2014 Kentucky Derby: 7th Annual GQ Derby Double Dozen

2014 Kentucky Derby: 7th Annual GQ Derby Double Dozen
Photo: Eclipse Sportswire

Last year, my first on HRN, readers were introduced to the GQ Derby Double Dozen, my annual (early February) tradition started in 2008 at my previous blog website (WNST.net). It’s my Top 24 colts and/or geldings (sorry ladies, no fillies) that I humbly believe have the best shot of getting to Louisville on the first Saturday in May and not only break from the starting gate at approximately 6:20pm (EDT), but have the pedigree to WIN the 2014 Kentucky Derby at the classic distance (1¼ miles).

Here’s how the previous six GQ Derby Double Dozen lists have fared in picking the Kentucky Derby winner…

2008: Big Brown was ranked #2.

2009: Mine That Bird was not on the list (nor was on anyone’s list); Derby runner-up Pioneerof the Nile was ranked #1.

2010: Super Saver was ranked #10.

2011: Animal Kingdom was not on the list; my #1 was Santiva who finished 6th at 34-1 just 5½ lengths behind the winner.

2012: I’ll Have Another was ranked #10.

2013: Orb was not on the list; my #1 (Tiz The Truth never made it to CD and my #2 (Revolutionary) ran 3rd.

Through the first 6 years, a trend seems to be developing. In even numbered years, the Derby winner has been in the Top 10 of the GQ Derby Double Dozen whereas in odd numbered years, the winner was nowhere to be found. When you review this list, the majority of you will surely say, “You are out of your freakin’ mind for not having ______ on this list”.

For example, the 2013 GQ Derby Double Dozen caused quite a stir from HRN readers because most of the leading Derby 139 contenders such as Shanghai Bobby, Goldencents, Oxbow and Verrazano were nowhere to be found. Not on the list and not on the board on the first Saturday in May. If the omission of those four blew your mind last year, then you may not want to read on, as the omissions this year may make your head explode!

Again, this “Double Dozen” is not about listing the leading contenders who are likely just to get to the Derby 140 starting gate. It’s about which twenty-four 3-year-olds I believe have the pedigree to WIN when asked to run 10 furlongs and carry 126 lbs. for the first time in their racing career. Period!

Below is the 2014 list which shows my ranking, horse name, trainer, current jockey and facts/comments which include the Dosage Index (if you don't know what this is... Google it). Call me a dinosaur, but I still believe in Dosage. Lastly, the family code is in parentheses {} for those of you who are masters at decoding bloodlines.

#1 – Commissioner (T. Pletcher / J. Lezcano)

KY-bred bay son of A.P. Indy is at his best going AT LEAST 9 furlongs (1 1/8 miles) screams a top Derby prospect. Impressive in every outing, he runs with the tenacity of another WinStar runner, Revolutionary (3rd in 2013 KY Derby). Pletcher initially stated that he didn't want to run him in any 1 1/16 preps (re: Fountain of Youth) but based on Derby preps that are 9 furlongs, this one would have to be on the shelf until March for that distance and Derby points, having pretty much one shot to get enough points to crack the Top 20 and get in the Derby entry box. Seems as if TAP has called an audible and will run "The "Commish" in the FOY. DI=2.60 {2-f}

#2 – Top Billing (C. McGaughey /J. Rosario)

KY-bred chestnut son of Curlin out of an A.P. Indy mare (Parade Queen) broke maiden at Laurel then a neck defeat to top Derby prospect Commissioner in a N1X at Gulfstream, returned 3 weeks later to destroy field in another N1X. Team McGaughey seems more excited about this guy than the proven Honor Code and will target the Fountain of Youth (FOY). DI=2.27 {1-n}

#3 – Tap It Rich (B. Baffert / M. Smith)

KY-bred gray son of Tapit won debut so very impressively that he was BC Juvenile PT 2nd choice, but ran 5th due to self-inflicted racing/mental issues which occurred again in G2 CashCall Futurity; came out of that one sick; was back training lights out at Santa Anita, on pace for the Robert Lewis Stakes (Feb. 8th) but got derailed last week (illness). No worries, he only missed one scheduled work. If he can learn how to be a complete racehorse, he’ll be dangerous. DI=3.25 {9-f}

#4 – Strong Mandate (D. W. Lukas / J. Rosario)

KY-bred bay son of Tiznow was 3rd in BC G1 Juvenile following an abysmal effort (7th) in G1 Champagne which was preceded by a victory in the G1 Hopeful. Jekyll & Hyde? Everyone is back on the “Coach” bandwagon. The only negative: I prefer Mr. Prospector in the bloodlines. DI=2.43 {9-f}

#5 – Texas Ryano (C. Gaines / I. Orozco)

KY-bred chestnut son of Curlin put in the most visually impressive performance of any Derby contender that I’ve seen on tape, in my humble opinion. So why is he only #5 on this list? Unfortunately, that race took place on the turf and on Jan. 20th @ SA in his racing debut. The last Derby winner unraced as a 2-year-old was Apollo in 1882. Texas Ryano’s turf pedigree is outstanding on his dam side. He is Triple Crown nominated, so maybe the connections have a plan to run on dirt or find a way to Louisville by means of the Keeneland synthetic surface which is kind to turf runners. DI=1.22 {4-j}

#6 – Bond Holder (D. O’Neill / M. Gutierrez)

VA-bred bay son of Mineshaft was 4th by 3 1/2 in BC Juvenile after breaking maiden on same SA dirt surface. He has 5 other starts on synthetic with less than stellar results. Out of a Conqueistor Cielo mare, so distance is no issue. 4th by 8 in G2 CashCall Futurity @ BHP when 14-1; Training every 8 days @ SA w/ 6f works throughout Jan. for his 3-year-old debut at FG in G2 Risen Star (Feb. 22nd). DI=4.00 {1-l}

#7 – In Trouble (A. Dutrow / J. Rocco)

KY-bred bay son of Tiz Wonderful is 2 for 2 lifetime (both sprints) but has not raced since winning the G2 Futurity @ Bel on Sept. 29th. Promptly took the remainder of his 2-year-old season off to have a chip removed from his left knee. Recently returned to training on Jan. 11th at Palm Meadows (FL). According to Tony Dutrow, "The boy is doing good. He's about 75% right now... looking at end of Feb. or 1st of March for return to races. We (TC) nominated him just a couple days before the (Jan. 25th) deadline, so yes, it is not a stretch to think he could make it to Derby. No set plan, but he'll leave FL for a prep elsewhere... could be FG, OP, NY... we'll wait and see what presents itself." DI=1.86 {20-b}

#8 – Tonalist (C. Clement / J. Bravo)

KY-bred bay son of Tapit out of a Pleasant Colony mare won in 2nd start going 9 furlongs @ GP (Jan. 18) coming from off the pace. Would suspect FOY @ GP is next step or an AOC N1X then FL Derby, if he’s good enough. DI=2.78 {3-l}

#9 – General a Rod (M. Maker / J. Rosario)

KY-bred dark bay son of Roman Ruler started his 3-year-old campaign on new years’ day with a victory in the Gulfstream Park Derby, then was flattered when runner-up (Wildcat Red) came back to win G2 Hutcheson Stakes. Only blemish on 3 race career is runner-up effort in N1X @ CD last Fall to Conquest Titan who recently ran 2nd to Cairo Prince in the Holy Bull. On schedule to run in G2 Fountain of Youth (Feb. 22nd). Dosage: 2.00 {4-d}

#10 – Global View (T. Proctor / G. Stevens)

KY-bred dark bay son of Galileo (IRE) out of a Deputy Minister mare will have no problem getting Derby distance, but screams turf runner. He keeps stretching out 5.5f, 6f & 1 mile, winning the latter 2, but both on grass. He's turned up @ Tampa with a 3f and 4f work on Jan. 25th & Feb. 2nd, respectively. Unless Glen Hill Farm has another Derby contender in their barn, they might give this one a shot on the natural dirt, likely in the Tampa Derby. DI=1.22 {4-j}

#11 – Ride On Curlin (W. Gowan / C. Borel)

KY-bred bay son of Curlin won 3-year-old debut in a 6 furlong N1X @ OP (Jan. 12). Why?! He was 3rd in Street Sense Stakes as a 2-year-old going one mile; previously failed (4th) as PT favorite in G3 Iroquois @ CD in November. He’s been tested in 3 stakes from 6 lifetime starts. Pointing to G3 Southwest stakes @ OP (Feb. 17). DI=3.44 {9-f}

#12 – Midnight Hawk (B. Baffert / M. Smith)

KY-bred gray son of Midnight Lute is 2 for 2 after impressive MSW 6 1/2 length score followed by victory in the Sham stakes @ SA (Jan.11), but the latter was only against three (3) rivals, not visually impressive, so expecting further improvement for 3rd career start in Robert B. Lewis Stakes @ SA (Feb. 8th). DI=0.71 {16-a}

#13 – Conquest Titan (M. Casse / S. Bridgmohan)

KY-bred dark bay son of Birdstone was a clear 2nd to Cairo Prince in the Holy Bull; supposedly change of tactics is the reason for the turnabout in form; next logical step would be Fountain of Youth or might head north to the Big Apple and race in the Gotham @ Aqu (Mar. 1st). DI=2.43 {10-a}

#14 – Mosler (W. Mott / J. Alvarado)

KY-bred dark bay son of War Front cost $1,050,000 as a yearling. Maiden win at Belmont in September was impressive then turned out until the new year. He started working every 7 days in January at Payson Park. Eagerly awaiting where he’ll turn up for his 3-year-old debut. DI=2.38 {22-d}

#15 – Matterhorn (T. Pletcher / L. Saez)

KY-bred bay son of Tapit rolled to victory at first asking last November at Aqueduct going a mile, beating the likes of Harpoon (runner-up in Sam E. Davis @ Tampa) and Tonalist (came back to break maiden next out). He was put on the shelf and recently began putting in works at Palm Meadows. DI = 3.31 {8-f}

#16 – Bobby’s Kitten (M. Maker / J. Castellano)

KY-bred bay son of Kitten’s Joy was last seen running 3rd behind two European monsters as the favorite in the BC Juvenile Turf; according to the Ramsey camp he's ON the Derby Trail. Began working at Palm Meadows on Jan. 14th every 7 days. Awaiting 3 y.o. debut. I know, I know, Kitten’s Joy offspring are not “all that” on the natural dirt, but we’ve seen turf runners conquer the CD main oval in the past. DI=3.00 {3-h}

#17 – Tamarando (J. Hollendorfer / R. Bejarano)

CA-bred dark bay son of Bertrandois the iron horse of his class having gone to the post nine (9) times, with a victory and two 3rd place finishes in three G1 stakes. Will seek to turn the tables on California Chrome in San Felipe Stakes @ SA (Mar. 8th). Has he already reached his top potential or will he get better the further the distance? Negative: No Mr. Prospector influence; DI=4.00 {3-l}

#18 – Mexikoma (R. Mettee / A. Garcia)

FL-bred son of Birdstone was 6th in G1 BC Juvenile. This dark bay took rest of 2013 off and now training in FL for FOY then LA Derby and hopefully KY Derby, per Barry Irwin of Team Valor International. Cut out more for the Belmont Stakes, but why not give the Run for the Roses a shot before the 3rd Jewel of the Triple Crown? DI=4.60 {4-m}

#19 – California Chrome (A. Sherman / V. Espinoza)

CA-bred chestnut son of Lucky Pulpit impressively won the CA Cup Derby for CA-breds @ SA on Jan. 25th over Tamarando, who he previously lost to in the SA Futurity. He already has 8 races under his belt. Maybe he is starting to reach his full potential. Next start appears to be San Felipe Stakes @ SA (Mar. 8th). DI=3.40 {A4}

#20 – Chitu (B. Baffert / M. Garcia)

KY-bred chestnut son of Henny Hughes was 2 for 2 as 2-year-old; maybe his A.P. Indy (damsire) influence can propel him to get the Derby distance. Word initially was he'd be heading to OP for G3 Southwest Stakes (Feb. 17th), but since the Robert B. Lewis (Feb. 8th) came up light in his backyard, why ship? Negative: No Mr. Prospector influence; DI=2.56 {2-f}

#21 – Hy Kodiak Warrior (A. Bezara / L. Saez)

KY-bred chestnut son of Kodiak Kowboyout of a Unbridled mare would be best served leaving south Florida as he has competed well in a couple N1X but against a few buzzsaw’s (Commissioner, Top Billing and Coup de Grace). If he has any upside, he'll be a nice price regardless of where and against who he runs next. DI = 3.50 {23-b}

#22 – Noble Moon (L. Gyarmati / I. Ortiz, Jr.)

VA-bred bay son of Malibu Moon won G2 Jerome @ Aqu on Jan. 4th in dawdling time against questionable field; connections say they'll wait on Gotham (Mar. 1st) for next start. No works since Jerome isn't the most positive of signs. DI=1.58 {9-b}

#23 – Constitution (T. Pletcher / J. Lezcano)

KY-bred bay son of Tapit has only one career start which came on Jan. 11th (yellow flag, unraced as a 2-year-old) but was visually remarkable though it was just 7 furlongs. Sent off at even money, he broke in air, spotting his rivals half dozen lengths. When the field hit the quarter pole, he was just a length behind the leader (in 22.63), then just off that ones’ shoulder at the half (in 44.82)! The final time was 1:23.36, looking very professional and striding out beyond the wire. DI=3.00 {8-k}

#24 – Can’thelpbelieving (G. Motion / A. Garcia)

IRE-bred bay son of Duke of Marmalade made 2-year-old debut across the pond, was brought to states running 2nd @ Kee then breaking maiden in January @ GP, both going 9f on turf. Bred to turf but trainer won Derby with Animal Kingdom whose first dirt race was on 1st Saturday in May. No workouts since maiden win is a bit concerning. He’s the ultimate longshot for just getting on Derby Trail, but if he does, I will have been the only idiot to have touted him in February . DI=1.32 {14-a}

Now for the notables not on the list and why…

Shared Belief: The {19} family has never produced a Derby winner… Storm Cat as a damsire has over 1800 starters and few winners over 9 furlongs. Bodemeister, runner-up in both the Derby and Preakness came the closest to producing a damsire "Triple Crown Race" win for Storm Cat.

Cairo Prince: Has a Dosage Index of 7.00; only one Derby winner (Strike the Gold in 1991) has had a higher one and that was 9.00. The second highest was Mine That Bird at a much lower 5.40. To see the Dosage Index of all past Derby winners click here.

Honor Code: One of the best two-year-olds of 2013, but how many times have we seen these types unable to replicate that form at age 3? (Shanghai Bobby, Hansen, Uncle Mo, etc.). Add the bruised ankles in late January which put training on hold for at least a few weeks. In reality he might be able to get in the Derby starting gate with his current 14 points, but that certainly isn’t a formula for winning the blanket of roses. For this reason Shark Tank fans, “I’m out”.

Havana (BC Juvenile runner-up) and Rise Up (Delta Jackpot winner): Both recently began training for their sophomore year campaign, but carry the black cloud of Unbridled's Song unsound breeding. The latter of the two also has a 5.67 Dosage Index.

Samraat: As game as he was in victory in the Withers, afterwards he was a very tired horse who was stretched to his distance limits plus he’s trying to be only the second NY-bred to win the Kentucky Derby, the first being Funny Cide in 2003.

Vicar's in Trouble: The impressive Lecomte winner could be Rosie’s mount for the Derby. It would be entertaining and plus to for me to see her and Ortiz (on Samraat) go the opening half in 45 flat. Ken Ramsey deserves to win a Derby, but with a LA-bred?! Really?!

There you have it. Now give me your best shot. Who would you put on and/or take off the GQ Derby Double Dozen? 

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                Meet Gary Quill

  I am the most passionate person on the planet when it comes to thoroughbred horse racing! One sunny summer day in 1964 at Timonium Race Track is where my Dad and mentor introduced me to “The Sport of Kings”. Since that day, I have had the pleasure to visit over 40 different tracks across North America. Though an IT professional by trade, I’ve had a part-time gig with the Maryland Jockey Club since 1988.

here are thousands of rail-birds who claim to be great handicappers. Well, I don’t claim to be the best… just the most passionate and one that won’t tout “chalk”. Like a savvy stock broker, I look for value and often find it. Unlike the talking heads on horse racing television networks and the dozens of websites featuring handicapper’s opinions, I’m ACCOUNTABLE. That is, good or bad, you’ll always know how my previously posted picks performed along with a running record of my BEST BET and LONGSHOT Play of the Day selections for Maryland tracks (Laurel and Pimlico) at TheRacingBiz, see "The GQ Approach".

   In addition to focusing on the Maryland thoroughbred racing circuit, each year I follow the Derby Trail and post “GQ’s Derby Double Dozen” in early February. 

   My personal mission is to rejuvenate interest in thoroughbred horse racing. Being able to share my energy, thoughts and opinions on this sport via HRN will certainly help the cause.


"I lost $2 at Santa Anita and I've spent $3 million trying to get it back." - Mickey Rooney

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