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

Here’s my updated ranking of the Top 10 Kentucky Derby contenders from bottom to top Dave Letterman’s style:

Kentucky Derby 2012 LogoGemologist: One of the colts in the Todd Pletcher stable that has scored twice at Churchill Downs. The son of Tiznow shares the same connections as Super Saver who captured the 2010 Kentucky Derby. Next start: Oaklawn Park’s Rebel on March 17.

My Adonis: One of the more experienced sophomores has failed to hit the board only once in eight outings, including seven routes. The son of Pleasantly Perfect was second to Hansen in the Gotham at Aqueduct. His last victory, however, was in the fall’s Jean Lafitte at Delta Downs. Next start: Aqueduct’s Wood Memorial on April 7.

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.

Alpha: The 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: Gulstream’s Florida Derby on March 31 or the Wood Memorial.

Mark Valeski: He battled gamely throughout the stretch in the Risen Star, but came up a nose short after going 2 for 3 in sprints. The son of Proud Citizen came out of the race “very well,” said trainer Larry Jones. He is 1-1-0 of 2 at Fair Grounds. Next race: Louisiana Derby at the New Orleans track on April 1.

Secret Circle: Rafael Bejarano guided this Bob Baffert trainee to victory in the faster of two Southwest Stakes divisions, swept by the jockey-trainer combo, covering the mile at Oaklawn Park in 1:37. The son Eddington wore down the determined leader Scatman in the final sixteenth to win by a half-length. Next race: The Rebel.

Creative Cause: The son of Giant’s Causeway was all over the Santa Anita track winning the San Felipe by three-quarters of a length under strong handling, covering the 1 1/16 miles in a quick 1:41 4/5. His resume is most impressive: victories last year in Norfolk and Best Pal, plus third behind Hansen and Union Rags in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Next start: Santa Anita 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 13th in the BC Juvenile. Next start: Wood Memorial.

El Padrino: Another Pletcher trainee registered two impressive victories in a row — at 1 1/16 miles in a Gulfstream allowance contest followed by a nose triumph in the Risen Star. 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: Florida Derby.

Union Rags: Trainer Mike Matz is leading the Fountain of Youth winner down the same Road to the Roses as his ’06 Kentucky Derby champ Barbaro. The son of Dixie Union has only a narrow loss to Hansen in the BC Juvenile marring his record of four victories. Lady Luck smiled on Julien Leparoux when he replaced Javier Castellano, who chose to ride Algorithms, the Pletcher trainee sidelined with a right front leg injury. Next start: Florida Derby.

Hansen: The top male juvenile that ran second in the Holy Bull bounced back magnificently in the Gotham with a perfect performance. Minus blinkers and a change of bit, the son Tapit relaxed in his two-turn baptism, overcame the 12 post and drew off in the stretch for a three-length triumph in a hand ride under Ramon Dominguez. The Michael Maker trainee has the same record as Union Rags – 4-1-0 of 5. Next start: Wood Memorial.