Vic Zast

From the perspective of being an owner, an industry pioneer in corporate sponsorship, a track president and fan, Vic Zast writes the "Destinations" column for The Blood-Horse. His five-star ratings of international events have shed light on racing in all corners of the globe - from England, Australia, Hong Kong, Dubai to Japan.

Vic is a regular contributor to MSNBC.com, a columnist for the Illinois Racing News and has written on racing for ESPN.com, National Public radio and The Age, Australia's leading daily.

Vic makes his home in Chicago and lives in Saratoga Springs in August.

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Monday, January 31, 2011


Top 10 Derby Losers-to-Be List


(CHICAGO, IL – Monday, January 31, 2011) The Kentucky Derby flu season is starting. In a few weeks, the fever will sweep thoroughbred racing. In a month, the disease will be everywhere. You can get a shot at your corner Walgreens to prevent it. But you’re probably better off taking two aspirin and waiting three months for the condition to pass.

Someone has designated Super Bowl week as the time to begin listing the horses with the best chances at Triple Crown glory, or else there’s more than meets the eye to the Holy Bull Stakes. Maybe the Florida mile is significant because it is run at a track where the most Triple Crown hopefuls are stabled. Yet, there are only two winners, Barbaro and Go for Gin, to suggest in its provenance that the horse that can win it will triumph in Louisville.

Nevertheless, in the past week alone, turf writer Gary West rated 100 promising three-year-olds on his popular West Points Web site, Dick Downey at thedowneyprofile.com began offering his information to subscribers and Mike Watchmaker, on behalf of the Daily Racing Form, joined in with his 20 names to follow this spring.

By Wednesday of next week, a roster of turf writers and horse racing observers will emerge on the paulickreport.com with their weekly choices. Mike Veitch at The Saratogian newspaper will share his wisdom also. Soon, The Blood-Horse’s Steve Haskin will begin narrowing his focus with another Derby Dozen. Eventually, hundreds of predictions, both well-founded and baseless, will clutter the Internet.

You can print any of these listings out, close your eyes and stick a hatpin through the paper and, maybe, with great luck, pick the Derby winner. Forecasting success is the basis of handicapping, but trying to do well at the task more than 90 days out is impossible.

So, here’s a different kind of Kentucky Derby list that present a consensus Top 10 with reasons why they won’t win the Run for the Roses instead of why they could. There’s a small chance that one of the selections will prove the analysis wrong. But what’s most certain is that nine of them won’t. A list like this, then, is revealing for which horses are off it not on it.

1. Uncle Mo. Only one Breeders’ Cup Juvenile champion has won the Kentucky Derby. What makes two-year-old champions successful is often an early maturity that eludes their competition. Moreover, there’s the growing concern that Uncle Mo, an Indian Charlie colt, may not race at his best over a distance, even though his dosage numbers insist that he will.

2. To Honor and Serve. One of several early “wise guy” selections, To Honor and Serve has the kind of distance-loving pedigree that excites people. But the Kentucky Derby is a 1-1/8 mile race, not a 1-1/4 mile race – its winners inevitably take the lead a furlong before the finish line. Well-bred, New York-based runners trained by men like Bill Mott are often over-valued. This one is also when you assess him by Mucho Macho Man.

3. Dialed In. “Zitomania” will set the fans on edge for Dialed In, a handsomely-comformed colt by Mineshaft that runs like Ice Box. Racing 15 lengths behind the leaders as he did in the Holy Bull, the closer Dialed In would have to be ultra-fortunate to make his way through a congested field of 20 to win the Derby. Yet, on the basis of his monster win yesterday, he’s on the Top 10 losers-to-be list reluctantly

4. Boys At Tosconova. The hype for this son of Officer began well before Boys At Tosconova won the Hopeful at Saratoga, beating only three horses. But he was easily left for second by Uncle Mo in the BC Juvenile and has had his return to the races delayed by a show of indifference – a very bad sign. If he gets to the post for the big race in Louisville, it’ll be for the last time.

5. Soldat. Success on grass in the With Anticipation and second-place finishes in the Pilgrim and in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf has probably already endowed Soldat with the graded stakes earnings that are necessary to get into the Kentucky Derby starting gate. Fans are excited with his victory in an entry-level allowance race on January 21. But Soldat hasn’t beaten a really good horse, nor has he won on a fast dirt surface.

6. Comma To The Top. A winner of six of his 10 starts, the likable gelding Comma To The Top has a few factors going against him. He is prepping at Golden Gate Fields, where few Derby winners are found. He’s trained by Peter Miller; this is the thinnest air Miller’s breathed. And Comma To The Top’s breeding will fail him as the distances get longer.

7. Tapizar. Here’s another of those “wise guy” horses. The Steve Asmussen-trained son of Tapit won the Sham Stakes easily. But he looks to be one of those types that will run an occasional eye-popping race and then get beat by so-so opponents. Asmussen would have to get him just right on Derby day, a feat that’s escaped the trainer with other Derby horses before.

8. The Factor. Trainer Bob Baffert is high on this super-speedy colt. But he hasn’t breezed in two weeks, causing mild agita in people who believe interruptions in training at this time of year can be heart-breaking. Big question is how will the Hall of Fame trainer temper The Factor’s inclination for going to the front of his races full out? The guess is he won’t.

9. J.P.’s Gusto. This once-formidable Del Mar Futurity winner has lost in his last three starts, indicating that perhaps his best races are behind him. The David Hofmans trainee ran miserably at Churchill Downs in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at 17-1. The distance of a mile and two furlongs won’t suit him.

10. Elite Alex. Because of the important role that Oaklawn Park has played on recent Kentucky Derby Roads, it’s tempting to tab Elite Alex as a horse to watch. But he’s won just one race in his lifetime and will get buried alive when the Florida-based horses head to Hot Springs for the more important stakes that come later in the season.


HorseraceInsider.com also publishes a Top 10 Derby list. It’s a compilation of the rankings that John Pricci, Bill Christine and I identify as hopefuls with the best chances.




Written by Vic Zast

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