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.

Destin Moves Up, Danzing Candy Debuts in HRI Power 10

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL, March 13, 2016—The purpose of prep races is to establish a viable pecking order within a division, answer questions about dynamics suitability, distance aptitude, an ability to take a punch and to advance conditioning incrementally. The goal is to be at tops on May’s first Saturday.

In this context it’s difficult to know just what the results of Saturday’s Tampa Bay Derby and San Felipe Stakes will mean two months from now. Yes, some of the questions going into both of these Grade 2 stakes were answered, but not all.

Destin certainly showed that he loves the Oldsmar, Florida oval, running down a stubborn stablemate, Outwork, who set a genuine, pressured pace. Interesting to note that both Todd Pletcher trainees had the benefit of a race over Tampa’s demanding surface.

The final time was a very solid 1:42.82, the final sixteenth in 06.55 with the last 5/16s going in 31.39. It was seven lengths back from the runnerup to show finisher Star Hill. The Pletcher colts undoubtedly earned the right to continue along the Derby trail.

Clearly disappointing was Brody’s Cause, whose Derby task, despite Dale Romans’ uncanny knack for getting a horse to peak in its third start off the bench, appears problematic. At this juncture, the colt has much catching up to do.

Brody will improve off this dull performance at Keeneland, a surface he plainly likes, but things must go perfectly when charting two-prep Kentucky Derby campaigns. The colt figured to need this run, only not this badly.

At Santa Anita, Danzing Candy proved he can outrun some of the division’s best, but a front-running score given what was a moderate pace for Southern California is a bit of a head scratcher in terms of his carrying that speed over 10 furlongs eight weeks hence.

Jockey Mike Smith was a little defensive post-race, stating that going in 22 over Saturday’s racetrack was “smokin’.” Yes, and no. Indeed, 22.96 and 46.11 was solid but the colt got away soft given all the speed on paper that never materialized.

The San Felipe’s third-quarter went in 24.93 and the fourth in 25.34. The final sixteenth was run in 6.66, the last 5/16s in 32-flat. He will take catching again in the longer Santa Anita Derby and figures improve with added experience.

The second and third finishers, Mor Spirit and Exaggerator, both ran well in what appeared to be stepping-stone efforts to the next way station.

Mor Spirit was too keen behind the moderate tempo, tugging hard at Gary Stevens on the backside. Even with that he mounted a late surge to secure the place over Exaggerator. The San Felipe should be a great race to build on, and the added sixteenth next out can only help.

Considering he was coming from a quickly-paced San Vicente at 7 furlongs, it’s impossible to fathom why Exaggerator was so far back early. The only plausible explanation is that it was part of the plan: If he got there, fine; if not, that’s OK, too.

The Curlin colt never has run a bad one and he ran another good one on Saturday. He made a hellacious middle move approaching the far turn, one that continued to headstretch where he got into a little bumping match with fourth finisher Uncle Lino.

Exaggerator drifted in approaching midstretch, indicating either the long sustained brush took some wind out of him or, worse, the bottom side of his pedigree might be catching up with him. Ever conservative trainer Keith Desormeaux wondered as much after the race.

The Battaglia Memorial was a good prep for the subsequent 9-furlong Spiral Stakes as far as the top two finishers--strong-finishing Surgical Strike and game runnerup Whatawonderfulworld--are concerned. For the others, not so much.

But they will need to be ready for a possible trio of invading Northern Californians: Frank Conversation, Tusk and Kasseopia, the 1-2-3 finishers in Golden Gate’s El Camino Real Derby in mid-February.


1. Mohaymen (41) maintains his narrow lead at the top for the third straight week. He had his first workout since taking the Fountain of Youth, a soft half-mile this week. The next two will be of the serious variety.
2. Nyquist (39) continues to make forward progress toward his Florida Derby confrontation with Mohaymen three weeks down the road. Had a solid move this week and is scheduled to ship to SoFla later this month.
3. Shagaf (23) moved up several spots due to the exclusion of Songbird from the Week 3 Power 10, disappointing weekend performances, and/or inactivity. The feeling is Chad Brown allowed his colt to win the Gotham on class alone and that we’ll see a more polished colt in the Wood Memorial.
4. Destin (20) is now 2-for-2 since Todd Pletcher made an adjustment to his blinkers prior to the Sam F. Davis. Pletcher has Zulu for the Florida Derby, so this colt can land anywhere. We’re guessing the Midwest as the Repole-owned Outwork is highly likely New York-bound.
5. Gun Runner (19) is also up a notch or two from Week 2 for the same reasons as those noted above. Steve Asmussen has been on a tear of late and that roll just might continue in the Louisiana Derby in two weeks.
6-tie. Danzing Candy (17) debuts here tied with Mor Spirit. The connections said they wouldn’t alter his style for the San Felipe but there rating tactics employed in the SA Derby. Versatility will be more necessity than luxury come Derby day.
6-tie. Mor Spirit (17) might have been second best in the San Felipe but Stevens and Baffert believe that his freshness very likely worked against him Saturday but that the effort and added distance will make all the difference next time out.
8. Mo Tom (14) is reported training very well following his troubled, fast-finish showing in the Risen Star. His style not only suits the long Fair Ground straight but the La. Derby’s added distance as well.
9-tie. Exaggerator (7) dropped a few notches after his San Felipe third but that effort could prove a blessing if he takes a forward step in the Santa Anita Derby. He will need a peak effort to win at 9 furlongs, proving he deserves a chance to go even farther.
9-tie. Suddenbreakingnews (7) will have plenty of company in the Rebel starting gate, which is to be expected when a track puts up $900,000 for a Grade 2 prep for a million dollar Grade 1. Interesting to see whether the blow-by winner of the Southwest has the same kick going a little farther.

Also Receiving Votes: Forevamo, Greenpointcrusander, Outwork, Songbird, Zulu

Next Week: The Rebel will have the prep weekend all to itself. Entries will be drawn on Wednesday.

Written by John Pricci - Comments (7)


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