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Derby Trail Tracker: The Next Five

Derby Trail Tracker: The Next Five

With the release of the first edition of the Kentucky Derby Top 20, we’ll dive into a new set of articles known as the DERBY TRAIL TRACKER, where we’ll take a look at prospects targeting the big race on the first Saturday in May.

“THE NEXT FIVE” gives you a look at who may break into the Top 20 rankings sooner than later. These are the 3-year olds to watch in their next start to see if they can step up into the upper echelon of Derby contenders:

1. Untrapped

There is plenty to like about this lightly raced colt for Hall-of-Fame trainer Steve Asmussen. In his three career races, he has one win and two second place finishes losing to only Uncontested (ranked #7 in the Racing Dudes Top 20) in his debut at Keeneland in October and Guest Suite (ranked #16) in the Grade-3 Lecomte at Fairgrounds in January. His other race was his maiden breaker at Churchill, which is not a bad place to win for a horse looking to run his best over that same strip to start May.

Even though the Lecomte was run in the mud, he impressed showing late kick in his first race around two turns. Asmussen is targeting the Grade-3 Risen Star in mid-February where he will look to turn the tables on Guest Suite. Sired by Trappe Shot, he may not have great stamina influence from his father, but being out of a Giant’s Causeway mare, he has plenty of distance on the bottom side of his pedigree.

Tapwrit - Credit - Andie Biancone
Tapwrit winning Pulpit Stakes at Gulfstream Park (Photo: Andie Biancone)

2. Tapwrit

With a hefty price tag of $1.2 million at the 2015 Fasig-Tipton Select Yearling sale at Saratoga, expectations have always been high for Tapwrit. Out of the 2006 Grade-1 Spinaway winner Appealing Zophie and sired by Tapit, hopes were that Tapwrit would be precocious. His tenth-place finish on debut on closing weekend of the Saratoga meet was a disappointment, but he bounced back with two straight wins.

After breaking his maiden at Gulfstream Park West in November, trainer Todd Pletcher put him as a main-track only entry in the non-graded Pulpit Stakes to start the Gulfstream meet in mid-December. Going off as the favorite, Tapwrit showed the ability to stalk and pounce to win over the sloppy sealed track. The effort was flattered when second-place finisher and stablemate Master Plan (ranked 20th) came back to win the OBS Championship.

Pletcher said after the Pulpit that he’d look for two-turn opportunities for Tapwrit and “everything’s on the table” including shipping out of town. A possible Grade-3 Sam F. Davis try at Tampa Bay Downs on February 11 may be his next start.

Tapwrit wins Pulpit Stakes:

3. Saint’s Fan

When Derby time comes around, you always have to make sure you take note of trainer Dallas Stewart’s entries. He ran second at long odds with Golden Soul in 2013 and Commanding Curve in 2014, so you never know when he’s going to spring the upset. He also got Tale of Verve to somehow get second in the 2015 Preakness in the slop.

Stewart has never been so high on a horse as he’s been with Saint’s Fan, though. As the breeder-owner-trainer of the horse, he has to be proud of his undefeated pupil. Saint’s Fan blew away his state-bred foes in the Louisiana Champions Day Juvenile at Fair Grounds in mid-December in his last start.

Many will snicker at the Louisiana-bred, but the way he exploded on the turn in the Louisiana Juvenile is the move that you want to see from a Derby contender. Most Derbies are won on the far turn and an explosive move like he displayed is key. He also broke his maiden over open company, so at least he has shown he can beat out-of-state competition.

Stewart skipped the Lecomte with Saint’s Fan after he drew the far outside 12 post for his first try around two turns. The Risen Star remains a possibility, but the Louisiana Premier Night Prince at Delta Downs on February 11 at a mile is a more likely landing spot for his next start. Stewart’s goal is the Grade-2 Louisiana Derby.

Saint’s Fan wins Louisiana Juvenile:

4a. Irish War Cry & 4b. Painter’s Rags

Derby winning trainer Graham Motion (Animal Kingdom in 2011) has two talented colts that share this spot in the NEXT FIVE. We’ll get to see the Motion-trained duo of Painter’s Rags and Irish War Cry both in action to start February.

Motion recently said that he was excited about both of his prospects. Painter’s Rags is entered in a “salty” allowance optional claimer this Friday, February 3, at Gulfstream against top talent Battalion Runner (ranked #6). In his debut maiden win at a mile the day after Christmas at Laurel Park, Painter’s Rags rallied 6 wide on the turn and exploded to take over early in the stretch. The son of 2012 Belmont Stakes winner Union Rags should have plenty of stamina influence from his sire.

Irish War Cry is more decorated than his stablemate with a nose victory in the non-graded Marylander at Laurel Park to end December. An undefeated 2-for-2 including an impressive maiden score also at Laurel, the son of Curlin has gotten enough hype to go off at 26/1 odds in both Kentucky Derby future wager pools.  Irish War Cry will make a big step up in class this Saturday in the Grade-2 Holy Bull at Gulfstream where he will meet Eclipse champion juvenile Classic Empire (ranked #1).

Painter’s Rags maiden win at Laurel:

Irish War Cry wins Marylander by a nose:

5. Theory

Do not forget about this guy! You can read more about his trials and tribulations before and after the Breeders’ Cup (BC) Juvenile in my Pletcher Derby preview written in early January.

In summary, Theory was the top Pletcher prospect after his Saratoga maiden win and may have been the favorite in the Grade-1 Hopeful if he didn’t get injured in the weeks leading up the race. His win and gallop-out in the Grade-3 Futurity at Belmont Park shows that he may want more distance. You can draw a line through his dud in the BC Juvenile because he may have been sick for the race.

With all that, he’s back training steadily at Palm Beach Downs with hopes that they can get him caught back up on the Derby trail. The son of Gemologist may not want to go the 10 furlongs of the Kentucky Derby, but he can indeed make noise on the trail if he gets back into top form.

Theory wins Grade-3 Futurity:

Follow all my crazy thoughts and analysis on the Derby Trail all winter and spring long on Twitter by following me @SaratogaSlim.

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