Due to nothing that happened on the track, our deadlock at the top has been broken with Eskendereya leading the poll despite Lookin at Lucky's lead in first place voting. It appears there is a synthetic bias with some of our voters, who despite Lucky's win on dirt in the Rebel Stakes, undervalue his California racing career, ranking him as low as sixth on one ballot. Besides that, the only major change in our top ten is due to the results of the Sunland Derby, with our voters rewarding Endorsement with their…fighting obvious pun…endorsement (just couldn't help myself). Conveyance, due to his distant second-place finish, dropped from tied for sixth to 14th place.
The other newcomers to our poll were Louisiana Derby winner Mission Impazible (tied for 13th) and Pleasant Prince, who squeaked into the 20th position. Jackson Bend joined Stay Put and American Lion in falling off our poll, once again losing significant ground without any adverse action by him or his connections.
By Ray Paulick
Was there ever a stronger baseball lineup than the 1927 New York Yankees? What an offensive juggernaut they were, led by Babe Ruth's .356 batting average, 164 runs batted in, and 60 home runs. But the strength of that team–one that set an American League of 110 wins and swept the Pittsburgh Pirates to win the World Series—was its depth. Five of the eight position starters batted over .300, with four players driving in more than 100 runs, topped by Lou Gehrig's 175 RBI. They had pitching, too, but this Yankees lineup was best known for Murderers' Row, the powerhouse offense that terrorized opposition pitchers.
Todd Pletcher's 2010 Triple Crown contenders look like a Murderers' Row of the Thoroughbred world. He has done an amazing job juggling his horses and owners, and this lineup could be every bit as powerful as the '27 Yankees.
The big difference between that Yankee team and Pletcher's amazing shedrow of—pick a number, five, six or seven–Derby contenders is that the Bronx Bombers had won the big one, the World Series, but only once prior to 1927. They had come up on the losing side on three occasions.
Pletcher, while widely decorated with Grade 1 victories from coast to coast, has the worst record of futility in Kentucky Derby history, famously going 0-for-24 in nine appearances, including a five-horse wipeout in 2007 that finished sixth, eighth, ninth, 18th and 20th. He's had more starters finish last than in the top three.
Nobody remembers the Yankees having lost three of their first four World Series, and I suspect when Pletcher's stellar training career is over, his 0-for-24 start in the Derby will be a distant memory. His old boss, D. Wayne Lukas, started out 0-for-12 in the Derby, and no one talks about that anymore. It's his four victories most people remember.
Pletcher is playing it close to the vest with some of the horses. He's got Mission Impazible, Rule and Discreetly Mine safely in the Derby lineup on graded/group stakes earnings, with Eskendereya (Wood Memorial), Super Saver (Arkansas Derby), Interactif and Aikenite (both in the Blue Grass) scheduled to race in the next two weeks.
1. Eskendereya. Needs a good performance in Saturday's Wood Memorial to not only go into the Kentucky Derby on a positive note but doesn't currently have enough graded/group stakes earnings to ensure a spot in the starting gate. Currently the clean-up hitter in Pletcher's barn.
2. Lookin At Lucky. Decision by trainer Bob Baffert to leave the 2-year-old champ at home and go in Saturday's Santa Anita Derby suggests the race is more about having the right fitness level before shipping to Kentucky than proving how good he is. I think he's already done that. In other words, a defeat wouldn't be the end of the world.
3. Noble's Promise. Working up to the April 10 Arkansas Derby for Ken McPeek. Didn't show a lot in a five-furlong breeze the other day but McPeek will ask for much more in his next tune-up. Showed he could handle dirt when narrowly defeated by Lookin At Lucky in the Rebel and is as consistent as they come.
4. Dublin. Afleet Alex colt had a sharp six-panel workout Saturday morning. Trainer D. Wayne Lukas said Terry Thompson will regain the mount in the Arkansas Derby after he was replaced by Corey Nakatani in the Rebel, where he finished third.
5. Awesome Act. Gotham Stakes winner moved up on my list as others came up short in important preps. We'll know a whole lot more about this son of Awesome Again following the Wood Memorial.
6. Sidney's Candy. I doubt Joe Talamo will get away with an opening quarter mile of 24 seconds in the Santa Anita Derby, as he did when waltzing around Santa Anita Park to win the San Felipe last time out. Saturday's race will determine if the John Sadler-trained colt will be a serious contender in Kentucky.
7. Ice Box. I continue to have doubts about the quality of this year's Florida Derby, though 3-year-olds can improve by leaps and bounds this time of year. Maybe that was the case with this son of Pulpit, and trainer Nick Zito has a knack for having horses ready on big days. Still, with his running style, he'll need everything to go his way to have a chance at Churchill Downs.
8. Rule. In hindsight, Roman Ruler colt ran a better-than-looked race in the Florida Derby, going too fast early under John Velazquez and still having some fight down the stretch to only lose by a length and a quarter. He still hasn't shown any desire to come from off the pace, something that might be necessary in a speed-heavy Kentucky Derby field.
9. Mission Impazible. Son of Unbridled's Song grinded out a hard-fought win in Saturday's Louisiana Derby, but only beat a stretching-out sprinter in the process, not exactly a ringing endorsement. Louisiana Derby hasn't been the most effective Kentucky Derby prep, and I think this year's Fair Grounds field will come up as ordinary.
10. Odysseus. Apparently will go next in the Blue Grass Stakes, a race that's had some strange results in recent years. If nothing else, the son of Malibu Moon will benefit from having another race under his belt since winning the strangely run Tampa Bay Derby in mid-March.
New to the Paulick Report? Click here to sign up for our daily email newsletter to keep up on this and other stories happening in the Thoroughbred industry.
Copyright © 2019 Paulick Report.