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 Kentucky Derby Rankings 02-17-2009

Saratoga Springs, NY, February 17, 2009--It’s not as if the effort of protem Kentucky Derby favorite Old Fashioned was the best season’s debut ever made by a major three-year-old, but it provided the run-up to Derby 135 something it lacked up until the undefeated Unbridled’s Song colt emphatically won Monday’s Grade 3 Southwest Stakes: Buzz.

Consequently, Old Fashioned was the unanimous choice of the HorseRaceInsider staff as the leading three-year-old in the land and, dare we say, first in every major poll of Derby aspirants, making his 7-1 closing odds in Pool 1 of the Kentucky Derby Futures pool appear something of a bargain.

As HRI’s Vic Zast suggested in an e-mailing of his Derby Top Ten, you’ll start reading words like “freak” or “monster” associated with the horse, who is owned and trained by the connections of Eight Belles, the filly who suffered a fatal injury in last year’s Roses Run. As a betting man I’m willing to wager this will not be the last time you’ll read this reference until the Derby field is loaded into the Churchill Downs starting gate May 2.

Forget the objective standard that his 1:37 2/5 mile clocking equaled the stakes record set by another undefeated Southwest three-year-old five years ago, eventual Derby winner Smarty Jones, And forget that he reaffirmed he’s more than one-dimensional speed.

Showing his freshness, Old Fashioned was stoutly reserved off the pace of the rapid Silver City before kicking clear at headstretch, not ideal circumstances on an inside-speed-favoring surface against a quality rival. Rather, it was the post race comments of rider Ramon Dominguez that shed the most light on his performance.

“I knew we were going fast but it didn’t feel like he was rushing to keep up with the leader,” Dominguez told the Daily Racing Form in a post-race interview. “When I caught up to the leader at the top of the stretch, he dug in and finished strong,” pulling away late from a quality speed rival.

Then there was this: “I hope that stretch run did him some good. I didn’t hear him blowing after the race like I might have expected after those fractions and a hard first effort of the year.”

Dominguez, a religious man not given to wearing his faith on his sleeve, is not prone to making hyperbolic statements, either. The 3-¼ length victory was the colt’s first start since winning the Remsen Stakes at Aqueduct, November 29, extending his undefeated record to four.

Trainer Larry Jones is expected to remain on the Arkansas path to Kentucky. His options are the G2 Rebel Stakes, March 14, and the G2 Arkansas Derby, April 11. Undoubtedly, Jones’ rivals are pleased not to have the target on their back at this point of the campaign. But until a rival can knock Old Fashioned off his perch, the colt’s only frame of reference in 2009 is himself.

Here is the first edition of the 2009 HRI Derby Ten, our ratings in parentheses, as compiled by staffers Bill Christine, Vic Zast, and executive editor John Pricci:

1-Old Fashioned (36): Until beaten, he is the worthy favorite for Derby 135. Next logical step: the G2 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park, March 14.

2-Pioneerof The Nile (25): Difficult not to be impressed with his Robert B. Lewis score in which he was trapped, angled out severely for room before finishing boldly. Next likely appearance: San Felipe at Santa Anita, March 14. Dirt track, anyone?

3-Stardom Bound (20): Will she or won’t she run might depend on how owner IEAH Stables’ Patena develops. Las Virgenes was a serious season’s debut, with a trip similar to Pioneerof The Nile’s. She will prep in the Santa Anita Oaks (March 7) for the April 4 Santa Anita Derby. Lacks dirt form.

4-Capt. Candyman Can (17): Showed another dimension winning season’s debut in the seven furlong Hutcheson Stakes, but would still like to see him settle a bit more early in his races. Will have serious test in the one-mile Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park, February 28.

5-Midshipman (15): Juvenile champion sequestered to United Arab Emirates which yields two negative trends; the failure of horses prepping in other countries, but at least he’ll be tested on dirt at Nad Al Sheba Race Course. Scheduled for season’s debut in nine-furlong Al Bastakiya, March 5, Lanfranco Dettori up.

6-Friesan Fire (14): Not a bad insurance policy for Larry Jones; 2-for-2 this year while improving some on his headstrong running style. But sooner or later he’ll have to meet a serious race horse. Risen Star winner goes next in the G2 Louisiana Derby, March 14.

7-Desert Party (13): Right now, he’s the leader in the Dubai clubhouse. Won the U.A.E. 2000 Guineas with some style, beating two stablemates including Vineyard Haven, who appeared badly in need of his season’s debut. His next scheduled start is the UAE Derby at nine furlongs, March 28.

8-Hello Broadway (5): Was a very good second to Capt. Candyman Can in season’s debut and has yet to race around a second turn. But he has the style, pedigree, looks and connections to handle that assignment. Barclay Tagg’s colt will race next in the Tampa Bay Derby, March 14.

9-Beethoven (4) TIE: Good effort from extreme outside post in season’s debut, the two turn Holy Bull Stakes and came out of the race bouncing according to Derby-winning trainer John Ward. Churchill Downs winner will turn back to one-turn mile in Fountain of Youth next out, February 28.

9-Chocolate Candy (4) TIE: Was fully extended to win El Camino Real Derby on Saturday, his third ungraded stakes victory to go along with a good third-place finish to Pioneerof The Nile in the G1 Cash Call Futurity. He’s possible for the March 14 San Felipe, but more likely will await Santa Anita Derby, April 4. Another with no dirt form.

9-Haynesfield (4) TIE: He’s 3-for-3 around two turns, his latest by 6-¼ lengths in Aqueduct’s winter track Whirlaway. Has some stamina on bottom side of pedigree but is still headstrong, acting like 10 furlongs will be a challenge. He returns in the Gotham, March 7, but probably won’t be tested seriously until he attempts nine furlongs.

Written by John Pricci - Comments (0)


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