Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Kentucky Derby Top 10

Derby Top 10 - Feb 24th

1. Imperial Council (1)
2. Old Fashioned (2)
3. Hello Broadway (3)
4. Capt. Candyman Can (4)
5. Midshipman (5)
6. General Quarters (6)
7. Pioneerof the Nile (7)
8. Terrain (8)
9. Break Water Edison (9)
10. Friesan Fire (10)

No changes to the Top 10 this week. Making no changes is maybe a bigger shock than making outrageous changes. The breakout performance of Dunkirk has caused a big stir and rightly so. It was a massive performance and up to this point in his career he has shown as much promise as any horse on the Derby trail. He was caught very wide around the first turn and still managed to finish strongly. He earned a solid 98 Beyer Speed Figure for the race. He has a decent pedigree, his connections are solid and he seems very professional as well as talented. So why didn't he make the list?

There is much discussion over what these lists are supposed to represent. Is it potential or accomplishments up to this point? The answer is both and neither. It's a mixture of the two but ultimately it's a representation of the writers opinion about who the 10 most likely winners of the Kentucky Derby are. Some weigh potential more heavily while some depend on accomplishments. As for my list it's simply my opinion of all the combined factors I consider to be relevant. For some potential is their main attraction. For others it's accomplishment but for all these horses it's about how I think they'll do in the Derby specifically not how big a factor I think they'll be in prep races.

Dunkirk, Theregoesjojo and Flying Pegasus were all on the cusp of being included. I cut, pasted, edited and undid for hours as I mulled over which horses to include. In the end I decided that I simply need to see another start from these horses or a poor start from one of those ranked ahead of them. A lot of people are comparing Dunkirk to Big Brown, that's a mistake that will bias your interpretation of his form. Dunkirk is not the next Big Brown, he's the one and only Dunkirk. He could be better or worse than any other horse that has raced. What he is capable of or able to accomplish is independent of any other horse that preceded him.

A few things that prevented Dunkirk from being in the top 10 are: 1) A lack of experience, I'd like him more if Pletcher was squeezing two more starts into him. 2) His numbers look flashy but they're actually not that good. If one wanted to do a Big Brown comparison Dunkirk looks extremely slow and my numbers suggest that this crop is faster than last years. He needs to step it up. He is fast enough at this stage but he needs to improve a lot. Big Brown at this stage was so much faster than everyone else he only needed to maintain his form. 3) Gulfstream allowances have not been the best this year. It's also the reason Theregoesjojo has been unable to break into the list. The form from the route allowances at Gulfstream has not translated into stakes success at all this spring so I'm a bit wary of horses whose entire reputation is based upon them. I know cynicism is the easy way out because most horses don't become all we imagine they can be but I'm still choosing to be cautious over this one.

The news is all good from Imperial Council's camp. He is going into the exact stakes preps I hoped he would. The Gotham and Wood Memorial should show us all we need to know about his Derby suitability. I don't think he needs to win both of them to confirm his ability but he probably does need to win one of the two while earning some solid figures and showing the same tactical speed he has exhibited up to this point.

Capt. Candyman Can and Break Water Edison get vital acid tests this weekend. For Break Water Edison it's a vital make or break race. He needs to finish in the money and look decent to still merit consideration. Now is the time to put past inconsistencies to rest. Capt. Candyman Can needs to prove that stretching out is no problem. I know a one turn mile isn't a stamina sapping route but he is a very talented and consistent horse so anything worse than a nice second could be viewed as a major disappointment. Realistically the Candyman should eat up this mile, the question marks should be surfacing in longer races. So if you find yourself less convinced about him after the race it's likely a bad sign.

I wanted to just reiterate some of the things I like about Midshipman as he gears up for a race in about two weeks. I loved him in the Juvenile as I thought he was just beginning to find himself both physically and mentally. I haven't seen any recent shots of him but he had the makings of an imposing specimen. His 2yo campaign reminded me very much of Point Given's and it would not surprise me in the least to see him improve massively as a 3yo. Many people thought Vineyard Haven was the more talented 2yo and I could agree with that but I always thought Midshipman was going to be the better 3yo. I'm really looking forward to his first start of the year.

Terrain continues to work well towards his comeback. Don't forget completely about this horse. Friesan Fire hasn't had any recent works and likely needs to start getting back to it this week. Hello Broadway finally recorded a timed workout after a long hiatus following the Hutcheson. The Tagg stable has been in terrible form lately so that maybe moves Hello Broadway's Hutcheson performance up a little. Hopefully it's just a mini slump and the string starts firing again soon.


TheChicagoRailbird said...

Love your posts, but can't figure out why, in denying Dunkirk, you cite the poor quality of Allowance races at GP then, in the very next paragraph, reinforce Imperial Council as your top choice.

I agree the comparison to Big Brown is folly, though fun.

Thanks again for the great posts.

Kennedy said...

I said I mistrust the Gulfstream allowance routes. Imperial Council was in a sprint.

I also said I'm wary of any horse whose reputation is built on those races. Even if imperial council had run in a gulfstream route allowance I like him a ton based on his 2yo season. Horses like Free Country, Dunkirk and Danger To Society are the ones I'm talking about.

Anonymous said...

Hey Kennedy,

How's it going? How can you not put Dunkirk in your Top 10, simply based on his awesome performance at 9 furlongs against an allowance field -- touted anyway -- as being stronger than many previous 3-year-old stakes fields?

You can talk about speed figures all you want, but the reality is how this horse is running and winning makes him impressive. If speed figures dictated every race, it would be pretty easy to handicap.

Obviously, you're entitled to your opinion, but leaving him out after one of the most impressive starts so far by a 3-year-old seems curious.