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Feb 20, 2009

American turf club lead

By: Joe Girardi

            As the Winter winds down and the spring time approaches Derby Fever begins to take over many in the horse racing world. Every publication that pertains to horse racing has its top 10 or whatever list and as always the American Turf Club will throw their ring into the hat. With still many of the major prep races to come we will give you our list as it stands now. As we all know it can change dramatically as the Derby approaches.

1.      OLD FASHIONED- Trainer Larry Jones has a barn full of horses that can really run and this one may be the best. He ran his record to 4 for 4 with a win in the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park and he had to be asked for some run to get by a stubborn leader in SILVER CITY.  A race like that for a young horse can do him a world of good and he should benefit from that effort. Being by Unbridled’s Song he should handle the Derby distance and his speed and ability to stalk makes him very dangerous. Larry Jones also knows how to get a horse to the Derby when his ill-fated filly Eight Belles ran second behind Big Brown.

2.      FRIESAN FIRE- Another Larry Jones trainee is arguably better than his stablemate with two Grade 3 wins at the Fair Grounds this year and is another that is just coming into his own. He is by A. P. Indy and should relish the Derby distance. Just like OLD FASHIONED he has tactical speed and can place himself wherever he wants in a race. He can lay just a few lengths off and finish strong so he will be very tough on the Derby trail also.

3.      IMPERIAL COUNCIL- Trained by Shug McGaughey this three year old colt by Empire Maker has shown a ton of ability in just three starts. His first start he was beaten by the very solid HELLO BROADWAY after passing him in the lane. He was an easy maiden winner at Belmont and most recently just returned for a nice allowance win at Gulfstream, a race that should move him forward.

4.      TAQARUB- Here is a horse that you might not see on many Derby lists right now but he has done nothing wrong winning all three starts in wire to wire fashion and his most recent start by almost nine lengths. He is by Aldebaran out of an Honor Grades mare so 1 and ¼ miles might not be his best; in fact turf might be in his future but right now he offers value in those Derby pools until he does something wrong.

5.      QUALITY ROAD- Here is another that you might not see on many Derby lists but he is an intriguing sort. He broke his maiden in impressive fashion back at the end of November at Aqueduct but then was pressed hard in his comeback race and had to settle for second. He hails from the Jimmy Jerkens barn and is by the sire Elusive Quality, who sired Derby winner Smarty Jones back in 2004. He is out of a Strawberry Road mare so the distance shouldn’t be a problem. He will have to improve but with these lightly raced three year olds that can happen fast.

6.      DUNKIRK- Purchased for $3.7 million dollars this royally bred son of Unbridled’s Song out of the very nice race mare Secret Status was very impressive in his debut and followed that up with an even more impressive win versus allowance foes going 1 and 1/8th miles. The sky is the limit for this Todd Pletcher trainee; the further the better.

There are three horses that will winter in Dubai that had many racing enthusiasts talking about the Derby winner coming from the Desert this year. VINEYARD HAVEN who was sold for a reported $12 million, MIDSHIPMAN, the two year old champion in the states that was moved to Darley Stable after they purchased Stonerside and finally DESERT PARTY who won the Sanford Stakes at Saratoga but flopped in the Hopeful behind VINEYARD HAVEN.

      As of this writing, both VINEYARD HAVEN and DESERT PARTY have raced in Dubai with DESERT PARTY scoring easily over VINEYARD HAVEN who finished a well beaten fourth.

      All of these horses are very talented but again will be up against it trying to win the Derby from the Desert.

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