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 Derby Power 10, Week 2: #1 With a Bullet

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL., March 16, 2015—Some people have all the luck; others have a stranglehold on HRI’s Week 2 edition of the Kentucky Derby Power 10.

As a three year old debut, a comeback race from an injury, a sloppy-track trial, or a paid public workout over a handful of rivals, American Pharoah made his competition look overmatched. He was nothing short of awesome taking Saturday’s Grade 2 Rebel Stakes.

Recovering deftly, showing athleticism following a bobbling start in which he partially pulled off his right front shoe, the colt’s brilliance took over while racing as kindly as you will ever see from a front-running winner.

There were times on the backside when American Pharoah appeared to be absolutely galloping, responding only when Victor Espinoza moved his hands slightly.

Can you say pushbutton?

When finally asked earnestly soon after straightening away, he responded in a matter of a jump or two and began skipping over the sloppy surface as if he had been doing it all his life which, of course, he never has.

He lengthened his stride perceptibly in the final furlong and won by 6-1/4 lengths over Madefromlucky and Bold Conquest with energy in reserve in 1:45.78, racing his final sixteenth in 06:02 following the dawdling pace while making all of it.

By basis of comparison, the older stakes mare Gold Medal Dancer required 1:45.92 to upset champion filly Untapable in the Azeri and older NW2 allowance mares went the distance in 1:47.86.

The earlier races were run over a sealed muddy track, later upgraded to good, before the rain turned the track into a sea of slop.

While the effort proved very little in a Kentucky Derby context, it was just what the veterinarian ordered, a non-enervating comebacker with a chance to get something out of it as he wisely was ridden out to the finish by Espinoza.

“Victor did what we asked and that was to not ask too much of him in his first race,” said owner Ahmed Zayat. “Just perfect.”

“This was the perfect kind of race on the comeback,” said trainer Bob Baffert, before differing some from Zayat’s assessment.

This man has much to smile about.

“I don’t think it was that easy for him. The track was very demanding. We learned a lot from this race because he handled the shipping and he handled the off track.” A good comebacker then?

As of Sunday morning, all was good; American Pharoah was scheduled to return to California Monday morning.

“I'm just glad to get this one out of the way. We've got him back. I feel fortunate to have two really top horses in him and Dortmund."

HRI’s staffers agree:

1. AMERICAN PHAROAH (31): Ranked at #4 last week, the Rebel moved him to the top of the class, a nose ahead of his undefeated mate. Clearly, he ran to his two recent excellent works and now, like Baffert says, it’s all about how he comes out of the race and trains toward his second start. That likely will be the Arkansas Derby since Dortmund is locked and loaded in Arcadia. Want a knock? Remember dosage? Try 4.33 on for size.

2. DORTMUND (30) Suppose it takes a certain amount of chutzpah to rank an undefeated five-for-fiver second to any rival but this is the brilliant American Pharoah we’re talking about here. As stated previously, he can beat you from anywhere on the racetrack and in any number of ways. One tough customer built for the task ahead.

3. UPSTART (24): A good week for trainer Rick Violette. He retained his seat as head honcho of the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association and his Florida Derby favorite maintained fitness with an easy, albeit sharp half mile in 48 2/5. Like Dortmund, his running style doesn’t portray any weakness. Of greater significance, he’s a fighter that handles adversity like a pro.

4. CARPE DIEM (18): Damned if he just doesn’t look the part of a Derby winner given his style, long powerful stride, appearance, and action. He has gotten antsy around the starting gate but Todd Pletcher and former NYRA starter, barrier savant Bob Duncan, will figure him out. Returns in Keeneland’s Blue Grass, the site of his Breeders’ Futurity score last fall.

5. ITSAKNOCKOUT (17): OK Bob, I can match your numbers with two of my own. Awarded victory in the Fountain of Youth, he still performed well despite his inexperience and in difficult circumstances and over a dull, tiring track. Keeping his head in the game, Pletcher worked him easily recently as the Florida Derby is still two weeks hence.

6. INTERNATIONAL STAR (14): a non-flashy hard-hitter, all he does is everything he can to beat you, and he usually does, under any circumstances and over any surface. But the knocks are starting to pile up. Dosage Downer Part 2 at 4.09, with no points in the stamina wings according to column contributor Brad Morgan. Of greater significance, he still hasn’t had a published workout since winning the Risen Star last month.

7. PROSPECT PARK (13): did not disappoint in his stakes debut, as was noted last week, with a strong late run to secure the place in a wide trip, circuitous San Felipe effort following an eye-pleasing allowance win. It was his second consecutive fast race which sets the table for continued improvement and mental development. Any three year old that can come his final sixteenth in better than 6 seconds is not to be trifled with.

8. EL KABEIR (12): is really catching on in terms of becoming a professional racehorse, going from speedster to middle mover before taking the Gotham in shocking late style. Trailing by a double-digit margin, he made two runs, one up the fence to enter contention and a second down the center of Aqueduct’s winter strip to win going away. The Wood Memorial is next up.

9. FAR FROM OVER (8): still has the three year old crowd buzzing with his Withers score, almost falling on his head at the start before coming from far back with a deft inside-out stretch run. It takes undeniable talent to overcome trouble with a capital T. Worked a useful half-mile in 49 4/5 over the deeper Palm Bay Downs for his return to New York. At the end of two, it's Pletcher 3, Baffert 2.

10. FIRING LINE (4): has had two battles with Dortmund and acquitted himself well in both, especially the Robert B. Lewis. Simon Callaghan’s decision to send the colt to the Sunland Derby seems prudent as he’s already a proven commodity with some class about him. His recent 1:00 4/5 should have him up to the task. The problem might be the six weeks between Sunland Park and Churchill Downs.

ALSO ELIGIBLES: After swimming his way back to fitness, Texas Red had his first workout since suffering a foot abscess, a dawdling half-mile in 51 2/5 at Santa Anita on Saturday. If he opts out of the Santa Anita Derby, it will be on to Hot Springs a week later. Either way, he runs into Baffert… Bolo passed his dirt test with a good effort in Dortmund’s San Felipe but he must keep moving forward; chances are he will…Ocho Ocho Ocho obviously needed the San Felipe but he needs to jump up big-time in the Santa Anita Derby if he hopes to have any chance in Kentucky…Materiality, badly needing Derby qualifying points, won the listed nine-furlong Islamorada in fast time off a single maiden sprint win; may find out what he’s made of in the Florida Derby which, at this point, is coming up light.

Photo by Toni Pricci

Written by John Pricci - Comments (3)


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