Derby Top 10 - Mar 24th
1. I Want Revenge (1)
2. Imperial Council (2)
3. Friesan Fire (10)
4. Theregoesjojo (5)
5. The Pamplemousse (7)
6. Old Fashioned (3)
7. Terrain (9)
8. Quality Road (new)
9. Papa Clem (new)
10. Pioneerof the Nile (8)
Dropped: Hello Broadway (4), General Quarters (6)
I think the preps in the last two weeks have been more about eliminating contenders rather than creating them. Horses like Patena, Hello Broadway, Flying Pegasus, Giant Oak, General Quarters and West Side Bernie were all pushed to the fringes. They might try another prep race but they'll so as desperate longshots who would basically need to win even to get in the Derby. Their chance has past and while they could prove to be proficient in other respects they won't be Derby horses.
I saw no one as good as I Want Revenge. In many ways the performance of Friesan Fire was very similar but it came up slower. Friesan Fire could still manage to take over top spot but he'd have to improve just slightly and I Want Revenge would have have to regress a bit off his last performance. I really respect Larry Jones and it seems like he's really getting Friesan Fire into a good spot. Normally I'd be betting against a horse with a record like his because with so many wins already one wonders if he'll still be sharp in May but both Hard Spun and Eight Belles were solid all spring long so I have to think that Jones can keep them on edge and even coax a career best effort from them in May.
I still have Imperial Council sandwiched between I Want Revenge and Friesan Fire. I just believe in him. In his last start Friesan Fire improved from a 96 Beyer to a 104. Imperial Council is likely capable of similar improvement and it looks as though these three horses may emerge as most solid Derby contenders. They still have a few boxes to tick off but I can certainly see the potential. Imperial Council got a bit of a positive form reference when Join The Dance nearly took the Tampa Bay Derby. He was no where near Imperial Council in their allowance match up.
Theregoesjojo gets his big test this weekend in the Florida Derby. If he were in line for a pair of two turn preps he'd have a legitimate chance at being first on the list if he does as well as I think he will in Florida. Big Brown won with only a single two turn prep and Jojo's preparation will be somewhat similar this spring but it's still a slight worry for me. I love his talent and running style though. I think he'll turn a lot of heads in the coming weeks.
Old Fashioned's race was not great but it was not as bad as some people think. I've dropped him down the list because he didn't run a big Beyer like I had hope he would but everything else is still par for the course. All year long I and a few others have been saying that Old Fashioned likely won't stay the distance. The Rebel seemed to confirm that observation. I think he'll stay 9f better than he did last week but 10f is going to stretch him. I still have him ranked fairly high because I think he could still hit the frame without fully staying the distance. There is also a lack of quality replacements. Dominguez deserved to lose the mount on Old Fashioned after that big early move into a fast pace. He also put him down on the rail which was a questionable path. Old Fashioned has every reason to bounce back and win the Arkansas Derby.
Old Fashioned's conqueror Win Willy very nearly made the list. Call him the unofficial 11th in this top 10. There are things to like about this horse. He's never lost on dirt and he ran a huge race in the Rebel but I'm not jumping on the wagon that quickly. I think his breeding is suspect at 10f and I also think that the pace set the race up for him. Things fell into his lap and he won't look as impressive next time in the Arkansas Derby with Silver City bypassing.
I thought Terrain ran well enough to keep his place in the Louisiana Derby. He didn't have the greatest trip and not many were closing in the race. I wish he could have gotten closer to Friesan Fire, he actually lost ground in the lane but it was his first start of the campaign and it came on an off track. I think the gelding showed some real class and put himself in a good spot going into his last prep race. A big performance would make him extremely dangerous in the Derby.
Quality Road is back on my list this week. It seems odd to be adding him now, several weeks after his last performance. I've got real questions about his breeding and the lack of two preps around two turns but he's wicked fast and extremely talented and in my opinion all the horses who had previously been keeping him off the list performed badly enough to move him onto it. I have a hunch that he won't get 10f but there is certainly no way to argue that there are 10 more likely winners than he.
Papa Clem makes his Top 10 debut after a solid but unspectacular performance in the Louisiana Derby. He has never run terribly fast on synthetics or dirt but I like his tactical speed and his toughness. One race after repelling I Want Revenge he held tough to beat Terrain late and hold onto second place. Tenacity like that is a real asset. I was expecting him to regress in the Louisiana Derby so his performance buoyed my opinion of him somewhat. He has much to prove still, mostly that he is fast enough to compete at the highest level and that he can win races but he's certainly got a bright future.
Pioneerof the Nile is lucky to stay in the Top 10 after a slow and uninspiring San Felipe. If I could find another quality Derby contender to replace him with I would. I know he was forced out of his element, he had to stay closer to the pace than he had previously. But getting him into the race earlier was an essential and he showed that if he's used at all early it really dulls what he can do late. The San Felipe had a terrible field and he beat them unconvincingly and in a slow time. Pioneerof the Nile is going to get crushed by The Pamplemousse in the Santa Anita Derby and he'll likely be well back in the Kentucky Derby as well. The only things he has going for him is the ability to stay, class and the ability to win and also the outside chance that dirt will move him up. I actually think he'll be worse on dirt but there is always that slim chance. In my opinion the Pioneer was one of the worst losers on this Derby trail in these past weeks. It's funny to think that he actually won his race.