This week’s Derby Top 1o has some major changes in the rankings, as well as one newcomer and one defection from the list. The biggest story to come out of this weekend was the official end to the Triple Crown/Kentucky Derby dreams of Champion Juvenile Shanghai Bobby. If you have seen any of my earlier Top 10 lists, you’d know that I have never considered him a Derby contender, so his shelving doesn’t effect my overall thoughts. The overall Kentucky Derby picture should become even clearer this coming weekend, with the Wood Memorial and Santa Anita Derby being run. Here is this week’s Top 10:
NEWCOMER(S): Lines of Battle
OFF THE LIST: Itsmyluckyday
1) Orb (Malibu Moon – Lady Liberty, by Unbridled)
If you’re like myself and are a fan of “Team Orb”, I’m not sure you could be any happier coming out of the Florida Derby. In a race that ultimately lacked pace, Orb was positioned closer to the front by John Velazquez throughout the early stages of the running. Turning for home, Orb was set down for the drive and ultimately didn’t really pick up his feet until the final sixteenth of a mile. This was the point in time when he truly put Itsmyluckyday away and continued on strongly toward the wire. This is a horse that didn’t do his best running until the race was on the verge of completion, and he has all the looks of a horse that wants to go longer – something that can’t be said for every Derby entrant/contender. If you go back and look the final half furlong of the Florida Derby, you can see Orb’s ears still pricked during the running. Once past the line, his gallop out was also incredibly strong. I’ve ready some people suggest that he’s on a “classic racing pattern” which would indicate a “bounce” is in his near future – I don’t buy that. I’m of the mindset that if he was going to bounce, it would have been in this race – not his next. He has paired up his past two Beyer Speed Figures, which to me is a great sign. If he were to have taken another significant jump off of his Fountain of Youth figure, then I’d be slightly concerned of the dreaded “bounce”. Instead, he paired up his previous Beyer from the Fountain of Youth in a race that he surely wasn’t fully cranked up for – a great sign in my opinion. Just like all of the contenders, he needs to stay healthy and sound over the next five weeks…but if he does – he’s surely going to be a handful at Churchill Downs.
2) Hear the Ghost (Ghostzapper – Rehear, by Coronado’s Quest)
It appears as though everything is still going smoothly for the San Felipe winner on his way to the Santa Anita Derby. He should have another pretty strong pace to run into in the Santa Anita Derby, and I’ve got to anticipate he’ll move forward in his second start going two turns. I’ve got no reason to move him down from the two slot – until further notice, I think he’s the class of the West Coast.
3) Flashback (Tapit – Rhumb Line, by Mr. Greeley)
Flashback has talent, but I’m worried he may be his own worst enemy. He’s still very lightly raced, but he MUST learn to relax throughout the early stages of a race. With 30 points to his name, he’ll need to put forth a respectable effort in the Santa Anita Derby to qualify for the Kentucky Derby. I’m confident Bob Baffert will have him ready to run a strong race on Saturday.
4) Verrazano (More Than Ready – Enchanted Rock, by Giant’s Causeway)
Should Verrazano win the Wood Memorial, you’ll be looking at a solid favorite for the 139th Kentucky Derby. He hasn’t done anything wrong in his brief racing career – in fact, he’s been brilliant to date. Much like Itsmyluckyday, I still have some reservations about his staying power. He should get nine furlongs, but I think ten could be stretching it for him. Should he win Saturday, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Verrazano be the 5/2, 3/1 favorite at Churchill Downs. If he were to lose…we’d have a whole new ballgame.
5) War Academy (Giant’s Causeway – Cabbage Key, by A.P. Indy)
The more I look at things and consider his breeding, the more and more I’m falling in love with War Academy. Bob Baffert has mentioned the Arkansas Derby and Bluegrass Stakes as final preps for the son of Giant’s Causeway, and while I understand the logic behind considering the Bluegrass at Keeneland, I think this is a no-brainer…send him to Oaklawn. If you feel the same way I do about the Derby preps that have been run at Oaklawn as I do, you’ll understand why I think the Arkansas Derby is ripe for picking. I’d almost be willing to take ANY shipper heading in for the race over the horses that have run in either the Smarty Jones or the Rebel. If War Academy goes there, I think he’s got a great chance of taking down the victory and making some noise in Louisville.
6) Power Broker (Pulpit – Shop Again, by Wild Again)
Power Broker hasn’t done anything to knock himself down my Top 10 this week – it’s his connections that have. If I’m looking strictly from the standpoint of trying to qualify for the Derby, I think the Wood Memorial would have been the better spot to run him than the Santa Anita Derby. Let me explain – while he would undoubtedly have to go up against a potential juggernaut in Verrazano at Aqueduct, he wouldn’t be dealing with nearly the amount of other speed horses he will in the Santa Anita Derby. Going nine furlongs off a substantial layoff isn’t easy for any horse, but doing it with a potentially unfavorable race setup is even harder. I like him overall, but this may be a really tough spot for him to return.
7) Lines of Battle (War Front – Black Speck, by Arch)
Many people are down on Lines of Battle for numerous reasons. Derby participants that race in Dubai have a dreadful record; the UAE Derby is contested over a Tapeta surface; the final clocking for the 1 3/16 race was woefully slow. In my opinion – none of that means ANYTHING. Lines of Battle has the breeding of an American dirt horse, not a European turf runner. The fact that this horse won over this surface has to be looked at as a major positive regarding his overall quality and ability. His breeding would suggest a wonderful blend of speed and stamina. I think people are making a huge mistake if they’re already writing off Lines of Battle as a potential contender.
8) Revolutionary (War Pass – Runup the Colors, by A.P. Indy)
He ran a much more professional race in the Louisiana Derby, which is a positive. On the flip side – he fought tooth and nail to hold of Mylute at the wire of this race, which I view as a negative. Add in the fact that I don’t think he was CLOSE to the best horse in that race (Palace Malice), and I just can’t get myself too excited about Revolutionary. His breeding makes him a factor at ten furlongs, but I’m still rather skeptical about Revolutionary.
9) Vyjack (Into Mischief – Life Happened, by Stravinsky)
Without question, the horse that has received much praise yet still needs to confirm his ability. Vyjack hasn’t done anything wrong to date, but as I stated earlier – I’m not sold on the New York preps to this point. The way he’s won his two races have been impressive, no doubt. The competition he’s beaten has also been rather suspect at this point. If he runs huge in the Wood Memorial against the likes of Verrazano, then I’ll reconsider my thoughts about Vyjack.
10) Palace Malice (Curlin – Palace Rumor, by Royal Anthem)
I’m CONVINCED this is the most talented runner from the Louisiana Derby. He made an impressive middle move headed into the far turn, only to be completely blocked off turning for home. Edgar Prado looked to have plenty of horse underneath him – the only problem was he had nowhere to go. I’ll keep Palace Malice on the Top 10 until I hear Todd Pletcher say that they are passing on the Bluegrass Stakes. If they don’t run him there, I think he could be a nice horse targeting the Preakness.
Itsmyluckyday has every right to improve off his effort in the Florida Derby…I just don’t think he wants any part of ten furlongs. Maybe he can prove me wrong, but I’ll be passing on Itsmyluckyday in Louisville. I could potentially use him to round out exotics, but that’s highly unlikely.