While the top four stayed the same, there were some interesting developments in the Paulick Derby Index brought to you by Vinery LTD. The most obvious was Awesome Act's giant leap to number nine in our poll. Last week, the British invader did not receive a single vote from our 29-vote panel.
While Alphie's Bet picked up one 10th-place vote this week, the real winner was Caracortado, whose victory over the Sham Stakes winner in Santa Anita's Cal Breeders is evidence that there may be more to this horse. Our voters noticed too, moving him up one spot to number five.
Through no recent fault of their own, Connemara and Drosselmeyer were both dropped from the rankings this week. They were replaced with a trio of horses in A Little Warm, Eightyfiveinafifty and Uptowncharlybrown. Each of these horses hold the distinction of only being on one voter's ballot but placed in the fourth spot, a ranking high enough to find themselves tied at twenty.
Following is Ray Paulick's analysis and Top 10.
– Bradford Cummings
By Ray Paulick
Sometimes flattery does get you somewhere. In the case of the unbeaten California-bred Caracortado, he was flattered when another Cal-bred, Alphie's Bet, won last weekend's Grade 3 Sham Stakes at Santa Anita. Two races earlier in his career, while still a maiden, Alphie's Bet had finished second to Caracortado in the California Breeders' Champion Stakes. Caracortado subsequently won the Grade 2 Robert B. Lewis Stakes to extend his unbeaten string to five and he looks even better now after the Sham. As a result, the son of Cat Dreams moved up several spots on my list of Kentucky Derby contenders.
I try not to get oversold on winners of the Grade 3 Gotham Stakes, no matter how impressive they look, and Awesome Act looked mighty impressive, taking control of the race at the top of the stretch with jockey Julien Leparoux sitting like a statue. This was the first start on dirt for the European import trained by Jeremy Noseda, and the son of Awesome Again proved without a doubt he can handle that surface. I put Awesome Act at No. 10, bumping Buddy's Saint from the list. Still, of all the Gotham winners since 1953, only Secretariat has gone on to win the Kentucky Derby.
A lot of questions will be answered by the big three Triple Crown preps this weekend: the Grade 2 San Felipe at Santa Anita, Grade 2 Rebel at Oaklawn, and Grade 3 Ta mpa Bay Derby at Tampa Bay Downs. Foremost among those questions is how 2009 2-year-old champion Lookin At Lucky will handle dirt for the first time after racing exclusively on synthetic tracks in California when he makes his seasonal debut in the Rebel.
No matter how that question is answered, a lot of Top 10 lists figure to look much different next week following these three big preps than they do today. Here's my current list of leading contenders:
1. Eskendereya. Giant's Causeway colt will stay on top of my list till he loses. Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth looked to be the strongest win by a 3-year-old thus far this year.
2. Lookin At Lucky. Son of Smart Strike seems to have a bunch of people training him. There's been a great deal of second-guessing about those slow workouts, but Bob Baffert knows more about how to get a horse to the Kentucky Derby in the right condition than all his critics combined. Interesting move sending the colt to Arkansas for the Rebel to see how he adapts to dirt.
3. Rule. Has all the graded stakes money he needs to ensure a spot in the starting line-up on the first Saturday in May, but Roman Ruler colts needs to be tested against better competition before then. Trainer Todd Pletcher juggling his 3-year-old stars in hopes of avoiding one another, and has talked about possibly sending Rule to Aqueduct for the Wood.
4. American Lion. Son of Tiznow should be a lot tighter for his second time around two turns this Saturday in the San Felipe after getting a bit tired down the stretch when hooked up in a speed duel with Tiz Chrome in Robert Lewis Stakes.
5. Dave in Dixie. Have always been a sucker for horses that close with the kind of intensity this son of Dixie Union has shown in his races (going back 30 years ago to the Cal-bred Rumbo, who finished second in both the Santa Anita and Hollywood Derbies and only needed an extra furlong in order to win—at least in my mind—but could do no better than second to Genuine Risk in the Kentucky Derby). Dave in Dixie has looked very good in his works since finishing second to Caracortado in the Lewis and I think is sitting on an upset in the San Felipe.
6. Discreetly Mine. Awaiting the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds, where he
cruised to victory last time out in the Grade 2 Risen Star.
7. Caracortado. Benefited from a perfect trip last time out when rallying to an impressive win in the Robert Lewis, but good horses often can avoid trouble and get the trip because of tractable speed. Am still not fully convinced he's the real thing.
8. Conveyance. Baffert said the Indian Charlie colt will stay in the U.S. rather than ship to Dubai for the U.A.E Derby and probably opt for the Grade 3 Sunland Park Derby next out.
9. Dublin. For this weekend's Rebel Stakes, son of Afleet Alex has picked up the riding services of Corey Nakatani, who will replace Terry Thompson after a second-place finish to Conveyance in the Southwest Stakes. A good horse in the hands of D. Wayne Lukas at this time of year can spell trouble for all his opponents. Certainly worth watching in the Rebel.
10. Awesome Act. Looked very good winning the Gotham over a weak field and we really won't know how good son of Awesome Again is until he gets a stiffer test in the Wood.
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