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.

Risky Business on the Triple Crown Trail

Photo by Mike Sekulic
April 8, 2013—The battle at the top of the HRI Derby Power 10, Week 6, is thisclose between the Wood Memorial and Florida Derby winners.

Checking in behind the top pair are the Santa Anita Derby and Louisiana Derby winners: Indeed, the cream is rising.

However, attrition did claim two victims last week; the winner of the San Felipe and the promising but now understandably disappointing Santa Anita Derby runnerup.

Routine injuries have chased, respectively, Hear the Ghost and Flashback off the Crown’s trail.

Injury almost unseated a jockey off HRI’s top ranked three-year-olds, the result of a turf filly named Katie Malone clipping heels during Sunday’s seventh race on the Aqueduct turf course.

But Johnny Velazquez is said to have suffered only a “minor” rib fracture and a small bone chip near his right wrist.

Make no mistake. These minor injuries have occurred at a major time. The prognosis is that he will return relatively quickly—hopefully not too quickly as to incur further damage--but the big dance is now less than four weeks away, after all.

And to think that on Saturday night all Velazquez needed to br concerned with was the health and fitness of Verrazano and Orb moving forward.

As we slouch towards Hot Springs and Lexington for the final round of significant Kentucky Derby preps this weekend, a look at the results of HRI staff and players’ rep voting from Week 6:

1. VERRAZANO (42) went from a maiden first time starter on New Year’s Day to the top of the three-year-old leader board by virtue of a bnetter-than-it-first-appears Grade 1 Wood Memorial victory. He's now undefeated in four starts including two rounding two turns. The world should finally realize that, thus far, his class is a match for his brilliance. Had to love the way he fought off two stretch challengers last weekend.

2. Orb (41) was knocked off the top rung on the Power 10 but only by a whisker, and it took a Grade 1 performance by an undefeated rival to do it. Surely, the connections of this long striding, long winded beast didn’t see anything over the weekend that they hadn’t already surmised, and the results of the Wood and Santa Anita Derby should not cause their confidence to waver.

3. Goldencents (30) has lots of karma in his corner what with the Louisville Cardinals’ coming from behind; trainer Doug O’Neill’s repeat Santa Anita Derby victory on his way to Louisville with yet another horse purchased by his brother Dennis, and ridden by a jockey who is not a household name. Of course, all that will change in the coming weeks when comparisons are made between Mario Gutierrez and Kevin Krigger. The colt, meanwhile, stalked typically snappy SoCal fractions and kept going to the wire in 1:47.52.

4. Revolutionary (26) Now that the world understands that all rules are off when it comes to jockeys and their Kentucky Derby mounts, Javier Castellano, who pilots this colt for major client Todd Pletcher--but also does some work for Chad Brown--has a tough decision to make. Both this colt and Wood runnerup Normandy Invasion are fast enough to win on the Equiform Energy Figures scale and have similarly generous come-from-behind Derby style. However, bet that politics will be factored into the decision process.

5. Will Take Charge (20) Will have a chance to affirm on Saturday the belief that many hold as he tries to parlay his Rebel victory into a repeat score on the stretchout to the Arkansas Derby's nine furlongs. That certainly was an impressive, sustained finish he made going a tad shorter, but often those late rallies tend to flatten out as distances increase. If this runner has more bottom to give, you can bet that the Coach will reach it.

6. Itsmyluckyday (16) As stated last week, much of his Derby success will depend on whether the shorter recovery time between the Florida Derby and Kentucky Derby will have him tighter and sharper than the extended period between the Holy Bull and Gulfstream Park's centerpiece event. His unquestioned brilliance could compromise his chances next month if the pace becomes too hot. Either that or his forward position could help big time.

7. Normandy Invasion (15) If you are impressed with Verrazano then this guy demands your respect. After all, how much could he have gotten out of the Risen Star to win the Wood off that singular three-year-old prep? But he trained like a wild horse at Palm Meadows and finished like one on Saturday, winning the most important place photo he will ever take. Despite angling out for room at headstretch and running into a significant headwind, he made up nearly three lengths from midstretch to the finish during a final three furlongs that went in a very snappy :36.53.

8. Oxbow (13) In the running for unluckiest member of his generation considering his racing luck or lack thereof, he has an excellent turn of foot, finishing power, and heart, a trifecta in the making of a good race horse. Would get a whole lot more respect if he can move up from his narrow Rebel loss and turn the tables on mate Will Take Charge and the rest. Hopefully Mike Smith will have a little more confidence and ride him like he’s the best horse in the field. He just might be.

9. Black Onyx (6) There’s no telling how good this Kelly Breen trainee is at this juncture and, given the lengthy layup from the Spiral to the Derby, we still might not know after the big race. What is known is that he’s classy enough to have won on dirt, turf and synthetic surfaces and that Breen has tons of confidence in him. And it’s not like the trainer is new to the Triple Crown stage, either.

10. Vyjack (5) When he was scoped after finishing third in the Wood, it was reported mucous was found in his airway, will be treated with antibiotics and that the condition will clear up in a matter of days. We shall see. While no longer undefeated, he ran well on Saturday as he went on the chase as soon as Verrazano made first run on a hopeless longshot leader. He tried to take the race to the favorite so he did some dirty work and acquitted himself well. This is a nice horse that doesn't appear to be the superstar his Gotham hinted he might be.

Written by John Pricci - Comments (7)


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