Here’s my updated ranking of the Top 10 Kentucky Derby contenders from bottom to top Dave Letterman’s style:
Gemologist: The Todd Pletcher trainee 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. Next start: Oaklawn Park’s Rebel on March 17.
Discreet Dancer: Another Pletcher trainee finished third in the Fountain of Youth after leading for six furlongs. The son of Discreet Cat was coming off a 5 ½-furlong victory in his debut on Dec. 3 at Gulfstream by nearly 10 lengths and a front-running 5 ½-length win at a mile. Next start: Undetermined.
I’ll Have Another: One of his two victories came in the Richard B. Lewis Stakes in a quick 1:40 4/5 for the 1 1/16 miles. Some skeptics wonder if track conditions or rivals falling short played a role. Next start: Santa Anita Derby on April 7.
Mark Valeski: The son of Proud Citizen came up a nose short in the Risen Star at Fair Grounds after going 2 for 3 in sprints. He fought gamely down the stretch and came out of the Feb. 25 contest “very well,” said trainer Larry Jones. Next race: Undecided.
Hansen: The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile 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 on March 3.
Algorithms: The leader in Pletcher’s stable drops from No. 1 after defeating Hansen in the Holy Bull for his third score simply because he was scratched from the Fountain of Youth. Pletcher said the son of Bernardini had a “popped splint” in his right front leg. “The colt has been training beautifully,” Pletcher told Brisnet.com said. “It’s an unfortunate situation. We’ll monitor him closely and see how he responds to treatment.” It also was unfortunate for Javier Castellano, who opted to ride Algorithms instead of sticking with Union Rags.
Alpha: Another son of ’06 Preakness champ Bernardini 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. Next start: Aqueduct’s Gotham on Saturday.
Secret Circle: Rafael Bejarano guided this Bob Baffert trainee to a victory in the faster of two Southwest Stakes divisions swept by the duo, covering the mile at Oaklawn Park in 1:37. The son of Eddington wore down the determined leader Scatman in the final sixteenth to win by a half-length. Next race: Undetermined.
El Padrino: Yet another Pletcher trainee registered two impressive victories in a row at 1 1/16 miles that includes his first on a fast track, winning the Risen Star by a nose. The son of Pulpit battled down the Fair Grounds stretch and survived a claim of foul to go 3-1-1 in 5 outings. Next start: Undecided.
Union Rags: He captured the Fountain of Youth by four lengths with Julien Leparoux aboard. The son of Dixie Union is trained by Mike Matz, who saddled ’06 Derby winner Barbaro and is following the same Run for the Roses path. And the colt, which narrowly lost to Hansen in the BC Juvenile, won ridden out. Next race: Gulfstream’s Florida Derby on March 31.