Derby Countdown – March 9

Well it’s been a month and many of the top Kentucky Derby prospects have run, some have left the trail, and more have emerged.  Here’s my most recent Derby Countdown.  Each Tuesday leading up to the Kentucky Derby I’ll go through my Top 10 Kentucky Derby prospects, starting with this week.  Be sure to comment and post your Top 10. 

#1 – Eskendereya

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Owner: Zayat Stables

Pedigree:  Giant’s Causeway x Aldebaran Light (Seattle Slew)

Previous Rank: 2nd

Kentucky Derby Future Wager Odds: 22-1 (Pool 1), 5-1 (Pool 2)

Best Performance: Fountain of Youth, Gulfstream, 2/20, 1st

Where to next?  Florida Derby, Gulfstream, 3/20

What’s to like?  A breakthrough performance in the Fountain of Youth made Eskendereya the clear leader of the 3YO division.  He stalked the pace set by Lost Aptitude, took over when that rival was finished, and kicked clear late to win by over eight lengths.  He has a tremendous pedigree for the Triple Crown as there’s nothing but upside with this colt.  He’s headed to the Florida Derby where he might meet many of the same horses he already defeated and from there it’ll be six weeks to the Run for the Roses.

#2 – Dublin

Trainer: D. Wayne Lukas

Owner: Baker & Mack

Pedigree:  Afleet Alex x Classy Mirage (Storm Bird)

Previous Rank: Unranked

Kentucky Derby Future Wager Odds: 20-1 (Pool 1), 10-1 (Pool 2)

Best Performance: Southwest, Oaklawn Park, 2/20, 2nd

Where to next?  Rebel, Oaklawn Park, 3/13

What’s to like?  Already a Grade I winner from 2009, Dublin made his 2010 debut in the Southwest at Oaklawn Park.  He raced wide the entire way after a tangled beginning and eventually finished a fast-closing second to the speedy Conveyance.  He looked like a colt who would relish more ground and trainer D. Wayne Lukas has been high on this son of Afleet Alex since the Saratoga meet in 2009.  He will face a stiff challenge in the Rebel with it scheduled to be the 2010 debut of Lookin at Lucky.

#3 – Lookin at Lucky

Trainer: Bob Baffert

Owner: Watson & Pegram

Pedigree:  Smart Strike x Private Feeling (Belong to Me)

Previous Rank: 3rd

Kentucky Derby Future Wager Odds: 8-1 (Pool 1), 9-1 (Pool 2)

Best Performance: CashCall Futurity, Hollywood Park, 12/19, 1st

Where to next?  Rebel, Oaklawn Park, 3/13

What’s to like?  The Eclipse Award winning 2YO of 2009 has yet to make his 2010 debut but it will come this Saturday in the Rebel.  Trainer Bob Baffert has already shipped a horse into Oaklawn to win a 3YO stake race at this meet with the aforementioned Conveyance and it would seem that Lookin at Lucky is over whatever plagued him earlier this winter.  He will wear blinkers for the first time in the Rebel, one would guess to make him relax a bit more early.  While he’s the de facto leader of the division right now, the ground on which he’s perched is getting shaky.

#4 – Rule

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Owner: WinStar Farm

Pedigree:  Roman Ruler x Rockcide (Personal Flag)

Previous Rank: 6th

Kentucky Derby Future Wager Odds: 24-1 (Pool 1), 20-1 (Pool 2)

Best Performance: Sam F. Davis, Tampa Bay Downs, 2/13, 1st

Where to next?  Florida Derby, Gulfstream, 3/20 or Wood Memorial, Aqueduct, 4/3

What’s to like?  Rule has turned into a professional, classy racehorse as evidenced by his game wire-to-wire decisions in the Delta Jackpot and the Sam F. Davis.  While his last four triumphs have come on the lead, trainer Todd Pletcher and jockey John Velazquez believe he’ll be successful rating.  After the Davis Pletcher said that this son of Roman Ruler would be pointed to a Grade I and the possibilities right now are either the Florida Derby or Wood Memorial.  It’s safe to say he’ll be a major factor in either.

#5 – Awesome Act

Trainer: Jeremy Noseda

Owner: Mrs. Susan Roy & Vinery Stable

Pedigree:  Awesome Again x Houdini’s Honey (Mr. Prospector)

Previous Rank: Unranked

Kentucky Derby Future Wager Odds: Field, 3/2 (Pool 1), Field, 3-1 (Pool 2)

Best Performance: Gotham Stakes, Aqueduct, 3/6, 1st

Where to next?  Wood Memorial, Aqueduct, 4/3

What’s to like?  Awesome Act showed no discomfort on dirt in the Gotham Stakes as he rated beautifully behind a fast pace, angled out at the quarter pole, took over and kicked clear to win by almost two lengths.  His pedigree suggested he would handle dirt as he had run exclusively on synthetics and turf prior to the Gotham.  He is being pointed to the Wood Memorial and looms another contender with no distance limitations, some talent, and very good connections on his side.

6. Super Saver

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Owner: WinStar Farm, LLC

Pedigree:  Maria’s Mon x Supercharger (A.P. Indy)

Previous Rank: 8th

Kentucky Derby Future Wager Odds: 20-1 (Pool 1), 24-1 (Pool 2)

Best Performance: Kentucky Jockey Club, Churchill, 11/28, 1st

Where to next?  Tampa Bay Derby, Tampa Bay Downs, 3/13

What’s to like?  Super Saver will make his 2010 debut in the Tampa Bay Derby and take the two prep route that Carl Nafzger used for Street Sense (though it’s unclear if Super Saver will run in the Blue Grass).  He closed 2009 in style with a handy win in the Ky Jockey Club at Churchill and he obviously has some talent.  Whether he’s progressed in the 3+ months he’s been away from the races will be determined by the Oldsmar engagement.

7. Caracortado

Trainer: Mike Machowsky

Owner: Blahut Racing, Lo Hut Racing

Pedigree: Cat Dreams x Mons Venus (Maria’s Mon)

Previous Rank: Unranked

Kentucky Derby Future Wager Odds: Field, 3/2 (Pool 1), 19-1 (Pool 2)

Best Performance: Robert B. Lewis, Santa Anita, 2/13, 1st

Where to Next? San Felipe, Santa Anita, 3/13

What’s to like?  The 3YO leader on the West Coast is a Cal-bred gelding.  Say what?  That’s right, Caracortado (Spanish for scarface) asserted himself as the top dog out west when he rolled by the embattled pacesetters in the Robert B. Lewis at Santa Anita last month.  With Lookin at Lucky headed to Oaklawn, this son of Cat Dreams will now be the favorite in the San Felipe, presumably his penultimate start before the Derby with the SA Derby in between.  How far will this guy go and how long will the dreams last?  Who knows, but don’t bother waking his most gratified connections.

8. Drosselmeyer

Trainer: William Mott

Owner: WinStar Farm, LLC

Pedigree: Distorted Humor x Golden Ballet (Moscow Ballet)

Previous Rank: 1st

Kentucky Derby Future Wager Odds: 20-1 (Pool 1), Field, 3-1 (Pool 2)

Best Performance: Allowance, Gulfstream, 1/31, 1st

Where to Next? Louisiana Derby, Fair Grounds, 3/27

What’s to like? It goes without saying that I was disappointed in his Risen Star effort last month at Fair Grounds.  He went in a solid favorite and came out of the race with tons of questions about what went wrong and if he’s any good at all.  Trainer Bill Mott will now have to re-set and get him back on track for the Louisiana Derby and possible excuses for the Risen Star stinker are a quick turnaround off of his 2010 debut (20 days) or a horribly slow pace that made it next to impossible for a late runner.  No matter what, he has to elevate his game in his next start or else he’s not going to the Kentucky Derby.

9. Discreetly Mine

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Owner: Mrs. Einar P. Robsham

Pedigree: Mineshaft x Pretty Discreet (Private Account)

Previous Rank: Unranked

Kentucky Derby Future Wager Odds: Field, 3/2 (Pool 1), 37-1 (Pool 2)

Best Performance: Risen Star, Fair Grounds, 2/20

Where to Next? Louisiana Derby, Fair Grounds, 3/27

What’s to like? Many, including myself, believed that this son of Mineshaft had the look of a sprinter but trainer Todd Pletcher thought enough of him to try him in last month’s Risen Star at Fair Grounds.  A wire-to-wire win put this guy back in the discussion in terms of the Kentucky Derby, but don’t think he’s through with the questions about whether he can go 10 panels.  He was able to get away with an easy pace in the Risen Star and that certainly ensured he’d have plenty in the tank for the stretch drive.  If he has to work any harder early in the Louisiana Derby, he may be in some trouble.

10. Dave in Dixie

Trainer: John Sadler

Owner: Ike and Dawn Thrash

Pedigree: Dixie Union x Risk (Wavering Monarch)

Previous Rank: Unranked

Kentucky Derby Future Wager Odds: 28-1 (Pool 1), 22-1 (Pool 2)

Best Performance: Robert B. Lewis, Santa Anita, 2/13, 2nd

Where to Next? San Felipe, Santa Anita, 3/13

What’s to like? At no point between his debut last year at Del Mar and his 2010 debut in the Robert Lewis was John Sadler shy about his thoughts on Dave in Dixie.  He believed he was a nice horse all along and his Lewis effort showed that it’s not all talk as he finished a fast-closing second behind #7 CARACORTADO.  He is now also being pointed to the San Felipe and his chances may be bolstered by the presence of his stablemate Sidney’s Candy.  That son of Candy Ride has plenty of speed and this son of Dixie Union would be best served by having an early target.  Here’s to hoping for a breakthrough performance.

Races this week: Tampa Bay Derby, Tampa Bay Downs, Saturday, Rebel, Oaklawn Park, Saturday, and San Felipe, Santa Anita Park, Saturday

See you back next week with an update.  With 8 weeks remaining until Kentucky Derby 136 I’ll countdown the last eight Kentucky Derbies.  Here’s the 2002 running:

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