7 Exciting Kentucky Derby Horses to Watch in 2012

Melissa Bauer-Herzog@mbauerherzogCorrespondent IJanuary 10, 2012

7 Exciting Kentucky Derby Horses to Watch in 2012

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    For the first time in a few years, the racing community has something to cheer about when it comes to the Older Horse division. With multiple horses returning to run, the division looks to be extremely interesting if the horses return to form from last year. Even more exciting may be the return of multiple 2011 Kentucky Derby runners, including the winner.

    Who are seven of these runners that you should keep an eye on this year? Let's take a look.

Animal Kingdom

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    Animal Kingdom was hurt in last year’s Belmont and was sidelined for the rest of the year. But he is getting back on track for a 2012 season with a possible return at Gulfstream on the turf for the horse in February.

    If the horse returns in the form he left off with, he’ll be a contender. He may be even more interesting if he hops back and forth between the turf and dirt.

Mucho Macho Man

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    Mucho Macho Man had a break after his early season campaign to grow into himself and came back in November to win his first race after the Belmont. The G2 Risen Star hero showed massive potential in the Kentucky Derby, running third.

    The big goof may take some time to get into stride on the track but if he’s finally grown into his body, the Handicap division may have a new heavy hitter that may be just as popular as Giant Oak.


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    Shackleford didn’t win after his G1 Preakness win but he was crazy consistent, finishing second in three of the five races he was in after his victory. In a smart move that isn't often seen during Breeders' Cup hype, the horse was placed in the right race, going into the Dirt Mile instead of the Classic and his connections were rewarded with one of the seconds talked about above.

    If his connections continue to race him at the shorter routes and mile races, Shackleford will definitely be one of the more gritty horses to watch.

Brilliant Speed

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    Brilliant Speed showed that he loves the turf after the Kentucky Derby (although, he finished third in the Belmont) by winning the G3 Saranac Stakes and finishing third in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Turf.

    Brilliant Speed probably won’t be seen much on the dirt but with the retirement of some bigger turf horses such as Gio Ponti, he could fill a big hole over in that division.

Dialed In

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    Last year’s highly touted Dialed In promises to attempt a return this season after not racing since a fourth place in the G1 Preakness last year. The colt won the G3 Holy Bull and G1 Florida Derby last year for an overall career record of 6-3-1-0.

    A promising indication of his return is a work on Jan. 3 going 3F on the dirt in 35.04 for the fastest work of the day at Palm Meadows Training Center.

Stay Thirsty

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    Uncle Mo’s sidekick Stay Thirsty looks to take back the limelight now that his stablemate is retired. Thirsty obviously loves the New York tracks with his worst finish on them being a third in the G1 Jockey Club Gold Cup.

    The horse may only be a big fish in New York but he is definitely competitive for the Older Horse title if he shows his Jim Dandy/Travers form over his four-year-old season. The really good thing going for him is how he has matured over the past year, turning into a big strong horse going into his older horse campaign.

Comma to the Top

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    Comma to the Top won an allowance in early December before finishing sixth in the G2 Sir Beaufort. The horse pretty much cleaned up in California in 2010 as a two-year-old with five wins in a row (out of 10 starts).

    The horse does seem to like the synthetics with his best results coming from those sorts of tracks. With his success on the surface, it will be interesting to see if he attempts turf this year.