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.
This is the list of my top ten 2012 Kentucky Derby contenders as of February 12.
1. Union Rags: He has without a doubt earned his position as the top horse on this list. He is extremely talented and classy, but just needs to mature a little. I believe he has done so over the winter and will come back strong in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (GII) on February 26. By Dixie Union and out of a Gone West mare, he is bred for distance and has already shown in his races that he seems to be capable of stretching out. We will know more after the Fountain of Youth. For more on why he is a top Derby contender, please read my Derby Hopeful article on him here.
2. Discreet Dancer: I will not knock him greatly for a fever, though he must maintain good health from now on in order to be ranked so highly. In addition, he needs to show that he can stretch out and compete against graded stakes company. However, the fact that his fourth dam, Lassie Dear, is the dam of Weekend Surprise and that his grandsire is Gone West is encouraging. This colt is absolutely brilliant and is still on track for the Fountain of Youth. I am very excited about him. For more on why Discreet Dancer is a top Derby contender, please read my Derby Hopeful article on him here.
3. Algorithms: He could very well be ranked first or second, but I will keep him in third for now. The top four horses on this list are very closely ranked and each could rightfully take their position at the pinnacle, but I am eagerly waiting to see more from them. Algorithms is an incredibly talented colt with a brilliant pedigree and remarkable conformation to go along with his racing aptitude. He will also likely make his next start in the Fountain of Youth. For more on why he is a top Derby contender, please read my Derby Hopeful article on him here.
4. Creative Cause: He has already proven himself on the track and his pedigree suggests that distance will not be an issue. He could not quite keep up with Hansen and Union Rags at Churchill Downs in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI), but he still ran tenaciously and his maturity level has likely risen since then. All we can do now is await his sophomore debut in the San Vicente Stakes (GII) at Santa Anita on February 19. For more on why he is a top Derby contender, please read my Derby Hopeful article on him here.
5. I’ll Have Another: His race in the Three Chimneys Hopeful Stakes (GI) at Saratoga last year can be thrown out, as it was over a sloppy track and he came out of it with an injury that kept him sidelined for five months. Other than the Hopeful, I’ll Have Another has great form. His race in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (GII), in which he crossed the wire victoriously by nearly three lengths, was very impressive. Furthermore, his pedigree is quite promising as far as distance is concerned. He has doubters to prove wrong, but he has a chance to do so in the Santa Anita Derby (GI) on April 7.
6. El Padrino: He is capable of sitting off the pace and has a beautiful pedigree, both of which are important advantages. However, he has only won in the mud and both of those races were very impressive. Yet, he has had good showings on a fast track: a game second-place finish in his debut at Saratoga and a good third-place effort in the Remsen Stakes (GII) at Aqueduct. He’ll need to prove that he can win on a fast track against graded stakes company, but he has impressed me greatly and I am eager to see how he will do. He could make his next start in the Risen Star Stakes (GII) at the Fair Grounds on February 25.
7. Fed Biz: After a fourth-place finish in his debut at Hollywood Park, Fed Biz remarkably broke his maiden at Santa Anita Park at the end of December. I kept him in consideration for this list, but I wanted to see more from him. After his impressive allowance victory on February 9, I couldn’t help myself and allowed him to not only jump onto the list, but to land in seventh. In that allowance optional claiming triumph, he broke from the outside and found his position off the frontrunner, rating beautifully under Rafael Bejarano. He made a notable move around the far turn, galloping down the stretch on the wrong lead before finally changing leads and crossing the wire 5 ¾ lengths in front. A $950,000 yearling, Fed Biz is by the 2000 Horse of the Year and two-time leading sire, Giant’s Causeway, and out of the stakes-winning mare Spunoutacontrol, who is a half-sister to the graded stakes-winning and successful sire, Tale of the Cat. Fed Biz’s third dam, Narrate, is a Reine De Course mare who produced the grade one-winning dam of Pulpit. He is definitely a legitimate Derby contender.
8. Alpha: Trainer Kieran McLaughlin has opted to skip the Gotham Stakes (GIII) on March 3 and instead point to the Wood Memorial Stakes (GI) on April 7. He has been quite impressive in his two most recent starts and many have decided to throw out his dull effort in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI), in which it has been said that he bled. He’ll have to run extremely well in the Wood, which will likely attract other classy horses, as he has not beaten much in his Aqueduct victories and has been finishing in unpretentious times.
9. Out of Bounds: As a very tall, long-legged colt, Out of Bounds is still growing into himself. He was a bit green while winning the Sham Stakes (GIII) and will need to learn to commit to passing other horses in the stretch, but he is by all means talented and has a royal pedigree. He will likely race next in San Felipe Stakes (GII) at Santa Anita.
10. Bodemeister: He’s bred to run all day with the Belmont Stakes (GI, 12F)-winning Empire Maker as his sire and the graded stakes-winning Storm Cat mare Untouched Talent as his dam. After his impressive 9 ¼-length victory on Saturday, Bodemeister burst onto the Derby scene. Named after Bob Baffert’s son, Bode, Bodemeister was absolutely brilliant in his maiden win, leading from start to finish in an outstanding final time of 1:34.45 for a mile. He finished the final sixteenth of a mile in a very impressive 11.35 seconds despite being held in hand by Rafael Bejarano late. He’ll need to hurry to obtain graded stakes earnings, but he is nothing short of brilliant.
Gemologist: Undefeated in three career starts, this colt clearly has racing aptitude. His times are not spectacular, but his pedigree suggests that he will run all day. He is taking a Super Saver-esque path to the Derby, as his final start as a juvenile was the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (GII) and he is pointing towards either the Rebel Stakes (GII) or the Tampa Bay Derby (GII) in March.
Hansen: He has undeniable talent and heart. Though his race in the Holy Bull Stakes (GIII) was disappointing, we cannot forget his incredible juvenile career. Nonetheless, his sire, Tapit, is mostly successful with two-year-olds and though he has produced talented two-turn horses, he is not labeled a classic distance sire. Therefore, he will need to prove himself in the Gotham Stakes (GIII) on March 3 in order to stay in contention for the Kentucky Derby.
Secret Circle: Plain and simple, this horse loves to run. Despite his pedigree, he may have distance limitations, but I think that’s a result of some growing up he needs to do. He is definitely talented, but he needs to show that he can handle two turns. Secret Circle could be seen next in the San Vicente Stakes (GII) at Santa Anita on February 19.
Street Life: By the Kentucky Derby-winning Street Sense and out of a mare that is by the Kentucky Derby-winning Grindstone, this colt is without a doubt bred for the Kentucky Derby. He dropped many jaws on Saturday when he broke his maiden at Aqueduct, making a breathtaking move from the back of the pack to take the race by 2 ½ lengths. He showed much agility in the stretch, dodging horses before drawing off without urging from Junior Alvarado.
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