Were about 8 weeks out from the 2016 Kentucky Derby. Forgive me, but I’m just not all that excited about this year’s Kentucky Derby as I have been in year’s past. The reason why is because the absolute best three-year-old that I’ve seen run in years, that I’ve seen that’s maybe better than American Pharoah, won’t run in this year’s Kentucky Derby.
Jerry Hollendorfer has already stated that he won’t run Songbird in the Kentucky Derby. Based on what I’ve seen, she’d be the toughest horse for Mohaymen to face in the Run for the Roses. Sure, with 2 months to go a top horse could emerge to challenge the Kiaran McLaughlin son of Tapit. But, that hasn’t been the case in recent years. My guess is that we’ve probably already seen the winner of the Derby run.
On one hand, it’s a shame. Horse racing fans always want the best three-year-olds to compete in the Run for the Roses. On the other hand, as John Cherwa reports in his article in the L.A. Times, Hollendorfer and owner Rick Porter have valid reasons to keep Songbird out of the Derby.
See below for my up to date Kentucky Derby Top 5 sans the best three-year-old in the world.
My 2016 Kentucky Derby Top 5
1. Mohaymen – My money was on Awesome Banner in this race. I was hoping, beyond hope it appears, that a horse might jump up and challenge Mohaymen. Zulu didn’t. Awesome Banner failed to keep going. It might be impossible to beat the son of Tapit on the First Saturday in May simply because, well, there doesn’t appear to be a three-year-old out there that has the talent to do it. Mohaymen has a turn of foot that should remind horseplayers of that Triple Crown winner from a year ago.
2. Nyquist – Nyquist takes on Mohaymen in what might end up as a match race in the Grade 1 Florida Derby on April 2. Nyquist is a Fasig-Tipton 2-year-old sales grad. If he wins the Florida Derby and then comes back around a month later and wins the Kentucky Derby, Nyquist would earn a $1 million bonus. That’s a lot of dollars. Owner Paul Reddam and Doug O’Neil don’t want to leave that kind of money on the table. The problem is that while going for future dollars, Reddam and O’Neil might be leaving present dollars on the table. The Santa Anita Derby is worth $1 million just like the Florida Derby. Does it show confidence or foolishness on the part of Reddam and O’Neil to go after Mohaymen in the Florida Derby? Only time will tell.
3. Mor Spirit – This is the one horse that could improve enough by Derby Day in order to take home the Run for the Roses. He runs in he Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes on March 12 before heading to the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby on April 9. He’s going to have to improve in order to win the Kentucky Derby. Since his trainer is Bob Baffert, you have to figure that there is a ton of upside to this son of Eskendereya and grandson of Giant’s Causeway.
4. Shagaf – The Chad Brown trainee was impressive in the Gotham Stakes. He had to swing out at the top of the stretch and still run down the pacesetter. Shagaf was on the rail for almost the entire race. It looked like he learned something in the win. Pedigree says that he can run all day. He’s got A.P. Indy on his dad’s side and Unbridled’s Song on his mom’s side.
5. Mo Tom – Watch the race. Pay attention to the 2-Mo Tom. Trip handicappers should be all over this guy. Mo Tom could have won this race if not for what many perceived as a speed bias in the Risen Star. What you have to like is how he went inside and then outside in the stretch and then kicked it into gear. That shows maturity. If Mo Tom can back up that maturity with a fast win in the Louisiana Derby, he’d be one to consider to back on the First Saturday in May.
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