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Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Kentucky Derby Contenders

Well, Philly cancelled racing for March 6 so ignore those selections :)

With the Road to the Triple Crown heating up (this coming weekend: the Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds and the Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct), I have been spending a goodly amount of time evaluating my favorites for the Kentucky Derby. In no particular order, they are:

1. Great Hunter (Aptitude-Zenith, out of Roy)

Never out of the money in eight starts thus far. Love his pedigree, with A.P. Indy, Seattle Slew, Secretariat, Northern Dancer, and Buckpasser in sire’s line). Out of the same sire as Steppenwolfer who was damn impressive behind Barbero and Bluegrass Cat in last year’s Derby. I had Great Hunter (and Circular Quay) in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (where he finished third behind Street Sense and Circular Quay). Loved his March 3 race at Santa Anita—the Robert B. Lewis Stakes—where he went 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.89. Look to see him next in April 14 Blue Grass Stakes (G1). Jockey: Corey Nakatani.

2. Twilight Meteor (Smart Strike-One Over Prime, out of With Approval)

OK, I admit, I love the name! Out of Smart Strike—number 11 on 2006 Leading Sires List—who also sired champion turf horse English Channel. The only issue here is he has run well on polytrack and on turf, but can he handle the dirt? He is nominated for the March 24 Lane’s End (used to be Jim Beam) Stakes at Turfway Park, again on the polytrack. Jockey: Edgar Prado

3. Stormello (Stormy Atlantic-Wilshewed, out of Carson City)

Very impressive in the Fountain of Youth Stakes, losing just by a nose to Scat Daddy who I refuse to belief can go the longer distances of Triple Crown races. Stormello is bred as a sprinter, but he has shown remarkable endurance. Moreover, he is just a gorgeous animal! His run in last year’s Norfolk Stakes at Santa Anita was beautiful (and lucrative, paying $25.80). Take a look: Jockey: Kent Desormeaux.

4. Summer Doldrums (Street Cry-Dance for Dixie, out of Unaccounted For)

Same sire as fellow Derby contender Street Sense; Street Cry won 2002 Dubai World Cup. In the money three out of four races as a 2 year old, but failed miserably in the Remsen Stakes (G2) at Aqueduct and didn’t run in the Breeders Cup Juvenile (won by Street Sense). However, this year has been inspiring, with two wins in two starts including a stakes record winning time (1:42.23) in the February 10 Whirlaway Stakes at Aqueduct, earning a 106 Beyer. Will be running in the Gotham Stakes this weekend, and then April 7 Wood Memorial. Nice to see trainer Richard Violette Jr. and jockey Mike Luzzi have a Derby contender.

5. Ravel (Fusaichi Pegasus-Let, out of A.P. Indy)

Phenomenal breeding, out of 2000 Kentucky Derby winner, out of stakes-winning mare Let (full sister to 1992 Preakness Stakes winner Pine Bluff). Only issue here: very lightly raced thus far, but also undefeated in three starts. On February 3, he beat Derby contender Liquidity in the G3 Sham Stakes at Santa Anita, in the second fastest time for that 1 1/8 mile race (1:48.91). And his next race isn’t until April 7 (G1 Santa Anita Derby)--too long if you ask me. Jockey: Garrett Gomez.