Category Archives: Kentucky Derby

The Infield Derby Top 10

The Pamplemousse is on the loose in the Sham Stakes. Photo from LATimes.

The Pamplemousse is on the loose in the Sham Stakes. Photo from LATimes.

1. Old Fashioned (1)

2. Pioneerof The Nile (2)

3. Friesan Fire (3)

4. The Pamplemousse (6)

5. Haynesfield (4)

6. Quality Road (new)

7. Chocolate Candy (7)

8. Dunkirk (new)

9. Capt. Candyman Can (5)

10. Imperial Council (10)

Off The List: Poltergeist, Hello Broadway

Not much change at the top, but two newcomers to the list in Quality Road and Dunkirk.  QR was touted early but quickly dropped off of most lists after a terrible run in a 6f allowance.  He totally made up for that effort in the Fountain of Youth last weekend.  Dunkirk could be Pletcher’s Derby winner after a startling performance in an allowance that set tongues wagging about the “’09 Big Brown”.  We’ll just have to see if the train-up to the FL Derby works and if this lightly-raced son of Unbridled’s Song can be ready in time for the Big Derby. 

The Big Fruit got the Big Win in the Sham on Saturday.  He set the pace and drew off by daylight once again.  I can’t wait ’till he and PNiles meet up; a classy frontrunner vs a tough closer equals awesomeness.


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1. Old Fashioned (1)

2. Pioneerof The Nile (8)

3. Friesan Fire (new!)

4. Haynesfield (new!)

5. Capt. Candyman Can (new!)

6. The Pamplemousse (new!)

7. Chocolate Candy (new!)

8. Poltergeist (new!)

9. Hello Broadway (new!)

10. Imperial Council (7)

Off The List: Square Eddie (injury), Midshipman & Vineyard Haven (Dubai, could resurface), Beethoven, Breakwater Edison, Well Positioned, Charitable Man (injury)

Lots of changes since the first list Jan. 1.  Old Fashioned remains at the top until he runs next Monday.  Pioneerof The Nile moves up a bunch off of his impressive Bob Lewis effort, and would be #1 if he was a known dirt commodity.  The rest of the list is made up of newcomers.  Friesan Fire has been the strongest 3yo in the South so far, taking the 2 stakes at Fairgrounds and learning how to settle.  Haynesfield is tearing it up at Aqueduct, but distance questions surround him with that sprinter sire.  Capt. Candyman Can looked great winning the Hutcheson.  The Pamplemousse is probably #2 in California, with Chocolate Candy close behind.  Poltergeist is an intriguing allowance winner at Oaklawn looking to prove himself in stakes company.  Hello Broadway is always in the race.  Imperial COuncil is working well and needs to make a start pretty soon; his potential is what is keeping him on the list.

All of the unfortunate list-droppers could make it back in the top 10 with a good effort.  Vineyard Haven makes his 3yo debut in Dubai on Thursday, and if he is still as dominant as he was last year then he’ll be back on the list next week.  Square Eddie is out with sore shins but can rejoin the list if he recovers quickly.  At least four 3yo stakes this weekend means there could be more movementon the list.  Also, ROAD TO THE ROSES is OPEN for ENTRIES!!!

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WEEKEND DERBY PREPS: Better than a Groundhog

Pioneerof The Nile relives his narrow Cashcall Futurity to return victorious in the Bob Lewis.

Pioneerof The Nile relives his narrow Cashcall Futurity to return victorious in the Bob Lewis.

Today the weather was actually not hellatious.  It was right near enjoyable.  Perfect for a trio of Derby Preps!

Close to home at the Fairgrounds, Friesan Fire lit up the Risen Star stakes with a strong performance that shoots him into the Derby picture.  Despite being rank early, the Larry Jones trainee raced close up to an honest pace set by It Happened Again.  Jockey Gabriel Saez sent Friesan Fire to the lead at the top of the lane and the colt drew off by 3.  It was a sweet effort that proves this colt is a real contender.  And he’s the second fiddle three year old in Jones’s barn!  I have high expectations for Old Fashioned Feb 16.  

Up in NY, Haynesfield won the Whirlaway at Aqueduct in an awesome wire-to-wire parade route.  The son of Speightstown was unchallenged the whole way around and finished up about 7 in front.  I have doubts about his distance capabilites, though the Whirlaway is 1 1/6th miles, far from a sprint.  He has the class to go forward and we’ll just see how that turns out in the Gotham next month.  The biggest delight was the sunny skies and fast track up at Aqueduct, which is normally a drab scene in February.  Forget the groundhog, Haynesfield says we’re having an early spring.

Finally, Pioneerof The Nile emerged as the top Derby contender in the West with his win in the Bob Lewis Stakes.  (I’m going to start calling this colt PNiles, after Tiger bigman Pierre Henderson-Niles)  PNiles overcame horrendous traffic and closed like a jailhouse door to take the Lewis by a neck.  It was an exciting, gutsy performance by the Baffert trainee.  Though my sources say PNiles will stay out west until Derby day, it would sure be nice to see how he’ll handle the real dirt before May.  Also, if we have a TC on the line again this year, let me make my prediction now: Pioneerof The Nile will be the spoiler, just like his Dad, EMpire Maker.

I am formulating my Derby List and should have it ready to post next week sometime.  The Sam F. Davis and El Camino Real are the Valentine’s Day preps next saturday, and I will have some sweet picks for them Friday.  Also, I may be shooting up the highway to Hot Springs sooner rather than never — stay tuned!

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WINS the SAN RAFAEL at Santa Anita! 

The Pamplemousse wins the San Rafael wire-to-wire/image from

The Pamplemousse wins the San Rafael wire-to-wire/image from

Gotta love a horse named after a restaurant named after the French word for grapefruit.  Heh, I just bought a bunch of red grapefruit snack cups; it musta been an omen!

Seriously, though, TheBigFruit got away with the race from the beginning, setting easy fractions on the lead.  He showed his class by putting the squeeze on Square Eddie in the final turn.  Ryehill Dreamer made a move, too, but just couldn’t catch the top two.  The Big Fruit juiced Square Eddie by 3.

Square E needed the race, but he seems to be afflicted with 2nditis.  The Big Fruit is now 2-for-2  in his career, but much bigger challenges await him on the Derby trail. 

In terms of the Derby picture, it’s early, but the way this race played out, it probably won’t make any difference except to fill up posts 15-20.  The Pro-ride surface is a question mark, and there is no way The Big Fruit gets an easy lead like that again. 


CHOCOLATE CANDY won the California Derby today at Golden Gate Fields.  I like this one and hope he continues to progress.  He could be a Derby sleeper but he hasn’t tried dirt yet.

 SILVER CITY won the Dixieland Stakes at Oaklawn on Opening Day.

The next big 3yo preps are the Holy Bull and Hutcheson Stakes on Jan 30-31.

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Elvis Presley Day Special PICKS

Happy Birthday, Elvis

Happy Birthday, Elvis

Tomorrow would have been Elvis Presley’s 74th birthday.  What does this have to do with thoroughbreds, you ask?  Not much, really, except that I wouldn’t have the financial resources to play my favorite game or attend my favorite races without him.  Plus, Elvis liked horses.

In honor of EAP’s birthday celebration (free cake & coffee if you’re in Memphis that day) here are the PICKS!!

There are 2 really great 3yo allowance races at Gulfstream tomorrow, featuring some promising maiden winners who could show up later on the Derby trail.

GULFSTREAM #6: $42,000 Allowance 3yos, 1 1/8 miles, dirt



I like ATOMIC RAIN in this race.  His last out was a second to Old Fashioned in the Remsen, a big deal 2yo race in which Atomic Rain gave a good run in his 2nd place finish.  Next, I see STATELY CHARACTER finishing well, having won a minor stakes already in his career.  For the show spot, STORMALORY looks good to complete my ticket.  PRESSURE POINT will gain some experience in his 2nd start, as will FREE COUNTRY.  Either one will be in my EX/TRI boxes, too.  It is amazing to see Repent and Big Country listed as the sires of these colts, because it seems like just a year ago, I was handicapping *them* in these same Derby trail races!!  Gaahh I’m getting old!


GULFSTREAM #8, $42,000 Allowance 1 1/8 miles, 3yos, dirt


Another great group of sophomores!  IDOL MAKER and AP CARDINAL are tough to beat in here, coming into the race off good workouts and losing efforts against Old Fashioned.  IDOL MAKER was 4th in the Remsen, AP Cardinal was 4th to him in an allowance race.  AWESOME MITCH is also coming out of the Remsen, a dull 7th but he has been working well for this race.  BRUCE N AUTUMN is an interesting son of Lemon Drop Kid, in my picks, too.


Tomorrow’s races will do a lot to confirm the quality of the Remsen.  If none of the horses coming out of that race run like I think they will, then Old Fashioned may have to drop in my Derby list.  But we’ll see.

Happy Birthday, Elvis!

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At midnight I drank a New Year’s toast to the brand new 3yos of 2009, and the promise of glory and heartbreak on the Derby trail.  Here is the OFFICIAL Infield Derby Top 10 List, Week 1!

10) MIDSHIPMAN :  BC Juvy winner by Unbridled’s Song would have been in the top 5 were it not for the bad luck of being part of the Stonerside dispersal.  Instead of staying in CA with Baffert, the talented colt is spending his winter in Dubai.  I admire the Sheikh’s love and dedication to the sport and his magnificent training center, but his Derby tactics just haven’t been all that successful.  Midshipman could be the one to prove me wrong, but I think the #2 colt has an even better chance –

9) SQUARE EDDIE :  Raced exclusively on turf and synthetic, this son of Smart Strike began his career in Europe before joining Paul Reddam’s racing stable.  His impressive 5-length victory in the Lane’s End Futurity set him up for a tough run in the BC Juveile, where he tracked Midshipman the whole way around.  He has never raced on dirt, but his sire has gotten nice runners on all surfaces (Curlin & English Channel).  Promises to be a major player in the Cali preps, beginning with the San Rafael on Jan 17.

8) PIONEEROF THE NILE : Baffert’s replacement for Midshipman, this colt won a hard-fought running of the CashCall Futurity on Dec. 20.  The Zayat Stables runner by Empire Maker has always been charging at the final furlong, and seems to be on the improve.  Surface questions also surround him: though he broke his maiden on Saratoga’s dirt, he has only run in synthetic stakes.  Trivia: His damsire is Lord At War, the same as Baffert’s ’02 Derby winner War Emblem.  And just as an aside, I hate the preposition dangling off of “Pioneer”  in his name…

7) IMPERIAL COUNCIL : Impressive maiden winner also sired by Empire Maker.  Out of a Thunder Gulch mare, he promises to only get better as distances stretch out.  He is owned by newish partnership Sequoia Racing Stable, headed by longtime racing pro Reynolds Bell Jr.  In Shug McGaughey’s barn, Imperial Council has a expert conditioner plotting his runup to the roses. 

6) BEETHOVEN :  John Ward got Monarchos to the ’01 Derby and is using that  experience to train this son of Sky Mesa.  The colt has a win over the Churchill Downs surface, in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at 1 1/6 miles on Nov. 29.  He toughed out the win in a three-way duel down the stretch, showing a lot of guts for a 2yo.  There are a few questions however– dam Moonlight Sonata is by sprint sire Carson City, and both parents had short, injury-plagued careers.  Ward is a careful, old-school trainer, though, and the colt has had no problems so far.

5) BREAK WATER EDISON : Such a cumbersome name for a very talented colt.  This son of Lemon Drop Kid has taken his time finding the winner’s circle in stakes, finally getting some Gr3 money in the one mile Nashua on Nov. 2.  The trainee of John Kimmel stayed close to a hot pace in that race, yet found enough in the tank to draw away impressively and finish in 1:35.8.  Break Water Edison should stretch out nicely as the races do on the Derby trail.  I only wish he had a more palatable name…

4) WELL POSITIONED : Another promising maiden winner, this one owned by Paul Pompa, Jr. of Big Brown fame.  The son of Awesome Again broke his maiden by a devastating 14 lengths, which lit up Pompa’s phone with offers from many looking for Derby prospects.  The aptly-named colt is trained by Pat Reynolds.  The colt’s final time in the mile maiden race was 1:38 3/5, while older horses running in the Discovery Handicap later that day ran 2 seconds slower in covering the same distance.  Pompa appeared well-positioned once again for classic success, though there hasn’t been any major announcement about ownership changes or future plans for the colt since the big win, which leads me to believe there might be an issue somewhere. 

3) CHARITABLE MAN : A favorite of mine from the summer, this son of Lemon Drop Kid pulled away strongly to win the 7f Belmont Futurity. Like father, like son.   Trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, this gorgeous dark bay out of a Saint Ballado mare figures to relish the added distances on the spring classics.  An injury knocked him out of the fall juvenile races, but I’ve heard he seems to be doing well and will be dangerous in the Derby preps.

2) VINEYARD HAVEN : He was Bobby Frankel’s best 2yo since Empire Maker, winner of the Gr1 Champagne Stakes and Gr1 Hopeful and early favorite for the BC Juvy.  The supplemental entry fee of $180,000 kept him out of the big race, but not out of the sight of Sheikh Mohammed.  This son of blog favorite Lido Palace was snatched up for an undisclosed (read:ungodly) sum just after the juvenile.  He, too will be in Dubai for the runup to the Derby, but of all the horses sent there for training over the past several years, Vineyard Haven seems to be the one who could pull off the impossible.  He’s fast, he’s bred to go long, and he can win on dirt.

1) OLD FASHIONED :  He is a grey colt by Unbridled’s Song, trained by Larry Jones and owned by Fox Hill Farm.  How poetic would it be for a half-bro* to Eight Belles to win the Kentucky Derby?  In all seriousness, the Fox Hill Farm crew have come dangerously close to winning the roses the past several years, with the unlucky Rockport Harbor, whose injured foot kept him off the Derby trail in ’05;  the tough, speedy Hard Spun, who set the pace in the ’07 Derby and hung on for 2nd; and of course, Eight Belles, the only horse who came close to Big Brown in the ’08 Derby.   Old Fashioned ran a lights out Remsen at 1 1/8 miles in 1:50.33, by a stunning 7 lengths.  Of course, the soundness issue will be talked to death, as will the strength of the bottom side of his pedigree.  But Old Fashioned looks like a Derby winner to me, and he has the connections to make it all the way. 

 *Eight Belles and Old Fashioned share a sire, and for my purposes on today’s blog, I used the human definition of “half brother”.  However, the two horses are not technically considered half-siblings because they are not out of the same mare.

Happy New Year!  

Happy Birthday Thoroughbreds!!!

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It Is NEVER Too Early to Talk DERBY

In just a week, the first signs of fever will begin.  The 2yo Thoroughbreds I have watched this summer and fall will turn 3 years old on January 1.  The next day, the first 3yo stakes will be run at Golden Gate Fields, the Golden Bear stakes (ungraded) at 6furlongs.  Normally the first 3yo race is the Tropical Park Derby on New Year’s Day, but due to some crappy problem the race that started Barbaro’s career won’t be run in ’09.  The first major 3yo stake will be on Jan. 3, the Count Fleet at Aqueduct.  Smarty Jones came out of the Count Fleet, I remind myself.  And just like that, my obsession will pick up where it left off last spring, as strong as ever.

I like a lot of horses right now.  Midshipman, Vineyard Haven, Square Eddie, Big Drama, Beethoven, Old Fashioned, Well Positioned…the names are brimming with potential.  Could one of these colts grow into a legend in the next 5 months?  Or will it be the filly, Stardom Bound, who will finish the job EIght Belles nearly did this year?  There could be some maiden winner just waiting for the right race to make his big break, a horse I’ve never heard of but will be shouting his name at the top of my lungs come the first Saturday in May.

Ahh, it’s exciting, and I will try to blog each major stop on the road to Louisville.  Next week I will debut my Top 10 Derby horses list.  I have had the winner 7 times in the past 12 years I have done a January list.  Those past lists have been on scraps of paper stuck into magazines.  This time, it’s gonna be out there for all to read.  Next week.  January 1.  Because it is never too early to talk Derby.

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