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West Coast Kentucky Derby Rankings: 3/15/14

California Chrome win circle 615 X 400
Photo: Eclipse Sportswire - Alex Evers


With just seven weeks to go until the 2014 Kentucky Derby, the list of contenders from the West Coast is still very much in flux. Since my last set of rankings, which was published earlier this month, we've had plenty of movement, with a couple new arrivals and a new No. 1.

For those who didn't see my original post, these rankings take into account both a horse's talent and his Kentucky Derby points. These points carry significant weight; after all, if a horse doesn't have the points, he's not running, regardless of the talent he possesses.

With that in mind, here's the new list.

10) Kobe's Back (last rank: 6th)
Kentucky Derby points: None
2014 credentials: 1st in San Vicente

What the heck happened in the Rebel? The John Sadler trainee couldn't have looked much better in the San Vicente and couldn't have looked much worse at Oaklawn Park. I think the real Kobe's Back is somewhere in the middle of those two efforts. Sadler has enough time for one last shot at Derby points in early-April, although he may very well concentrate on one-turn sprints going forward.

9) Dance With Fate (last rank: 10th)
Kentucky Derby points: 8 (32nd)
2014 credentials: 2nd in El Camino Real Derby

This hard-knocker hasn't run since my last post. He's been working steadily at Santa Anita, and his most-recent five-furlong drill Saturday may indicate Peter Eurton is cranking him up for one final shot at Derby points. Outside of his career debut, his lone misfire came in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, and one more top-two finish in a Derby prep probably means he's in the gate, provided his connections pony up the Triple Crown nomination fee.

8) Chitu (last rank: 7th)
Kentucky Derby points: 4 (T-38th)
2014 credentials: 2nd in Robert B. Lewis

Chitu's been on the bench since a strong second to Candy Boy in January, but his worktab is solid and consistent. He's not exactly bred to go a mile and a quarter, but he's shown a ton of talent and considerable grit in his three starts. It wouldn't be surprising if he shows up in a Derby prep these next few weeks.

7) Schoolofhardrocks (new to the list)
Kentucky Derby points: 5 (T-33rd)
2014 credentials: 3rd in San Felipe

Schoolofhardrocks made just his second career start in the San Felipe, and his first since an eye-catching maiden win last summer at Del Mar. It's entirely possible he wasn't fully cranked for that race, even though nobody was beating California Chrome that day. With improvement, he could easily grab more points and a spot in the Derby starting gate.

6) Bayern (last rank: 5th)
Kentucky Derby points: None
2014 credentials: 1st in NW1 allowance

Bayern scratched from the San Felipe due to a minor injury. That won't knock him off the Derby trail, though, and Bob Baffert hinted we'd likely see him next in either the Santa Anita Derby or Arkansas Derby. He needs to run well, but there's no reason to think that he can't given how impressive he's been to this point.

5) Midnight Hawk (last ranked: 8th)
Kentucky Derby points: 32 (8th)
2014 credentials: 1st in Sham, 2nd in San Felipe, 3rd in Robert B. Lewis

I was actually pretty impressed by Midnight Hawk's second-place finish in the San Felipe. He didn't show any signs of immaturity, he chased a pretty hot pace, and if California Chrome doesn't run, he wins by more than six lengths. He's pretty securely in the Derby field if Baffert opts to send him to Louisville, he hasn't had any interruptions to his campaign, and he seems to have improved off his dud in the Lewis.

4) Tamarando (last ranked: 3rd)
Kentucky Derby points: 12 (19th)
2014 credentials: 1st in El Camino Real Derby, 2nd in Cal Cup Derby

Tamarando is the probable favorite in next weekend's Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park. A top-two finish probably punches his ticket to Churchill Downs, and he's certainly shown an affinity for synthetic surfaces. If he runs like he can, trainer Jerry Hollendorfer could be Derby-bound (though not with the horse we all thought he'd get there with, Shared Belief).

3) Candy Boy (last ranked: 1st)
Kentucky Derby points: 10 (T-22nd)
2014 credentials: 1st in Robert B. Lewis

Candy Boy hasn't run since the Lewis, and he's being pointed to the Santa Anita Derby. This strategy has risks, as if he bounces or doesn't run well off the layoff, he probably misses out on the Kentucky Derby. However, if he repeats his showing in the Lewis, where he showed a lot of maturity in beating Chitu and Midnight Hawk, he'll be very dangerous in California's traditional springboard to the first Saturday in May.

2) Hoppertunity (new to the list)
Kentucky Derby points: 55 (2nd)
2014 credentials: 1st in Rebel Stakes, 4th in Risen Star

Hoppertunity had room to move forward off the Risen Star, and he certainly did that. He beat Tapiture and Strong Mandate in the Rebel, though the race was contested over a wet track. We know he can close, we know he can beat good horses, and he seems to be coming around at just the right time.

1) California Chrome (last ranked: 9th)
Kentucky Derby points: 50 (T-4th)
2014 credentials: 1st in San Felipe, 1st in Cal Cup Derby

I wasn't sold on California Chrome two weeks ago. He had zero Derby points, he'd never won a graded stakes race, and I didn't think the Cal Cup Derby field, save for Tamarando, was anything special. I wanted to see him run for Derby points...and when he did, my opinion did a 180-degree turn.

His run in the San Felipe is one of the most impressive races run by a 3-year-old this year. He's Derby-bound if all goes well, and while the breeding may be suspect, his talent sure isn't. As of right now, he's the 3-year-old to beat on the West Coast.


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Older Comments about West Coast Kentucky Derby Rankings: 3/15/14...

dont think the califiornia connections have a hope
How about just a race first?
Bayern only needs another win and he is my Kentucky Derby winner
I agree, he might make 9 furlongs. Figuring he won the last race by about 1/ a furlong he should be able to walk the last 330 feet to victory. LOL
buds, we will see after he runs at sunland but i don't think he wants any part of going longer than 1 1/8, Baffert has his horse now with hopportunity.
If the Derby was run at 8.5 furlongs California Chrome would win it, I still cant believe that start he had flyin outa the gate at the SAn Felipe. wow!
5 horses from the west coast in the derby gate. Candy Boy, Tamarando, Bayern, Hopportunity, Chrome. Chrome is the real deal but only if he gets in another prep, i'm not a fan off running a 3 yr. old at a mile and a quarter off an 8 week layoff.
  • buds · What about midnight hawk? He and Cal Chrome are the only horses with the pts to already make the field. · 1344 days ago
can't even fathom coming up with 10 horses for west coast list. 5 at most, 3 realistically
Am I the only one who's NOT high on California Chrome?
I think he is a talented horse, but that his running style does not point to a victory in the Derby.
The strength of your California list sure has increased in the past few weeks.

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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

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