by | 11.17.2010 | 12:47am


Back when magazines mattered, there used to be this thing called the “Sports Illustrated cover jinx.” I'm starting to worry that it might be replaced by the Ray Paulick “Paulick Derby Index jinx.”

When we launched the 2010 edition of the Derby Index two weeks ago, my top choice three months out from the Kentucky Derby was Rick Porter's Winslow Homer, a son of Unbridled's Song who was coming off a victory in the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park. I liked the way he made three separate moves in that race and yet still had enough to hold off the favored Jackson Bend, a sign of versatility and maturity. Days later, however, he was off the trail with an injury and off my list.

Last week, Tiz Chrome occupied my top spot, not so much for what he had accomplished in his brief career but for what I thought he would do in last Saturday's Robert Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita. But the son of Tiznow trained by Bob Baffert showed little fight in the final quarter mile of his first race around two turns after jumping out to an early lead.

So I look ahead to this weekend's Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth Stakes with great apprehension as I move Buddy's Saint to the top of my Derby Index list, and hope he can break the jinx. Following is my newly minted Top 10 in the wake of Caracortado's upset win in the Lewis and Rule's dominating performance in the Sam Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs.


1-Buddy's Saint. Comes off a good, solid six-furlong drill on Sunday for trainer Bruce Levine in preparation for Saturday's Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park. His pedigree suggests stamina, and continued success by this Saint Liam colt would be a fitting tribute to the late Allen Paulson, who produced the dam of Buddy's Saint, the Blushing John mare Tuzia, runner-up in the 10-furlong Personal Ensign Stakes. Paulson never won the Kentucky Derby—not that he didn't want to, but his breeding program was based more on producing horses with stamina, and that characteristic often comes at the expense of precocity.2-Lookin At Lucky. The reigning champion (by Smart Strike) is working solidly in anticipation of his 3-year-old debut, expected to be March 13 in the San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita. Trainer Bob Baffert didn't have the best of weekends when Tiz Chrome was beaten in the Robert Lewis Stakes and Oaklawn Park had to postpone the Southwest Stakes Monday—for which Conveyance had been shipped from California and entered to run—because of bad weather.3-Rule. The quality of Triple Crown contenders prepping at Tampa Bay Downs has been on the upswing in recent years, so Rule's impressive victory in Saturday's Sam Davis is more meaningful in my eyes than it would have been just a few years ago. The son of Roman Ruler will get a much stiffer test next out—trainer Todd Pletcher said he wants to jump him into Grade 1 competition—but the encouraging thing about this most recent win was the way Rule relaxed on the lead.4-American Lion. Sometimes a defeat is better than it looked, and that's how I'm going to categorize American Lion's third-place showing in Saturday's Robert Lewis Stakes, his first route race around two turns. He bobbled coming out of the gate, used up some energy to challenge for the lead after that, battled favorite Tiz Chrome into submission in midstretch, but was unable to hold off Caracortado and the fast-finishing Dave in Dixie. The son of Tiznow got some experience in that race and will be a much better horse next time around for trainer Eoin Harty.

5- Dave In Dixie. If I had a dark horse candidate right now it would be this John Sadler-trained son of Dixie Union who came flying in the final furlong to finish second to Caracortado in the Robert Lewis Stakes. He closed a ton of ground in his previous start, the Norfolk, though not hitting the board that day, and will benefit from the tightener in the Lewis. Not every strong closer gets better with distance and he could be a sucker horse, but I'd give this colt another race or two to see if he figures out what this game is all about.

6-Super Saver. Member of the WinStar Farm Triple Crown juggernaut who is approaching his 2010 debut for Todd Pletcher. If nothing else, this Maria's Mon colt demonstrated his affection for the Churchill racing strip when he won the Kentucky Jockey Stakes there last fall.

7-Jackson Bend. I'm just not convinced this son of the Carson City stallion Hear No Evil has the stamina required to win the Kentucky Derby over 10 furlongs. Has a lot of ability and is in the hands of a trainer, Nick Zito, who knows how to bring horses up to a big race.

8-Conveyance.  Presumably will remain at Oaklawn Park for the rescheduled running of the Southwest Stakes, which was cancelled on Monday because of bad weather and will be run this Saturday.

9-Caracortado. We went a long time between geldings winning the Kentucky Derby (Clyde Van Dusen in 1929 to Funny Cide in 2003), but now that there have been two in the last seven (Mine That Bird in 2009), would it be that unusual for a third? California-bred son of Cat Dreams has done nothing wrong in winning all five starts, beginning with a maiden claimer and most recently with his Robert Lewis Stakes victory. Trainer Mike Machowsky (also the breeder) is more than capable, but my caveat for this Cinderalla story is that Caracortado got an absolutely perfect trip under jockey Paul Atkinson, sitting just off the pace of dueling leaders.

10-Tiz Chrome. From first to 10th in a week, this son of Tiznow disappointed in his first try around two turns, but he didn't get an easy lead, and it's hard to win wire to wire on Santa Anita's Pro-Ride track under those circumstances. I'm for second chances.

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