Well kids, we sure as hell won't top 2015 for Triple Crown excitement but we can have some fun trying to win some $$ this year since Pharoah eliminated typical juicy payoffs last year. I'll expand on race analysis in future posts but want to publish this list prior to Feb. 1st, as I always do.
I must admit while I'm excited about a handful of prospects, I have ZERO confidence at this early stage. Thus, I'm going with some horses I've seen in person or owner stables that I like to root for in my inaugural top 10. Good luck with your horses and bets on the 2016 Kentucky Derby Trail!
1) Synchrony - Tapit/Forestry: Ms. Abercrombie's Pin Oak Stud was one of the most impressive farms I visited during Breeders' Cup week and in reading more about her colorful history and savvy breeding program I would love to see another version of Ms. Genter's Kentucky Derby (I can't get enough of Unbridled!). Ran a troubled 3rd in his first major test so if he's still listed in Vegas futures book NOW is the time to strike!
2) Mo Tom - Uncle Mo/Rubiano: While he loses Dosage points being out of a daughter of Rubiano (Fappiano), he shares this with a little white horse you may have heard of... TAPIT! Led to the starting gate by one of my dad's first horse trainers and genuinely nice and good-timing man, Tom Amoss (although he's named for the other Tom, co-owner Tom Benson). I remember sitting in Mr. Benson's box at Fair Grounds during spring break weeks in high school and college thanks to Amoss. Don't think they'll let me crash their Derby box, however.
3) Airoforce - Colonel John/Cuvee: Believer it or not, I have another personal connection to a Derby trail horse compliments of T. Amoss. The breeder of Airoforce is Stewart Madison, who has raced/owned/bred nice horses in LA and KY for decades. Stewart was a fellow client of Amoss 20+ years ago in Louisiana and I was fortunate to get to know him and share some winners circle photos and breeding stories. An accurate handicapper and breeder now getting his due of national recognition.
4) Zulu - Bernardini/Summer Squall: Unfortunately, I do not know Pletcher or the powerful Coolmore/Stonestreet connections but they have one of the most classically bred horses in this sophomore crop. I will be in Hallandale Beach, Florida in late February for the Fountain of Youth to see if he can stretch his brilliance around two turns, which is likely.
5) Brody's Cause - Giant's Causeway/Sahm: Bode Baffert has already seen more success in racing at age 10 than most people achieve in a lifetime with his famous pops and the namesake of Bodemeister, hard luck 2nd in the 2012 KY Derby and Preakness. Dale Romans has showed up in the Classics in recent years and this could be his 'Cause this year.
6) Exaggerator - Curlin/Vindication: What's a Derby top 10 list without a Curlin? And speaking of hot trainers, Keith Desormeaux may find "vindication" after missing last year's Derby with Texas Red. I'd be shocked if a Curlin progeny doesn't hit the board in any of the three Classics.
7) Mohaymen - Tapit/Dixie Union: Really nice breeding on this prized Darley runner in the mold of Frosted from last crop. But to me his name reminds me of my earliest memories of Grandpa K yelling at his sons/grandkids on his farm on a flatbed trailer in the hay-fields of Morrilton -- "Mo' hay, men!"
8) Whitmore - Pleasantly Perfect/Scat Daddy: Oaklawn sprinting allowance winner crushed opening weekend foes from stables of Arkansan Ron Moquett. Big pocket owners Rosenblum and LaPenta snatched him up after 2YO maiden romp and being out of a BC Classic winner should appreciate more real-estate in the Rebel Stakes.
9) Mor Spirit - Eskendereya/Dixie Union: You want some 'Mor? How about one with solid bottom side distance impact (Dixie Union sired 2012 Belmont winner Union Rags). Eskendereya (Zayat Stables) has been one of the most disappointing young sires in recent memory after he decimated the pre-Derby competition before a career ending injury. Often, these type sires tend to turn it around just as American breeders give up on them - Stonestreet just sold him to Japan breeders association after 2015 season. Bloodstock agent extraordinaire Peter Bradley will broker a deal to have him back in America by next year if this guy keeps winning!
10) Conquest Big E - Tapit/Carson City: Since I'm a 10th child, I'll end the list with my namesake "Big E" (thanks Raulston) from the white-hot Mark Casse barn. His CD allowance score was a full second faster than Airoforce's KY Jockey Club victory on the slop. Tapit's can run over anything but may not have enough stamina with Carson City on the bottom.