I've been going to the races and following the horses since before I can honestly remember. For example, my best recollection of being in the stands for Secretariat's amazing run in the Belmont was not the race, but the stands shaking so much beneath my feet. Quite an experience for a little guy who just turned 4! Two of my favorite fellow handicappers are my brother and my father. My one year old daughter is already showing signs of loving the horses :>) My favorites...how about Wajima, Spectacular Bid, Fancy Naskra, Five Star Flight, Christmas Past, Princess Rooney, Lady's Secret, With Approval, Paradise Creek, Sunday Silence, Unbridled, Skip Away, Free House. Musket Man and Rachel Alexandra, just to name a few.
An-tic-i-pa-tion is keeping me waiting…17 weeks until the Kentucky Derby!
As you know, Zipse at the Track will fill out the Kentucky Derby starting gate with 20 horses, in three categories, to keep your Winter book eyes on.The Big 8 will include the eight horses I feel the most likely to wincome the first Saturday in May. The Hidden Dragons will include the horses laying in wait and ready to breathe fire in the near future, and the Forget Me Nots category will feature those horses that may not be currently on the forefront of anyone’s mind, but are eligible to be there, with one solid race. I will unveil the categories one at a time to begin, and after that, they will form a Top 20 list all the way to the Derby. This week, the…
1 Take Control (A.P. Indy - Azeri by Jade Hunter)
Bang. Zoom! In the 12 seconds it took for Take Control to run like a horse- a-fire the final furlong of a recent Santa Anita maiden race, he went from a fascination to a budding star. The first foal of three-year champion, Azeri can run, and he showed it with a flourish. He was boxed-in, stuck on the rail, well off a slow pace, and running very greenly, when suddenly he was maneuvered out for clear sailing and exploded as if he was equipped with a jet pack. Soon after the wire, the Baffert trainee was seven lengths ahead of the field. He has all the look of a horse in need of the Derby distance and he may be that rare horse who turns out to be as good as his breeding suggests.
2 Awesome Act (Awesome Again - Houdini‘s Honey by Mr. Prospector)
Do you remember the horse who was absolutely flying down the middle of the Santa Anita lawn in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf? His name was Awesome Act and he only was fourth that day, but his stretch run was impressive enough to think this colt may be the real deal. The bad news is the English based horse has never run on dirt in his six starts, but the good news is that he is bred to be better on dirt than turf. After his flying finish at Santa Anita, I expect his connections will be eager to get him to America again and ultimately on to Louisville.
3 Tiz Chrome (Tiznow - Woodland Shadow by Woodman)
He has only sprinted so far, but the son of Tiznow has displayed a whole lot to like. Tiz Chrome has the breeding to go long, the talent to win a stakes soon and the looks to dazzle. Purchased after his maiden win at Churchill, the big colt was shipped to California and under the new care of Bob Baffert, scored another sharp victory. He has already proven he can win on dirt and synthetics and will be well liked when moves up into stakes company over a route of ground. If the Kentucky Derby was merely a beauty contest, he would be one of the major players.
4 Rule (Roman Ruler - Rockcide by Personal Flag)
How can a two-time stakes winner of more than half a million dollars still be on the Hidden Dragon list? When you win both of your stakes at the small track Delta Downs that’s how. Part of the powerhouse WinStar contingent and trained by Todd Pletcher, the son of Roman Ruler has solid experience and has continuously improved in his five starts. He has quality throughout his breeding that is a good cross of speed and distance. Rule will have to prove that he can compete against big time competition in the near future, but so far so good.
5 Clutch Player (Malibu Moon - Riverkeeper by Awesome Again)
Are you starting to get the idea that Mr. Baffert is absolutely loaded with potential Derby horses? Me too. This son of the emerging A.P. Indy stallion, has only one six furlong maiden race to date, but it was a most impressive debut, easily winning in fast time. What makes it all the more interesting is that this colt is not bred to sprint, but rather to excel at distances of nine furlongs and up. You never know until they stretch out, but much like his stablemate Take Control, Clutch Player’s second start will be watched very intently.
6 Dryfly (Jump Start - Creeksider by Topsider)
The Lynn Whiting trained gelding has three races to date; two were good and one was not. Also a grandson of the great sire A.P. Indy, Dryfly rebounded from a dreadful performance on the East Coast to win a sharp allowance race in early November. The first out winner was quite impressive and the fact that the race was at Churchill Downs doesn’t hurt. His breeding looks a little questionable at first glance, but you do not have to go back very far to see solid classic influences. His race over the Churchill strip was good enough to forgive his second start for now and maybe Whiting has a little more Lil E Tee magic in him.