I mention this because, as we see on a nearly weekly basis with more and more results coming in from prep races around the country, things can change rapidly as it relates to our list of the top contenders for the "Run for the Roses."
Things changed a bit more this past weekend, with notable performances at Turfway Park in the Spiral Stakes, and right here in New Mexico, last Sunday at Sunland Park in the $800,000 Sunland Derby.
The Spiral Stakes, one of the few significant prep races held over a synthetic surface, was won impressively by a horse who had just broken his maiden the time before named Went The Day Well.
While you'd be right to consider his victory something accomplished over a less-than-stellar cast, and you'd probably want to dismiss the race entirely, there are some factors in his favor.
Went The Day Well owns a pedigree that suggests he'll be just fine on the traditional dirt, particularly at Churchill Downs. Plus, he comes from the same human connections that presented us with last year's Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom.
Team Valor International and trainer Graham Motion have been in this position before, so it would be unwise to completely ignore the credentials that Went The Day Well brings to the table.
At Sunland Park this past
Daddy Nose Best is the only horse in the Top 10 right now with more than one win at 1 1/8 miles. He won the El Camino Real Derby on the synthetic dirt at Golden Gate Fields last month.
With the Kentucky Derby being run at 1 1/4 miles, there seems little doubt, that with all the likely speed signed on in Kentucky on the first Saturday in May, Daddy Nose Best may be a runner to follow.
That said, this weekend will be pivotal for many of the runners with Derby aspirations.
The Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park and the Louisiana Derby at The Fair Grounds this weekend could easily change the landscape of the Top 10 list.
My current top 2 contenders for the Kentucky Derby will face off in the Florida Derby as Union Rags and El Padrino will square off in what could be the first of many meetings between the classy sophomore runners.
The Louisiana Derby, while at first not appearing to have an overly talented cast, could very well prove to be a defining race on the road to the roses.
Much still to be determined, so with that in mind, here's the latest list of top Derby contenders.
1. UNION RAGS (next start, Saturday's Florida Derby) — Trainer Michael Matz has the son of Dixie Union ready for a smasher this weekend. He's reportedly working up a storm at Palm Meadows for the showdown against El Padrino. A win this weekend stamps him as the likely post time favorite for the Kentucky Derby.
2. EL PADRINO (next start, Florida Derby) — He answered the question as to whether he could handle a fast main track when the son of Pulpit battled gamely to a win in the Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds last time out. He may be the best of the bunch trained by Todd Pletcher, who won the Kentucky Derby just a couple of years ago with Street Sense.
3. HANSEN (next start, unknown) — Trainer Michael Maker is still wavering his decision as to where he'll start the son of Tapit, who rebounded from a better-than-looked loss in the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park in January, with a resounding score in the Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct in New York.
4. ALPHA (next start, unknown) — A game of musical chairs going on right now as trainer Kiaran McLaughlin and the connections of some of the other top contenders go out of their way to avoid each other. The son of Bernardini still has some questions to answer as far as the quality of company he's faced, but a win in his next start will clearly dispel those doubts.
5. CREATIVE CAUSE (next start, Santa Anita Derby, Sat., April 7) — May be the best of the bunch from California. He's never been worse than third in seven lifetime starts, continues to battle and prove something in each start and he's getting a break in traveling by remaining close to his home base. Unlike many of the other top contenders, he's only raced out of state one time, so he may benefit from an easy travel schedule when the Kentucky Derby comes around.
6. DADDY NOSE BEST (next start, unknown) — Trainer Steve Asmussen may just opt to use this past weekend's Sunland Derby as the final prep race for the son of Scat Daddy. He's got more than enough graded earnings to make the starting gate, and according to Asmussen, he may be best with some time between races. He'll get nearly six weeks between the win at Sunland Park and the Run For The Roses.
7. SECRET CIRCLE (next start, Arkansas Derby, Sat., April 14) — Trainer Bob Baffert, currently recovering from a heart attack suffered in Dubai as he prepares to saddle Game On Dude in this weekend's Dubai World Cup, has more than one stoke in the fire on the road to Kentucky. The son of Eddington may be his best bet, especially after Castaway's dreadful effort down at Sunland this past weekend.
8. FED BIZ (next start, Santa Anita Derby) — He still has not won a race beyond allowance competition, but he may have the most upside. Lightly raced, he has to earn his way into the starting gate, but a big effort in the Santa Anita Derby would accomplish that goal just fine.
9. WENT THE DAY WELL (next start, Lexington Stakes, April 21) — The dilemma here is whether you want to believe the son of Proud Citizen is ready to tackle the big boys off the most recent win at Turfway Park. He may get one more start, but would that be too much, too soon in preparation for the biggest race of the year? Questions, but lots to like.
10. GEMOLOGIST (next start, Wood Memorial, Sat., April 7) — Another one still looking for his first taste of graded earnings. Highly talented, but the son of Tiznow has one chance to make a statement for exceptional trainer Pletcher.