Monarchos, tops on Steve Haskin's top Kentucky Derby contenders list, winning the Florida Derby.

Monarchos, tops on Steve Haskin's top Kentucky Derby contenders list, winning the Florida Derby.

Associated Press/Equi-Photo/Bill Denver

Steve Haskin's Derby Top 20 -- March 19

Steve Haskin, the award-winning turf writer and senior correspondent for The Blood-Horse, updates his top Kentucky Derby contenders weekly. 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 book, "Dr. Fager" for Eclipse Press'"Thoroughbred Legends" series in 2000.

Ranked in preference order, with horse/ trainer/breeding

Click on horse's name to access Contender Page

1 -- Monarchos/John Ward/Maria's Mon-Regal Band, by Dixieland Band

Some have said the horses he inhaled in the Florida Derby were stopping, but his third quarter in a sizzling :23 1/5 certainly seems to disprove that. To do what he did going 8-wide was nothing short of spectacular.

2-Point Given/Bob Baffert/Thunder Gulch-Turko's Turn, by Turkoman

Eye-catching return in San Felipe off 3-month layoff. Big 5-wide move, then kept going to win as he pleased. First two have demonstrated killer moves on more than one occasion; hard to separate them.

3-A P Valentine/ Nick Zito/A.P. Indy-Twenty Eight Carat, by Alydar

If he runs big in Flamingo, will Zito try to squeeze in the Lexington before the Derby or train up to the race? Neither scenario is ideal, but we still feel he's as good as any of them. Question is how shins will hold up.

4 -- Street Cry/Saeed bin Suroor/Machiavellian-Helen Street, by Troy

Faces next test in Saturday's UAE Derby, which likely will be his last, although there is a race in Dubai next month. Better competition this time, and we want to see him run by horses the way he did in the Guineas.

5--Hero's Tribute/John Ward/Sea Hero -- Eastern Dawn, by Damascus

Can't help but think he's sitting on a huge race in the Blue Grass, with enough left in the tank to peak on Derby Day. Would like to see a little more acceleration. Gets blinkers to help him focus, and likely Bailey.

6--Dollar Bill/Dallas Stewart/Peaks and Valleys-Saratoga Game, by Saratoga Six

The horrible trip in La. Derby, combined with low Beyer numbers and huge effort by 100-1 shot makes that race a throw-out. Race should help him; now has to cope with much shorter Keeneland stretch

7 -- Invisible Ink/Todd Pletcher/Thunder Gulch-Conquistress, by Conquistador Cielo

Pletcher considering the Wood Memorial and Blue Grass, but the latter would seem more likely. As for distance, three Belmont Stakes influences in bottom line -- two winners and 4th dam produced Quadrangle.

8 -- Millennium Wind/Dave Hofmans/Cryptoclearance-Bali Babe, by Drone

Hofmans another contemplating both Wood and Blue Grass. His excellent tactical speed will always make him dangerous, but foot problems are always a concern. That long, hard stretch run at FG will help him.

9 -- Congaree/Bob Baffert/Arazi-Mari's Sheba, by Mari's Book

Normally do not like a horse going into the Derby off only 4 career starts, but this colt looked so spectacular winning allowance by 8 lengths, he could be something extraordinary. Big test vs. Monarchos in Wood.

10 -- Outofthebox/Bernie Flint/Montbrook-Cricket Box, by Notebook

Loses Bailey and gets Nakatani for the Flamingo. Presence will not make things easy for A P Valentine's return. Good, honest colt with solid, if not spectacular, closing kick. We'll see how far he wants to go.

Continued. . . .