Well, my hunch to bail out of Arkansas after Zenyatta's historical triumph was a good one, as two horses I had never heard of, Line of David and Stately Victor, upset in Saturday's Arkansas Derby and Blue Grass Stakes, respectively. The former was coming out of allowance turf races at Santa Anita, the latter had been unplaced in his preceding five races. Not the likes of which will challenge Big E come the first Saturday in May. This actually gives me more confidence going into this year's Derby with my betting strategy.My last two additions to my top 10 list (Aikenite and Northern Giant) failed to menace in their last preps and are off the Derby trail. I took a gamble and lost, but hey - that's what this sport is all about, right?! I am also bagging Noble's Promise. In spite of his troubled trip in the Ark. Derby, he doesn't have enough seasoning this year to tackle the big boys - that's the risk trainers take with a light prep schedule. Besides, after being rough-housed in Arkansas, his health may not allow him to run in The Derby. I'll offer this list and only update it again the week of The Derby with my final "standings."
1) Eskendereya - Even better performance in Wood Memorial if you can believe that and will be heading into Louisville as biggest favorite in some time, likely between the 2.4 - 1 of Big Brown in '07 and 9-5 on Point Given in '01. His jockey actually made a post-race comment that worried me, saying how he actually relaxed early this time, unlike the FOY where he was "on the bit." If that happened in the Derby, he could get rubber-legged in the deep stretch. But his high cruising speed reminds me of Rachel from last year and Quality Road and for this reason I not only think he will win The Derby, but sweep the Triple Crown as well (yikes, I said what?!).
2) Lookin At Lucky - Had a rough trip at Santa Anita, but it led to some drama when Garret Gomez punched Victor Espinoza (who put him into the rail) repeatedly at the weigh scales in front of thousands of people. Still reminds me of Pioneerof The Nile from last year and expect him to run solid, if not a winning race at Churchill.
3) Awesome Act - If you were standing around me at Oaklawn Park on April 3rd you would have heard some disgust at the half mile marker when the pace was a weak 49 seconds and Awesome Act was in 2nd place. That is not this horse's style but often a jockey is forced to ride the race instead of the horse. His Wood Memorial performance (3rd to Big E) reminded me a great deal of Monarchos' prep going into the 2001 Derby where he ran second to Congaree in a fairly dull race. By pressing the pace more than usual he may have gotten more out of the race than winner Eskendereya (as dumb as that sounds!). With the full Derby field, I can see him flying home in the stretch.
4) Sidney's Candy - What's ironic about this horse is that he is named after deceased diet guru Sid Craig, who along with Jenny amassed a fortune and invested heavily in thoroughbreds throughout the 1990's. One of my favorite race mares - Paseana - was campaigned by the Craigs in the early nineties. Sire Candy Ride (see my previous Cryptoclearance obit) is one of the hottest things going today. Doesn't look like the type that must be on the lead (like stablemate Line of David), but you never know until they're challenged on the front end.
5) Super Saver - Much better run in Arkansas and is set up to improve in his third start off layoff. Question will be how much they can get him to rate in The Derby. With confirmed speedsters and stalkers, I hope his jock wraps him up for the first 6 furlongs to keep him off the pace. For some reason this one reminds me of Bluegrass Cat, who was also owned by WinStar Farm and had ho-hum Derby preps before running huge in the 2006 Derby to finish second to Barbaro. The talent is there if he gets a good post and can tuck in that 2nd wave of horses.
6) Jackson Bend - Those Jackson Bend believers will be thinking "Funny Cide" with this one, who was a well-beaten second to Empire Maker in the 2003 Wood Memorial before turning the tables on the favorite in The Derby. (Although, it's fair to note Empire Maker sustained small injury and missed some training leading up to that Derby and dominated in the Belmont.) This likely overlooked horse has some backclass in sweeping the Florida Stallion Series as a juvenile. Very gritty horse who's pedigree says one mile, yet he has run second twice to Big E at 9 furlongs already, so anything is pauzible. (lead in...)
7) Mission Impazible - Same comments from last time... In the chaotic Derby field, it's nice to have a horse who can break well, but then settle and let the jockey place the horse. By reading the LA Derby race chart, that's exactly what happened in the big field when he broke 2nd but was taken back to 5th, then 7th before commencing his rally after true race fractions. This one could be a big price on Derby day to spark some exotics!
8) Endorsement - With the attention this lightly raced colt has gotten from his Sunland Derby win over Conveyance (a miler in my opinion), he might be my "short" horse come Derby week. But I have to include him on this list since he has the talent to run huge. I touted this horse in his OP maiden race and won some nice coin on him, but that's a far cry from the Churchill stretch come the first Saturday in May.
9) Yawanna Twist - I know this horse is likely not to make The Derby field by earnings, but I want to give a shout out to his sire Yonaguska, who sired Musket Man from last year who hit the board in two Triple Crown races. This sire has been "berry, berry good to me" - Sammy Sosa. I nailed the IL Derby exotics thanks to this guy and if you're ever reading a maiden claiming or special weight race and notice offspring of Yonaguska, put a little change on it!
10) Connemara - May get his chance to secure a spot in The Derby if he places in the Coolmore Lexington Stakes on Saturday, so for now I'll keep a glimmer of hope for my futures play. Would be a great horse to key for 4th position in superfectas in Derby.