Here’s my updated ranking of the Top 10 Kentucky Derby contenders from bottom to top Dave Letterman’s style:
Went The Day Well: The same connections won the 2012 and ’11 Spiral en route to Louisville. Animal Kingdom captured last year’s Kentucky Derby. This son of Proud Citizen didn’t run particular impressive closing fractions in this year’s Turfway stakes race, but handled the traffic well. Next start: Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 5.
Creative Cause: He came up a head bob short in the Santa Anita Derby, but this son of Giant’s Causeway will relish the extra furlong in the Louisville classic. His resume is impressive: a win in the San Felipe and victories last year in the Norfolk and Best Pal, plus third behind Hansen and Union Rags in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Next start: Kentucky Derby.
Alpha: The son of ’06 Preakness champ Bernardini was just a neck short in the Wood Memorial of taking three at Aqueduct in stakes routes this season. The trip wasn’t the best after breaking from the rail – rubbed shoulders with a rival, steadied over heels of another foe on first turn and waited behind small wall of leaders heading into stretch. A faster pace might have produced different results. Next race: Kentucky Derby.
Prospective: Chalked up his fourth victory in seven outings in the Tampa Bay Derby, battling through the stretch and coming back after being headed. The son of Mailbu Moon was only two-fifths of a second off the Tampa Day Downs track record for 1 1/16 miles, winning by three-quarters of a length at 1:43 1/5. His only bad race was running 13th in the BC Juvenile. Next start: Keeneland’s Blue Grass on Saturday.
Union Rags: Fountain of Youth winner had a troubled trip in Florida Derby and less than a stellar ride. The son of Dixie Union was trapped behind a wall of runners late in the backstretch to the far turn. Julien Leparoux guided him inside turning for home, then outside in the stretch where once straightened out he closed fast to make up nearly 2 ½ lengths, finishing a length and a neck back in third. He’s dangerous with a better trip. Next start: Kentucky Derby.
Take Charge Indy: Before winning the Florida Derby, he ran second to El Padrino in a Gulfstream allowance contest and fifth behind Breeders’ Cup Juvenile runner-up Union Rags. Rider Calvin Borel took advantage of the track bias, which produced three previous route winners no less than second by the stretch on March 31, and led all the way. The son of A.P. Indy possesses tactical speed, a big plus. Next start: Kentucky Derby.
Gemologist: The Todd Pletcher trainee is attempting to become the first unbeaten colt since Barbaro to win the Run for the Roses. Barbaro went to Louisville with the same number of triumphs – five. Ah, this colt sports two scores at Churchill Downs. The son of Tiznow shares the same connections as Super Saver who triumphed in ’10. Next start: Kentucky Derby.
I’ll Have Another: The nose winner in the Santa Anita Derby proved a battler down the stretch and covered the 1 1/8 miles in a quick 1:47 4/5, despite pressing the pace throughout. The nine-week layoff since his victory in the Richard B. Lewis Stakes at 1 1/16 miles paid off for trainer Doug O’Neill. The son of Flower Alley has improved in each of his three route wins. Next start: Kentucky Derby.
Hansen: The Gotham winner ran a perfect race discarding blinkers, changing his bit and overcoming post 12. The son of Tapit made his two-turn debut a winning one in a hand ride. The Michael Maker trainee, who captured the BC Juvenile, is 4-1-0 of 5. Can he run any better? Next start: Keeneland’s Blue Grass on Saturday.