To help sort out the contenders from the pretenders for the 2002 Kentucky Derby, The Blood-Horse's senior correspondent Steve Haskin has listed the horses to look for in coming weeks.
1 -- Repent/Kenny McPeek; Louis Quatorze-Baby Grace, by Cipayo
Why he's running such bizarre races after looking so professional in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile we have no idea. But it is obvious this colt likes a good scrap, and he always manages to find a way to win them. There isn't much this horse will see in the Kentucky Derby that he hasn't seen (and overcome) already.
2 -- Siphonic/David Hofmans; Siphon-Cherokee Crossing, by Cherokee Colony
Working long and strong for San Felipe. Repent's desperate victory at Fair Grounds opens the door to re-claim the top spot and lure Bailey back in his direction. No reason his "A" race shouldn't get it done, unless Sunday Break is something extraordinary.
3 -- Harlan's Holiday/Kenny McPeek; Harlan-Christmas in Aiken, by Affirmed
Big test coming up in Florida Derby, with new rider Edgar Prado trying to find a way to beat Booklet. But there will be new, fresh faces to deal with as well. This colt really needs a victory to stay this high.
4 -- Nokoma/Todd Pletcher; Pulpit-Eliza Blue, by Icecapade
Blazed 5 furlongs in :58 1/5; faster than Pletcher was looking for. Another horse who really needs to run a big race to regain his reputation as a top-class stakes horse. His recent allowance victory should set him up nicely. The key is patience, and not to move too soon.
5 -- D' Coach/Shug McGaughey; Dehere-Catatonic, by Big Spruce
This is our stick-our-neck-out horse for the week. He'll be a price in the Florida Derby, and certainly doesn't have to win, with his running style. But a strong effort puts him in good shape to peak on Derby Day. Turned in an excellent sharpener in :47 4/5.
6 -- Saarland/Shug McGaughey; Unbridled-Versailles Treaty, by Danzig
Breezed 5 furlongs in 1:00 for Gotham. He'll have to show some quick moves, but two of the fast newcomers he'll be facing are playing major catch-up. If he's Derby caliber, he still should handle almost all these. But having only two preps before the Derby is not ideal. Needs to run fairly hard in both races.
7 -- Sunday Break/Neil Drysdale; Forty Niner-Catequill, by Storm Cat
Drysdale decided to pass on the San Felipe and will ship the colt East instead. Rushaway Stakes was one race mentioned. This no doubt will not help in determining just where this horse fits in. Will have to drop down several spots until we find out where he's headed.
8 -- Came Home/Paco Gonzalez; Gone West-Nice Assay, by Clever Trick
Nothing to do but wait for the Santa Anita Derby. We've said everything there is to say about his pedigree. What we really need to see is Came Home come home. He has to show he can pour it on a bit more at the end. Last two runners-up behind him were not in his class.
9 -- Johannesburg/Aidan O'Brien; Hennessy - Myth, by Ogygian
Talk about nothing to do but wait. We have to wait for the weather in Ireland to improve; wait for the colt's training to pick up; wait to see how he's progressed over the winter. Of the three, only the weather will be public knowledge.
10 -- High Star/Nick Zito; Private Terms-Polember, by Polish Navy
With American Style finishing out of the money last week, the burden on his shoulders to get Zito to the Derby becomes heavier. This colt really needs to run a big race, at least big enough to keep Zito's Derby hopes alive. Breezed a solid 5 furlongs in 1:01. Stevens will certainly help bring him home.
11 -- Booklet/John Ward; Notebook-Crafty Bobbie, by Bob's Dusty
Classic line from Ward. When asked if he believed the colt was capable of ever rating behind horses, he replied: "Did you ever tell a basketball team to take back in the first quarter and not score any points, so they can save something for the end of the game?" Ward also said he likely has to "give up one of the next two" to get to the Derby in ideal fashion.
12 -- Easyfromthegitgo/Steve Asmussen; Dehere-Montera, by Easy Goer
He did have a ground-saving trip in the Louisiana Derby, but we like the way he relaxed just behind the leaders and drew away from everyone but Repent through some sharp closing fractions. Should keep improving.
13 -- USS Tinosa/Jerry Hollendorfer; Foxhound-Angel Puss, by Wolf Power
Worked 6 furlongs in a sharp 1:11 3/5 for San Felipe. For those looking for some 1 1/4-mile reassurance, his broodmare sire Wolf Power also is the broodmare sire of last week's Santa Anita Handicap winner Milwaukee Brew. If he keeps improving, he could give Siphonic a tussle.
14 -- Blue Burner/Bill Mott; French Deputy-Haiati, by Alydar
Breezed 5 furlongs in 1:04 3/5 for Florida Derby. It'll be interesting to see if he can improve off his Fountain of Youth third. Just has to show more speed and more quickness. Ran more one-paced in the last three-eighths, and was a steady third, rather than a fast-closing third.
15 -- Perfect Drift/Murray Johnson; Dynaformer-Nice Gal, by Naskra
If he can turn the tables on Request for Parole in the Spiral Stakes, and defend his home track against the invaders' he'll have to be taken seriously as a legitimate Derby contender. Just seems to be getting better with every race.
16 -- Request for Parole/ Steve Margolis; Judge T C-Madison's Quest, by Deputy Minister
Proved last year he's not just a local hero, as he held his own against Repent and Harlan's Holiday, and has been beating a good horse in Perfect Drift this year. One thing is certain, he's going to give whoever ships in for a Spiral a run for their money.
17 -- Bunk N Ted/Kenneth Wirth; Belong to Me-Littlemountaingirl, by Synastry
Really looking forward to see how he handles a little better quality of competition in the Tampa Bay Derby. But we still won't know that much about him until after that race. So far, there is a lot to like about him, and he's one of the few horses we've seen with agility and an explosive turn of foot. If he can duplicate it against better horses, he should be an exciting new face in the Triple Crown picture.
18 -- Monarchoftheglen/Niall O'Callaghan; A.P. Indy-Milliardaire, by Alydar
American Style's disappointing effort last week didn't bode well for his last race, but we still feel there is tremendous room for improvement, and wouldn't be surprised to see him mow down his opposition with one swift move in an allowance race on Saturday.
19 -- Danthebluegrassman/Bob Baffert; Pioneering-Stay With Bruce, by Grey Dawn II
He either gave way to Yougottawanna on his own, or he just doesn't respond to goggles flapping against his hide as much as a whip. We admire this colt in that he always gives it his all, and will win his share of stakes. But for him to be taken seriously for the Derby, he can't be so intent on the lead as he was in the El Camino Real Derby. If he can rate he might be able to improve enough to make it to Churchill Downs. Pedigree really doesn't tell you much, but there are some stamina influences.Contenders 20-30, Knocking on the Door