The Terrain is Steep


My goal this year was to choose 2-year-old horses early in their racing career, who would continue on to the Kentucky Derby. I wanted to use a few different tools, and test personal knowledge and wisdom gained from working in the horse industry for almost two years now. Tools like the Maiden Watch blog on, knowledge gained from working on auctions and family line data/publications, co-worker experience who were kind enough to explain horse racing ins-and-outs, and personal observation.

I am very pleased with the fact that selecting 2-year-olds has actually worked out. I have successfully chosen horses early as 2yo's who are still strong in Derby contention as 3-year-olds.

Terrain was one of my few remaining Derby picks from early last year. He had a not so glamorous trip in the Bluegrass Stakes, but I did like his effort in the final stretch to get up to fourth place at the wire. I still have Chocolate Candy in strong contention though. Atomic Rain has been disappointing and Imperial Council is on the fence. Capt. Candyman Can still looks good to me, but won't make it to the big dirt-y dance. Giant Oak was one of the stand out Giant's Causeways from last year, so of course I had to pick him early. Scooby Dubai was more for the name and fun, so I didn't mind if he never was in Derby contention. I think I am most bummed about Beethoven though. He was a pick from late last year, close to December I think, and I wanted him to do so well.

Late additions added in January were The Pamplemousse, I Want Revenge, and one or two others. I was very excited about the Pamplemousse, but now he and several others are off the trail. I am sure Old Fashioned being out of contention affects many of your lists.

So what is MY personal list looking like now? Probably starting to look like a lot of yours, since a few horses are injured or pointed away from the Derby.

1 Chocolate Candy
2 I Want Revenge
3 Pioneerof the Nile
4 Quality Road
5 Friesan Fire

Horses holding under my sleeve:
6 Terrain
7 Imperial Council
8 Giant Oak
9 Mr. Hot Stuff





 Steve Haskin has word that Giant Oak might be pointed to the Derby still.


Leave a Comment:

CB Man

Such a pity Old fashioned had to get injured , i was really looking forward to him shutting a few people up in the derby. Any was it is what it is, and the field still looks very competitive.

It looks as though the fast pace that we were expecting is gone with the defection of "the Mouse" and 'OF', So it seems it will come down to who is most versatile, and who can get into the best spot.

This race appears to be even more wide open than a few weeks ago.I have to say the Californians are holding a really strong hand in this one. It Looks like Dunkirk will be getting in, so I have to hold off on my pick for a bit. I'd say if Gomez goes with Pioneer of the Nile, I would have to pick him.  Since moving to Baffert, This horse has refused to be beaten. I know there is the big dirt question, but just look at what happened with a few horses that moved out to avoid him.

My Picks

1 Pioneer of the Nile

2 I Want Revenge

3 Friesan Fire

4 Dunkirk

5 Quality Road (Quarter Crack has      him so low)

6 Desert Party

I would Like to say, Should the filly decide to jump in, She goes to the top on my list.

13 Apr 2009 10:47 AM


I like every horse on your a-list but now have to consider Papa Clem and General Quarters after their victories this weekend. Looks like the California horses are for real even with the 'Mousse being out. I'm leaning QR but I really think it's still wide open this year. A "second-tier" horse like a Papa Clem or Musket Man or General Quarters wouldn't surprise me a bit on the 2nd of May.

13 Apr 2009 10:48 AM
Blue Blue Sea

Chocolate Candy was a very early pick in his 2 yo season for me. Last time I picked one as early as him it was Smarty Jones, so hoping that it bodes well for this year.

13 Apr 2009 10:48 AM

None of your above mentioned horses who are out have affected my list. Friesan Fire has been my number one horse since last fall. I am a little concerned about him being trained up to the Derby but feel Larry Jones knows what's best for him. I also have liked Terrain and been a follower of his since he ran at Arlington last year. Musket man was a horse I didn't think much of before and after his Tampa Derby but after being there and seeing him win the Illinois Derby, I have have come to respect this guy. The California horses are to be respected. Until I hear how POTN is working out at Churhill I'm just not so gung ho about him. I will have to wait and see how they are all working and looking Derby week to come  to any betting decisions just yet.

13 Apr 2009 11:02 AM

Thanks Frank and CB, I like your picks! Desert just dosn't do "it" for me and we are still a few weeks out, so some second tiers are good to have handy in your planning. It might just come down to how the horses are working and how they look in the paddock this year...

Blue Blue Sea: If you picked Smarty early on, then I think you are in good position and I might have to see what you are doing =)

Donna: Looks like you have a good eye too, So is Friesan Fire going to be your overall pick, or is there another horse growing on you?

13 Apr 2009 11:48 AM
For Big Red

TO ADAM: Chocolate Candy will probably be overlooked in the betting, but Hollendorfer seems to be doing a masterful job bringing him up to the Derby.

In contrast, the approach Jones is taking with my favorite, Friesan Fire, has me very worried. I just don't understand why he hasn't worked the colt yet. It's been a month since FF's last race.

13 Apr 2009 12:05 PM
Kim Miner

Just back from the Arkansas Derby and was just heartsick to hear that OF had the knee fracture.  I watched him gallop out and Mr. Jones and Mr. Porter were there for him and all seemed fine at the time but you never know.  PON(and please,I know Bodie is a cute kid but do we have to see him every time BB is on camera, enough is enough!) does nothing for me and I think with the distance Chocolate Candy will whip up on him.  Scared that FF has not had a race in seven weeks at Derby time but will not question Mr. Jones.  At this point I have to stick with I Want Revenge followed by Chocolate Candy and then Dunkirk.  With all of the unfortunate fall out I think he is in but again look at the length of time between races!  

13 Apr 2009 12:43 PM

For Big Red

Friesan Fire has worked since his La. Derby

Date: April 8, 2009


Distance: Five Furlongs

Time: 1.00:80 Breezing

Track Condition: Fast

Surface: All Weather Track

Rank: 6/28

I enjoy your posts!

13 Apr 2009 1:11 PM
For Big Red

TO MR. RUFFIAN: Thank you SO much for the information! If his work was reported here at B-H or the T-Times site, I missed it. Now I can breathe a sigh of relief. The freshening doesn't worry me, but no works did. :)

13 Apr 2009 1:26 PM

My top 5 would be:

1. I Want Revenge

2. Friesan Fire

3. Quality Road

4. General Quarters

5. Pioneer Of the Nile

Friesan Fire was my #1 all year, but I hate the 7 week layoff.  His biggest selling point to me was his consistent race record, since I believe most trainers today overtrain and underrace their horses.

I can't get too excited about Dunkirk.  I think he's very talented, but just doesn't have the foundation necessary to run well in the Derby.  I know people talk about Big Brown winning in his 4th start, but last year was the weakest group of 3 year olds I've seen in over 40 years of following the sport.  Proof is that despite Big Brown's dominance, he ran a career high 109 Beyer, which would have been considered a mediocre performance for colts like Tiznow and Bernardini.  Dunkirk has to face a large group of talented and experienced colts - my list and others like Musket Man, Papa Clem, and Chocolate Candy, which makes his task so much more difficult.

13 Apr 2009 1:31 PM
Greg J.

Still bumped out that "The Pamplemousse" is injured, But I still have my favorite "Friesan Fire" on top(Larry Jones must know what he is doing by training him up to the derby, seven weeks is a long time, though, He has been on top since day one for me), Complete list:

1.Friesan Fire

2.General Quarters

3.Chocolate Candy

(By the way, Win Willy is off the Derby Trail per his owner, So Dunkirk should have no trouble getting in with his earnings, What he does from there is anyone's guess!)

I believe this derby will have a feel good story to it, and if either Friesan Fire or General Quarters wins, that will be fulfilled....

13 Apr 2009 3:06 PM

I have to wait and see how POTN takes to the dirt.  He is very good

on synthetics but will it transfer over to the dirt.  Now Baffert is taking another day in getting him to KY. Is he already telling us something... Like a few others FF has been my pick for sometime with Dunkirk being my next pick and IWR. Truthfully it is a very good crop this year and it is really making it hard, will probably wait until the very last minute to make my choice but knowing me I will stick with my first gut feeling.  Would love to see Jones go out a winner.

13 Apr 2009 3:07 PM
Greg J.

For Big Red:

Friesan Fire worked last week:

Friesan Fire

Your Comment: KD WINNER

Date: April 8, 2009


Distance: Five Furlongs

Time: 1.00:80 Breezing

Track Condition: Fast

Surface: All Weather Track

Rank: 6/28

13 Apr 2009 3:10 PM
Greg J.


    To get a jump on next year, Here are my two to look out for in next year's triple crown:

1. Mission Impazible(Will win Keeneland Race 5 on Thursday 4.16.9)

2.Gator Prowl(Amazing two year old filly)

Mark My Words....

13 Apr 2009 3:56 PM

Adam, as of right now Freisan Fire is my top pick. I am going to the Derby Trial the Saturday before the Derby and am planning to hopefully catch some morning works on Sunday and Monday at Churhill. Also hoping to hear some tidbits here and there that will help to narrow things a little more.

13 Apr 2009 4:09 PM

I do have one other horse that has caught my interest and that is Musket Man.

13 Apr 2009 4:14 PM

I enjoyed your column and the comments others gave. I will continue to go with Chocolate Candy to win the Derby. I like the last race in the Santa Anita Derby (he had to go six wide)., the two month layoff to the Santa Anita Derby and now the Jock Change to Mike Smith. What a recent workout!

Maybe the trend will be my friend.

Every odd year of this decade a non winner in his last race before the Derby, 2001 Monarchos, 2003 Funny Cide, 2005 Giacomo and 2007 Street Sense lost the last race before the Derby. I really do like the California Horses for the Ky Derby and I like it right now: Chocolate Candy, Papa Clem, Pioneer of the Nile and I want Revenge. I'm not as big a fan of Friesan Fire being off seven weeks or never being past 1 1/16.

I am not a fan of the Florida Horses and I don't see Quality Road or Dunkirk in the top 4. I believe that Gulfstream track made times too fast. I feel this is a great set of 3 year olds who will have fantastic Triple Crown Races, Haskell, Travers and be competitive into their 4 year old years. I can't wait for Saturday. I will be at the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland. I liked Square Eddie earlier this year for the Derby before he got injured. I like California horse shipping in here,

Giaranimo (?).

13 Apr 2009 5:01 PM

Alot of people came off of Barbaro when he had I think 5 weeks from his last race till the Derby, that's why it doesn't bother me that FF has such time between races plus the fact Jones is one hell of a horseman. I've liked this horse as a two year old and because he somewhat reminds me of Afleet Alex whom I also loved as a two year old. So I put FF on the top of my list. I have to see POTN work on dirt to give my true opinion on him. Can't ignore IWR's last race, or QR's stylish win. The Mousse would have been up there too so that does affect my top four, so this is how I have them so far:




4.Dunkirk/POTN(haven't decided)

I have to see POTN work on dirt.

My longshots are:Musket Man and GQ

13 Apr 2009 5:26 PM
anti draynay and thong song!

Musket man is too slow to win the derby but he could round out the tri box, I think FF and IWR, still interested in Dunkirk and with all the hype this horse has been flying under the radar and with 5 weeks rest could provide a power run coming down the stretch this year!

13 Apr 2009 6:08 PM

This is the first time I've really followed the Triple Crown prep as closely as I have this year.

I was really disappointed by both the Pamplemousse and Old Fashioned's injuries.

Here are my top horses for the Derby:

Chocolate Candy: I think he would have beat Pioneer of the Nile if they'd had to go another 1/8 of a mile in the Santa Anita Derby

Pioneer of the Nile:  If they have a horse that can set the pace for him to rate off of, I think he'll do well, but he was a little disconcerted by not having a pace setter in the Santa Anita Derby


I Want Revenge:  I like this horse, but if his connections stick with Joe Talamo, I am concerned about the fact that it is his first Kentucky Derby (I may be wrong in saying this,and if I am, my apologies).  Don't get me wrong, I think he's a talented jockey, but...

14 Apr 2009 12:27 AM

You all have very good points. I do think this could be the year for Cali breds. They will need to take to the dirt, but I have a gut feeling they will this year. And my gut usually has a hint of right in it.

Normally I would say dirt prepped horses  would be stronger, but some of them are off the trail.

It is going to be fun for sure. Talamo will be in a whole new world for a first Derby, it will be exciting for him, but I won't be betting on him I don't think.

14 Apr 2009 9:24 AM

I'm not giving up on Dunkirk just yet. I think he is coming around nicely, how much is the question.

14 Apr 2009 12:35 PM
Greg J.

"Pioneer of the Nile":

    Has never run on dirt, Rumors that he doesn't like the dirt, Went to California apparently to take advantage of the synthetic surfaces there, Bill Mott, his previous trainer, had the feeling that Pioneer of the Nile was not at his best on dirt,raced him as a 2-year-old on turf at Saratoga, where Pioneer of the Nile won once, tried him on the synthetic surfaces, most notably at the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita, where he encountered traffic problems but still finished only three lengths behind the winner. He reminds me of Colonel John, Who went to the Derby as the best of the West and was sent off as the second choice, but he spun his wheels in his dirt debut and finished sixth.

"Quality Road":

    Has a quarter crack in his right hind hoof, and the Kentucky Derby is no place for tender feet. I know they say it is healed and fine BUT Quarter cracks can always resurface...I think he is too lighly raced(Even though he has won 3 out of four).

"I Want Revenge":

    Has not beaten anyone of note, Winning just once in six races in California, Came east to New York because there was less talent, three victories against eight starts...Not good enough..

    All three are very talented, don't get me wrong, But that leaves us with only one true winner:

"Friesan Fire":

   Friesan Fire has won all three of his races this year , Has faced alot better talent, has won on every kind of track, He inherits an abundance of stamina from his sire, A.P. Indy. He has done everything perfectly. Be ready for this horse, he will blow your mind there are only two things that may or may not seperate him from the roses General Quarters and Dunkirk no one comes close to these top three....Don't let the seven weeks off fool you, Larry Jones ALWAYS has his horses ready for the Derby!

Just my two cents....

14 Apr 2009 1:54 PM

Greg J.: How do you feel about Giant Oak?

14 Apr 2009 2:05 PM
The Phantom

Terrain, Imperial Council , Giant Oak are 3 stiffs, won't have any effect the the triple crown races.Old Fashion wouldn't have been able to get the derby distance , sorry to see him injured but the horses today are not as well condition and the breeding cracks are starting to show the ironhorses are gone.Breeding  these days is not done for stamina or longer distances.

14 Apr 2009 2:08 PM
Greg J.


    "Giant Oak:

    He is an Enigma, I think he needs a PERFECT trip in the derby for him to have a shot, needs a clear path on stretch to get his huge frame and stride going, that is alot to ask for a twenty horse field though, I think his long stride is a detriment for the derby. He ran a game race in the Illinois Derby, but he was all out and still couldn't catch Musket Man. So, one never knows but he isn't on my top five.

Also, I left off "Chocolate Candy" above, I actually have him ahead of "Dunkirk", But Dunkirk is scary, a complete wildcard...

14 Apr 2009 2:35 PM
For Big Red

TO GREG J: Friesan Fire's work today was a thing of beauty. The colt looks great, fit and well-muscled. I have to assume they've been giving him long gallops up to two miles before his work on the 8th.

FF just floated over the track so easily, going 5f in 1:00 2/5, 4th best of 23 at the distance. He was on a loose rein, with the rider standing up all the way and not moving his hands one bit from the colt's withers. The colt did it all on his own with no pressure from the rider. Jones has been quoted saying there will be a mile work on Sunday, then probably a final blow-out at Churchill Downs a few days before the Derby.

14 Apr 2009 5:07 PM
Grande Dame

My Derby pick has been Mr. Hot Stuff since before he even made his first start. I have my fingers crossed that he will be able to make it into the KY Derby starting gate (he is 20th or 21st on the earnings list right now). If he does, watch out! He has the 4th best finishing time of all of the recent prep races (better than Pioneer of the Nile, I Want Revenge, Quality Road, can see the list in the latest Downey Profile story). Plus, he is a full brother to Colonel John, last year's Travers winner (1 1/4 miles on the DIRT) who was also the 2nd favorite in the 2008 KY Derby. In my opinion, Mr. Hot Stuff has the pedigree, the right running style, and the talent to win the 2009 KY Derby if he just gets a chance to run in it!

15 Apr 2009 8:34 AM
Greg J.

For Big Red,

      You are spot on about his work, Thing of beauty, I am so high on Friesan, I really think if he gets a clear path in the Derby, it could be a huge victory(5 Lengths?), I know alot has to go right from now until the derby, but it still amazes me that he isn't on alot of the so-called experts top three picks, I just think the combo of Saez/Jones and of course Fire, is almost unbeatable!, We will see...

15 Apr 2009 9:14 AM

Grande: I totally meant to put Mr. Hot Stuff in my plan b list...I do like Mr. Hot Stuff a lot...I don't think he will win, but will be in the money. Thanks for reminding me!

15 Apr 2009 9:39 AM
Greg J.


   Just to let everyone know,  Eibar Coa, Who was on General Quarters in his win last weekend, probably will opt to ride Musket Man, Which will open the door for Julien Leparoux to ride General Quarters, He is the hottest young jockey in North America right now, Knows Churchill like the back of his hand, and is leading Keeneland in the current meet(35% winners), This just adds to why he is in my top three.....Just a heads up to everyone...

15 Apr 2009 11:21 AM
The Phantom

Mr Meow J, good pick on Mission Im, I was impressed so you do know how to handicap or was that luck or did your expert buddies who like nic so much give you the tip?lol.Square Eddy looks strong in the Lexington.I also believe if he wins he'll go to the Derby rested , ready and a threat.cats now have 8 lives.

17 Apr 2009 7:03 PM

I went to the Road to the Roses to set active horses, then came here. And my top five active are exactly the same as yours.

Sometimes being high on a two year old just doesn't work. I loved Vineyard Haven last fall...he has done the Dubai disappearing act. I wonder if he stayed here......

I think I will do an Iavarone next year.

18 Apr 2009 9:46 AM

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