Down and Derby - Sweet 16 (5) - 2012 Kentucky Derby

March 28, 2012 09:42am
1. Union Rags (Dixie Union-Tempo, by Gone West) Michael Matz – Numero uno will only get two preps for the Derby, so it's important that he gets enough out of the Florida Derby. All systems appear to be go for the colt who has been on most people's short list for a long time, as his appearances at Palm Meadows continue to impress. He should get a much stiffer test on Saturday, so don't be disappointed if he doesn't win going a way like he did in the Fountain of Youth. A bit of a battle should only help him in Louisville.

2. El Padrino (Pulpit-Enchanted Rock, by Giant's Causeway) Todd Pletcher - Why wait until Churchill Downs to face Union Rags, is I guess what his camp was thinking in their decision to go with the Florida Derby over the Louisiana Derby. In the long run, this choice may pay off. While I think he will be more suited for the distance and surface of the Kentucky Derby rather than Saturday's test, a competitive finish against the top one, will set him up for a big run at Churchill Downs. I expect him to give Union Rags everything he can handle at Gulfsteam.

3. Creative Cause (Giant's Causeway-Dream of Summer, by Siberian Summer) Mike Harrington – Since I first saw Creative Cause in his debut last July, I've never left the idea that he was the class of the crop in California. Mike Harrington seems to have him on the perfect schedule for the Triple Crown, finishing well in a sprint, winning the San Felipe, and being the horse to beat in the Santa Anita Derby. He gives the indication of being able to go longer and if he does win against a strong field next week, he will be one of the horses to beat in Louisville.

4. Hansen (Tapit-Stormy Sunday, by Sir Cat) Michael Maker – I thought I might see him in the Spiral, and then felt certain it would be the Wood where the Hansen show next appeared. Turns out it will be the Blue Grass, where he will likely face several turf horses, that will be his final stop before Churchill. I expect to see more of the same that we have been accustomed to from this unique talent at Keeneland, and I caution anyone that underestimates his chances to win the Derby. He looks like that same excellent horse that wired last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile to me.
5. Bodemeister (Empire Maker-Untouched Talent, by Storm Cat) Bob Baffert – In a lot of ways this one reminds me of a horse that I tend to avoid in the Run for the Roses. He is inexperienced, has yet to win a stakes race, and is likely to be part of many near the early lead on Derby day. Yet, I find myself liking him more and more. He has the look of a really good horse, he's been working lights out at Santa Anita, and I thought his San Felipe was topnotch considering it was only his third lifetime start. I would like to see him show a little more patience in the Santa Anita Derby or Arkansas Derby next time, but I am expecting another step forward, giving him a shot in the big one.

6. Alpha (Bernardini-Munnaya, by Nijinsky II) Kiaran McLaughlin – It looks like he will reappear in the Wood now, where he will face Gemologist among others. Since he didn't beat much in his first two starts of the year, we should learn a lot more about his ability to handle the best of the division. Whether or not he can handle the same horses that beat him in last year's BC Juvenile is still a big question, but he has all the look of a horse that might be improving enough, as so many horses do at this age.

7Dullahan (Even The Score-Ava Mining My Own, by Smart Strike) Dale Romans - I don't expect him to run down Hansen in the Blue Grass, but another strong finish, on a surface he liked last fall, will send him to Louisville in good shape. Despite not winning, I was quite impressed with his first race of the year when he made up plenty of ground on a good horse setting an easy pace. I would never have thought this a few years ago, but the turf to synthetic prep route to Louisville has now proven to be a legitimate way to prepare a Kentucky Derby candidate.

8. Gemologist (Tiznow-Crystal Shard, by Mr. Prospector) Todd Pletcher – This one may be the biggest wildcard of the bunch right now. While many raved about his return race, a sharp allowance win at Gulfstream, I feel like I need to see more. He got out there on a speed track and dominated at one turn. Impressive yes, but what it will mean in 5 1/2 weeks, I have my doubts. He could turn out to be as good as any, but I am not willing to jump on the bandwagon just yet. His stride is not the most fluid, and he needs a real test. Let's see what he does in the Wood.

9. Went the Day Well (Proud Citizen -Tiz Maies Day, by Tiznow) Graham Motion - Another horse who seemingly has a big upside. The conditioning he lost in quarantine is well documented, so the potential for further improvement is certainly there. I thought he looked like a million bucks at the Spiral, and obviously he is in good hands. On the downside, I did not see that explosiveness that I like to see from a horse expected to rally to win the Kentucky Derby. He will need to keep improving right up until May, because I don't think he is quite there yet.
10. Secret Circle (Eddington-Ragtime Hope, by Dixieland Band) Bob Baffert – If I had to vote for who should be three-year-old champion as of right now, this horse would be up near the top of the list, but of course that is not what picking a Kentucky Derby winner is all about. Big respect for this colt as a nice horse who likes to win keep him in the top 10, but I do not expect to invest any of my own money on him on the first Saturday in May.
11. Daddy Nose Best (Scat Daddy-Follow Your Bliss, by Thunder Gulch) Steve Amussen - A newcomer to the Down and Derby Sweet 16, this son of good young sire, Scat Daddy, really seems to know how to get to the finish line. He has now beaten two very good colts, on two different surfaces, in races that are most likely a little underrated. I also like the way he is finishing these races full of run and full of courage. The crazy speed duel in the Sunland Derby obviously improved his chances, but I now consider him a viable threat at Churchill.
12. I'll Have Another (Flower Alley-Arch's Gal Edith, by Arch) Doug O'Neill – I really can't tell you why I don't have this one higher on the list. His last race was very good, he is bred to handle the distance, and he has been working fantastic in preparation for the Santa Anita Derby. I just can't shake the feeling that he will end up a one-hit wonder. If he runs big against horses like Creative Cause and Bodemeister, I will likely be changing my tune pretty fast.
13. Prospective (Malibu Moon-Spirited Away, by Awesome Again) Mark Casse – He is already at Churchill Downs working for the Derby, although he should get one more start in before the big race. I like his chances to get ten furlongs, and I appreciate the way he is finishing his races. Having said that, I do not see him rising too much higher on this list until he proves that he can compete against the best of this crop. It's not out of the question, but my guess is he is a cut below the best.
14. Mark Valeski  (Proud Citizen-Pocho's Dream Girl, by Fortunate Prospect) Larry Jones – I feel much the same way about this one as I do about I'll Have Another. I thought his race in the Risen Star was excellent considering he had only sprinted before, but I have the strong feeling that between him and El Padrino, the horse he battled with in that Fair Grounds race, he will not be the one who appreciates the grueling effects of the Kentucky Derby. By the way, I think he might well be upset by another Pletcher runner in Sunday's Louisiana Derby ... watch out for Windsurfer!

15. Take Charge Indy (A.P. Indy-Take Charge Lady, by Dehere) Patrick Byrne - It's just about time to see what this horse has. As a son of A.P. Indy, I have kept him around this long, in case he puts it all together, but considering he has had plenty of chances against good horse without a win, the Florida Derby would seem to be the time to put up or shut up. If he can compete with Union Rags and El Padrino on Saturday, I will retain hope for him in Louisville, if not, you won't see him on this list anymore.
16. My Adonis (Pleasantly Perfect-Silent Justice, by Elusive Quality) Kelly Breen – This one remains one of my favorite dark horses for the Triple Crown series. He has shown me just enough to believe that if he can improve with maturity and longer distances, like any self respecting son of Pleasantly Perfect should, he may be one of those super longshots that so often hit the board at Churchill Downs. Is he good enough? Probably not, but I am willing to keep him on my exotic tickets menu at really big odds.


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Older Comments about Down and Derby - Sweet 16 (5) - 2012 Kentucky Derby...

Thank you and good luck!
Zatt: I 'm sorry ,i read most everything post everywere.I posted Windsurfer as one of any in the field that could be really dangerous the way he has been working..I also post Rosie N .as saying the race is wide open..Well i hope we can cash,best always and i enjoy your great work..Thanks again..
Gemologist will win The Wood and go to Kentucky undefeated, and will leave Kentucky the same way. UNDEFEATED...........
It's in the article, wantwoman100 ... Windsurfer.
Take Charge Indy~ Win's the Florida Derby by 2.half~ And then wins the derby dont say you wont told!
Zatt: by who..I can say the same thing ,this is by far no walk for MV.It's wide open..sure i like MV and another 5 that can upset him..
So many possibles, will make it a really good weekend for racing.
Not yet in agreement.
Oh yes, he's dangerous, but I am predicting he will be upset as the favorite.
I think Mark Valeski will be dangerous in the La. Derby after all it is Larry Jones in Louisiana.

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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 the Nation, 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 new 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 show, 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 as the President of The Exceller Fund.

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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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