As the Kentucky Derby draws closer, the race to the roses has turned into a free-for-all battle for many on the graded stakes list. But even with the battle to make the gate taking place all over the country, 10 horses seem to be locked into the Derby if all goes well.
Who are the horses you should start to become familiar with if you are trying to learn about this year’s field?
Let’s take a look.
Last year’s Two-Year-Old Eclipse champion is firmly in the Kentucky Derby with $1.4 million, over $1 million more in earnings than anyone outside of the top eight in earnings.
Hansen suffered his first defeat in the G3 Holy Bull in January, but came back in the G3 Gotham Stakes with an impressive performance that showed a more mature horse than had been seen on the track as a two-year-old.
Hansen aims to only have one prep race left before May 5 and it looks like he will be going to Keeneland Racecourse to race in the G1 Blue Grass Stakes on April 14.
While most of the public would probably recognize Union Rags as the current Kentucky Derby horse trained by Michael Matz of Barbaro fame, the winner of $1,070,000 is so much more.
Union Rags suffered his only career defeat in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile to Derby No. 1 Hansen. The colt came back after a three-and-a-half-month break to easily win the G2 Fountain of Youth Stakes by four lengths.
Union Rags is set to race in the G1 Florida Derby on Saturday.
Creative Cause has taken over perhaps the toughest region of three-year-olds so far, beating up males in California.
While the colt’s Breeders’ Cup performance was forgotten about behind the Hansen vs. Union Rags fight, Creative Cause finished only a length behind the two in Louisville. The horse has had two starts since the Juvenile, finishing three in the G2 San Vicente before winning the G2 San Felipe Stakes almost a month later.
With the gray’s win in perhaps the toughest prep thus far, he has made a true case for himself as a Kentucky Derby horse. Creative Cause will be running in the G1 Santa Anita Derby on April 7.
Sabercat is one of the underdogs of the top 10 in earnings right now. The Bluegrass Cat son has one graded stakes win to his name in the G3 Delta Downs Jackpot Stakes, where most of his $601,429 in earnings came from.
The horse’s last race was the G2 Rebel Stakes where he finished eighth, putting a question mark on where he’ll sit in the Kentucky Derby competition. Sabercat is pointing to the Arkansas Derby, which should give some indication of his Derby potential.
An Irish colt by High Chaparral (IRE), Wrote’s earnings as the winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf made a big impact on his spot on the earnings list.
It’s not known if Wrote will come over for the Kentucky Derby but his connections did run Master of Hounds in two of the three Triple Crown races last year after a similar path. Like Master of Hounds, Wrote will be running in the G2 UAE Derby in Dubai this weekend.
Daddy Nose Best made a huge jump in the earnings this weekend going from No. 19 to No. 6 with a win in the G3 Sunland Derby.
But the Scat Daddy colt wasn’t super impressive last year, running third in the G3 Summer Stakes before finishing sixth in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.
However, the colt made the transition from turf to dirt this year and seems to like the new surface, putting in two G3 wins in a little over a month.
The horse’s Sunland Derby win came last weekend and it looks like he’ll go straight to the Kentucky Derby from here. If that is the case, he will have five weeks off until the Kentucky Derby.
Secret Circle used an interesting jump to get into the safety zone of the earnings list.
As a two-year-old, the colt took second place to Drill, another colt owned by Mike Pegram and trained by Bob Baffert.
In the interest of keeping the two away from each other, Secret Circle was put in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint, a race he won by a length.
The colt came into 2012 without a blemish on his record, but ticked off his only career loss in the G3 Sham Stakes.
Baffert decided to send the Eddington son to Arkansas to race in the lucrative Oaklawn Park prep series. Secret Circle immediately took to the surface, winning a division of the G3 Southwest Stakes by a half-length.
The colt returned to Oaklawn three-and-a-half weeks later to win the G2 Rebel Stakes after looking extremely uncomfortable on the surface, showing that he could overcome difficulty to win.
The colt looks to come back to Oaklawn one more time before the Kentucky Derby for the G1 Arkansas Derby on April 14.
Dullahan is No. 8 on the Derby earnings list, but there’s still a big question mark over his surface preference.
The colt’s first two conventional dirt starts came at sprint distances where he finished third and fifth.
The colt went on to win the G1 Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland in October over the all-weather track, before finishing fourth behind arguably the three best three-year-olds on the track in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
His lone start of 2012 was in the G3 Palm Beach Stakes going 1 1/8 miles on the turf where he finished second to Howe Great.
Dullahan’s dam’s produce record may be on the colt’s side when it comes to the Derby, as she did produce the 2009 Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird.
Dullahan will be taking on Hansen again on the all-weather surface at Keeneland in the G1 Blue Grass, a rematch from last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
Liaison showed a lot of promise as a two-year-old, winning the G1 CashCall Futurity and the Real Quiet Stakes to help him get $393,000 in earnings.
However, the Indian Charlie son had bad luck when he came back for the 2012 season, losing his jockey in the G2 Robert B. Lewis Stakes.
The horse did come back in the G2 San Felipe Stakes to finish fourth in the toughest prep race so far, but it remains to be seen if he will look as good as he did as a two-year-old. Liaison is possible for the Santa Anita Derby against many horses that he took on in the San Felipe.
The G2 Tampa Bay Derby winner has been on the board in all but one stakes he’s won in, with two graded stakes wins under his belt in addition to an ungraded stakes.
The dark bay Malibu Moon colt did finish 13th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, but he is battle tested, winning his two races this year by a combined one length.
Prospective may not be a super impressive winner but his races show that he won’t back down from a fight. The colt has the pedigree to go the distance, being by the A.P. Indy son Malibu Moon and the Awesome Again daughter Spirited Away.
A.P. Indy won the Belmont Stakes and Breeders’ Cup Classic in 1992, while Awesome Again won the Queen’s Plate and Breeders’ Cup Classic both at 1 1/4 miles.
The colt’s next start will possibly see him in New York for the Wood Memorial on April 7.