Steve Haskin's Road to the Kentucky Derby: Week 1 (Cont.)

So, here is a rundown of who's who on the 2003 Kentucky Derby trail. Whichever horses can't be squeezed into this space will be mentioned in the first Derby Report on Bloodhorse.com.

Baffert is loaded with talented 3-year-olds. In addition to Vindication, he also has the hard-knocking, consistent Kafwain, winner of the Norfolk Stakes and second in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and Hollywood Futurity. Baffert has always been high on Domestic Dispute, and the son of Unbridled's Song looked very strong winning the Santa Catalina, drawing off from the highly touted Our Bobby V. and Scrimshaw. Even losing top-class stakes horses Icecoldbeeratreds and Bull Market to injury, Baffert still has other solid backups, such as Spensive, winner of the Gold Rush Stakes and fourth in the Golden Gate Derby, and Truckle Feature, third in the Belmont Futurity (gr. I) and Lane's End Breeders' Futurity (gr. II). Kafwain and Truckle Feature could meet in the seven-furlong San Vicente Stakes.

Another trainer strong in numbers is Todd Pletcher, who is very high on his A.P. Indy colt Indy Dancer, winner of both his career starts. Owned and bred by Wertheimer Farm, Indy Dancer turned in devastating moves from far back each time to win going away by open lengths. It was Pletcher's father who broke the colt and was always impressed with him, so he's been special from day one. Wertheimer Farm also owns stakes-placed Listen Indy, another A.P. Indy, who has been working brilliantly for Dick Mandella in California. He should be a major contender off his form in the Norfolk Stakes.

Another Pletcher colt to watch is the brilliantly fast Lion Tamer, who is in the process of being sold by Peachtree Stable to Michael Tabor. Pletcher has some questions whether or not he can stretch out his speed, but being by Travers winner Will's Way, he should at least have a fighting chance. Other Pletcher colts who can run are stakes-placed Bham and Aristocat. Bham is consistent, but looks one-dimensional. He should, however, win his fair share of stakes in the right company. Cowdin (gr. II) winner Boston Bull has a foot problem, so there is some doubt whether he can be ready for the Derby.

One new face to burst on the scene is Offlee Wild, who upset the Holy Bull Stakes at odds of 27-1. The son of Wild Again, coming off three sprints, ran like a horse who had been crying for two turns, and there is no telling yet just how good this colt might be. Tremendous female family, his dam is a half-sister to major stamina influence Dynaformer.

Another horse worth mentioning from the Holy Bull is the New York-bred Funny Cide. For the son of Distorted Humor to finish fifth, beaten six lengths, actually was quite an accomplishment after his horrible start from the 13 post and going five-wide into the first turn, not to mention carrying top weight of 122 pounds. The fact that he was in the hunt the whole way and finished respectably bodes very well for the future. Although his sire is not thought of as a stamina influence by any means, this colt's female family is loaded with Darby Dan stamina blood.

It is still pretty early to start throwing the names of maiden winners around as serious Derby horses, but there is a great story unfolding in California. Wally Dollase, one of the most popular and well-liked trainers in the country, is in the process of making a great comeback after being fired as private trainer for the Thoroughbred Corp in 1999 and seeing his stable go from 40 top-class horses down to nothing. Dollase started from scratch and built his stable back up, winning several big stakes last year with Good Journey. He now has an exciting 3-year-old named Ten Most Wanted, a son of Deputy Commander whom Dollase saddled to win the 1997 Travers Stakes. Ten Most Wanted, big bruiser of a colt, broke his maiden at Santa Anita by eight lengths on Jan. 5 and is being pointed for the Feb. 7 Sham Stakes at 1 1/8 miles.

One Californian who is taking huge action in the Future Book is Ministers Wild Cat, a son of champion Hollywood Wildcat who looked awesome breaking his maiden recently for Neil Drysdale.

Other multiple stakes winners ready for a big effort are Trust N Luck, who devastated his opponents in the Whatapleasure Stakes at Calder; and Futurity and Sanford winner Whywhywhy, who is back working for Patrick Biancone at Santa Anita. Both colts are being pointed for the Fountain of Youth Stakes.

At Fair Grounds, keep a close eye on Most Feared, who is being pointed for the Lecomte Stakes by trainer Ronny Werner. This is a big, long-striding grinder of a horse who has the pedigree to run all day and looked good winning the Arlington-Washington Futurity. Another to definitely watch is the undefeated Stonerside Stable colt Seattle Hoofer, a regally bred son of Seattle Slew who has won both his starts going two turns for trainer Mike Stidham. In his last start, an allowance race on Jan. 17, he had to steady behind horses, then swung wide for room and drew off to win eased up by 5 3/4 lengths in one of the more impressive preps of the young season.

Two promising colts who have already been taken off the Derby trail are Kentucky Jockey Club winner Soto, who came out of the race with a hairline fracture and is being given four weeks stall rest; and Erinsouthernman, third in the Champagne, who is suffering from body soreness and will be out until the summer.

We'll catch up with a number of the other stakes winners and impressive maiden and allowance winners in the next couple of weeks.

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