Monday, February 6, 2012

Derby Top Ten #2

The most anticipated race of the year is the Kentucky Derby (GI). As soon as the race is over, many already begin thinking about the next year’s running. There is no doubt about it; the Kentucky Derby is the greatest two minutes in sports.
Some things have changed since my first Derby Top Ten on January 29, and some have stayed the same. This is the list of my top ten 2012 Kentucky Derby contenders as of February 6.
1. Union Rags: This colt has pure talent. He needs to learn to run straight in the stretch, but he’s likely matured in the past few months. With undeniable talent, incredible conformation, and a solid pedigree, Union Rags rightfully deserves the top position on this list. He is working towards a start in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (GII) at Gulfstream Park on February 26. For more on why he is a top Derby contender, please click here.
2. Discreet Dancer: He is freakishly talented and though there is room for doubt on whether he can get the distance or not, there is also plenty in his pedigree that suggests he can be a distance horse. For instance, his grandsire is Gone West and his fourth dam produced Weekend Surprise, the dam of A.P. Indy and Summer Squall. He could very well be seen next in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (GII) at Gulfstream Park on February 26. For more on why he is a top Derby contender, please click here.
3. Algorithms: The more I study him, the more I’m impressed by him. He is by one of the top sires in Bernardini and has a very strong dam side as well. Plus, his performances on the track have been nothing short of impressive. He has not been around two turns yet, but his pedigree hints that he will have no issue with two-turn races. He is also pointing towards the Fountain of Youth Stakes (GII) at Gulfstream on February 26.
4. Creative Cause: He’s a hard-knocking colt that always tries. Plus, each time he’s won, he’s shown that he can be absolutely brilliant. He’s not undefeated, but he’s done nothing wrong. In addition, his pedigree suggests that distance will not be a problem for him. He is expected to make his sophomore debut on February 19 in the San Vicente Stakes (GII) at Santa Anita Park.
5. I’ll Have Another: This colt seems to have turned a new page. As a two-year-old, he won a maiden special weight at Hollywood Park before finishing a good second to Creative Cause in the Best Pal Stakes (GII). He then shipped east to run in the Three Chimneys Hopeful Stakes (GI) at Saratoga, finishing sixth in the mud and coming out of the race with a shin injury. He did not start for five months, reappearing in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (GII) at Santa Anita. At 43-1, he impressively won the race by 2 ¾ lengths, leaving behind him the full brother to the 2011 Champion Three-Year-Old Filly – Royal Delta – in Empire Way, the grade one-placed Rousing Sermon, and the grade one-winning Liaison, who dropped the rider in the stretch after clipping heels. He showed ability to settle off the pace in the Lewis and drew off impressively, running the final sixteenth of a mile in 6.32 seconds in an impressive official clocking of 1:40.84 for a mile and one-sixteenth. He is by the Travers Stakes (GI, 10F)-winning Flower Alley and out of an Arch – the sire of Blame – mare. With that and the fact that he is inbred 4 X 4 to both Mr. Prospector and Danzig, he should handle a stretch out in distance well.
6. El Padrino: He has a great running style for the Derby (sitting off the pace) and though I was unsure what to think of him at first, I really like him now that I’ve looked into him more.  After finishing second in his debut, he won a maiden special weight in the slop at Belmont Park by an impressive 12 ¾ lengths. After a very good third-place finish in the Remsen Stakes (GII) at Aqueduct, El Padrino brilliantly defeated the talented Take Charge Indy in the mud at Gulfstream Park in a mile and one-sixteenth allowance. Considering he is by Pulpit – a son of A.P. Indy – and out of a Giant’s Causeway mare that is a half-sister to a mare who won a grade two at ten furlongs, it seems as if El Padrino is capable of the Derby distance. It certainly doesn’t hurt that his fourth dam – Remedia – is a Reine De Course mare who produced the grade one-winning dam of Chic Shirine – winner of the Ashland Stakes (GI, 8.5F) – and the three-time grade one-winning Queena. He could race next in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (GII) on February 26 at Gulfstream.
7. Alpha: He has only been out of the money once in his career and that is when he finished eleventh in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI). Yet, it has been said that he bled in the Breeders’ Cup. Since that disappointing finish, the son of the Preakness Stakes (GI, 9.5F)- and Travers Stakes (GI,10F)-winning Bernardini has won two stakes in New York by a combined winning margin of 5 ¾ lengths. His most recent win came on Saturday in the Withers Stakes (GIII), in which he covered the last sixteenth of a mile in 6.51 seconds for a final time of 1:44.23 for a mile and one-sixteenth. With Bernardini as his sire and a Nijinksy II mare as his dam, Alpha should have no problem with distance. He will stay in New York and could be seen next in the Gotham Stakes (GIII) on March 3 or the Wood Memorial Stakes (GI) on April 7.
8. Out of Bounds: He has plenty of learning to do, but he clearly has talent. Like Discreet Dancer, the fact that Discreet Cat is his sire puts some distance doubts into the picture, but he has plenty on his dam side that suggest he may be able to route. He has been working very well at Hollywood Park for trainer Eoin Harty and should race next in the San Felipe Stakes (GII) on March 10 at Santa Anita.
9. Hansen: Everyone knows this colt is brilliant, but it is a necessity that he learns how to relax. In order to last in the Derby, he will need to learn to settle. Though defeated in the Holy Bull Stakes (GIII) last out, Hansen should still be considered when the top three-year-olds are concerned. He will likely make his next start in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (GII) on February 26 at Gulfstream.
10. Gemologist: It certainly helps him that he already has two wins over the Churchill Downs dirt surface. He also faced one of the most highly-touted juvenile maiden winners of 2011 in Ever So Lucky, battling him down the stretch before drawing clear to win the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (GII). After several weeks without posting an official work, the Todd Pletcher trainee worked for the first time as a sophomore on Sunday, breezing three furlongs in 39.88. He will need to step up the training regimen and his times on the track.
Dropped off the list:
This colt was ranked fifth on my first Derby Top Ten, but after his start in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (GII) on Saturday, I decided to take him out of the top ten. He may have not been able to finish since he clipped heels and lost the jockey, but he wouldn’t have won regardless. He was dropping back around the far turn as it was. He is still a nice colt, but he will have to prove himself again to regain a position in the top ten.
Rousing Sermon: Ranked sixth on my initial top ten, I dropped him off the list after he ran an uninspiring third in the Lewis, in which he actually crossed the wire in fourth but was bumped up into third when Groovin’ Solo was disqualified. He seems to be one of those that always tries but rarely gets up in time.
Secret Circle: I still have faith in him, but he needs to prove that he can relax and get the distance. He relaxed in the Sham but could not hold off Out of Bounds. He is bred for distance, but obviously has a need for speed. Though fast works are usually promising, I find the fact that Secret Circle’s last few works have been very quick discouraging, as Bob Baffert has been trying to get him to relax. He is talented without a doubt, but I’d like to see him relax more and carry his speed over longer distances.

Churchill Downs: Home of the Kentucky Derby
Photo: Terri Cage

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