LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- It is the time of year that, one by one, Derby contenders start emerging from barns across the country. But last weekend, a trifecta of three year olds exploded on the scene.
In three different races, we saw performances that translate to possible Derby horse.
First at chilly Aqueduct in New York, Revolutionary won the Withers Stakes and ten points on the Derby Trail. But it was HOW he won that caught our attention.
He got a terrible break. The horse next to him fell to his nose when the gate opened. Then, Revolutionary raced green and unfocused.
He seemed to be looking all over the track and finally in the stretch was pinned down on the rail. But then with a sudden burst of energy, he found a hole, split horses and passed them all before the wire.
Revolutionary had the text book version of a troubled trip and got an 86 Beyer speed figure for winning the grade 3. But that was just the beginning for the Todd Pletcher barn.
At Gulfstream Park another Pletcher trainee, Verrazano, won an allowance race by a little more than 16 lengths. The colt by More Than Ready covered a mile in a fast 1:34.8.
Which raises the annual problem for Pletcher. He must decide where to run this Derby contender without running against the other horses in his barn.
Meanwhile on the West Coast, Bob Baffert sent out Flashback who blew away three other horses in the Bob Lewis Stakes. He won by a mere six lengths and ran the mile and a sixteenth in 1:42.9. Flashback was already in our Top Ten last week. See, we wouldn't mislead you.
And there is some good news about your Derby wager. The odds of choosing a winner just got better. There are now just 369 horses nominated to the Triple Crown. There will be some late nominees but no whining.
Fourteen of the nominees were sired by Tapit, the very successful and very expensive stallion. Tapit has never sired a Derby winner, nevertheless, two of my Top Ten are Tapits. When will I learn?
For number one this week, I'm sticking with a Medaglia D'Oro, who has won a stakes race on both coasts. A lot of three year olds will be playing catch up after just one or two races. This colt has a good base and he's getting ready for his next race in Florida.
The win at Gulfstream made him two out of two, but the knock will be that he didn't race as a two year old. He did win on January first. So, he's close.
The pedigree analysts might also say that More Than Ready is not a great Derby pedigree but his dam is by Giant's Causeway. The Dosage Index is 2.08.
He ran away from Den's Legacy and He's Had Enough in the Bob Lewis and that's two pretty good horses. Julien Leparoux was in the irons and he hardly moved. As noted above, Tapit is suspect as a Derby sire, and Mr. Greeley as the dam's sire doesn't inspire confidence for distance.
Last year, the Fairgrounds was the weak link for Derby candidates. But Oxbow has a great pedigree and won by eleven lengths in the Lecomte Stakes. Wayne Lukas will give this Awesome Again colt every chance to make the Derby.
WinStar is back on the Derby trail with this son of War Pass. The Withers victory showed that he is talented, tough and green. If Pletcher can teach him to run in a straight line, he might get really good. One note of warning, the Withers was run on that Aqueduct winter track.
This Lawyer Ron colt was last week's flavor of the week after he set the track record in the Holy Bull Stakes. He's targeting the Florida Derby which was Lawyer Ron's favorite distance, a mile and an eighth.
7. Shanghai Bobby
In the current Derby points competition, you have to keep proving that you horse is worthy. Shanghai Bobby was worthy of the Eclipse Award and the Breeders' Cup but he needs to run more and capture more points to qualify.
8 Normandy Invasion
It's another Tapit. And he makes the list because he was second in the Remsen Stakes, a race that always seems to produce some horses for the Derby Trail. Chad Brown might be the next great trainer to make the Derby. This one is training in Florida.
With 24 points, he's tied with Shanghai Bobby for the lead in Derby points, which probably means almost nothing. He has won a million dollar stakes race and that means a lot to his owners. Doug O'Neill trains in California and will have to overcome an Into Mischief pedigree, that will be challenged by longer distances.
10. Dynamic Sky
This son of Sky Mesa is a very versatile colt, who has won stakes races in Canada and Florida. He was also second in the Dixiana Breeders Futurity at Keeneland and then a fast closing second in the Sam F. Davis at Tampa. Tampa horses are well conditioned by that soft sandy track and seem to run well at Churchill. Mark Casse is the trainer and he is not to be overlooked.
If your looking ahead to future Derby preps, the next ten pointer is the El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate on February 16 and the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn on February 18.
And then thankfully, it's on to the 50 point races starting with the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream and the Risen Star at the Fairgrounds on February 23.
So, we have a little break along the Derby trail.
Next week, my favorite Derbys.