March 29, 2011

Kentucky Derby 2011

Zipse’s Kentucky Derby Daily – Day 39

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 less than six weeks away, and things are really starting to shake itself out. Sunday features an excellent prep from Gulfstream Park, with four of the top eight clashing in the Florida Derby.  Looking ahead to the big day, I have ranked the 16 most likely to wear the roses. Here they are...

Down and Derby - The Sweet 16

1. Uncle Mo (Indian Charlie-Playa Maya, by Arch) Todd Pletcher – His lack of tests before the Derby are a little troublesome, but the fact remains that he was an absolute monster at two, and I have seen nothing to say that he will not continue his winning ways at three. The Wood Memorial should give us a little more to go on before the Triple Crown, but maybe only a little. Look for an easy win to send him to Louisville as the clear Derby choice. I believe he is the only horse I have ever seen who seems to be trained for the Triple Crown

2. Premier Pegasus (Fusaichi Pegasus-Squall Linda, by Summer Squall) I warned my readers to watch out for this one when he gets to stretch out. Bang-Zoom! He got two-turns in the San Felipe, and he opened many eyes. I’m not sure why people still doubt him so much, yes I know the speed collapsed that day, but the fact remains that he positively destroyed a decent field. He ran the best race of any three-year-old so far, and actually reminds me of an old favorite of mine named Sunday Silence to this stage.

3. Dialed In (Mineshaft-Miss Doolittle, by Storm Cat) Nick Zito – This one needs a solid pace to soften up the speed. In the Florida Derby, he may get that. In the Kentucky Derby, he will get that. His last race was but a mere prep, and even though Saturday is a huge race in its own right, it is only another stepping stone to have him ready for his best on May 7. Win, lose, or draw in a few days, I consider him the biggest threat coming from Gulfstream to Churchill Downs.

4. Mucho Macho Man (Macho Uno-Ponche de Leona, by Ponche) Katherine Ritvo – The big kid is still learning. Disappointment of running 3rd in the Louisiana Derby was tempered by the fact that he lost a shoe early in the race, hampering his chances. His running still looked immature in a race that he only lost by ¾ of a length. The competition will get tougher in Louisville, but don’t be surprised to see six weeks do him a world of good.

5. To Honor and Serve (Bernardini-Pilfer, by Deputy Minister) Bill Mott- His performance in the Fountain of Youth left much to be desired, and I was a little surprised to see him stay at Gulfstream afterwards. Having said that, I believe he has as much upside as almost anyone on this list, and it would be no surprise to see him turn things completely around in the Florida Derby, with the benefit of the last race and a string of solid works.

6. The Factor (War Front-Greyciousness, by Miswaki) Bob Baffert– Speed kills. Anyone that has raced against him the last three times will tell you that. But can he win the Derby? The answer is yes he can, but I do not like his chances. With the recent trend to have the Derby starting gate filled to the brim, it becomes tougher and tougher for a frontrunner to grab an uncontested lead, and in the Derby that is almost impossible to overcome.

7. Soldat (War Front-Le Relais, by Coronado's Quest) Kiaran McLaughlin – OK, I admit it … these War Front’s can flat out run. The Florida Derby will be tougher than the Fountain of Youth was, it just has to be. If Flashpoint is entered, I expect things to get too tough for this frontrunner to handle. He may be the favorite on Saturday, but I am not yet sold on dat. If he does win, I will move him on up.

8. Stay Thirsty (Bernardini-Marozia, by Storm Bird) Todd Pletcher – I liked this one since his initial race where he ran 2nd in a maiden at Belmont, but he has yet to get out of the rather large shadow cast by his more accomplished barn mate. He will get a chance to do just that against a solid Florida Derby group. An impressive win there by the Gotham winner may leave Repole with the two favorites for the roses.

9. Anthony's Cross (Indian Charlie-Screening, by Unbridled) Eoin Harty – Looms as the biggest threat to PrePeg in the Santa Anita Derby. He has gotten a long rest since his hard fought victory in the Lewis, but he already had a solid foundation before that. I love the way that Indian Charlie’s second son is working at Hollywood for his return to the races. I was happy to get a few sawbucks down on him at 50-1 for the Derby.

10. Santiva (Giant's Causeway-Slide, by Smarten) Eddie Kenneally – Has done little wrong, as he finished 2010 with a nice stakes win at Churchill, and began this year with a solid 2nd to Mucho Macho Man. The setback that cost him a spot in the Louisiana Derby is no positive, so he probably will need to get a whole lot out of the synthetic prep in the Blue Grass. I wonder if that will be enough to have him at his best for his return to the Twin Spires.

11. Jaycito (Victory Gallop-Night Edition, by Ascot Knight) Bob Baffert – Still not sure what to make of this one. He flashes major talent, but then does just enough wrong to lose some faith. He’ll make the cross country trek to tangle with the big horse in the Wood. I honestly can’t see him scaring Mo in there, but if he can finish full of run it would at the very least send him on to Louisville on a positive note.

12. Nehro (Mineshaft-The Administrator, by Afleet) After two downright dull performances to start his career, this son of Mineshaft has turned it around in a big way. The way back early to first easily move in the maiden at Oaklawn was the tipoff, and then his strong rally in the Louisiana Derby proved it … this Asmussen trained colt is getting good at the right time. If he continues the improvement he has in his last two, he could prove a major threat in the Classics.

13. Sway Away (Afleet Alex-Seattle Shimmer, by Seattle Slew) Jeff Bonde – The Rebel was a big letdown for a colt I was pretty high on. The race set up for The Factor not him, and banging into the gate and losing a tooth did not help the effort. With those excuses, I am ready to throw out the Rebel, and look for him to come out running next time in the Arkansas Derby.

14. Elite Alex (Afleet Alex-Catch the Moment, by Unbridled) I expected more out of him in the Louisiana Derby, but wide and way back throughout is no way to prove your talent. I still think this one is talented, and with a ton of speed going 1 ¼ miles on the First Saturday in May, he may be in line to put it all together and pick up a whole lot of the pieces down the Derby lane.

15. Mr. Commons (Artie Schiller-Joustabout, by Apalachee) Impressive maiden winner on the downhill turf course at Santa Anita, came back to win an allowance in his first try on dirt. The John Shirreffs trained colt has always impressed in the mornings, but of late has absolutely dazzled onlookers. He may be sitting on a breakout performance just in time for the Santa Anita Derby.

16. Brethren (Distorted Humor-Supercharger, by A.P. Indy) Todd Pletcher - Following in the footsteps of his big brother, he will contest the Arkansas Derby after finishing 3rd in the Tampa Bay Derby. I did not like the ride that day, but he will still need to step things up big time after the lackluster performance. It will be interesting to see how hard he goes after The Factor early at Oaklawn.