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Road to the Kentucky Derby – 10 to Watch (No. 3)

We’re now just four weeks away from this year’s Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on Saturday, May 5, 2012 and a lot has changed since the last edition of “Road to the Derby: 10 to Watch," thanks to a number of Derby prep races now in the books. So, who’s moved up and who’s moved down?
First and foremost, Gemologist put on a great showing in last weekend's Wood Memorial, which put him into the top spot on the list.
Meanwhile, Union Rags, who finished third in the Florida Derby two weeks ago, only drops one spot because he's still one of the best three-year olds out there and because, once again, he had another bad trip around the track. Hopefully, he can get a clean run in the Derby.
Also moving up on the list is I'll Have Another, who put on a strong showing in winning the Santa Anita Derby.
Other horses still sitting in the top 5 are Hansen, who has a big race this weekend that will go a long way in determining his three-year old abilities, while Creative Cause dropped a little because of his second place finish in the Santa Anita Derby.
So, what are the other changes on this top 10 list since last time? Let's get started.
Road to the Derby: 10 to watch
Previous Rank: Honorable Mention
Pedigree: Tiznow-Crystal Shard, by Mr. Prospector
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey: Javier Castellano
Owner: WinStar Farm
Career Record: 5 Starts: 5 wins, 0 seconds, 0 thirds, $784,855
Best stakes finishes:
At 2: Jockey Club Stakes (G2, Churchill)
At 3: Allowance (Gulfstream); Wood Memorial Stakes (G1, Aqueduct)
It lasted just a moment. But, it was a moment that leap-frogged Gemologist to the top of this Derby list.
Coming down the stretch at Aqueduct in the Wood Memorial Stakes (G1) this past Saturday, Gemologist was running by himself, his ears perked straight up, as if he was out on a morning run around the track. Then, charging down the stretch came Alpha, and his sights were set on taking the lead.
Then, in a moment frozen in time, Gemologist looked his competitor in the eye, as if to say, "Nope, not on this day my friend," found another gear and went on to win the race by three-quarters of a length over his rival.
With that move and that win, Gemologist proved himself to be the new leading contender for this year's Kentucky Derby on this list. (Alpha will also be headed to Churchill for the race.)
Now, there are still some other Derby preps left to be raced, most notably, the Blue Grass Stakes (G1) at Keeneland this coming Saturday that might move another horse to the top of this list. But, unless another horse puts on a performance like Gemologist did in the Wood, then Gemologist, who is undefeated with five wins in five lifetime races, will most probably go to Churchill as the front runner for the Run for the Roses.
Previous Rank: No. 1
Pedigree: by Dixie Union-Tempo, by Gone West
Trainer: Michael Matz (Barbaro 2006)
Jockey: Currently, Julien Leparoux; was Javier Castellano
Owner: Phyllis Wyeth – Chads Ford Stable (she is also the breeder)
Career Record: 6 Starts, 4 wins, 1 second, 1 thirds, $1,098,800
Best stakes finishes:
At 2: Champagne Stakes (G1, Belmont), Saratoga Special Stakes (G2, Saratoga); 2nd Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1,Churchill Downs).
At 3: Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2, Gulfstream Park); 3rd Florida Derby (G1, Gulfstream Park)
Yes, he did finish third in the Florida Derby (G1) at Gulfstream, and to a long shot in Take Charge Indy. But, once again, just like in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile last year, he had another bad trip around the track after getting stuck behind a group of horses. Because of that, Union Rags gets the benefit of the doubt one more time and stays near the top of this list.
Without question, Union Rags is a very talented horse, who has had a run of bad luck twice now because of his jockey.
Hopefully, his bad luck is over and his jockey will keep him out of trouble. It would be sad to see this horse lose in the Kentucky Derby because of a bad ride. If he is to lose, then let it be because a better horse beat him, not because his jockey put him in a position that he could not give his all.
Either way, Union Rags is the real deal and only drops into the No. 2 spot on the list.
Previous rank: No. 2
Pedigree: Tapit-Stormy Sunday, by Sir Cat
Trainer: Michael Maker
Jockey: Ramon Dominguez
Owner: Dr. Kendall Hansen
Career Record: 5 Starts, 4 wins, 1 second, 0 thirds, $1,473,200
Best stakes finishes:
At 2: Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1, Churchill), Kentucky Cup Juvenile Stakes (Turfway Park)
At 3: Gotham Stakes (G3, Aqueduct); 2nd Holy Bull Stakes (G3, Gulfstream Park).
Hansen drops one spot simply because Gemologist won the Wood Memorial in sensational style and Hansen hasn't run in another Derby prep – yet.
That changes this Saturday at Keeneland, when Hansen runs in the Blue Grass Stakes (G1). A win in the race puts him in either the No. 1 spot or the No. 2 spot on this list, depending on how he wins the race. If he should lose, then that's another story. A lot will be determined for this beautiful white horse after the Blue Grass.
Previous rank: No. 10)
Pedigree: Flower Alley-Arch's Gal Edith, by Arch
Trainer: Doug O'Neil
Jockey: Mario Gutierrez
Owner: J. Paul Reddam
Career Record: 5 starts, 3 wins, 1 second, 0 thirds, $634,000
Best stakes finishes:
At 2: 2nd Best Pal Stakes (G2, Delmar)
At 3: Robert B. Lewis S. (G2, Santa Anita); Santa Anita Derby (G1, Santa Anita)
I'll Have Another pulled of the biggest win of his career last Saturday, when he held off Creative Cause to win the Santa Anita Derby (G1) at Santa Anita.
The win moved him up to the No. 4 spot on this list. However, while his win was impressive, the question is whether or not he can deliver as good a performance at Churchill. Time will tell.
Previous rank: No. 5
Pedigree: Bernardini-Munnaya, by Nijinsky (Can)
Trainer: Kiaran McLaughlin
Jockey: Ramon Dominguez
Owner: Godolphin Racing LLC
Career Record: 6 Starts: 3 wins, 2 second, 0 thirds, $500,000
Best stakes finishes:
At 2: 2nd Champagne Stakes (G1, Belmont)
At 3: Withers Stakes (G3, Aqueduct), County Fleet Stakes (Aqueduct), 2nd Wood Memorial (G1, Aqueduct)
Alpha put on a great performance in the Wood Memorial (G1) this past Saturday at Aqueduct. But, he fell just short in his attempt to win to Gemologist, who was, without question, the better horse on this day.
Still, Alpha's a very talented horse, with a great pedigree. With strong preparation, he can get a little better in the four weeks leading up to the Kentucky Derby, where he just might get a rematch with Gemologist heading down the stretch once again.
Previous rank: No. 3
Pedigree: Giants Causeway-Dream of Summer, by Siberian Summer
Trainer: Mike Harrington
Jockey: Joel Rosario
Owner: Heinz Steinmann
Career Record: 8 Starts: 4 wins, 2 second, 2 thirds, $869,000
Best stakes finishes:
At 2: Won Norfolk Stakes (G1, Santa Anita), Best Pal Stakes (G2, Delmar)
At 3: Won San Felipe Stakes (G2, Santa Anita); 3rd San Vicente Stakes (G2, Santa Anita); 2nd in the Santa Anita Derby (G1, Santa Anita).
Without question, Creative Cause is another solid three-year old, with credentials that should make him a favorite in the Derby. While his second place finish to I'll Have Another in the Santa Anita Derby (G1) this past Saturday at Santa Anita is a set back, you cannot count this horse out for the Derby.
A better ride by his jockey, Joel Rosario, who will most probably get a chance to ride in his first Derby, and Creative Cause could still find himself in the winner's circle.
Previous Rank: Not ranked
Pedigree: by A.P. Indy-Take Charge Lady, by Dehere
Trainer: Patrick Byrne
Jockey: Calvin Borel
Owner: Chuck and Maribeth Sandford
Career Record: 6 Starts: 2 wins, 2 seconds, 0 thirds, $721,000
Best stakes finishes:
At 2: 2nd Arlington-Washington Futurity (G3, Arlington Park)
At 3: Won Florida Derby (G1, Gulfstream)
With his win in the Florida Derby, Take Charge Indy enters this top 10 list in the No. 7 spot. With a great pedigree, and especially if jockey Calvin Borel rides him in the Derby, Take Charge Indy is definitely a horse to watch in this race.
Previous rank: No. 6
Pedigree: Malibu Moon-Spirited Away, by Awesome Again
Trainer: Mark Casse
Jockey: Luis Contreras
Owner: John Oxley
Career Record: 7 Starts, 4 wins, 2 seconds, 0 thirds, $441,317
Best stakes finishes:
At 2: Grey Stakes (Can-G3, Woodbine)
At 3: Won Pasco Stakes (Tampa Bay Downs), Tampa Bay Derby (G2, Tampa Bay Downs); 2nd in Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3, Tampa Bay Downs)
Prospective moves down on this list, only because he hasn't had a race since the Tampa Bay Derby, and a few other horses have had solid performances in the meantime.
That all changes this Saturday when he faces a strong test in the Blue Grass Stakes against a field that includes Hansen. The result of that race will determine whether he goes to go to the Derby or not.
Previous rank: No. 9
Pedigree: Eddington-Ragtime Hope, by Dixieland Band
Trainer: Bob Baffert
Jockey: Rafael Bejarano
Owner: Karl Watson, Michael E. Pegram & Paul Weitman
Career Record: 6 Starts, 5 win, 1 seconds, 0 thirds, $818,990
Best stakes finishes:
At 2: Breeders' Cup Juvenile Sprint (Churchill), Jack Goodman Stakes (Santa Anita)
At 3: Rebel Stakes (G2, Oaklawn Park), Southwest Stakes (G3, Oaklawn Park, Div. 2); 2nd Sham Stakes (G3, Santa Anita)
With his win in the Rebel, Secret Circle should have enough graded-stakes earnings to qualify for the 20-horse Kentucky Derby field now. The question now is – just how good is this horse? Time will tell.
Previous rank: No. 8
Pedigree: Empire Maker-Untouched Talent, by Storm Cat
Trainer: Bob Baffert
Jockey: Rafael Bejarano
Owner: Zayat Stables
Career Record: 3 Starts, 1 win, 2 seconds, 0 thirds, $104,800
Best stakes finishes:
At 2: No races
At 3: 2nd San Felipe Stakes (G2, Santa Anita)
Because of his impressive second-place finish to Creative Cause in the recent San Felipe Stakes, the Bob Baffert-trained Bodemesiter holds on to his a spot on this list. But, he will need more stakes winnings to make it to the Derby. What happens next? We’ll have to wait and see.
Honorable Mention
Pedigree: Proud Citizen- Pocho's Dream Girl, by
Trainer: Larry Jones
Jockey: Rosie Napravnik (rode him in Risen Star)
Owner: Brereton Jones
Career Record: 5 Starts: 2 wins, 5 second, 0 thirds, $110,952
Best stakes finishes:
At 2: DNR
At 3: 2nd Risen Star Stakes (G2, Fair Grounds); 2nd Louisiana Derby (G2, Fair Grounds)
With his second place finish in the Louisiana Derby, Mark Valeski falls out of the top 10 on this list. Having said that, this is still a strong horse and should not be counted out just yet. He should be in the Derby. But, he will need to win a major prep to get the needed earnings to reach the starting gate of the Kentucky Derby.
Pedigree: by Pulpit-Enchanted Rock, by Giants Causeway
Name Translation: According to PedigreeQuery.com, his name translates to "The Godfather."
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey: Javier Castellano (was the rider of Union Rags)
Owner: Let's Go Stable
Career Record: 6 starts, 3 wins, 1 second, 1 third, $316,100
Best stakes finishes:
At 2: 3rd Remsen Stakes (G2, Aqueduct)
At 3: Won Risen Star Stakes (G2, Fair Grounds); 4th Florida Derby
El Padrino had a tough run in the recent Florida Derby, which drops him out of contention for the Derby in this list. Still, he does already have enough earnings to make the starting gate. But, he needs to impress before getting back onto the list.
There are still a couple Derby prep races left, and he is a talented horse, so he remains an honorable mention for now.
Pedigree: by Proud Citizen-Tiz Maie's Day, by Tiznow
Trainer: Graham Motion
Jockey: John Velazquez
Owner: Team Valor (Barry Irwin) and Mark Ford
Career Record: 5 starts: 2 wins, 2 seconds, 0 thirds, $315,344
Best stakes finishes:
At 2: DNR
At 3: Won Spiral Stakes(G3,Turfway Park)
This three-year old won the recent Spiral Stakes (G3) at Turfway and earned himself a ticket to the Derby. Behind the same team – owner Team Valor, trainer Graham Motion and jockey John Velazquez – that took Animal Kingdom to victory in the Derby last year following this same path, this is a horse that will be a strong contender for the race and cannot be counted out of it.
Pedigree: by Scat Daddy-Follow Your Bliss, by Thunder Gulch
Trainer: Steve Asmussen
Jockey: Julien Leparoux
Owner: Cathy and Bob Zollers
Career Record: 10 starts: 4 wins, 2 seconds, 1 third, $653,623
Best stakes finishes:
At 2: 3rd Summer Stakes (G3, Woodbine)
At 3: Won El Camino Real Derby (G3, Golden Gate), Sunland Derby (G3,Sunland Park)
While he won the recent Sunland Derby in Sunland Park, there is still too much unknown about this horse. Still, he is now in the Derby, so anything can happen.
Pedigree: Sharp Humor-Ocean Sprite, by Ocean Crest
Trainer: Gennadi Dorochenko
Jockey: Eddie Martin Jr.
Owner: Gennadi Dorochenko
Career Record: 14 starts: 2 wins, 1 second, 2 thirds, $657,277.
Best Stakes finishes:
At 2: Did Not Run
At 3: Louisiana Derby (G2, Fair Grounds, 109-to-1 long shot)
A huge upset winner in the recent Louisiana Derby, Hero of Order now has enough earnings for a start in the Derby. However, he was not nominated for the Derby, and will, most probably, not run in the Derby according to his Russian owner and trainer, xxx. But, that could changes as the race approaches. We'll see. He is set to run in this week’s Blue Grass Stakes. If he wins, then plans for this horse might change quickly.


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Older Comments about Road to the Kentucky Derby – 10 to Watch (No. 3)...

Brian, any news if Wrote or Daddy Long Legs will ship - in for the Derby ??
Union Rags finished 3d at Florida Derby, not second.
This is a rather deep and talented group of Derby possibilities!
Nice list, Rick ... I have a feeling you might like Dullahan more in a couple of days. Enjoy the Blue Grass!

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Meet Rick Capone
Rick Capone has been a horse racing fan since the Saturday afternoon when he saw Riva Ridge, his all-time favorite horse, win the Kentucky Derby on television.
Today, he is the sports editor for The Woodford Sun, a weekly newspaper in Versailles, Ky., a town just outside of Lexington and only 15 minutes away from Keeneland.
In addition to his duties at the Sun, Rick is a volunteer at Old Friends, the thoroughbred retirement farm in Georgetown that is owned by Michael Blowen. He even is part owner of one of the retirees there, Miss Hooligan, the grand daughter of 1988 Eclipse Award – Champion Turf Horse, Sunshine Forever, who is also on the farm.
Rick grew up in Havertown, Pa., just outside of West Philadelphia. At 20, he moved to South Florida with his family and lived a stones throw from Gulfstream. After some stops in North Carolina, Georgia and California, he currently lives in Georgetown, Ky., where he gets to drive by some of the greatest horse farms in the world on his way to work every morning.

(Photo: Miss Hooligan and Rick at Old Friends this past December. (Photo by Steve Blake)

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