Just over five weeks until the ladies sing “My Olde Kentucky Home,” and the bugle will blare “Call to the Post,” proclaiming the long awaited start of the 135th run for the roses.Â This run is special, and I plan on covering it every step of the way.Â Just like the NCAA basketball tourney, the Derby already has its top four contenders.Â The odds makers like Old Fashioned (9 to 1), Quality Road (12 to 1), Pioneer of the Nile (14 to 1), and Dunkirk (15 to 1).Â I have my own preliminary top four:
Pioneer of the Nile
I Want Revenge
There are 15 races from now until Derby day, all of which will feature contenders.Â But only four of them will have potential Derby winners. The four races to watch will be:
3/28Â The Florida Derby
4/4 The Santa Anita Derby
4/11 The Arkansas Derby
4/18Â The Coolmore Lexington Stakes
And now on to my preview of contenders by region.
There are two top contenders in the West:
Pioneer of the Nile – Owned by Derby winner aficionado Bob Baffert.Â In my opinion this horse will be the favorite by the time May rolls around.
The Pamplemousse – Named after a restaurant, this thoroughbred can prove himself this April, when Pioneer of the Nile and Pamplemousse face off in the Santa Anita Derby.Â I expect to see a close race between these two at Santa Anita, with not much in the way of predicting a clear Derby winner.
Next we have the Midwest
Friesan Fire - This guy won’t race before Derby day, but he’s proven both his speed and stamina as a 2 year old.Â I like this horse enough to place him in my top four.Â His owner and trainer both feel that he’s primed for his peak performance, thus their decision to hold him back until the Run for the Roses.
Old Fashioned – Beat the favorite in the Rebel Stakes
Win Willy – Beat Old Fashioned to win the Rebel Stakes.Â The two will re-match on 4/11 when they face off in the Arkansas Derby.Â I’m looking for Old Fashioned to perform well, but even a 2nd place finish may not affect his position as a top favorite in the Derby.
Rachel Alexandria – The only fillie in the running. Her performance at the Fantasy Stakes on April 5th will determine her running in the Derby.Â I like her IF she wins the Fantasy.
Finally we have the East
Dunkirk – He’ll run in the Florida Derby and I expect a strong performance.Â I just think that this horse is special, and as of this very moment, I like him to win the Derby.Â Fortunately we have 15 more races to observe before I need to handicap these guys.
I Want Revenge – Used to be a California horse before moving to the horse capital of the world: NJ.Â He runs great on dirt, but has difficulty on synthetic tracks.Â He has also finished 2nd behind Pioneer of the Nile twice.
Imperial Counsel - If you like DerbyÂ long shots, this is your horse.Â The only long shot I like toÂ have a realistic chance to pull of the whole race.
I will have a Florida Derby preview later this week, but for now I think Dunkirk has this race in the bag.