We've passed the point of no return. With only 55 days until Kentucky
Derby 2017, there is no more room for steps back at this late date. With physical issues rearing their ugly heads with some of the top contenders, it's time to analyze who is moving forward towards the first Saturday in May, and who, unfortunately, is headed in the wrong direction.
Gunnevera -- In the time it took the son of Dialed In to go from last to first in the Fountain of Youth, it was demonstrated he possesses everything necessary to become a Kentucky Derby winner. It was the perfect progression from start one, to start two, of his 3yo season.
Tapwrit -- The $1.2 million yearling purchase has found his groove at Tampa Bay Downs. His fast finish in the Sam F. Davis was validated with a big win in the Tampa Bay Derby. Improving in every start, the son of Tapit is clearly headed in the right direction.
McCraken - Despite suffering a minor setback, the undefeated son of Ghostzapper appears to be right back on track. He worked four furlongs today, and looks to have plenty of time to be ready for Keeneland's Blue Grass. He was also flattered by Tapwrit's impressive win.
Girvin -- The son of Tale of Ekati seemingly came from nowhere to a strong win in the Risen Star for trainer, Joe Sharp. A similar type of performance could put him in the Louisiana Derby winner's circle and on the fast track to Louisville.
One Liner -- It's been a few weeks, but take your pick as far as which Pletcher (Tapwrit or One Liner) was more impressive in their coming out party. With only one more prep coming, look for the Into Mischief colt to only get stronger in his next.
J Boys Echo -- It has been steady improvement for this well bred Dale Romans charge. His Gotham win was strong, and he should only get better with more maturity and distance.
Cloud Computing -- He ran a sneaky good race to finish a clear second in the Gotham, after chasing a tough pace. Considering he only had one career race, a sprint, going in, it would seem the potential ceiling is very high for this good looking Chad Brown runner.
Battle of Midway & Reach the World --Plenty of Derby points are obviously needed for both, but the way the sons of Smart Strike and Tapit ran respectively in Thursday's allowance for trainers Jerry Hollendorfer and Bob Baffert, they both look ready to move smoothly into graded stakes racing.
Mastery -- Probably the best performance in any Kentucky Derby prep this year, his win in the San Felipe was sublime. Unfortunately, as we all know by now, he will miss the Derby due to injury. Very tough luck for his connections.
Unique Bella -- Only as far as the Kentucky Derby could this monster filly be considered a not. For the Kentucky Oaks, she is hot, hot, hot. She was flattered by It Tiz Well yesterday.
Irish War Cry -- Still not sure what caused him to run so poorly in the Fountain of Youth, but only a complete reversal will send him to Kentucky with any kind of momentum at all.
Gormley -- Much like he did in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, Gormley proved not up to the heat of the kitchen in yesterday's San Felipe. He's a nice horse, but probably not Derby material.
El Areeb -- Had his win streak snapped in the Gotham. Caused by a speed duel or not, he looked exposed as a horse who wants no part of ten furlongs against racing's elite.
Mo Town -- While Girvin impressed, the Remsen winner never looked sharp in his first start of 2017. Moreover, the Remsen is once again looking to be a negative race moving forward.
Waiting to Make their Move
Classic Empire -- He's done seemingly nothing right yet this year, but don't count out the best juvenile in the land of 2016 out just yet. Like McCraken, he is back on the worktab, and therefore off the Not list. I think we are all rooting for him to get back to 100% soon.
American Anthem -- With only two career races, it is time for this talented son of Bodemeister to kick it into high gear. He was not flattered by Gormley, but I remain confident that we are going to see something very good in Saturday's Rebel Stakes.
Battalion Runner -- Beasley did not flatter his recent allowance win, but still, there is good reason to believe that he will be bringing a boatload of talent into his first stakes attempt, the Florida Derby, on April 1.
Royal Mo -- It looks like the hulking son of Uncle Mo will be the best chance for a Derby return for popular trainer, John Shirreffs. American Anthem should be tough in the Rebel, but futher improvement makes this one a very interesting commodity.
Practical Joke -- I'm far from sure that 1 1/4 miles will be his bag, but his seasonal debut, when second to Gunnevera in the Fountain of Youth was just good enough to hope for a nice move forward in his next start for his Eclipse Award winning trainer.