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Kentucky Derby Top 10

It's taken me forever to really come up with my preferences for this year's Derby because unlike previous years there hasn't been a horse that has really caught my eye. We've seen some tremendous performances (Big Brown in the Florida Derby to name one) but there hasn't been the consistent build up like we've seen with Barbaro, Smarty Jones, or Afleet Alex. Keeping that in mind, I present my current Derby Top 10:

1. Gayego

Ran well in California on the plastic stuff and then was able to transfer his form to dirt in a solid performance in the Arkansas Derby. Pedigree is questionable for the mile and a quarter distance as his sire's offspring have an average winning distance of 6.67. Not much stamina on the bottom either. Still, I think this year's Derby is going to set up well for a horse to outrun his pedigree, similar to Smarty Jones several years back. A stalk-and-pounce runner, Gayego should be able to keep close tabs on the leaders and make his move on the turn.

2. Recapturetheglory

This Cherokee Run winner of the Illinois Derby is another that will have to outrun his non-Classic pedigree in order to win in Louisville. But with the defection of the speedy War Pass, the pace in this Derby will be moderate at best. He might find himself alone on the lead, and if he does I suspect that he'll be a factor all the way to the wire.

3. Big Brown

Big Brown, the likely Derby favorite, would be my number 1 selection if not for two important factors. First, he's going to be over bet and offer little to no value whatsoever...I'm guessing we'll see 3-1 or worse on Derby day. Second, he's very lightly raced, which scares me in a race as competitive as the Derby. It's certainly possible that he's such a freak that he'll crush this field regardless of his seasoning...and on pure numbers there isn't another contender that is in his league. But at 3-1 odds or worse I'm willing to take a risk to find value elsewhere...though he'll still be in my Pick 4.

4. Colonel John

This colt hasn't done a thing wrong this spring except ever set foot on a dirt track in an actual race. A great classic pedigree of Tiznow - Turkoman, the Colonel should have plenty of stamina to get the distance. However, we can't overlook the fact that his colt has never raced on a surface other than a synthetic. Granted, his pedigree indicates that dirt should be no problem at all but how much money are we willing to wager on a horse that will be trying dirt for the first time in the toughest race in the world to win?

5. Pyro

Truth be told, Pyro is the horse that I want to see win the Derby but he's also a horse that is going to need some things to break well for that to happen. I'm drawing a line completely through his Blue Grass flop on the Polytrack last time out as I think he's certainly a better horse than what he showed that day. The problem for Pyro is that the defection of War Pass will most likely soften the pace of this race and as a stone-cold closer he needs some action up front to chase. I believe the best opportunity for a victory from this colt will occur if he's able to show some speed similar to his victory in the Louisiana Derby as opposed to finding himself 15 to 20 lengths back going into the first turn.

6. Z Fortune

The runner-up to Gayego in his last start at Oaklawn Park is my sleeper pick for this year's Derby. He's been a steady colt most of the spring and he ran a game race in the Arkansas Derby that might be the perfect set-up for a big performance in Louisville. The best feature of this colt is that he's going to be available at generous odds on Derby day.

7. Eight Belles - (filly)

This filly might opt for the Oaks on Friday depending on the outcome of the Derby post position draw. If she were to go in the Derby she certainly would have a shot, although she might be over bet due to the novelty of a filly running in the Derby. Her form this year is fantastic and we saw last year that a top filly can run with the boys. The question then becomes is she a top filly? So far, she appears to be just that. Some commentators have opined that this filly doesn't belong here and is just taking a spot away from a deserving contender. My response, the so-called "contenders" at the bottom of the Derby earnings list are very suspect. Eight Belles has a better chance at victory, in my opinion, than some of the also-rans tyring to get into this field.

8. Visionaire

This Michael Matz trainee didn't run much in the Blue Grass, but neither did Cool Coal Man and Pyro, and at least he beat those two fairly easily so at least he should have gotten something out of the race. Before running at Keeneland, Visionaire produced two solid efforts in the Gotham and the Risen Star. A stone-cold closer, Visionaire is going to need a hot pace up front in order to do serious damage in Louisville, and while that seems unlikely this colt has proven that he can run with the best and you can be sure that he'll be fit on Saturday.

9. Cool Coal Man

Another runner coming out of Keeneland's quirky Blue Grass stakes where he finished ahead of Pyro but not a whole lot else. If you believe his Blue Grass flop was due to the Polytrack then he could be an interesting factor in the Derby. On the other hand, it's certainly possible that the Blue Grass effort was poor enough to leave him unprepared for the challenge that lies ahead. Toss in the fact that his win in the Fountain of Youth looks weaker by the day and it would appear that this colt will have his work cut out for him in Louisville.

10. Smooth Air

He was beaten by five lengths in his last start, which under normal circumstances would cast serious doubt as to his class. But that loss was to the likely favorite, Big Brown, and Smooth Air was clearly the "Best of the Rest" that day. This colt will be available at a nice fat price on Saturday and should be able to put himself into contention as they turn for home. The only question is whether he can get by the top guns.