Vindication tops Steve Haskin's list of Kentucky Derby contenders.

Vindication tops Steve Haskin's list of Kentucky Derby contenders.


Steve Haskin's Derby Watch: Week 1 (Jan. 21)

1 -- Vindication/Bob Baffert; Seattle Slew-Strawberry Reason, by Strawberry Road

Undefeated Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) winner. There is no way to fault him. He has speed, stamina, professionalism, and a devastating turn of foot. Baffert just keeping his fingers crossed. Debut undecided.

2 -- Toccet/John Scanlan; Awesome Again-Cozzene's Angel, by Cozzene

A throwback to yesteryear, when horses were tough, hardened competitors who not only thrived on racing, but also demanded it. Rare these days for a 2-year-old to win four graded stakes over a mile. You gotta' love him.

3 -- Sky Mesa/John Ward; Pulpit-Caress, by Storm Cat

Untimely injury before Breeders' Cup deprived him of a chance at the Eclipse Award. Ward said he's progressing nicely and had his first breeze at Palm Beach Downs. May be ready by mid-to-late February.

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

His third in the Remsen (gr. II) was much better than it looked on paper. Ran a remarkable race, coming off only one maiden victory, breaking poorly, and putting in a strong move on turn. Enormous potential.

5 -- Kafwain/Bob Baffert; Cherokee Run-Swazi's Moment, by Moment of Hope

Baffert felt he should have beaten Toccet in the Hollywood Futurity (gr. I). You have to admire this tough, consistent, hard-trying colt. Doesn't back off from a fight. Main question is how far he wants to go.

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

Baffert has always insisted this is a talented colt, and he proved it with an eye-catching victory in the Santa Catalina Stakes (gr. II), drawing off as if he wants to go on. Looks like a stayer and traces to Mill Reef.

7 -- Hold That Tiger/Aidan O'Brien; Storm Cat-Beware of the Cat, by Caveat

Ran a super race in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. After breaking poorly and dropping back to last on speed-favoring track, he put in a big run to finish third, while going eight-wide. Race will really help him down the road.

8 -- Ten Cents a Shine/Kenny McPeek; Devil His Due-Aunt Mottz, by Honey Jay

Turned in a monster move from last to first in Kentucky Jockey Club (gr. II), while going very wide, but combination of that effort and greenness cost him the race in final yards. Should continue to improve.

9 -- Offlee Wild/Thomas V. Smith; Wild Again-Alvear, by Seattle Slew

Overlooked in the Holy Bull, coming off three sprints. But worked a bullet :59 in the slop and ran like a horse who was just waiting for two turns. Dam is half-sister to stamina influence Dynaformer. This was no fluke.

10 -- Most Feared/Ronny Werner; Commanchero-Visual, by Avatar

Big, long-striding colt was unsuited to speed-favoring Breeders' Cup Juvenile. Looked good winning Arlington-Washington Futurity (gr. III). Distance will be his strong point. Pointing for Jan. 25 Lecomte.

11 -- Seattle Hoofer/Michael Stidham; Seattle Slew-Star of Broadway, by Broad Brush

If you're looking for a Seattle Slew alternative to Vindication, this undefeated colt looked awesome winning an allowance race at Fair Grounds on Jan. 17. After steadying, he swung wide and drew off with ease.

12 -- Indy Dancer/Todd Pletcher; A.P. Indy-Dance With Grace, by Mr. Prospector

Pletcher is very high on this undefeated colt, who has twice blown his field away with powerful runs from far back. Obviously has a lot of talent, but can't drop that far out of it when he faces better quality horses. Could show up next in Fountain of Youth or Risen Star,

13 -- Powerful Touch/Ken McPeek; Touch Gold-Punch Bowl, by Two Punch

Came off two workmanlike sprint victories in maiden and allowance company at Aqueduct to be beaten a head in the Holy Bull. Tracked the leader throughout and battled back at the end, losing by the bob of a head. Future looks bright.

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

Ran an excellent race in the Holy Bull to finish fifth, beaten six lengths. Broke terribly from the 13 post and got hung five-wide on the first turn. Still was in the hunt and never backed up, carrying top weight of 122 pounds. Tail female family loaded with Darby Dan stamina.

15 -- Whywhywhy/Patrick Biancone; Mr. Greeley-Thorough Fair, by Quiet American

Multiple graded stakes winner, including victory in grade I Futurity Stakes. Not sure about his distance capabilities, and ran terribly in the BC Juvenile. But he should show up for 3-year-old campaign ready to run.

16 -- Trust N Luck/Ralph Ziadie; Montbrook-Bold Burst, by Dahar

Was his brilliant 11-length romp in the Whatapleasure a fluke or is this colt that talented? That's what we'll find out in the Fountain of Youth. His speed figures were from another planet. Broodmare sire is a son of the great Dahlia. Should have no problem stretching out.

17 -- Listen Indy/Dick Mandella; A.P. Indy-Ecoute, by Manila

Ran terribly in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, but he did show what he's capable of by finishing a strong third behind Kafwain and Bull Market in the Norfolk Stakes. Has been working brilliantly for Mandella. Another colt with plenty of stamina.

18 -- Scrimshaw/D. Wayne Lukas; Gulch-Rogue Girl, by Sham

Didn't show much kick in the Santa Catalina in first start around two turns, but was coming off an absurdly fast allowance victory (1:08 1/5) going six furlongs and had to run hard to win. This race should help, and the next will be the key in determining whether this is a top Derby contender.

19 -- Peace Rules/Bobby Frankel; Jules-Hold to Fashion, by Hold Your Peace

His two stakes victories have come on the grass, but his breeding says dirt, and running style seems to indicate he'll be just as effective on dirt. His two races at Saratoga on dirt last year weren't bad. Sire is beautifully bred, handsome horse who had a lot of potential.

20 -- Siberland/Kevin Lewis; Siberian Summer-Valley Deb, by Debonair Roger

Is there anyone who beat this horse in the Turf Paradise Derby? His last four races – two at Turf Paradise and two at Del Mar – have been absolutely brilliant, winning by an average margin of seven lengths. Cal-bred's pedigree is pretty obscure, but his DI is 2.43 and his sire is bred to go long.

Continued: Knocking On The Door: