by DICK POWELL
We have already looked at how the top 20 Kentucky Derby (G1) contenders stack up based on foal dates and Dosage. Now, let’s look at form patterns.
Horses rarely run their “A” game race after race. The ones that do are enshrined on Union Avenue in Saratoga Springs in the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame. Young horses are especially volatile with their form. Throw in how little today’s horses race and it gets pretty unpredictable.
Young horses develop physically and mentally from two to three; some more than others. One of the first things you like to see with Derby contenders is that they have already run faster at three than they did at two.
But with many only having two prep races, this gets harder to make accurate judgments. At the same time, you like to see a good three-year-old performance, but if it was in his last prep race is he a candidate to regress from the effort?
In terms of BRIS speed ratings, we want to see at least a triple-digit effort to show that he matches up talent-wise. A pattern without too many ups and downs is preferable. A horse coming off a huge effort can be a negative although most of the horses have enough time between their last prep race and Derby Day.
So let’s take a quick look at the top 20 Derby contenders and how they appear to be coming into the race.
MAGNUM MOON ran well first time out, went back a bit in his two-turn debut then ran a 100 in the Rebel (G2) and a 99 in the Arkansas Derby (G1). Nothing wrong with that but he only has three weeks to improve off the 99.
GOOD MAGIC fascinates me since he ran 105 when he won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1). Off for four months, he ran a 98 in the Fountain of Youth (G2) when speed was king then another 98 when he won the Blue Grass (G2). Chad Brown looks like he has taken it easy with him and if he runs back to his two-year-old best, he will be tough.
AUDIBLE has won his last four starts. He began the year with a win in the Holy Bull (G2) when he earned a career-best 105 then came back eight weeks later with a romp in the Florida Derby (G1) when he improved to a 107. Can he improve or at least run back to his best? He’s been off five weeks and continues to train well.
NOBLE INDY was an even third in a rough trip two starts back in the Risen Star (G2) at the Fair Grounds (96) then came back there and won the Louisiana Derby (G2) by a neck and earned a career-best 100. Does he move forward off a six-week layoff?
VINO ROSSO began the year with a win in the Sam F. Davis (G3) and earned a career-best 100. He backed up with a 91 in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) when blinkers were added but bounced back with a 102 in the Wood Memorial (G2) despite racing wide from post nine.
BOLT D’ORO was terrific last year at two when he won the FrontRunner (G1) earning a 105. He had trouble getting back to that but woke up last out chasing in the Santa Anita Derby (G1) and earned a monster 110. How does he not bounce off that effort?
ENTICED won the one-turn Gotham (G3) and earned a 104 then came back and was roughed up in the Wood Memorial and earned a 99. He certainly had every right to bounce off the 104 since he had never come close to that effort before.
MENDELSSOHN is where this gets real interesting. He made his dirt debut at Meydan in the UAE Derby (G2) and romped by 18 lengths in fast time. He earned a monstrous Racing Post Rating of 122 and is bred for dirt top and bottom. Aidan O’Brien just announced that Ryan Moore will stay aboard him in the Derby and not ride in the 2000 Guineas (G1) at Newmarket where he would have his choice of top mounts.
JUSTIFY might just shatter every rule of the Kentucky Derby. His three wins in three starts have been visually impressive and his BRIS speed ratings have improved from 100 to 104 to 114. Even if he bounces, he can still win. And he still has not really exerted himself yet.
FLAMEAWAY won the Sam F. Davis with a 101 then ran 97 in the Tampa Bay Derby and Blue Grass. He has good early speed but seems to have hit his ceiling with nine career starts already.
SOLOMINI finished up last year with a pair of 101s but has yet to come close to that this year in two starts. Even with Baffert, I can’t see him improving enough.
BRAVAZO has a career-best of 98 two starts back in the Risen Star then was beaten 21 lengths in the Louisiana Derby and a 76. Not fast enough.
MY BOY JACK is a one-dimensional closer that seems to run about the same race no matter what the competition is. He had to run well in the Lexington (G3) to get enough points but has yet to run faster than 99.
PROMISES FULFILLED won the Fountain of Youth (G2) (104) going gate to wire from post nine then was cooked in a suicidal speed duel last out in the Florida Derby and ran a 67. If you are going to bounce, that was the day to do it and if he runs back to the 104, he’s a contender.
FREE DROP BILLY was second in the Holy Bull and earned a career-best 99 but then came back with a 96 and a 94. He doesn’t seem to be going in the right direction.
LONE SAILOR just missed in the Louisiana Derby when he ran a career-best 100 then scorched the Churchill Downs’ main track with a :57.60 five-furlong breeze. He had little, if any, foundation for the 100 so a regression is likely but that workout makes you sit up and take notice.
HOFBURG did nothing in his career debut at Saratoga going seven furlongs but came back six months later and broke his maiden going two turns at Gulfstream Park from post 11 and earned a 96. Last out, he was second in the Florida Derby and earned a 104. Bill Mott is not known for developing Kentucky Derby horses but this colt has developed an awful lot in a short period of time which indicates immense talent.
FIRENZE FIRE has had four starts this year and his best is a 94. Next!
COMBATANT did his best two starts back with a 96 in the Rebel and then came back with a poor effort in the Arkansas Derby and a 94. Not fast enough.
INSTALLED REGARD looked like he might be a factor when he was part of the bumper cars in the Los Alamitos Futurity (G1) and earned a 100. Next two in Louisiana were 96 and 95 then was a distant fourth in the Santa Anita Derby (G1) and got a 102. He reacted poorly to the 100 and might react poorly to the 102 last out.