While most sports fans think of Super Bowl Sunday as THE event, to me it is merely an indication that the Kentucky Derby is just three short months away! Let's not forget a critical statistic in that Mr. Prospector sire lines have a huge advantage of success in The Derby. Furthermore, 7 of the last 12 Derby victors have been from first or second crop sires. I have two in this category on my list, Revolutionary and Palace Malice. Without further delay, here is my original Derby Top 10 list...
1) Verrazano - More Than Ready by Giant’s Causeway: Absolutely destroyed a Gulfstream allowance field while rolling off 12 second furlong split times more consistent than a Longines (1800's switch watchmaker). He reminds me of Eskenderaya over that same track when I saw him in the Fountain of Youth. Just two races under his belt and his maiden score was on his third birthday, so he could buck another historical trend with a Derby victory to join Apollo as the only Derby winner to never start as a two year-old.
2) Revolutionary – War Pass out of a G1 winning AP Indy mare. He was all heart in swooping from last to first in Aqueduct’s Withers Stakes this weekend over a track that typically rewards speed. Cherokee Run sire line is known to be short on stamina, but it has produced some Yonaguska runners that have carried their speed up to the Classic distances (Musket Man). But his damside is loaded with stamina via Seattle Slew and a cross of Hoist The Flag, resulting in a low 3.00 dosage index (historic threshold says under 4.0 has the best chance).
3) Violence – Medaglia d’Oro out of a Gone West mare results in a scant 2.08 dosage. Third dam is one of the best turf race mares of all time, Sky Beauty. Has won on three different tracks (two dirt tracks) so he’s proven his versatility and should be a safe bet to make the Derby field. He is many people's top selection, but I like to follow the road less traveled (ode to Robert Frost).
4) Flashback – Tapit colt by a Mr. Greeley mare = SPEED. I have questions on his 10 furlong ability, but he does have some Pleasant Colony via second dam and a double dose of stamina laden sire, Nijinsky II. Appears to have the most raw talent of any in this bunch, so we’ll see if he’s a true miler or able to carry his speed into the Classics like a War Emblem and Bodemeister - previous Baffert speedballs.
5) Always in a Tiz – Tiznow by Elusive Quality mare: Loved his late close in the short stretch of the one mile Smarty Jones at Oaklawn. I’ve never really liked Tiznow colts on the Derby trail and until now that has served me well. But I have a hunch on this guy and if he fights like his daddy down the stretch he could be a live longshot in coming races!
6) Palace Malice – Curlin by a Royal Anthem mare. Many young sires make their mark with 3YOs in their first or second crop (i.e. Birdstone, Street Cry, Flower Alley). Royal Anthem is generally knows as a turf sire but that also means distance. As the incomparable Cigar proved, sometimes horses flop on their turf credentials yet go on to be special on traditional ground.
7) Frac Daddy – Scat Daddy by Skip Away mare: Not sure why I like this one but just he seems to be one that could jump up and win a big race. His damsire Skip Away was as game as they came at 9-10 furlongs for two years and even defeated the great Cigar (while getting 5 pounds). Trainer McPeek is very high on him and his ugly quarter crack gash in his hind frog surely bothered him in the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream. I’ll give him one more “crack” at redeeming himself before I toss.
8) Oxbow – Awesome Again by Cee’s Tizzy mare. Nearly identical breeding as Paynter last year who proved to have Grade I class. Awesome Again may be one of the most underrated sires out there as he has quietly sired four Breeders’ Cup winners, the best being Horse of the Year Ghostzapper (but also runner-up, Game on Dude). The breeding is why this guy is on my list, but we’ll see if he can pull D. Wayne Lukas back into Derby relevance (thanks to Brad Kelley and resurrected Calumet Farm).
9) War Academy – Giant’s Causeway by an A.P. Indy mare (he’s a popular damsire this season!). I have tremendous respect for the Coolmore team behind this runner and Baffert can get them ready late in the season. He’ll probably ship to Oaklawn for one of their spring preps. Only one maiden score in one race to date but he has the potential to “pop” in February and burst onto the Derby scene.
10) Zeewat – Harlan’s Holiday by Distant View: The “other” son of Harlan’s Holiday (Juvenile champ Shanghai Bobby off my list) is taking care of the Northern CAL circuit as the distance increases. Hall of Famer Jerry Hallendorfer has his charge 2 for 2 in route races and the breeding is better than you may know considering damsire is a son of Mr. P.
On the bubble: Goldencents and Dynamic Sky. My first update will occur after the next wave of preps.