Secretariat

Derby Rankings: Week 12

With only one more weekend of preps left we’re stretching the Rankings out to 20 this week. Everything could look very different next week with the No. 2, 3, 4, and 5 horses running on Saturday. After that it’s up to everyone to make some sense of it all. We’re either going to have a strong Top 6 or 7 or the confusion will continue and it will be one big crap shoot. ~ Steve Haskin

Derby Rankings: April 4, 2022 – Week 12

By Steve Haskin

 

1– Epicenter (Steve Asmussen, Not This Time – Silent Candy, by Candy Ride)

When Ron Winchell buys yearlings at the Keeneland September sale, he rarely has any interest in horses who sell in the final books and is usually long gone when the hip numbers reach into the thousands. His program is more about the elite yearlings who sell in the first few books. But in the 2020 sale he made an exception and waited for Hip #1956 to come into the ring. He was that far down mainly because he was by a relatively little-known second-crop sire named Not This Time. “That’s petty late in the sale for our purchases,” Winchell said. “However, he was an absolute standout from our perspective, especially for that late in the sale.” Even with him selling that late Winchell still had to pay $260,000 for him. Ron Anderson, agent for Joel Rosario, remembers when Steve Asmussen asked him to ride this colt after a poor debut, telling him he wasn’t ready for that race. “I know Steve and Scotty (assistant Scott Blasi) and I’m able to get their opinions independently. Both had been crazy about this horse for weeks. My main question was can you take a hold of this horse and have him follow a horse? Scotty said, ‘absolutely.’” It took five races, but Epicenter finally proved him right in the Louisiana Derby after four races on the lead and now all the boxes have been checked. He is now a bona fide Kentucky Derby horse and the current favorite for the Run for the Roses, especially with the results of this past weekend.

 

2– Smile Happy (Ken McPeek, Runhappy – Pleasant Smile, by Pleasant Tap)

The time of reckoning has come. After being ranked No. 1 for the first 10 weeks based on his two victories last year and one solid 3-year-old debut in which he was a non-threatening second It is finally time to find out just where he fits in the Derby picture and if he is a good as I and all those who made him the Future Wager favorite every month believe he is. His second meeting with Zandon in the Blue Grass Stakes should be very interesting because both horses have the same questions to answer and a victory by either one would put them right up there with Epicenter and perhaps replace him as No. 1. But it would have to be an impressive one. For Smile Happy it would be returning to where he’s been all year despite his lack of racing. The key to this colt is whether he shows that same powerful closing kick that he needs to start using on the far turn unlike the Risen Star when he was not asked to run at all on the turn and arrived to the party way too late and was lucky to get second. It’s been all speculation so far and it was not McPeek’s intention to give him so much time off, but he obviously needed it and was ridden conservatively in the Risen Star. But conservative is the last thing he needs now. He needs to be put to pressure and given an opportunity to show that spark from last year. In short he needs to be toughened to be ready for the Derby.

 

3– Zandon (Chad Brown, Upstart – Memories Prevail, by Creative Cause)

The biggest challenge all year has been for me trying to say something about him and Smile Happy that is somewhat new, but that is what happens when you rank two horses this high with each having only one start in 4 ½ months. If they both get beat in the Blue Grass that will make them 0-for-2 this year and likely would drop them down in the Rankings unless one of them runs huge in defeat. As I’ve been saying, their high rankings have been based on their 2-year-old races and the promise they showed in the Risen Star Stakes. While Smile Happy will be trying to move forward on Thoro-Graph following a basic pairing (2 and 2 ½), after jumping from a 7 ¼, Zandon will be looking to do the same following a very steady progression (6 ½ to 4 ½ to 2 ¼), so both are coming off an almost identical number, but got there in an different manner. They will have to face another lightly raced colt in Emmanuel, who should improve big-time off his troubled tip in the Fountain of Youth Stakes. Other than him, they should be able to handle the likes of Ethereal Road, Blackadder, and Volcanic if they are to be considered major Derby contenders. As I’ve been saying, this colt intrigues me the most because we still have no idea how high his ceiling is. Once he puts it all together and gets a good trip and a little luck, we could see something special.

 

4– Messier (Tim Yakteen, Empire Maker – Checkered Past, by Smart Strike)

It could be that the best thing to happen to this year’s Derby is having this horse finally cleared to run in it. If he looks as good in the Santa Anita Derby as he did in the Robert Lewis Stakes, and Smile Happy, Zandon, and Morello, and possibly Emmanuel, do not live up to expectations on Saturday, then we can at least look forward to a showdown between Messier and Epicenter in the Kentucky Derby because that is where the brilliance will end in a crop that that so far has proven to be on the slow side and not that exciting. Messier still has the fastest Thoro-Graph number by a 3-year-old this year, running a “1” in the Lewis, and if you throw out his only two defeats at quirky Los Alamitos then he certainly looks to have star potential. And if you like juicy stories wouldn’t that be a kick in the pants if he were to win the Kentucky Derby in the aftermath of the Churchill – Baffert wars that had prevented this colt from earning any Derby points until he was turned over to a different general. Take nothing away from Tim Yakteen, but the overwhelming presence of Baffert will always be with this horse. All he has to do is take care of business against the speedball Forbidden Kingdom on Saturday and you have your Derby storyline and maybe the favorite. And after this past Saturday’s Florida and Arkansas Derbys, believe me, the Derby needs a horse with his brilliance.

 

5– Morello (Steve Asmussen, Classic Empire – Stop the Wedding, by Congrats)

As you can see I’m looking ahead rather than behind, hoping to find a solid nucleus of Derby contenders from the group still to race. I mentioned that Messier has the fastest Thoro-Graph so far; well this colt has the second fastest. Both are the only ones to run a number below “2.” Normally by now you’ll find some that have run a negative number or something close to a zero. So the Thoro-Graph numbers are holding up in judging how fast, or more appropriately how slow, these horses are as a whole. With Morello it is all about dealing with two turns for the first time in the Wood Memorial and handling horses like Mo Donegal and Early Voting, who both have won 1 1/8-mile stakes. Morello has the pedigree to handle longer distances and he has been extremely professional and machine-like in his races. He is one of the few horses this year in whom I have been unable to find a single flaw. If that holds up in the Wood and he can defeat horses of this caliber and do it impressively then you can add him to the list of serious Derby contenders who have checked off all the boxes. It would also give him a shot at the No. 1 spot being undefeated. He would also give Asmussen a powerful one-two punch, although a great deal of Morello’s success can be attributed to Asmussen’s longtime New York assistant Toby Sheets, who is pretty much allowed to train these horses on his own.

 

6– White Abarrio (Saffie Joseph, Jr., Race Day – Catching Diamonds, by Into Mischief)

You have to give this colt credit for being consistent and tractable and always in the right spot, and also for working his way up from a $7,500 yearling purchase and making a name for himself (see last week for his story). He certainly is one of the most appealing stories in this year’s Derby, and with his gray color will be popular with the fans. But looking at the Florida Derby from a logical and statistical standpoint it’s difficult to get past that final three-eighths in almost :40 seconds and final eighth in :14. Those are pedestrian fractions. But is this another timing screwup by Gulfstream? I never trust their times. I’ll have to wait and see if that was legit. Sounds way too slow to be true. This was not a deep field and apparently not a strong one, so I’m not sure what to make of it. One thing White Abarrio has going for him is that it is looking more and more like this could be average or below average crop, which is reflected by the somewhat slow Thoro-Graph numbers all year. But I don’t like judging crops too early and am mentioning all this just to try to make some sense of the Rankings. White Abarrio had a perfect stalking trip, with Charge It inside him and Simplification battling on the lead between horses and then having to put Pappacap away after they went at each other around the turn. But White Abarrio took advantage of it all and got the job done, and will go into the Kentucky Derby with an excellent record. How good he really is we’ll find out then.

 

7– Cyberknife (Brad Cox, Gun Runner – Awesome Flower, by Flower Alley)

I don’t know how many times I have pleaded ignorance in this week’s Rankings, but I have no clue what to make of this colt or how good he really is. He is a high energy horse who can be tough to handle, as witnessed when he dumped his rider in the Arkansas Derby post parade, which is not a quality you want on Kentucky Derby Day. Yes, he won the Arkansas Derby by 2 ¾ lengths, but that is all I know about him. Before this race he looked like just a horse who had room for improvement, and he beat the Derby trail’s favorite bridesmaid Barber Road, who now has four seconds and a third in his last five starts. The horse who beat Barber Road in the Rebel Stakes, Un Ojo, was 19-1 in the Arkansas Derby and finished eighth, beaten over 14 lengths, after cutting himself up badly on the starting gate. The one local horse everyone down there jumped all over was the undefeated (in only two starts) We the People, who was sent off at 2-1 and finished seventh. And then there was the favorite Sacred Oath who was farther back than she’s ever been, put in an explosive move on the turn, but was unable to sustain it, finishing third. So how good is the winner, who was in perfect position in fourth and in the clear down the backstretch before moving in and splitting horses, just barely getting through a rapidly closing hole? I hate to say it again, but I don’t know. With a final three-eighths in :39, he didn’t exactly come home fast, yet there was no one to catch him. He had one stakes appearance before this, finishing a well-beaten sixth in the Lecomte Stakes. Yes he is improving, but it’s starting to look as if you can lump most of these horses together.

 

8– Simplification (Antonio Sano, Not This Time – Simply Confection, by Candy Ride)

If you liked him before, double down now at a better price. I am going to overlook his defeat in the Florida Derby because he did all the dirty work due to strategy that backfired and was the only one I can forgive for coming home so slowly. To me, the winner and runner-up were able to take advantage of his gut-wrenching trip.  But the more this horse runs the less I know about him. Just when I thought he had transformed himself into a closer he winds up battling on the lead early with Classic Causeway, who eventually tired badly and finished last. But that was Sano’s strategy. Then he found himself in between horses in a three-way battle for the lead through a strong six furlongs in 1:10 4/5 and a strong third quarter in :23 2/5 when Pappacap came charging up on his outside. That’s the last place you want to be, caught in the middle of three-horse duel. Classic Causeway then called it a day and Simplification wound up in a head and head battle with Pappacap around the far turn before putting him away. He did change leads this time, which I was happy to see, but all his earlier efforts took their toll in the stretch and he couldn’t hold off White Abarrio and then lost second to Charge It, who had been in a drive from the thee-eighths pole. So is this a Derby contender or not? Is he a front runner or a closer? After the Florida Derby I still respect him and have to consider him a serious Derby horse because I don’t have a clue what to expect from him one race to the next as to where he’s going to be running. Remember, in his last six races he’s won every other race and is now due for a win. If he can find a comfortable position in the Derby, whether it’s close to the pace or farther back, then he might surprise a lot of people, and he is my overlay pick right now.

 

9– Emmanuel (Todd Pletcher, More Than Ready – Hard Cloth, by Hard Spun)

He tuned up for the Blue Grass Stakes with a five-furlong work in 1:01 3/5 and should be coming up to the race in near peak form. Although he improved his Thoro-Graph numbers from an “8 ¼” to a “4 ¼” in his troubled trip in the Fountain of Youth Stakes, he still has a good deal of improving still to do on that front. I still have no idea what to make of the 3-year-olds in Florida, as they don’t appear to be overly fast based on the Thoro-Graph numbers. But I can see him taking another big step forward at Keeneand and possibly putting himself in position to hit that peak at Churchill Downs. And I also want to see what he can do with a clean trip, something he failed to get in the Fountain of Youth, which I believe attributed to his getting tired in the stretch. When I saw him get sawed off after the start, drop back and go wide into the first turn I figured he was done, coming off two easy front-running scores. But when he kept moving up down the backstretch five or six-wide and actually pulled even with the leaders turning for home I was very impressed. The fact he was unable to sustain that long run didn’t bother me one bit. These races coming up this weekend are going to make or break a lot of horses and will determine who the true contenders are. Smile Happy and Zandon still have some questions to answer themselves, so hopefully those questions, as well as the questions about Emmanuel will be answered.

 

10– Charge It (Todd Pletcher, Tapit – I’ll Take Charge, by Indian Charlie)

Another lightly raced Pletcher colt on the upswing. A lot of people are going to jump on his bandwagon after finishing second in the Florida Derby coming off a maiden victory and only two lifetime starts. He obviously is a very talented horse and his maiden score was an eye-catcher, but once again I still don’t know what to make of him as a potential Kentucky Derby winner. The only two horses to win the Derby off three lifetime starts have been Big Brown and Justify, both of whom were freaky good who came along in subpar crops. So I am still reluctant to pick a horse to win the Derby off so few starts. As for his Florida Derby I really don’t know if he finished second because he’s that good or he just took advantage of the plodding closing fractions, and perhaps these horses are nothing special. It looked as if he got up for second because Simplification as mentioned earlier did all the dirty work. Charge It was under heavy pressure around the turn and wasn’t accelerating, but like many Pletcher horses do he just kept coming after swinging wide and put himself back in the race. However, he looked as if he was also tiring and was all over the track, lugging out a little and then lugging in badly on several occasions. It all depends on what he gets out of this race and if he can take a big step forward in only his fourth career start. He’s going to have to show a bit more turn of foot and not be so one-paced and race more professionally in the stretch.

 

11– Forbidden Kingdom (Dick Mandella, American Pharoah – Just Louise, by Five Star Day)

There is no way to tell if this horse can carry his exceptional speed nine furlongs, never mind 10 furlongs, but Mandella is sure giving him every chance to by harnessing that speed, working him long, and letting him work without company, which he did in his most recent drill, going seven furlongs in 1:26 3/5. I like that he broke off by himself with his ears pricked and did everything smoothly, with a strong gallop-out. The script for the Santa Anita Derby should be pretty simple. He is going to the lead and Messier will be right off his flank or at least no more than a length back. John Velazquez will know just where to have him. There shouldn’t be any danger from behind, so both horses can treat this like a match race, knowing if the other cracks first the race is over. To have a Bob Baffert-developed colt chasing a son of Amercan Pharoah just adds to the storyline. It’s not like Forbidden Kingdom is your typical speed horse with a ton of speed in his pedigree trying to stretch out in distance. This is a lightning-fast colt who had been running :21 and :43 fractions sprinting and who had a tendency to get very rank if you tried to hold him. But Mandella has at least gotten that out of him and his speed is much more controlled now, especially going two turns. If he wins the Santa Anita Derby it is really going to impact the pace scenario in the Kentucky Derby.

 

12– Mo Donegal (Todd Pletcher, Uncle Mo – Callingmissbrown, by Pulpit)

Pletcher has him sharp for his return in the Wood Memorial after a nine-week layoff, working him five furlongs in 1:00 3/5 at Palm Beach Downs. He is a strange horse to figure out as he showed in the Holy Bull Stakes when he was under pressure and going nowhere on the turn but popped into the picture late closing fastest of all. In the 1 1/8-mile Remsen Stakes it looked as if he should have put away Zandon, who had only one six-furlong race under him, but not only did he have to eke out a nose victory he should have been disqualified for coming in sharply on Zandon and squeezing him against the rail. But he is consistent and he will be in contention when they turn for home in the Wood. If he should run big and Emmanuel does the same in the Blue Grass, Pletcher will have four starters in the Kentucky Derby with Charge It and Pioneer of Medina already in the race. He also has Golden Code in the Wood. While Morello and Early Voting probably need a victory to be considered serious Derby horses, Mo Donegal only needs to be closing fast to set him up for a peak effort, but he really has to make huge improvement on his Thoro-Graph numbers, which have remained stagnant at “6,” and that won’t put him anywhere in the Derby picture.

 

13– Early Voting (Chad Brown, Gun Runner – Amour d’ete, By Tiznow)

Like Mo Donegal he will be retuning in the Wood Memorial off a nine-week layoff. Unlike Mo Donegal he did not have a setback that anyone is aware of. Like Mo Donegal he has already won a 1 1/8-mile stakes. Unlike Mo Donegal he has only two career starts. Where have we heard that before? The Withers seems like ages ago, but I was impressed with everything I saw, especially the way he easily separated himself from the field in a flash. This horse has a very high cruising speed and can turn it on. If he had one start between the Withers and the Wood I’m sure he would be ranked much higher. Brown was thinking of passing the Derby and going straight to the Preakness off the Wood as he did successfully with Cloud Computing, but the Derby won out, so now he will have to make do with the three career starts. One thing he has going for him is pedigree, with his sire and grandsire having three Breeders’ Cup Classic victories between them.

 

14– Tiz the Bomb (Kenny McPeek, Hit It a Bomb – Tiz the Key, by Tiznow)

This horse has been in and out of the Derby picture so many times he needs to get his hand (or hoof) stamped. McPeek considered him a serious Derby horse early in the year even though his best races by far were on grass, but when he threw in a clunker in the Holy Bull Stakes, McPeek’s radar shifted to the English 2,000 Guineas with two preps on Turfway’s Polytack. But it doesn’t take much to get Derby fever, especially a relapse, and after Tiz the Bomb’s emphatic victory in the Jeff Ruby Steaks with its 100 points it was back on the Derby trail. Now we again ask the question can this horse handle the dirt and the kickback, which he has failed to do on two occasions, including once at Churchill Downs. And yet there is that one glimmering vision of him breaking his maiden in an off the turf maiden race by 14 lengths at Ellis Park. His sire was strictly a grass horse, but the big hope for this horse is having Tiznow as his broodmare sire. So here is another guess for you. Good luck.

 

15– Barber Road (John Ortiz, Race Day – Encounter, by Southern Image)

If this horse can ever learn how to time his stretch run better and take just one itsy bitsy step forward he might actually win a race. Although he has managed four seconds and a third in his last five starts, all stakes, and is always closing late, he just can’t seem to get there for one reason or another. His consistency, closing punch, and, yes, his inability to find the winner’s circle are going to make him a popular horse at Churchill Downs. There is something endearing about him and how hard he tries, and people are always going to figure the next race will be the one where he breaks through. Also, he has come up through the ranks, breaking maiden at Keeneland for a $30,000 claiming tag, and then easily winning a starter allowance race at Churchill Downs before heading into stakes company. Ironically in both his victories he won from on or just off the pace. His female family is a bit obscure, but there is enough stamina top and bottom to suggest a mile and a quarter will not pose a problem. His strong finish in the Arkansas Derby was enough to rank him in the Top 15. If you’re looking for that typical longshot closer who gets up for second in the Derby, here is your boy.

 

16– Zozos (Brad Cox, Munnings – Papa’s Forest, by Forestry

He looks to be a brilliant horse with a bright future after his explosive maiden victory and second in the Louisiana Derby, but he is another who will go into the Kentucky Derby with only three career starts, and I still believe that is too much to ask of a horse especially one whose pedigree is questionable going a mile and a quarter. I do believe, however, he has already outrun his pedigree to some degree by running so well going 1 3/16 miles. If anything he should be a good complement to his stablemate Cyberknife.  His first three generations certainly lean more toward shorter distances, but his third dam is by the distance-loving Big Spruce, a son of the great stamina influence Herbager, and his broodmare sire is out of a daughter of Pleasant Colony, so there is stamina several generations back. And remember, not only did he run well going 1 3/16 miles they flew home in that race. But again it is all about experience and seasoning and I don’t know how effective he will be going a mile and a quarter with his running style in a 20-horse field.

 

17– Pioneer of Medina (Todd Pletcher, Pioneerof the Nile – Lights of Medina, by Eskendereya)

I like his steady progression moving up the class ladder, and after leaping from a “10 ½” Thoro-Graph number to a “3” in his fourth-place finish in the loaded Risen Star Stakes he paired up that “3” in the Louisiana Derby with a solid third-place finish. Now that we know that “3” was legitimate it is time to take another big step forward if he is to have any shot in the Kentucky Derby. At least that number has put him in striking range. All he needs to do is figure out how to win. He has been a one-paced stalker who keeps going, but he needs a closing punch to finish it off. The pedigree is there and he’s already been 1 1/8 miles and 1 3/16 miles against the No. 1 ranked horse and was right there in the Risen Star against the No. 2 and 3-ranked horses, who were No. 1 and 2 at the time. So there is a lot to recommend him. But he has to show improvement one more time.

 

18– Slow Down Andy (Doug O’Neill, Nyquist – Edwina E, by Square Eddie)

Talk about an enigmatic horse, this is him. He does so many things wrong in a race and looks ugly doing it, but he knows how to win and has proven to be one tough nut to crack when headed in the stretch. He has twice now turned back challenges, once by Messier, while seemingly goofing around. The addition of blinkers in the Sunland Derby may have helped him and hurt him at the same time. It may have helped him because he won, but it may have hurt him because he went way too fast early and he is not going to win the Kentucky Derby running the way he did in that race; certainly not if Forbidden Kingdom is in there. He has looked good in the morning, working strongly, and O’Neill certainly knows how to win the Derby, once with this colt’s sire, so we’ll see what magic he can pull out of his hat this time. One thing we know, he will keep the race interesting.

 

19– Ethereal Road (Wayne Lukas, Quality Road – Sustained by War Front)

He’s not Secret Oath, but he certainly belongs in the Kentucky Derby. I thought he was the best horse in the Rebel Stakes, losing a lot of ground and getting the fastest Thoro-Graph number, which he has worked down from a “9” to a “4,” so it seems he is moving in the right direction and it will be interesting to see how he does in the Blue Grass Stakes. He was re-routed to Keeneland after it was decided to run his more illustrious female stablemate in the Arkansas Derby. If he can take another step forward and get a good trip he could make his presence felt against the likes of Smile Happy, Zandon, and Emmanuel. It would be great to get the 86-year-old Lukas back to the Derby. There is nothing like stopping at his barn at Churchill Downs at 5 a.m. in the weeks before the Derby and just chatting with the coach about whatever is on his mind that day. And believe me he always has something to say.

 

20– Crown Pride (Koishi Shintani, Reach the Crown – Emmy’s Pride by King Kamehameha)

Yes, it is time to welcome a Japanese horse to the Rankings. After last year’s Breeders’ Cup and this year’s Dubai World Cup card there is no avoiding these horses any longer, and you can’t knock his UAE Derby victory, in which he was able to sustain a long steady run and overtake a tough opponent in Summer is Tomorrow. Even though he never changed leads down that long stretch he was running strongly at the end to pull away late. He has looked great in all his starts except in the Hyacinth Stakes in the mud. If he makes it here you can bet he will get support at the windows and in wagering accounts and will draw a large enthusiastic crowd from Japan to cheer him on. Remember, this horse is inbred to Sunday Silence and I believe he may be the real deal. But we’ll know more as the Derby gets closer.

 

KNOCKING ON THE DOOR

SECRET OATH gave us a thrill with her monster move on the turn in the Arkansas Derby, but she got tired and will now have five weeks to get ready for the Kentucky Oaks. Rebel winner UN OJO never showed a thing, but cut himself up pretty badly on the starting gate, requiring staples to close the wound. CLASSIC CAUSEWAY ran a real head-scratcher in the Florida Derby, tiring badly after setting the early pace and finishing dead last. You never know on the Derby trail. One minute he was heading to Blue Grass Stakes looking great with two big wins at Tampa and the next he winds up in the Florida Derby off only three weeks rest and it all falls apart.

Looking ahead to the weekend, VOLCANIC and stablemate GOLDEN GLIDER had easy half-mile breezes for the Blue Grass Stakes. I can see Volcanic in particular taking a big step forward and making his presence felt. I think this colt has a bright future. El Camino Real Derby winner BLACKADDER, who scratched from the Jeff Ruby Steaks after drawing the far outside post, will return to the dirt in the Blue Grass for Rudy Brissset after breezing five furlongs in 1:02 4/5 in company. Also pointing for the Blue Grass is Tampa Bay Derby runner-up GRANTHAM, who worked a half in :48 3/5, and FENWICK, who woke up with blinkers added last time out and romped by 5 ¼ lengths in a Tampa Bay maiden race.

Todd Pletcher could have a sleeper in the Wood Memorial in GOLDEN CODE, who  romped by over 10 lengths in a maiden race before running a strong third in the Gotham Stakes. The son of Honor Code should appreciate the stretch-out to two turns. Remember last year’s Wood when Pletcher had Dynamic One, but won the race with longshot Bourbonic owned by Calumet Farm and ridden by Kendrick Carmouche. Golden Code also is owned by Calumet Farm and will be ridden by Kendrick Carmouche. Saffie Joseph will be represented by A.P.’s SECRET, seventh in the Fountain of Youth Stakes, and SKIPPYLONGSTOCKING, an impressive allowance winner going 1 1/8 miles last out, in the Wood, but don’t be surprised to see the undefeated New York-bred BARESE charging down the stretch at a big price following impressive stakes victories in the state-bred Rego Park and Gander Stakes. The son of Laoban packs a wallop and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him right in the thick of things.

Doug O’Neill will send HAPPY JACK, a well-beaten third in the San Felipe Stakes, and recent maiden winner WIN THE DAY, who worked six furlongs in 1:14, to the Santa Anita Derby.

IN DUE TIME had his second work back after three weeks of inactivity, breezing five furlongs in 1:01, but is not listed among the possibles or probables for any of this weekend stakes. The Lexington Stakes could get him in the Derby with a victory, but he would have to go to Churchill never having run farther than 1 1/16 miles and that is not desirable, so perhaps the Preakness is the goal.


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Leave a Reply to Matthew W

372 Responses to “Derby Rankings: Week 12”

  1. Discopartner says:

    I’ll be curious to see who the top 2 are.

    • Matthew W says:

      Well Steve’s been a Zandon lover since day one, I would very surprised if he’s not # 1 he ran down a good horse like it was nothing……And Steve has recenrkt been talking about how the “rules” don’t apply anymore…I’ve watched that Taiba stretch run several times I’ll go out on a limb and say Steve slots Taiba before Epicenter because he ran past Messier like it was nothing,, they both beat good horses…then Mo—-

      • Discopartner says:

        I want to see what he does, he has access to the sheets and it’s hard to predict sometimes where he’ll rank horses. I’m going to give my opinions after his rankings are up.

  2. John Goggin says:

    Looks like Beyer just adjusted Taiba’s win to 102 rating.

  3. Mike Relva says:

    Shame for FK & Mandella. He’s overdue!

    • Lynda King says:

      Mike, I agree. Hopefully it will get resolved and he will be back later in the year. Papa Mandella is close to the top of my list as trainer and a horseman.

      • El Kabong says:

        Real shame indeed. Richard is one of the few trainers who is real patient with 3 year olds and does not have Derby fever. FK showed real talent and this is an unfortunate set back for now. He’ll get his chance.

  4. TommyMc says:

    Does Brad Cox run Tawny Port back in The Lexington off only a 2 week rest? He sits at #20, but, Bye Bye Bobby and In Due Time would both knock him out on Graded earnings with a Lexington win. He could just wait and hope that another horse wins The Lexington. Also, there will likely be a few defections from the top 20. Chad Brown sounds very much on the fence with Early Voting.

  5. Lynda King says:

    BH is reporting epiglottis issue with Forbidden Kingdom and will be explored further.
    Best wishes for a full recovery and a return to the track

  6. Ms Blacktype says:

    Hope I am not stealing Steve’s thunder, but ONE Derby winner did go into the race with only two starts. That was LEONATUS, who raced once at 2, finishing second in the aptly named Maiden Stakes. He won the Blue Ribbon Stakes at Lexington 5 days before he took the 1883 Kentucky Derby.

    Can Taiba break the curse of Leonatus? LOL.

  7. TommyMc says:

    Steve Haskin has been on Zandon and Smile Happy all along. Does he move Zandon to #1 over Epicenter?. What will Mr. Haskin have to say about Smile Happy who I think was hurt by his wide trip? The biggest question might be what does he do with twice raced Taiba and Messier? What about Morello who broke so badly in The Wood? I know that I’m not the only one looking forward to Steve’s new rankings.

  8. Since Lil E. Tee says:

    Most curious to see how far up Steve moves Mo Donegal.

    I have him #2, if not 1B with Epicenter.

    • Matthew W says:

      I’d be surprised if Steve does not have Zandon pegged in the top slot…Epicenter 2nd, but… he may just throw care to the wind, and put Taiba near the top, if thay guy runs just the same as yesterday he will be right there….

      • TommyMc says:

        I’m an old guy, Matthew. I just can’t wrap my mind around a horse winning The Kentucky Derby off of only 2 starts. But, it seems like the “old rules” are being broken all the time. I did use all-others(#24) in exacta boxes in all five Derby Future Pools. So, I will be pulling for Taiba to crack the top 2.

        • Matthew W says:

          I’m 63, and agree with you—the old rules seem no longer relevant….just watching that last 1/8 yesterday BOTH horses fired, Taiba was drawing away….but Johnny V knew he needed points, and put Messier into the race….Love how the final Futures ended in 18-1 on Zandon and Taiba…and 24-1 on Mo Donegal—I did get down on Zandon, already had him at a huge number, got another $10 yesterday— these $1000 guys are way beyond my range, funny thing is when I was visiting my son in Reno 4 years ago there was only ONE casino that would allow a guture wager, and they had $20 max wager— don’t know WHERE these guys are getting $1000 wagers, maybe pari-mutuel but no casino will write up a $1000 wager…

      • Davids says:

        I wouldn’t be surprised to see Epicenter and Zandon equal no. 1. Possibly, Steve may be a little circumspect about Taiba’s win but I would expect Mo Donegal to rise quite sharply up the ladder. Where Messier lands, or falls, could be interesting.