I've been going to the races and following the horses since before I can honestly remember. For example, my best recollection of being in the stands for Secretariat's amazing run in the Belmont was not the race, but the stands shaking so much beneath my feet. Quite an experience for a little guy who just turned 4! Two of my favorite fellow handicappers are my brother and my father. My one year old daughter is already showing signs of loving the horses :>) My favorites...how about Wajima, Spectacular Bid, Fancy Naskra, Five Star Flight, Christmas Past, Princess Rooney, Lady's Secret, With Approval, Paradise Creek, Sunday Silence, Unbridled, Skip Away, Free House. Musket Man and Rachel Alexandra, just to name a few.
1 Connemara (Giant's Causeway - Satin Sunrise by Mr. Leader)
The half brother of 2004 Derby runner-up, Lion Heart, runs in his first stakes race today in Golden Gate’s California Derby. Anything other than an impressive victory will drop him from my number one spot. Expect him to roll.
2 Lookin at Lucky (Smart Strike - Private Feeling by Belong to Me)
The best juvenile in 2009 is taking a bit of a breather until getting in two preps for the Derby. I would like to see one of those preps happen outside the state of California, and on a dirt course. Look for the Sham or the San Felipe at Santa Anita to begin his season.
3 Buddy’s Saint (St. Liam - Tuzia by Blushing John)
The Fountain of Youth should be next for the dazzling winner of Aqueduct’s Nashua and Remsen. There is not much I don’t like about the Bruce Levine trained runner and he retains the top spot in the East at this point.
4 Super Saver (Maria’s Mon - Supercharger by A.P. Indy)
One of many for both WinStar and Todd Pletcher, he finished 2009 with a bang by waltzing home in Churchill Downs’ biggest race for juveniles. The distance bred colt is resting in Florida and should return by March.
5 Piscitelli (Victory Gallop - Rayelle by Relaunch)
Love the breeding, and love the way he was so strong in the BC Juvenile, when by all rights he could have folded up his tent. He’s only won once in five starts, but I expect big things down the road. He is entered in the Holy Bull.
6 Jackson Bend (Hear No Evil - Sexy Stockings by Tabasco Cat)
The King of the Calder is ready to leave the comfy confines when he heads cross-town for next week’s Holy Bull Stakes. You never know until you get it done elsewhere, but this colt looks good; breeding being the one big question.
7 American Lion (Tiznow - Storm Tide by Storm Cat)
I so want to put this grand looking son of Tiznow higher on my list, but until he runs in something other than a sprint and on a dirt track, questions remain. Look for him to return soon in the Robert B. Lewis at Santa Anita.
8 Winslow Homer (Unbridled’s Song - Summer Raven by Summer Squall)
We will soon see how good the flashy winner of a couple of non-stakes at Saratoga and Philadelphia is. The gray will receive a serious acid test when he makes his first start of the year in a loaded Holy Bull field next week.
9 Take Control (A.P. Indy - Azeri by Jade Hunter)
It’s hard for me to rate a horse who has run in only one maiden race so high, but that is how highly I gauge his potential. Obviously his breeding could not be better and my eyes saw a very talented distance horse in his debut.
10 Awesome Act (Awesome Again - Houdini‘s Honey by Mr. Prospector)
I am taking a bit of a flyer here, as this horse has never run on dirt and is based in England, but I love the way he finished in the BC Juvenile Turf. I am also high on him because his breeding suggests dirt will be his surface.
11 Tiz Chrome (Tiznow - Woodland Shadow by Woodman)
He has the breeding to go long, the talent to win a major stakes soon and the looks to dazzle. Purchased after his maiden win at Churchill, the Baffert colt can quickly climb this list as soon as he tries two turns.
12 Eightyfiveinafifty (Forest Camp - Lifeinthefastlane by Unbridled‘s Song)
Is he talented? Yes, and then some. Will he get a distance? Who knows. So far the Gary Contessa colt has only had two 6 furlong races, but they were very impressive. If he can stretch his talent to routes, look out.
13 Rule (Roman Ruler - Rockcide by Personal Flag)
A lot to like here for the good looking, well bred, Pletcher trainee. His wins at Delta Downs give him the black type and the earnings to proceed with high hopes, but he will need to pass bigger tests to move up on my list.
14 Hawaiian Springs (Stephen Got Even - Sarasota by Luhuk)
This one was a hard charging second in a tough recent allowance at Santa Anita and has the look and breeding of a horse who should develop. His strong stretch run should suit him well as the races get longer.
15 Bulls and Bears (Holy Bull - Cherokee Canyon by Cherokee Run)
My favorite juvenile of the 2009 Saratoga meet, has just returned to the work tab and will have to hustle to be ready for the Derby. I have little doubt of this one’s talent and hopefully Rick Violette can get him there.
16 Eskendereya (Giant’s Causeway - Aldebaran Light by Seattle Slew)
He got off to a quick start to 2010 with a sharp win in an allowance at Gulfstream Park last week. Not currently my favorite of the Pletcher stable, the well bred colt has every right to improve into a top horse.
17 Dryfly (Jump Start - Mamselle Nanette by Southern Halo)
The Lynn Whiting trained gelding will get a class test in the Smarty Jones at Oaklawn on Monday. A win there makes him one of the early favorites for that track’s Arkansas Derby. His nice win at Churchill has me hopeful.
18 Noble’s Promise (Cuvee - The Devil’s Trick by Clever Trick)
This colt is likeable, consistent, and classy and therefore has cracked my top 20, but he is one whom I can’t see relishing the Derby distance. Look for him to return sometime soon at Gulfstream, possibly the Fountain of Youth.
19 Conveyance (Indian Charlie - Emptythetill by Holy Bull)
Another of the Baffert contingent, this colt was very impressive in two sprints and now stretches out to a one-turn mile in today’s San Rafael. The field appears weak, leaving this one to dominate at low odds.
20 Pulsion (Include - Spring by Stravinsky)
10 furlongs may be the ticket for this stretch runner who has recovered from a rough BC Juvenile. He has begun to train in South Florida for trainer Patrick Biancone and look for him to make his season debut a little later.