Louisville, Ky. (WHAS11) - There's a new Number One on the Derby Trail!
The 2-year-old champion, Uncle Mo, has now spent nearly 4 months on the bench and I have to side with a horse that has been running.
That horse is Soldat.
Soldat (French for soldier) has won on a variety of surfaces and just ran away from a good field in the Fountain of Youth Stakes over a mile and an eighth. Soldat can run. On the turf, in the slop and now on a fast track in sunny Florida, Soldat can run. And he's on the right schedule to make the Florida Derby and head to Louisville.
In the Fountain of Youth he beat the tough Gourmet Dinner by 2 lengths and left morning line favorite To Honor and Serve almost 7 lengths behind.
Now it's on to the Florida Derby where Nick Zito's Dialed In is waiting and To Honor and Serve will get another chance. But if there are no hiccups, Soldat, a son of War Front, appears on the way to the Louisville.
There was another shorter Derby prep at Gulfstream over the weekend, and Flashpoint burst on the scene with a convincing win in the Grade Two Hutcheson. Flashpoint won by more than 7 lengths but his pedigree by Pomeroy seems to indicate he'll be a sprinter.
And so, we get to the new Top 20 and I'm beginning to get some real doubts about Uncle Mo. So…
Has two wins in Florida and is ready for the Derby at Gulfstream, rain or shine. The Fountain of Youth was a front running win, but trainer Kiaran McLaughlin says he has no worries that Soldat will rate. Hope you got a futures bet on this one at 18-1. Might be free money.
He won the Sam Davis Stakes so easy at Tampa Bay that a return trip for the Tampa Bay Derby now seems likely. WinStar would then be on schedule to take the half brother to Super Saver to the Arkansas Derby and on to Louisville. Hey, it worked last year.
3. Dialed In
Nick Zito skipped the Fountain of Youth and needs a stepping stone race to get to the Florida Derby. This is where it gets interesting. Gulfstream wrote a new $100,000 stakes race, the Timely Writer, to keep Uncle Mo in South Florida. It looked like a simple walkover for Mo. But Zito, who has bad memories of shipping War Pass to Tampa Bay, might run Dialed in against Mo. Watch for the entries. Could be a match race.
4. Uncle Mo
There is some logic to keeping Uncle Mo in the barn and making the Kentucky Derby the third race off his winter rest. That's the way Super Saver won it last year. But what kind of horse will show up, when he finally hits the track on March 12th and who will show up to challenge Mo? The intrigue is building in South Florida
5. Gourmet Dinner
A little respect please for Gourmet Dinner, the colt who just keeps running.
The Trippi colt has been in 7 stakes races and hit the board 6 times.
He won $600,000 in the Delta Jackpot and just picked up $80,000 more in the Fountain of Youth. Trainer Steve Standridge is thinking about shipping him to California for the Santa Anita Derby. Free money?
6. To Honor and Serve
He looked Soldat in the eye at the top of the stretch and faded to third in the Fountain of Youth. But it was not a bad run. The horse had not run a race since November. Backers of Uncle Mo take note of the layoff factor. It's difficult to come back and challenge three year olds, who have a race under their saddle. A decent return race in the Florida Derby gets him to Churchill Downs.
7. Mucho Macho Man
They took the blinkers off in New Orleans and suddenly the Macho Man was an All Star in the Risen Star. Now, trainer Kathy Ritvo will probably take her horse back to New Orleans for the million dollar jackpot in the Louisiana Derby. Hey, those Louisiana jackpots are producing a lot of Derby horses.
Second place in the Risen Star was not a bad performance for a first race back from the winter break. Santiva is a son of Giant's Causeway and they usually take a while to develop. And with a little improvement he could win a grade one before heading to Louisville in late April.
9. Rogue Romance
It was also a very good first outing of 2011 for Rogue Romance in New Orleans.
Ken McPeek got Noble's Promise to the Derby last year and this colt may have more distance potential with his Smarty Jones pedigree. Rogue Romance has plenty of grade stakes money thanks to his third place finish in the Breeders' Cup.
Now the Arkansas precinct is reporting with a grass horse that loved the dirt at Oaklawn. Archie, for short, put in a powerful stretch run to win the Southwest Stakes and set up a progression to the Rebel and then the Arkansas Derby. His pedigree is grass, top and bottom, but his Dosage is Derby.
11. J P's Gusto
He was second to Archie in the Southwest and it was an acceptable return to the races this year. The connections really believe they have the Derby winner in J P and they moved him to Arkansas to plot the course to Kentucky.
The first race under new trainer Joe Petalino was decent. I wonder if he can retain top rider Ramon Dominguez for future races.
There will be a lot of disappointed race fans in California, including Bob Bafftert, if this horse is not a significant player in the Derby. He's working "Light's Out" at Santa Anita. How about :58.6 for five furlongs. But then, everybody works fast in California these days. Santa Anita has been a bowling alley. Jaycito gets his first start of the year in the San Felipe where he may run into Astrology, The Factor and other speedballs. He's one to watch March 12.
13. Silver Medallion
He's risen to the top of Derby contenders in California, but can he translate a win at Golden Gate into success at Santa Anita? With Tapizar and Clubhouse Ride now out with injuries, there is money to be made at two turns and Silver Medallion has the pedigree to run that far.
14. The Factor
He's fast and now he gets a shot to go longer.
Baffert will give his speedball a chance to stretch out to a mile and a sixteenth and it seems possible he could blitz the San Felipe. He's by the same sire as Soldat and the pedigree doesn't seem to be one dimensional. If it doesn't work, he'll be an ATM machine at the sprint distances.
15. Stay Thirsty.
Continues to shadow Uncle Mo on the work tab in almost the exact times.
It wouldn't surprise me, if this turns out to be the better horse in the long run or as the races get longer. It's his turn first in the Gotham Stakes, and with Uncle Mo not making the trip, Stay Thirsty might be the star in New York.
16. Toby's Corner
First week on the list, and a horse that popped up at Aqueduct after winning the Whirlaway Stakes on February 5. Now comes the moment of truth, a grade 3 at a mile and a sixteenth. Graham Motion is the trainer and this is an interesting pedigree. The sire is Bellamy Road. Toby's Corner's dam is a Mr. Frisky mare. The Dosage is 1.86.
17. Sweet Ducky
After a second place finish in the Holy Bull Stakes, Sweet Ducky has two bullet works at Palm Meadows in Florida. He needs a little more graded stakes money to fit into the Derby field but a nice showing in Louisiana would cure that.
He has a sweet pedigree by Pulpit. One more big race and he's right in the middle of the Derby picture.
18. Anthony's Cross
He won the Bob Lewis Stakes and jumped right to the top of California trainees who would like a ticket to Louisville. This is another son of Indian Charlie who just needs a decent showing in the next Derby prep to make the Derby field.
Eoin Harty has two months to get him to the Derby.
19. Riveting Reason
Was a nose short of winning the Bob Lewis and has not hit the board in three straight stakes races. Riveting Reason is the kind of consistent horse that will eventually win a big race, like maybe the Santa Anita Derby. He ran the Breeders' Cup as a maiden.
Stays on the list and points toward more graded stakes money after winning the LeComte Stakes at the Fairgrounds. The Lecomte is not a great Derby predictor but if patient trainer Neil Howard can improve on that rail trip at the Fairgrounds, he may be bringing home a Derby horse in April.
And falling out of our Top 20 for the Derby.
Decisive Moment…and just by a nose.
His Risen Star race was not terrible and he has enough graded stakes money to make the field. It may just depend on how much his owners want a horse in the Derby.
Both Decisive Moment and Astrology have a chance to make it back with a big run in the weeks ahead.
And on the Derby calendar:
The Derby Trail moves to New York on March 5 with the Gotham Stakes Grade 2.
And Turfway Park stages the ungraded John Battaglia Memorial at a mile and a sixteenth.
Ten weeks until the Derby.
Good luck and thanks for reading.