This week’s Top 10, by Brian Nadeau
A lot has changed since my first Derby Top 10 list, and that’s hardly a surprise. The past two weeks delivered several noteworthy performances and with the Louisiana Derby, Rebel, Tampa Bay Derby and San Felipe on tap for this weekend, we should get that much more information as the Derby draws in. Let’s take a look at my updated list.
1. I Want Revenge– It’s March 9 but I can say that I’m pretty sure you won’t see a better performance leading up to the Derby than this colt delivered in the Gotham. Quite frankly, his 8 ¼-length win was freakish. If there’s a concern, it would be that he peaked too soon, but he can always regress a bit in the Wood and then be primed for a big Derby, a la Monarchos a few years back. I’m not usually a big bandwagon guy, so for me to put him here means he impressed the heck out of me.
2. Flying Pegasus– My former number one has not run since we posted my first top-10 list, but he gets his chance to shine this Saturday in the Louisiana Derby, where he’ll get a rematch with Friesan Fire. His comeback race in the Risen Star on February 7 was perfect and I’m expecting a big move forward and a coming out party on Saturday.
3. West Side Bernie– He’s also yet to return after running third in the Holy Bull on January 31. Right now he’s going to either the Lane’s End on March 21 or the Florida Derby on March 28 and he’s another that should benefit greatly from his comeback race, where he was extremely wide on a speed-favoring track.
4. Old Fashioned– Took the Southwest Stakes in workmanlike fashion at Oaklawn on February 16 and has been quiet since while prepping for the Rebel there on Saturday. Turned in a smart :59-flat 5-furlong drill to show his readiness and he’s another that should build upon his comeback win. If he continues on the Oaklawn route, there’s a good chance he heads to the Derby unbeaten and untested.
5. Friesan Fire– Looked great winning the Risen Star and could very well be a horse-for-the-course at Fair Grounds. We’ll find out on Saturday when he faces a much tighter Flying Pegasus in the Louisiana Derby. His stablemate is getting all the publicity, but this colt looks every bit as fast and accomplished on paper.
6. Take The Points– Hear me out before you question my sanity for putting him ahead of The Pamplemousse. This guy shipped to Santa Anita three days before the Sham. He drew the parking lot. He was making his first start on synthetic and his first start at two turns. And all he did was chase The Pamplemousse all the way around the track before giving way inside the eighth pole. That’s heady stuff to me, and I’m thinking that was only the tip of the iceberg.
7. The Pamplemousse– Though I’m not a fan of horses that have no dirt experience, this colt has been sensational out west at Santa Anita and rates the clear leader in that division after his powerful Sham win over Take The Points. With his running style, he’ll take a lot of beating in the Santa Anita Derby, but still, wouldn’t you like to see a dirt trial before you go overboard?
8. Quality Road– Simply sensational winning the Fountain of Youth, but remember, that was a one-turn mile this year, and we all know that’s a far, far cry from two turns and 10 furlongs against the best of your generation. He might just have enough brilliance to pull it off, but I’ll need to see him back it up in the Wood or Blue Grass before jumping on board.
9. Dunkirk– This year’s buzz horse has impressed in both career outings and will make his stakes debut in the Florida Derby later this month. He’s bred to be a star and he’s surely headed in the right direction, but aren’t we talking an awful lot about a horse with an allowance win to his credit? I know, I know, you’re mentioning Big Brown. But this year’s crop actually looks eons better than the Grade III types Mr. UPS was beating up on. It’s been 1882 since an unraced 2-year-old won the roses. I’ll side with that.
10. Pioneerof The Nile– He returns this week in the San Felipe and will have to get fast in a hurry if he wants to look The Pamplemousse in the eye. Anytime you win a Grade I you warrant respect, but I’m thinking his buddies have caught up to him and passed him in the last few months.
Dropped Out: Hello Broadway (5), Free Country (6), Alma d’Oro (7), Charitable Man (8) and Silver City (10).
Teresa’s back on Thursday, with a look recent news about synthetics, horse safety, and breakdowns.