Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Kentucky Derby Top 10

Derby Top 10 - February 26th

1. War Pass (1)
2. Pyro (2)
3. Colonel John (3)
4. Z Fortune (5)
5. Cool Coal Man (new)
6. Into Mischief (7)
7. El Gato Malo (8)
8. Denis of Cork (10)
9. Elysium Fields (new)
10. Court Vision (4)

This was an interesting weekend as we saw the emergence of two new legitimate Derby contenders and of course the #1 horse confirmed his position. I don't think the performance by War Pass in allowance company really changed anything. Those who like him still like him and those looking for reasons to oppose him would not be overawed by his trashing of a few claimers. Since he has been the #1 ranked horse from the inception of this list it'll be no surprise to find that I liked his race. For me it was not about the competition. This race was just about seeing whether or not he came through the winter well. Physically he looked excellent, perhaps bigger and more powerful than last year. There is some speculation about whether or not he would be able to handle stiff company up front and still finish the way he does but my observation is that this horse rates very well. I think he goes to the front simply because he is much faster than everyone else not because his fragile psyche cannot withstand being in second. Much like if I were to race a group of 10 year olds. No matter what my preferred running style would be against adults I would inevitably find myself in front from the off because I'd simply be so much faster than everyone else. This is the impression War Pass gives and there is no question that he is the benchmark for this crop. In order to win the Derby you're going to have to beat him and as of right now not a single horse has demonstrated that level of ability. I will continue to keep an eye out though because I think the situation in 2001 was not all that dissimilar. Point Given looked like a monster and not many seemed to have the ability to match him. But Monarchos did flash his own high level of ability in the Florida Derby and he became the only horse I used against Point Given. Pyro is not yet that horse. War Pass is questionably bred in the opinion of some. My personal opinion is that if he is truly as good as he has looked it won't matter. If he's a man against boys he will be able to handle them no matter how far they go. Racing has been waiting for a real superstar for decades now and I'm not saying that War Pass is that horse just yet but what I will say is that this is what a truly superior horse should look like and the sky is the limit. Now onto other business because War Pass wasn't the only news of the weekend. Crown Of Thorns has lamentably been injured and is off the trail. I had high hopes for him and it's sad to see him go, hopefully he'll still have a great career ahead of him. The Fountain Of Youth has ended up being quite a bizarre race because of the timing issues. Essentially no one really knows how accurate the timing is, your best bet is just to assume that it was an average race in terms of the final time and bank on the visual impression. Cool Coal Man made an excellent visual impression. He settled nicely on the fence and his quick move to the front was a thing of beauty. I am less enamored with the way he loafed in the straight but that really quick turn of foot is the weapon that caught my eye. That is what you need to successfully navigate the Derby field. You need to be able to move quickly when asked. Is he capable of beating War Pass? Definitely not at this stage but we unfortunately have to remember that War Pass is mortal as well and should something happen to him, God forbid, Cool Coal Man realistically looks as a decent a prospect as anyone. I prefer Cool Coal Man to many of the horses that have run already because of his good tactical speed and quick acceleration. Elysium Fields impressed me as well. He had a bunch of disadvantages including an outside post which saw him lose ground on the first turn and also he was coming in straight from a maiden victory. I loved the way he stuck at it through the lane. He was moving every bit as well as Court Vision, who had gone much slower early on. The unfortunate part with Elysium Fields is that he looks like a grinder. Perhaps not brilliant enough but then again many grinders have had a habit of turning up big when it counts. I'd love to see him get two more starts before the Derby but most likely he'll just get one. I think he could really benefit from the experience of another few starts against stakes quality horses. Court Vision dropped well down the list off his third place finish in the Fountain Of Youth. I suppose he can be forgiven since it was his first start back but for me Court Vision had to prove two things. #1 - That he is actually faster than that terrible number he got in the Remsen and # 2 - That he could show a bit more speed and closer to the action once the real running starts. He basically flopped on both accounts. Perhaps Mott will sharpen him more for his next race but the reality is that he's a slow plodder whose only real asset is the guts to keep on running until he hits the line. That will see him pass a lot of tired horses on Derby day but it won't see him in the winners circle. He stays on the list because realistically he's still one of the 120 best options out there. I severely doubt that anyone can come up with 10 horses who could legitimately beat War Pass so the list is always going to contain some non winners who just have the chance to hit the frame. Monba can be excused as a horse for his failure in the Fountain of Youth but he is not excused as a Derby contender. He came back beaten up with cuts and bruises and realistically that will put an end to his hopes. Even if he gets one more prep he won't have had the kind of spring necessary for success. Kentucky Bear and Halo Najib were both dropped off the radar list because they either will never be good enough or are simply too far behind in their preparation to get there. Not many horses are capable of winning the Derby and the list gets smaller every week. Into Mischief is also in grave danger of being dropped. I did not want to rush to judgement because he has not officially been ruled out of the San Felipe yet but Mandella has said that he may not make the race because of a recurring foot problem. It's a bad time of year to be injured and unless the good news emerges that he's back on track he'll be dropped next year. This coming weekend features the last unraced 3yo on my list, Colonel John, against the highly impressive El Gato Malo. I'm really hoping that one of the two of them shows that they can be real Derby contenders.

On the radar: Tale Of Ekati, Alaazo, Georgie Boy, Atoned, J Be K, Giant Moon, Cowboy Cal

Dropped: Crown Of Thorns (6), Monba (9), Kentucky Bear, Halo Najib

1 comment:

peeptoad said...

I had forgotten about that comment by Mandella re: Into Mischief. Might have ranked him a bit lower because of the foot issue. It's only a matter of time before Mandella gets a Derby winner; he had two nice horses this year and already one is out and the other having issues. Might have to blame the freaky, SA track for that...hopefully the Sham will be a good race; I'll be trackside this weekend for it. :)