Scully's Kentucky Derby Top 10 for March 14
It’s the calm before the storm, as no American Road to the Kentucky Derby series qualifiers are scheduled this weekend (March 18-19), and an opportune time for analysis with one Kentucky Derby prep race remaining for contenders.
Excluding European and Japanese events, 10 qualifying races remain on the 2023 Road to the Kentucky Derby series, including eight major qualifiers that award points on a 100-40-30-20-10 basis (top five finishers) over three consecutive Saturdays beginning March 25.
Here are my top 10 Kentucky Derby rankings entering the final round of preps:
1. Instant Coffee
A Grade 2 winner at Churchill Downs last fall, the Brad Cox trainee improved significantly when capturing the Lecomte (G3) in his seasonal opener; stalker the one to beat in Louisiana Derby (G2).
Champion juvenile turned in fastest qualifier of 2023 (103 Brisnet Speed rating) when capturing the Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream Park. The versatile colt can make own trip as well; Florida Derby (G1) next for imposing Todd Pletcher charge.
3. Practical Move
Backed up fast win in Los Alamitos Futurity (G2), netting 102 Speed rating for convincing triumph in San Felipe (G2); early presser possesses favorable run style. The Tim Yakteen pupil is the probable favorite for the Santa Anita Derby (G1).
One of only two frontrunning winners on this list, he gamely won January’s Sham (G3). The gray colt missed the break and experienced stretch trouble finishing a better-than-it-looks third in Rebel (G2). His speed has appeal; Yakteen runner headed to Arkansas Derby (G1).
5. Angel of Empire
Impressed with favorable set-up in Risen Star (G2). Developing closer appears built for longer distances; Cox trainee looks to make late impact in Arkansas Derby.
Poor start cost last-out maiden winner in San Felipe. Late runner rallied with interest for third in stretch; progressing type eligible to keep building in Santa Anita Derby for John Shirreffs.
7. Geaux Rocket Ride
Wire-to-wire maiden winner in Jan. 29 career debut. Speedy colt followed with respectable runner-up in San Felipe; not the prettiest mover, but will bring dangerous speed to Santa Anita Derby for Richard Mandella.
8. Hit Show
Didn’t beat much but stepped forward with good showing in Withers (G3), racing closer to pace before winning 1 1/8-mile race by open lengths. Up-and-coming Cox runner may continue to enhance profile in Wood Memorial (G2).
9. Tapit Trice
Late runner needs to show more in early stages, but demonstrated his skills closing last-to-first in Tampa Bay Derby (G3); Blue Grass the final tune-up for promising member of Pletcher contingent.
10. Red Route One
Confirmed closer one to consider underneath for any vertical exotic wagers, getting involved too late when second in Rebel and Southwest (G3), and longer distances may benefit the improving Steve Asmussen representative. He stretches out to 1 1/8 miles for either Arkansas Derby or Blue Grass.