Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Kentucky Derby Top 10

Derby Top 10 - April 1st

1. Pyro (1)
2. Denis Of Cork (2)
3. Cool Coal Man (3)
4. Colonel John (4)
5. Big Brown (new)
6. Smooth Air (new)
7. El Gato Malo (7)
8. Court Vision (8)
9. War Pass (9)
10. Eight Belles (10)

It is now the beginning of April. For fans of the Derby Trail April is the most exciting month. May is when it all culminates but April is when the fever reaches it's zenith, very often the anticipation of an event is a greater source of joy and excitement than the actual event. For many people that will be true of the Derby, depending on who wins. Everyone wants to see a "champion" win the race. It's a bit of a self fulfilling prophesy because the Derby winner is automatically given exalted status but fans truly want to see greatness portrayed in what is still considered by some to be the greatest race in the world. That is why we have all sat on the edge of our seats this spring waiting to be wowed and amazed. We're waiting for something to believe in. For many people the Florida Derby was the coming of the Messiah. At long last we had a horse run a triple digit Beyer speed figure in a prep race. What's more he did it in his third lifetime start from a post position that seemed to be the kiss of death. Big Brown has become the sole or joint favorite with Pyro almost overnight. There is no question that he ran the best race by any three year old to date. But now we have to deal with the question of how he'll do in the Derby. As you can see by my top 10 list above Big Brown is ranked only 5th. does that mean I was not impressed by his Florida Derby? No, I was very impressed but it does mean that I have a few doubts about him repeating the feat in 5 weeks. The 3 career starts is not a big issue for me, I think he has the experience he needs from the races he's run. He has already shown the requisite speed and class. His form is beyond repute and there are no holes to pick in his breeding. The two questions I have about him have to do with his fitness and his suitability to the specific challenges of the Derby. On the subject of his fitness it is no secret that this horse has been, and to some extent still is, battling some foot issues. You cannot afford to lose time for the next 5 weeks no matter how good you are. Empire Maker fans learned that lesson. The other issue related to his fitness that I have is in regards to his light prep schedule. He has just had one prep around two turns and I honestly feel that will be a significant factor. He does not have a solid base of stamina from the body of work he has put in. The other issue I have with him is his suitability based on his running style. A horse can wire the Derby but if War Pass enters the race it will become much harder. Can Big Brown win the Derby despite these disadvantages? Most definitely yes, but they do cause me to be more cautious and I'm giving a few others above him the benefit of the doubt until they run their last prep race. The top 5 horses on this list are really the only ones that I still give a winning chance to. The bottom 5 and the radar are more the horses with an outside chance to win but more realistically they have a chance to hit the board. The best of them at this stage is Smooth Air. He is emerging as a very solid and classy horse. Not really brilliant enough to win on paper but very often the Derby has gone to a horse who did not seem brilliant before hand. I love the way he has been handled and trained and although he is not really bred for 10f I think that in 5 weeks he will run the best race of his life. Stutts has done a fabulous job of building stamina into him and this horse always tries 100%. Big Brown is a much better horse but I consider Smooth Air more likely to run his best race on Derby Day than Big Brown, the only problem is that we know Big Browns best race is good enough to win while Smooth Air's best race may just be for second. My Pal Charlie was also added to the radar on the back of his excellent works in preparation for the Arkansas Derby. He looks like he's getting good at the right time and he's worth keeping a close eye on. Elysium Fields and Tomcito were both dropped because of their performances in the Florida Derby. Tomcito simply was no where near good enough and Elysium Fields nearly got heatstroke. He might be a very good one later on but that does it for him and the Derby. Poor Georgie Boy has been dropped with the news of an injury that will keep him out of the Derby. I feel badly for the connections, he is a cool horse and the Derby would have been better with him in the race. These next two weeks will all but decide how the pre-Derby pundits summarize and rank the contenders. The last prep for any horse is, in my opinion, by far the most important race. Buckle up and enjoy the ride, it should be fun watching it all unfold.

On the radar: Visionaire, Atoned, Cowboy Cal, Big Truck, My Pal Charlie

Dropped: Elysium Fields (5), Georgie Boy (6), Tomcito

1 comment:

peeptoad said...

1.Pyro (Blue Grass)

2.Colonel John (SA Derby)

3.Denis of Cork (Ill Derby)

4.El Gato Malo (SA Derby)

5.Big Brown

6.War Pass (Wood Memorial)

7.Cool Coal Man (Blue Grass)

8.Court Vision (Wood Memorial)

9.Visionaire (Blue Grass)

10.Smooth Air

radar (next race): Atoned (Ill Derby), Eight Belles (Fantasy S.), Tale of Ekati (Wood M.), Yankee Bravo (SA Derby), Z Humor (Ill Derby), Big Truck (?)

Elysium Fields was dropped completely from the list after poor performance in FL Derby, and likely off the Derby trail. Georgie Boy dropped due to injury.

New: Big Brown, who debuts just behind some of the more established horses with Smooth Air in the 10th spot. Eight Belles looks unlikely to contest the Derby, but she retains a radar spot just in case. BB looks to be one of the fastest (if not the fastest) 3yos currently running, but I'm not sold on him being ready for the Derby. He's certainly no lock anyway. He's short on seasoning and experience, has issues with his feet, and if he hooks up with another horse like War Pass or Bob Black Jack, then he may potentially duel himself into submission. He sure looked good winning in FL, but the Derby is a whole different can of worms. He'll be facing better horses, going longer, and he may not be mentally or physically ready for that test, esp. after running so big (even with 5 weeks to recover). His situation reminds me a little of Bellamy Road who wowed everyone in the Wood Memorial, but failed to deliver in the Derby. BB should win his share of races this year (he's obviously talented), but I'm not enamored of him as a Derby winner.
I'm looking forward to the SA Derby, which may be the deepest prep of the weekend, even with the loss of Georgie Boy. Colonel John should be the favorite and he looks like the west's best Derby contedner at this point. El Gato Malo always runs big, and should have more pace to run at this time around, so he should be right there. Yankee Bravo is returning to the synth and I expect a big run from him as well. This race also marks the return of Signature Move, who has been off the radar since his flop in LA. He realistically doesn't have a shot here, but he's run big on AW tracks before...
The other horse I'm going to be watching closely this weekend is Atoned. Everyone is expecting Denis of Cork to win the Ill Derby, and he likely will, but Atoned actually ran an improved race (from his 2yo form) in his 3yo debut. He could improve again here and potentially beat Denis. He seems to run second an awful lot though, so he's got things to prove, but I'm looking forward to seeing him run.