Now that the biggest Kentucky Derby points races are completed, I figured it was time to cut the Top 10 list down to a Top 5 list. I couldn’t have been more wrong about the Arkansas Derby…and that’s not a good thing. Overanalyze drew off to win convincingly, but it was a pretty weak group he faced and the winning Beyer Speed Figure came back slow. As for the Blue Grass, Palace Malice had the best of trips only to be caught in deep stretch by the late running Java’s War. This race also came back with a subpar Beyer Speed Figure, which isn’t something you’d like to see this close to the Kentucky Derby. There are two “wildcard” races left in which runners can accrue points, but barring injuries and/or good or bad workouts, I don’t expect this Top 5 list to change much between now and the running of the 139th Kentucky Derby. Here’s the Top 5:
OFF THE LIST: War Academy (pulled up in Ak. Derby, not enough points), Uncaptured (points, dull effort at Keeneland), Palace Malice (best of trips, couldn’t get job done), Java’s War (nice closer, has terrible gate problems), Govenor Charlie (potential foot problems, not sure of quality)
1) Orb (Malibu Moon – Lady Liberty, by Unbridled)
He’s been number one on my list going back to the end of the 2012 season, and I expect him to stay there. Shug McGaughey was impressed with his breeze earlier this week at Payson Park, saying via Twitter, “Very pleased with progress Orb is making. We are looking forward to the next two weeks.” He’s continued to mature, and I think Shug is going to have him ramped up at the right time. Joel Rosario hops aboard for the Kentucky Derby, and as long as he stays healthy, I love Orb’s chances in Louisville.
2) 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.
3) 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. Calvin Borel has picked up the mount on Revolutionary for the Derby, which also has me slightly concerned – Borel loves to save ground, and this horse has shown that he doesn’t necessary respond very well in and around horses. It will be interesting to find out what the instructions are for Borel in the Derby.
4) Verrazano (More Than Ready – Enchanted Rock, by Giant’s Causeway)
My suspicions about Verrazano continue to grow each week. All along I’ve been skeptical about his ability to stay ten furlongs…now I’m a bit skeptical about just how good he really is. There’s no question he’s talented, but I’m not sure he’s on par with Eskendereya, who trainer Todd Pletcher compared him to earlier last week. Verrazano had as easy a trip as he’s ever going to come across with his running style, and he had to work much harder than I think he should have in order to win the Wood. Some would view Java’s War (second in the TB Derby) coming back and winning the Blue Grass as a positive to Verrazano – I look at it kind of like a negative. The figure for the Blue Grass came back woefully slow, and Java’s War was more of less picking up the pieces. It’s hard for me to put Verrazano any higher on this list, especially since I don’t think he even ran the best race in the Wood…
5) Normandy Invasion (Tapit – Boston Lady, by Boston Harbor)
…this was the horse that ran the best race in the Wood. His closing style was compromised by a painfully slow pace, and yet he still made up a solid amount of ground coming down the stretch. In all honesty, I don’t love Normandy Invasion – he comes from that borderline fraudulent Remsen back in November at Aqueduct, he’s won exactly ONE race in his career, and I think he has a serious issue with “hanging” once he gets to the front. That said, he has the kind of running style that usually works very well in the Kentucky Derby. He should be a decent price in the 10-1/12-1 realm, so if you’re a fan, you’ll have your opportunity to make some coin. It also has to be looked at as a positive that Javier Castellano decided to stay aboard this horse and vacate the mount on Revolutionary…or is that a knock against Revolutionary? Taking off a multiple graded stakes winner for a horse that’s still eligible for a N2L in the Kentucky Derby? Hmmm…