Dialed In Nick Zito
Mineshaft —Miss Doolittle, by Storm Cat
He gets pushed up to the top spot, partly because he’s done enough to earn it and partly because there is no one else to put there. We haven’t seen Zito this high on a horse in a long time, and he definitely has a special feeling for him. The decision to keep him at Palm Meadows until the final week is not Zito’s m.o. at all, so that is a bit curious. But as long as everything goes according to plan you know he’s going to be charging down the stretch.
Toby's Corner Graham Motion
Bellamy Road—Brandon’s Ride, by Mister Frisky
I have to admit, after having him in the Top 12 for three consecutive weeks in February when he hadn’t done anything but win the Whirlaway, it is gratifying to see him start to fulfill his potential. And he still should get better as he matures physically and mentally. The Wood was a perfect prep for him, overcoming heavy traffic, going five to six paths out to look for room, getting sawed off in the upper stretch, and still coming home his final eighth in :11 4/5 and three-eighths in :36 2/5.
Uncle Mo Todd Pletcher
Indian Charlie—Playa Maya, by Arch
Boy is he taking a beating -- he’s not sound, he’s not fit, he’s overrated, and he can’t go 1 1/4 miles. We’re certainly not saying he’s going to win the Kentucky Derby off his two races this year, but he should have gotten a lot out of the Wood. He needed to be tested and he was. He needed to get a little tired to put some bottom under him and he did. When you can set the pace going 1 1/8 miles for the first time and get tired and still come home in :12 4/5 that's not bad. As uncomfortable as he looked down the stretch, he actually seemed to level off in the final 70 yards after being hit left-handed and was striding out much better at the end. He has a tough task ahead, but can’t desert the ship off a 1 1/4-length loss when seemingly short.
The Factor Bob Baffert
War Front—Greyciousness, by Miswaki
Watched his 6-furlong work in 1:12 over a pretty dug-up track and just loved the way he lowered his head and shoulder and the extension of his stride. And he just kept going. The Arkansas Derby will tell us all we need to know. If he can beat the assemblage of talented horses that await him, the “Danger: Keep a Safe Distance” sign will go up for the Kentucky Derby. Trying to run with this powerhouse of a horse will result in a one-way ticket home
Midnight Interlude Bob Baffert
War Chant—Midnight Kiss, by Groom Dancer
I would actually have him higher if I had the chutzpah; that’s how impressed I was with his Santa Anita Derby. He ran like a seasoned pro, despite being interfered with twice and going very wide on both turns. Talk about popping up out of nowhere. Even with his momentum stopped twice by a drifting Comma to the Top, he still closed his final eighth in about :12 1/5 and three-eighths in :36 4/5. Looks like Baffert has had a Howitzer hidden in his arsenal all this time. But he does have to overcome the dreaded Apollo curse.
Mucho Macho Man Kathy Ritvo
Macho Uno—Ponche de Leona, by Ponche
His five-furlong work in :58 1/5 was huge, and moves him up as a legitimate contender. Yes it was only a work, but when they can bounce out of a tough race (and losing a shoe) and work like that it tells a lot about the horse, especially his ability to recover from a race and his overall constitution. With a horse this big and born so late in the year, any concerns about the six-week layoff to the Derby have been greatly diminished after this work.
Santiva Eddie Kenneally
Giant’s Causeway—Slide, by Smarten
Assuming he gets a good trip in the Blue Grass Stakes there is no reason why he shouldn’t win or at least run a huge second if he’s going to be considered a top Derby contender. He has a class edge on this field and should have no excuse. Of course, we have no idea how racing over the Polytrack will set him up for the Derby. He did use it successfully last year prior to his Kentucky Jockey Club win.
Archarcharch William Fires
Arch—Woodman’s Dancer, by Woodman
His third in the Rebel was much better than it looks on paper, considering the minor injury and mental anguish he went through in the gate when Alternation thrashed about, striking him in the next stall. He wasn’t able to run his race and never settled, but still hung tough and was just beaten for second. He’s been training super and should bounce back in the Arkansas Derby. Whether that’s good enough to win, we’ll see. This is going to be one tough race unless The Factor blows ‘em all away again.
Elite Alex Tim Ritchey
Afleet Alex – Catch the Moment, by Unbridled
One thing is for sure, you won’t see him last, far off the pace in the Arkansas Derby. If he can finally get a decent post and a decent trip, we should find out just how good he really is. Blinkers should get him sharper as well. They certainly seemed to help in his last work. This horse has much more natural speed than one might think. He’ll get his class test on Saturday. Ranking him this high mainly because we really don’t know how good he is and what he is capable of doing with a clean trip.
Sway Away Jeff Bonde
Afleet Alex—Seattle Shimmer, by Seattle Slew
He could very well be the smart play in the Arkansas Derby. Of the top four finishers in the San Vicente, three have come back to win a stakes. The reason he’s a smart play is his last work, in which he came home each of his last two eighths in :11 3/5 and galloped out seven furlongs in 1:25. We all know he was victimized in the Rebel when he lunged forward in the gate and knocked out a tooth. He’s fast and he can rocket home as well as anyone. We just have to see if he can do it going two turns. If he can and he makes it to the Derby, watch out.
Jaycito Bob Baffert
Victory Gallop—Night Edition, by Ascot Knight
You never want to see a setback this late on the Derby trail, especially when it alters your schedule this dramatically. Big difference between the Santa Anita Derby and the Lexington on Polytrack. But he still has a chance if he can run huge at Keeneland. He just needs to leave something in the tank coming back two weeks later, which actually may get him on a Charismatic-like roll. Big issue is never having run 1 1/8 miles and very little racing on top of that.
Nehro Steve Asmussen
Mineshaft —The Administrator, by Afleet
If it doesn’t work out with Jaycito, Zayat Stables has an able back-up in this colt, who is making huge strides with every race. He is on a three-week schedule now, and if he can run another big one at Oaklawn, the sky’s the limit. He also will provide a good gauge on the Louisiana Derby form.
Arthur’s Tale Tom Albertrani
Bernardini—Owsley, by Harlan
If the Wood Memorial turns out to be a legitimate prep, as it appeared to be on paper and also visually, then he has to be considered a legitimate contender. Like Toby’s Corner, he also closed fast and had to overcome traffic problems. He had never run a race like that before, so is he just starting to blossom now? Remember how quickly his sire burst on the scene.
and Pants on Fire
, because of their running style, will sit it out for a week until the Arkansas Derby horses sort themselves out. With five Arkansas Derby horses on the list, we’re going to lose at least several of them. Brethren
, Caleb’s Posse
, and J P’s Gusto
have all been training super for what is shaping up to be a very tough race. Saratoga Red
and Dance City
are interesting up-and-comers, and who knows what Alternation
is capable of. Even Soldat
could make it back on the list if most of the Arkansas Derby horses falter. Mr. Commons
showed he has tremendous potential with his third in the Santa Anita Derby, but his main problem is earnings. Silver Medallion’s
Derby status is uncertain, but he just lacked the necessary closing punch in the Santa Anita Derby; he may be more effective coming from farther back.
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