With the performances in last week's Derby preps, several horses have moved up and down the top 10. But one performance has completely changed the dynamic of this list. Instead of a standard top ten list this week, we shall list the derby hopefuls by the grade given to their chances instead. But the Derby alphabet is a little different than the normal ABC's. It starts with an "E", as in:
The "E" horses:
Eskendereya: With his scintillating victory in the Wood Memorial, he has become the de facto favorite for the Derby. Disproving the worries about him being off 6 weeks and skipping what appeared to be a weak edition of the Florida Derby, he emphatically earned his way into the Derby. His two prep wins are among the, if not the best, prep wins along the trail. He is Todd Pletcher's best chance to finally get off the schneid. The only worries are that is that he likes to be near the pace, but will the expected fast splits be too quick to attend?
Endorsement: The horse who two weeks ago was consider the low man on the Winstar Farm depth chart stampeded his way into the Derby with his Sunland Derby victory two weeks ago. This son of Distorted Humor set a stakes record in the process, and the extra furlong will not be a factor. He admittedly beat a suspect field, but the "how" is more important than the "whom" this time of year. The fears of a bounce, or the fact that the Derby will only be his 5th start, are valid, but 3 year-olds can blossom overnight. Can this late bloomer be the exception to the rule?
The "B" Horses:
Lookin At Lucky: The 2009 Eclipse Award winner had a nightmare trip in the Santa Anita Derby when he was pinched back in the far turn. Would he have caught Sidney's Candy? Maybe, but the fact that Gomez had to work hard to get him up for third worries more than the trouble itself. He reportedly looked great this week on track while out for a jog and will probably work sometime in the next week. Will his knack for trouble come back to haunt him on Derby Day?
The "C" Horses:
Awesome Act: The horse who had the second worst trip of last week, behind Lucky, has to step it up to beat "Esky" after that one beat him soundly. Why was Leparoux under orders to strangle the horse back in the Wood? Did he bounce a little as well? While he will be entering the Derby on the classic 'third start off the layoff', will it be enough?
Ice Box: The hard charging winner of the Florida Derby will be off 6 weeks before the Derby. He had an easy half-mile workout in :49 B at the Palm Meadows Training facility on Saturday. People have talked about his win was a perfect set-up, but the way this year's Derby field is looking, won't he get the same set-up?
Interactif: He gets his chance to punch his ticket for the Derby this Saturday in the Blue Grass. This Todd Pletcher trainee has had only one okay work in the interim since his game 2nd in the San Felipe. While he has a win on the dirt, is it his best surface?
Odysseus: His heart and his running style are the only reasons he resides at this level. He is entered in the Blue Grass on Saturday, and needs to run no worse than third to secure his spot in the starting gate May 1. But why are his connections running him here instead of the Arkansas Derby, which appears to be a much easier spot?
The "D" Horses:
Sidney's Candy: Two graded derby preps, two easy leads. The winner of the Santa Anita Derby stole the race with an easy half-mile on the lead, then spurted clear late, going sub :36 the final 3/16th. But with the high amount of need the lead speed, including confirmed lead-or-bust American Lion, his chances are bound to be compromised, aren't they?
Mission Impazible: The Louisiana Derby winner once again earns his spot on here due that win only. His pace attending style might be problematic come Derby day, if he is unlucky with the post position draw. Will he have the needed kick while adding an eighth of a mile in distance?
Dublin: Any number of horses could have gone in this spot, but i chose him as he is running this weekend in the Arkansas Derby. He gets a positive jockey switch back to Terry Thompson, a trainer who knows a thing or ten about the Derby and gets another eighth of mile to unleash his kick. But is he good enough to turn the tables on Noble's Promise and then move up even more three weeks later?
With the last of the major preps this weekend being run in Hot Springs, AR and Lexington, KY the Derby picture will come into a much clearer focus. Hopefully. Maybe. Fingers crossed.