man Stakes at Gulfstream. I’ll give the nod to the runner-up, a stoutly bred son of Lookin At Lucky. As Seen On Tv stayed closer to the fast pace and raced wide, while Chance It settled behind and snuck through on the rail turning for home. I believe As Seen On Tv ran the better race and might have more upside.