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.
Visit the 2011 Kentucky Derby page for all the latest info on contenders, rankings, Derby trail, future odds and more, and remember to follow ZATT daily on Horse Racing Nation. It's only ten weeks away, and new contenders are rising fast, while the pretenders are falling by the wayside. Saturday features an excellent prep from Gulfstream Park, as To Honor and Serve makes his sophomore debut in the grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes. Next week we'll head to the Big Apple for the Gotham Stakes. Remember, this time of year allows little room for missteps as connections jockey their horses for position in the Derby starting gate. Looking ahead to the big day, I have ranked my most likely to wear the roses. Here they are...
The Sweet 16
1. Uncle Mo (Indian Charlie-Playa Maya, by Arch) Todd Pletcher - Not crazy about the decision to have the first of only two preps at one-turn, but in the end I will trust Pletcher to do what’s best with the best three-year-old in the nation.
2. To Honor and Serve (Bernardini-Pilfer, by Deputy Minister) Bill Mott- Flattered by Mucho Macho Man‘s win in the Risen Star. The Fountain of Youth will be a fair test to see where he is in 2011, and to see his ratability.
3. Mucho Macho Man (Macho Uno-Ponche de Leona, by Ponche) Katherine Ritvo - Big lanky colt seems to be on the trail of putting things together. He will need to keep improving to win the Derby, but I can see that improvement continuing to come.
4. Dialed In (Mineshaft-Miss Doolittle, by Storm Cat) Nick Zito - Two races down and they were both full of promise. I need to see what his come from behind style will look like around two-turns to consider him one of the Derby favorites.
5. Sway Away (Afleet Alex-Seatlle Shimmer, by Seattle Slew) Jeff Bonde - His broodmare sire won the Triple Crown. His sire almost won it. Can’t wait to see this impressive colt run a route of ground.
6. Brethren (Distorted Humor-Supercharger, by A.P. Indy) Todd Pletcher - Following in the footsteps of his big brother, he will contest the Tampa Bay Derby next. He has done nothing to dissuade confidence in him.
7. Alternation (Distorted Humor-Alternate, by Seattle Slew) Donnie Von Hemel - My top dark horse right now. Breeding is great, and I love the way he looks down the stretch of his races. Acid test should come in the Rebel.
8. Santiva (Giant's Causeway-Slide, by Smarten) Eddie Kenneally - Finished 2010 with a nice stakes win at Churchill, and began this year with a solid 2nd to Mucho Macho Man. Improvement next time out will put him right in the argument as a major threat.
9. Premier Pegasus (Fusaichi Pegasus-Squall Linda, by Summer Squall) Myung Cho- A little out on the limb on this one, but I think the San Vicente will do him a world of good. I have always thought that PrePeg will appreciate longer distances.
10. Jaycito (Victory Gallop-Night Edition, by Ascot Knight) Bob Baffert - A bit of a mystery horses for several reasons, but Baffert thinks he is beginning to come around. Bred to do well on the First Saturday in May.
11. Stay Thirsty (Bernardini-Marozia, by Storm Bird) Todd Pletcher - Been knocking heads with stablemate Mo in the mornings, and looking good doing it. Debut in the Gotham should tell us a lot about his ability to move forward this year.
12. Anthony's Cross (Indian Charlie-Screening, by Unbridled) Eoin Harty - This one could continue to surprise people. Likes Churchill Downs and really seems to be coming to hand for a very capable horseman.
13. Soldat (War Front-Le Relais, by Coronado's Quest) Kiaran McLaughlin - Turf, check. Slop, check. What can he do on a dry dirt surface. We should have an answer when he tangles with the #2 on Saturday.
14. Rogue Romance (Smarty Jones-Lovington, by Afleet) Ken McPeek - Not sold on him as a true ten furlong horse, but his races are just good enough to include on this list. I will need to see improvement in the Louisiana Derby though.
15. Runflatout (Flatter-Slammin' Lil, by Grand Slam) John Sadler - This West Pointer can flat out run, or so his only race to date would seem to say. Looking forward to see what he can do against good horses in the San Felipe.
16. Sweet Ducky (Pulpit-Storm's Darling, by Storm Boot) Kelly Breen - Part of the Holy Bull group that could end up being a key race. I liked the way he looked last Fall at Monmouth, so I am willing to hold on for another race.
[How would your Top 10 look right now?]
Off the Trail
-Boys at Tosconova