HRI's Triple Crown Power Rankings

The HRI Triple Crown Power Rankings is a consensus opinion of HorseRaceInsider's editorial staff compiled and written by executive editor John Pricci. It is an amalgam of achievement and opinion relative to the merits of the 2013 Triple Crown. The HRI Triple Crown Power Rankings will be adjusted each week following significant prep race developments.

HRI Triple Crown Power 10, Week 16: Let’s Give the Crop a Little Time

SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY, May 11, 2010--Not since the Santa Anita Derby and Wood Memorial were run has Lookin At Lucky appeared in the top spot of HRI’s Triple Crown Power 10. Welcome back, champ.

Predictably, the disparaging of the foal crop of 2007 has begun. Admittedly, the group lacks star power, especially since Eskendereya’s retirement.

But in our zeal to create new 15-minute celebrities, we love to rush to judgment in this country. So why should thoroughbred racing be immune?

Is this class in the running for the best we have ever seen? Not even in the conversation. But no class should be graded until observers see what happens in the summer and fall.

I’m not a big fan of trainer-speak but on this question most are correct: You need to give any crop time. So can we at least wait until the Belmont Stakes is run?

Lookin At Lucky has proven himself to be a very, very good colt, clearly the best of his generation. He proved as much last year and is proving it again in 2010. Eliminate the two races, in which he himself was eliminated by circumstances, and he’s 2-for-2 at 3.

Again, he won the Rebel with a hellacious finish following clipped heels and a near spill. And, after the young, talented Mr. Garcia dutifully saved ground on the first turn at Pimlico, he put Lookin At Lucky in the clear at a loss of considerable ground.

That’s not how one usually draws up a Preakness victory; wide head-to-head sweeps on the far turn that lead to a premature stretch runs. Unless, of course, you have an inkling you're on the best horse.

Despite struggling to overtake a ferocious runnerup, Lookin At Lucky withstood the rallies of two live late finishers, including one who gave but one poor performance in an 11-race career--and that was a troubled trip in the slop at 10 furlongs.

And, no, Jackson Bend wouldn’t have caught him had he gotten clear sooner and the leaders went around the track again. Lookin At Lucky never has lost a close battle when given a clear run to the finish line.

Further, it’s also too early to poor-mouth First Dude which, despite his lack of accomplishment to date, is a good horse, too.

Beaten twice by impressive Dwyer winner Fly Down by a total of a half-length, and a 6-¼ length rough-trip defeat in the Florida Derby to the early Belmont favorite, is not a bad resume. His third in the Blue Grass, another troubled outing, is also unworthy of derision. The group also features several others still on the come, so let’s give them a little more time.

But Lookin At Lucky? He just keeps coming and coming and coming. His brilliance may be at question, but he and Jackson Bend are among the tougher three-year-olds we’ve seen at this stage of the season in recent years.

Super Saver is not yet in ‘Lucky’s’ class but certainly is better than his Preakness run. He’s not the first horse who ran big in the Derby then emptied out on the turn at Pimlico. There’s no disgrace in that unless, of course, he fails to redeem himself the way Lookin At Lucky did Saturday.

There will be a Belmont Stakes, and the chances are even money that a good horse can emerge despite the absence of the Derby and Preakness winners.

Indeed, there are no Affirmeds, Seattle Slews or mighty Secretariats in this group. But longevity, especially in the era of the soft-boned thoroughbred, can be a stepping stone to greatness. Time is on their side.

Here, then, the HRI Triple Crown Power 10, Post-Preakness edition, Week 16:

1. Lookin At Lucky (36): Back in SoCal for well earned R&R, and it’s the right thing to do. Twelve furlongs is a very tough road. The Derby might demand too much, too soon; the Belmont just too much given its proximity to the Derby and Preakness. Bob Baffert said he wants this guy around the rest of the year. Under the circumstances he’s right. And he’s supporting the Belmont with Lone Star Derby winner Game On Dude.

2. Super Saver (27): If he hadn’t won the Derby you never would have seen this colt in Baltimore, much less New York on the first Saturday in June. Get ready for “The Classics Clash at the Shore.” WinStar has won the Haskell twice with Any Given Saturday and Bluegrass Cat. Baffert’s won two with Point Given and War Emblem. Rubber matches abound.

3. Ice Box (24): Nick Zito is simply spooky at this time of year. Nearly stole the Derby with this guy and got Jackson Bend to rebound in the Preakness, just as he did Louis Quatorze, albeit not with the same result. But when you get your horses to show up on the day, you’ve done your job. And that’s all anyone has a right to expect.

4. Jackson Bend (16): Speak of the devil. Pletcher and Baffert started the year with an arsenal of three-year-olds but only Zito and Dale Romans placed more that one sophomore in the Power 10 at this late stage of the chase. It’s unlikely the “little big man” will be back in three weeks but, like Zito says, never say never.

5. Paddy O’Prado (11): In terms of Super Saver’s regression on Saturday, which we never saw coming, we were convinced this guy wouldn’t replicate his Derby form given his enervating Derby. Kent Desormeaux said he was happy with his position and the way the Preakness was developing but when it was time to go his mount came up flat, proving that horses are flesh and blood, not machines.

5: Noble’s Promise (11): Ken McPeek wisely passed up the Preakness. If he hadn’t and this colt somehow won the second jewel, there’s no way he would have returned three weeks from now: The distance pedigree just isn’t there. The choices now are second-tier Derbies or grass. There’s no disgrace in either tack because wherever he shows up, he’ll be trying hard.

7. Dublin (10): This colt turning out to be the East Coast/Midwest version of Lookin At Lucky--pre-Preakness. There was reason to believe his bearing-out issues were behind him, then his unlucky 12-post draw gave him an unencumbered route to the outside gap leaving the gate, which is exactly where he headed. Did extremely well to finish fifth. Destination Belmont Stakes.

8. Sidney's Candy (8): No news apparently good news from the John Sadler camp as this guy’s back in SoCal planning on a summer campaign. The Swaps Stakes at Hollywood is a logical spot for his return and, with any good fortune, there might be a Travers in his future and a possible rematch with the Derby and Preakness winners. On a fast track, it would be a match I’d love to see.

8. First Dude (8): As previously stated, he has talent, speed, looks and the ability to keep going after setting a strong pace. This makes him a perfect candidate for the Belmont Stakes and that’s where he’s headed, hoping to gallop the field into submission. Of course, he must continue to progress, or not, in the weeks to come. Good and getting better.

10. Make Music For Me (4): Trainer Alexis Barba taking the popular modern tack into the Belmont, skipping the Preakness after showing he’s classics worthy in Kentucky. Recall that he was very good fourth in Louisville, coming from farther back than Ice Box. In fact, throughout most of the 10 furlongs he could see them all. The questions he will need to answer concern the surface and distance.

Written by John Pricci - Comments (0)


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