Updated 2016 Kentucky Derby Contender Rankings

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2016 San Felipe Stakes winner Danzing Candy, ridden by Mike Smith – Credit: Michael J. Cox

March 15, 2016
(Updated March 28th 2016)

Below is my updated 2016 Kentucky Derby contender rankings. Mohaymen and Nyquist are still 1-2 and the notch above the rest of the pack. Dropping out of my Top 10 are: Smokey Image who was previously undefeated but demonstrated no fight in the San Felipe Stakes, Brody’s Cause who is a closer than didn’t close in the Tampa Bay Derby and finished a disappointing 7th, Gift Box and Mo Tom who was edged out due to the performances of other horses. Suddenbreakingnews and Greenpointcrusader drop out due to disappointing finishes in the Rebel Stakes and Louisiana Derby.

I feel we won’t have a Triple Crown contender heading into the Belmont Stakes this year. It seems to be a wide open, weird kind of year. We will have a clearer picture of what to expect the rest of the year after the Florida Derby on April 2nd when matchup of Mohaymen vs Nyquist is expected to take place.

My Top 10 Kentucky Derby Contenders:

1) Mohaymen  – The Kiaran McLaughlin-trained colt is undefeated in 5 starts. In the Fountain of Youth Stakes, I was initially disappointed that he didn’t lower the time he produced in the Holy Bull Stakes. But after review, this was a good prep race for him as he rallied off the pace and had to go wide and deal with traffic to get the win. His sire was Tapit so his pedigree suggests that he will like stretching out past 1 1/16th mile. His next start will be a showdown vs Nyquist in the Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park on April 2nd.

Career: 5 Starts 5-0-0-0
Sire: Tapit (Finished 9th in 2004 Kentucky Derby)
Projected Jockey: Junior Alvarado
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 – The 2015 Eclipse 2 Year Old Male Horse of the Year is undefeated in 6 starts. He was 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 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.79 – Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 101 – San Vicente Stakes

3) Destin – The Todd Pletcher-trained colt breaks into my Top 10 and all the way to #3 by virtue of his performance in the Tampa Bay Derby (shown below) where he set a track record with a time of 1:42.82–good for a 100 Beyer Speed Figure. He is the full brother to Creative Cause who finished 5th in the Kentucky Derby and 3rd in the Preakness Stakes in 2012. It remains to be seen if he just likes Tampa Bay Downs track. Hopefully his next start will come elsewhere.

Career: 5 Starts 3-1-0-1
Sire: Giant’s Causeway  
Projected Jockey: Javier Castellano
Best Mile Time: 1:38.73 (calculated) – Gulfstream Allowance Opt. Claiming Race – 12/18/15
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:42.82 – Tampa Bay Derby
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 100 – Tampa Bay Derby

4) Mor Spirit – Bob Baffert’s best Derby trail horse thus far. I have been somewhat critical of his times since they have been way off what Dortmund produced last year in Los Alamitos Futurity, Robert B. Lewis Stakes and now the San Felipe Stakes. However, what I witnessed in the San Felipe was a horse that came off the pace and made up significant ground to finish 2nd. He is my favorite to win the Santa Anita Derby on April 9th that will be half furlong (1/16th of a mile) further than the San Felipe Stakes.

Career: 6 Starts 3-3-0-0
Sire: Eskendereya 
Projected Jockey: Gary Stevens (1988, 1995 and 1998 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Best 1 Mile Time: 1:37.48 – Santa Anita Park MSW – 10/23/15
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.21 – Robert B. Lewis Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 97 – San Felipe Stakes

5) Danzing Candy – The surprise winner of the San Felipe Stakes (shown below). He has three wins in his last three starts. He got a perfect trip in the San Felipe by getting out in the lead and then holding on for the win. Give credit to jockey Mike Smith for this win because it was a great strategy because the track wasn’t forgiving to closers that day. His next start will be a rematch against Mor Spirit in the Santa Anita Derby April 9th.

Career: 4 Starts 3-0-0-0 
Sire: Twirling Candy
Projected Jockey: Mike Smith (2005 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Best 1 Mile Time: 1:36.73 – Santa Anita Allowance Opt Claiming Race – 2/4/16
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.04 – San Felipe Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 100San Felipe Stakes

6) Cupid  –  Another Bob Baffert-trained 3 year -old who moves into my Top 10 after a solid win in the 14 horse field of Rebel Stakes. His winning time was 1:43.84 which is a very good time at Oaklawn Park and resulted in a 95 Beyer Speed Figure. He displayed the necessary fight in this race when challenged by Whitmore. He is a half-brother to Mohaymen having shared the same sire Tapit. His next start will be the Arkansas Derby April 16th.

Career: 4 Starts 2-1-0-1
Sire: Tapit (Finished 9th in 2004 Kentucky Derby)
Jockey: Martin Garcia
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.78 – Maiden Special Weight at Santa Anita Park 2/7/16
Best Beyer Speed Figure:  95Rebel Stakes

7) Exaggerator – The Desormeaux brothers colt finished 3rd in the San Felipe Stakes. I expected a better performance in this race from the Delta Downs Jackpot winner who gave Mohaymen a good battle in the San Vicente Stakes. However, with his pedigree (Sire: Curlin), I wouldn’t give up on him yet as he should excel in races as the distances gets longer. His next start is likely to be the Santa Anita Derby at Santa Anita Park on April 9th.

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 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.43 (calculated) Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 98 – San Vicente Stakes

8) Zulu – Another Todd Pletcher-trainee and half-brother to Greenpointcrusader. He finished 2nd to Mohaymen in Fountain of Youth Stakes (shown below) and answered some questions in that race as to how he would like distance since it was his first past 7 furlongs. He also showed a willingness to battle so this was a performance that can be built on. His next start will be the Wood Memorial or Blue Grass Stakes on April 9th. 

Career: 3 Starts 2-1-0-0
Sire: Bernardini 
Projected Jockey: John Velazquez (2011 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.20 (calculated) – Fountain of Youth Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 92 – Fountain of Youth Stakes

9) Matt King Coal – The Linda Rice-trained colt returned to racing as a 3 year-old on March 6th at Aqueduct and produced a win with a time of 1:44.92 (good for a 97 Beyer Speed Figure). In his last three starts he has produced Beyer Speed Figures of 93, 96 and 97. I like the upward progression. His next start will be the Wood Memorial on April 9th.

Career: 4 Starts 2-1-1-0
Sire: Cool Coal Man (Finished 15th in the 2008 Kentucky Derby)

Projected Jockey: Jose Ortiz 
Best  Mile Time: 1:36.68 – Belmont Park MSW – Race #6
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.02 (calculated) – Belmont Park MSW – Race #11
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 97 – Aqueduct Allowance Optional Claiming Race– 3/6/16

10) Collected – Yet another Bob Baffert-trainee, the Sham Stakes winner collected his biggest win and best Beyer Speed Figure (90) in the Sunland Park Festival of Racing Stakes. No word yet as to where his next start will be.

Career: 5 Starts 3-1-0-1
Sire: City Zip 

Projected Jockey: Martin Garcia 
Best 1 Mile Time: 1:38.00 – Sham Stakes
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:45.98 (calculated) – Southwest Stakes
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.90 – Sunland Park Festival of Racing Stakes 
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 90 – Sunland Park Festival of Racing Stakes

Others to keep an eye on include:

Suddenbreakingnews – The Southwest Stakes winner finished 5th in the Rebel Stakes. This was a disappointing finish as the race seemed to set up well for his closer running style with fast opening fractions from Cupid. However, this performance was not enough to drop him off the Derby radar. He seemed to get blocked a bit and if this was a 1 1/8th mile race like the Arkansas Derby will be, he seemed to have plenty of steam left to hit the board. His sire was Mineshaft–2003 Horse of the Year. Closer’s always have a chance in the Derby when the opening fractions are fast. His next start will be the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park on April 16th.

Career: 7 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: 1:44.64 (calculated) – Rebel Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 93 – Southwest Stakes

Outwork – A Todd Pletcher-trained horse and a half brother to Nyquist. Prior to the Tampa Bay Derby, he had never raced further than 6 furlongs. He broke his maiden way back in April of 2015 at Keeneland but didn’t resume racing until this past February.

Career: 3 Starts 2-1-0-0
Sire: Uncle Mo
Projected Jockey: John Velazquez (2011 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:42.98 – Tampa Bay Derby
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 98 – Tampa Bay Derby

Swipe – This Desormeaux brothers colt finished 2nd to Nyquist four times in his last four starts and narrowed the gap each time. He had surgery to remove a bone spur from his ankle in November and has been back in in training for the past 3 weeks. His most recent work was 1:12.80 in 6 furlongs at Santa Anita Park on March 19th. No word on when his next start will be but entries in the Louisiana Derby (March 26th) and Arkansas Derby (April 16th) would give him two great preps before the Kentucky Derby.

Career: 7 Starts 1-5-1-0
Sire: Birdstone (Finished 8th in the 2004 Kentucky Derby)
Projected Jockey: Kent Desormeaux (if he doesn’t ride Exaggerator)
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.87 (calculated) – FrontRunner Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 88 – Breeders’ Cup Juvenile


Horses who currently have enough points to get into the Kentucky Derby include: Gun Runner 151, Lani 100 and Mohaymen 70.

Other horses who likely have enough points to get into the Kentucky Derby:  Destin 51, Cupid 50, Danzing Candy 50, Shagaf 50, Mor Spirt 44, Tom’s Ready 44 and Mo Tom 32.

For updated Kentucky Derby Point Standings, click HERE.


Upcoming Derby Trail Races

Florida Derby – Gulfstream – April 2nd, 2016
Spiral Stakes – Turfway Park – April 2nd, 2016

–Michael

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