Originally written on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 10/3/14

With Horse Racing’s  2013 Kentucky Derby now just some 75 days away, I thought it was about time I pulled the “Countdown to the Triple Crown” series out of the closet, knock the dust off it and get it cranked up again. If you are new to this, the process is rather simple. Each week I will be ranking the top 20 (or so) three olds who have the best chance of winning the three classic races (The Kentucky Derby, The Preakness and The Belmont Stakes) and listing the reasons why they belong. Because we are only at the end of February, my list will be rather long. But no worries, the closer we get to our first target (The Kentucky Derby, May 3) the more I will be “funneling” down the list.  Year in and year out this list will change a million times over between now and the first Saturday in May, so fasten your seatbelts, put your seats in an upright position and make sure your tray tables are in an up and locked position.     2013 KentuckyDerby     1) Shanghai Bobby- I’ll probably take a lot of heat for putting him at #1 because there are lots of people who think this good looking colt by Harlan’s Holiday can’t get the classical distances and they very well may be right. That being said, several things stand out to me about his horse. 1) If you recall, he was dead game in the BC Juvenile. I mean, he came off the turn and about mid-way down the lane this was a tired race horse yet, he dug in and refused to be passed. Guts and determination go along way in my mind. 2) Absolutely nothing wrong with his three year old debut race. Yes, he was beaten soundly by Itsmyluckyday, but look closer you’ll see he (like the winner) set a track record also that day while scoring a triple digit Beyer Speed Figure off a 10 week layoff….keep looking and you’ll see it was 11+ lengths back to the third place finisher in that race. (The Holy Bull Stakes) I’m going to leave him on top for now because he still hasn’t proved to me he can’t get longer distances….his next (and last race before the Derby, the Florida Derby March 30) will tell the tale.     2) Violence- I saw this colt by Medaglia d’Oro (Rachel Alexandra’s dad) is ranked #1 by the great Steve Haskin and The Daily Racing Form and I absolutely see their point as this $600,000 yearling purchase has a huge upside. He is unbeaten (3-3) and has won in sprint races and at 1 1/16th miles as well. He is a Grade: 1 winner, has won on both coasts, and, according to his speed figures, he’s improved in every start. He takes the next step down the road to the Kentucky Derby this Saturday as he runs (and is the morning line favorite) in the Fountain of Youth Stakes.     3) Revolutionary- Wow! Did you see that stretch run in his last race (the Withers)? In case you didn’t, he was last at the quarter pole, snarled in traffic along the rail but found a hole, split horses and blew thru it to get up to win by a neck…. this after blowing away maidens (by 8 lengths) in his previous start. Now I realized this was a race at Aqueduct, on the inner track and in February so the company maybe suspect but still….I was genuinely impressed. In case you haven’t seen it, here it is again.     4) Verrazano- what have we here? Can you say total freak? So far, that’s the only word that comes to mind after looking at his first two races. On New Years Day, he won first time out while blowing out maidens (won by 7) at 6 ½ furlongs in 1:16.2. Then comes back and annihilates $75,000 optional claimers by 16+ lengths, getting a mile in 1:34.4 and scoring an eye popping 105 Beyer Speed Figure. His next start is the March 9 Tampa Bay Derby where he will be trying better competition and two turns for the first time…and I, for one, can’t wait to see how he fairs.   5) Goldencents- is 3 for 4 lifetime and versatile too as he can win from on or off the pace and is another who has won on both coasts. This Into Mischief colt has been burning up the racetrack (like another Doug O’Neil horse….I’ll Have Another) in the mornings as well  including two sub 1:10 six furlongs works recently and a 1:12.2 about 2 weeks ago. He still needs to mature a little bit but as of right now, in my eyes, he belongs high on the list until proven otherwise. His next race is the March 9 San Felipe at Santa Anita.   6) Itsmyluckyday- I’ll probably take some heat for putting this guy to low. He’s been nothing short of spectacular in his last two races including an almost 7 length trouncing of his competition in the Gulfstream Park Derby and then followed that up by knocking off Shanghai Bobby in the Holy Bull Stakes last month. The only reason I put him this low is I can’t quite tell if this colt, by the wickedly fast but ill fated Lawyer Ron, is just finding himself or peaking out (too soon?). Like the rest of the horses in here….time will tell.   7) Normandy Invasion- broke his maiden by 9, and then closed like the proverbial freight train in the Remsen to get beat a nose last November. I like horses that possess that big, late kick… it’s what wins Kentucky Derbys. Worked 5 furlongs in 1:01 and change 2 weeks ago, and will run again this Saturday in the Risen Star Stakes.    8) Flashback- is unbeaten and clearly talented as he came from behind to cruise in his maiden win (by 3), then jumped right into a Grade: 2 race (The Robert B. Lewis) and wire the (albeit short) field. Kind of hard to get a gauge on that Robert Lewis with such a short field, but regardless he’s won both his career starts easily and I hate to put him at #8… but I need to see a little more. He is on a collision course with Goldencents as trainer Bob Baffert is pointing him towards the San Felipe March 9 as well.   9) Capo Bastone- is another who owns a big late run as demonstrated in the BC Juvenile. Take a look at that race again, notice he was ninth early but finished third beaten a little over (just) 2 lengths. He won his 2013 three year old debut signaling he’s come back fine from last year….30-1 on the first (early) Kentucky Derby Pool?….wow….I was thinking 15 or 20-1.   10) Super Ninety Nine- you know, I originally thought this colt by Pulpit was purely a sprinter. I could not have been any more wrong. On Jan 31, he cruised to a 3 length win in a (one mile) $80,000 optional claimer race at Santa Anita, then shipped to Oaklawn this past weekend and walloped the field in the Southwest Stakes by 11 ¼ lengths in the slop while recording a 101 Beyer Speed Figure. At the end of last year, I had him ranked (in my mind) at like #20 or 22….not anymore.   11) Overanalyze- broke his maiden in fine fashion, then ran in four straight graded races where he won two of them but finished up the track in the other two. Nice colt, but I’m not crazy about the inconsistencies.   12) Vyjack- is unbeaten (3 for 3) and won the Grade: 2 Jerome at Aqueduct after a being carried out on the first turn and bumped hard in mid-stretch….watch for more improvement.   13) Falling Sky- well named colt by Lion Heart is 3 for 4 in his career and is another who has won from on and off the pace. Showed a lot of courage in his last (The Sam F. Davis) at Tampa Bay Downs as he was dead game in holding on to win by a neck after leading all the way and clearly tiring at the end.   14) Uncaptured- is 6 for 7 in his career, but more importantly he obviously loves the Churchill Downs surface as he is 2 for 2 over it. That’s huge….I give major credit to horses that like the CD track, it usually goes a long way. The reason why he is #14 is because he suffered a foot injury and his training was put on hold for while….he should have enough time to catch up, but whith foot injuries you never know.   15) Delhomme- not much of a quarterback but a nice little racehorse. Speedy colt by Union Rags was game while giving Overanalyze and stretch running Normandy Invasion all they could handle in the aforementioned Withers at 1 1/8th miles. He certainly looks like he can get another furlong, but he’ll have to improve leaps and bounds if he is going to win the 2013 Kentucky Derby on the front end.     On the Radar Screen: Dynamic Sky ran the best race of his life while getting nipped at the wire by Falling Sky in the aforementioned Sam F Davis last time out. If he continues to improve (and mature…he has lead change issues and shied from the whip in that race) he could make a little noise in this division. Tiz the True has an enormous stretch run and he could easily leap into the top 6 or 7 after his next race if he continues the way he is going. Departing won an allowance race by almost 5 under a hand ride….wonder what he would have done should they have asked him for his best? Palace Malice, I have friend who is close to this horse and they tell me he is a runner….but the $64,000 question is….how does he come back from a (slight bow?) tendon injury he suffered last year? Oxbow, came out of nowhere to blow away the Lecomte Field at Louisiana Downs in his last. But the D. Wayne Lukas trainee was allowed to lope along on an easy lead before opening up to win by 11+ lengths. I’ll need to see how he performs with a little pressure in his face in the early stages because when that’s happen in the past….the results were not good. Let’s not forget about Power Broker so fast. Trainer Bob Baffert said he needed some time off to “put a little weight on” and if he does, he has the ability to be a force on the west coast. He had his first work of the season (3F- :37 flat) last week.  Thanks for Reading…

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