2009 Kentucky Derby Contenders Top 10 Updated April 6, 2009
by Kenneth Strong of Predictem.com
The Kentucky Derby is only four weeks away and the 2009 Derby contenders are starting to take their places. Pioneer of the Nile did what we thought he would do in the Santa Anita Derby, running just fast enough to win. We still think he would have beaten pre-race favorite The Pamplemousse if that one hadnt been scratched. Giant Oak finally ran his race as expected but he wasnt good enough to beat Musket Man in the Illinois Derby. The only mild surprise was I Want Revenge, who looked like a logical favorite in the Wood Memorial but who showed excellent courage to win off a tough trip.
Below, follow our top Kentucky Derby contenders as of April 6, 2009. 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 Despite the scratch of favored The Pamplemousse in the Santa Anita Derby, Pioneer of the Nile did what he had to do to win. We think he would have beaten The Pamplemousse regardless (but its still sad to see that one out of action for six months with a tendon problem.) We still dont think Pioneer of the Nile has run his best race. Some will still say hes too slow but were not buying that, especially since he might be able to stalk a fast pace in the Kentucky Derby. He did earn a 96 Beyer for his Santa Anita Derby win, one point better than he earned for winning the R B Lewis. Based on 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.
2.Dunkirk Made a big move in the Florida Derby to challenge Quality Road turning for home but couldnt match that one late and had to settle for second 1 -lengths back. It was an excellent race for Dunkirk considering his lack of seasoning and if he does get into the Kentucky Derby he should be ready for a peak performance. Looks like hell handle the Derby distance and is another who has the right running style to take advantage of a hot pace in the Kentucky Derby. Note that 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.
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. Might run in the Blue Grass at Keeneland on April 11, might not. Has enough graded stakes money to get into the Kentucky Derby already, so he has the luxury of being able to skip the Bluegrass if he so desires.
4.I Want Revenge Won a race he shouldnt have won when he took last weekends Wood Memorial at Aqueduct. He spotted the field four lengths off a poor break, advanced into striking position on the turn for home, then found himself with nowhere to go to mid stretch. He finally got out late (and half made his own room) and accelerated to win, earning a 103 Beyer Speed Figure in the process. We never thought he was that good, but he certainly showed he could overcome adversity and has to belong in the Derby Top 10 off an excellent performance over suspect opposition.
5.Old Fashioned Headed for the Arkansas Derby on April 11 at Oaklawn Park. Had his four-race undefeated streak snapped by bewildering longshot Win Willy ($115.60) when heavily favored to win the Rebel at Oaklawn 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 of 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.
6.Quality Road Turned in an excellent race to defeat Dunkirk in the Florida Derby, earning a 103 Beyer Speed Figure with a little left in the tank. We thought he was a good horse and a possible Kentucky Derby winner, but he improved faster than we thought. We were expecting the Florida Derby effort in the Kentucky Derby. And now hes developed a hind quarter crack. He does have one of the best horsemen in the world at the helm in trainer Jimmy Jerkens, but that quarter crack worries us.
7.Hold Me Back Smashing 3-year-old debut in The Lanes End at Turfway, which he won in fresh fashion off a 15-week layoff. Conditioned by star trainer Bill Mott, Hold Me Back received a Beyer Speed Figure of 97 for winning the 1 1/8-mile Lanes End, but looks like he could improve. He was climbing in mild trouble at the back of the pack in the early stages of The Lanes End, but finally organized himself and advanced outside, finishing well late to catch fit Lukas trainee Flying Private and drawing off for a by 1 -length victory over that one. Has a top trainer, but could still bounce in his next, likely the April 11 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland. Or he MIGHT, just go straight to the Kentucky Derby.
8.Musket Man Got a good trip in the Illinois Derby last weekend and ran one of his best races yet courtesy of new rider Eibar Coa. Hes now 5-for-6 and he looks like hell get the Kentucky Derby distance. His rider thinks so too. The 98 Beyer Speed Figure he earned for his Illinois Derby win was his best yet and he looked like he still had something left in the tank. Hard to fault his record. And might just improve again.
9.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!
10.Chocolate Candy Brought a solid record from up north into the Santa Anita Derby and finished a good second beaten a length by Pioneer of the Nile. These kind have a habit of running big on Derby day at good odds so well keep an eye on him and see how he trains. Probably a better horse than it appears on paper, but that still might not be good enough.
Derby Contenders Still Worth Watching
1.Desert Party Second place finish in the UAE Derby was just okay, and we think he could still get a piece of the Kentucky Derby superfecta with his best race. Did win the UAE 2000 Guineas on February 12 and could still improve, but hell have to based on the records of previous highly thought of contenders who have trained in Dubai before arriving on Kentucky Derby day only to get trounced.
2.Giant Oak Finally got a good trip in the Illinois Derby and ran the race we were waiting for, but at an underlay price. And he still wasnt good enough to beat Musket Man. Well still be using him as a longshot underneath in the Kentucky Derby Superfecta, just not in the win spot.
3.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. Needs a big effort in the Arkansas Derby on April 11.