Dortmund continued to distinguish himself, leading all the way in Saturday’s San Felipe. Carpe Diem was also impressive while making his 2015 debut the same afternoon, romping by five lengths in the Tampa Bay Derby, but he wasn’t facing the same level of competition as Dortmund.
After joining the Top 10 last week, Prospect Park proved that he belonged among elite three-year-olds, rallying well for runner-up honors in the San Felipe. The Cliff Sise trainee was still a little green in his stakes debut, but the rapidly-improving Prospect Park looks like a colt who will run all day.
He moves up to #5 this week.
Bolo makes his Top 10 debut at #6 after finishing third in the San Felipe, with the 1 1/16-mile race marking both his dirt bow and first start since late December. Trainer Carla Gaines was initially targeting the El Camino Real Derby on Golden Gate’s Tapeta in mid-February, but Bolo was absent from the worktab for several weeks in late January/early February and made just his second attempt against winners last Saturday.
The Temple City colt is bred to relish longer distances on both sides of his pedigree and clearly handles dirt –Bolo is primed to move forward next time off this highly-encouraging performance.
Ami’s Flatter is the last new addition at #10 following his rallying second in the Tampa Bay Derby. The Flatter colt improved upon a non-descript fourth in the Jan. 31 Sam F. Davis, passing horses in the latter stages while adding blinkers and first-time Lasix for Josie Carroll, and the late-blooming Ami’s Flatter appears well-suited for additional ground.
The South Florida-based Carpe Diem and Upstart both appear very capable at this stage, ranking second and third in my Top 10, but California features the deepest region this year, with five of the top seven hailing from the Golden State. The April 4 Santa Anita Derby figures to be the toughest upcoming prep race.
Texas Red, a smashing 6 ½-length winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, isn’t among my top seven, but he could rejoin in the coming weeks if everything goes to plan. He’s been recuperating from an ill-timed foot abscess and just made it back to trainer Keith Desormeaux’s barn at Santa Anita on Monday.
American Pharoah will ship from Southern California for this Saturday’s Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park and Firing Line will be headed to the New Mexico for the Sunland Derby the following weekend (March 22).
It will be interesting the see how many other Kentucky Derby hopefuls opt for easier spots by shipping out of the California for the final round of major prep races.
The Kentucky Derby is seven weeks from Saturday.
- Dortmund – Love his progress. After posting narrow wins in the Los Alamitos Futurity and Robert B. Lewis, Bob Baffert-trained colt remained perfect with a convincing tally in San Felipe, earning a career-best 102 BRIS Speed rating as well. His tactical speed is a weapon and Dortmund has been in the top spot all year.
- Carpe Diem – Impressed opening his sophomore campaign with a five-length romp in Tampa Bay Derby, winning as easily as jockey John Velazquez pleased, and trainer Todd Pletcher will continue to tighten the screws in the coming weeks. Not concerned by his 96 BRIS Speed rating but want to see a better figure in April 4 Blue Grass.
- Upstart – He will own the numbers, registering a 105 BRIS Speed rating when romping by 5 1/2 lengths in Jan. 24, but anxious to see how colt performs in March 28 Florida Derby after regressing some in Feb. 21, netting a 95 Speed after being placed second for interference. Flatter colt has plenty of pedigree for 1 ¼ miles and remains a dangerous contender for Richard Violette.
- American Pharoah — Unraced since recording a second straight dominant Grade 1 victory in September, juvenile champion will make his highly-anticipated reappearance in Saturday’s Rebel Stakes, a race trainer Bob Baffert has captured four of the last five years. Won’t be facing an imposing group of challengers and anything less than an easy win will be disappointing.
- Prospect Park – Gave a fine account of himself finishing second to Dortmund in stakes debut, registering a career-best 100 BRIS Speed rating, and expecting further improvement from this dangerous Tapit colt.
- Bolo – No telling how high the ceiling runs for this promising sort, who returned from a freshening with a commendable third in San Felipe. Loved the turn of foot he displayed winning the Eddie Logan on turf two starts back and expect him to continue to show more for Carla Gaines.
- Firing Line – Connections elected to avoid Dortmund after giving that rival all that he could handle finishing second in Los Alamitos Futurity and Robert Lewis, and talented colt figures to crush rivals if he shows up with his best in March 22 Sunland Derby. Longer distances could prove to be a stumbling block but lots to like about his form so far.
- International Star – He’s finished full of run winning the Lecomte and Risen Star and will look to carry his stellar Fair Grounds’ form forward in March 28 Louisiana Derby. Still some class concerns with improving colt, but he figures to provide leading owner Ken Ramsey with his best chance yet to win the Kentucky Derby.
- Itsaknockout – Lemon Drop Kid didn’t make debut until December and is eligible to keep improving off a troubled effort in Fountain of Youth. Still has a big potential upside for Todd Pletcher but Florida Derby-bound runner is scheduled to make his first start outside the friendly confines of Gulfstream Park in Kentucky Derby.
- Ami’s Flatter – Late runner exits his best performance to date, finishing a clear second in Tampa Bay Derby, and rates as an interesting wildcard with further improvement.
Dortmund photo credit: Benoit Photography