Steve Haskin's Derby Watch--Week 8 (Cont.)

20 -- Easy Grades/Ted West; Honor Grades-Itsoeasy, by Easy Goer

Still not sure he didn't finish second in the San Rafael because someone had to. He really didn't accelerate on the turn and was coming on steadily to get the place. But he did go widest of all and came home his last quarter in excellent time. The key to him, like many others, is how much he improves off this race. His pedigree says he should get better as the distances stretch out.

21 -- Essence of Dubai/Saeed bin Suroor; Pulpit-Epitome, by Summing

Beat a hard-knocking miler in the UAE 2,000 Guineas. We really won't know how good this horse is or what he's beaten until he runs in the Kentucky Derby, so you can either like him off his Norfolk victory or dislike him off his Breeders' Cup Juvenile flop. Or you can just wonder about him if he adds the UAE Derby.

22 -- Changeintheweather/Dave Bell; Gone West-Meteor Colony, by Pleasant Colony

Just barely won an allowance race last week against modest competition, and would have to improve in leaps and bounds to be competitive with the top horses. But the room for improvement certainly is there, and the one thing he has in his favor is a female family that will enable him to get better the farther he goes.

23 -- Azillion/Bob Hess; Alzao-Olivia, by Ela-Mana-Mou

Heading to Turfway for the Spiral Stakes, and we expect him to run a big race stretching out to 1 1/8 miles. This colt has a ton of stamina, mainly through his broodmare sire, and he has good tactical speed. He hasn't shown a big turn of foot, so if he's going to remain a grinder, his stamina will come in handy.

24 -- Yougottawanna/Jerry Hollendorfer; Candi's Gold-Chapel's Sister, by Midway Circle.

Haven't a clue what to make of this horse. Is he merely a Baffert killer? His pedigree doesn't provide much help. While there are some top influences, his tail-female family is totally obscure, and his maternal great-grandsire, Our Michael, was a sprinter. He does on occasion turn in a big one, and when he does, he shows a good turn of foot. Santa Anita Derby could be next, or points East.

25 -- It'sallinthechase/Wilson Brown; Take Me Out-Limestone, by Red Ryder

One good race, one not-so-good race. With blinkers off, he ran a solid third in the Louisiana Derby at 52-1, but he hasn't shown anything yet to suggest he's going to get much better than that. He needs to run big again. Looks more like one of those horses who will show up for the big races and chip away at the purses, and there's nothing wrong with that.

26 -- Straight Gin/Nick Zito; Go for Gin-Valeta, by Procida

With American Style running out of the money, he now becomes the number one stand-in behind High Star. Right now, he's just a guess, but he's won two in a row, and Zito's horses generally start showing improvement right about now.

27 -- Windward Passage/Steve Asmussen; Captain Bodgit-Storm Runner, by Miswaki

Southwest should set him up nicely for the Rebel Stakes. He's got a lot of improving to do, but at least his final furlong suggests the improvement is there. Let's see what he does on a decent track with a good pace in front of him. He's got the pedigree and the connections, and bears watching.

28 -- Charioteer/Todd Pletcher; Silver Deputy-New Wave, by Dynaformer

Not much was learned about him in the Louisiana Derby, as he didn't get the kind of trip one looks for in that situation. We were impressed that he did put away Risen Star runner-up Bob's Image and hung tough for as long as he could. He did show he can win around two turns under the right conditions and with the experience he gained, but he needs to be taken off the pace and taught to relax if he's going to be considered a serious horse over 1 1/8 miles.

29 -- Personal Reward/Mark Hennig; Personal Hope-Taylor's Mark, by Miswaki

Florida Derby is a big step up for him, especially after Quest Star came off a second to him and ran poorly in allowance company. But third-place finisher Marasca ran big next time out. Anything can happen in these wide-open races, but all he needs to do on Saturday is show he belongs with these horses.

KNOCKING ON THE DOOR: TAKE CHARGE LADY, easy winner of the Fair Grounds Oaks, looking more and more legit for Arkansas Derby try if McPeek decides to go that route. If some colts don't step forward this weekend and assert their superiority, then you'll start seeing more fillies being considered for Derby preps. HABIBTI ran well enough in Santa Anita Oaks to suggest she'll keep getting better as the distances stretch out. PUERTO BANUS looks to be Baffert's last hope to have a legitimate male Derby contender, as he tackles Siphonic and company in the San Felipe. It might be time to start paying attention to MAGIC WEISNER who is rattling off one Maryland stakes win after another. HOLDTHEHELM heading East for the Lane's End Spiral Stakes. MEDAGLIA D'ORO will try to get Frankel back on the Derby trail in the Gotham, which will also be a big test for MAYAKOVSKY and local horse MY MAN RYAN.

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