clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Road to Kentucky Derby 136 - vol. 9

New, 2 comments
LOUISVILLE, KY - APRIL 30: A horse and rider train in front of the twin spires during morning workouts prior to the Kentucky Derby on April 30, 2009 at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KY - APRIL 30: A horse and rider train in front of the twin spires during morning workouts prior to the Kentucky Derby on April 30, 2009 at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

What was more shocking last weekend?  Tiger Woods announcing he'll play in the Masters; Cornell advancing to the Sweet 16; or Ice Box winning the Florida Derby?  Okay, okay, Ice Box isn't going to register a blip on the national radar, but in the horse racing world, his performance certainly shook things up on the Road to the Kentucky Derby.

Thirty-eight days until Kentucky Derby 136 and it's debatable as to whether the contender picture became clearer or hazier after last weekend's events in Florida.   We'll start this week's post with a look at the two races at Gulfstream last Saturday, take a quick peek at the preps on tap for this weekend, reveal this week's Top 10 Contender list, rundown the speed figures for every horse in last weekend's preps, and finally, I've posted the current Top 50 three year olds by graded earnings.

Last Week's Preps

Grade 1 Florida Derby (race replay):  One of the keys to analyzing this year's contenders for the Derby will be deciding what to do with the very talented but seemingly one-dimensional Rule.  The results of the Florida Derby, in my opinion, didn't help to clarify the task.

The problem I have with Rule's Florida Derby is simple: had this colt been able to sit just off the pace and track the leaders, instead of getting into a pace duel, he probably has enough in the tank to out finish the field and roll to Kentucky as one of the favorites.  But he didn't, even after trainer Todd Pletcher suggested before the race that Rule didn't need the lead in order to win.    He contested a strong pace, hit the wall in mid-stretch, and gamely held onto third place - a solid effort but not enough to tell us if he can take back in the early stages.

Rule is unlikely to have another prep race under his belt prior to the Derby to see whether this colt can actually win a race without leading it wire to wire.  Honestly, I'm extremely skeptical; the Derby will add an extra eighth of a mile to the task, not to mention the presence of at least two other horses that have done all their winning on the front end (Conveyance and Sidney's Candy). 

As for the winner, Ice Box, he didn't find himself running any closer to the lead than he did in the Fountain of Youth, but a quick pace and a bunch of tired horses in the stretch created the perfect opportunity to score a huge win.  He appears to be a colt that is just starting to find his stride and Nick Zito had him finely tuned for that last effort.  However, there is something to think about regarding this Florida Derby field: none of the top three horses from the Fountain of Youth (Eskendereya, Jackson Bend, and Aikenite) ran in this race.  That's an important factor in judging the strength of this race; Eskendereya is widely considered to have run the best race of the spring when he trounced the field in the Fountain of Youth.  Whether  you believe Eskendereya is the top Derby contender or not, his absence in the Florida Derby is a significant downgrade in the depth of the field.

Grade 2 Swale (race replay):  The Swale looked to be extremely formful on paper and that's exactly how it played out when the gates opened as D'Funnybone cruised to a fairly routine victory.  Ibboyee picked up the pieces late in deep stretch but was no match for the winner.

While it's unlikely that any horse running in the Swale will have a direct impact on this year's Derby, it's possible we could see one or more of these colts at some point during the Triple Crown season.  Richard Dutrow, trainer of D'Funnybone, has suggested that his colt could be pointed towards the Preakness at Pimlico on May 15th after attempting the Grade 3 Withers at a mile on April 24th.

This Week's Preps

A wide variety of Derby preps on the card this weekend beginning with the key race in North America - the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby.  On the other side of the world, the Grade 1 UAE Derby will run at the brand new Meydan Racecourse in Dubai, although that race will be absent it's biggest name. Also on tap are the Rushaway and the Grade 2 Lane's End at Turfway Park, and the Grade 3 Sunland Derby at Sunland Park.  The Sunland Derby is a race that could quickly change the complexion of the graded earnings list as it carries an $800,000 purse.

Vale of York (IRE), the winner of the 2009 Breeders' Cup Juvenile, was originally pointed towards running in the UAE Derby as his final prep before a start in Kentucky.  The colt, however, suffered a recent soft tissue injury and has been forced to bypass the race in order to recover.  That leaves Mendip, winner of the Al Bastakiya on March 4th, as the likely favorite in a race that doesn't pack a lot of star power.

No horse has ever won the Derby after prepping in Dubai, and looking at this year's UAE Derby field it seems unlikely that any horse is going to change history in 2010.

I'll have a breakdown of these prep races once the fields are set later on in the week.

Top 10 Contenders

Not a whole lot of changes to the Top 10; I finally bumped out D'Funnybone and replaced him with Ice Box.

Rank

Last

Horse

Notes

1

1

Lookin At Lucky

Will likely head back to CA for the Santa Anita Derby.

2

2

Noble's Promise

Heart isn't a concern, distance might be.

3

3

Eskendereya

No margin for error in the Wood due to his low graded earnings.

4

4

Awesome Act

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

5

5

Conveyance

Southwest winner will go to Sunland Park next.

6

6

Dublin

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

7

7

Schoolyard Dreams

Got serious graded earnings issues at this point.

8

8

Odysseus

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

9

9

Rule

Holds his spot but he's got a lot of questions.

10

--

Ice Box

Had the perfect set-up but Zito has him in great form.

 

Prep Race Beyer Figures

G1-Florida Derby
99: Ice Box
99: Pleasant Prince
97: Rule
89: Lentenor
89: First Dude
87: Pulsion
81: Game On Dude
76: Soaring Empire
73: Radiohead (GB)
42: Miner's Reserve
38: Best Actor

G2-Swale Stakes
96: D'Funnybone
93: Ibboyee
88: Privilaged
78: Hear Ye Hear Ye
71: Dixie Band
54: Fearless Cowboy
53: City Trooper
50: Gary D
39: Silvercraft


Top 50 Graded Earnings

A couple note about the following list:

-Vale of York (IRE) is off the Derby trail.

-The filly, Blind Luck, is highly unlikely to try the Derby

-We haven't heard word one about Beethoven (IRE); he seems an unlikely starter.

Rank

Horse

GrStk Earnings

1

Lookin At Lucky

$1,390,000

2

Vale of York (IRE)

1,114,784

3

Blind Luck (f)

861,150

4

Noble's Promise

708,000

5

Rule

645,000

6

Ice Box

457,500

7

D' Funnybone

420,000

8

Devil May Care

363,000

9

Beethoven (IRE)

342,616

10

Discreetly Mine

310,000

11

Dublin

273,208

12

Interactif

270,450

13

Homeboykris

250,500

14

Aikenite

218,000

15

Make Music for Me

215,000

16

Awesome Act

210,000

Conveyance

210,000

18

Radiohead (GB)

196,332

19

Uh Oh Bango

187,952

20

Sidney's Candy

180,000

Odysseus

180,000

22

Backtalk

172,566

23

Super Saver

163,832

24

Pleasant Prince

162,500

25

Eskendereya

150,000

26

Caracortado

108,000

27

Paddy O'Prado

100,950

28

Schoolyard Dreams

100,000

Aspire

100,000

30

Alphie's Bet

90,000

Connemara

90,000

32

American Lion

87,000

33

Pulsion

80,000

Jackson Bend

80,000

35

The Program

68,000

36

Ailalea

66,900

37

Ron the Greek

63,000

38

Tempted to Tapit

60,000

Who's Up

60,000

40

Fly by Phil

58,280

41

Switch

58,000

42

Smiling Tiger

54,000

Cardiff Giant

54,000

44

Frozen Power (IRE)

50,000

Roman Invasion

50,000

Marcello

50,000

47

Litigation Risk

45,000

Ibboyee

45,000

49

Peppi Knows

41,000

50

Lentenor

37,500