2013 Kentucky Derby: Down & Derby Sweet 16

2013 Kentucky Derby: Down & Derby Sweet 16
Photo: Eclipse Sportswire

1. Revolutionary 8-1 (War Pass-Runup the Colors, by A.P. Indy) Todd Pletcher – After his runaway maiden win and his crazy overcoming of trouble to nab the Withers Stakes, I just needed to see him run against some good horses. Mission accomplished. I believe his Louisiana Derby was better than it appears on paper. After getting squeezed at the start, he dropped well back on the rail before swinging way outside on the backstretch to mount a sustained rally. His wide rally carried him to the lead, and I absolutely love the way he finished in the late stages and the gallop-out. All of this should be great practice for the Kentucky Derby, and clearly Castellano has a world of confidence in him. The only thing that I worry about his ability to break smoothly, an absolute must in the Derby. If he does, I believe Revolutionary will be the one who becomes a household name after the most exciting two minutes in sports. [Next Race - Kentucky Derby May 4]  
2. Oxbow 12-1 (Awesome Again-Tizamazing, by Cee's Tizzy) D. Wayne Lukas – If Revolutionary does not win in three-and-a-half weeks, this is the horse that I think will. After storming home a huge winner in the LeComte Stakes earlier this year, Oxbow has been up against it as far as trips, race set-ups, and track biases in his next two starts. Despite this, he still nearly won both the Risen Star and the Rebel Stakes. I believe that he will break that two-race losing streak in Saturday's Arkansas Derby, but hopefully not by so much as to sink the odds. Say what you will about D. Wayne Lukas, but he knows how  to truly prepare a horse for the rigors of the Triple Crown, and in Oxbow, I believe he has a colt with the talent and foundation to go a long way in this year's series. [Next Race - Arkansas Derby April 13]   
3. Orb 5-1 (Malibu Moon-Lady Liberty, by Unbridled) Shug McGaughey – I could easily have this horse in the number one spot, considering the succession of good races he has run this year at Gulfstream Park, but I do not truly believe he is going to win. While each victory (allowance, Fountain of Youth, and Florida Derby) was a little more impressive than the last, there is just something missing. Perhaps it's his times, (Dreaming of Julia ran almost two full seconds faster on Florida Derby day), or perhaps it's that I feel like none of the others did much running in that race, with the unlikely Merit Man finishing a competitive third. I'd certainly be happy to see Shug get his first Derby win, but I'll be playing this horse only for second or third. [Next Race - Kentucky Derby May 4]  
4. Verrazano 5-1 (More Than Ready-Enchanted Rock, by Giant's Causeway) Todd Pletcher – Surprise, surprise, my #1 ranked three-year-old is no longer. It might seem a bit rash to drop him three places after remaining undefeated while winning one of the biggest preps out there, but it's now time to truly handicap the Derby, and unfortunately, I don't like what I see. While I believe no single race race by a sophomore was more impressive than his allowance win back in early February, I haven't seen the kind of progression since that I wanted to see. The others are catching up to him fast, and that coupled with the fact that ten furlongs is probably further than his best distance, and you have all the makings of a favorite tiring late under the twin spires of Churchill Downs.  [Next Race -  Kentucky Derby May 4]   

5. Normandy Invasion 8-1 (Tapit-Boston Lady, by Boston Harbor) Chad Brown – Wise guy alert ... How can a horse with only a maiden win be one of the favorites for the Run for the Roses? Get ready, because it is going to happen with Normandy Invasion. Still a bit of an enigma to me, I see so much to like, but still so much to prove. His breeding does not scream distance, but he sure looked good in the closing stages of the Wood Memorial. Making that performance all the stronger is the fact that he was rallying into slow fractions. I said all along that there was nothing wrong with his seasonal debut in the Risen Star, but still the question remains, can he actually get the job done in one of these big races. I can just as easily see him winning the whole thing as I could see him hanging at the three-sixteenths pole to finish fifth. Let's see how he trains at Churchill. [Next Race -  Kentucky Derby May 4]     

6. Goldencents 8-1 (Into Mischief-Golden Works, by Banker's Gold) Doug O'Neill – Can this one also 'Win one for Ware' just like Rick Pitino's Louisville Cardinals did last night? If you believe in destiny, maybe, but if you believe in my ability to discern which horses want ten furlongs, and which ones don't, you are far less likely to believe that the Pitino roll will continue. I understand that there is a lot to like here, from his excellent record to the fact that his trainer knows how to get a horse Derby ready, but you will not find him on any of my tickets. I didn't care for the way he was striding to the wire in his big win in the Santa Anita Derby, and nothing I have seen in any of his races has me believing that he will be running strongly in the final furlong of the Kentucky Derby.  [Next Race - Kentucky Derby May 4]   
7. Itsmyluckyday 12-1 (Lawyer Ron-Viva La Slew, by Doneraile Court) Edward Plesa - What to do with the Florida Derby. Was it proof that Orb is simply better, or was it just not Itsmyluckyday's best day? On the one hand, he still possesses some of the fastest races run by a three-year-old this year, and a slight bounce before a Kentucky rebound would certainly not be unheard of; see Thunder Gulch. But on the other hand, if Orb ran by him that easily at nine furlongs in Florida, won't it be all that much easier at 1 1/4 miles in the Derby? Answers, I'm afraid, that will not be known for 25 more days. While I still fear him, I had to drop him some after the loss. He might just be the forgotten horse, though, in Kentucky, and if his odds creep up to the 20-1 range, I think he is worth a shot.  [Next Race - Kentucky Derby May 4]  
8. Vyjack 12-1 (Into Mischief-Life Happened, by Stravinsky) Rudy Rodriguez – His race in the Wood Memorial was as good, if not better, than I expected. While I still reserve my doubts about this one's ability to to do his best running at ten furlongs, those worries are becoming minimized by the fact that this gelding is one tough hombre. Speaking of geldings, he's beginning to remind me of another plucky gelding ... Funny Cide, and you all know what he did in the Derby.  I'm not sure that he has beaten a really good horse yet, and he did get passed late by Normandy Invasion in the Wood, but with the right trip, I could certainly see this one making big noise on Derby Day. Hopefully, he will be 100% after coming out of the Wood with some mucous. [Next Race - Kentucky Derby May 4]   
9. Java's War 20-1 (War Pass-Java, by Rainbow Quest) Ken McPeek – I really wouldn't have expected him to give Verrazano any worries in the Tampa Bay Derby, but you know what? He ran a very good race to be easily the best of the rest. His sustained rally in his sophomore debut was reminiscent of a similar effort in last fall's Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland. It's hard to get too excited after only one race this year, but a similar type of 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]   
10. Rydilluc 20-1 (Medaglia d'Oro-Swift and Classy, by Clever Trick) Gary Contessa - This is the wildest wild card in the entire deck. A quick review of his past performances reveals one ugly dirt race in his career debut, and then three excellent races on the grass. So he's a turf horse, right? Not so fast, my friends. The grass-to-synthetics-to-Derby path has been traveled well of late, and this one could follow suit. His breeding suggests that he can run on anything, and I'm willing to give him another chance on dirt after that failed debut. Keep in mind, out of all the traditional dirt tracks in the nation, Churchill Downs seem to play very favorably to turf/synthetic horses. Saturday's Blue Grass should give us more clues about his class. [Next Race - Blue Grass April 13] 
11. Will Take Charge 15-1 (Unbridled's Song-Take Charge Lady, by Dehere) D. Wayne Lukas – In analyzing the video replay of the Rebel many times, I have come to the conclusion that this one let his stablemate do all the dirty work, while he sat the dream trip. Having said that, this well bred colt, despite not being the most consistent runner in the world, has demonstrated the ability to both battle to the wire, and finish up strongly. Will that be enough on the First Saturday in May? I really don't think so, but I can see why he has a solid fan base. In somewhat atypical D. Wayne fashion, he will not get that final start in the Blue Grass after all, and will instead come to Louisville as a relatively fresh horse. This makes me feel even stronger that Oxbow is the more sturdy of the two. [Next Race - Kentucky Derby May 4] 
12. War Academy 20-1 (Giant's Causeway-Cabbage Key, by A.P. Indy) Bob Baffert – Baffert doesn't rebuild, he only reloads. This one 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 it looks like he has a real shot to do well in this week's big race at Oaklawn Park. As you can tell, Oxbow is my top pick in that race, but after him, I like War Academy. Even a good second place finish would send this interesting late developer to Kentucky in with a shot. [Arkansas Derby April 13]
13. Uncaptured 30-1 (Lion Heart-Captivating, by Arch) Mark Casse - He had been in my top ten all along until he finally made his seasonal debut in the Spiral. There wasn't anything wrong with his performance, as he finished full of run, and in second in the large field, but it was not exactly against strong competition. You'll notice that the winner did not even make my top 16. The good news for Uncaptured is there is every reason to believe he can improve in his second and third starts of the year. He also has the advantage of not needing to win the Blue Grass to qualify for the Run for the Roses. Then again, if he does not run an improved raced at Keeneland, I cannot imagine liking his chances in the Derby. [Next Race - Blue Grass April 13]  
14. Mylute 30-1 (Midnight Lute-Stage Stop, by Valid Expectations) Thomas Amoss – One of many from the first crop of Midnight Lute that can run. This one often impressed me, but then could not get it done in his major tests. The Louisiana Derby changed that with a big performance. His race against my number 1 was clearly his best to date, and erases any disappointment after a questionable trip in the Risen Star. I know some very smart people are calling him a live long shot in Louisville, but I just cannot get past the nagging suspicion that 8 1/2 furlongs will be more his cup of tea. Watch the last fifty yards and gallop-out of the last one again; Revolutionary had his number for sure. [Next Race - Kentucky Derby May 4]  
15. Palace Malice 30-1 (Curlin-Palace Rumor, by Royal Anthem) Todd Pletcher - A few weeks ago I considered him to be one of the most interesting dark horses out there, then came the Louisiana Derby. A trip right out of the diaries of Freddy Krueger did not change my belief that he could be the real deal, but it did, however; cause me to believe he was up against it as far as qualifying for the Derby. Now they are wheeling him right back in the Blue Grass to try to garner the needed points. It will be a big field, and he's never been on synthetics. It would not surprise me if he ran a big one, but ... it does seem to be asking a lot of a horse still trying to figure it all out.  [Next Race - Blue Grass April 13]  
16. Govenor Charlie 20-1 (Midnight Lute-Silverbulletway, by Storm Cat) Bob Baffert – I'm the guy that wrote what a disgrace the Sunland Derby field was considering the big purse and all the Kentucky Derby points available. This one was my pick, and he won easily, but it should come to no one's surprise that I was less than impressed. I have no doubt that this one is developing into a nice horse, and I liked the toughness he showed in his maiden win, but I cannot see him going from a maiden race and then Sunland Derby to the big time. I believe his chances to make serious impact on the Derby are slim, and I also question his ability to get ten furlongs successfully. [Next Race - Kentucky Derby May 2] 

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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