LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Like the College Football Playoff committee, I'm going to be completely transparent this year and update my Derby rankings weekly.
Unlike the College Football Playoff committee, I'm expanding the Kentucky Derby playoffs to six teams already.
Enjoy, chime in, and relish the fact you will not see Alabama or Ohio State on this list. Ever:
1 - Girvin
Yes, I'm partial to anything that reminds me of my favorite pro basketball player as a kid. The "Iceman," George Gervin, was as smooth as any of these colts. But the thing I love about Girvin, the 3-year-old, is how good he's getting after only three starts. He broke his maiden at 6 furlongs in his first race. They put him in a grass race for his second start and he came flying in to finish second, even though that's not his preferred surface. Then they put him in the Risen Star, and he pays $18, completely overlooked, coming home in 1:43, which is nice for a mile and 1/16 compared to some of the other finish times we're seeing so far this season.
2 - Gunnevera
I had tossed him after the convincing Holy Bull loss to Irish War Cry. And I don't like the fact he's already had eight starts, half of which were losses. It took three races to break his maiden, but then he immediately won a Grade 2 at Saratoga. Since then he's settled in to a win-every-other-time pattern. He crushed Practical Joke and Irish War Cry in the Fountain of Youth and made me wonder why I ever doubted.
3 - Unique Bella
Yeah that's a filly. So what? She's also a winner of four straight races. I think she's the biggest, baddest looking 3-year-old on the planet right now. I know she didn't dominate the way everyone expected in her last win, but she's one of the few fillies we've seen in a while that can step on the track and have the boys cowering, at least in terms of physical appearance.
4 - Classic Empire
No I'm not tossing Classic Empire after that dismal performance last time out. I think something was physically wrong with him. I believe the foot abscess and back problem excuses. He's been a head case. They call him a bad boy. But I recently saw a video of him frolicking like a happy boy again. Remember, he won the first two races of his life at a place called Churchill Downs, and he's the reigning 2-year-old champion.
5 - J Boys Echo
He smashed most of the field in the Gotham Stakes. I don't know how he got a 102 Beyer Speed figure in that race though. A final time of 1:46 is really slow for a mile and 1/16. He's only won two of the five races he's been in, and one was a 4th-place finish at Delta Downs, but he has the ability to hit the hole like a good running back and burst through. It's time for Dale Romans and Robby Albarado to win the Kentucky Derby. This may be finally the one.
6 - McCraken
Anytime I hear about an ankle injury in the NFL, or horse racing, I look somewhere else. But he's too good to dismiss this early. When I see Ghostzapper and Awesome Again in his pedigree, I get excited. When I see 4-for-4 lifetime with three wins at Churchill Downs, I get confident. When I see the ability to run a mile in 1:35 and a mile and 1/16 in 1:42, I get cocky. But that ankle, and this nagging feeling that he can't get a mile and 1/4, have me holding back a bit. I'll move him back up after he romps in the Blue Grass Stakes.