Kentucky Derby 2013: Top 20

This will be the first of six (monthly) editions of my top 20 contenders for the 2013 Kentucky Derby.

Future lists will be ordered/numbered. It's too early to split hairs. These horses need to do a lot of developing between now and May 4, 2013.

Bold Dance (c by Pulpit--Quiet Dance, by Quiet American) This half-brother to Horse of the Year Saint Liam took a nice step forward when sent two turns on the turf in his second career start. He showed he could handle traffic with a swift inside-out move that day, and drew off late to win by 4 lengths. Excited to see where he lands next.

Capo Bastone (c by Street Boss--Fight to Love, by Fit to Fight) was my play in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, and I'm still not sure what to make of his 3rd-place showing. On one hand, there was a strong inside speed bias, and Capo was wide and way back, a running style that failed miserably at this year's Breeders' Cup. Also, he had traffic at the top of the lane and reportedly bled without Lasix. BUT, he got a closer-friendly race shape (Very fast eary, very slow late) and couldn't get by tired horses.

Delhomme (c by Dixie Union--Art Show, by Out of Place) has a long stride, a fast cruising speed, and has improved every race. Although he finished third in the Remsen (G2), I wouldn't downgrade him much, as that was his first time going two turns, and the Remsen was one of the fastest two-year-old route races of the year.

Dewey Square (c by Bernardini--Somethinaboutbetty, by Forestry) His lone defeat (3rd in theG2 Kentucky Jockey Club S.) was a pretty strong effort. He was kept back and wide off a slow pace, but showed good late energy behind Uncaptured and Frac Daddy. This is a nice looking, well-bred colt who moves beautifully and has an excllent foundation, including two two-turn races at Churchill.

Flashback (c by Tapit--Rhumb Line, by Mr. Greely) broke his maiden in fast time going 7f in his debut. He showed a nice, steady energy distribution that suggests he will like two turn races. Full brother to Grade 1 winner Zazu.

Fortify (c by Distorted Humor--Kotuku, by A.P. Indy) is well-bred for the Derby distance and has an excellent 2yo foundation (2nd in G2 7f Hopeful, 3rd in G1 8f Champagne, and 4th in 8.5f G1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile). He should improve with distance, but he also needs to find a little more fire. His individual dynamic has looked suspect at times.

Frac Daddy (c by Scat Daddy--Skipper's Mate, by Skip Away) had an inexperience disadvantage and got the wider trip when finishing second to Uncaptured by a neck in the Kentucky Jockey Club S. (G2). That was only his third career start. Pedigree doesn't scream 10f, but there is talent and upside here. 

Little Distorted (c by Distorted Humor--Asbeautifulasyou (Ire), by A.P. Indy) pressed a fast pace and rebroke in the lane of his debut, earning a very big speed figure while defeating a highly-regarded horse from the Pletcher barn (Revolutionary). We need to see if he can build on the ultra-fast debut.

Long River (c by A.P. Indy--Round Pond, by Awesome Again) finished second, beaten 1 1/2 lengths by Delhomme (subsequent 3rd in the G2 Remsen) in his second career start, then came back to break his maiden impressively going one mile and 70 yards on the Aqueduct inner in his third start. Long River is improving, and he has the movement and mentality of a classic distance horse.

Noble Tune (c by Unbridled's Song--Serena's Cat, by Storm Cat) All three of his career starts have come on turf, but I am listing him because I think Noble Tune is one of the most talented two-year-old colts in America. His second-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf was excellent. He is fast and he handles herd chaos beautifully. Pedigree and smooth action bode well for him to try new surfaces.

Normandy Invasion (c by Tapit--Boston Lady, by Boton Harbor) It sure looked like he was a winner the way he cruised up on the far turn in the Remsen (G2), but Overanalyze re-rallied inside of him. Still a little green, but this one has ability and a good foundation to build on. Ran his final 3f in the Remsen in :36-1, so he wasn't exactly hanging.

Overanalyze (c by Dixie Union--Unacloud, by Unaccounted For) Where did that between-horses re-rally in the Remsen (G2) come from? He improved a ton that day. Great foundation has been laid, with five starts at two, including the very fast 9f win in the Remsen.

Palace Malice (c by Curlin--Palace Rumor, by Royal Anthem) The Curlin babies already have shown they have some of their father's grit. There is some question how fast they are as a group, but not this guy. He ran a pair of rapido maiden heats at Saratoga-- losing to Carried Interest (returned to finish 2nd in the G2 Futurity), then beating subsequent Breeders' Cup Juvenile Sprint winner Hightail back to 3rd (by 4 1/2 lengths) in his maiden win. If he improves with distance and age like his father did, Palace Malice is a Triple Crown player.

Power Broker (c by Pulpit--Shop Again, by Wild Again) looked great winning the Frontrunner S. (G1) first time on dirt, but he was a non-factor when he got a wide trip in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. He's a player if he trains forward at age three.

Purple Egg (g by Lion Heart--Luminous Prize, by Prized) is undefeated in three starts, all sprinting, but I love the way he methodically swallows his opponents and draws off late. He has a lot to prove distance and class-wise, but I really like his dynamic.

Shanghai Bobby (c by Harlan's Holiday--Steelin, by Orientate) The undefeated 2yo champion has speed, a big presence, and a ton of guts. He absolutely looked beaten in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile but he re-rallied. It was impressive regardless of the inside speed bias that helped him. Like many, he is a question mark at 10f, but he is the champ until someone beats him.

Super Ninety Nine (c by Pulpit--Exogenetic, by Unbridled's Song) looked like a horse with a lot of class in his better-than-it-looks-on-paper debut win. Trainer Bob Baffert entered him in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Sprint, but '99 got hurt in his stall and was withdrawn. Finished second to a fast stablemate over a speed-favoring strip in the Hollywood Prevue (G3). Classy, but there are distance questions.

Tulira Castle (c by War Pass--Tulira, by General Assembly) had some sneaky good form on the polytrack at Arlington Park and Keeneland, then he showed he can handle dirt when winning a NW1x going a mile at Gulfstream. He spurted away from that field after pressing a solid pace from between horses. He is another who will have to outrun his pedigree distancewise, but I like his style.

Uncaptured (c by Lion Heart--Captivating, by Arch) failed his intial two-turn test up north in the Grey Stakes (Can-G3), but he got a tough trip that day. He's earned his way back onto most people's Derby rankings with a pair of wins on the dirt at Churchill, including a (relatively slow) pace-pressing neck victory in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2). Not yet sold on him going 10f, but he is a major talent.

Violence (c by Medgalia d'Oro--Violent Beauty, by Gone West) Improved to 3-for-3 when he shipped West, took a ton of money, and dealt the SoCal colts a rare loss on their home turf in the CashCall Futurity (G1). This gangly looking colt has classic distance potential and should still have upside.


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