March 24, 2018

Little Shake-up in DeRosa Top Ten as Kentucky Derby Championship Series Begins

Despite 119 points up for grabs this past weekend, there’s surprising little shake-up in my Kentucky Derby poll as the Kentucky Derby Prep Season yielded to the Kentucky Derby Championship Series. CLICK HERE for complete current standings (through the Southwest Stakes on February 19).

Given that 4 of the top 6 and 5 of the top 10 points horses are not among my top ten, I’m obviously expecting some fireworks from either as-of-yet “unknown” horses (e.g. Copper Bullet) or already-established “stars” who haven’t raced in a while (e.g. Bolt d’Oro and McKinzie).

So far this year, only 14 three-year-old males have run at least a 100 Speed Rating led by Audible’s 105 for winning the Holy Bull Stakes and McKinzie’s 104 winning the Sham Stakes.

Of the Triple Crown-nominated horses to win points races this weekend, both Bravazo’s Risen Star Stakes and My Boy Jack’s Southwest Stakes earned 98 Brisnet Speed Ratings, and I split that hair for my tenth spot with a preference to My Boy Jack because I remember liking him a little bit in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.

One horse not on my list is Justify, who electrified on debut Sunday at Santa Anita Park with a 100 Brisnet Speed Rating. He’s just out of time, though. No horse who didn’t race as a two-year-old has won the Kentucky Derby since Apollo in 1882, and while horses like Curlin (3rd in 2007) and Bodemeister (2nd in 2012) give some hope, there’s a big difference between debuting on February 3 (91 days away) as Curlin did and February 18 (76 days away) as Justify did. Bodemeister, meanwhile, had already raced twice before Justify even started (2nd on debut January 16 preceding his February 11 maiden score).

It’s virtually impossible for me to envision a scenario in which Justify would be in the “A” column on my Kentucky Derby grid.

On the Oaks side of thing, I’m still clinging to Cicatrix as a top prospect, but she’s going to have to really dazzle in her next out to hold sway over Rachel Alexandra Stakes winner Monomoy Girl.

Overall, I’m firmly in the Unique Bella camp as the best U.S.-based horse in training. The Jerry Hollendorfer trainee looks poised to steamroll the competition while reigning champion Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner Forever Unbridled prepares for the Dubai World Cup, and jockey Mike Smith said following the Santa Maria Stakes that the Tapit filly is the type that could take on males at some point. Here’s hoping!

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