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Jan 12, 2006

AMERICAN TURF CLUB LEAD

By: JOE GIRARDI


It may be a little too early to be looking at the top three year olds but the reality is that in less than 5 months the Kentucky Derby will be held at Churchill Downs and the myriad of preps for the Derby will be coming quickly. Let’s take a look at our early top five list.

1. BLUEGRASS CAT- I’m sure that most lists right now wouldn’t have this horse on top but his last three races have been huge; all since moving into the Todd Pletcher barn. This three year old colt by STORM CAT- SHE’S A WINNER, by A.P. INDY, has the breeding to win the Kentucky Derby. He will have no problem handling the 1 and ¼ mile distance and with that breeding he should only get better as he matures and gets older. The fact that he showed sharp early speed as a two year old and the fact that he also showed he can rate and come from slightly off the pace makes this one a very interesting prospect. He has already handled the 1 and 1/8th distance despite getting off to a bad start. Although Todd Pletcher hasn’t won the Derby yet he is the best trainer in the country by far, his horses are always ready to run and he has a good one in BLUEGRASS CAT. With further improvement from year two to year three, Pletcher may just find himself standing in the winner’s circle on the first Saturday in May.

2. STEVIE WONDERBOY- As of this writing he had not made his 2006 debut but was expected to start in the San Rafael at Santa Anita on Saturday January 14th. Can’t knock what he did as a two year old, ending the year with three wins, one second, and one third from five starts, culminating with a win in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Belmont. He has a powerful late kick so you would think that he shouldn’t have a problem handling the 1 and ¼ mile distance, and also his breeding, being by STEPHEN GOT EVEN (by A. P. INDY) out of a SUMMER SQUALL mare he is definitely bred to handle it.

3. ACHILLES OF TROY- This may be reaching putting him third on the list but he has done the most recently. After breaking his maiden on December 29th, 2005 he was wheeled back less than 10 days later in the Count Fleet stakes at Aqueduct. After stalking a quick early pace in third, he took over the lead and opened up at every call, scoring by 14 widening lengths. Although his breeding doesn’t lend itself to the Kentucky Derby distance, neither did SMARTY JONES or even AFLEET ALEX’s . Although AFLEET ALEX didn’t win the Derby he won both the Preakness and the longer Belmont stakes in handy fashion. This improving colt needs proper handling and he may be able to make it to the Derby with a shot to win it.

4. FIRST SAMURAI- Didn’t end the year on the right note last year when finishing third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. He was very green in many of his races last year but if he comes back mature and focused on the races, he definitely has the talent to be right there. His breeding is solid being out of GIANT’S CAUSEWAY so the distance shouldn’t be a problem, another interesting prospect.

5. PRIVATE VOW- Had four wins and a second from six starts last year with his only misstep coming in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile when his rein broke, forcing him to drift out before checking in last, 42 lengths behind the winner. He did bounce back with a win in the Kentucky Jockey Club stakes, a Grade II at Churchill Downs. This Steve Asmussen trainee has showed plenty of ability and his good tactical speed makes him a contender if he can handle the Derby Distance.

We will be updating this list, making changes if any as the prep race results start to unfold, but this list is a good starting point but as we know, with the three year old division leading into the Derby it can change at any time. Good Luck!



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