Welcome back to Triple Crown Talk!
It's hard to believe, but with the calendar now hitting 2009 it is time to start thinking Kentucky Derby already. The important 3-year-old prep races kick off with the Lecomte at Fair Grounds this weekend and the San Rafael the following week at Santa Anita. Like last year, we'll analyze all the major races and have exclusive interviews with owners and trainers of the main contenders throughout the Triple Crown Trail.
I look forward to everyone's input. It's going to take our collective efforts to find some of the sleepers out there. Remember, Big Brown didn't burst onto the Derby scene until March last year.
To get started, I have listed 15 potential Derby horses to watch. Some of the obvious ones you have heard of, others probably not. Either way, it will take a few weeks to sort through the contenders and pretenders. I couldn't list all of the contenders here, so feel free to throw out some of your early Derby favorites.
It should be an action-packed four months on the road to the Derby. Let's have some fun!
Au Moon (Malibu Moon-She's Mahogany, by Woodman) - Running in this weekend's Lecomte at Fair Grounds. Broke his maiden by almost six last out at Churchill going 1 1/8 miles. Trainer David Carroll says he has the potential to be special and jockey Julien Leparoux is very high on him as well. The one-mile Lecomte might be a little short for him, but the race should give us an idea of what he is all about.
Big Drama (Montbrook-Riveting Drama, by Notebook) - The David Fawkes trainee has won five straight, including the Delta Jackpot. He's back in Florida now, where he completed the Florida Series sweep. Already has two wins at 1 1/16 miles under his belt. And he already has enough earnings to get to the Derby. That alone is reason to like him.
Brother Keith (Johar-Hawa Mahal, by Hennessy) - One of a handful of 3-year-olds that prominent owner Ken Ramsey is high on. This one broke his maiden at Churchill at first asking and now will be pointed to the San Rafael on Jan. 17. He was sent to Bobby Frankel out in California to run on Pro-Ride since his pedigree suggests turf is his preferred surface.
Friesan Fire (A.P. Indy-Bollinger, by Dehere) - This well-bred colt has been a bit of disappointment for Larry Jones, who has been high on him from the very start. Jones says he's still learning and expects him to improve as the year goes on. I expect him to run big in the Lecomte, but even if he doesn't I wouldn't give up on him.
Haynesfield (Speightstown-Nothing Special, by Tejabo) - Back-to-back stakes wins at Aqueduct were both solid. Like how he rated in the Count Fleet and earned 88 Beyer despite not looking all that visually impressive. Also, earned a Beyer over 100 in Damon Runyon. So far, the best of Steve Asmussen's powerful barn. Will point towards the Whirlaway on Feb. 7.
Headache (Tapit-Pamric, by Woodman) - A bit of a longshot here, since the colt has not been close in two maiden tries. But Ramsey thinks he might be the best of his talented crop. Trained by Nick Zito, he will run today (Jan. 7) in a 1 1/8-mile maiden race at Gulfstream. We'll see.
Indygo Mountain (A.P. Indy-Mountain Girl, by Mountain Cat) - Bret Calhoun isn't expecting too much out of him in the Lecomte since he missed his allowance prep and two important works with a pair of foot bruises. But this is still a great looking colt who broke his maiden by six lengths while running a 1:35 mile at Churchill. Look for him to prosper more as the spring goes on.
Midshipman (Unbridled's Song-Fleet Lady, by Avenue of Flags) - The Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner is over in Dubai. Too bad we won't get to see him until the spring.
Notonthesamepage (Catienus-Blue Holiday, by Cure the Blues) - His Spectacular Bid win was...well, spectacular. The incredible 115 Beyer is enough for him to be near the top of everyone's list, although he is unproven at two turns and his pedigree suggests he could struggle to get 10 furlongs. Ramsey has sent him to a specialist to have his stride examined, which he hopes will answer the aforementioned distance question. For now, he has him in Ocala where he is getting treatment in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber. The one-mile Fountain of Youth is next.
Old Fashioned (Unbridled's Song-Collect Call, by Meadowlake) - His Remsen win was still the most impressive 2-year-old performance, to me. Looking forward to his next one, which could be in the Risen Star or Southwest. Had a four furlong breeze in :48.20 for Larry Jones on Wednesday.
Pioneerof the Nile (Empire Maker-Star of Goshen, by Lord At War) - I loved his CashCall Futurity win, which was his first start for Bob Baffert. His work on Sunday at Santa Anita (five furlongs in :58.40) was the best of 83 works that day. i like that all five of his races have been at 1 1/16 miles. Baffert says he reminds him of Real Quiet. Looking forward to his next.
Pressure Point (Point Given-Mandalay Point, by Gilded Time) - He's in one of the two Thursday allowance races at Gulfstream that everyone will be watching. Has just the one start in which he wired maidens at Churchill going seven furlongs. Being that he looks like the best of the Point Given 3-year-olds so far, I'll be rooting him on. Trained by the red-hot Mike Maker.
Square Eddie (Smart Strike-Forty Gran, by El Gran Senor) - Breeders' Futurity winner and Breeders' Cup Juvenile runner-up has been working steadily at Hollywood for Doug O'Neill. Looking forward to his first start on dirt, which could come at Fair Grounds.
Stardom Bound (Tapit-My White Corvette, by Tarr Road) - The best 3-year-old filly on the planet is officially trained by Rick Dutrow Jr. now that IEAH owns her, but is currently in California with Bobby Frankel. She worked on Monday and could run in the Las Virgenes on Feb. 9 before the Santa Anita Oaks. If she continues to impress, don't be surprised if she runs in the Kentucky Derby instead of the Oaks.
Vineyard Haven (Lido Palace-Princes Aloha, by Aloha Prospector) - The Hopeful and Champagne winner, like Midshipman, is in Dubai. No real need to talk about him at length until the spring.
Who did I miss?