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 son of Proud Citizen will try to duplicate what his connections did last year with Animal Kingdom – duplicate victory in the Spiral in the Kentucky Derby, That’s a tall order since his closing fractions weren’t particular impressive. By the way, his sire ran second to War Emblem in the ’02 Run for the Roses on May 5.
Alpha: Son of ’06 Preakness champ Bernardini was just a neck short in the Wood Memorial of taking three stakes routes at Aqueduct. The trip wasn’t the best after breaking from the rail – he rubbed shoulders with a rival, steadied over heels of another foe on first turn and was forced to wait behind the leaders heading into stretch. But a leg infection, even though reportedly cleared up, is not a good omen for Louisville.
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. It remains to be seen how Churchill Downs will play on May 5.
Hansen: The winner’s early fractions in the Blue Grass were much too fast just like the Holy Bull. Results were the same: second place. The son of Tapit rated and ran a perfect race taking the Gotham at Aqueduct after discarding blinkers, changing his bit and overcoming post 12. The $2 million question: Which colt will show up on the first Saturday in May?
Dullahan: The stretch-running half-brother of ’09 Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird defeated Hansen in the Blue Grass on Polytrack, but has not won on dirt. Both victories were on synthetic surfaces. Best dirt placing was last year in career debut.
Creative Cause: A head bob short in the Santa Anita Derby, this son of Giant’s Causeway will relish the extra furlong in the Louisville classic. His resume is impressive: victories in this year’s San Felipe and last year’s Norfolk and Best Pal, plus third behind Hansen and Union Rags in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Odds might be attractive in 138th Derby.
Union Rags: Fountain of Youth winner experienced a very troubled outing 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 in the Kentucky Derby.
Bodemeister: Son of Empire Maker posted biggest winning margin in the major Kentucky Derby preps, taking the Arkansas Derby by nearly 10 lengths. However, he was unraced as a juvenile and has run only four times. Back in ’07, Curlin debuted as a 3-year-old and won all three races, including the Arkansas Derby, but finished third at Churchill Downs. Ah, but Curlin later won the Preakness and Breeders’ Cup Classic en route to Horse of the Year honors.
Gemologist: The Todd Pletcher trainee is attempting to become the first unbeaten colt since Barbaro to win the Kentucky Derby. Barbaro went to Louisville with the same number of triumphs – five. This runner also sports two scores at Churchill Downs. The son of Tiznow shares the same connections as Super Saver who triumphed in the ’10 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 game son of Flower Alley has improved in each of his three route wins and appears primed to win the Kentucky Derby at attractive odds.