Kentucky Derby Contenders as of April 16th, 2009

2009 Kentucky Derby Contenders Top 10 Updated April 16, 2009

by Kenneth Strong of

The Kentucky Derby is only two weeks away and the major Derby preps are complete. Now its just a matter of observing to see which horses train well and which go by the way side. General Quarters rebounded just as we thought he would to win the Bluegrass Stakes (but at a stunning price) and Hold Me Back bounced as might have been expected but still finished second. Papa Clem won an unimpressive Arkansas Derby over favorite Old Fashioned, who ran game considering he was found to have a slab fracture after the race. Old Fashioned is now off the Derby trail. Below follow our top Kentucky Derby contenders as of April 16, 2009. If were missing a horse you like, please let us know and well check it out. We will update our contender list every week until the Kentucky Derby on May 2, 2009 at Churchill Downs.

1. Pioneer of the Nile Recently worked a sharp half mile in 46 2/5 at Santa Anita with an equipment change from a ring bit to a D-bit and he appears to be heading into the Kentucky Derby in excellent shape, but hell still be underestimated because of his lower Beyer Speed Figures. 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.) And we still dont think hes run his best race yet. Some 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 for now.

2.Dunkirk Had his Beyer
Speed Figure
upgraded to a 108 for his second place finish in the Florida
Derby and it now looks like he will get into the Kentucky Derby. 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.
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.

3.Quality Road Turned in an excellent race to defeat Dunkirk
in the Florida Derby and recently had his Beyer Speed Figure for that win
upgraded to a 111, despite having something left at the wire. We thought
he was a good horse and a possible Derby winner before that race, but he
has improved faster than we thought he would. We were expecting the Florida
Derby effort in the Kentucky Derby. And now hes developed a hind quarter
crack that will have to be watched closely. Might be the most talented horse
in this years Kentucky Derby, but the quarter crack combined with a lack
of seasoning worries us. This despite the fact that he has one of the best
horsemen in the world at the helm in trainer Jimmy Jerkens. Would be our
choice if not for the quarter crack and has to be left in the Top 3 mix
for the Kentucky Derby.

4.I Want Revenge Overcame adversity to win a race he shouldnt
have won when he took the 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 handle a tough beat. That race alone makes
him top contender in the Derby despite the fact that it was over suspect

5.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 Giant Oak and Papa Clem in his wake. The latter
came back to win the Arkansas Derby and the former came back to finish second
in the Illinois Derby. Did the track condition play a part in his Louisiana
Derby 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.

6. Hold Me Back Bounced as somewhat expected in the Blue Grass
last weekend, finishing second to General Quarters after making a decent
rally that looked a like a prep for his next and third start off the layoff
in the Kentucky Derby. Difficult to tell how good he is at this stage afterregressing
from a 97 Beyer Speed Figure to a 93, but with Hall of Famer Bill Mott in
charge he is expected to bring his best race to Churchill on the first Saturday
in May. Looked smashing in his 3-year-old debut in The Lanes End at Turfway,
which he won in fresh fashion off a 15-week layoff. Lets see how he
trains at Churchill.

7. Musket Man Got a good trip in the Illinois Derby 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.
Rider Coa, who won last weekends Blue Grass with General Quarters, gave
Musket Man an additional vote of confidence when he opted to stick with
this guy for the Kentucky Derby. Despite coming into the Derby off two
good wins he might still be the underestimated price play.

8.General Quarters Got back on track with a good win in the Blue
Grass Stakes last weekend and paid a stunning overlay price of $30.60 to
win. He looked like the second best horse in the field off the Past Performances
and he was also coming into the race off a troubled trip in the in the Tampa
Bay Derby. We thought he would be 7/2 in the race. Amazing. Earned a 95
Beyer Speed Figure for the Blue Grass win over fellow Derby contender Hold
Me Back and winning rider Eibar Coa has already said hell be sticking with
Musket Man in the Derby. Hmm what does that tell you?

9.Win Willy Predictably bounced off his shocking 56-1 Rebel Stakes
upset to finish fourth in the Arkansas Derby last weekend, so were not
ready to throw him out just yet. In the Rebel 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. His Beyer
Speed Figure improved from 86 to 102 in the Rebel, and he regressed back
to a 96 in the Arkansas Derby, but he could improve again in his next start.
By 2001 Kentucky Derby winner Monarchos out of a Carson City mare, he might
just have the pedigree to get the Derby distance. Remains as a Derby superfecta
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 behind Regal
Ransom 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.Papa Clem Ran a decent race to win the Arkansas Derby but
the horse he wore down to win, favorite Old Fashioned, not only set a fast
pace but also suffered a slab fracture in the race. Received a 101 Beyer
Speed Figure for the win and appears to be moving in the right direction,
but we think hed have to improve more than normal to win the Kentucky Derby.
Was also 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. Also something
to keep in mind from a company perspective – he did finish ahead of Wood
Memorial winner I Want Revenge in the R B Lewis at Santa Anita in February.

3. Regal Ransom – Another Dubai shipper. Won the UAE Derby in March over Desert Party and does have some speed, but he’ll need it, and some improvement, to win the Derby. Pace factor.

4.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. Wellbe using him as a longshot
underneath in the Kentucky Derby superfecta, just not in the win spot.