Derby Top 10 - Feb 3rd
1. Imperial Council (1)
2. Old Fashioned (2)
3. Hello Broadway (3)
4. Capt. Candyman Can (4)
5. Square Eddie (5)
6. Midshipman (6)
7. Vineyard Haven (7)
8. Terrain (8)
9. Pioneerof the Nile (new)
10. Break Water Edison (9)
Dropped: Quality Road (10)
I'm trying to be intentionally patient with my top 10 this year and this week sees the first changes to the ranking in 2009. The top eight horses remain unchanged although it's now getting down to crunch time for Imperial Council. He still has to come out and prove that his two year old races were not just flattery. I suspect he'll be getting an allowance prep in the next two weeks. If he isn't at the races by then I'll consider it a negative.
Old Fashioned is likely to be in action in two weeks. Realistically this is a horse that is not expected to lose on the Triple Crown trail. I think he'll run the table in Arkansas and if he isn't the Derby favorite he'll be among the top two choices. The question that will still linger over him is can he maintain his speed for 10f. He looks more like a 9f horse to me right now. Horses like Peace Rules, Congaree, Millennium Wind and High Fly all showed dominant speed at 9f but didn't quite see out 10f. That's my fear with this horse, but of course I still think he's going to be the most dominant horse on the trail.
The Hutcheson was precisely what I hoped to see from Hello Broadway and Capt. Candyman Can. I still have Hello Broadway ranked above the Candyman despite the loss because I think he's a horse that will get better as the distance increases. Being right on the pace never suited him as well but he fought out a good result and should be much tighter next time. I have always preferred my Derby horses to get a pair of two turn prep races and the Fountain of Youth is a one turn race so that's a slight worry if these two take on the Fountain of Youth then just the Florida Derby before the big event. Big Brown overcame that lack of stamina prep but he was much better than his competition. Tagg has mentioned putting Hello Broadway in an allowance, that might be a better move if it's two turns. Capt. Candyman Can is less definite to get the Derby distance but you can't argue with the talent he's shown. Just one loss on the dirt and that by a half length on a day when he was terribly rank. The Hutcheson was excellent for him. He settled well and made a nice move to take control. He earned a solid figure but I didn't get the impression that he's already run his best race of the spring. The Hutcheson wasn't as perfect for Break Water Edison. He never looked comfortable and now has everything to prove in his next start. He barely stays in the top 10.
Square Eddie is headed for a match with Old Fashioned. I expect him to lose but all he really needs to do is prove he can handle dirt as well as he does synthetics. If he does that then he'll likely stay in the top 5 all spring.
I was assuming that Midshipman and Vineyard Haven would have been surpassed by horses that have run but no one has really come out of the blue and made themselves a solid Derby contender. Saratoga Sinner looked very good in the Holy Bull but he's not bred to get the distance. The Pamplemousse looked good in the San Rafael but he has turf miler written all over him. I'm still waiting for someone who has good tactical speed, can earn nice figures and is also capable of going 10f.
Mr. Fantasy made a good impression in his second start at Aqueduct. He is definitely the best 3yo on the grounds but I'm not adding him to the top 10 because physically he looks like a sprinter. I know he just handled two turns with ease and his breeding suggests that he can go further but against top class horses I think he'll struggle going two turns. I still prefer Theregoesjojo to all the horses that aren't on my list.
I finally decided to add Pioneerof the Nile. I think he's over-hyped. I don't like his style for dirt racing but I do respect Baffert's ability to get the best out of his horses. In a year where legitimate Derby contenders have been somewhat slow to come to hand it's hard to keep off the horse that most people think is the best in California. He has tons to prove to show me that he really could win the Derby but right now is he one of the ten best candidates? Yes.
I still have Pioneerof the Nile rated behind Terrain despite the news that Terrain has been a bit sick lately. Terrain has beaten the Pioneer in both of their match-ups and has some dirt form. His sickness is an issue I'll monitor but realistically he is a horse with a solid enough foundation that all he really needs is a prep in March and April.
I still believe in the talent of Quality Road but I think stamina will be a real issue. None of the other allowance winners that have gone unmentioned in this post have caught my eye.