Tuesday, March 25, 2014

On the Outside Looking In: Kentucky Derby Edition

It's hard to believe we're only a little over a month away from the Run for the Roses, and yet somehow, someway it's true. This week spells the start of the all-important final round of 100 point prep races, which will be the "make it or break it" point for many hopefuls who have yet to garner enough points to make the starting gate. Below are five horses who do not yet have enough points to run in the big one on the first Saturday in May, but could prove to be major players should they earn the necessary points in their finals preps. 

1. Bobby's Kitten (0 points)
Expected Next Start: Blue Grass Stakes
Scoff if you'd like, but in a year where the Frontrunner, Cashcall Futurity, Breeders' Cup Juvenile, and Remsen winners have already been declared "Off the Trail," a son of Kitten's Joy remains as one of the few members of this three-year-old crop who has proven class, as he has a G3 to his name along with a third place finish in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf. His most recent run, which was over a mile on the turf at Tampa couldn't have been more impressive. He settled nicely on the lead, set reasonable fractions (which was a big improvement from his BC Juv run) and easily dispelled of a good horse in Global View without really being asked. Unlike some of the other Derby hopefuls, this son of Kitten's Joy seems to have matured mentally since the end of his two-year-old campaign. Whether or not he will take to the dirt remains to be seen, but in my eyes, everything seems to point to him running a big one in the Derby if he's in the field.

2. Tonalist (0 points)
Expected Next Start: Wood Memorial 
If you were ever wondering if there exists a Tapit who isn't a complete headcase, the answer is yes and this handsome bay would be that colt. He impressively broke his maiden after rallying five wide to win a nine furlong Maiden Special Weight by four lengths and he followed that up with a nice runner-up finish behind Constitution in an Allowance. In that most recent Allowance run, Tonalist showed much more early speed than he had shown in his prior starts (likely due to the clearly biased nature of the main track at Gulfstream that day). Regardless, that's a versatility that few of the Derby hopefuls have displayed to this point. He's bred to go long on the dirt and prefers to run as a closer. Given all of the speedy, sprinter-types who already appear to have enough points to make the Derby gate, he appears to be one who could relish the likely Derby pace scenario if he can secure a spot in the field.

3. Cairo Prince (14 points)
Expected Next Start: Florida Derby
It's hard to believe this son of Pioneerof the Nile likely does not have enough points to run in the Kentucky Derby just yet, given that he's a multiple G2 winner, but he hasn't run (by design) since his win in the Holy Bull in January, so he finds himself in a scenario where he will likely need to finish in the money in order to secure himself a spot in the Derby. On paper, he's clearly the most accomplished of this crop at this point, but whether or not he will continue to progress remains to be seen. The biggest question mark on him in my book is that he has never ran behind horses in a race. That hasn't proven to be an issue for him to date, but I doubt he'll stay ten furlongs if he has to run four-wide in the clear all the way around Churchill Downs. Here's to hoping we see what he's really made of in what will be likely be a very speedy Florida Derby.

4. Giovanni Boldini (0 points)
Expected Next Start: UAE Derby
He may be an Aidan O'Brien trainee, but Giovanni Boldini is in fact the 2013 West Virginia Horse of the Year. Should he finish in the money in Dubai and make the trip to Louisville, I would expect him to be more competitive than UAE Derby winners of years past. Not only are there dirt influences in his pedigree, but don't forget that a fellow War Front in Declaration of War took to the dirt, albeit at Santa Anita, just fine in the Breeders' Cup Classic. Giovanni Boldini has ran well in tough company, in that he finished third (four lengths back) of the highly regarded Toormore in a G1 at the Curragh (in what was only his second career start) before winning a listed stakes and then finishing second to Outstrip (and ahead of Bobby's Kitten) in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf. International travel clearly isn't an issue for him and he's another who could very well be one of the few off the pace horses if the Derby pace scenario shapes up to be loaded with early speed, as is expected.

5. Noble Moon (10 points)
Expected Next Start: Wood Memorial 
Last time we saw Noble Moon, it was when he put in a winning effort to take the one mile and seventy yards G2 Jerome at Aqueduct. It was hardly a breathtaking run, but given he was being run nearly six weeks later than was originally planned after him breaking out in hives forced him to be scratched from the Remsen, it was a solid effort. It's unclear if he'll run in the Wood Memorial after he was off the work tab for parts of January and February, but the work reports on him are promising and he may very well be rounding into shape at the right time. 





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