Breeders' Cup 2014

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HRN Original Blog:
Toasting with Andrew Champagne

Kentucky Derby 2014: West Coast Rankings 2/25/14

 

With less than 10 weeks left until the 2014 Kentucky Derby, some of the contenders are starting to become a bit more clear. I ranked my top five Derby hopefuls from the West Coast last month, but with so many moving parts, it's time to update those rankings and see where everyone stands.

These rankings take several things into consideration. At this point, Derby points matter just as much as talent (after all, talent doesn't matter if you can't get into the starting gate!). With that in mind, let's kick off the list.

10) Dance With Fate
Kentucky Derby points: 8 (22nd)
2014 credentials: 2nd in El Camino Real Derby

We'll start with the hard-knocking Dance With Fate, who has run second in three graded stakes races (including two Grade 1's). Twice, he ran into synthetic track ace Tamarando, and on another occasion, he ran a sharp race to finish behind Bond Holder in the FrontRunner on dirt. His eight Derby points put him closer to the starting gate than some others in front of him, but one thing to note is that he is not Triple Crown-nominated at this point. He has flashed ample talent, though, and a strong run in a final Derby prep could force the hand of trainer Peter Eurton.

9) California Chrome
Kentucky Derby points: 0
2014 credentials: 1st in Cal Cup Derby

California Chrome's win on Cal Cup Day was smashing. He crushed Tamarando by nearly six lengths that afternoon, and since then, he's trained superbly at Los Alamitos in preparation for a Derby prep race. The breeding is a question mark, as he isn't exactly bred to love a mile and a quarter, but the three-time stakes winner could answer a lot of questions with another strong performance at next asking.

8) Midnight Hawk
Kentucky Derby points: 12 (T-10th)
2014 credentials: 1st in Sham, 3rd in Robert B. Lewis

If the Kentucky Derby was run today, Midnight Hawk would be guaranteed a spot in the starting gate. Why, then, is he so low on my list? Well, his run in the Lewis just wasn't that great. He sat in a prime stalking position behind a tiring Diamond Bachelor and stablemate Chitu, the latter of whom was going two turns for the first time. He had every chance to go by at the top of the stretch before hanging and being passed by eventual winner Candy Boy. Also, there are some maturity issues here, as he ducked in pretty severely in the stretch of the Sham. Midnight Hawk has talent, but he may not want any part of a mile and a quarter.

7) Chitu
Kentucky Derby points: 4 (T-29th)
2014 credentials: 2nd in Robert B. Lewis

Chitu surprised me in the Lewis, where he ran a very strong second behind Candy Boy. In his first start around two turns, the Bob Baffert trainee chased a solid early pace, ran between more experienced horses, and didn't wilt when challenged by both the winner and stablemate Midnight Hawk at the top of the stretch. I'm not entirely sure how far he wants to go, given the top (Henny Hughes) and bottom (Sea Gift, by A.P. Indy) of his pedigree clash, but Chitu has talent, and he showed a lot of heart in his last start.

6) Kobe's Back
Kentucky Derby points: 0
2014 credentials: 1st in San Vicente

Kobe's Back has a lot riding on his next start, but he couldn't have been much more impressive last out in the San Vicente. He made a huge move to win going away, and after chasing Shared Belief twice off a long layoff, John Sadler may have this colt on the right track. There are some distance questions with him, but as a son of Flatter, two turns shouldn't be too much of an issue. However, I wouldn't be surprised if Sadler ships elsewhere for his final Derby prep, given that Santa Anita can be extremely tough on late-running horses.

5) Bayern
Kentucky Derby points: 0
2014 credentials: 1st in a NW1 allowance

I anticipate this selection drawing criticism from both sides, with some saying Bayern is ranked too high and others saying I'm stiffing him. His allowance win was excellent, and he obviously has tons of talent. However, what's gone unnoticed is that the other early speed horse in the race, Brother Soldier, missed the break completely. Edwin Maldonado tried to rush him to the front and ran into tons of trouble, meaning that Bayern and Gary Stevens were given an uncontested lead. This may not have made the difference between a win and a loss, but would we be talking about Bayern the same way if he'd won by four lengths instead of 15? Probably not.

Bayern has a lot going against him. In addition to the zero Derby points, he's staring the Apollo jinx in the face. No horse has won the Derby without running as a 2-year-old since that one did it in 1881. There's a lot of talent here, but there's also reason to be cautious.

4) Shared Belief
Kentucky Derby points: 0
2014 credentials: None

Speaking of caution, we move to last year's champion 2-year-old male, who has been set back by a foot ailment and has yet to race as a 3-year-old. Jerry Hollendorfer has shipped him to Golden Gate to train, and as a gelding, Shared Belief is not necessarily under pressure to make the Derby. However, if he gets past his problems and starts running like he can, he becomes one of the top 3-year-olds not just on the West Coast, but in the entire country. Because of that, he stays on my list...for now.

3) Tamarando
Kentucky Derby points: 12 (T-10th)
2014 credentials: 1st in El Camino Real Derby, 2nd in Cal Cup Derby

This is where talent and Derby points probably clash the most. On dirt, Tamarando is a solid, unspectacular horse who always closes and gets up for a share. On synthetics, though, Tamarando might be one of the best 3-year-olds in the country. His win in the El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate puts him in the Derby picture, and one more solid prep likely puts him in the starting gate. He's certainly got the right running style to handle 10 furlongs, and it just so happens that two major Derby preps (the Spiral at Turfway Park and the Blue Grass at Keeneland) are contested on artificial surfaces.

2) Bond Holder
Kentucky Derby points: 11 (12th)
2014 credentials: None

Bond Holder had to scratch from the Risen Star due to injuries sustained while traveling, and he's now being pointed to the Tampa Bay Derby next month. Bond Holder's best races have come on conventional dirt, including a win in the FrontRunner and a fourth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. He's bred to love added distance, these connections won the Derby two years ago with I'll Have Another, and he's got a head start on several other horses on this list with 11 Derby points. A good showing by Bond Holder at Tampa Bay Downs likely clinches his spot in the Run for the Roses, and even if he misfires, there's still time for him to squeeze in one more try at more points.

1) Candy Boy
Kentucky Derby points: 10 (T-13th)
2014 credentials: 1st in Robert B. Lewis

With his win in the Lewis, Candy Boy moved to the head of the West Coast class. In that victory, he did everything one would want to see a Derby hopeful do. He rated, he pounced when asked by a Hall of Fame rider, he defeated several strong horses, and he galloped out well. My lone concern is Sadler possibly waiting for the Santa Anita Derby, which leaves no room for a back-up plan in case something goes wrong that day. However, with how he ran in the Lewis, Candy Boy is currently my top pick.

Honorable mentions: Hoppertunity (fourth-place finish in the Risen Star wasn't bad, has room to improve off a wide trip), Indianapolis (would have likely been favored in the San Vicente if not for scratching due to a minor hiccup leading up to the race), Kristo (second-place finish in the Sham doesn't look as good after Midnight Hawk's effort in the Lewis)

 

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Older Comments about Kentucky Derby 2014: West Coast Rankings 2/25/14...

Lets see this list and review it with logic.California Chrome spanks Tamarando in back to back efforts. If it were a boxing match,the Ref more likely would of stopped the race. One is rated 9th and the other is rated 3rd. Oh ,please tell me when the next list is scheduled for print. It is truly a MUST READ.
  • Toasting · Tamarando: 12 Derby points, looks very imposing in synthetic Derby preps. California Chrome: 0, and much less room for error. California Chrome could move way up with a big effort in the San Felipe, but if he misfires against graded competition, the Santa Anita Derby becomes an all-or-nothing proposition. · 244 days ago
Think Shared Belief has to show many on the traditional dirt (including myself) before he makes believers out of most. That's really the only thing most of us are waiting for.
  • Show All 4 Comments
  • da best capper · sully, dully is a really good example. he did get 3rd in the derby less than 2 lengths behind ill havea another and bodemesiter. prob fast enough to win last years... i think if the foot gets healthy, he places in the blue grass, they gotta try. his style will put him in the race and the dirt conversion/length will tbd, but worth a shot 100% · 245 days ago
  • johnbarbaro · I used the words dominant and flopped, such extremes because I don't believe the synthetic to dirt transition is that extreme which would support my arguement that the surface change for Shared Belief shouldn't be a big deal. As soon as I posted this I thought of Dullahan but I wouldn't consider a 3rd in the Derby a flop. I agree he was a different horse on Synthetics though. Pioneerof the Nile I can't agree with, he was good on synthetic and just as good on dirt. Brilliant Speed was just inconsistent, I don't think the surface was the reason, he ran well in the Belmont. Also none of these mentioned including Dullahan which was a good example were as dominant as Shared Belief has been. P.S the other name I thought of after posting this besides Dullahan was Emollient · 244 days ago
First of all Vegas,so called that my name is on the tip of your tongue.You credit the author for mentioning a history tidbit,that i care about as much as a rats rear. This is the author that i mentioned earlier has Chrome in 9th place and Tamarando in 3rd. The great thing is that we all have opinions. But excuse me if i find yours and his ,no where near mine.In regards to history,as important it is and we should always learn from it. When the smoke clears,all it really is , it is what occured yesterday and before.Last i looked,we can never change it. But we do control what i rather discuss,that is the FUTURE. You still have time to right your way of thinking. But if for any chance your opoinion spand thru and extensive network,please keep it under wraps til after the next prep. You see,i am loving it that The Chrome is flying under the radar ,especially with the 2nd stringers. Regardless what the History Quacks tell us.
Nice list. Ive bet every single one of these horses in every single one of their races... my list is 1) shared belief, lengths better if healthy, but JH is a snide bastard and not forthcoming. 2) candy boy 3) cali chrome 4) chitu 5) kobes back 6) tamarando 7) bayern ( i dont think he was tested ... ran a straight line and breezed 24 flat 1st call with other 2 speed getting terrible breaks),8) indy ( super potential, but dont like no routes as of 3/1). 9) MH (could bloom late- lot of baby fat) 10) bond holder- feels like a horse that never misses board but only beats much less... a competitor but not as classy as record would suggest.
Nice list. Ive bet every single one of these horses in every single one of their races... my list is 1) shared belief, lengths better if healthy, but JH is a snide bastard and not forthcoming. 2) candy boy 3) cali chrome 4) chitu 5) kobes back 6) tamarando 7) bayern ( i dont think he was tested ... ran a straight line and breezed 24 flat 1st call with other 2 speed getting terrible breaks),8) indy ( super potential, but dont like no routes as of 3/1). 9) MH (could bloom late- lot of baby fat) 10) bond holder- feels like a horse that never misses board but only beats much less... a competitor but not as classy as record would suggest.
Bayern is Baffert's new "Bode" and glad you pointed out so tmallios1 can get his History lesson on not running as a 2 year old is his only problem besides the 15 lengths he put on a nobody field.
I know people are worried this horse but how is Shared Belief not number 1? Do people have a short memory or are they that concerned about his current situation. This horse has embaressed most of the horses on this list including those ranked ahead of him. Also if health and setbacks knock Shared Belief who has dominated this list then why dosn't it knock down Bond Holder who hasn't impressed nearly as much
i like candy boy alot and he and bayern will be the two leading canditates out of west going into sa derby.
At this point I want to see Kobe;s Back next race he is bred Purple and his last race was great
Throw Bond Holder and Bayern out of there ^^ huddy, I saw it almost the same. Bayern fell into the lead and rode it easy. What should've happened was he rated the horse and let Tap it Rich take the lead. Then you see if Tap it Rich is crazy because he hates rating, and you get a sense of what Bayern will do running behind horses.
No respect for the Chrome ... what gives, Andrew?
  • Toasting · Nice horse, but no graded wins, no points, and outside of Tamarando, that wasn't a great field he beat on Cal Cup day. I need to see him against graded competition before I move him up higher than that. · 247 days ago
Watch Bayern's race again...was not on a uncontested lead...in fact, he backed off once Brother Soldier finally made his way up to the lead...that one never went on, so Gary just sent Bayern...15 length winner.
Zatt, i do not know if it is a positive or not. I think that you and i finally agree on one. Personally, i believe and have thought so. In the upcoming prep.The rest are competing for the 2nd and 3rd place points. Doubt they will handle this guy,especially at 1 1/16th .
Last year was a weak group of California 3 year olds, but this years crop is looking pretty good, although with so many horses only having two preps before the Derby these days it is really hard to know. California Chrome could really move up with a win in the San Felipe and I think he has a very good shot in the race.
Candy Boy would be my number one from the West, plus I have him in KDFW 2.

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Meet Andrew Champagne

 

A native of upstate New York and a graduate of Ithaca College, Andrew Champagne fell in love with horse racing at a very early age on summer trips to Saratoga. His turf writing credits include time spent as a sportswriter, weekly columnist, and handicapper at The Saratogian, a summer working for The Saratoga Special, and "field research" at OTB facilities in Saratoga Springs and his hometown of Kingston. He also spent two years in the athletic communications office at Siena College, and interned with NBC Olympics at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver.


Andrew moved to Pasadena, Calif., in October of 2013, and now serves as an Associate Producer in HRTV's Digital Media department and Horse Racing Nation's Southern California writer. Follow him on Twitter at @AndrewChampagne, and email him at andrewdchampagne@gmail.com.