It’s the race that defines horse racing, the race that fans of the sport await for months, the race that is history in the making, and the race that can evoke emotions unlike any other race. It’s the Kentucky Derby (GI).
This is the list of my top ten 2012 Kentucky Derby contenders as of March 4.
1. Union Rags: He is by all means deserving of this position. He could not have been any more impressive in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (GII) on February 26 and is absolutely classy. Though his pedigree is not radiating with stamina, Union Rags has shown that he is a sophisticated enough individual to stretch out. This colt clearly loves to run and is absolutely brilliant at doing so. He is being pointed towards the Florida Derby (GI) on March 31. For more on why he is a top Kentucky Derby contender, please click here.
2. El Padrino: I love this colt’s pedigree, which is full of stamina and class. He has been quite impressive on the track, having found the winner’s circle in three of five starts. He showed his heart and resilience in the Risen Star Stakes (GII) on February 25, prevailing by a nose. He has not been as dominant as Union Rags, but he gets the job done and has every right to be considered a top Derby horse. He could run next in the Florida Derby (GI) on March 31 or the Louisiana Derby (GII) on April 1. For more on why he is a top Kentucky Derby contender, please click here.
3. Creative Cause: He tries hard every time and has enough stamina in his pedigree to suggest that Triple Crown distances will not be a problem. He was not extremely impressive in his sophomore debut, but he clearly wanted more ground than seven furlongs. More than likely, he will get back into the swing of things before the first Saturday in May rolls around. He definitely needs to. He could be seen next in the San Felipe Stakes (GII) on March 10. For more on why he is a top Kentucky Derby contender, please click here.
4. Fed Biz: He has been extremely impressive in his last two starts and has nearly everything you could want in a Derby hopeful: talent, beautiful conformation, an advantageous stalking running style, and a pedigree full of stamina. Yet, he lacks graded stakes earnings. He will have his first chance to acquire them in the San Felipe Stakes (GII) on March 10.
5. I’ll Have Another: I am not overly fond of his connections decision to not run the colt until the Santa Anita Derby (GI) on April 7, but his work between races on the Big Cap undercard was very impressive. I find it very beneficial when a horse works between races rather than in the morning, as it gives the work a “race feel” by allowing the horse to work over a track prepared for racing while exercising in front of a crowd. This is especially advantageous for I’ll Have Another, considering the colt will not start again until April 7. He and Fed Biz switched places, due to the fact that Fed Biz galloped out more impressively than I’ll Have Another in their most recent races and that Bob Baffert’s charge is prepping more rigorously. However, they could very easily change positions yet again.
6. Out of Bounds: He needs to grow into himself and mature, but he has plenty of potential. He is absolutely royally bred, being out of a Breeders’ Cup Distaff (GI) winner and by the grade one-winning Discreet Cat. Though he has beautiful bloodlines, they do contain doubt as far as longer distances are concerned. Nonetheless, he is a talented colt. He will also likely be seen next in the San Felipe Stakes (GII) on March 10.
7. American Act: This colt has one of the best Derby pedigrees of any horse on this list and has already proven that he has a great amount of heart. He may only be the winner of one race, but he was extremely impressive in his second-place finish in the San Vicente Stakes (GII).
8. Mark Valeski: He was extremely tough in his runner-up finish behind El Padrino in the Risen Star Stakes (GII), giving the eventual winner everything he had. He also galloped out nearly evenly with the victor, proving that he had plenty left. He has beautiful breeding for the Derby, as he is by a Kentucky Derby runner-up in Proud Citizen and out of a multiple stakes-winning mare over nine furlongs. It is also favorable that his grandsire is Fortunate Prospect, who is also the grandsire of this year's Santa Anita Handicap (GI) winner, Ron the Greek.
9. Bodemeister: His pedigree is glowing with stamina and in his maiden win, he displayed his brilliance by crossing the wire 9 ¼ lengths ahead. American Act’s second-place finish in the San Vicente Stakes (GII) flattered him, making it seem as if Bodemeister will be competitive against graded stakes company. He will need to be in order for him to obtain the necessary graded stakes earnings. His work this morning with Secret Circle was extremely impressive, as he was being held in hand while Secret Circle received more asking and yet still finished ahead of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Sprint and Southwest Stakes (GIII) winner.
10. Paynter: By the Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI)-winning Awesome Again and out of a full sister to the two-time Breeders’ Cup Classic-winning Tiznow, Paynter is indoubtedly bred for ten furlongs. He is also a half-brother to the winner of the 2008 Cinema Handicap (GIII, 9F), Tiz West. Despite the fact that he is bred for stamina, he won his debut at five and one-half furlongs, proving his professionalism. He has a lot of learning to do and history is against him, but I find this colt extremely intriguing and full of potential. According to the Zayat Stables website, he is expected to make his next start in a graded stakes race.
Alpha: He has not been beating much in New York, though the colt who finished third to him in the Withers Stakes (GIII) – Tiger Walk – came back to finish a decent fourth in the Gotham Stakes (GIII). Like I’ll Have Another, he will need to train extremely well, as he may not race again until April 7, though he may run in the Florida Derby (GI) on March 31.
Castaway: He is a very talented colt and looked like he could keep going in his win in the first division of the Southwest Stakes (GIII). By the 2007 Kentucky Derby winner in Street Sense and out of a Storm Cat mare, Castaway is sure to handle the Derby distance.
Gemologist: As an undefeated graded stakes winner, he does not lack talent. However, his times were not spectacular and he did not begin working until February. His most recent move came on March 3, when he breezed five furlongs in 1:00.22 at Palm Meadows Training Center. It was his sharpest work yet, but he needs a good race in him soon. He is likely to run next in either the Tampa Bay Derby (GII) on March 10 or the Rebel Stakes (GII) on March 17.
Hansen: Many may feel that I have him ranked too low, but he does not seem to have much potential to get ten furlongs. Though he is a great grandson of both A.P. Indy, Unbridled, and Storm Cat, his immediate family does not give him much stamina support. His sire, Tapit, has not had much success with siring routers. In fact, he is only sired one grade one winner at ten furlongs, Careless Jewel. Hansen’s dam, Stormy Sunday, never won beyond six furlongs and her dam, Thinkin’strait, never produced a foal capable of winning a race longer than one mile. Nonetheless, Hansen’s victory in the Gotham Stakes (GIII) was nearly exactly what we needed to see from him. Without blinkers, he settled off the pace before drawing clear in the stretch to win by three lengths. He will have to use all the heart he has to continue to stretch out in distance, but he certainly has plenty of heart.
Secret Circle: Despite his pedigree, Secret Circle has not displayed much affinity for a lengthening of distance. It was a step in the right direction when he prevailed in the second division of the eight-furlong Southwest Stakes (GIII), but he drifted out yet again, which may hint that he was growing tired.
Street Life: He is very talented, but I don’t know if he will make it to the Derby, as he is entered to run in an allowance optional claiming at Aqueduct on March 7. He must perform well there and then acquire an abundant amount of graded stakes earnings in his next start in order to even be in consideration for the Kentucky Derby. If this schedule does not pan out, perhaps he could be a threat in one or two of the latter legs of the Triple Crown.
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