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Apr 27, 2012

The 138th Kentucky Derby second-tiered colts

By: By Jeff Frank, Contributing Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - In the first of four Kentucky Derby previews, I listed the six pretenders that have a less-than-realistic chance of being covered with the Blanket of Roses on May 5 - Trinniberg, Done Talking, Sabercat, Prospective, Rousing Sermon and Liaison.

This column details the seven horses that could win the Run for the Roses but are not as highly qualified to do so when compared to the cream of the crop.

A lot can change in the final 7-10 days leading up to the race, especially with post positions having yet been drawn. So even though it is doubtful any one of these seven colts will see in the winner's circle on the first Saturday in May, a good post and/or a sudden change in weather conditions might propel them to victory.

Topping this list is Team Valor's Went the Day Well. Trained by Graham Motion, the son of Proud Citizen has been compared to his stablemate and last year's Derby winner Animal Kingdom since both colts had won a maiden race and then the Spiral Stakes prior to stepping onto Churchill Downs.

Unfortunately for Went the Day Well, this year's field is 1,000 times tougher than the one Animal Kingdom beat in 2011. In addition, the two horses that ran second and third in the Spiral came back to finish sixth in the Lexington and seventh in the Blue Grass, respectively.

Daddy Nose Best is another colt a lot of experts have been latching on to recently. He has a solid foundation with 10 career races - the most of any horse in the race - with the last two at nine furlongs. He also has been working well on the Churchill Downs track, posting a bullet five-furlong work early last week, an uncharacteristically fast move for a Steve Assmussen- trained horse.

However, he hasn't been facing the best of the best as his last two victories came over a pair of horses that have not boosted his credentials.

First, he barely beat Lucky Chappy by a nose in the El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate, and that horse subsequently ran seventh in the UAE Derby. Then he got the perfect trip behind an early speed duel between Castaway and Ender Knievel in the Sunland Derby and ran by Isn't He Clever to win by less than a length. Isn't He Clever came back to finish eighth to Bodemeister in the Arkansas Derby.

The Kentucky Derby will be a major step up in class for Daddy Nose Best and if he finishes in the top half of the race it will be considered quite an achievement.

Another "Daddy," as in Daddy Long Legs, has run one race at Churchill Downs and was beaten almost 20 lengths by Hansen and Union Rags in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.

He redeemed himself by winning the UAE Derby in his first 2012 start but horses coming over from Dubai have not had much success in the Kentucky Derby. This year will be no different.

Four Horses to Watch

The next four colts are a mixture of horses that will go off anywhere between 10-1 and 20-1.

The longer-priced duo is Mark Valeski and El Padrino and the shorter-priced pair is Take Charge Indy and Hansen.

Mark Valeski ran fourth in his career debut, beaten 7 1/2 lengths by Union Rags last July. Since then, he has won twice and then finished second in two stakes races. His best performance to date was a second-place effort to El Padrino in the Risen Star Stakes. That was his first race around two turns and he almost knocked off the 4-5 favorite before losing by a scant nose.

The main reason he will be a big price in the Derby is due to his failure to beat Hero of Order, the 109-1 shot, in the Louisiana Derby the next time out. However, Mark Valeski had an excuse that afternoon as he lost a shoe during the running of the race.

Some experts question his ability to get the 1 1/4-mile distance, but his sire, Proud Citizen, also sired Went the Day Well and no one is questioning that colt's pedigree. Moreover, Mark Valeski's third dam is a half to Hall of Fame champion Silver Spoon, and his second dam is a half to Silver Buck, which not only won the 1982 Suburban Handicap in a track record time of 1:59 3/5 but also sired Kentucky Derby winner Silver Charm.

Mark Valeski worked five furlongs at Churchill Downs in 59 3/5 on April 23, so it appears he likes the track. Look for him to be overlooked in the betting and he could win the Derby on his best effort.

Take Charge Indy will be an underlay in the race, especially with Calvin Borel as his jockey. The son of A.P. Indy ran a credible fifth in the BC Juvenile in his final start as a 2-year-old, but couldn't hold off El Padrino on a slightly wet Gulfstream Park surface in late January.

His crowning achievement was the Florida Derby, a race he won gate-to-wire with very little trouble. Still, the Kentucky Derby will be a much different animal. First, Take Charge Indy will not be coasting on an uncontested lead through slow fractions. Second, he will have to maneuver his way past the early leaders and then hold off all the others, something he has never been able to do.

El Padrino ran fourth in the Florida Derby, but his trip was far from ideal as it seemed Javier Castellano was more concerned with keeping Union Rags boxed in on the rail than riding his mount to win.

The son of Pulpit defeated both Mark Valeski and Take Charge Indy in back-to- back races prior to the Florida Derby, so he does fit very well with this second-tiered group.

The final horse of this quartet is Hansen. The 2-year-old champion bounced back sharply from his disaster in the slop against Algorithms earlier this year to win the Gotham Stakes and then finish second in the Blue Grass. There is no doubt he has the heart to win big-time races, but that quality will not be the determining factor for him to succeed in the Kentucky Derby.

Some folks think Hansen can rate based on the Gotham. However, he would have taken the lead in that race if he didn't break from post 12. Don't forget, the son of Tapit was caught six-wide heading into the first turn and he could have sat a great stalking position in third if he was able to rate. Instead, he hustled himself to within a half-length behind King And Crusader in a fast 23 3/5 first quarter.

Expect a similar trip in the Kentucky Derby now that Trinniberg is in the race. Furthermore, if Hansen draws to his inside, look for the BC Juvenile winner to be battling for the lead as the field approaches the clubhouse turn. If he draws an outside post, expect him to still rush up behind the early leaders as the field hits the first turn and then move into second approaching the backstretch.

There is no doubting Hansen's talent. It's just that the Derby will not be the optimum venue for him to thrive.

Coming up early next week, the third of four Kentucky Derby previews with a closer look at the top seven contenders.

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