SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY, April 13, 2010--And now the nitpicking can begin in earnest.

Well wasn’t that the penultimate Kentucky Derby prep weekend? So, what are we to make of the Arkansas Derby and Toyota Blue Grass?

Beats me.

Could you have imagined that John Sadler would have another classy frontrunning three-year-old in the barn? Bet he wishes Dave in Dixie ran as well in his final prep as Line of David did while winning his stakes debut.

At least then he’d have a late runner to pick up the pieces should Sidney’s Candy fail to lead throughout successfully two-plus weeks from now. Sadler’s having a great 2010, but you can’t have everything.

As for this speed-bred-on-both-sides son of the high class Lion Heart, he’s now 3-for-3 since adding blinkers, but clearly his Arkansas Derby was most improbable and significant run.

Especially since the two early favorites, Dublin and Super Saver, were stalking him comfortably from close range throughout and shockingly neither could get by, despite having the length of the Oaklawn Park stretch to do so.

You want to make an excuse for Dublin? Not me. He will never have a better chance to win a Grade 1 at 9 furlongs than he did last Saturday. Now he needs to go another furlong? I’ll be shocked, and broke, if he does.

While Dublin had no visible excuses, I can make a case for Super Saver. It was only his second start of the year, his rivals had a conditioning edge, and showed that he could sit comfortably behind another horse.

And next time he will be making his third start off a layup and returning to his favorite surface. Ten furlongs? The pedigree is there, but there is a question. What seems sure, however, is that he will move forward in Kentucky.

Favored Noble’s Promise had legitimate excuses. But Derby winners often must handle adversity. After getting roughed up at the start, this colt was invisible. He got nicked up at the break and is no cinch to make the starting gate; tough break for his connections.

In terms of the result, it seems that Toyota was the perfect sponsor for this year’s Blue Grass. Only none of the favorites kept accelerating, wanting to or otherwise. Instead it was Stately Victor, a heretofore trail unknown.

Anything you’d like to proffer on his behalf I’d be more than willing to read.

You want to tell me trainer Michael Maker’s a profitable proposition going from turf to synthetics, or that the colt’s been 9 furlongs twice this year, or owns a two-sided stamina pedigree that often plays well on Polytrack? Fine. What else you got?

Clearly, Stately Victor was very impressive running through the finish line and hiding from the competition last Saturday. It sure was a hell of a way to break through his “one other than” condition.

But what do you do with him in Louisville? And what do you do with Paddy O’ Prado, another late developing talent? He took pace pressure and lived to tell the tale. His Blue Grass just might be one of those speed preps that pays dividends next time out.

For all intents, only Saturday’s G2 Coolmore Lexington remains for those with a modicum of ability in need of graded earnings. Understandably, HRI’s Derby Power 10 underwent a reshuffling in Week 11, Week 10’s cold Derby trifecta notwithstanding:


1. Eskendereya (36). Back at his Palm Meadows training base, he is scheduled to have two workouts prior to the Derby, the second likely coming over the Louisville track Monday of Derby week. Look for a solid seven-eighths or three-quarters with a strong gallop-out next.

2. Lookin At Lucky (26). Baffert said the colt came out of his troubled Santa Anita Derby better than he did the Rebel. That’s his story and he’s sticking to it. Garrett Gomez will get a chance to make amends in Kentucky. At least Gomez learned his colt will run inside of horses. I think he did, anyway.

3. Sidney's Candy (25). Every time another prep race is run, this colt’s stock just seems to keep rising. And why not? All are aware that the pace in the Derby will be a lot faster than he’s accustomed to over Pro Ride. Then so might be Sidney’s Candy.

Endorsement (17). Mea culpa to trainer Shannon Ritter misidentified here as Todd Pletcher last week. Another runner whose stock has risen because some of the division’s leaders took their Jolly Balls and went home. Tactical and a strong finisher winning at Sunland. What if he leaps forward again?

5. Super Saver (13). Given recent defections he’s back on the list and leap-frogged many of his rivals despite his disappointing finish in the Arkansas Derby. But he will be a better colt next time out and, of course, Calvin’s just spooky in the Derby.

6. Ice Box (11). With the Arkansas Derby and Blue Grass winners vaulting into the earnings Top 20, Zito might have lost Jackson Bend as a pace presser which would have helped this from-the-clouds rallier. Not as fast as the division’s best, but the closer the wire gets, the more he wants to fight you.

7. Awesome Act (10). His one-paced show finish in the Wood comes with or without excuses depending on who’s telling the story. I have no problem forgiving his effort. Whether he’s good enough, I don’t know. But to date he showed the best turn of foot in this class.

8. Dublin (9). Still has the looks, still has the pedigree and has ability. But his Southwest effort at a mile notwithstanding, I don’t see the development from 2 to 3. Post race, Wayne Lukas said this was a prep and he will move on. Lukas knows how to win the Derby, obviously, but I’m losing my taste for the Kool-Aid.

9. Setsuko (7). Yes, I know, he was a fast-closing second in the Santa Anita Derby and wasn’t on the list last week. And he doesn’t have enough graded earnings. But miracles do happen, and if Richard Mandella wants in, then so should we.

10. Mission Impazible (5). Finally cracked the Power 10 for the first time, including after his Louisiana Derby win nearly three weeks ago. But such has been the rate of attrition. He has tactical speed and kick and, in Rajiv Maragh, one of the hottest stakes-winning riders in the country. But this will be a very tall mountain to climb.