LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - So here we are approaching mid-March, and the the Kentucky Derby is wide open.
Some of the top contenders have had to deal with minor injuries, and some have thrown in clunkers to begin their 2017 campaigns. All these scenarios make it difficult to separate them, but we'll take a stab at it.
1 - Mastery
When in doubt about who you should put at the top of the list, why not go with trainer Bob Baffert? This colt appears to have the tools and the talent. He makes his 2017 debut Saturday in the San Felipe. Baffert's runner has put in outstanding morning works for this race.
2 - McCraken
He would have been No. 1 on the list except he suffered a slight injury that will force him out of Saturday's Tampa Bay Derby. He's now prepping for the Blue Grass Stakes. He is 3-for-3 at Churchill Downs.
3 - Gunnevera
He's coming off a smashing performance in winning the Fountain of Youth. He continues to improve from age 2 to 3 and he's bred to go the Derby distance. Next up, the Florida Derby.
4 - American Anthem
Here's another Baffert-trained horse who shows great potential. In January, he finished a game second in the Sham Stakes and it was only the second race of his career. We'll know much more about him after the Rebel Stakes on March 18.
5 - Classic Empire
He easily won 2-year-old champion honors in 2016 and was the obvious Derby favorite at the start of this year. After finishing a puzzling third in the Holy Bull Stakes, the colt was discovered to have a foot problem and recently came up with a back issue. Next up is the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland, where he'll come back off that long, long layoff.
6 - Gormley
His race Saturday in the San Felipe should tell us a lot about this contender. If he performs like he did in January, when he took a gutsy victory in the Sham Stakes, he could move up my list. In the Sham, he battled fiercely in a stretch duel with American Anthem.
7 - J Boys Echo
He exploded onto the Derby scene last weekend with a powerful win in the Gotham Stakes. He just galloped to victory by three and a half lengths and earned a sizzling speed figure for his efforts. He's trained by Dale Romans, who has been knocking on the Derby door in recent years and has come close.
8 - Irish War Cry
He had been ranked much higher on my list until just a dismal run in the Fountain of Youth, where he was trounced by 21 lengths, a real head- scratcher following his superb victory in the Holy Bull. He'll try to bounce back in next month's Wood Memorial.
9 - One Liner
He's lightly-raced so inexperience could be a factor against him. He looked terrific in winning the Southwest Stakes. Trainer Todd Pletcher has little room for error, and the colt's next race is slated to be the Florida Derby.
10 - Girvin
He burst onto the scene with a rousing victory in the Risen Star Stakes. Another runner that doesn't have a lot of experience, so he'll need to show even more in his next race, the Louisiana Derby.