Derby Top 10 - Feb 10th
1. Imperial Council (1)
2. Old Fashioned (2)
3. Hello Broadway (3)
4. Capt. Candyman Can (4)
5. Midshipman (6)
6. Vineyard Haven (7)
7. Pioneerof the Nile (9)
8. Terrain (8)
9. Break Water Edison (10)
10. Friesan Fire (new)
Dropped: Square Eddie (5)
Things are beginning to get serious. By the time I write the next Derby Top 10 we will have had three more graded route preps and many of the top Derby contenders will have run at least once in 2009. It's not quite crunch time yet. The most important prep races are always run in March and April. Derby contenders need to be in stakes company by March.
If Imperial Council is going to make it into stakes company by March he needs to make his debut very soon. If he has not run by this time next week I'll take it as a negative and start moving him down the list. The positives are still are there though. Both of his two year old races were fantastic and they alluded to much promise. He's been working solidly and should be fit for a return this weekend.
Old Fashioned is ready to get his campaign underway in Monday's Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn. He'll be facing some hot horses with Silver City and Poltergeist expected to be in attendance but realistically everyone is expecting a win from the most dominant two year old that wasn't sold to Godolphin. I'm sure his fans will interpret anything less than a win as an upset but as far as his Derby preparation is concerned he simply needs to show that he's still got it. He could easily do that without winning.
Hello Broadway and Capt. Candyman Can will likely get back to work sometime this week and then we'll learn more about their next intended engagements. Capt. Candyman Can seems pretty set for the Fountain of Youth but Hello Broadway's plans are up in the air. Even an allowance has been discussed as Tagg is mostly looking for a spot where his colt can get that winning feeling back. Hello Broadway hasn't won a race since his career debut and while that isn't such a terrible thing because he has been running well and improving it does make you wonder about the horse's mentality.
One horse who has put that mentality issue to bed is Friesan Fire. He was a talented but troubled juvenile. Jones always believed in him but never got the best out of him. Now he looks as though he is putting it all together. I must admit that despite his pair of stakes wins I nearly didn't add him to the list. He is not a fast horse, he still has trouble with settling and generally the horses winning stakes in January and February aren't the same ones who win in April and May. He is on the list for one reason only. I have tremendous respect for Larry Jones and his ability to get the most from his horse and also his ability to keep the sharp all spring. Eight Belles and Hard Spun both started off their three year old season with good races in January and improved that form all the way to May. In any other hands Friesan Fire is not a horse that catches my eye. There are a ton of triple crown frauds who win races just like he has been doing and they come to nothing.
The word from Dubai is that both Vineyard Haven and Midshipman are coming along well. Vineyard Haven seems to be further forward in his preparation and is ready for the UAE 2000 Guineas on Thursday. One would think that because of the class edge he showed in North America that it should be an easy race for him but there will be a few South American and South African four year olds in the race so it might be a tougher test than we think. I'm not going to put too much stock in the race. Both Vineyard Haven and Midshipman still have the chance to get two 9f preps in with the Al Bastakiya and UAE Derby. The criticism of Dubai derby runners has always been that they've been poorly prepared. This year they might have just as much prep work under their belts as the ones based here.
Pioneerof the Nile has jumped up the rankings a couple of spots but that was mostly due to a reshuffling. Square Eddie is injured and Terrain is getting over an illness. A lot of people are gushing over Pioneerof the Nile's effort in the Robert Lewis but to me it looked like a race that could deceive a lot of people. I'm not sure that he gets to the front on a dirt track. Horses who leave themselves too much to do rarely succeed in the Derby. Pioneerof the Nile needs to show more tactical ability as well as earn some better speed figures to be a top tier Derby contender. I'm also still skeptical about his dirt ability. He runs like a turf horse, even on the synthetic tracks.
Terrain and Break Water Edison are sort of forgotten horses. Both are coming off a poor last race but both have shown enough ability in the past to be considered. Of the 401 Triple Crown nominations only 54 have recorded a Beyer Speed Figure of 90 or more. Both of these horses are among the 54 and Break Water Edison is actually right near the top with his 99. Despite his losses he has still shown more ability than a horse like Friesan Fire when at his best. It's that top end ability I'm keying on. A horse cannot give what he doesn't have and on a day when everyone is supposed to be at their absolute best I'd like to be on the horse whose best IS the best. Consistent but slow winners usually find themselves losers when they face fast horses. Break Water Edison's Hutcheson was a debacle but he's always had the look of a two turn horse anyway. I'm keeping faith until I see him run again.
Terrain has gotten back on the work tab and hopefully now will be ready to put in a pair of two turn preps. There is a ton of hysteria over Pioneerof the Nile but I say this nearly every week. Terrain has beaten the Pioneer both times they faced each other and he's already won on conventional dirt. He could easily be a factor on the trail.
Square Eddie was left out of the top 10 for the first time this year after it was reported that he needs 30 days on the sidelines. Technically he could still make the Derby but I'm wary of a horse who still needs to do some healing at this time of year. If he makes it back on time and looks good in a prep I'd consider adding him back but it's a bad risk to back him at this point.
There is still a lengthy list of contenders who are on the cusp of proving themselves but I don't like any of them enough at this point to include them. Flying Pegasus looked very good in the Risen Star but that race alone isn't enough to vault him into the top 10. Poltergeist, Theregoesjojo, The Pamplmousse, Papa Clem, Take The Points and even recent maiden winner Hull look like exciting prospects but none of them have done enough in my opinion.