Last year’s initial rankings of my Top 10 Kentucky Derby contenders included all three winners of Triple Crown races from Derby winning Super Saver at No. 10 to Preakness champ Lookin’ at Lucky at No. 2. It also rated Belmont victor Drosselmeyer at No. 9. So here we go again from the bottom to the top:
10) Dialed In: The Holy Bull Stakes winner still has plenty of backers despite running second in a paceless allowance race. The son of Mineshaft should have something to run at in the Florida Derby, which has produced the Kentucky Derby champ twice during the past five years.
9) Brethren: The son of Distorted Humor led most of the way in the Tampa Bay Derby, but the Sam F. Davis winner gave it up in the stretch and finished third. He heads south to Gulfstream Park where he clashes with an array of sophomores on the Road to the Roses in the $1 million Florida Derby that should determine a top contender for the first Saturday in May in Louisville.
8) Watch Me Go: This colt lived up to his name winning the Tampa Bay Derby by a neck and returning $89.40 on the front end. Either the Illinois Derby or Florida Derby will tell the tale of this son of West Acre.
7) Anthony’s Cross: The Robert B. Lewis Stakes victor is headed to the Santa Anita Derby after his second route triumph. The son of Indian Charlie has improved steadily on the Left Coast since debuting at Saratoga last summer and running fourth in a maiden special weight sprint.
6) Stay Thirsty: The Gotham winner departs Aqueduct and heads south to Gulfstream Park for its premier event on April 3. The son of Bernardini sidesteps the Wood Memorial and avoids Uncle Mo, who he chased in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile ending up fifth.
5) Premier Pegasus: The son of Fusaichi Pegasus is top gun in the West off his daunting win in the San Felipe by 7 ¾ lengths covering the 1 1/16 mile on Santa Anita’s main track in a swift 1:41 1/5. He will face a bunch in the Santa Anita Derby.
4) The Factor: This speed burner romped in the Rebel Stakes wire to wire covering the 1 1/16 miles in a snappy 1:42. The son of War Front has won three straight, including two sprints at Santa Anita. But he was most impressive in his first two-turn try, winning by 6 ¼ lengths at Oaklawn Park.
3) Mucho Macho Man: The if-you-don’t-succeed-at-first-horse tried again and won the Risen Star over a pretty good field. The son of Macho Uno posted his first victory since breaking his maiden last year, making up for a troubled fourth in the Holy Bull. He’s the likely favorite in Saturday’s Louisiana Derby that has attracted a full field.
2) Soldat: The multi-racing-surface horse loves Gulfstream and will be favored in the Florida Derby since he captured the Fountain of Youth. Another son of sprint champion War Front has posted a 3-4-0 record in seven outings, including two victories at 1 1/8 miles on dirt.
1) Uncle Mo: Last year’s 2-year-old champion and the early Kentucky Derby favorite deserves to be No. 1 until he gets knocked off. He won the Timely Writer fairly easily despite being bumped at the break. The 1:36 2/5 for the mile against an outclassed small field wasn’t bad. Next stop: Aqueduct on April 9 for the Wood Memorial, with the purse just boosted to $1 million.