With the fall championship season of thoroughbred horse racing right around the corner, we take a look at the top two-year-olds pointing towards the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (Grade I) at Churchill Downs on November 5, which in turn makes them the current front-runners for Kentucky Derby 2012.
It’s likely that next year’s winner of the greatest two minutes in sports has already won a race, or will do so by the end of October, as have nine of the last 10 Derby winners.
Over the past decade, only Smarty Jones (November 9, 2003) broke his maiden after October and went on to win the Kentucky Derby.
Many of the names on the list below will be in action over the next two weekends, with the highlights being the $250,000 Norfolk Stakes (Grade I) at Santa Anita this Saturday and the $300,000 Champagne Stakes (Grade I) at Belmont Park next Saturday.
10. Frenemy - Set to make his debut next Saturday, October 8 at Santa Anita in a six and a half furlong maiden special weight for Bob Baffert, this son of Friends Lake has been training up a storm at Santa Anita since early this summer.
“He’s got a beautiful way of moving,” Baffert told me on the morning of June 22 at Santa Anita. “He’ll be able to go two turns and that’s what we’re looking for; a horse with speed that can carry it a distance of ground.”
9. Hurry Home Clover – The only runner on the list already having won around two turns the son of Bellamy Road, who finished seventh in the 2005 Kentucky Derby, can give trainer Peter Miller a Derby entrant in consecutive years after Comma To The Top finished a disappointing 19th in 2011.
He suffered a minor setback after his maiden win going a mile at Del Mar on September 3, but is back in training at Hollywood Park as of September 23.
8. Currency Swap – He’s rated higher by many others, but having already eclipsed the stakes success of his sire High Cotton, the question remains if he is cut out to be good enough. Life and death to get by 68-to-1 long shot Trinniberg on September 5 in the seven-furlong Hopeful Stakes (Grade I) at Saratoga that was run over a sloppy track, he gets an extra furlong in next Saturday’s Champagne.
7. Sister Moon – Yes, a filly, but she deserves serious consideration at this early stage after breaking the track record for five and a half furlongs at Del Mar in her nearly ten-length debut maiden victory on August 21.
Trained by John Sadler and owned by Mr. and Mrs. Jerry Moss (Zenyatta’s owners) she is by Dixie Union out of the dam Shimmer, who finished in the top two in her first four career starts before suffering a career-ending injury in the El Encino (Grade II) in 2006.
She is a possible starter against her own gender in Sunday’s $250,000 Oak Leaf Stakes (Grade I) at Santa Anita.
Her barn mate, Sweet Swap, another impressive debut winner at Del Mar, is also worthy of a spot on this list. The son of Candy Ride is a full brother to Sidney’s Candy and has been training steadily at Santa Anita. He will skip the Norfolk and his next start is unconfirmed.
6. Union Rags – Another progeny of Dixie Union, this colt is perfect in two tries to start his career for Michael Matz, including an over seven-length romp in the Saratoga Special (Grade II) on August 15. He will vie for favoritism with Currency Swap in the Champagne.
5. Seeker – The son of Hard Spun, who finished second in the 2007 Kentucky Derby, is trained by Steve Asmussen and posted a 95 Beyer while breaking his maiden by over six lengths in his second career start at Saratoga on September 5. His dam, Classic Olympio, was graded-stakes placed twice while earning over $336,000.
He is pointing towards this Sunday’s $150,000 Nashua Stakes (Grade II) going six furlongs at Belmont.
4. Fire On Ice – The son of Unbridled’s Song, who finished fifth in the 1996 Kentucky Derby, continues to train great after posting nearly an 11-length debut victory at Saratoga on August 27 and is also likely for the Champagne.
Two of the runners that were left in his wake in that debut returned to finish one/two on September 17 at Belmont.
3. Creative Cause – After a dazzling win in the Best Pal (Grade II) at Del Mar, he was moved up to second in the Del Mar Futurity (Grade I) after being impeded in deep stretch by Majestic City, who is not on this list due to distance limitations.
The son of Giant’s Causeway should get better as the distances get longer, but trainer Mike Harrington tipped his hand on a couple other potential high-priced youngsters in his barn that have yet to make their debuts, so we’ll see if they can make an impact as well.
2. Motor City – The gelded son of 2007 Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense finished third to Shared Property after going six-wide in the Arlington-Washington Futurity (Grade III) on September 10, but will get a shot to turn the tables going a mile and a sixteenth in the $400,000 Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity (Grade I) next Saturday at Keeneland.
However, he’s only this high because for now he has the services of Mr. Kentucky Derby Calvin Borel, who has won three of the last five Run for the Roses and is due for a bounce back after finishing 10th aboard Twice the Appeal in 2011.
1. Drill – The silver-haired wizard bookends this list of Derby contenders with the impressive winner of the Del Mar Futurity. After a rough trip while stuck on the inside in his maiden win at Del Mar, the son of Lawyer Ron ran to his freaky works leading up to the Futurity when he was stuck inside again before wheeling out late to hit the wire first.
He’s set to make his debut both on dirt and going two turns at Santa Anita in the mile and a sixteenth Norfolk along with Creative Cause.
Baffert (@midnightlute) has pledged on Twitter to give out a “steam play” every weekend and Drill could be the first release.
Santa Anita’s inaugural 24-day Autumn meet begins this Friday, September 30 and you can get my Pick 4 and Pick 5 analysis and selections for the entire meet for less than $2 a day by clicking HERE. At Santa Anita’s Winter/Spring meet earlier this year, I posted documented profits of over $5,000 playing the Pick 4 every day.
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