GQ’s Top 20 Derby Contenders – 1st Edition

April 02, 2008 | Gary Quill

Over past few years, I’ve decided to get a head start on following the 3 years olds who aspire to run in, let alone win, the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, May 3rd. During the month of January is when I begin my research. From mid-January through mid-March, there are waves of “Derby Prep” races. These tend to separate the Contenders from the Pretenders. So not until the end of March, does the thoroughbred horse racing community whittle down the Kentucky Derby candidates to a band of 20 or so.
Considering the Kentucky Derby is limited to 20 starters, I have compiled a list and analysis of my Top 20 Derby Candidates.
Rank    Name  -  Consolidated Analysis
    1      Pyro - Push button acceleration; looks like the one to beat
    2      Big Brown - Busted onto scene late with 3 eye-popping victories
    3      Yankee Bravo - Love way he finished his last race; SA Derby next
    4      War Pass - Juvenile champ up looks to repeat Street Sense’s feat
    5      El Gato Mato - Gelding has toughest challenge to date in SA Derby
    6      Blackberry Road - Avoiding Pyro in final tune-up before Derby
    7      Denis Of Cork - Too long between starts? We’ll see Saturday
    8      Court Vision -  Might be coming around just at the right time
    9      Colonel John - Must follow last win with strong showing in SA Derby
  10      Visionaire - Barbaro’s trainer hopes he has lightning in bottle again
  11      Cool Coal Man – Elysium Fields flop in FL Derby hurts his stock
  12      Tomcito - N. American debut could serve has nice prep for Derby
  13      Atoned – One last shot (in IL Derby) to prove himself worthy
  14      Liberty Bull – If he gets to Derby, he won’t be able to get 1 ¼ miles
  15      Texas Wildcatter -One of  T. Pletcher’s unusually weak 3 yr old crop
  16      Smooth Air - He’ll start in Derby, but he won’t get any of my money
  17      Autism Awareness – 62-1 winner in last; owners have Derby Fever?
  18      Kodiak Kowboy  - Flying under radar, should run in Prep soon
  19      Salute The Sarge - Won 6 furlong $75k race in CA; a real outsider
  20      Real Appeal - Needs win in IL Derby to stamp his ticket to Louisville
For the record, in last week’s FL Derby, I touted Elysium Fields who finished 44 lengths behind the victor, Big Brown. His connections blamed it on getting extremely overheated prior to the race. This is just one of many hazards handicappers face if they place their bet without seeing the horses in the Post Parade.  
This weekend I’ll try to redeem myself when I post my picks for the Wood Memorial, Illinois Derby and Santa Anita Derby on Friday.
Are there any colts, geldings or fillies missing from my list that you like?