Derby Watch (2/18/04): Birdstone Moves Ahead of Stablemate Eurosilver

Derby Watch (2/18/04): Birdstone Moves Ahead of Stablemate Eurosilver
Photo: Equi-Photo
Birdstone, tops Steve Haskin's list of Derby contenders this week.
Birdstone's easy victory in his 2004 debut moved him above stablemate Eurosilver as the Nick Zito-trained pair remained atop the list of leading contenders for this year's Kentucky Derby (gr. I) compiled by Steve Haskin, senior correspondent for The Blood-Horse.

Click on names of highlighted horses for more information

1 -- Birdstone/Nick Zito/Grindstone-Dear Birdie, by Storm Bird
Debut was just what Zito was looking for. Coat looked great, and he seems to have put on some muscle. All Bailey did was look over both shoulders and under his arm, and pretty much coasted home under a mild hand ride.

2 -- Eurosilver/Nick Zito/Unbridled's Song-Russian Tango, by Nijinsky II
With the allowance races out of the way, Zito has both his colts just where he wants them. He'll sprint him one more time, being he's had a two-turn race already and he doesn't want him peaking now.

3 -- Action This Day/Dick Mandella/Kris S.-Najecam, by Trempolino
Getting very little respect for a 2-year-old champ. What's forgotten about the BC Juvenile is that he was coming off only two starts and a nose maiden win. Still feel there's a lot of improvement in him.

4 -- Read the Footnotes/Richard Violette/Smoke Glacken-Baydon Belle, by Al Nasr
You have to admire a horse who shows that kind of toughness and determination. Credit to the colt and Violette for winning such a gut-wrencher in first start of the year. A tougher race than you'd like to see first crack out, especially earning a monster 113 Beyer, but he now can take a step backwards somewhere along the way if he has to.

5 -- Master David/Bobby Frankel/Grand Slam-Nadra, by Sadler's Wells
Just a little guy, but a strong grinder with a very efficient stride, and gets stronger the farther he goes. Too early to tell how far sire's progeny want to go, but his female family is inundated with international class and stamina. Heading for showdown with Read the Footnotes and Birdstone in Florida Derby.

6 -- St Averil/Rafael Becerra/Saint Ballado-Avie's Fancy, by Lord Avie
Has to be a good horse to finish second to Lion Heart in the Hollywood Futurity off only one maiden sprint. Santa Catalina form looks strong, with Master David and Preachinatthebar coming back to run 1-3 in the Sham. Trainer not well-known, but has an an excellent win percentage last few years.

7 -- Lion Heart/Patrick Biancone/Tale of the Cat-Satin Sunrise, by Mr. Leader
Drilled 6 furlongs in 1:12 3/5, then 7 furlongs in 1:27. Another immensely talented colt who will have only two starts before Derby. With his running style and pedigree, he's going to have to rely a great deal on that talent. Potential is unlimited.

8 -- Value Plus/Todd Pletcher/Unbridled's Song-Roll Over Baby, by Rollin On Over
Finally, a clean start. His brilliant victory in 1:21 2/5 is a long way from 1 1/4 miles, but he has an incredible stride, reminiscent of his sire, and just bounds along, generating tremendous speed. Next start at two turns will tell a lot.

9 -- Gradepoint/Neil Howard/A.P. Indy-Class Kris, by Kris S.
After Risen Star, hard to tell where he fits against stablemate Breakaway, who destroyed an allowance field the same day. But by defeating Mr. Jester, he showed his class; big stretch kick and has won three straight. Next stop Louisiana Derby.

10 -- Tapit/Michael Dickinson/Pulpit-Tap Your Heels, by Unbridled
Positive sign that he's back working at Tapeta Farm, breezing half in :52 2/5. Laurel Futurity form not holding up very well, but there's no doubting his talent. On schedule now for only two starts; not an easy chore. But Dickinson has performed bigger miracles than that.

11 -- Tiger Hunt/Ralph Nicks/Kris S.-Thega, by Conquistador Cielo
Powerful stretch runner, but with his running style he could use two stiff races in Rebel and Arkansas Derby to be ready for a grueling race like the Derby. Have to excuse BC Juvenile; tough on a 2-year-old traveling from Ky. to 100-degree weather in Cal., and got bogged down on rail on an outside-biased track.

12 -- The Cliff's Edge/Nick Zito/Gulch-Zigember, by Danzig
Will make 3-year-old debut in Sam F. Davis at Tampa Feb. 21, unless Palm Beach Stakes same day comes off the grass, then head down Oaklawn for the Rebel. Not sure if 1 1/4 miles will be up his alley, but he's a big, strong colt with an explosive move on the turn.

13 -- Swingforthefences/Richard Violette/Boston Harbor-Varnish, by Cox's Ridge
Turned in a super performance to blow Shaniko away in the stretch in allowance race. Bailey, biding his time behind a wall of horses, took a look to his right and saw Shaniko and Pies Prospect charge by him. He waited, then made a right-hand turn, circled 6-wide and the colt exploded to win going away. But 1 1/4 miles not ideal with his pedigree. He'll likely show up next in either the Louisiana or Tampa Bay Derby.

14 -- Borrego/Beau Greely/El Prado-Sweet as Honey, by Strike the Gold
He's got the looks, the speed, and the pedigree. May have moved too early in the Sham and let Master David come back on his inside, but ran on gamely holding off Preachinatthebar and Action This Day.

15--Mr. Jester/Steve Wren/Silver Deputy-Future Pretense, by Fappiano
Ran well enough in the Risen Star after encountering traffic problems on the first turn. Outkicked by Gradepoint, but a good prep. Hampered by a 4.78 DI, but see no reason why he shouldn't stretch out. Heading to Rebel Stakes next.

16 -- Minister Eric/Dick Mandella/Old Trieste-Musical Minister, by Deputy Minister
Starting to get serious in his works. Drilled 5 furlongs in :58 3/5, then followed that up with a 6-furlong move in 1:14 2/5. Consistent stretch runner, but not sure he wants to go 1 1/4 miles.

17 -- Eddington/Mark Hennig/Unbridled-Fashion Star, by Chief's Crown
Impressive maiden winner who has tremendous potential. He's still green and has some learning to do, but stepped up with blinkers and should only get better. Great cruising speed and should have no problem at all with distance. He'll likely run next in either an allowance race or Louisiana Derby.

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