And so it begins…the nominations are in and the future pools are alive and well. I’ve waited long enough, it’s time for my first Kentucky Derby list of the year. As some of you know we’ll update the list weekly as things will absolutely change from week to week. Unlike many years, this year I have a very solid feeling about one particular horse which I have ranked number one. Remember…this is not a “what have you done in the past” list, it’s a “who has the best chance to win the Kentucky Derby” list. We’ve also thrown in the 2014 Kentucky Derby Future Wager (KDFW) Pool 2 Morning Line odds. Enough rambling…here we go!
1. Top Billing (15-1 KDFW Morning Line) – I’ll probably get burned with this…but its been awhile since I’ve been this confident about a Kentucky Derby prospect. Everything about him I really like. He’s shown he will run through horses, he does everything with ease, and his running style has proven to be successful on the first Saturday in May. His last race was just a freakish performance as he beat a nice allowance group in hand. Fingers crossed this one stays healthy!
2. Strong Mandate (20-1) – He showed tremendous talent as a two-year, and is working LIGHTS OUT at Oaklawn Park. I felt he was best in the Breeders Cup Juvenile, as he was caught very wide and ran into the teeth of an extremely hot pace. He’s in capable hands with Lukas…I think he’s a potential monster.
3. Commissioner (20-1) – I’ve already expressed how much I like Top Billing, and this horse actually beat him when they went head to head. He already has two wins going a mile and one eighth, and considering his breeding distance is not going to be a problem. So why do I not have him number one? I’ve been burned by Pletcher too many times…he’ll have to continue to prove it to me before I move him up any higher than this spot.
4. Cairo Prince (8-1) – The Holy Bull was an eye-opening race! The field looked somewhat evenly matched, but Cairo Prince blew away the competition. He might be the most talented horse in the entire crop. All systems are go for him except one little issue that keeps creeping up in my mind…will he be completely effective at a mile and a quarter?
5. Candy Boy (50-1) – His race against Shared Belief in the CashCall Futurity was better than most people think, and he’s another horse that has really been training well for his 2014 debut. Gary Stevens has the mount for him in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes this weekend.
6. Shared Belief (10-1) – There is no question he was the best two-year old of his crop, but the foot issues have me seriously worried. This is not the time of year you want to have injuries. Time is critical now…any minor set back will cost him. Hollendorfer will not rush this horse just to make the Derby, which is the right thing to do. Also, there is still the lingering question of whether the horse will run on the dirt as well as he ran on synthetics.
7. Honor Code (10-1) – Put him in the same category as Shared Belief. If not for the injury problems I’d have both horses ranked higher, but I can’t do it right now. Just like Shared Belief, any minor set back and the Triple Crown could be done for him.
8. Tapiture (20-1) – Not completely sold on him, but no doubt he’s heading in the right direction. His Stakes win at Churchill was really impressive, but I don’t think he beat much. He’s aiming for the Southwest, where the waters will get much deeper.
9. Gold Hawk (7-5 “All Others”) – Call me crazy but that last clunker doesn’t have me scared off just yet. There is no escaping the fact the Lecomte Stakes was a disaster, but it was a learning experience for a still young and developing horse. I expect him to come back strong in his next race.
10. Midnight Hawk (20-1) – Not sure he wants the distance of the Derby, but he’s been strong in two straight races. Could see him continuing a strong run out in California, but still on the fence about his chances in Kentucky.
11. Samraat (30-1) – After that performance in the Withers, this one is now a player. I can’t remember being so surprised by a race, but it’s always nice when that happens! They are talking like one more prep race is in order before a trip to Kentucky.
12. Mexicoma (7-5) – I could see this one going either way. He’s doing everything the right way right now, but I do believe the Fountain of Youth will be a big time class test for him.
13. Indianapolis (20-1) – His stakes win was only six furlongs, but I think he’s going to be able to stretch out. Going short he had a big turn of foot, but can he have that same quickness going long is the main question. This could be a dumb one to put on the list, but I just liked way he moved in his last race.
14. Louies Flower (7-5) – He is quietly working out extremely well at Oaklawn Park. Strong Mandate is getting the majority of attention, but you better not forget about this one. He’ll get a chance to prove his worth in the Southwest Stakes on President’s Day.
15. Bobby’s Kitten (30-1) – Loads of talent…but can he run on the dirt? The plan is to try the Bluegrass Stakes at Keeneland, and then move on to Churchill if he runs well in that race. He’s as classy as they come, and if they can get him qualified he might have a say in things. In the past turf horses have actually ran well over the Churchill Downs dirt track.
16. Vicar’s In Trouble (20-1) – Make no mistake that Lecomte Stakes performance was HUGE, but he’s another that just might not like the Derby distance. At a mile or mile and one sixteenth this one will be extremely hard to beat, but I could see him getting a little short if he goes much longer than that.
17. Uncle Sigh (50-1) – I’ll be honest in saying I wasn’t totally sold on him going into the Withers, but he showed a ton of heart and more importantly talent in that race. The distance of the Derby could be questionable, but he’s worth a solid mention at this point.
18. Constitution (7-5) – He’s only ran once, but that maiden breaking win was impressive. He broke terribly out of the gate, rushed up on the inside rail, and still was able to win the race. Haven’t heard where he might run next, but he looks like a nice one to keep an eye on.
19. Havana (30-1) – Really love this horse, but really don’t like him at all at the Kentucky Derby distance. I put him on this list out of respect, and I do believe he has a chance to qualify for the race because he is a very classy. Still, don’t think he has much of a chance even if he does make the starting gate.
20. Bond Holder (7-5) – He’s a Grade 1 winner who really has never ran an awful race so that has to count for something. He reminds me a little bit of Den’s Legacy from last year, which is both good and bad. The Risen Star is next for him.
Free Brisnet past performances for Pool 2 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager available at http://www.brisnet.com/brisnet_promos/14KDFW2PPs.pdf.
Real-time odds and other information on the KDFW are available at www.KentuckyDerby.com.