Steve Haskin's Derby Watch--Week 8 (March 11)

Steve Haskin's Derby Watch--Week 8 (March 11)
Photo: Benoit photo
Leading Derby contender Kafwain, winning the San Vicente.
1--Kafwain/Bob Baffert; Cherokee Run-Swazi's Moment, by Moment of Hope

Whether one thinks he's worthy or not of No. 1, he's still the most accomplished 3-year-old. He was eligible to get beat in the Louisiana Derby coming off a big effort and huge speed figures in sprint. All the speed sheets gurus said "bounce," and that's basically what he did. Maybe he can't get the 1 1/4 miles, but that remains to be seen. He sure wasn't backing up in the BC Juvenile, and his sire, although a sprinter later in his career, did get beat a half-length in the Preakness and is not bred to be a sprinter. So, who knows?

2--Domestic Dispute/Bob Baffert; Unbridled's Song-Majestical Moment, by Magesterial

If he runs to his works in the San Felipe, he should be very tough to beat. Latest gem was 6 furlongs in 1:11 1/5. Rangy, long-striding colt who has the look of a stayer. But his reputation is more or less based on his Santa Catalina win, and the form of that race has not held up, so there are questions about him as well. If he wins on Sunday, then we'll know for sure that he's a legitimate contender.

3--Peace Rules/Bobby Frankel; Jules-Hold to Fashion, by Hold Your Peace With his pedigree, action, and the way he was working, his victory in Louisiana Derby was no big surprise. Great training job by Frankel getting him to win like that first crack out. Speed sheets gave him a "1," which is an amazing number. Where does he go from there? Will have only two starts prior to Derby; not an easy task. Frankel wasn't really expecting this kind of performance, but still says Empire Maker is the main man. Cannot remember Frankel ever being this high on a horse. Next stop for Peace Rules will be Blue Grass Stakes.

4--Empire Maker/Bobby Frankel; Unbridled-Toussaud, by El Gran Senor

Who are we to argue with Frankel? All the signs are there for a big effort in the Florida Derby, and you know if he wins that race, everyone will be beating a path to jump on his bandwagon. His three races have shown steady progress, and the blinkers should make a big difference, especially the way he broke out of the gate with them on and the way he's worked with them. Had a super work in company with Medaglia d'Oro. Bailey and his agent are still very high on him. He no doubt will be the horse everyone will be focusing on this weekend. Either way, we'll finally know one way or the other.

5--Man Among Men/Gary Mandella; Gentlemen-La Favorita, by Nikos

If we had to make one future book bet right now, and look for the best potential overlay, our money would go on this horse. And if we could pick any one horse at the first Future Wager odds it would be him at 30-1. Continues to turn in strong works for San Felipe; went 6 furlongs in 1:12 4/5 at Hollywood. Not much hype surrounding him, but he's got all the tools to step up big-time. Powerfully built colt with a big kick, beautiful long stride, and a super pedigree. He's already beaten Peace Rules and Empire Maker and still has lots of room for improvement. He could be the one.

6--Composure/Bob Baffert; Touch Gold-Party Cited, by Alleged

Filly or no filly, the more we look at her the better she's looking. She's certainly had enough slugfests to toughen her for a crack at the Derby. Slow pace didn't suit her against a top filly like Elloluv, but got the job done anyway, throwing in some solid quarters at the end. Came home in :24 flat in Las Virgenes. A closer study of her race in the BC Juvenile Fillies makes her look even stronger. Was outrunning Storm Flag Flying, but got stopped and had to shut down completely, then kick in again when clear. She still ran the same time as Vindication and faster than Kafwain. And she's bred to run all day.

7--Trust N Luck/Ralph Ziadie; Montbrook-Bold Burst, by Dahar
There is something about this horse, after seeing him in the paddock before the Fountain of Youth, that makes us think he may be even a better horse than he appears. All we want to see now is what he can do rating off the pace. But if no one wants to take him on, we're more likely to see him bounding along on the lead again. Frankel promises Empire Maker will be breathing down his neck. Love Dahlia in his female family, but don't love decision to go straight to the Derby. That and his front-running style prevent us from ranking him right up near the top.

8--Atswhatimtalknbout/Ron Ellis; A.P. Indy-Lucinda K., by Red Ransom

Ranking is based more on speculation. He hasn't run in a stakes and hasn't blown anyone away, but he is a grand-looking, well-bred colt who is improving, and he has so many traits of his sire it's uncanny, right down to the way he grinds into the bit and works up a mouthful of saliva. So, if he looks like a mess in the post parade Sunday, don't worry about it; you should have seen what A.P. Indy looked like. New Hollywood partnership, with Steven Spielberg, will really put him in the spotlight.

9--Funny Cide/Barclay Tagg; Distorted Humor-Belle's Good Cide, by Slewacide

Can a New York-bred gelding find happiness on the Derby trail? He ran a huge race in Louisiana Derby, coming back at the end after appearing out of it. And loved the way he had his pricked on the lead. This was a super effort after his Holy Bull debacle seven weeks earlier and getting sick after that. Tall, lean horse, and not only has the look of a stayer, but you will not find a stronger female family for class and stamina, especially his tail-female family. Like Trust N Luck, he just needs to show he can rate off the pace. Very kind horse, but doesn't like anyone pulling on his mouth, so you have to let him do what he's comfortable doing. He was gelded because he was a ridgling, so don't let that worry you. Wood Memorial next stop.

10--Lone Star Sky/Tom Amoss; Conquistador Cielo-Ministrada, by Deputy Minister

Not many people noticed this colt flying at the end of the Louisiana Derby over a speed-favoring track. Amoss could see that morning that the track was conducive to speed and thought he might be in trouble. He has excellent 2-year-old form, has run against classy horses, and is a stakes winner at Churchill in his only start there. Love all those steady half-mile breezes; Amoss using his races to move him forward. Hasn't shown the brilliance of some of these, but he's improving the right way.

11--Lion Tamer/Todd Pletcher; Will's Way-Tippecanoe Creek, by Olympio

As talented as any 3-year-old in the country, but not crazy about his having only one two-turn race before the Derby, and a six-week gap between the Lane's End Stakes and the Derby. Not sure if Pletcher really believes he's a mile and a quarter horse. What he does have going for him is his exceptional talent. But will he have enough seasoning and toughness to handle the Kentucky Derby?

12--Ocean Terrace /Bob Hess; Saint Ballado-Crystal River, by Black Tie Affair

Don't like the fact that he'll have only four starts going into the Derby, but he is undefeated, has a ton of talent, and does not like being passed in the stretch, as he's shown in all three of his races. The El Camino Real was a very professional effort for his first two-turn race. He has a nice, smooth way of going and is a welcome addition to the Derby trail. But if only he had one more start under him.

Continued...

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