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 Power 10, Week 4

SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY, February 24, 2010--What was that last weekend, you ask?

What it was was the most influential weekend shakeup of the Kentucky Derby prep season to date, one where horses either stepped up, stepped down, or were stepped on. And, so, let’s begin with Buddy’s Saint.

Is it entirely fair that a formerly undefeated and visually impressive individual should go from flirting with the #1 spot for the first three weeks of the HRI Derby Power 10 to nowhere in Week 4?

Well, it might not be fair but that’s how quickly things can change in the most volatile and interesting of all of racing’s prep seasons. And it also underscores the Achilles heel in taking a two-prep approach.

Not only is the elimination of a talented horse off a single race unfair, given the nature of this sport, but it demonstrates again the difficult nature of getting a young horse ready for the race of its young life two months hence.

It’s not only about having a youngster at tops at 6 p.m. on May’s first Saturday. It’s imperative that he be mentally tough, too, such that he can handle the arduous challenge inherent in negotiating a distance that, frankly, is beyond the scope of about half the Derby field every year.

So does it make sense in the long term to even try unless you‘re in the top echelon of any class? Probably not, given the plight of those who try, fail, and are never are heard from again.

That’s the challenge that the animals and their connections must conquer as they point toward the only horse race the majority of Americans still care about, as do the connections as they strive to become a part of racing history.

What makes Buddy’s Saint go from favorite to outsider is now his prep schedule has been reduced to 1-½ preps, unless Bruce Levine calls a training audible. After all, how much could the colt have gotten out of his Fountain of Youth debacle?

Could Buddy’s Saint try the March 13 Tampa Derby next, three weeks before his planned final prep in the Wood Memorial? Levine might not have a choice.

Meanwhile, Todd Pletcher probably wishes the Kentucky Derby was five weeks from now. Eskendereya must really be the Egyptian word for wow!

It wasn’t so much about how he drew off rapidly through the Hallandale straight, which was impressive enough. Rather, it was how he abused his would-be challengers just as the serious running was about to begin.

As Jeremy Rose was beginning his move at mid-turn with the talented stalker Jackson Bend, Johnny Velazquez dropped his hands aboard Eskendereya and instantly rendered Jackson Bend to futile chaser.

So don’t look for Nick Zito’s runner among the HRI Power Ten, either. He ran very well, and will win something important somewhere down the road. But Louisville’s 10 furlongs at this point appears a road too far.

Conversely, Conveyance moved up several notches as he is now 4-for-4, 1-for-1 on dirt. He might turn out to be distance challenged, too, but it’s pretty cheeky to knock an undefeated colt.

The “trip horse” of the weekend was, of course, Dublin. The runner-up to Conveyance indeed appears a better colt following epiglottis surgery, as Wayne Lukas promised. And we won’t argue with those who suggest that Dublin might have been the best horse as the Southwest was run.

Discreetly Mine makes his first appearance in the HRI Power 10 by virtue of his comprehensive Risen Star score. He dictated the tempo, too easily, in fact, and was clearly best winning his two-turn debut. He’s no run-off, and has all the pedigree he needs.

The Risen Star was non-competitive, however. The result turned out to be a three-speed number, as the trifecta finishers raced 1-2-3 around the track virtually throughout the race.

The moderate-pace scenario almost certainly assured Drosselmeyer’s defeat, as did his racing along the rail through the stretch, generally not the fastest part of the Fair Grounds surface.

But the Risen Star favorite was a bit too one-paced at the finish. We will need to see more before he is welcomed back to HRI’s Power 10. The nine-furlong Louisiana Derby could get him back on this list with a bullet. Here, then, the staff poll for Week 4:

1-LOOKIN AT LUCKY (33): Back to serious work and is reported on schedule for either the San Felipe or Rebel Stakes, March 13. Hopefully, the two-prepping juvenile champion will be a lot luckier than Buddy’s Saint was in his season’s debut. Note that his recent six-furlong workout wasn't very Baffert-like. Stay tuned.

2-ESKENDEREYA (30): From nowhere to near the top spot here, making it all the way to #1 on several polls out there. Todd Pletcher said afterwards the Florida Derby would be next. In an interview Sunday, he seemed to leave the door open for some other spot.

3-RULE (21): Pletcher’s Sam F. Davis winner is Grade 1-bound next, according to the trainer. Schedule-wise that seems to narrow the choices down to the Arkansas Derby or Wood Memorial. The competition will be tougher but this is a nice dilemma to have.

3-CONVEYANCE (21): Alas, dirt is not an issue. But given Dryfly’s lack of a speed challenge in the Southwest, it will be interesting to see how this colt handles the pace pressure of a top class rival which will be sooner rather than later.

5-DUBLIN (13): Epiglottis off turned out to be key for this guy who ran to his works and did everything but win his season’s debut. For some reason, I had my doubts about the Hopeful winner’s ability to go two turns with the same effectiveness. He answered that question last weekend.

5-NOBLE’S PROMISE (13): He’s training right along and a good thing, too, for this two-prep Derby colt. A nice blend of speed to stamina in the pedigree and he’s been professional every time we’ve seen him.

7-SUPER SAVER (9): Another who has yet to start and another who has been training purposefully of late. Will finally get started at Aqueduct in the winter-track Gotham a week for Saturday.

7-CORACORTADO (9): Just marking time since breaking through last week following his Lewis Memorial score, his fifth win without defeat. The San Felipe, and Lookin At Lucky, is next.

9-DISCREETLY MINE (7): Pletcher must really like him as he sent him into New Orleans with a good deal of confidence despite his ineffective tough trip season’s debut. Yet another speedster in a speedy crop but showed an ability to rate at 2.

10-DAVE IN DIXIE (3): If you didn’t see this colt finish in the Lewis Memorial behind Coracortado, catch the replay somewhere. It was an excellent season’s debut to build on, showing the kind of power that’s unusual in such a lightly raced colt.

HORSE WITH NO FAME: Finally caught up with the replay of an allowance race at Tampa Bay and, yes, I’m as impressed as anyone with the season’s debut of ODYSSEUS. Time to bring on tougher competition and a second turn.

Written by John Pricci - Comments (5)


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