Ranking the Kentucky Derby Workouts

By J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman") @J_Keelerman

Thanks to a new livestreaming service provided by Churchill Downs, racing fans across the country have been able to tune in and watch as the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks contenders turn in their morning workouts and gallops at Churchill Downs. To help sort out all the details and get a better feel for which horses are training best, here are my thoughts on the final pre-race workouts from nine Derby contenders, ranked in order from least impressive to most impressive:

9. Mr. Z

Five furlongs in 1:01 flat

Mr. Z worked in company with Majestico on April 22nd, breaking off about a length behind his workmate while running on the outside. He reached even terms with his companion early on the far turn, but had to be encouraged to keep up in the homestretch and was left behind by Majesico on the gallop-out. It’s worth noting that the final quarter-mile of Mr. Z’s work was timed in a sharp :23 3/5, but judging from the comments made by trainer D. Wayne Lukas and owner Ahmed Zayat, this may not have been the kind of workout they were looking for.

8. Far Right

Four furlongs in :49 flat

Worked by himself on April 24th and clocked a solid time, finishing straight as an arrow down the homestretch through a final quarter-mile in :24 4/5 before galloping out another furlong in :14 flat. However, it should be noted that he has been rather rank in his gallops, carrying his head high and tossing it while fighting his rider’s restraint. This is a colt that wants to do more than just gallop, which is a good thing from some perspectives, but also something to keep in mind on Derby day, where any rankness could cause Far Right to wind up too close to the early pace.

7. Keen Ice

Five furlongs in 1:01 3/5

Keen Ice made a nice visual impression during his work on April 25th, starting off sharply with an opening furlong in :11 4/5 and three-eighths in :36 while staying very close to the turn, but slowed down through a final quarter-mile in :25 3/5 while under light urging. He continued to be urged while galloping out another furlong in :14 flat, but given that his racing style is to drop way behind early on, it’s not surprising that he seemed to be tiring after the fast opening fractions.

6. Danzig Moon

Four furlongs in :48 4/5

After a faster-than-planned breeze on April 18th, in which he worked five furlongs under urging in :58 flat while being beaten to the wire by his workmate, Danzig Moon had a much more modest work on April 24th. Once again working in company, Danzig Moon breezed outside of his workmate and finished well under little urging, clocking the final quarter-mile in :23 4/5 before galloping out in front of his companion through another furlong in :13 flat. It was nice to see him more relaxed this time around, and he seems to have taken to the track very well.

5. Itsaknockout

Four furlongs in :48 flat

Worked in company with stablemate Materiality on April 24th and more than held his own, actually getting his head down on the wire first while being urged ever so slightly in the final yards of the breeze. The clockers at Churchill timed the final furlong in :12 2/5. This work was especially impressive given that Itsaknockout worked outside of Materiality and galloped out another quarter-mile in :26 3/5 on even terms with the Florida Derby winner, albeit while under slightly more urging.

4. Materiality

Four furlongs in :48 flat

As mentioned above, Materiality breezed on even terms with Itsaknockout on April 24th, and while he did have the advantage of racing closer to the rail, he was also urged less on the gallop-out. It’s splitting hairs to say which colt had the better workout, but I’ll give the edge to Materiality.

3. Tencendur

Five furlongs in 1:00 flat

Went out early in the morning on April 25th and breezed in company, flashing good early speed to post fractions of :11 3/5, :23 2/5, and :35 2/5 before finishing the final quarter-mile in :24 3/5 and galloping out another furlong in :14 flat. For what it’s worth, he actually bumped several times with his workmate at the top of the homestretch but didn’t seem fazed, which could be a helpful characteristic in the Kentucky Derby.

2. Stanford

Four furlongs in :48 2/5

Cruised a half-mile in company with Madefromlucky on April 24th and easily got the better of his rival, staying close to the rail on the turn and finishing under no urging to cross the wire a length in front of his much-encouraged stablemate. Best of all, Stanford clocked the final quarter-mile in :24 1/5 and galloped out another quarter-mile in a sharp :25 1/5 while leaving Madefromlucky far behind. He’s in for a stiff challenge in the Kentucky Derby, but off of this workout, I wouldn’t dismiss him from consideration.

1. American Pharoah

Five furlongs in :58 2/5

The expected Derby favorite looked effortless while posting a bullet workout on April 26th, powering through fractions of :11 2/5, :23, and :34 3/5 while racing several paths out from the rail before finishing the work under no urging and galloping out six furlongs in 1:11 2/5 and seven furlongs in 1:27. Visually, this workout was as impressive as they come, and his time was the fastest of the morning at that distance by a massive 1.20 seconds. He’s clearly maintaining his form and handling the track at Churchill extremely well, and barring an unforeseen setback—like drawing post position one—I think American Pharoah is going to win the Kentucky Derby.


In order to aid in handicapping the Derby, here is a current list of the top 21 Derby contenders, along with the replays of their last three races. Also, here are links to the Kentucky Derby prep race schedule and the complete entries and current standings for our "Road to the Kentucky Derby" Handicapping Challenge. Enjoy the racing!

Horse Points Last race
International Star 171

1st Louisiana Derby (gr. II) (VIDEO)
1st Risen Star Stakes (gr. II) (VIDEO)
1st LeComte Stakes (gr. III) (VIDEO)

Dortmund 170 1st Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) (VIDEO)
1st San Felipe Stakes (gr. II) (VIDEO)
1st Robert B. Lewis Stakes (gr. III) (VIDEO)
Carpe Diem 164 1st Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) (VIDEO)
1st Tampa Bay Derby (gr. II) (VIDEO)
2nd Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) (VIDEO)
American Pharoah 160 1st Arkansas Derby (gr. I) (VIDEO)
1st Rebel Stakes (gr. II) (VIDEO)
1st FrontRunner Stakes (gr. I) (VIDEO)
Frosted 113 1st Wood Memorial (gr. I) (VIDEO)
4th Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II) (VIDEO)
2nd Holy Bull Stakes (gr. III) (VIDEO)
Mubtaahij 100 1st UAE Derby (UAE-II) (VIDEO)
1st Al Bastakiya Stakes (replay posted below)
2nd UAE 2,000 Guineas (UAE-III) (replay posted below)
Materiality 100 1st Florida Derby (gr. I) (VIDEO)
1st Islamorada Handicap (gr. II) (VIDEO)
1st Maiden Special Weight (VIDEO)
El Kabeir 95 3rd Wood Memorial (gr. I) (VIDEO)
1st Gotham Stakes (gr. III) (VIDEO)
2nd Withers Stakes (gr. III) (VIDEO)
Upstart 76 2nd Florida Derby (gr. I) (VIDEO)
2nd (DQ'd from 1st) Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II) (VIDEO)
1st Holy Bull Stakes (gr. III) (VIDEO)
Far Right 62 2nd Arkansas Derby (gr. I) (VIDEO)
1st Southwest Stakes (gr. III) (VIDEO)
1st Smarty Jones Stakes (VIDEO)
Itsaknockout 60 4th Florida Derby (gr. I) (VIDEO)
1st (via DQ) Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II) (VIDEO)
1st Allowance Optional Claiming (VIDEO)
Firing Line 58

1st Sunland Derby (gr. III) (VIDEO)
2nd Robert B. Lewis Stakes (gr. III) (VIDEO)
2nd Los Alamitos Futurity (gr. I) (VIDEO)

Danzig Moon 45 2nd Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) (VIDEO)
4th Tampa Bay Derby (gr. II) (VIDEO)
1st Maiden Special Weight (VIDEO)
War Story 44 3rd Louisiana Derby (gr. II) (VIDEO)
2nd Risen Star Stakes (gr. II) (VIDEO)
2nd LeComte Stakes (gr. III) (VIDEO)
Tencendur 41 2nd Wood Memorial (gr. I) (VIDEO)
5th Gotham Stakes (gr. III) (VIDEO)
4th Withers Stakes (gr. III) (VIDEO)
Stanford 40 2nd Louisiana Derby (gr. II) (VIDEO)
2nd Islamorada Handicap (VIDEO)
1st Allowance Optional Claiming (VIDEO)
Mr. Z 34 3rd Arkansas Derby (gr. I) (VIDEO)
9th Louisiana Derby (gr. II) (VIDEO)
3rd Southwest Stakes (gr. III) (VIDEO)
Ocho Ocho Ocho 30 3rd Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) (VIDEO)
8th San Felipe Stakes (gr. II) (VIDEO)
1st Delta Downs Jackpot Stakes (gr. III) (VIDEO)
Bolo 30 3rd Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) (VIDEO)
3rd San Felipe Stakes (gr. II) (VIDEO)
1st Eddie Logan Stakes (VIDEO)
Keen Ice 22 4th Louisiana Derby (gr. II) (VIDEO)
4th Risen Star Stakes (gr. II) (VIDEO)
5th Holy Bull Stakes (gr. III) (VIDEO)
Frammento 20 4th Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) (VIDEO)
3rd Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II) (VIDEO)
6th Holy Bull Stakes (gr. III) (VIDEO)

Al Bastakiya Stakes

UAE 2,000 Guineas (UAE-III)

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