LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - As we begin to thaw from the recent snow and ice events, let’s try to heat things up and drum up some Derby fever. With a long way to go till May 1st, here’s how yours truly currently ranks the top contenders for the Run for the Roses.
1. Essential Quality - The 2-year-old champ of 2020 is approaching his first start of the year, weather permitting. The Brad Cox-trainee is still being pointed to the twice- postponed Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn, which has been switched to February 27. The colt was three-for-three last year, which included a stirring victory in his Breeders’ Cup race. Even though he’s getting a bit of a late start for this year’s campaign, for now he’s the one to beat.
2. Greatest Honour - He turned in an impressive performance in capturing last month’s Holy Bull Stakes. The Fountain of Youth ( Feb. 27) is next for this colt, trained by Shug McGaughey. So far, he has the look of one that could run all day.
3. Life is Good - Six-time Derby winning trainer Bob Baffert appears to have yet another outstanding prospect. Winner of January’s Sham Stakes, his next stop is expected to be the March 6 San Felipe Stakes. Loaded with talent and speed, this runner just needs to learn not to go too fast too early.
4. Caddo River- He’s another Derby contender for trainer Cox. The colt cruised in winning last month’s Smarty Jones at Oaklawn in what was his first two-turn race. He’s being pointed to the Rebel Stakes on March 13.
5. Mandaloun - Another potential star for Cox after capturing last Saturday’s Risen Star at Fair Grounds. Beat a decent bunch in that one to become a major player on the road to Louisville. The Louisiana Derby on March 20 is on tap.
6. Medina Spirit - He’s also from the Baffert barn . Showed plenty of heart digging in late to take the Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita. His next start is up in the air.
7. Risk Taking - Making steady progress on the Derby trail. Won last Saturday’s Withers Stakes by almost four lengths going a mile and an eighth. He’ll get a break as his last Derby prep will be the April 3 Wood Memorial.
8. Concert Tour - Baffert, like Cox, has three runners on our list. After winning a pair of sprints, the colt will get his first two-turn test in the Rebel.
9. Keepmeinmind - Very solid as 2-year-old, having taken the Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs. Looks like he can get a distance. Trainer Roberto Diodoro will have to decide whether to run in the Southwest Stakes or wait until the Rebel for the colt’s first start of the year. Bad weather in Hot Springs has complicated the plan.
10. Jackie’s Warrior - There could have been four of five other runners to land in this tenth spot but I’ll give this guy a chance. Dazzled last year until his fourth place effort in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Could have distance limitations. Should learn more after he runs in the Southwest.