A Baker's Dozen for Kentucky Derby 130?

By Dick Downey

Although we're fascinated with numbers at TheDowneyProfile.com, we are not into numerology. However, it doesn't take much imagination to conjure up a projected field of 13 in Kentucky Derby 130.

We are aware of the thinking that a large field will be attracted to the Derby in the absence of any single outstanding horse. But application of the same facts can yield a result that, in the absence of an outstanding horse, a large number of horses that aren't outstanding won't be put through the grueling 1 1/4-mile race.

A review of the graded earnings list as of the week of March 22 shows Halfbridled leading the pack, but it's very doubtful she'll be entered in the Kentucky Derby off of two starts this year, none against boys.

Action This Day is next on the list, and if he clunks again in the Grade I Blue Grass Stakes, "X" him off the list. Like Halfbridled, Friends Lake would also come into the Derby off two starts and appears to be more fragile than many of his peers, leaving him vulnerable to miss the entry box. Chapel Royal, in fourth place on the list, is not going around two turns ever.

Next we see Limehouse, and all systems are go for him. But that's not necessarily so for Read The Footnotes, whose hammer-and-tong duel with Second Of June in the Grade II Fountain Of Youth Stakes took a lot out of him, so much that he may train up to the Derby and miss it. Of course, Second Of June was incapacitated by that race.

Wimbledon is next on the earnings list and should make the Big Dance. But Minister Eric, number eight in earnings, has become the year's biggest wallflower and will remain on the sideline.

The Cliff's Edge is the only one of Nick Zito's major contenders who seems to have the toughness to grit out a tough prep schedule. Welcome to Louisville, Cliff. But although Zito's Birdstone is talented, he didn't show anything in the Lane's End. The winner of that race, Sinister G, also ran over a sealed track.

Then there's Lion Heart. What if he runs a mile in the Santa Anita Derby in 1:35 after a half in :45? That would probably compute to 1 1/8 mile in 1:51 and a fifth place finish. That won't fly in the Kentucky Derby.

Which brings us to Sinister G, next on the list. His likeliest Triple Crown Target: The Preakness Stakes.

Giving Eurosilver the benefit of a doubt--and his future is full of doubt off two seven-furlong races so far this year--he is entry number four. Value Plus makes it five. The big guy looks full of vim and vigor.

St Averil, like Friends Lake, is not kicking the barn door down. He's had blood tests recently, and trainer Rafael Becerra is unsure enough about him that he wants to see a work on Saturday before committing to the Santa Anita Derby. Mark him off the list for now.

Imperialism looks like a go for the Derby, regardless of his sire's miler status. He has a good running style and has been progressing at just the right pace. But Tiger Hunt, next on the list, hasn't started this year, and would be a rare horse if he tries the Kentucky Derby off just one start this year, the Grade II Arkansas Derby. OK, Imperialism brings us up to six now.

Of the next half-dozen on the list, we project only Preachinatthebar and Borrego to start in the Kentucky Derby. Both have been running well and can get the distance. But Saratoga County can't; Kitten's Joy is a turf specialist; Capitano is off the Derby trail; and Grade III El Camino Real winner Kilgowan wasn't early-nominated to the Triple Crown, although he could be nominated in the second round. But right now, we just don't see him as Kentucky Derby material.

Tricky Taboo, number two in the Lane's End, could go. That makes nine. Next is Hosco, in the WinStar Derby on Sunday, but not the Kentucky Derby on the first Saturday in May. Bob Baffert's Consecrate is possible but not probable. He's in the trainer's second string. Mr. Jester showed in the Rebel Stakes that he needs to regroup. Gradepoint appears to be too slow. Pomeroy would come in off two starts, and we suspect he gave it his all in the one-turn Gotham Stakes, where horses were gasping at the end of the mile.

Tapit is number 30 on the graded earnings list. His status is very suspect at this point. He's had one problem after another, and we don't see the trainer deciding that his best interests would be served by entering him in the Kentucky Derby. Of course, we could be very wrong on all counts. But we don't include him at this point.

Fire Slam shows sprinter tendencies and would set a hot pace in the Derby, but only if he comes. Heckle, next on the earnings list, is not in the picture at all. Then comes Pollard's Vision, who's not being discussed as probable for any of the next round of preps; Castledale, whose future would appear to be on the turf; and Deputy Storm, a sprinter-type. No, no, no, no and no.

Master David, number 36 on the list, would be Derby starter number 10. Frankel is taking good care of him and he looks ready to go on down the road. Skipaslew will probably skip the Derby. El Prado Rob couldn't beat a maiden in the Rushaway. Little Matth Man was third in the slowly-run Lane's End but wasn't early-nominated to the Triple Crown--although his status could change. Mustanfar's trainer, we think, has never believed the colt is a Derby type or he would have remembered to nominate him to the 'Crown.

Gran Prospect was a hot prospect who's cooled off. Lucky Pulpit must fire big in the Santa Anita Derby or he's a no-go.

Breakaway, O.K. Mikie, Harvard Avenue, Farnum Alley and Swingfortherfences could all wind up in the Kentucky Derby. But we think it's more probable that they won't.

Eddington is still green but may very well be behind door number 11 in the Derby. His connections are certainly hell-bent on getting him there.

Cheiron? No. Quinton's Gold Rush? Just a weak maybe--we think he peaked in that allowance race win. Sir Oscar and Redskin Warrior? Uh-uh.

Pro Prado would be number 12 off a decent run at his home track in the Arkansas Derby. Teton Forest is not Derby-bound. Mambo Train won the Turf Paradise Derby but we're not hearing any noise from him at the moment. Odds On appears to be a bench player for Baffert.

Purge would upset our Baker's Dozen theory if he runs a big one in the Arkansas Derby. Let's wait and see. He has a dosage index over 4.00, but he doesn't know that, and it's just a matter of how good he really is. Rock Hard Ten is a candidate but his connections are being cautious, and we predict they won't put him through the tough and exacting nature of the Derby experience.

Shaniko was a flash in the pan, and Silver Minister was last in the Lane's End.

Which brings us to a horse with $0.00 in graded earnings at this point, Smarty Jones. He is our Baker's Dozen horse, one who is showing a lot and who, trainer John Servis says, is going to show a lot more.

Well, that's our Baker's Dozen. March Madness isn't even over yet, and a lot will unfold between now and May 1, but for the moment we see a starting field of fewer than 16--the average field size in the past 31 runnings, which encompasses the scope of our studies at TheDowneyProfile.com.