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 1

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL., March 9, 2015—At last, some definition of the three year old class via meaningful results--of one kind or another--as the 3 class of 2015 make their inexorable march towards Louisville.

Clearly, there’s a lot of talent out there and much potential, as there always is at this time of prep season, and no one’s shocked that, between them, Bob Baffert and Todd Pletcher train half of the HRI Power 10

While the inaugural edition of this annual exercise might not resemble the list in evidence on the final Monday in April, it’s a solid starting point nonetheless.

All might have their own particular favorites, but there’s not much arguing when it comes to the top slot as mid-March and the Rebel Stakes rapidly approaches:

Undefeated in five career starts, including a victory at Churchill Downs in 2014, it is little wonder that the horse at the top is the unanimous choice of HRI staffers and contributors and most other pollsters as well.

Here, then, the HRI Derby Power 10, with half that many poised to break through from our Also Eligible group The initial poll is what HRI staffers believe to be the best blend of accomplishment and future promise:

1. DORTMUND (36): As stated, 5-for-5, plenty of development, probably owns enough pedigree, and is versatile as to style and race dynamics: He can beat you from anywhere on the racetrack. Can’t knock his San Felipe, obviously, but the race was handed to him when he was allowed to get away soft by California standards. Still, good to see him respond to the challenge and separate himself at a critical stretch juncture. The Lewis certainly proved he can stare a rival down and that he isn’t intimidated by racing in close quarters when the need arises.

2. UPSTART (25): Although he’s not undefeated, he’s battle tested, is as proven as Dortmund in terms of class, and doesn’t need to carry around a special racetrack or footing. In the Fountain of Youth he proved that he can beat you with less than his ‘A’ race. His best characteristic may be his quiet, classy demeanor in the shedrow. Earlier this week, the rumor was that he was going to the Wood Memorial but on Sunday morning Rick Violette said he was pointing to the Florida Derby which, at this stage, is the right choice. The race got a bit easier when the exciting Khozan suffered an injury this week and left the Derby Trail. Additionally, it provides a fifth week before the biggest dance.

3. CARPE DIEM (19): If the Tampa Bay Derby is any measure then perhaps he is the most promising Derby runner based in South Florida. What is inarguable is that this horse made as an impressive seasonal debut as, well, Street Sense did when he broke the track record in his 2007 season’s debut at the Oldsmar track. Owned in part by Winstar Farm, who prepped their Derby-winning Super Saver at Tampa in his first start of the year, they chose the Hot Springs path to Kentucky. This time it will be the Blue Grass. Whenever he goes, he’s going to be a handful for his competitors; he was that impressive on Saturday.

4. AMERICAN PHAROAH (15): If you saw his most recent workout in 1:10 2/5 on Friday, galloping out around the clubhouse turn with another furlong in 12-and-change, you had to be impressed. And this follows his foundation-building seven furlongs in 1:23 4/5. Of course, his talent and class is undisputed as he gets set to defend his Eclipse title when he was voted top juvenile of 2014. But the Rebel is Saturday and while Baffert has had uncommon success shipping into Hot Springs, it will be interesting to see if talent can overcome experience and surface familiarity in his first start since suffering an injury on the eve of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

5. INTERNATIONAL STAR (12): Doesn’t overly impressive anybody, doesn’t chase away the competition; all his knows how to do is win. Like Dortmund, he can beat you outside or inside, from out in the clear or coming through tiny openings entering the stretch. He needs no made to order track condition and just impresses as an energizer bunny type that just keeps coming relentlessly. Whether his perceived lack of brilliance catches up; the faster ones have as many things to prove as he does. Like in basketball, where you can’t teach height; you can’t teach speed, so we'll see as the waters deepen.

5. ITSAKNOCKOUT (12): I’m sure I’m in the minority but I believe that when he surged up to Upstart’s saddle-cloth in the Fountain of Youth, it was going to be a horse race. Even if that isn’t so, he showed composure and class beyond his inexperience, racing between horses much of the way in his two-turn and stakes debut before showing a laudable turn of foot despite the adverse circumstances, racing greenly in deep stretch over a loose and tiring Gulfstream surface. Plenty of upside here.

7. EL KABEIR (11): Vindication, thy name is Gotham. Many jumped with abandon off the bandwagon when he stalked but remained one-paced in his disappointing Withers. Like a majority of horses, he proved to be much better with a target; lots of them. He found himself uncustomarily far back, needed to make a run to get into the race, and a second run to get his job done. A throwback, the Gotham was his eighth career start without a break and trainer John Terranova says he gets stronger with ever race. He could not be more on target for the Wood than he is right now.

8. FAR FROM OVER (7): His Withers score truly was remarkable, coming from far back after as troubled a start as you will see, winning the second start of his career, a victory validated by El Kabeir’s performance Saturday. But this colt with only a couple of runs will train up to the Wood Memorial where he probably will need to finish at least second if he wants to earn enough Derby points to get him into the dance. A tall Derby order, yes, but it may be useful to recall that Big Brown won the classic in his fourth career start. Of course, he was a freaky talent, but this guy has immense ability, earning his spot among the Power elite.

9. FIRING LINE (6): Here's another contender that’s short on points but long on talent--one only needs to watch a replay of the San Rafael to see that and, yes, while Dortmund came back to win after seemingly being put away, that was the horse that returned Saturday to win his fifth straight without defeat. This guy is a little suspect on pedigree but not on tenacity. He’s a fighter that wlll make his next start at Sunland in two weeks. The question is what does he do for an encore before shipping to Kentucky?

9. PROSPECT PARK (6): One of the buzz horses in the San Felipe, he did not disappoint in his stakes debut with a strong late-running effort to secure the place following his impressive allowance win previously He was going in the right direction and the effort should set him up perfectly for his return in the Santa Anita Derby. The important thing is that he put two fast races back-to-back and looks set for the tougher battles to come. Whether he’s ultimately good enough is a question all of them have to answer in May.

ALSO ELIGIBLES: Texas Red didn’t suffer the most debilitating injury in the world, but the timing could not have been worse. Bolo made a very promising dirt debut. Was he green at the finish, or just trying to sneak over onto the turf course? Ocho Ocho Ocho apparently got the run he needed, but the formerly undefeated runner had better improve, big time, next out. Materiality put away his well-regarded mate, Stanford, going nine furlongs in the Islamorada Friday off a single maiden win; not many horses here break 1:50 for this trip—and he did with three ticks to spare.

Written by John Pricci - Comments (9)


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