Kentucky Derby Trail: On Your Mark, Get Set...

It's time once again to officially embark on the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) trail. Now is as good a time as any to preview what's to come by listing the most accomplished and promising youngsters. Many of these names will be only that in a few months, but for now, this is how the classic division shapes up as we begin the road to the May 6 Derby.

Stakes and allowance horses

1 – Stevie Wonderboy – Looks to have all the tools to be a genuine classic horse; super pedigree and explosive kick.

2 – Private Vow – Broken rein cost him chance at title. Best-looking horse in paddock before Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile; classy and professional.

3 – First Samurai – Breeders' Cup Juvenile third-place finish blamed on breathing problem. Powerfully built with a ton of ability. Already working bullets at Gulfstream.

4 – Your Tent or Mine – Loved his Hollywood Futurity second; pedigree questionable, but possesses long, gazelle-like strides. In top hands.

5 – Brother Derek – Fast and classy. Two-turn experience helped in Hollywood Futurity. Would like to see if he can rate from off the pace.

6 – Bluegrass Cat – Made grand appearance in Remsen. Was looked in the eye and responded. Nine-furlong race under his belt will help.

7 – Barbaro – This is a flat-out runner, with three monster turf wins. If he handles dirt as well as turf he'll be an exciting addition to the Derby trail.

8 – High Cotton – Just needs to find a comfortable running style. Like the way he always fights back at the end. Expect big improvement.

9 – Henny Hughes – Distance ability in question with his style. Ran super in BC Juvenile, but now in Dubai, so we won't get much of a line on him.

10 – Bob and John – Under the whip very early in Hollywood Futurity. Not fast enough to run with top Cal juveniles, but will catch up at longer distances.

11 – A.P. Warrior – Disappointing fourth in Hollywood Futurity, but deserves another chance. Talent is there, but he doesn't always show up.

12 – Saint Daimon – If he can handle two turns he will be a major force on the Derby trail. Working super. Could this be Allen Jerkens' year?

13 – Stream Cat – Good closing kick; much better than his eighth-place finish in the BC Juvenile. Biancone knows what to do with a young horse.

14 – Superfly – Not sure what to make of him. He's run well enough with the best to indicate he could have a bright future.

15 – Flashy Bull – Gave Bluegrass Cat a scare in the Remsen coming out of a maiden score.

16 – Dawn of War – Breeders' Futurity winner got buried on the pace in BC Juvenile. Needs to show he can sit off pace effectively.

17 – Saint Augustus – What a Pleasure winner has shown big improvement; now has to step it up against better horses.

18 – Dr. Pleasure – Wasn't ready for a race like the BC Juvenile and got caught behind erratic-running Private Vow. Talented colt, but hasn't worked since October.

19 – Half Ours – Out since May and hasn't been over five furlongs, but this is a very talented horse who has the pedigree to go on. Enticing future book horse.

20 – Little Cliff – Improved big-time stretching out to two turns. Half-mile work in :47 2/5 not typical for Zito horse this early.

21 – Catcominatcha – Looked good winning Iroquois over High Cotton, but disappointed in Kentucky Jockey Club.

22 – Fabled – Two-for-two and showed a lot of tenacity bulling his way through hole in Churchill allowance score.

23 – Wanna Runner – Another who showed big improvement stretching out. Gutsy effort in Santa Anita allowance score.

24 – Bashert -- Fast colt with a good deal of promise, but freaked out before Del Mar Futurity. Returned to work tab, but hasn't worked for a month.

25 – My Golden Song – Pletcher colt undefeated in two starts; runs Saturday in Aventura. Super pedigree; could be a real sleeper.

Also in this category, three stakes colts with excellent credentials – Bro Lo, Political Force, and Mondavi – have not been on the work tab since last fall. Nick Zito has three other allowance winners who are hard to separate at this point -- Doc Cheney and Hemingway's Key both won at Calder, as did Great Point, who was placed first via disqualification.

Final Copy, a two-time allowance winner in Kentucky, looks like a solid colt. Old Thunder looked great breaking his maiden, but has disappointed in his two subsequent starts. Yankee Master, winner of the Woodford Bourbon on the grass, was scratched from the Tropical Park Derby. Sapling winner He's Got Grit is fast, but looks more like a sprinter; Jealous Profit, a graded stakes-placed maiden for O'Neill just can't find the winner's circle. Also, there is the swift stakes-placed allowance winner Master of Disaster, and a $1,000 Keeneland September yearling purchase named OK Nothanksforaskn, who won an allowance race at Woodbine by 4 1/2 lengths in 1:09 4/5.

A mention must also be made of Arlington Futurity (gr. II) winner Sorcerer's Stone, who would have been among the leading 2-year-olds had he not been injured in the Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I).

Maiden winners

Although they're more of a longshot until they prove they can beat winners, there are several maiden winners who appear to have potential and could make a major leap up the ladder in their next start.

Doug O'Neill, who has a knack for sending out maidens who run their eyeballs out, showed off two more in Plagiarist and Totally Gone, who destroyed their opponents in blazing time.

Keep an eye on Stonesider, who showed a lot of guts in his maiden win for Pletcher before being sidelined. He's just coming back now. Can't wait for the return of Music School, who turned in one of the most remarkable first-out maiden wins in a while after nearly falling at the break; just back working at Oaklawn after injury.

If you're looking for one to get in on the bottom floor, consider the Jimmy Jerkens-trained Corinthian, a maiden winner at Aqueduct who turned in a solid six-furlong work in 1:26 1/5 at Palm Meadows. Admiral's Arch, a stablemate of Private Vow who won at Churchill despite racing greenly, is another to watch, as is Dixie Swinger, who justified trainer Rick Dutrow's high praise by winning first time out at Aqueduct.

Bob Baffert has a promising colt in Enforcement, who is on the comeback trail following surgery. Baffert also is high on maidens Point of Impact, Royal Legacy, and Point Determined, all of whom ran well in their December debuts. Another colt who was impressive in his first start despite getting beaten is Latent Heat, trained by Bobby Frankel. The horse that beat him, Cindago, looks like a runner. Dick Mandella has a promising maiden winner in Peace Chant, who is out of champion sprinter Safely Kept.

Two impressive maiden winners, Ramsgate, trained by Frankel, and Refinery, trained by Mandella, both finished out of the money in an allowance race, well behind Wanna Runner.

Two of the more brilliant maiden winners are Travelin Leroy, who blew away his field at Belmont by 8 3/4 lengths in :57 flat but was upset twice at Delaware Park, and Dr. Decherd, a 13 1/2-length winner who has since finished fourth in allowance company.

Other maiden winners to watch are Hesanoldsalt, trained by Zito; Kiliminjaro, trained by Biancone; Mantoloking, trained by Pletcher; Barbican (working sharply at Palm Meadows for Eoin Harty), Music From Heaven, Laptop Computer, Itsallbouthechase, Reigning Court, and Johnny Utah.

There obviously are others that weren't mentioned. Many of those that were mentioned will prove to be just sprinters, while others will not make it into stakes company. But this is a good start to 2006.