With a lot of Kentucky Derby news expected over the next week or so with the release of Triple Crown nominations, a trio of 17-point races (with 10 points to each winner) on Saturday, and the 2nd Kentucky Derby future wager right around the corner, I thought now would be a great time to update my Derby and Kentucky Oaks polls.
Overall, I think this is a good, competitive group, and I’m definitely looking forward to seeing the three-year-old debuts of my top three horses. The top two–multiple Grade 1 winner Bolt d’Oro and champion Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Good Magic–are working toward their three-year-old debuts and likely feature prominently (if not in the top two spots) on almost any list out there.
My third pick, Copper Bullet, hasn’t raced since winning the Saratoga Special, but is back working for trainer Steve Asmussen at Fair Grounds. This is a reach ranking based on accomplishment, but I have a lot of respect for the talent shown so far in a barn loaded for the Triple Crown trail, as Asmussen also trains eighth-ranked New York Central and the unranked-but-worth-watching Combatant (2nd in the Smarty Jones), Principe Guilherme (2nd in the Lecomte), Snapper Sinclair (3rd in the Lecomte), and smart maiden winners Retirement Fund, Facilitator, and Mitole.
Rounding out the top 5 are the Bob Baffert-trained McKinzie and Solomini. I initially wanted to resist both these horses, but it’s impossible to ignore the form line of West Coast-based horses like Greyvitos, Mourinho, and Instilled Regard.
This week also marked the launch of the NTRA polls, which covers three-year-olds only as well as all horses. The Pegasus World Cup exacta of Gun Runner and West Coast runs 1-2 to kick things off, and it will be interesting to see how long Gun Runner can maintain a position on the poll now that he’s retired. I’ll be inclined to move him down as “known commodities” win Grade 1 races. That is, World Approval or West Coast winning in Dubai would certainly dethrone him, but a 50-to-1 bomber in the Santa Anita Handicap would not.
The Oaks is the biggest grab bag of the three polls. I voted turf star Rushing Fall as champion two-year-old filly of 2017, so I’m still waiting to be taken by a potential Oaks hopeful, but there’s definitely talent in the group; they just need more time to sort it out.