It's a post Thanksgiving tradition here at Kennedy's Corridor to publish our initial Kentucky Derby Top 10. Obviously the road to the Triple Crown has not really begun but this sort of a pre-season scouting report. Just because I don't mention a horse it doesn't mean I don't like their chances at all. It's just that I've restricted myself to just 10 prospects. To be honest these Thanksgiving lists are rarely valuable in actually finding the Derby winner but they are a good starting point. The Top 10 will be updated weekly starting in January.
Derby Top 10 - Dec 2nd
1. Street Hero
2. Imperial Council
3. Old Fashioned
4. Hello Broadway
6. Capt. Candyman Can
7. Square Eddie
9. Vineyard Haven
10. Break Water Edison
This is an extremely bizarre year because for the first time ever both of the top juveniles are going to spend the spring on another continent. Midshipman and Vineyard Haven were easily the two best juveniles in America and if they were going to have a traditional preparation they would likely occupy the top two spots on any list. But Shiekh Mohammed scooped up both starlets and is sending them to Dubai to winter in a warmer climate. No horse has parlayed the winter in Dubai into classic success but then these are definitely the best two horses that have tried save perhaps Street Cry. Street Cry may well have been a major factor in the Derby, sadly he was injured the week of the race.
Midshipman and Vineyard Haven debut at #8 and #9 respectively. I've placed them further down the list because of the uncertainty of preparing overseas but they're hugely capable contenders. Midshipman reminds me of Point Given as a two year old and if he blossoms as a sophomore the same way it may not matter where he is prepared. Vineyard Haven is more of a Skip Away type, he's simply all talent. He goes to the front because he has more natural speed than most of the horses he has faced. He stays in front because of his power. He's quite wide bodied and well muscled for a two year old. If he gets physically bigger he'll be one imposing son of a gun. His Champagne victory was the best performance by any horse from this crop to date.
With the two heavyweights down the list because of other questions the top spot falls to Street Hero. He is an odd horse to put on top because he has never run on dirt and likely will never run on dirt until the Derby. He is also campaigned by an extremely low percentage trainer who I don't really trust. But I think this is a special horse, I love the pedigree and the toughness he's shown. He's probably just a half step worse than Midshipman, which is to say he's very good. He does not have breakout brilliance and I don't necessarily expect him to win all of his Derby preps. What he has is class and determination in spades. He runs his competitors all the way to the line and looks like he can stay all day.
Imperial Council is the only horse on this list that lacks stakes experience but he has me really excited for next year. Although I have not ranked him first because he lacks accomplishments he would be my answer to the question "Who is your Derby horse?" Like his sire Empire Maker he hasn't shown much as a two year old. He's just run in a pair of maiden races. In his first start at Saratoga he began slowly and and picked his way up the rail. He made a sweeping move outside horses on the turn that was quite eye catching. He then showed quite a bit of greenness in the lane and was out-dueled by the gutsy and talented Hello Broadway. He came back to win at Belmont in facile fashion. He showed good tactical speed and put away American Dance without being seriously asked. American Dance came back to run third in the Remsen. Shug McGaughey hasn't done very well in the Derby but this might be his best competitor in years.
The most brilliant two year old on dirt is definitely Old Fashioned. He, along with Imperial Council, is likely unlucky not to be ranked #1 overall. He has never been beaten in three career starts and he showed in the Remsen that no one is likely to beat him easily. Larry Jones has his third good Derby horse in as many years. After a pair of second place finishes perhaps it's time to get him a victory. The only reason I settled on placing him third instead of first is the slight worry I have that 10f may not be his best trip. I think his breeding suggests more proficiency at 9f or less. Although I fully believe that horses are individuals who can easily outrun suggestions made by lineage his running style also makes me just that bit uneasy. He is the best dirt horse in his division right now and I expect him to run the table at the Fair Grounds this spring.
Hello Broadway physically appears to be more of a miler but he has such toughness I find myself drawn to him. He had no right to fight back and deny Imperial Council in his first start after contesting ridiculous fractions and I thought he was also unlucky in the Nashua. He will be force to be reckoned with in Florida this winter. He's got great tactical speed and the ability to use his kick whenever asked. That will come in handy both on the trail and in the Derby. Tagg knows how to prepare a horse the right way. Don't be surprised to see him as one of the Derby favorites.
Terrain is a forgotten horse which I'm sure won't bother Al Stall Jr. one little bit. I'm sure after a few months of facing Old Fashioned at the Fair Grounds some people will take notice. He has never run a bad race and after winning his first three starts all he has done is run second in the Breeders' Futurity and a fast closing fourth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. He's a bit of a one run closer which could be a worry. I always prefer speedy types but he is the best closer of this group. The interesting thing to note about him is that he won both his dirt starts and received his career best figure on natural dirt. His last three races have come on synthetic so we may not actually be seeing how good he has truly become.
I didn't like Capt. Candyman Can at all going into the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs this past weekend. Despite being undefeated in two dirt starts including an open lengths score in the Iroquois I just wasn't sold on him. That all changed during his loss in the Jockey Club. A ton of things went wrong for the Candyman and he displayed a somewhat worrying desire to have the lead at all cost. He got to the front, but not before working too hard to get there. By the far turn I figured he was a spent force. Competition had swept past on the inside and outside and it was the normal cue for a speedster to pack it in. Instead Capt. Candyman Can staged a remarkable fightback that saw him dog the eventual winner all the way down the stretch. At the line he was actually getting to the winner and lost by just about a neck. His stable is renown for their patient approach and I'm still they can teach him to rate. He already has all the stuff you can't teach.
In the 7th spot we have Square Eddie. I have him on the list more out of respect than appreciation for his talents or the expectation of greater things to come. He hasn't done anything wrong in this nation. He has never been on dirt but many sons of Smart Strike have taken right to it. If he's as good on dirt as he is on synthetics than he has to be a major danger.
The last horse on the list is Break Water Edison there are lots of horses who didn't make the list but probably could have. Horses like Munnings, Brother Keith, Well Positioned, Charitable Man and Silver City were all considered. But in the end I decided that Break Water Edison was the best candidate among them. He's a good sized colt who was precocious early on and has continued to develop right up to the point when he won the Nashua with an impressive 98 Beyer figure. I think Hello Broadway (whom he beat that day) is the better horse but Break Water Edison has every chance to improve as he continues to mature.