2013 Kentucky Derby: Down & Derby Sweet 16

2013 Kentucky Derby: Down & Derby Sweet 16
Photo: Arron Haggart/Eclipse Sportswire

1. Verrazano (More Than Ready-Enchanted Rock, by Giant's Causeway) Todd Pletcher – The Tampa Bay Derby was a good step, as the powerful son of More Than Ready toyed with the overmatched field, but things will only get tougher from here. The Wood Memorial on April 6, should give the lightly raced colt a bigger test, and offer more foundation for the 2013 Kentucky Derby. Of course, as we all know, there is only so much preparation can do when the gate springs open and the Run for the Roses cavalry charge begins. I've maintained for a while now that he is the most talented three-year-old colt going, but will luck be on his side?  [Next Race - Wood Memorial April 6] 
2. Orb (Malibu Moon -Lady Liberty, by Unbridled) Shug McGaughey – I'm not sure if it is the connections or what, but this is a colt that I want to see do well. He was my pick to win the Fountain of Youth, but in all honesty, I was not overly confident in his ability to defeat Violence. He was aided by a fast pace that day, but his ability to get the job done against a really good horse, was impressive. With his spot in the Derby starting gate secure, he will not need to win the showdown in the Florida Derby to make it to Louisville as one of the main factors, but on the other hand, I don't want to see him drubbed by a pair of faster horses either. Finishing up full of run will be just fine.  [Next Race - Florida Derby March 30]  
3. Itsmyluckyday (Lawyer Ron-Viva La Slew, by Doneraile Court) Edward Plesa - This might be the rags to riches story that so many will be looking for on Derby Day. He probably will take a lot of hunch bettors money because of his name alone. Those factors aside, he may also be the fastest horse of the crop. His two wins this year were nothing short of excellent, and he continues to impress in the morning over in the relative obscurity of Calder. The Florida Derby not only presents an interesting challenge in that he will have to run down Shanghai Bobby before bracing for the late run of Orb, but it should also give him a real idea of what he needs to do if success in the Derby is to be expected. [Next Race - Florida Derby March 30] 
4. Revolutionary (War Pass-Runup the Colors, by A.P. Indy) Todd Pletcher – It seems like a long time ago that this beautifully bred WinStar runner was turning in one of the more interesting performances of the year in the Wither Stakes. That day he lived up to his expectations, despite only narrowly winning against a marginal field, because of the myriad of troubles he overcame to get the victory. His race on Saturday in the Louisiana Derby should tell us a great deal about just how good he really is. The Fair Grounds field will be big and talented, so he will need to be at his best to win. If he does, he becomes one of the favorites on the First Saturday in May. [Next Race - Louisiana Derby March 30] 
5. Power Broker (Pulpit-Shop Again, by Wild Again) Bob Baffert – I feel like the only guy in the world keeping Power Broker so prominently rated in my Kentucky Derby rankings. That's okay, I don't mind taking the road less traveled. My strong belief in his potential as a juvenile has been certainly tested by a long period of inactivity. The good news is he is working great in California, including yesterday's strong six furlong move from the gate. I feel like he will make a good account of himself in the Santa Anita Derby, but the question nags ... can he really be full ready for the rigors of the Kentucky Derby off of only one prep. Bob Baffert's training ability will be put to the test. [Next Race - Santa Anita Derby April 6]    
6. Vyjack (Into Mischief-Life Happened, by Stravinsky) Rudy Rodriguez – While I still have my doubts about this one's ability to flourish at 1 1/4 miles, I no longer question the fact that Vyjack is one serious race horse. While he has yet to face a stellar field, he has faced several good horses on his way to a perfect 4-for-4 career record. The three-time stakes winner also impressed me with his ability to effortlessly change running styles in the Gotham. This makes me believe he is a horse who really knows how to win. All of this will get a major test next time, though, as he is on a collision course with my preferred "V". [Next Race - Wood Memorial April 6]   
7. Flashback (Tapit-Rhumb Line, by Mr. Greeley) Bob Baffert – My only hesitation in rating him even higher than this is a little worry about that final furlong down the Churchill Downs stretch. Other than that, I really like him. His losing performance in the San Felipe had little to do with his shortcomings as a race horse, and a whole lot to do with the dynamics of the race. I look for him to show a greater willingness to sit just off the pace in the Santa Anita Derby, and that should be the key to turn the tables on Hear the Ghost. That defeat should also give him more wind in his lungs for next time. I see a little Silver Charm in him which is a very good sign. [Next Race - Santa Anita Derby April 6] 
8. Shanghai Bobby (Harlan's Holiday-Steelin', by Orientate) Todd Pletcher - It is almost time for the biggest test of his career after two. We know that the juvenile champion is not invincible, not that anyone ever thought he was, but he's a horse that deserves more credit than he has been getting. Like many, I've both admired and questioned him from the very beginning. A most deserving champion at two, he will need to prove that he can stay above the late-developers, while also prove himself at classic distances. That task may seem daunting, but his first race of 2013 was actually a step in the right direction. Much will be answered in a most intriguing edition of the Florida Derby on Saturday. [Next Race - Florida Derby March 30] 
9. Oxbow (Awesome Again-Tizamazing, by Cee's Tizzy) D. Wayne Lukas – He dances every dance, like many in the Lukas barn do, and he is beginning to fire each time. I like that he is now demonstrating the ability to rate off the pace just a little, but on the flip side, he did have every opportunity to win both the Risen Star and the Rebel, and could not quite make it to the wire first. That being said, I like his breeding for the ten furlongs, and I believe in him a bit more with each passing race. He should be one of the one's to beat in the Arkansas Derby, and will come to Louisville battle tested. [Next Race - Arkansas Derby April 13]
10. Palace Malice (Curlin-Palace Rumor, by Royal Anthem) Todd Pletcher - I really felt like the colt I saw in person in both his maiden win and then his return loss in an allowance race at Gulfstream, had plenty more to give. I feel so even more strongly after a very solid performance in his first try around two-turns. He may have finished 3rd in the Risen Star, but I came away quite impressed with his sustained run. He may have been just a tad short late, but he figures to only get stronger next time. I can't help but think he is sitting on a big one for the Louisiana Derby. [Next Race - Louisiana Derby March 30] 

11. Normandy Invasion (Tapit-Boston Lady, by Boston Harbor) Chad Brown – It seems like the Remsen Stakes is becoming many pundits race to stay away from. While it may not have been the greatest field in the world, I still see plenty of upside in this one. His sustained rally at nine furlongs was a fine way to end 2012, and while he could only muster a 5th place finish in his seasonal debut, the Risen Star effort was good enough to believe that with expected improvement, he can make some noise in Louisville. The Wood will be a tough one thanks to Verrazano and Vyjack, but a strong rally will send him off to the Derby in with a chance. [Next Race - Wood Memorial April 6]     
12. Hear the Ghost (Ghostzapper-Rehear, by Coronado's Quest) Jerry Hollendorfer – I don't think any single Derby prep has been more set up for a horse than the San Felipe was for this one. The early speed duel of the two favorites gave him a big tactical advantage in Santa Anita's latest three-year-old stakes race. Having said that, the son of the champion Ghostzapper, has done absolutely nothing wrong in his brief career. Under the guidance of the astute training of Northern California's best, it would not be far fetched to see this one develop to the point of being one of the one's to beat on May 4. [Next Race - Santa Anita Derby April 6] 
13. Code West (Lemon Drop Kid-Charitabledonation, by Saint Ballado) Bob Baffert – Another promising colt from the Gary and Mary West contingent. Although he has not been winning, he has been improving with each race, including a very solid effort when 2nd in the Risen Star last out. I'm still not sure if he is fast enough to win on the First Saturday in May, but he is bred to run all day, and any further improvement makes him a most intriguing prospect to run a big ten furlongs at Churchill Downs. [Next Race - Louisiana Derby March 30]  
14. Departing (War Front-Leave, by Pulpit) Al Stall - I was pleased to see him on the late nomination list for the Triple Crown, as this is one that I've had my eye on since his debut last December. He has manhandled his competition in each of his three starts like a good one, but how that will translate against top flight competition remains to be seen. He will be dropped into a deep Louisiana crawfish boil in a matter of four days, so that big jump up in class should tell us if he is a legitimate contender in Louisville. I look for him to account well of himself at his home track of Fair Grounds.  [Next Race - Louisiana Derby March 30]
15. War Academy (Giant's Causeway-Cabbage Key, by A.P. Indy) Bob Baffert – He may be a little late to the party, but that doesn't mean he still can't be the life of the whole thing. After a pair of promising sprints, the well bred colt demonstrated plenty of ability going two-turns in a sharp allowance score at Santa Anita. He still has plenty of work to do, but in looking over the prospects for Oaklawn Park major Derby prep, I could easily see this one breaking the one-race losing streak Baffert has in three-year-old stakes races at the Arkansas hot spot. [Next Race - Arkansas Derby April 13]
16. Java's War (War Pass-Java, by Rainbow Quest) Ken McPeek – He was no match for Verrazano in the Tampa Bay Derby, but so what? His sustained rally in his sophomore debut was reminiscent of a similar effort in last fall's Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland. A similar effort at the Lexington oval in the Blue Grass should send the late runner on to Louisville. Now that we know that he can handle dirt, and with a strong influence of stamina on his female side, it would be easy to imagine this one passing a lot of horses down the Churchill Downs stretch. [Next Race - Blue Grass April 13] 

Meet Brian Zipse

Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Taken to the races at a very young age, he has been lucky enough to see all the greats in person from Secretariat, Forego, and Ruffian through Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta, American Pharoah and Justify. Before coming to HRN, Brian displayed his love for the sport through the development of his horse racing website, which quickly became one of the most popular blogs in the game. His racing partnership venture, Derby Day Racing, invites more fans to experience the thrill of racehorse ownership.

The Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, Brian authored a daily column as Zipse at the Track, created the popular racing webcast HorseCenter, and added his editorial flare to the overall content of the website. Now a Senior Writer for HRN, Brian continues to contribute his thoughts on racing, as well as hosting HorseCenter. A big supporter of thoroughbred aftercare, he serves on the Board of The Exceller Fund.

Brian's work has also been published on several leading industry sites. He has consulted for leading contest site Derby Wars and is a Vox Populi committee member. He is a voter for racing's Hall of Fame, as well as a weekly NTRA poll voter. 

A horse owner and graduate of DePaul University, Brian lives just outside of Louisville with his wife Candice and daughter Kendra.

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