After today’s Oaks win by Rachel, the Derby has a tough act to follow.
1. PIONEEROF THE NILE: This colt has been so good that he has overcome his name and found a place at the top of my list. Bob Baffert was just elected to the Hall of Fame in Saratoga, which is good luck for those trainers with Derby horses: Neil Drysdale was elected the year FuPeg won, and D. Wayne Lukas was elected the year Charismatic won. Steve Haskin says the PNile had the best workout at CD and was the best-looking contender in terms of coat condition and attitude. On track, the son of Empire Maker has done nothing wrong, except not race on dirt. But the way he looked in his CD workouts put my questions to rest. He has shown that he can win off the pace, or up on it, as he did in the freaky running of the Santa Anita Derby. He has already beaten I Want Revenge twice, Chocolate Candy twice, Papa Clem and Mr. Hot Stuff. He breaks from post 16, not bad for his usual closing style. Garret Gomez chose PNile over Dunkirk, and I think he made the right choice. Jon White says he will win the whole Triple Crown if he can capture this first jewel. I won’t go that far. Yet.
2. I WANT REVENGE : Got out of Cali to avoid PNile and became the Morning Line Favorite by his brilliance on dirt. TV star jockey Joe Talamo will ride the near-black colt, which will pull some bets in from the teenybopper set. I Want Revenge has shown speed, heart and stamina with his wins in NY. Trainer Jeff Mullins has won big stakes before, and owners IEAH have lived the Derby dream before, with Big Brown.
3. GENERAL QUARTERS: He is the sentimental favorite with the heartwarming story. He is also a gritty competitor who has been versatile on a variety of surfaces.
4. PAPA CLEM: Can’t leave out the Arkansas Derby winner — beat Old Fashioned in a thrilling stretch duel.
5. FRIESAN FIRE: If it’s a sloppy track, this son of AP Indy will be dangerous. The Larry Jones trainee has been consistent all year. He has never run over 1 1/16 miles, however, and the 7-week layoff is worrisome.
Longshots that I will play in my exotics: CHOCOLATE CANDY… REGAL RANSOM … DUNKIRK … and whoever else I get a hankering about before Derby.
GOOD LUCK, PLAYERS! COME HOME SAFE, COLTS!