Big Truck. Bob Black Jack. Denis of Cork. El Gato Malo. For the past couple months we have all heard talk of and read about each of these colts as possible Kentucky Derby starters and/or contenders. The problem is, as of now, all of them are on the outside looking in based on graded earnings.
Taking a look at the top 20 earners through April 18, it appears that only one horse on that list - Kodiak Kowboy - is not being pointed towards the Derby. And with the $325,000 Lexington Stakes this weekend at Keeneland, at least one, but maybe two more horses, will vault into that top 20, which could push out another contender that just about everyone assumed would have enough earnings to qualify - No. 20 Visionaire (actually No. 19 when you throw out Kodiak Kowboy).
Admittedly, a lot can happen in the last two weeks before the Derby. Injuries and owners deciding not to enter happen all the time. But hypothetically speaking, if Rick Porter decides to enter Eight Belles and the others (besides Kodiak Kowboy) all go, the Lexington winner and runner-up (if it is Tomcito or Atoned) could seal the fate of the aforementioned contenders.
So who will win the Lexington? Well, it is certainly a wide-open affair, but I think I've narrowed it down.
Right off the bat, I'm going to pass on Felon, Red Sandy, Samba Rooster, Big Glen, and Salute the Sarge, who has been more of a sprinter and has never tried Keeneland's Polytrack. And although St. Joe has two wins at Keeneland and good early speed, I don't think he will hold up.
That leaves me with Todd Pletcher's pair (yes, again) - Atoned and Behindatthebar - as well as Racecar Rhapsody, Riley Tucker and Tomcito.
Behindatthebar didn't start as 2-year-old, but has been in great form ever since breaking his maiden at Santa Anita in February. A son of Forest Wildcat, he showed he likes the 8 ½ furlongs when he destroyed an allowance field earlier this month. He can rate and Pletcher may have a good late-bloomer on his hands, one that is peaking at the right time.
Atoned hasn't run on synthetics, but had a nice work earlier this week at Keeneland. He is certainly the classiest horse in the field, having tried graded stakes in his last three, and has been competitive in all of them. If it were not for bad luck in the Remsen and a terrific late run by Big Truck in the Tampa Bay Derby, this bridesmaid (who has finished second five times in his career) would already be qualified for the Derby. And Prado gets the mount.
Racecar Rhapsody broke his maiden at Keeneland and was competitive in the Lane's End. I like him to pick up the pieces and fill out exotics. Riley Tucker might be sitting on a big one after losing by just a half-length in the Transylvania earlier this month. Other than his maiden win, his two best efforts have been on synthetics. Watch out for him. And he'll be a nice price.
Tomcito is the X factor here. I think he is the best horse in the field, but he has a) never tried Poly and b) might prefer an extra furlong or more. Even so, he turned in a terrific work at Keeneland April 15 (four furlongs, :46.60), and he will be flying late. Remember, he was coming off a more than four month layoff when he ran third in the Florida Derby. Since I have Tomcito at 100-1 to win the Derby, all I'm looking for is second place, which will get him into the field.
But in the end, based on his previous efforts, I'm siding with Atoned for top spot here. He's proven at the distance, has faced the better rivals and should get a good stalking trip. I think it will be a Pletcher/Prado repeat at Keeneland, but like last week, I'm going to box an exacta. I'm going 1-5-7-8-10.