We are less than seven weeks from the Kentucky Derby (G1), and only a handful of horses have earned their place in the starting gate under the new points qualifying system that places enormous weight on the final two rounds of Derby preps.
My clear #1 rated horse -- Holy Bull Stakes (G3) winner Itsmyluckyday -- has just 10 points, not nearly enough to make it Louisville. He'll need to run well in his final prep, the Florida Derby (G1).
Meanwhile, eligibility is not the challenge for my #2 horse Tampa Bay Derby (G2) winner Verrazano, whose 50 points should be plenty to qualify for the Derby. Verrazano is an extraordinarily talented horse and he ran fast winning at Tampa, but I think he needs to learn to stay within himself when behind horses to be a serious threat to win the Kentucky Derby. Verrazano's trainer Todd Pletcher will have the luxury not many trainers have -- he can use Verrazano's final race before the Derby as a true prep.
There was only Derby points race last weekend, and D. Wayne Lukas trainees Will Take Charge and Oxbow ran pretty well to finish 1-2 in the Rebel Stakes (G2). The final time of the Rebel was a hair faster than a solid field of older fillies and mares ran in the Azeri Stakes (G3). Will Take Charge finished with better energy, while Oxbow yet again moved a tad early into a solid pace.
1. Itsmyluckyday: My confident pick to win the Kentucky Derby if the race were today. Love the recent one-mile workout.
2. Verrazano: Tampa win was nice, but he looked a bit rank with a horse in front of him. It's hard to win the Derby on pure speed alone.
3. Revolutionary: Moves up with the retirement of Violence and disappointing efforts from the Remsen three.
4. Orb: Got a perfect pace setup in the Fountain of Youth, but it looks like more distance will be his friend.
5. Hear the Ghost: He shined going two turns in the San Felipe. Ghostzapper is emerging as a nice sire.
6. War Academy: Another who took beautifully to two turns. Baffert says he will run in one of the major final preps.
7. Flashback: Moved into a very hot pace and was spotting Hear the Ghost 4 pounds in San Felipe.
8. Shanghai Bobby: Putting him here out of respect, and the juvenile champ could move forward in second start at age three.
9. Noble Tune: Loved his return win on Tampa turf. Blue Grass Stakes reportedly next.
10. Normandy Invasion: Should improve off of Risen Star performance.
11. Vyjack: Running style change (he came from 10th early to win the Gotham) suddenly makes him intriguing to me.
12. Will Take Charge: Hard not to like the way he was reaching out for ground while winning the Rebel.
13. Oxbow: Keeps firing decent efforts. Good pedigree, hearty constitution.
14. Code West: Grinder could keep moving forward with distance.
15. Palace Malice: Good effort in the Risen Star. I could see him learning from that race. My sleeper.
16. Tiz a Minister: Has found a home going two turns on dirt, closing from the clouds.
17. Frac Daddy: Giving him another chance. Outworked super filly Pure Fun, according to DRF.
18. Crop Report: Long-striding colt is an intriguing specimen. Hit gate, then came running in U.S. debut.
19. Balance the Books: Dirt is a question, but believe he will be closing well going 10f.
20. Rydilluc: Another interesting turf horse. He appeared to move ok on dirt in his debut.