Beaten by a head at the wire in Saturday's Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes, but awarded a win due to McKinzie's disqualification, Bolt d'Oro posted an outright victory over his Southern California rival with Monday's release of the 2018 Kentucky Derby Media Poll assembled by HorseRacingNation.com.
A nationwide panel of experts awarded 14 of a possible 27 first-place votes to Bolt d'Oro in rankings that have featured a new No. 1 the last three weeks — first reigning champion Good Magic, then McKinzie and now Bolt, who ran impressively while ending a four-month layoff.
“Saturday's San Felipe firmly established McKinzie and Bolt d'Oro as the leaders of their class to date,” said the Thoroughbred Daily News' Ben Massam, “and it will be up to the others to bridge the gap over the next two months.”
One Derby hopeful who appeared to do so Sunday was Justify, who Horse Racing Nation's Matt Shifman said “was able to shift the entire racing conversation from the Bolt d'Oro and McKinzie controversial finish in the San Felipe after his eye-catching allowance victory.”
The son of Scat Daddy moved his record to 2-for-2 for trainer Bob Baffert and backed up a flashy debut by beating winners going a mile Sunday at Santa Anita Park.
Good Magic, Audible and followed the Top 2 while Solomini tied for fifth with Justify in this week's rankings, voted on by representatives of the Daily Racing Form, BloodHorse and NBC, among other leading outlets. Expected to jump into a major Kentucky Derby prep next time out, Justify is one of just two horses in the Top 20 to not have won a graded stakes race.
“Justify's turn of foot in just his second career start was nothing short of spectacular,” said Churchill Downs track announcer Travis Stone. “Quibbling over the quality of the field is silly in that the goal was more experience and seasoning. He is insanely talented.”
As for the weekend's other big winners, Enticed, who scored in the Grade 3 Gotham Stakes, came in at No. 7, with Tampa Bay Derby winner Quip 12th. Neither were in the Top 20 last week. Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf champ Mendelssohn, who won on Europe's Derby trail, also entered the rankings for the first time at No. 17.
McKinzie received nine first-place votes with two going to Solomini, who will make his 3-year-old debut in this weekend's featured prep, the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park. Two others' top votes went to Justify.
“I've been waiting for a horse to 'wow' me all spring,” said one of them, Churchill Downs racing analyst Joe Kristufek, “and on March 11, it finally happened.”
We'll see next out — potentially in an April 7 showdown with Bolt d'Oro in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby — if Justify's for real.
“No, I'm not based on the West Coast,” said the Daily Racing Form's Marty McGee, “but it sure seems like the top Derby prospects are out there — at least right now it does. What a great Derby it's shaping up to be.”
|Kentucky Derby Media Poll (Week 3)|
|Horse (1st-place votes)||Points||Previous|
|1. Bolt d'Oro (14)||524||2|
|2. McKinzie (9)||513||1|
|3. Good Magic||460||4|
|T5. Solomini (2)||364||5|
|T5. Justify (2)||364||10|
|8. Promises Fulfilled||297||6|
|9. Catholic Boy||290||7|
|10. Avery Island||253||9|
|14. Instilled Regard||159||13|
|T15. Sporting Chance||155||T14|
|T15. My Boy Jack||155||T14|
|18. Magnum Moon||112||16|
|19. Strike Power||92||17|
|20. Free Drop Billy||88||8|
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