Updated 2016 Kentucky Derby Contender Rankings

February 19th 2016 (Updated February 21st -76 days away from the Kentucky Derby)

Below is my updated 2016 Kentucky Derby contender list with latest Wynn Las Vegas Kentucky Derby odds. Dropping out of my rankings are three very good horses in Songbird,  Swipe and Matt King Coal. Songbird’s owner Rick Porter has said that he will not enter the sensational 3 year-old filly in the Kentucky Derby. Instead, he will point her towards the Kentucky Oaks where she will be the race favorite and probably pick up an easy $600,000 with a win.

Swipe had a bone spur removed from his ankle and it appears that he may not make his first start in 2016 until early April. That will be too short of an order, with one race in 2016 before the Derby, to really make feel that he would be a threat to win the first leg of the Triple Crown. The Linda Rice-trained Matt King Coal has been working out of late but has had his scheduled first start of 2016 moved back a few times due to spiking a fever.

Also dropping out of my previous rankings is Airoforce who had a disappointing 10th place finish in the Risen Star Stakes.

Right now what I envision in the 2016 Kentucky Derby is Nyquist being mowed down by Mohaymen in the final furlong and closer Brody’s Cause making a valiant effort on the outside to take third. Last year I hit a $10 Boxed Trifecta (American Pharoah, Firing Line and Dortmund) and a $20 win bet on American Pharoah that paid back $1088.

But with 11 weeks before the Derby, new stars can emerge from the woodworks. Remember what Firing Line did last year when he set a track record in the Sunland Derby and finished 2nd in the Kentucky Derby behind American Pharoah and ahead of Dortmund who had beaten him twice. So don’t give up on the scrappy horses who have finished 2nd in some of the Derby prep races thus far.

My Top 10 Kentucky Derby Contenders:

1) Mohaymen (8/1) The Kiaran McLaughlin-trained colt is undefeated in 4 starts and posted an impressive time of 1:42.07 in the Holy Bull Stakes. His sire was Tapit so his pedigree suggests that he will like stretching out past 1 1/16th mile. His next start will be the Fountain of Youth Stakes on February 27th at Gulfstream Park.

Career: 4 Starts 4-0-0-0
Sire: Tapit (Finished 9th in 2004 Kentucky Derby)
Projected Jockey: Junior Alvarado
Best 1 Mile Time: 1:36.01 – Nashua Stakes

Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:42.07 – Holy Bull Stakes
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.92 – Remsen Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 95- Holy Bull Stakes

2) Nyquist (12/1) – The 2015 Eclipse 2 Year Old Male Horse of the Year. The first of the 2016 Kentucky Derby crop to produce a 100+ Beyer Speed Figure with his win in the San Vicente. He is being pointed for the Florida Derby on April 2nd. Trainer Doug O’Neill is following the same “2 races as a 3 year-old” strategy that he used with I’ll Have Another to win the 2012 Kentucky Derby.

Career: 6 Starts 6-0-0-0
Sire: Uncle Mo 
Projected Jockey: Mario Gutierrez (2012 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Best 1 Mile Time: N/A
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.79 – Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 101 – San Vicente Stakes

The Top 2 are really the cream of the crop thus far so here are challengers to keep an eye on.

3) Brody’s Cause (22/1) Dale Roman’s winner of the Breeders’ Futurity Stakes. This colt has excellent closing speed that he demonstrated in the Breeders’ Futurity Stakes and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile with his 3rd place finish. He is being pegged for the Tampa Bay Derby March 12th. 

Career: 4 Starts 2-0-1-0
Sire: Giant’s Causeway 
Projected Jockey: Corey Lanerie
Best 1 Mile Time: 1:37.64 – Churchill Down MSW – Race #5
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.27 – Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 88 – Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity

4) Exaggerator (20/1) – The Desormeaux brothers colt finished 4th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and then followed this effort with a win in the Delta Downs Jackpot with a 92 Beyer Speed Figure and giving Mohaymen a good battle in the San Vicente. Exaggerator’s sire was Curlin (2007 Preakness Stakes and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner). His next start is expected to be the San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita Park March 12th.

Career: 7 Starts 3-2-0-1 
Sire: Curlin (Finished 3rd in 2007 Kentucky Derby)
Projected Jockey: Kent Desormeaux (1998, 2000 & 2008 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Best 1 Mile Time: N/A
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.43 (calculated) Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 97 – San Vicente Stakes

5) Greenpointcrusader (25/1)  A second place finish in the Holy Bull Stakes was a good return to form performance. The Champagne Stakes winner has an excellent pedigree: sire Bernardini (Rachel’s Valentina’s sire), grand sire A.P. Indy, great-grand sire Seattle Slew. His next start appears to be in the Louisiana Derby at the Fairgrounds on March 26th.

Career: 5 Starts 2-2-0-0
Sire: Bernardini 
Projected Jockey: John Velazquez (2011 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Best 1 Mile Time: 1:36.25 – Champagne Stakes
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:42.63 (calculated) – Holy Bull Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 94 Champagne Stakes

6) Mor Spirit (9/1) – Bob Baffert’s best 2 year-old colt. Winner of the Los Alamitos Futurity  and Robert B. Lewis Stakes (winning time of 1:43.21). His times are way off what Dortmund produced last year in these two races. His next start will be the San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita Park March 12th.

Career: 5 Starts 3-2-0-0
Sire: Eskendereya 
Projected Jockey: Gary Stevens (1988, 1995 and 1998 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Best 1 Mile Time: 1:37.48 – Santa Anita Park MSW – Race #5
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.21 – Robert B. Lewis Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 92 – Robert B. Lewis Stakes

7) Smokey Image (40/1) – He is undefeated in six starts, but five of his wins were at the 7 furlong distance or shorter. His win in the California Cup Derby (shown below) was impressive but only generated an 82 Beyer Speed Figure. This Cal-bred might prove to be a better dirt-miler than a Derby horse. His next start is pegged to be the San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita Park March 12th.

Career: 6 Starts 6-0-0-0
Sire: Southern Image 
Projected Jockey: Victor Espinoza (2002, 2014 & 2015 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Best 1 Mile Time: N/A
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.49 – California Cup Derby
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 85

8) Suddenbreakingnews (20/1) – An impressive win in the Southwest Stakes (shown below) has put this 3 year-old gelding onto many Kentucky Derby contender lists. May I suggest a name change? How about “Blue Bayou” because the Donnie von Hemel-trained colt blew by the Southwest Stakes field. His sire was Mineshaft–2003 Horse of the Year. He’s a closer and they always have a chance in the Derby when the opening fractions are fast.

Career: 6 Starts 3-3-0-0
Sire: Mineshaft 
Projected Jockey: Luis Quinonez
Best 1 Mile Time: 1:39.17 (calculated) – Remington Springboard Mile
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:45.14 – Southwest Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 93 – Southwest Stakes

9) Gift Box (40/1) –  In just his 2nd start, this Chad Brown-trained colt produced a time of 1:43:00 on a sloppy track at Belmont–good for a 93 Beyer Speed Figure. He finished a respectable 3rd in the Remsen Stakes behind Mohaymen and Flexibility. His next start appears to be the Gotham Stakes on March 5th at the Fairgrounds.

Career: 3 Starts 1-0-2-0
Sire: Twirling Candy
Projected Jockey: Javier Castellano
Best 1 Mile Time: N/A
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.00 – Belmont MSW- Race #11
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:51.17 (calculated) – Remsen Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 93 – Belmont MSW- Race #1

10) Mo Tom (45/1) – The Lecomte Stakes winner and half brother of Nyquist got a bad trip in the Risen Star Stakes (shown below) by getting hemmed-in along the rail. Otherwise I feel he would have beaten Gun Runner (who received a 90 Beyer Speed Figure for the win). He demonstrated excellent closing speed and appears will like added distance. There is no worries about how he take to the Churchill Downs surface as he won the Street Sense Stakes there last November. His next start is rumored to be the Louisiana Derby March 26th at the Fairgrounds.

Career: 6 Starts 3-0-3-0
Sire: Uncle Mo 
Projected Jockey: Corey LanerieBest 1 Mile Time: 1:36.78 – Street Sense Stakes
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:44.18 (calculated) – Risen Star Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 88 – Lecomte Stakes


Upcoming Derby Trail Races

Fountain of Youth Stakes – Gulfstream Park – Feb 27, 2016
Gotham Stakes- Aqueduct – Mar 5, 2016
Tampa Bay Derby – Tampa Bay Downs – Mar 12, 2016
San Felipe Stakes – Santa Anita Park – Mar 12, 2016
Rebel Stakes – Oaklawn Park – Mar 19, 2016
Sunland Derby – Sunland Park – Mar 20, 2016

For updated Kentucky Derby Point Standings, click HERE.

–Michael

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