Derby Top 10 - Mar 31st
1. I Want Revenge (1)
2. Imperial Council (2)
3. Friesan Fire (3)
4. The Pamplemousse (5)
5. Quality Road (8)
6. Old Fashioned (6)
7. Terrain (7)
8. Dunkirk (new)
9. Papa Clem (9)
10. Pioneerof the Nile (10)
Dropped: Theregoesjojo (4)
The Florida Derby is the new tipping point on the Triple Crown Trail. Every prep will be judged against the Florida Derby and horses who fail to run better last prep races won't be given much of a chance in the Kentucky Derby itself. Quality Road is pure quality top to bottom and it's very likely that he could be the favorite on Derby day. From this point on even every analysis of the Derby will be judged by how it deals with Quality Road.
There were very few things wrong with Quality Road's performance in the Florida Derby. He rated professionally off the pace and even once he found himself in front he was still extremely relaxed. He was waiting until Velasquez gave him the signal to go, other horses didn't matter and that's a huge plus for a Derby horse. Quality Road has all the visual tools of a Derby winner. He's got good size, great speed and a professional mind. It very much looks like this is the horse that will be in front at the 1/8th pole in the Derby. It's up to the rest of the crop to come and get him.
I still have a few fears about Quality Road. Although I do rely on the visual aspects I'm still a numbers guy at heart and some of the numbers don't quite add up and they prevent me from making Quality Road my #1. The problem I still have with him is the Derby distance and the numbers suggest he might have trouble with it three different ways. He has only had one two turn prep, the AWD's of his sire and damsire are below 8f and his highest lifetime figure was earned in a one turn race. On their own none of these factors are enough to toss a horse straight out the window but when combined it gives me enough doubt to prevent me from throwing my complete support behind him. He certainly would not be the first supremely talented individual to lose the Derby.
I have ranked above him those that I consider most likely to appear like more solid contenders once everything shakes down. As you can see despite all the negatives I just mentioned I still have great respect for his talent. He is among my Top 5 with the chance to move up if others fail.
Dunkirk makes his Top 10 debut this week after a solid performance against the bias. I don't think that Dunkirk was given his best chance to win in the Florida Derby based on the tactics and the track but clearly he isn't as good as Quality Road. I think he can be one day but right now he isn't. I do think his earnings will be just enough to get him in the Derby. His speed figures are a little light but at this stage we're running out of Derby contenders that look both speedy and solid. I can't even imagine finding more than 10 horses who I think can win the Derby. On my list there are really only 7 or 8 that I think could manage it.
I thought that both of the Godolphin pair ran their best races of the spring in the UAE Derby. Although the final time was a shade slow the closing fractions were excellent and slow late fractions had been my #1 concern with Desert Party. I think both of these horses will finish in the top half of the Derby field but neither of them represent a major chance of victory. If I were making a top 10 list with the idea of predicting the top 10 finishers in order then both these horses would be on the list around #8 but my list is about winning chances. Some of my current Top 10 will run poorly in the Derby but I think all of them have a better chance of winning than Desert Party.
It's tough to get things like speed ratings for races in Dubai but all the ratings I have seen suggest that the quality of this race was lacking. The Racing Post rates this pair on par with Curule instead of Street Cry and I have to think that with the speed we've seen stateside both these horses may struggle.
Theregoesjojo has dropped out of the list but he's not been completely forgotten. A solid race in the Lexington or Blue Grass could put him right back in the fray. The most important thing for him is that he shows the ability to stay the distance. I know the tactics may have compromised him but he still looked poor in the final 1/8th. A return to respectability would not be unprecedented but it's certainly not a high percentage occurrence.
There was a slight bit of negative news on Friesan Fire this week that makes me think a bit less of him. Jones considers training up to the Derby as option A and it personally makes me a bit nervous. Not nervous enough to move him down my list but I certainly cooled on the prospect of making him #1. I don't mind layoffs and I don't mind the lack of a 9f prep but I do mind when both factors are rolled into the same horse.
This upcoming weekend to me is the biggest of the spring. Three of my top 5 will be in action and we're going to learn a fair bit about each of them. It looks like all systems go for my top pair in the Wood Memorial although Shug didn't give Imperial Council that 5f bullet move that so many of his primed horses get. Perhaps he's saving that for next month. Imperial Council should still run very well. Pioneerof the Nile pretty much has to run a new career high Beyer Speed Figure to convince me that he's got the quality. I think those enamored with his blazing workouts and big reputation are getting sucked in a bit. He's a lot slower than most of this crop and this is his last chance to show some real speed.