Louisville, Ky. (WHAS11) - If you've got a few moments Saturday afternoon, you might catch a Derby winner three months before the race.
Three top contenders for May 7 put their hopes on the line in stepping stone stakes in Florida and California.
At Tampa Bay Downs, it's Oh Brother How Art Thou? And can Thou become a real stakes horse? Brethren is the half brother to last year's Derby winner, Super Saver. But this WinStar colt is by Distorted Humor. He's won both starts but he'll be facing a more experienced field in the Sam F. Davis, a Grade III.
For instance, Monzon has won three races and posted a nice speed figure in the Count Fleet Stakes at Aqueduct. Ken McPeek ships Washington's Rules from Gulfstream, where he broke his maiden in a race taken off the turf.
And the team of trainer Carl Nafzger and owner Jim Tafel, who won the Derby with Street Sense, bring in Beamer. Beamer is a Vindication homebred, who finished third to Soldat in a very fast mile at Gulfstream.
The outcome of this 10 horse race may depend on which horse likes the sandy soil of Tampa's track. This winter in Tampa has been full of upsets and big numbers on the tote board.
In California, Tapizar puts his Derby credentials on the line and looks for more grades stakes money in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes.
At this writing, Tapizar seems to lead the class of three year olds in California, but so far, it's a group with few stars.
Tapizar won the Sham Stakes over a small field and now stretches out to a mile and an eighth. It helps that Tapizar's main competition heads north this weekend to run in the El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate.
Comma to the Top and Anthony's Cross entered both races and they avoid a confrontation with Tapizar, by staying on the Tapeta track in Northern California.
Steve Asmussen made a wise choice when he shipped Tapizar from Churchill to Santa Anita. So far, the competition has been light and this weekend, he could face as few as five rivals. If you're looking for the other half of the exacta, then Wegner and Riveting Reason might bring a small return.
Meanwhile, up north at San Francisco, Comma to the Top will test his ability to run a mile and an eighth. He's a Bwana Charlie, who made most of his money as a sprinter. But Comma to the Top is undefeated at Golden Gate and he is a very tough horse.
If there's one horse that could catch the front running Comma to the Top, its California Derby winner Positive Response. But distance also might be a challenge for this son of Pomeroy.
To keep everybody honest, Steve Asmussen ships in Silver Medallion from Southern California and he's among a group of horses that could pick up the pieces and become a Derby contender if the race falls apart.
Incidentally, the Northern California races have not been great predictors for the Kentucky Derby in recent years. But the Santa Anita is always a proving ground and Tampa Bay is growing in importance.
On Saturday afternoon, three horses in our Top Twenty for the Derby could solidify their ranking, but if there's an upset, we may have some shuffling to do on Monday.
Enjoy the races and thanks for reading.