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

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

Kentucky Derby 2012 LogoMy Adonis: One of the most experienced sophomores has hit the board seven of eight times. The son of Pleasantly Perfect was runner-up to Hansen in the Gotham at Aqueduct. He needs to step up because his last victory was last fall in the Jean Lafitte at Delta Downs. Next start: Aqueduct’s Wood Memorial on April 7.

Gemologist: The Todd Pletcher trainee recently scored in a Gulfstream Park allowance contest to remain undefeated in four starts, including two victories at Churchill Downs. The son of Tiznow shares the same connections as Super Saver who triumphed in the 2010 Kentucky Derby. However, will two races as a 3-year-old be enough? Next start: Wood Memorial.

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. But there’s a lingering question concerning the son of Flower Alley: Did track conditions or his rivals falling short play a major role for his success? We’ll find out soon. Next start: Santa Anita Derby on April 7.

Alpha: The son of ’06 Preakness champ Bernardini has two victories this year in stakes 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. While he has been working at Palm Meadows in South Florida, conditioner Kiaran McLaughlin says he’s leaning to another big race at Aqueduct. Next start: Wood Memorial.

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 speedy 1:41 4/5. His resume is most impressive: victories last year in the 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 running 13th in the BC Juvenile. Next start: Wood Memorial.

Secret Circle: The Rebel was de ja vu all over again for rider Rafael Bejarano and trainer Bob Baffert as winner of the second Southwest division triumphed again. The son of Eddington wore down Scatman in the stretch and won by three-quarters of a length. He also drifted out a bit heading to the wire. We’ll see if that costs him later. Next race: Oaklawn Park’s Arkansas Derby on April 14.

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 on March 31.

Union Rags: Trainer Mike Matz is guiding 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 now sidelined with a right front leg injury after taking the Holy Bull. Next start: Florida Derby.

Hansen: The top male juvenile, second in the Holy Bull, bounced back superbly 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.