Greg Melikov’s Top Ten 2012 Kentucky Derby Contenders – First Edition

by Greg Melikov

posted on February 15, 2012 in Free Picks and Tips, General Discussion, Handicapping, Horse Racing, Kentucky Derby | No Comments >>

The first edition of this year’s Top 10 Kentucky Derby contenders includes several horses in the stable of top trainer Todd Pletcher. While it’s a long road to the Run for the Roses, here’s my list of the leading sophomores from bottom to top Dave Letterman’s style:

Kentucky Derby 2012 LogoRousing Sermon: This Cal-bred with a slew of experience is 2-2-3 in seven outings. The son of Lucky Pulpit finished third in the Richard B. Lewis after running second twice to the favored Liaison, who tossed his rider in the Santa Anita stakes race.

El Padrino: One of a promising bunch trained by Todd Pletcher comes off an impressive allowance victory in the Gulfstream Park slop, registering a triple digit speed figure for the 1 1/16 miles. The son of Pulpit ended his juvenile season with a third place in Aqueduct’s Remsen. His next start looks like the Risen Star at Fair Grounds on Feb. 25.

Gemologist: Yet another Pletcher 3-year-old boasts two of his three triumphs at Churchill Downs. The son of Tiznow has the same connections as Super Saver, who captured the ’10 Derby. His next start isn’t until March.

I’ll Have Another: One of his two victories came in the Lewis and it was quite fast for the 1 1/16 miles – 1:40 4/5. Some skeptics wonder if track conditions or rivals falling short played a role. We should find out when the Santa Anita Derby is staged in April.

Discreet Dancer: This Pletcher trainee made his debut a winning one on Dec. 3 at Gulfstream by nearly 10 lengths going 5 ½ furlongs. On Jan. 7, the son of Discreet Cat stretched out to a mile and posted a front-running 5 ½-length victory. Next start: Fountain of Youth on Feb. 26.

Creative Cause: The son of Giant’s Causeway that finished third in the BC Juvenile has been working steadily at Hollywood Park. He won three of four other starts last year, including the graded Norfolk and Best Pal stakes.

Hansen: The Breeders’ Cup champ saw his win streak end at three when he ran second in the Holy Bull. The son of Tapit stumbled and almost fell coming out of the gate, quickly recovered and set much-too-fast fractions for the first six furlongs. One big question: Can he rate at the Kentucky Derby distance of 1 ¼ miles? Next start: Aqueduct’s Gotham Stakes in March.

Alpha: The son of ’06 Preakness champ Bernardini already has two victories this year in routes at Aqueduct – the Count Fleet at a mile and 70 yards on Jan. 7 and the Withers at 1 1/16 miles on Feb. 4. He will train at Palm Meadows until shipping back to the New York track for the Gotham or Wood Memorial. But there’s an outside chance Alpha will stick around for the Florida Derby; trained by Kiaran McLaughlin.

Union Rags: He isn’t scheduled to make his 3-year-old debut until the Fountain of Youth. The son of Dixie Union is trained by Mike Matz, who saddled ’06 Derby winner Barbaro. While he narrowly lost to Hansen in the BC Juvenile, Union Rags has been training well in South Florida. The colt can handle traffic like he did winning Belmont Park’s Champagne Stakes last fall.

Algorithms: Another son of Bernardini deserves to be No. 1 off his impressive defeat of Hansen in the Holy Bull for his third score. He improves as he stretches out. The unbeaten sophomore’s next outing will be in the Fountain of Youth, his first trip going two turns. But he has answered every challenge. And, oh, Pletcher trains him.