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Road to Kentucky Derby 136 - vol. 8

LOUISVILLE, KY - MAY 02: Charles Matasich of Ohio watches racing prior to the 135th running of the Kentucky Derby on May 2, 2009 at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KY - MAY 02: Charles Matasich of Ohio watches racing prior to the 135th running of the Kentucky Derby on May 2, 2009 at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Bad Derby hat.  Just atrocious.  I think I was too hard on the guy with the mint julep hat because this really don't know what to say.  That's also an expensive Derby hat, assuming those are real roses. (and, really, what self-respecting Derby hat wearer is going to show up with a hat made of fake roses?  I think you could get kicked out of the state of Kentucky for pulling something like that.)

Okay, on to more serious matters:  we're just a little over 45 days until the 2010 Kentucky Derby and we’ve got a pretty big shake-up on the weekly Top 10 Contender list.  Just like every Wednesday, I'll review last weekend's prep races, take a quick peek at what's coming up this weekend, reveal this week's Top 10 Contenders, and provide the speed figs for all of last week's prep race runners.

First, a quick housekeeping item: if you are playing in the And Down The Stretch They Come league for Road to the Roses, remember to select your three additional horses before this weekend.

Derby Trail News

-Buddy’s Saint was found to have a small chip in his ankle following a morning work last week and is off the Derby trail.  Trainer Bruce Levine intends to give the colt 60 to 90 days off and then resume training.

-Eskendereya, the dominate winner of the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth back at Gulfstream on February 20th, has decided to skip the Grade 1 Florida Derby this weekend and instead point towards the Grade 1 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct in two weeks.  

-Rule, the winner of the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on February 13th,will point towards the Florida Derby for trainer Todd Pletcher.

-And finally, rumors are flying around the Twittersphere (did I just type that?  Twittersphere?  Good lord, the apocalypse is upon us)…anyway, rumors are flying that Jess Jackson, owner of Rachel Alexandra and owner of Curlin, is about to purchase a top Kentucky Derby contender.  Initial thoughts surrounded Rebel winner Lookin At Lucky but the focus quickly turned to Zayat’s Eskendereya.  As you may have read elsewhere, Zayat Stables has had a rough winter.

Last Week’s Preps

Grade 2 Rebel Stakes (race replay): Easily the top prep race of the weekend in my book, and one of the best prep races of the year.  Two year old champion colt Lookin At Lucky answered all the questions surrounding his dirt form by rallying in deep stretch to nip his main rival, Noble’s Promise, right at the wire.  For Noble’s Promise it was certainly a bittersweet race.  On the one hand, Noble’s Promise ran a fantastic race, proved he could run on dirt, and is a legitimate contender for this year’s Kentucky Derby (even if his pedigree does question his ability to get the distance).  On the other hand, he still can’t get the best of Lookin At Lucky.

Dublin ran another decent race to grab the show spot but he’s starting to look like a colt that runs well but doesn’t win.  I guess it’s too early to come to that conclusion but I thought the race set up pretty nicely for Dublin to sweep to the front off of the turn.  Now, to be fair, he was wide going into both turns, so you can make the argument that he lost considerable ground to the others.  But at the same time, I’m starting to get the feeling that this colt gets himself into trouble on a routine basis.  Additionally, I wouldn’t be too upset if D. Wayne Lukas decides to bring someone other than Corey Nakatani on board to ride.  I’m just sayin’.

Uh Oh Bango, the fourth place finisher, probably needed this race after his time on the bench but he’ll need to show more in the Arkansas Derby if he is to be viewed as a true top contender.

Grade 2 San Felipe (race replay): Probably the least impressive of the three preps last weekend due to the brutally slow pace set by the winner Sidney’s Candy; the pacesetter got away with fractions of :24.39, :48.55, and 1:13..54 on route to a wire to wire victory.  It’s nice that Sidney’s Candy was able to control the pace and hold off all comers in the stretch, and if we were looking at this race from the perspective of seeing this colt go forward in a bunch of middle distance events, we might find this colt pretty useful.  But this was a prep for the Kentucky Derby where there is no chance on God’s Green Earth that the pacesetter is going to get away with 1:13 and change on the front end.  And for that reason, I just can't rate this performance as significant in the Derby landscape.

If you’re looking for a takeaway from the San Felipe it probably should be this: Interactif didn’t have any problem handling the synthetic surface at Santa Anita, and finished a solid second.

Grade 3 Tampa Bay Derby (race replay): By far the craziest prep race of the weekend.  Click the link for the replay and tell me how in the world Odysseus got up for the win?  I’ve been looking for an image of the official photo finish; if anybody out there has a link for that, let me know.

As far as the race was concerned, in deep stretch there were three or four horses that all had a shot to steal the top prize.  Odysseus, who looked completely done coming off the far turn, switched inside in deep, deep stretch and found just enough to nose out Schoolyard Dreams The DRF Formulator chart has Odysseus running the final 3/16 of a mile in 32.47…yikes!  The dirt surface at Tampa is known to be a little quirky compared to other tracks around the country and it’s certainly not a track where you see lightning fast times.  However, from a visual perspective and a time perspective, those horses were looking for the oxygen tanks in that final furlong.

So which horse was the most impressive in this race?  Was it Odysseus for fighting back and nosing out the others for the win?  Was it Schoolyard Dreams for his big move on the turn and then his hard fought battle down the stretch?  Was it Super Saver who set a quick pace and then was able to hold on to the third spot? 

In my opinion, I’m going to need to see another race out of the top three in order to decide what to do with this race.

This Week’s Preps

Gulfstream Park has the spotlight all to itself this weekend with the Grade 1 Florida Derby dominating the Derby prep landscape.  The Grade 2 Swale Stakes at 7 furlongs appears on the undercard.

With the defection of Fountain of Youth winner Eskendereya to the Wood Memorial, trainer Rick Dutrow is now considering running D’Funnybone in the Florida Derby instead of the Swale.  Following his win in the Hutcheson, Dutrow indicated that he wanted to try the Florida Derby to see how far this colt could go, and to determine whether his poor performance at the Breeders’ Cup was due to surface or distance.  This week’s news that he still wasn’t sure where to start this colt leads me to believe that Dutrow is not convinced that D’Funnybone is a true classic contender.  That belief drops this colt down on my rankings.

No word on if trainer Michael Matz will try L entenor in the Florida Derby.

Top 10 Contenders







Lookin At Lucky

His performance in the Rebel proved his class.



Noble’s Promise

Heart isn’t a concern, distance might be.




Will skip the Fla. Derby to head to NY for the Wood.



Awesome Act

Big performance in the Gotham; another test in the Wood.




Southwest winner will go to Sunland Park next.




No question he has talent but he keeps having rough trips.



Schoolyard Dreams

Loved the move he made on the turn at Tampa.




He’s got guts, that is for certain.  Nice upside, too.




Florida Derby will be big test for Sam F. Davis winner.




This weekend will tell the tale.


Dropped Out: Buddy’s Saint, Uh Oh Bango, Jackson Bend

Prep Race Speed Figures

Grade 2 Rebel Stakes
97: Lookin At Lucky
97: Noble’s Promise
92: Dublin
85: Uh Oh Bango
82: Cardiff Giant
68: Pleasant Storm
66: Royal Express

Grade 2 San Felipe
95: Sidney’s Candy
94: Interactif
91: Caracoratado
87: American Lion
86: Stephen’s Got Hope
84: Dave in Dixie
84: Erbeia

Grade 3 Tampa Bay Derby
93: Odysseus
93: Schoolyard Dream
92: Super Saver
91: Gleam of Hope
88: Uptowncharlybrown
87: Slammy Boy
86: Tuvia's Force