Derby Top 10 - Mar 10th
1. I Want Revenge (new)
2. Imperial Council (1)
3. Old Fashioned (2)
4. Hello Broadway (3)
5. Theregoesjojo (4)
6. General Quarters (5)
7. The Pamplemousse (6)
8. Pioneerof the Nile (7)
9. Terrain (8)
10. Friesan Fire (9)
Dropped: Flying Pegasus (10)
I've been eagerly awaiting this period of time ever since I first started this list, we're finally at the part of the season where the preps really count. All spring I've been preaching patience because historically January and February preps don't end up being reliable for guides but now is the time to go with what you see.
I Want Revenge is the horse I've been waiting for. He is the first horse to combine all the necessary elements. He has tactical speed, he is both bred to run all day and looks as if he will he is extremely fast and his preparation will be just what is needed. His closing fractions were also very good, just what you want to see. There is no reason not to rank this horse #1. I'm slightly disappointed that he will be traveling across country so many times before the Derby but all he really needs to do in his last prep is run an averagely good race. A regression speed wise or even a loss in the Wood would not be a terrible thing. He just needs to put in a solid effort to keep him on track. He has already proven himself to be good enough now he just needs to get to the Derby.
I Want Revenge is a perfect example of why I haven't jumped on board with horses like Dunkirk or Quality Road. All year I've believed that performances like this were forthcoming. For the past several weeks we've seen one horse jump to prominence and people have proclaimed them as the next this or that but so much in racing is relative. A few weeks ago Dunkirk's 98 Beyer looked fast, does it still look fast? Dunkirk is now not only behind his peers in terms of preparation but he also looks distinctly ordinary in the speed department. He has some elements of a good horse but he isn't the complete package.
Quality Road is a different but similar story. A 113 Beyer Figure is fast, in fact it's so fast that last week many would have thought that the Fountain of Youth would stand alone as the fastest prep race of the spring by far. After all no Derby entrant had broken 110 since 2006. But in my mind there are problems with Quality Road both in terms of his ability to stay and the lack of two turn preparation. If he had a massive speed advantage over his peers you'd have to include him but arguably he doesn't. Not only did I Want Revenge match his speed figure but there is reason to believe that others in this crop could be capable of doing it as well. Big Brown had a major speed advantage. Quality Road does not, thus his perceived frailties become a bigger deal to me.
I Want Revenge is unlikely to stay atop this ranking until the Derby. There are so many preps to come and so many good horses have a chance to prove themselves but for now you could almost imagine a bolded line separating him from the rest of my top 10. He's the first horse to show me that he has the stuff. I expect two or three more horses to prove themselves in the same way before the Derby.
Imperial Council drops to second behind his Gotham conqueror. He was well and truly beaten this weekend but there was enough there to inspire a bit of optimism. I thought the ride he got was pretty poor. Going to the back of the field was not the best tactical move and from what I'm hearing he ought to be closer to the pace next time. He still finished decently and showed some improvement over his last race. He still hasn't broken out with the type of performance I think he's capable of but he has another start to do it. Shug does not have this horse ready for his A game yet. One thing you often see with a McGaughey horse that is ready to fire is they'll have a quick 5f work within a week of the race. He doesn't usually work his horses at 5f. I suspect it's something you might see prior to the Wood. The Wood will be a huge test for him but at least the standard is clearly visible. I Want Revenge will be opposing him again and in order to be a Derby horse Imperial Council needs to challenge the Mullins horse more. He needs to show more tactical speed and earn a nice triple digit speed figure. My projection at this point is that a horse will need a 104 Beyer to be "fast enough" by my calculation. Imperial Council could certainly improve that much.
I have a thing for the horses who are still somewhat unexposed. Imperial Council, Theregoesjojo, Hello Broadway, Terrain and even Old Fashioned (as a three year old) have not brought their best races to the table yet. I think at least one or two of them will prove to be formidable once their trainers wind them up.
It's a big weekend for six horses on my Top 10 and Old Fashioned has perhaps the most to lose. He has never lost a race so there is a ton of pressure on his camp to keep him undefeated. His last race was not all it could have been and others have thrown down the gauntlet speed wise. He was likely the fastest two year old in America he needs to show that he is still that brilliant horse. I would be very disappointed with a similar Beyer Figure to what he earned last time. I actually don't think he needs to win the Rebel, although I can't identify a horse who ought to beat him. What he needs to do is run fast, perhaps a testing loss while running fast would actually be better for him in the long run.
I've been high on Hello Broadway since his maiden victory and it's time for him to get the job done. General Quarters is likely the only horse who can beat him if the race is still to be considered a positive move forward. I know Tampa is a tricky surface for newcomers but he really needs to display a winning attitude. I know Giacomo and Funny Cide both brought losing streaks into the Derby but it's really not ideal. General Quarters also likely needs to run first or second to confirm his form from the Sam Davis.
Some people are saying that I Want Revenge's performance in the Gotham is a good thing for Pioneerof the Nile, I disagree. It has nothing to do with Pioneerof the Nile. I Want Revenge is a different horse on the dirt, the Pioneer hasn't had the chance to prove what kind of horse he'll be on dirt but certainly one horses preference has nothing to do with anothers preference. For now it's one step at a time for Pioneerof the Nile. I think he ought to win the San Felipe because the horses he's facing are poor. I'd like to see more tactical speed because he'll need it to keep pace with The Pamplemousse next time out.
Terrain, Friesan Fire and Flying Pegasus (who I had to drop to make way for I Want Revenge) are all at the same point. They need a big performance in the Louisiana Derby. Patena, Giant Oak and Papa Clem also have a big chance to make themselves contenders in the same race. I rank all those horses as near equals despite the fact that Friesan Fire has the best resume. I think both his recent wins have been too slow and too early in the year to matter. If he's a Derby horse it will be because of his next two races not his last two. He has as good a chance of improving as any of the other LA Derby horses but not necessarily a better chance.
Unfortunately a vacation will prevent me from updating my Top 10 after next weeks races. Hopefully the list doesn't look horrendously inaccurate after all is said and done this weekend. The Top 10 will return March 24th after the Lane's End. There ought to be plenty of things to be excited about by that time.