Can Vyjack hijack the Derby? He's already taken Gotham. But will he still be undefeated on May 5th?
The Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct put another Derby contender on the list and this gelding may be the most experienced and professional of his class.
Vyjack has now won two races on Aqueduct's warm weather track and two stakes races on the inner track that's used in the winter.
And most importantly, in winning the Gotham, Vyjack rated near the rear of the field and then put in a burst of speed to win by two and a quarter lengths.
Trainer Rudy Rodriguez, who once attended the Derby as an exercise rider, will point Vyjack toward the Wood Memorial and thinks his horse can still improve. But, can Vyjack, sired by Into Mischief, make the Derby distance.
lnto Mischief was retired very early in his career and never ran farther than seven furlongs. But his sire is Harlan's Holiday and the mare, Life Happened, has a distance pedigree going back to Northern Dancer and Round Table.
With 50 points in the Gotham, Vyjack is one race from the Derby but he would arrive at Churchill Downs with all of his races at just one track, Aqueduct.
And with his impressive performance still fresh in our minds, we boost Vyjack into the top five.
Here's my latest take on Twenty for the Derby.
He worked five furlongs this week in :59 flat and that follows 1:11 for six furlongs last week. Watch the San Felipe Stakes this weekend to see if he can translate that speed to the afternoon. This may be the answer to the question: Can a Tapit colt win the Derby?
He looks like a legitimate contender. Drew a lot of late support in the Future Wager. Bet down to 11 to 1, so they must have been watching the Gotham. And, this is a horse that probably shouldn't even exist, except for a coincidence on breeding day. Tune into Great Day Live on Friday and I'll explain.
He blew away the field in the Fountain of Youth Stakes except for Violence, and Violence is now injured. Orb could be the favorite for the Florida Derby, if Shug McGaughey decides to run there. McGaughey says he's stunned by how quickly this three year old has developed. This could lead to McGaughey's elusive Derby win.
There is no greater burden than potential. And with Verrazano we are talking pure potential. His first stakes effort will be the Tampa Bay Derby and that should determine if Verrazano is Derby quality or cheap speed. He's won two in a row, but now he faces much better horses and the Tampa track is deep and sandy. A lot of people already have this horse ranked number one. We'll see.
5. Shanghai Bobby
He's waiting for a possible match with Orb and Itsmyluckyday in the Florida Derby and if they don't hit the board, they might miss the plane to Kentucky.
With just 24 points and one prep race remaining, the Breeders' Cup champ might not qualify to start in the Derby.
This is another top contender with only 10 points and one prep race to find some more. Revolutionary ran a great race in winning the Withers Stakes but his Derby dreams hinge on getting more points in the Wood Memorial. A bad trip in the Wood could see him looking for other opportunities in May.
7. Ive Struck a Nerve
He is still your Derby points leader in the barn with 51. And in the magical mystery tour of Derby points, 51 might be a magic number to get in the field. Everybody wants to see another race but he passed a lot of horses to win the Risen Star. This would be Cinderella in the Derby paddock.
It's been quite a while since this horse won the Holy Bull and made his mark as a Derby contender. But in the new points system, you have to run and get points. Itsmyluckyday puts all of his Easter eggs in the Florida Derby basket and it won't be easy. Second place probably gets him to Louisville. Or he could win at Gulfstream and be a Derby favorite.
9. Super Ninety Nine
Is he a sprinter, a miler, or something more? Even trainer Bob Baffert seemed surprised by Super Ninety Nine as he stretched out to win the Southwest Stakes. It looks like he'll get two more chances at Derby points, if not, Super Ninety Nine could make a lot of money at shorter distances.
10. Code West
Baffert has the usual long list of Derby contenders but this one could get better as the races get longer. He re-rallied in the stretch of the Risen Star and was just nipped by a nose. His Lemon Drop Kid pedigree says bring on the distance. Owners Gary and Mary West have three legitimate Derby horses.
This is the other son of Into Mischief, who has crashed the Derby party.
And he is very accomplished. Goldencents won the Delta Jackpot in November and then the Sham Stakes at Santa Anita. But now looms a possible speed duel with Flashback in the San Felipe. Goldencents has won 782 thousand dollars but still hasn't qualified for Derby 139.
He wasn't that far back in the Risen Star and you have to figure that Wayne Lukas has been spending his days plotting a new strategy for the Louisiana Derby. The Awesome Again pedigree indicates a horse that should still be running down the stretch at Churchill, if he can get the points to get there.
Was he Overrated? Or did he simply need a race after a long winter vacation?
Overanalyze was the favorite in the Gotham Stakes and finished fifth. He was a quality two year old with two stakes wins. But, this might be the case of a two year old, who was passed in maturity by the three year old class.
14. General Election
Here we go out on a limb at Turfway Park.
General Election won the John Battaglia Memorial that is the prep race for the annual Spiral Stakes. The Spiral was the springboard for Animal Kingdom to win the Derby. The Battaglia carries no Derby points, but trainer Kellyn Gorder could find some in the Spiral or at Keeneland.
15. West Hills Giant
This is a New York bred son of Front Giant, who finished second in the Gotham Stakes. He was pretty much unknown until his front running effort at Aqueduct. And under the points system, you remember that wrinkle, West Hills Giant is now in 6th place to make the Derby field. He will likely get another shot in the Wood Memorial and has a good chance to make the Derby.
He was third in the Gotham with ten points. Elnaawi is a lightly raced maiden winner by Derby winner Street Sense. There is much room for improvement Elnaawi has trainer Kiaran McLaughlin to get him ready. He'll be playing catch up but has all the right connections.
17. Dynamic Sky
He was second in the Sam F. Davis Stakes and now waits for Verrazano in the Tampa Bay Derby. Verrazano will have the speed, Dynamic Sky and others will have the home field advantage. The Tampa Bay has an interesting way of producing Derby horses.
When Flashback, number one on the list, worked that :59 flat at Santa Anita, this horse was 2/5ths behind. He was second in the Bob Lewis and second in the Sham Stakes. Any improvement and he's right in the middle of it.
The Palm Beach Stakes is a grass race that has been producing Derby horses for years, most recently Paddy O'Prado, who finished third in 2010. Now, we have Rydilluc for trainer Gary Contessa, who won the Palm Beach and started planning for Polytrack season at Turfway and Keeneland. This group really wants a shot at the Derby.
20. All Other Three Year Olds
You voted at the window and here is the most likely winner according to people who were willing to bet two dollars on the future. When I spread two dollars around on some Derby futures, I admit, I like longer odds. But, the public has spoken at 3 to 1. Good luck.
Coming up this weekend, we have a couple of Grade Two prep races with 50 points at stake for first place, 20 for second, 10 points for third and 5 points for fourth.
The Tampa Bay Derby will be the first big test for Verrazano and the local horses will be waiting to spring an upset.
At Santa Anita, Baffert and O'Neill face off in the San Felipe. For Derby fans, it will be must see TV.