Jeff Siegel’s Blog: Triple Crown Tracker

These rankings reflect the author’s evaluation of past, present, and projected form expressed in a theoretical true handicap (high weight 126 lbs.) at one mile and three-sixteenths at Pimlico on the third Saturday in May, 2016.

(Updated May 10, 2016)

1 – NYQUIST (D. O’Neill) 126

Uncle Mo-Seeking Gabrielle, by Forestry,

Latest workout: none since raced

Last start: May 7, CD, first, Kentucky Derby-G1

Lifetime record: 8-8-0-0 – $3,954,200

$400,000 FTF March 2-year-old in training, Eclipse Award winning champion 2-year-old, athletic, medium-sized colt with fluid action, extremely tactical and versatile, 1st foal, dam modest maiden-claiming winner but a half-sister to the graded stakes-winning dam of Metropolitan Mile-G1 winner Sahara Sky; unbeaten in 8 starts and again reaffirmed his superiority among U.S.-based 3yo’s following 1 ¼ length victory in 10F Kentucky Derby-G1 with career top speed figure (always within range, quickening to lead comfortably mid-stretch and then holding off Exaggerator while having something left); in victory became the fourth straight favorite to win the Run for the Roses; had entered the Derby fresh from a  resounding 3 ¼ length victory in 9F Florida Derby-G1 and before that had made a very favorable impression in 2016 debut in 7F San Vicente S.-G2 at Santa Anita in mid-February by 1 ½ lengths from Exaggerator; had won all five starts as a 2yo including 8.5F Breeders’ Cup Juvenile-G1 (by ½ length, bumped hard start, extremely wide throughout, kept on gamely in a superior performance); the 8.5F FrontRunner S.-G1 (by ¾ length) at Santa Anita in October, 7F Del Mar Futurity-G1 (by 3 ¾ lengths) in September and 6.5F Best Pal S.-G2 (by 5 ¼ lengths) in August, defeating the same colt (Swipe) in each of his last four 2015 victories; pedigree leans much more to speed than stamina but clearly has the capability of staying a classic distance and most likely beyond; will make next start in Preakness S.-G1 at Pimlico May 21 and will be a strong favorite again in the second jewel of the American Triple Crown.

2 – EXAGGERATOR (K. Desormeaux) 123

Curlin-Dawn Raid, by Vindication

Latest workout: none since raced

Last start: May 7, SA, second, Kentucky Derby-G1

Lifetime record: 9-3-3-1 – $1,471,120

$110,000 yearling, 3rd foal, dam stakes-placed half-sister to Canadian champion mare Ember’s Song; has developed an extremely effective deep-closing style, handles any surface, and currently ranks as the second best 3yo in North America following an outstanding runner-up performance in the 10F Kentucky Derby-G1, rallying from nearly 18 lengths back and overcoming some traffic trouble on far turn to be beaten 1 1/4 lengths by Nyquist (who won with something left and was clearly best); in doing so verified the strength of his Santa Anita Derby-G1 victory over a sloppy track  the previous month (rallied from nearly 17 lengths back to win by 6 ¼ lengths from Mor Spirit after producing an exceptional turn of foot into an extremely fast pace and earning an impressive speed figure); previously had been considered by trainer to possibly have distance limitations when finishing third, beaten 2 ¾ lengths, to Danzing Candy in 8.5F San Felipe S.-G2 at Santa Anita in mid-March (flattened out final furlong) and in 7F San Vicente S.-G2 in mid-February (loomed threat but made no headway late when second by 1 ½ lengths to  Nyquist); culminated busy juvenile campaign with game victory in muddy 8.5F Delta Jackpot S.-G2 at Delta Downs in November (by 3/4 length from Sunny Ridge) after finishing fourth without mishap (beaten 3 lengths) in Breeders’ Cup Juvenile S.-G1 the previous month; bred for classic distance and proved in his last two starts that longer trips are within his range; has been beaten on four occasions by Nyquist but is scheduled to face that colt again in Preakness S.-G1 May 21 at Pimlico in second jewel of the American Triple Crown.

3 – GUN RUNNER (S. Asmussen) 122

Candy Ride-Quiet Giant, by Giant’s Causeway

Latest workout: none since raced

Last start: May 7, CD, third, Kentucky Derby-G1

Lifetime record: 6-4-0-1 – $1,106,920

1st foal, dam 9F Gr. 2 winning half-sister to Horse of the Year Saint Liam and to 2 other listed SW’s; possesses tactical speed and employs a stalk/pounce style; turned in career top performance when an admirable third in the Kentucky Derby-G1 (by 4 ½ lengths to Nyquist), always within striking range of hot pace-setter, gaining brief lead at top of stretch but then weakening in final sixteenth; previously had dominated Louisiana-based 3-year-olds with two visually pleasing victories, the 9F Louisiana Derby-G2 (by 4 ½ lengths from Tom’s Ready) in late March and the 8.5F Risen Star S.-G2 at FG (by ½ length from Forevamo) the previous month; had won first two career starts in promising style, an 8F maiden at Churchill Downs in September and an 8.5F allowance race at Keeneland the following month (rallying from mid-pack in both); continues to progress and must be ranked among the very best in his crop though clearly a cut below champion Nyquist; pedigree suggests continued development is likely; will have several excellent opportunities to win major race for 3-year-olds during the summer and into the fall.

4 – STRADIVARI (T. Pletcher) 120

Medaglia d’Oro-Bending Springs, by American Chance

Latest workout: May 7, CD, 6f-1:14.2b

Last start: April 18, Kee, won, allowance

Lifetime record: 3-2-0-0 $64,200

Strong, powerful, athletic colt with excellent tactical speed; fifth foal; first winner from multi-graded stakes winning sprinter; second dam (by Hail the Pirates) minor listed stakes winner; finished a distant fourth in debut over 7F at Aqueduct in November but left that form far behind with pair of subsequent eye-opening victories, defeating maidens by 11 lengths in December at Gulfstream Park in 8.5F off-the-turf race and then returning in mid-April to capture first-level allowance at Keeneland by 14 ½ lengths (never asked) after stalking early pace in hand and then taking over at will; earned graded stakes-quality speed figure in latter while giving impression of being capable of much more if needed; will stay classic distance and beyond; is expected to make next start in Preakness S.-G1 in mid-May; exciting prospect with potential to be among the best of his crop.

5 – MOHAYMEN (K. McLaughlin) 120

Tapit-Justwhistledixie, by Dixie Union

Latest workout: none since raced

Last start: May 7, CD, fourth, Kentucky Derby-G1

Lifetime record: 7-5-0-0 – $952,850

$2.2 million yearling, half-brother to Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner New Year’s Day (by Street Cry); dam multiple Grade-2 winner; flawless, athletic action with tactical speed and the versatility to produce a quick burst; performed reasonably well when rallying from 13 lengths back to finish fourth (though never a serious threat) to be beaten 4 ½ lengths in 10F Kentucky Derby-G1 behind Nyquist; appeared to lose some of his punch in the final stages and may not have stayed the trip; had suffered first career defeat (fourth, beaten 8 lengths) to Nyquist when heavily favored in Florida- Derby-G1 (wide throughout but faded readily after looming threat entering stretch); previously had been highly impressive in five victories, including 8.5F Fountain of Youth S.-G2 at GP Feb. 27 (by 2 ¼ lengths from Zulu), and in Holy Bull S.G-2 (by 3 ½ lengths from Greenpointcrusader) the previous month; began career winning 6F maiden race by half-length at Belmont Park in September, the Nashua S.-G2 at 8F in November (by 1 ¾ lengths) and then the 9F Remsen S.-G2 (by 1 ½ lengths), the latter two races at Aqueduct in November and in both starts beating subsequent Jerome S.-G3 winner Flexibility; likely will have 10F Travers S.-G1 at Saratoga as an ultimate late-summer goal; still has room for further development but may be questionable in races that exceed a middle distance; has the pedigree, style, and acceleration to become an exceptional turf performer if given the chance though that may not come until after major main track events for 3-year-olds are completed by the end of the summer.

6 – DESTIN (T. Pletcher) 119

Giant’s Causeway-Dream of Summer, by Siberian Summer

Latest workout: none since raced

Last start: May 7, CD, sixth, Kentucky Derby-G2

Lifetime record: 6-3-1-0 $390,700

$400,000Y, full-brother to Creative Cause (Norfolk S.-G1, etc.); dam won Apple Blossom S.-G1 and 3 other graded stakes; likely was short on conditioning when given the extremely difficult task of competing in 10F Kentucky Derby-G1 following a two month layoff and under the circumstances ran as well as could be expected to be sixth of 20, beaten 7 lengths, after moving with striking range entering the stretch before feeling the effects of the layoff; had previously produced best performance when winning 8.5F Tampa Bay Derby-G2 in  mid-March by 1 length from stablemate Outwork with career-top speed figure (good tactical speed to press pace, prevailed final furlong); was nearly as impressive when capturing Sam F. Davis S.-G3 over same course in February (always within range, strong late kick by 2 ¼ lengths from Rafting);  pedigree suggests no distant limitations, seems likely to continue to improve with maturity; chance to regain ranking among very best 3-year-olds in his crop in major races during the summer and early fall when having the benefit of a much more consistent, logical, race pattern.

7 – UNIFIED (J. Jerkins) 118

Candy Ride-Union City, by Dixie Union

Latest workout: May 8, Bel, 6-1:13.2b TT

Last start: April 9, Aqu, first, Bay Shore S.-G3

Lifetime record: 2-2-0-0 $204.000

$325,000Y, half-brother to listed stakes-placed Honkeytonk Man (by Bluegrass Cat); dam stakes-placed full-sister to Dixie City (Demoiselle S.-G2); family of champion 2yo Dehere; top quality prospect is unbeaten in two starts, winning highly-rated 6F maiden at Gulfstream Park by 3 lengths in February and then 7F Bay Shore S.-G3 over muddy (sealed) surface at Aqueduct in April by 3 lengths from next-out SW King Kranz, setting pace inside under pressure and then drawing clear with authority while earning clocking .29 seconds faster than Carter S.-G1 for older sprinters an hour later; pedigree suggests he’ll stay at least a middle distance; appears ready to tackle best in division though participation in either Preakness S.-G1 or Belmont S.-G1 is highly unlikely; expected to take a conservative path and be allowed to develop over time; 9F Peter Pan S.-G2 May 14 at Belmont Park appears on the agenda for next start.

8 – CUPID (B. Baffert) 118

Tapit-Pretty ‘N Smart, by Beau Genius

Latest workout: none since raced

Last Start: April 16, OP, tenth, Arkansas Derby-G1

Ky. Derby qualifying points: (50) 5-2-1-0 $590,357

$900,000Y, half-brother to 8 winners, including graded stakes winners Heart Ashley and Ashley’s Kitty and to listed stakes winner Indianapolis, dam stakes-placed sprinter; strong favorite (4/5) in 9F Arkansas Derby-G1 but disappointed badly after being sent hard from gate to stalk pace to top of stretch but then fading readily to wind up 10th of 12, beaten 11 lengths; was found to have suffered from entrapped epiglottis necessitating throat surgery; had been highly impressive winning 8.5F Rebel S.-G2 in prior start, overcoming awkward break to quickly establish solid pace inside, lugging in sharply after straightening for home but then fighting off a strong challenge from Whitmore in deep stretch to record 1 ¼ length victory (galloped out full of run) with legitimate speed figure; previously had won eye-catching 8.5F SA maiden by 5 ¼ lengths despite poor trip (stumbled start, wide throughout); pedigree leans slightly more to speed than stamina but classic distances should be within his range; has proven capable of winning on the lead or from off the pace but may be most comfortable if held up early and allowed to produce a late run, has the potential to be a major player in valuable summer events for 3-year-olds if breathing issues are corrected.

9 – SUDDENBREAKINGNEWS (D. Von Hemel) 118

Mineshaft-Uchitel, by Afleet Alex

Latest workout: none since raced

Last start: May 9, CD, fifth, Kentucky Derby-G1

Lifetime record: 9-3-4-0 $720,032

$72,000Y, 2nd  foal of unplaced half-sister to Composure (Santa Anita Oaks-G1, etc.) and Ready Set (West Virginia Derby-G3); delivered a commendable performance when rallying from 19th of 20 and more than 28 lengths behind (according to official chart) to wind up a fast-finishing fifth, beaten less than 5 lengths, behind unbeaten Nyquist in 10F Kentucky Derby-G1 (torrid early pace certainly promoted his chances); was also race-shape aided when second (beaten 1 ¼ lengths) to fellow deep-closer Creator in 9F Arkansas Derby-G1 at Oaklawn Park in mid-April, having every chance and staying on well to the wire; previously had been victimized by a poor draw, traffic trouble and a wide trip when a non-threatening fifth (willing finish, beaten 5 lengths) to Cupid in 8.5F Rebel S.-G2 in mid-March; had made very favorable impression in 8.5F Southwest S.-G3 in 3yo debut when rallying from last of 14 to win going away (by 2 3/4 lengths from Whitmore); had raced exclusively at Remington Park as a 2yo; deep closing style always makes him pace/traffic dependent; possesses an extended run rather than a sharp turn of foot and doesn’t appear to corner well on sharper turns; might have to settle for secondary awards in top races for 3-year-olds due to his complete lack of tactical speed but appears the type that always gives his best.

10 – BRODY’S CAUSE (D. Romans) 117

Giant’s Causeway-Sweet Breanna, by Sahm

Latest workout: none since raced

Last start: May 7, Kee, seventh, Kentucky Derby.-G1

Lifetime record: 7-3-0-1 – $1,223,138

$350,000 yearling, 2nd foal, half-brother to 8.5F stakes-placed Midnight Sweetie (by Midnight Lute); dam placed in Woodbine Oaks;  was never a factor when staying on with some interest to be seventh of 20 in 10F Kentucky Derby-G1, beaten 9 ½ lengths by Nyquist while racing wide much of the way but having no real mishap; previously had regained his best form and earned a career-top (though moderate) speed figure when capturing 14-runner 9F Blue Grass S.-G1 (by 1 ¾ lengths from My Man Sam), producing strong, steady run from 11th midway to be along in time; had been highly disappointing in 3yo debut the previous month when producing no rally and winding up seventh (beaten 12 lengths) in 8.5F Tampa Bay Derby-G2; enjoyed productive juvenile campaign, winning Breeders’ Futurity-G1 over muddy surface at Keeneland before turning in a good performance when third despite a wide trip in Breeders’ Cup Juvenile-G1 to Nyquist; lacks an exceptional turn of foot but can produce an effective, extended rally; clearly a significant cut below the best in his division but can win a valuable race or two if given a less ambitious campaign.

THE NEXT FIVE: SHARP AZTECA (J. Navarro); UNCLE LINO (G. Sherlock); COLLECTED (B. Baffert); MO TOM (T. Amoss); CREATOR (S. Asmussen).

Jeff Siegel’s Blog: Triple Crown Tracker

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