Although not fashionably bred, Fonz's entered the Derby picture with this gutsy win in the Prevue.

Although not fashionably bred, Fonz's entered the Derby picture with this gutsy win in the Prevue.

2002 Derby Hopefuls: Early Horse-by-Horse Rundown

Editor's Note: Steve Haskin is an award-winning turf writer and senior correspondent for The Blood-Horse. During his 29 years with the Daily Racing Form, Haskin became known for his insightful coverage of the Triple Crown races. Haskin won the Red Smith Award for Kentucky Derby writing in 1997, 1999, and 2000.and received the David Woods Award for best Preakness story in 1997. In 1999, he co-authored "Baffert: Dirt Road to the Derby" with trainer Bob Baffert and wrote the books, "Dr. Fager" and "John Henry" for Eclipse Press'"Thoroughbred Legends" series. Haskin's latest book, "Racing's Holy Grail - The Epic Quest for the Kentucky Derby," will be released in April 2002. Haskin takes readers behind the scenes and into the trenches as he examines what it takes to win the world's most famous horse race. He plumbs the secrets of successful trainers, the common pitfalls that hinder so many others, and the enigmatic nature of the race itself..

Before the early (and we stress early) list of classic hopefuls gets too long, we're going to sort out the growing number of promising 2-year-olds and take a crack at where they might fit in the 2002 Kentucky Derby picture. We're sure there will be omissions, but this at least will provide an idea who might be some of the major players next spring. Horses are listed in alphabetical order:

Axis – Saint Ballado colt was a brilliant maiden winner at Turfway going 5 furlongs. Very strong pedigree, but trainer Elliott Walden still has some concerns about how far he wants to go. More of a short-coupled colt than a long-bodied distance type. Watch for him in a Gulfstream allowance sprint.

Battler Bob – Although he's only run once, finishing second to Cottonwood Cowboy at Hollywood, he was beaten by a good horse who came back to win an allowance race impressively. Trained by Neil Drysdale and owned by Team Valor, he looks to have a bright future. He's obviously made a great deal of physical improvement and demonstrated good speed earlier this year, having sold as a weanling for a mere $7,500, then as a yearling for $55,000, then as a 2-year-old for $425,000. He's by the regally bred Roberto stallion Shuailaan out of a Spend a Buck mare. Love his 4 x 4 inbreeding to Buckpasser.

Came Home – Brilliant Gone West colt has proven his class, but running style and pedigree raises some stamina doubts. Broodmare sire is Clever Trick and mare's broodmare sire is Full Out, so there is an inordinate amount of speed in his pedigree. Whether he's a Derby horse or not, he's going to make a lot of noise along the way.

Changeintheweather – A definite dark horse to keep an eye on. Canadian colt looked super winning his last two by a total of 14 lengths, and several behind him in the Grey Breeders' Cup Stakes have come back to run well. Canadian form always in question, but this colt has as good a pedigree as we've seen this year. Another son of Gone West, his bottom line is awesome, with his two great-grandsires being His Majesty and Stage Door Johnny, two of the premier stamina influences in the country.

Charioteer – His connections are very high on him. Pletcher-Velazquez team as potent as they come right now. Maiden victory was run in fast time and he has the pedigree to go long. His 1:09 3/5 for 6 furlongs was three-fifths faster than Lukas' River Gambler, who won the other division. Son of Silver Deputy is a small colt at 15.1 1/2 hands, but very professional, and all business, according to owner John Fort, whose Peachtree Stable syndicate finished second in this year's Derby with Invisible Ink.

Cottonwood Cowboy – Meadowlake colt has won his last two, but has a miler's pedigree. After coming from the clouds to beat Battler Bob, he knocked off a pair of good Baffert-trained colts battling on the lead the whole way in a 7 1/2-furlong allowance race, so the versatility is there.

Danthebluegrassman – Was beaten in non-winners allowance by Cottonwood Cowboy after breaking maiden, but was dropping back from 1 1/16 miles to 7 1/2 furlongs. Baffert-Pegram connection. A lot of speed in pedigree, but sufficient stamina if he's good enough.

D'Coach - Exciting McGaughey colt by Dehere, looked brilliant breaking his maiden by 3 with a powerful stretch kick. Runner-up River Gambler came back to win his next start. Female family loaded with stamina through Herbager and Graustark. Dam, Catatonic, won major stakes, earning over $400,000.

Essence of Dubai – Did he look better than he really is in a weak Norfolk field or worse than he really is in a strong Breeders' Cup Juvenile field? The son of Pulpit will remain an enigma for now, and probably will remain one as long he stays in Dubai. We'll take him more seriously after he gets off the van at Churchill Downs.

Far Away Bell – One of several runners from Steve Asmussen barn. Broke his maiden impressively at first asking at Churchill, then was third in the 5 1/2-furlong Old Hickory Stakes in the slop at Fair Grounds. So far, not being trained like a classic horse, so we'll have to wait and see. Inbred to both Native Dancer, Northern Dancer, and Count Fleet.

Fonz's – Intriguing colt. Ran a gutsy race off layoff to win the Prevue Stakes, out-dueling Popular, a colt we think very highly of. Not fashionably bred, but has enough stamina influences. Fascinating fourth generation, as the two stallions on his mare's bottom line are Native Dancer and Dark Star, who will be forever linked by the Kentucky Derby, in which Dark Star handed The Dancer his only career defeat.

Gold Dollar – Lukas colt taking his time turning into top colt, but definitely is showing signs with third-place finishes in the Iroquois Stakes and Kentucky Cup Juvenile. By Seattle Slew out of a Crafty Prospector mare. Maternal great-granddam Quit Me Not is a half-sister to Dr. Fager and Ta Wee, by Travers winner Bold Reason.

Governor Hickel – Zito-trained colt by Gulch, owned by Mary Lou Whitney, broke his maiden by 3 1/4 lengths going a mile at Churchill. Some interesting names on the dam's side, most notably Swaps (in third generation) and War Admiral (in fourth generation).

Harlan's Holiday – Son of Harlan is a stablemate of Repent. Should continue to improve after easily winning Iroquois Stakes. Solid pedigree, and love maternal great-granddam Princessnesian, who knocked off the boys in the Hollywood Gold Cup. He's got good tactical speed and can come home. He'll go the Gulfstream route, while Repent will point for the Louisiana Derby. Solid one-two punch for Kenny McPeek.

High Star – Another Zito colt, closed well to finish third in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes coming off 7-furlong maiden score. By Private Terms out of a Polish Navy mare. Sold at Keeneland September yearling sale for $130,000.

Ibn Al Haitham – Another Godolphin colt, he's still a maiden, but has shown flashes of talent in all of his races. Actually, made a nice run on the far turn in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. Like the other Godolphin horses, it's best to just forget about him for now.

Iron Deputy – Although the Huntington winner has been tearing 'em up at six furlongs, he's bred to run long, with a number of European stamina influences in female family. Silver Deputy colt is trained by Jimmy Jerkens.

Iwin – Yet another Zito runner. Broke his maiden going a mile at Aqueduct, coming with a strong late run to just get up. By Victory Speech, and mare is a granddaughter of Buckpasser. Distance should not be a problem at all.

Jeremiah Jack – A son of the brilliantly fast Patton, there is some question about distance, but he was drawing off in the Sam Houston Texan Juvenile at 1 1/16 miles against the top-class French Assault. Trained by the always dangerous Tom Amoss.


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