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 Power 10: Still Crowded at the Top

SARATOGA SPRINGS, April 21, 2009--At last, all the preps have been run and what remains are the crucial exercise regimens and yummy workouts as the run-up to Kentucky Derby 135, contested a week from Saturday, reaches its final stages.

For the record, there still is the ungraded one-mile Derby Trial on the first Saturday of the Churchill Downs meet three days hence. Not that any of the probable starters is taking it seriously--although Larry Jones probably should have considered it.

Since Friesan Fire will go into the Derby off a seven week layoff and not having run farther than a mile and a sixteenth--which would make him the first horse to win the Derby without that kind of regimen in more than a half century--the Derby Trial could have helped.

A race over the track is never a bad thing.

Four years ago, Ron Ellis took the Derby Trial route with the eventual seven-length winner, Don’t Get Mad,* who returned on six days rest to finish fourth to Giacomo and completing a superfecta worth--for those of you who might not have cashed that ticket--$860,000.

The final race of more historical consequence was Saturday’s Coolmore Lexington which brought the second largest crowd in Keeneland history into the building and might have given WinStar Farm, in the midst of a monstrous year, its third 2009 Derby starter.

And, according to the winning colt’s trainer, Advice just doesn’t get tired. The colt’s inclusion into Todd Pletcher’s Derby plans gives the trainer his fourth runner among the top 23 graded earners. Advice is already in if the connections elect to run, thus joining the well regarded Pletcher trainee, Dunkirk.

It would appear at this juncture that the strongly run Lexington has produced but two fence sitters; Advice, and third finisher Square Eddie. If the connections believe Square Eddie is fit enough, and comes out of the Lexington well, he couldn’t enter the Derby off a better run.

A wide mid-race move as the pace is heating up is the stuff of old-school trip handicapping. Such an effort should advance physical and mental conditioning and one good final work should have the colt super sharp come Derby day. The concerns are stiffer competition, dirt, and a stronger early pace.

At this point the preps should have shaken the contenders out. Instead, each prep has yielded a new contender to consider. And it looks as if the Godolphin outfit will run both of their runners, unlike the connections of Illinois Derby runnerup Giant Oak who have opted out.

The point values among between this week’s HorseRaceInsider Power 10 have narrowed to the extent that there’s a dead heat at the top between I Want Revenge and Quality Road with three horses tied for seventh. To wit:

The HRI Power 10, Week 11

1) I Want Revenge (28) [tie]: Young Joe Talamo’s been getting a lot of good press this spring; Jeff Mullins not so much. The colt, oblivious to either, worked a purposeful 1:01 3/5 in the Churchill Downs slop Tuesday. Afterward Talamo said in a national teleconference that the slop wouldn’t hurt his Derby chances at all.

1) Quality Road (28) [tie]: His six furlongs in 1:12 over the weekend put a smile of relief on the face of Jimmy Jerkens. He came out of the move energetically, the patch holding the quarter crack together nicely. One more serious Belmont work and it’s off the Kentucky next Tuesday. Jerkens failed to make a scheduled appearance at yesterday’s conference.

3) Pioneerof The Nile (26): Two significant developments since he won the Santa Anita Derby. He retains Garrett Gomez--who earlier is said to have favored Dunkirk--and galloped strongly in the Churchill slop Tuesday. Agent Ron Anderson chose ‘The Nile’ because he had the more imposing record. The Insider hears you shouldn’t underestimate the contributions of owner Ahmed Zayat made to the decision process.

4) Friesan Fire (22): A textbook Charlie Whittingham workout with Larry Jones also emulating his own preparation with Hard Spun as Friesan Fire worked a strong mile over the weekend with a good gallop-out. The one difference is that Whittingham would have worked him at Churchill, not Keeneland. Expect a strong five-eighths Churchill move next week, a la Hard Spun.

5) Dunkirk (18): Gets Edgar Prado, who rode him “very well” in his maiden victory, said Todd Pletcher Tuesday. A Derby winner on Barbaro in 2006, Prado is not riding in that kind of form right now. Hearing “My Old Kentucky Home” should sharpen his focus and get the adrenaline flowing. Five weeks rest into this could make a huge difference in reversing the Florida Derby result.

6) Papa Clem (10): HRI finds it more than interesting that this colt breezed a slow five-eighths nine days after his hard fought Arkansas Derby score: He must have all his energy back. Yet another Southern Californian that made an excellent transition from West Coast synthetics to honest-to-goodness dirt.

7) Chocolate Candy (9)[tie]: Will have his chance to underscore that last assessment when he makes his first dirt start at Churchill Downs. The colt never makes a poor effort and remember he was severely compromised by the wide trip and race shape when third in the Santa Anita Derby.

7) Musket Man (9) [tie]: Easily the lowest profile among this crop’s most prolific three-year-olds, winning five of six lifetime starts. He retains the services of Eibar Coa who rode him to victory in the Illinois Derby, his first ride on the colt. Coa, too, had his choice of Derby rides and chose this one over General Quarters.

7) Regal Ransom (9) [tie]: Could this finally be Godolphin’s year? At this juncture, both barrels are loaded. Connections have secured the services of Ramon Dominguez and Alan Garcia; a strong human entry. This colt won in America at 2 and has all the pedigree needed for the route. Without another serious speed merchant signed on presently, the UAE Derby winner is eligible to shake loose again.

10) Desert Party (8): Was compromised when his stablemate won the UAE Derby thus denying him a sweep of the Dubai triple crown. Like Regal Ransom, he went well on the Churchill surface over the weekend and, like his mate, won in this country as a juvenile. With Garcia aboard Regal Ransom in the UAE Derby, Dominguez more likely to land here.

*Edit made on April 22, correcting name

Written by John Pricci - Comments (2)


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