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Feb 25, 2005

AMERICAN TURF CLUB

By: JOE GIRARDI


            With the Kentucky Derby only two months away we will list our top ten horses for the Derby.

  1. AFLEET ALEX- Has been working well since his second place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. The biggest change made over this winter was the rider switch to John Velazquez. Velazquez is clearly the best jockey in the world and it can only help this horse from the Tim Ritchey barn. His breeding being out of NORTHEN AFLEET-MAGGY HAWK-HAWKSTER he should have no problem with the 1 and ¼ miles distance.
  2. SUN KING- Is another who exits the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, a race that he finished third. He has been training well for trainer Nick Zito down at Palm Meadows in Florida. Zito is no stranger to the Triple Crown and has won the Derby in the past. He knows how to get a horse ready and this horse’s sire is CHARISMATIC who won both the Derby and Preakness. His tactical speed makes him a danger in all the Triple Crown races and will be one to watch when he returns to the races.
  3. SCIPION- This extremely well bred colt has come from far off the pace in both of his wins and his most recent win in the Grade III Risen Star stakes at the Fair Grounds he was hopelessly beaten at the top of the stretch before closing strongly for the win. The field in that race was not that bad and is a good steppingstone for bigger and better things. His breeding is perfect for the Kentucky Derby distance of 1 and ¼ miles. His improvement from two to three was a big one and he will be tough come the first Saturday in May if he continues to improve.
  4. PROUD ACCOLADE- This three year old by YES IT’S TRUE has a ton of ability but there are some distance limitations. His only two defeats have come when he tried two turns but trainer Todd Pletcher (Eclipse winning trainer 2004) doesn’t have an answer for why he ran so bad in those races and his return race was very good. Despite having to check on the turn he recovered and won going away in the Hutcheson stakes at Gulfstream. If he can get the distance he will be a handful come Derby time.
  5. DECLAN’S MOON- This is the Eclipse winning two year old and he has won all four starts. He has tactical speed to keep him close but he may be another with some distance limitations. He has been working well at Hollywood Park for a return to the races but he will have to carry his speed further than he has.
  6. ROCKPORT HARBOR-This is déjà vu all over again. Another John Servis trained horse ridden by Stewart Elliot who enters his three year old season undefeated and will make his way through Oaklawn. He came up with a foot bruise most recently but he has returned to his training sooner than expected and is ready to start his three year old season. Can lightning strike twice?
  7. HIGH FLY- Was undefeated through his first three starts but finished third as the odds-on choice in the Holy Bull. He was very wide that day and has since been moved into the Zito barn. Zito knows how to get them ready for the Classic races and if this horse can return to his win in the Aventura Stakes he will be one to reckon with come the first Saturday in May. His future may be on the turf but his dirt form is very solid in its own right.
  8. GREATER GOOD- Returned to the races in the Southwest stakes at Oaklawn and got up for the win at 1-2. This race was only at a mile and he had to make up a ton of ground to get up for the win. That race should move him forward and his come from behind style should be helpful with pace up front. Four wins in six starts shows he knows how to win.
  9. BANDINI- Another from the Todd Pletcher barn has put two huge wins together down in Florida and will need to show he can do it versus better. His sire is FUSAICHI PEGASUS so the Derby distance should be no problem, interesting.
  10. NAUGHTY NEW YORKER- There are many talented New York breds on the Derby trail this year but we thought this one was most deserving. His two wins came in impressive fashion and his last two starts produced two second place finishes. He does have a strong kick and can surprise with open company with the right setup.

We will have condensed lists as we get closer to the Derby and the prep races are run.



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