2009 Kentucky Derby Contenders Top 10 Updated March 16, 2009
by Kenneth Strong of Predictem.com
The Kentucky Derby is only seven weeks but few horses are really rising to the occasion – yet. Pioneer of the Nile continued his slow but winning ways with a reluctant win in the San Felipe at Santa Anita on the weekend while Friesian Fire ran away from his field in the sloppy Louisiana Derby. Previously undefeated Old Fashioned was denied his fifth straight victory by shocking 56-1 longshot Win Willy in the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park and Musket Man overcame trouble to win a slow Tampa Bay Derby. Below follow our top Kentucky Derby contenders as of March 16, 2009, but were still looking for a horse to really grab our attention. If were missing a horse you like please let us know and well check it out. We will update our contender list every Monday until the Kentucky Derby on May 2, 2009 at Churchill Downs.
1. Pioneer of the Nile Stalked a slow pace widest on the backstretch in the San Felipe at Santa Anita on March 14 before challenging on the final turn. Opened up in early stretch and then had to be ridden to hold safe by 1 -lengths. Were not sure whether he bounced or whether hes just lazy. Rumors are that he was waiting on horses. He wont have that luxury when he meets The Pamplemousse in the Santa Anita Derby on April 4. His race in the Robert B. Lewis on February 7 at Santa Anita was a much better effort visually, and he only received a Beyer Speed Figure of 90 for his San Felipe win. Based on his Robert B. Lewis win however, and the fact that whenever hes asked to get the job done he does what he has to do, well leave him at the top of our contenders list.
3. Dunkirk – Was 10-wide on the first turn and remained wide while stalking a slow pace set by the second choice in a 1 1/8 mile allowance race at Gulfstream Park on February 19. Put the second choice away and also turned back a couple of other outside rivals in late turn and drew away when asked in the stretch. Should benefit from that race, looks like hell handle the distance and is another who has the right running style to take advantage of a hot pace in the Kentucky Derby. Note he didnt race as a 2-year-old, and the last time a horse won the Derby without racing as a juvenile was in 1882. Ahh but the times they may be changing. Headed for the Florida Derby on March 28. Can improve again.
3.Friesan Fire Was much the best over a sloppy track in the Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds on March 14, winning by 7 -lengths and leaving former fellow Derby Top 10ers Papa Clem and Giant Oak in his wake. Did the track condition play a part in his easy win? Difficult tell, but hes now won three stakes in a row, albeit over suspect company. He received a 104 Beyer for his Louisiana Derby win; he appears to handle nicely from just off the pace, and he has enough pedigree to get the distance.
4.Old Fashioned Had his four-race undefeated streak snapped by bewildering longshot Win Willy ($115.60) when heavily favored to win the Rebel at Oaklawn Park on March 14 after chasing a fast pace and opening up in the stretch. That was only his second start off an extended layoff and he may have bounced as a result for numerous reasons including his trip. He was only beaten 2 -lengths after tiring late, and he easily held second. Expecting a smarter ride and a better race in his next.
5.The Pamplemousse Set a good pace winning his third in a row in the Sham at Santa Anita on February 28. Still hasnt been tested on the lead and his ability to come from off the pace remains a question mark. That being said, he has a stride that eats up ground even when on the lead and if youre going to beat him its clear youll have to run him into the ground. Not sure weve seen anyone who can do that yet.
6.Quality Road Made a number of former Derby contenders look bad in the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park on February 28, stalking a quick pace set by second choice This Ones for Phil and drawing away in the stretch. Favorite Capt. Candyman Can was in good striking position inside throughout and faded in the stretch to finish fourth. The favorite may have bounced but hes going to have to come back with a big improvement to be a Kentucky Derby contender. Quality Road was making his first start on Lasix for sharp trainer Jimmy Jerkens off a six-week layoff and looks like he can improve again.
7.Win Willy Are you kidding me? Who is this guy? Rallied from last to first to win the Rebel Stakes at 56-1 on March 14 and was eager to do so. Sure he was well back off a fast pace, but he was moving way up in class out of an allowance race and stretching out from six furlongs to a mile and a sixteenth for only his second start off an extended layoff. And he still looked green late! By 2001 Kentucky Derby winner Monarchos out of a Carson City mare, he might just have the pedigree to get the Derby distance. Expecting him to bounce in his next after improving from an 86 to a 102 Beyer Speed Figure, but definitely has to be kept in the mix. Wild card!
8.Take the Points Gave it a good try on the class raise moving up off a win in a mile allowance at Gulfstream Park to finish second to The Pamplemousse in the Sham on February 28 at Santa Anita. He had to travel cross-country to try Polytrack for the first time and still finished second from a poor wide post with a good effort. Has the pedigree and connections to improve.
9.Theregoesjojo Had the tables turned on him in the Fountain of Youth by Quality Road, who he had previously beaten in an allowance race, but it wasnt for lack of trying. Made a nice move on the turn and rallied for second off a six-week layoff. Has the stamina to be a force in the Kentucky Derby with a hot pace up front. Like Quality Road, could bounce in his next, but watch out after that.
10.Musket Man Rebounded off his 6 -length loss to General Quarters and Sumo in the Sam F. Davis to make his third start off a layoff a winning one in the Tampa Bay Derby, scoring by a neck with a good wide rally after getting into trouble early and on the second turn. Also left disinterested wide favorite Hello Broadway in his wake. If hes going to win the Kentucky Derby hell need a more experienced rider and a higher Beyer Speed Figure than the 90 he earned, but hes certainly heading in the right direction and he does have some stamina in his pedigree.
Kentucky Derby Contenders Still Worth Watching
I Want Revenge Ran away from a suspect field in the Gotham at Aqueduct, winning by 8 -lengths after forcing the pace from the outside throughout. He was given a Beyer Speed Figure of 113 for that 1 1/16-mile race, his second start off a layoff, and that figure might be a little on the high side considering his previous best figure was 92. He was however, making his first start on real dirt, and he might have just loved it. Likely headed to the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 4, where he may or may not get a class test depending on who enters. Difficult to gauge
Giant Oak Floundered around last and wide in the Louisiana Derby slop before rallying awkwardly to finish fourth. That was only his second start off a layoff and he really didnt appear to be all that interested for a variety of reasons. Either that or he couldnt handle the surface. We could see him rallying into a Superfecta spot in the Kentucky Derby if he improves in his next start, his third off the layoff. Could be sitting on a sneaky big effort in his next race at a nice price if he can get his act together behind a good pace. Well give him one more chance.
Papa Clem Was no match for Friesan Fire in the sloppy Louisiana Derby despite getting a relatively easy lead. He did fight to hold on to second place by a head however, finishing 7 -lengths behind the winner. We cant throw him out just yet, mainly because of the sloppy track and the fact that he has beaten Gotham winner I Want Revenge, but were wondering if his pedigree is catching up with him.
Beethoven Plodded home third in the Fountain of Youth in his second start off the layoff and could be just rounding into form. Might very well improve in his next start but hell have to. Another who would benefit from a fast pressured pace in the Kentucky Derby but who must show more in his next start.
Desert Party Won the UAE 2000 Guineas on February 12 and will make his next start in the UAE Derby at 1 1/8 miles on March 28, but would have to improve on the records of previous highly thought of contenders who have trained in Dubai before arriving on Kentucky Derby day only to get trounced.