Monday, February 20, 2012

Derby Top Ten #4

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.

There are several horses on the honorable mentions list (more than I would like to have), but that only shows that this crop has depth. Several horses labeled as an honorable mention could very well be on the top ten, but I had to make the tough decision to leave them in just the top seventeen. Besides, this is the Derby trail; a horse on the honorable mentions list may be number one someday.

This is the list of my top ten 2012 Kentucky Derby contenders as of February 20.

1. Union Rags: The Fountain of Youth Stakes (GII) in a week will tell us a lot more about him and several others on this list. Depending on how the race turns out, it could greatly alter this list. Union Rags has proved very classy and talented and is, as of now, considered by many to be the most talented colt in the crop. As aforementioned, we will find out much more about Union Rags and many other Kentucky Derby contenders on February 26. For more on why he is a top Kentucky Derby contender, please read my Derby Hopeful article on him here.

2. Discreet Dancer: Perhaps he has distance limitations, or perhaps not. The way he has pulled away effortlessly in his last two races before galloping out impressively suggests that he will be able to plus out. Plus, it is very encouraging that his fourth dam is the dam of Weekend Surprise, who produced the Preakness Stakes (GI, 9.5F)-winning Summer Squall and the Belmont Stakes (GI, 12F)- and Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI, 10F)-winning A.P. Indy. After missing a work due to a spiked temperature, Discreet Dancer returned to the work tab beautifully and is on track for the Fountain of Youth. That race is extremely significant for him: if he does well, he will only reinforce the fact that he is a top Derby contender; if he does not do well, his shot at Derby glory will dwindle. Nonetheless, he is incredibly talented. For more on why he is a top Kentucky Derby contender, please read my Derby Hopeful article on him here.

3. Algorithms: He is definitely talented and though he has not yet been around two turns, his pedigree suggests that that will be no problem at all. In fact, he just might have the best distance pedigree of the top three colts. His performance in the Fountain of Youth should give us a better idea of how much talent and capability he truly has. For more on why he is a top Kentucky Derby contender, please read my Derby Hopeful article on him here.

4. Creative Cause: His race in the San Vicente Stakes (GII) was not spectacular, but he did not run a terrible race. He switched leads a few times throughout the stretch, but it seemed to be as a result of being struck by the whip. He did close well in the final yards and it was only a seven-furlong race. Creative Cause is bred for more ground than that and galloped out far in front of the others. He will likely regain his top form and is certainly one of the top colts of this crop. For more on why he is a top Kentucky Derby contender, please read my Derby Hopeful article on him here.

5. El Padrino: He has shown much aptitude on the track and he is certainly bred for the Derby. Many doubt his ability to win on a fast track, but he has performed well on a track labeled as such, as shown in his debut and third-place finish in the Remsen Stakes (GII). He, unlike his two stablemates above (Discreet Dancer and Algorithms), will run in the Risen Star Stakes (GII) at the Fair Grounds on February 25. For more on why he is a top Kentucky Derby contender, please read my Derby Hopeful article on him here.

6. I’ll Have Another: Though he was a good two-year-old, it seems as if he will be much better as a three-year-old. His victory in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (GII) on February 4 was nothing short of dazzling, but the Santa Anita Park dirt surface can be quite deceiving. Nonetheless, this colt has talent. He will have a chance to solidify his position on this list on April 7 in the Santa Anita Derby (GI).

7. Fed Biz: He is by all means talented and has one of the most impressive pedigrees of all Derby contenders. He will need to quickly garner graded stakes earnings, but as talented as he has appeared in his first two races, that should not be much of a problem. He will have his first chance to obtain graded stakes earnings on March 10 in the San Felipe Stakes (GII).

8. Out of Bounds: He is very green, but he is surely becoming increasingly mature. By Discreet Cat and out of a Breeders’ Cup Distaff (GI) winner, Out of Bounds is certainly royally bred. However, like Discreet Dancer, the fact that he is by Discreet Cat gives room for doubt on whether or not he can get the Derby distance. Yet he is still very talented and it is quite encouraging that the horse he defeated in the Sham Stakes (GIII), Secret Circle, came back to win the second division of the Southwest Stakes (GIII). Out of Bounds will get another prep in the San Felipe Stakes (GII) on March 10.

9. American Act: Though he defeated Bodemeister when he broke his maiden, he took a much longer time than Bodemeister to do so. However, his race in the San Vicente Stakes (GII) on Saturday was extremely impressive and presented him with some graded stakes earnings. It appeared as if Drill would fly right past him, but American Act dug back in and galloped out ahead of Drill. He certainly has heart, which is a necessity in a successful racehorse. Awesome Act is very similarly bred by to the near-Triple Crown-winning Real Quiet, as he is by Quiet American out of female family four mare like the 1998 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner. This female family has produced the most Kentucky Derby winners.

10. Bodemeister: Bob Baffert is very high on this colt, who is named after his son, Bode. He was extremely impressive in his maiden breaker and the fact that the colt who beat him in his debut, American Act, came back to run a huge race in the San Vicente Stakes (GII) is extremely encouraging. Though his connections will likely strive to garner enough graded stakes earnings for the Kentucky Derby, if the colt is unable to acquire a sufficient amount of graded earnings in time, his pedigree suggests that he would be a contender for the third leg of the Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes (GI). Yet, as brilliant as he was in his first start, I would love to see him in the starting gate on the first Saturday of May.

Honorable Mentions:

Alpha: He has not beaten much in his two starts this year and though he ran well without Lasix against Union Rags in the Champagne Stakes (GI) last year, he ran very poorly after acting up in the gate in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI). He was given Lasix for the first time in the Count Fleet Stakes, which he won by two and one-half lengths, and also ran on the drug in the Withers Stakes (GIII). His times have been slow, but that is to be expected on Aqueduct’s inner oval. He will need to be extremely impressive in the Wood Memorial Stakes (GI) on April 7.

Castaway: He could rightfully find a position on the top ten list, as could any horse named on this list of honorable mentions. His win today in Division One of the Southwest Stakes (GIII) was very impressive, as was his maiden victory in January. However, he did not break his maiden until his sixth try. He is certainly getting better and his pedigree undeniably suggests that the Derby distance will not be a problem (he is by the 2007 Kentucky Derby winner, Street Sense, and out of a female family one mare).

Gemologist: With three wins from three starts to his credit, Gemologist has clearly already proven his talent. However, his times have not been incredibly impressive. He has a beautiful pedigree, though, and is taking a similar path as Super Saver to the Derby. He could be seen next in the Rebel Stakes (GII) or the Tampa Bay Derby (GII) in March.

Hansen: It cannot be denied that Hansen is gifted, but he will need to prove that he can get the distance and be as impressive of a sophomore as he was a juvenile. He won’t be sporting the colors of his silks in his mane and tail in the Gotham Stakes (GIII) on March 3, but he will need to attest that he can continue his brilliance.

Paynter: If he had not made his debut so late, there is a very good chance that he would be ranked on my top ten list and quite highly. He debuted on Saturday at Santa Anita, closing from the back of the pack to sweep by the leaders. As he drew away to win by 4 ¼ lengths, he shook his head as if something was bothering his ear, but continued to professionally gallop away to an easy victory. Bob Baffert told HRTV that his foretop came unbraided and flew into his ear, which bothered the colt. By the Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI)-winning Awesome Again and out of a full sister to the two-time Breeders’ Cup Classic-winning Tiznow, Paytner should have no problem with a stretch out in distance. However, he will have to quickly earn a plentiful amount of graded stakes earnings to make it to the Kentucky Derby. I really hope he does, as this colt has definitely impressed me.

Secret Circle: When he broke his maiden as a two-year-old, I declared him my Derby horse. He proved extremely speedy and even went on to win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint. It was disappointing to see him finish second in the one-mile Sham Stakes (GIII) in January and I knew that the colt needed to prove that he could settle and stretch out. In Division Two of the Southwest Stakes (GIII) today, he settled beautifully before proving tough in the stretch to draw away to a victory. He still has an issue with drifting out in the stretch, which may hint that he is getting tired down the straightaway. Still, he proved that he is improving today as far as settling and routing goes. It also must be noted that Secret Circle ran the second division of the Southwest a full second faster than his stablemate, Castaway.

Street Life: With a pedigree that screams Kentucky Derby and an impressive maiden victory, Street Life has unquestionably earned a label as a Kentucky Derby contender. Like several other talented horses, he will need to rush to acquire graded stakes earnings. 

Louisville, the city of the Kentucky Derby.
Photo: Terri Cage
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