AN EARLY DERBY TOP 10
Last summer's young stars at Saratoga, topped by Uncle Mo and Boys at Tosconova, are now 3-year-olds on the road to the Triple Crown.
The 137th edition of the Kentucky Derby will be run on May 7 at Churchill Downs.
It is followed by the 136th edition of the Preakness at Pimlico on May 21.
The Belmont Stakes is the oldest, and will be run for the 143rd time on June 11.
The Derby is at 1 ¼ miles, the Preakness at 1 3/16 miles and the Belmont at 1 ½ miles.
Let's take a look at the leaders, ranked in order of preference, in my first edition of classics corner for 2011.
1. Uncle Mo
It's hard to argue with brilliance and power, and that's what we've got here.
He is unbeaten in three starts by a combined total of more than 23 lengths, and a romping winner of the Champagne and Breeders' Cup Juvenile.
The last Champagne winner to capture the Kentucky Derby was Sea Hero in 1993.
There is sire power with his father, Indian Charlie, but his female family is decidedly sprint-oriented.
We can worry about that later.
Right now, this is the champ.
2. To Honor And Serve
I won't call him brilliant, but will call him promising. As in very promising.
Won the 9-furlong Remsen Stakes at Aqueduct in 1:50, and any time a 2-year-old runs that fast it's a serious indication of talent.
Like the Champagne, the Remsen's glory days are in the past, but this could be the year a New York horse begins to reverse that trend.
There are no pedigree deficiencies here at all.
Sire Bernardini is a Travers winner and a son of the great A.P. Indy.
This female family has Darby Dan roots that include the marvelous Memories of Silver.
3. Comma To The Top
I consider his performance in the Hollywood Futurity second only to Uncle Mo's BC Juvenile among this year's crop.
His sire and immediate female family are very powerful in terms of sprinting, yet he now has a pair of two-turn stakes victories.
4. Boys At Tosconova
The Hopeful Stakes winner was a solid second to Uncle Mo in the Juvenile, six lengths better than third-place Rogue Romance.
He was the easiest kind of winner at Saratoga, and that followed a 12-length maiden score at Belmont Park.
His pedigree is well-balanced, with Champagne winner Officer on top and a female family that goes back
to C.V. Whitney's classic-placed Mr. Trouble.
5. Tiz Blessed
His best effort came in the Display Stakes on the Woodbine polytrack.
That said, he broke his maiden at Saratoga on Aug. 7.
Any open maiden winner at Saratoga, where the competition is hot among the youngsters, carries some juice.
And he is by Tiznow, a sire not known for getting early 2-year-olds.
Tiz Blessed's victory in the Display was marked by a sustained run of 5 furlongs.
Smooth performer captured first level allowance at Churchill Downs on Nov. 27.
Half-brother to Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver is by Distorted Humor, the sire of Derby winner Funny Cide.
And speaking of pedigrees, how about this one?
He's by Unbridled's Song out of Goulash, by Mari's Book, and that makes him a full brother to Ashado.
Ashado, champion 3-year-old filly in 2004, won the Coaching Club American Oaks and Breeders' Cup Distaff among her Grade 1 victories on the way to earnings of $3.9 million.
Lauburu broke his maiden at Aqueduct on Nov. 13 at 7 furlongs.
He's been a little under the radar, but that could change in the coming weeks as he gets the chance to run long.
Astrology, winner of the Grade 3 Iroquois at one mile, is by the great sire A.P. Indy, who has numerous major winners at classic distances including the hot young sire Bernardini, winner of the Travers.
Astrology is out of a daughter of Quiet American, the very same cross as Bernardini.
Any stakes winner around two turns at Churchill Downs merits respect, and that is the case with this winner of the Kentucky Jockey Club.
He is a son of Giant's Causeway from the family of champion sprinter Safely Kept.
He won his third straight last weekend in the Inaugural at Tampa Bay in smart fashion, tracking the early speed before bursting through on the stretch turn.
This is a son of Mass Media, winner of the Grade 1 Forego at Saratoga in 2005.
Manicero's family includes French champion Sassafras, winner of the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.
His schedule could include the Holy Bull at Gulfstream on Jan. 31.
Trainer Bob Baffert has a pair of impressive maiden winners at Santa Anita in The Factor and Uncle Sam, and another in Coil at Hollywood Park.
Dialed In, trained by Nick Zito, owns a big maiden victory at Churchill Downs, while at the same track Tapizar, trained by Steve Asmussen, won at the same track in faster time than Santiva in the Kentucky Jockey Club.
Another from the Churchill Downs fall meet is Black N Beauty, trained by Dale Romans.
Read the Contract and Leave of Absence, both trained by Rick Violette, own sharp maiden scores at the Aqueduct fall meeting.
Although a turf winner, Itouch, trained by Todd Pletcher, could race on dirt this season at Gulfstream.
by Michael Veitch
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