HRI’s Final Derby Poll: Dunkirk at Number One
SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY, April 28, 2009--I jumped on his bandwagon soon after making selections for the Fountain of Youth Stakes in February, but the war of attrition that is the Kentucky Derby claimed another victim when co-favorite Quality Road was declared from the race after trainer Jimmy Jerkens found a sore colt waiting inside his Belmont barn Monday morning.
A second quarter-crack, this one in the right fore, didn’t respond to the Ian McKinlay magic the way the first one did, leaving Jerkens no options.
“It’s not terribly bad, but it’s not right,” said Jerkens, who trains Quality Road for owner/breeder Edward Evans. Jerkens, like his legendary Hall of Fame father, is a man of few words. But, to his credit, he never leaves room for ambiguity.
It’s unfortunate,” said Evans. “The Preakness and the Belmont are possibilities,” the devastated owner offered.
Ian McKinlay, the noted blacksmith who successfully treated Belmont winner Touch Gold and Derby and Preakness winner Big Brown, a personal Triple Crown, anticipates a quick recovery. “If this thing calms down, he’ll be right back on track,” McKinlay said.
With Quality Road out of the starting lineup, the final edition of HRI’s Derby Power 10 takes on a whole new look. Dunkirk, a good, tough trip second to Quality Road in a strongly run Florida Derby, landed in the top spot for the first time this season.
The declaration of Quality Road has a profound effect on the Derby 135 race shape, possibly leaving Godolphin Stable’s Regal Ransom as the lone classy speedster in the field. This development is sure to change strategy in many camps, which could take some of the contenders out of their best game.
It’s no small irony that trainer Larry Jones and Gabriel Saez have spent all spring trying to teach Friesan Fire how to relax but now might find their fresh, speed sharpened colt on top of Regal Ransom’s hindquarters in the early going. Unless Join In The Dance proves he is classy enough to join the pace in a sustained and meaningful fashion.
Of course, there's always a speed joker or two in the Derby deck, so we‘ll wait and see what happens. The post draw is often crucial, especially in this highly competitive renewal.
The HRI Power 10, Kentucky Derby Final Rankings:
1-Dunkirk (31): This is the colt that wants revenge, but if he’s to get it, it won’t be against his lone conqueror. Still, Todd Pletcher will gladly accept his first bouquet of Derby roses. He has several shots at the prize, but I agree with the four-time Eclipse Award winner: This colt gives him his best chance ever.
2-I Want Revenge (29): Has been nothing short of amazing since leaving SoCal. First, the tour de force Gotham, then the miraculous Wood. Now comes a series of strong gallops over the Churchill surface and a good work, seemingly indicating there’s more in the tank. HRI projects he’ll rule a slight favorite.
3-Pioneerof the Nile (26): Hall of Famer Bob Baffert must be spending sleepless nights and asking friends to pinch him while awake. That’s how well everything’s been going at present. Baffert’s never lost a race with the colt who retains Garrett Gomez. His workouts and fluid gallops over the Churchill surface indicates that he loves it. But works aren’t races.
4-Friesan Fire (20): Two years ago, Hard Spun put a major scare into his Derby rivals. So can this colt; the dynamics are nearly identical. Hard Spun came in off a six week layoff, compared to seven, and each had fast five-furlong bullet works coming into the race. But what of the pesky variable about not having raced beyond a mile and a sixteenth?
5-Desert Party (18): Sheikh Mohammed is going to win this race some day--and that day might come right soon. DP has juvenile foundation, relatively competitive figures, likes dirt, and was hindered by a speedy surface, moderate pace and a quality rival when second in the UAE Derby. If his Churchill works are the measure, he likes it there.
6-Chocolate Candy (14): Talk about tough trips. Not only was the Santa Anita Derby pace dawdling, but trying to rally approximately six wide into the straight was virtually impossible under those conditions. Given it all, he finished second by a length to Pioneerof The Nile in a race he very likely needed. Hard to find better than the Hollendorfer-Baze tandem anywhere.
7-Regal Ransom (13): Talented, yet enigmatic. Despite owning enough pedigree to cross the Atlantic without a boat, he was either shortening stride after setting a moderate UAE Derby pace or he waits on horses. Either way, Desert Party seemed to be reaching him at the finish. Check out his Derby workout video at http://www.kentuckyderby.com. It was very speedy; energy in reserve.
8-Papa Clem (8): Another who appreciated leaving sunny SoCal to test real dirt elsewhere and it all came together at Oaklawn Park. The good news is that he’s late developing; the bad is his performance figures leave something to be desired. Additionally, his workout regimen at Churchill has been a tough read.
9--Musket Man (6): One of the best managed horses on the Derby Trail in this or any other year, and the colt responded by winning five of six lifetime starts, a tough trip costing him an undefeated career to date. Eibar Coa had his choice of Derby mounts and landed here. Enough said.
10-Hold Me Back (3): Thus far, trainer Bill Mott has had an excellent 2009, most notably winning important races off layups in just about every division. Winning the Lane’s End with this guy, then coming back with a good second in the Blue Grass, might be the best work he’s done all year.
Written by John Pricci - Comments (0)