Jeff Siegel’s Top-20 Triple Crown Rankings
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 one-quarter at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May, 2016.
(Updated March 29, 2016)
1- MOHAYMEN (K. McLaughlin) – 126
Tapit-Justwhistledixie, by Dixie Union
Latest workout: March 24, PmM, 4f-:48.4b
Last start: Feb. 27, GP, won, Fountain of Youth S.-G2
Ky. Derby qualifying points: (70) 5-5-0-0 – $805,350
$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 or an elongated run, unbeaten in 5 starts including 8.5F Fountain of Youth S.-G2 at GP Feb. 27 (by 2 1/4 lengths from Zulu), overcoming less than ideal trip (pushed wide early) to exert superiority in final furlong, winning with something in hand; previously had won Holy Bull S.G-2 by 3 ½ lengths in January (from Gr. 1 winner Greenpointcrusader), moving up midway to gain the lead via slow splits inside and then kicking away impressively with plenty left; began career winning 6F maiden race by ½ 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; almost certain to stay the Derby’s 10-furlong distance and beyond; a thoroughly genuine, high-quality colt with legitimate Triple Crown potential expected to reappear in Florida Derby-G1 April 2 at Gulfstream Park.
2 – NYQUIST (D. O’Neill) – 124
Uncle Mo-Seeking Gabrielle, by Forestry,
Latest workout: March 25, SA, 5f-1:03h
Last start: Feb. 15, SA, won, San Vicente S.-G2
Ky. Derby qualifying points: (30) 6-6-0-0 – $1,733,600
$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 Met Mile-G1 winner Sahara Sky; unbeaten in 6 starts, made very impressive reappearance in 7F San Vicente S.-G2 at Santa Anita in mid-February, establishing pace inside and fighting off all challengers to win by 1 ½ lengths from Exaggerator while earning a career top speed figure; had previous won all five starts as a 2yo including 8.5F Breeders’ Cup Juvenile-G1 (by ½ length, 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; scheduled to have one more start prior to the Kentucky Derby in 9F Florida Derby-G1 April 2 where eligible for $1 million bonus; pedigree leans much more to speed than stamina so Derby distance (and beyond) possibly could test his limit but is clearly a top class colt with extreme quality.
3 – CUPID (B. Baffert) – 122
Tapit-Pretty ‘N Smart, by Beau Genius
Latest workout: none since raced
Last Start: March 19, OP, won, Rebel S.-G2
Ky. Derby qualifying points: (50) 4-2-1-0 $587,500
$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; has become a major Kentucky Derby candidate following very impressive win in 8.5F Rebel S.-G2 in fourth career 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 from stalking position by 5 ¼ lengths despite poor trip (stumbled start, wide throughout); has produced forward moves in each of his races and appears to have enormous upside; pedigree leans slightly more to speed than stamina but classic distances should be within his range; still somewhat green but versatile colt has proven capable of winning on the lead or from off the pace and is bred to handle any surface; has returned to home base in California but is scheduled to be flown to Oaklawn Park for final Kentucky Derby prep in Arkansas Derby April 16.
4 – DESTIN (T. Pletcher) – 121
Giant’s Causeway-Dream of Summer, by Siberian Summer
Latest workout: none since raced
Last start: March 12, Tam, won, Tampa Bay Derby-G2
Ky. Derby qualifying points: (51) 5-3-1-0 $390,700
$400,000Y, full-brother to Creative Cause (Norfolk S.-G1, etc.); dam won Apple Blossom S.-G1 and 3 other graded stakes; rapidly developing and produced best performance in 5-race career 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 and distance the previous month (always within range, strong late kick by 2 ¼ lengths from Rafting); previously had finished fourth in 8.5F Le Comte S.-G3 (wide trip, beaten 5 lengths by Mo Tom), and second in 8F allowance race and Gulfstream Park in December (by 1 ¼ lengths to Goldenray) after winning 7F debut at Belmont Park in Oct. (by 1 length from Sea Wizard), pedigree suggests no distance limitations and seems likely to continue improving with maturity; if he’s not just a Tampa Bay Downs specialist he’ll be a major player in the division throughout the spring.
5 – GUN RUNNER (S. Asmussen) – 121
Candy Ride-Quiet Giant, by Giant’s Causeway
Latest workout: none since raced
Last start: March 26. 28, FG, won, Louisiana Derby.-G2
Ky. Derby qualifying points: (151) 5-4-0-0 – $906,920
1st foal from Gr. 2 winning half-sister to Horse of the Year Saint Liam and to 2 other listed SW’s, dam stayed 9F furlongs; possesses excellent tactical speed and employs a stalk/pounce style; has dominated Louisiana-based 3-year-olds in 2016 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; likely has further improvement in him; 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); suffered only defeat in final juvenile outing when 4th (beaten 3 1/2 lengths) in productive Ky. Jockey Club S.G2 in November (struck front final furlong but weakened late); should stay classic trip and beyond, continues to progress but has yet to record a truly impressive speed figure so doubts remain concerning his top-end ability and the quality of the competition he’s faced; scheduled to train up to the Kentucky Derby, at this stage must be given a reasonable chance for at least a placing.
6 – MOR SPIRIT (B. Baffert) – 120
Eskendereya-Im A Dixie Girl, by Dixie Union
Latest workout: March 24, SA, 4f:-:47.4b
Last start: March 12, SA, second, San Felipe S.-G2
Ky. Derby qualifying points: (44) 6-3-3-0 – $421,600
$650,000 FTF March 2-year-old-in-training purchase, half-brother to 4 winners, dam (sprinter) was listed 2yo stakes winner and graded stakes-placed; beaten 2 lengths when second to Danzing Candy as 8/5 favorite in 8.5F San Felipe S.-G2 at Santa Anita in mid-March (willing finishing without mishap); previously had been fairly impressive when capturing below standard 8.5F Robert B. Lewis S.-G2 at SA in early February, settling off slow pace and then producing good late kick to win going away by 1 1/2 lengths from Uncle Lino; had employed similar tactics when winning Los Alamitos Futurity-G1 from distance-challenged stablemate Toews On Ice in December; finished second (to Airoforce) in Kentucky Jockey Club S.-G2 over sloppy track the previous month; likely to outstay pedigree and in fact eventually prove best at a classic distance and beyond; likely to reappear in Santa Anita Derby-G1 April 9; lacks an exceptional turn of foot and may have a bit less upside then once believed; however, remains highly regarded by connections and will have every chance to confirm their confidence in his next start.
7 – MO TOM (T. Amoss) – 120
Uncle Mo-Caroni, by Rubiano
Latest workout: none since raced
Last start: March 26, FG, third, Louisiana Derby.-G2
Ky. Derby qualifying points: (32) 7-3-0-3 – $291,526
$150,000 yearling; half-brother to stakes-winning fillies Beautician and Bella Castani, dam a half-sister to Grade-2 winning sprinter Kashatreya; employs a deep closing style but has been badly victimized by severe traffic troubles in both of his last two outings, most recently in the 9F Louisiana Derby-G2 in late March when finishing fourth to Gun Runner (beaten 5 ¾ lengths) after being forced to check and steady twice in the final furlong when appearing to be full of run); was also extremely unlucky when a belated third to Gun Runner (by 1 ½ lengths) in 8.5F Risen Star S.-G2 at FG the previous month (checked sharply, altered course upper stretch, finished well when clear but too late); previously had won mile-70 Le Comte S.-G3 at Fair Grounds, producing a strong kick to win going away impressively and the 8F Street Sense S. at Churchill Downs in November; style bodes well for success at classic distance though lack of tactical speed invites traffic trouble and pace-dependency; remains a legitimate Kentucky Derby prospect though his lack of tactical speed means he may never be in complete control of his own destiny.
8 – DANZING CANDY (C. Sise, Jr.) – 119
Twirling Candy-Talkin and Singing, by Songandaprayer
Latest workout: March 26, SA, 5f-:58.3h
Last start: March 12, SA, won, San Felipe S.-G2
Ky. Derby qualifying points (50) 4-3-0-0 – $308,650
2nd foal, half-brother to minor winner; non-winning dam a half-sister to B.C. Turf-G1 winner Better Talk Now; unplaced in sprint debut in November but is undefeated in three 2016 starts, all in gate-to-wire fashion, most recently the San Felipe S.-G2 (from Mor Spirit and Exaggerator) by 2 lengths (set legitimate fractions, then drew clear late with career top, strong speed figure); had won 8.5F highly-rated allowance race in February (by nearly 6 lengths, always dominating on lead) and 7F maiden in January; pedigree suggests Derby trip should be within range though his front-running style may make him pace dependent; scheduled to reappear in Santa Anita Derby-G1 April 9; clearly a colt with quality but his versatility will be questioned until he can win without luxury of a pace-controlled trip; talented but still has something to prove.
9 – ZULU (T. Pletcher) – 118
Bernardini-Temporada, by Summer Squall
Latest workout: March 26, PmM, 4f-:49.2b
Last start: Feb. 27, GP, second, Fountain of Youth S.-G2
Ky. Derby qualifying points: (20) 3-2-1-0 – $126,000
$900,000 FTF March 2-year-old in training, half-brother to listed stakes winners Third Chance and Banner Bill; powerful colt with good athleticism, extremely unsettled and on edge when saddling and then in warm-ups yet turned in admirable effort when runner-up (by 2 1/4 lengths) to unbeaten Mohaymen in 8.5F Fountain of Youth S.-G2 at GP Feb. 27, stalking pace, hitting front far turn, coming under strong pressure top of lane and then proving no match in final furlong in first stakes and two-turn appearance; had won first two career starts, both at Gulfstream Park, 6f maiden in December (by 2 lengths on pace throughout) and 7F allowance in January (by 7 ¼ lengths) over sloppy track with pace-stalking trip, visually very impressive in the latter when taking full control in upper stretch and then drawing away with authority; remains outstanding prospect despite suffering first defeat but must improve his temperament and also is questionable to be at his best at 10F and beyond; not likely to reappear in 9F Florida Derby-G1 at GP April 2 if Mohaymen and Nyquist enter and could opt for Wood Memorial S.-G1 or Blue Grass S.-G1 the following week.
10 – SHAGAF (C. Brown) – 117
Bernardini-Muhaawara, by Unbridled’s Song
Latest workout: March 26, Bel, 5f-1:00b TT
Last start: March 5, Aqu, won, Gotham S.-G3
Ky. Derby qualifying points: (50) 3-3-0-0 – $298,800
2nd foal from listed stakes-winning dam, 2nd dam multiple Gr.1 winner Habibti; undefeated in 3 starts including 8.5F Gotham S.-G3 over inner Aqueduct track in March, settling in second flight and then responding late to wear down pacesetter Laoban by 1 ½ lengths while earning only a moderate speed figure; previously had won 8F maiden in debut over outer Aqueduct main track in November (by 6 lengths from next-out winner It’s All Relevant) and 8F first-level allowance at Gulfstream Park in January (by 2 lengths from Southside Warrior), likely will be seen next in Wood Memorial S.-G1 in April; not particular fast according to numbers and lacks a true turn of foot but should stay the Derby trip and beyond and seems likely to progress with distance and maturity.
11 – OUTWORK (T. Pletcher) – 117
Uncle Mo-Nonna Mia, by Empire Maker
Latest workout: March 26, PBD, 4f-:48.1b
Last start: March 12, Tam, second, Tampa Bay Derby-G2
Ky. Derby qualifying points: (20) 3-1-1-0 $111,800
2nd foal, half-brother listed 8.5F SW Nonna’s Boy; dam Gr. 1 stakes-placed; established pace and gave way grudgingly when second (beaten 1 length by stablemate Destin while 7 lengths clear of rest) in 8.5F Tampa Bay Derby-G2); previously had won 6F allowance race at same track in February (by 4 1/4 lengths with pace-forcing trip) and 4.5F maiden juvenile previous April at Keeneland; lightly-raced and improving with the potential to become superior sprinter/miler; could stay a bit farther though not likely to improve at classic distances and beyond; plenty of upside with added experience and maturity.
12 – CREATOR (S. Asmussen) – 117
Tapit-Morena, by Privately Held
Latest workout: none since raced
Last start: March 19, OP, finished third, Rebel S.-G2
Ky. Derby qualifying points: (10) $168,320
2nd foal, dam champion older mare in Peru and was multiple graded stakes-placed in U.S., rapidly progressing with experience and produced best effort to date when rallying very wide from last of 14 to finish third (beaten 3 lengths by Cupid) in 8.5F Risen Star S.-G2 at Oaklawn Park in mid-March; had won 8.5F maiden over same track and distance in 6th career start the previous month impressively by 7 lengths, strictly a deep-closer with no tactical speed but can produce an extended late kick and should handle a classic distance and beyond; pace and trip dependent at this stage of his career but has plenty of room for further improvement, with only 10 Ky. Derby qualifying points is in jeopardy of exclusion from field without an in-the-frame performance in final prep race.
13 – SUDDENBREAKINGNEWS (D. Von Hemel) – 116
Mineshaft-Uchitel, by Afleet Alex
Latest workout: none since raced
Last start: March 19, OP, fifth, Rebel S.-G2
Ky. Derby qualifying points: (10) 7-3-30 $470,032
$72,000Y, 2nd foal of unplaced half-sister to Composure (Santa Anita Oaks-G1, etc.) and Ready Set (West Virginia Derby-G3); victimized by a poor draw, traffic trouble and a wide trip when a non-threatening but fifth (willing finish, beaten 5 length) to Cupid in 8.5F Rebel S.-G2 at Oaklawn Park in mid-March; had made very favorable impression in 8.5F Southwest S.-G3 in 3yo debut at Oaklawn Park the previous month 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 and was narrowly beaten by Discreetness in 8F Springboard Mile S. in December (by a nose over sloppy track) after winning 7F Clever Trevor S. (by 1/2 length from Cash Bonus); has developed a deep closing style that can be pace/traffic dependent; has plenty of stamina in female family and style suggests he’ll enjoy 10F and beyond; better than last race shows but needs a strong pace and good racing luck to be at his best, with only 10 Ky. Derby qualifying points needs to produce a first-three finish in next start to insure inclusion in first jewel of American Triple Crown.
14. LANI (M. Matsunaga) – 116
Tapit-Heavenly Romance, by Sunday Silence
Latest workout: none since race
Last start: March 26, Meydan, won, UAE Derby-G2
Ky. Derby qualifying points (100) 6-3-1-0 $1,366,118
6th foal, half-brother to 2 listed Japanese stakes winners, dam multi-listed stakes winner in Japan; qualified for entrance into the Kentucky Derby with victory in 9.5F UAE Derby-G2 at Meydan in late March despite a poor trip (bad stumble at break, wide throughout) to wear down previously unbeaten filly Polar River close home by ¾ length in time .06 seconds slower than clocking earned in same race last year by Mubtaahij (8th, beaten 9 lengths by American Pharoah in subsequent 2015 Kentucky Derby); previously had won 2 of 5 starts in Japan including a 8F listed stakes in November; lacks an exceptional turn of foot and employs an extended, one-paced closing style; will stay classic distance and beyond; clearly a colt with some quality but form must be viewed with some suspicion and seems certain to be considered an outsider when making U.S. debut in first jewel of American Triple Crown.
15. WHITMORE (R. Moquett) – 116
Pleasantly Perfect-Melody’s Spirit, by Scat Daddy
Latest workout: none since raced
Last start: March 19, OP, second, Rebel S.-G2
Ky. Derby qualifying points (24) 5-2-2-0 $375,000
1st foal, dam unraced, second dam maiden-claiming sprint winner; continues to progress and turned in best effort to date when excellent second to Cupid (beaten 1 ¼ lengths) in 14-runner 8.5F Rebel S.-G2 at Oaklawn Park in mid-March, rallying from ninth to loom strong threat a furlong out but unable to get by pace-setting winner; had finished second (beaten 2 ¾ lengts) to Suddenbreakingnews in 8.5F Southwest S.-G3 the previous month (rallied from 11th to hit front mid-stretch but proved no match for deep-closing winner); versatile gelding has proven to be effective as a late-running sprinter and can stay a middle distance but is questionable at a classic trip; prefers to be held up early and produce one-run and requires a patient, well-timed ride, likely to reappear in Arkansas Derby-G1 in mid-April; currently a non-stakes winner but is capable of landing a good prize in due time.
16 – EXAGGERATOR (K. Desormeaux) – 115
Curlin-Dawn Raid, by Vindication
Latest workout: none since raced
Last start: March 12, SA, 3rd, San Felipe S.-G2
Ky. Derby qualifying points: (26) 8-3-2-1 – $1,071,120
$110,000 yearling, 3rd foal, dam stakes-placed half-sister to Canadian champion mare Ember’s Song; reinforced theory that he’s best around one-turn when finishing third, beaten 2 ¾ lengths, to Danzing Candy in 8.5F San Felipe S.-G2 at Santa Anita in mid-March (settled off pace, commenced rally turn, loomed bold threat but flattened out final furlong); had been a strong runner-up in a highly-rated 7F San Vicente S.-G2 upon reappearance at Santa Anita in mid-February (by 1 1/2 lengths to Nyquist), keeping on well but unable to catch unbeaten champion; culminated busy juvenile campaign with game victory in 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; had every chance when worn down late by Brody’s Cause in 8.5F Breeders’ Futurity-G1 over muddy surface in October; bred for classic distance but doesn’t seem capable of producing a strong late kick in two-turn races and might benefit from shortening up to a sprint or one-turn mile; likely to be afforded one more chance to remain on Derby trail in 9F Santa Anita Derby April 9.
17 – SWIPE (K. Desormeaux) – 115
Birdstone-Avalanche Lily, by Grand Slam
Latest workout: March 26, SA, 8f-1:43.2h
Last start: Oct. 31, Kee, second, BC Juvenile-G1
Ky. Derby qualifying points: (12) 7-1-5-1 – $608,330
$5,000 yearling, 4th foal, dam half-sister to 3 minor SW’s, no graded stakes winners appear under first 3 dams, sire won Belmont S.-G1 and sired a Belmont winner; clearly has out-performed his pedigree, having won or placed in 6 stakes during juvenile campaign, including runner-up efforts (all to champion Nyquist) in BC Juvenile-G1, FrontRunner S.G1, Del Mar Futurity-G1 and Best Pal S.-G2; previously had won listed Summer Juvenile S. at Los Alamitos; style (deep closer) and pedigree suggests he’ll handle a classic distance; had chip removed from ankle and didn’t resume serious training in mid-February; genuine and consistent but may be hard pressed to be ready for Derby start though recent accelerated work schedule provides hope that he’ll be able to squeeze in a prep; more realistic goal might be the Preakness-G1 followed by the Belmont S.-G1.
18 – FELLOWSHIP (S. Gold) – 114
Awesome of Course-Go Girlfriend Go, by Demidoff
Latest workout: March 19, GP, 4f-:46.2b
Last start: Feb. 27, GP, third, Fountain of Youth S.-G2
Ky. Derby qualifying points: (12) 10-2-3-2 $468,340
4th foal, half-brother to La-bred SW Johnny Handsome, dam minor stakes-placed winner, plenty of stamina in female family though first three generations contain no other stakes winners, sire has had moderate regional success in Florida; seasoned colt with durability, was debut maiden winner in May of juvenile year and has raced in nothing but stakes in nine starts since, was given extremely difficult assignment but wound up a willing third though no real threat (beaten 6 ¼ lengths) behind Mohaymen in 8.5F Fountain of Youth S.-G2 at GP in late February (moved within range on turn but couldn’t follow through); best previous effort came when winning restricted 8.5F Florida Stallion In Reality S. at GP in October (by 4 ½ lengths after rallying from 14th early on); may be most effective as a deep closer and is likely to improve over longer distances; chance to win a decent purse if realistically spotted in secondary added money events for 3-year-olds.
19 – FLEXIBILITY (C. Brown) – 114
Bluegrass Cat-Santa Vindi, by Vindication
Latest workout: March 26, Bel, 5f-1:02b TT
Last start: Jan 30, Aqu, fourth, Withers S.-G3
Ky. Derby qualifying points: (15) 5-2-2-0 $268,500
$185,000 FTF March 2-year-old in training purchase; out of half-sister to Gr. 1 winner Golden Missile; disappointing when fourth at odds-on over deep track in Withers S.-G3 (to Sunny Ridge, beaten 2 lengths) in most recent start, always within range but beginning to labor midway on the turn and then lacking a rally), previously had shown plenty of promise when second in 8F Nashua S.-G2 and 9F Remsen S.-G2 (both to undefeated Mohaymen) before returning to winning form in mile-70 Jerome S.-G3 over inner track at Aqueduct in early January (by 4 ¼ lengths from Vorticity); should stay 9 furlongs and possibly farther; probably deserves another chance against similar New York-based prospects over faster ground but will need to step it up.
20 – BRODY’S CAUSE (D. Romans) – 113
Giant’s Causeway-Sweet Breanna, by Sahm
Latest workout: March 27, GP, 4f-:47.4b
Last start: March 12, Tam, seventh, Tampa Bay Derby-G2
Ky. Derby qualifying points: (14) 5-2-0-1 – $523,138
$350,000 yearling, 2nd foal, half-brother to 8.5F stakes-placed Midnight Sweetie (by Midnight Lute); dam placed in Woodbine Oaks; highly disappointing in 3yo debut when producing no rally and winding up seventh (beaten 12 lengths) in 8.5F Tampa Bay Derby-G2; had enjoyed productive juvenile campaign, winning Breeders’ Futurity-G1 last fall over muddy surface by at Keeneland before turning in an admirable performance when third despite a wide trip (finding best stride too late) in Breeders’ Cup Juvenile-G1 to Nyquist; has excellent mixture of speed and stamina in female family; capable of returning to good form (but will have to) in next start (possibly the Blue Grass S.-G1 at Kee April 9); style and pedigree suggest classic distance and beyond should be within his range; Triple Crown participation most likely hinges on vastly improved performance in next start.
ALSO ELIGIBLE: AIROFORCE (M. Casse); CHERRY WINE (D. Romans); TOM’S READY (D. Stewart); MY MAN SAM (C. Brown); MATT KING COAL (L. Rice); LAOBAN (E. Guillot),DAZZLING GEM (B. Cox), FOREVAMO (A. Stall, Jr.)