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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Greg Melikov’s Top 10 Kentucky Derby Contenders 2009

Friesan Fire: Well-bred son of A. P. Indy earns top ranking because he answered the most important question: What have you done for me lately? Well, he’s the first 3-year-old to sweep the Fair Grounds version of Triple Crown races in 16 years. He won the Louisiana Derby, covering the 1 1/16 miles on a sloppy surface in an impressive 1:43 2/5.

Conditioner Larry Jones indicated his trainee might train up to the Kentucky Derby 135. His Hard Spun did just that after winning in 2007, but six weeks later he ran third at Churchill Downs. Ah, but the horse is being shipped to Keeneland where he could run on April 11 in the Blue Grass. Street Sense hit the board at Lexington before winning at Louisville.

I Want Revenge: He scorched the opposition in the Gotham on a sloppy Aqueduct, sharing the highest speed figure recorded by a top Kentucky Derby contender in preps. Whether the son of Stephen Got Even wins one for his sire, which had a troubled trip in the ‘99 Derby and finished way back, depends on how he performs in the Wood Memorial.

Pioneer of the Nile & The Pamplemousse: Best of the West title will be decided in the Santa Anita Derby. Pioneer of the Nile comes off a 1 1/4-length victory diving in the San Felipe, covering the 1 1/16 miles in 1:43 1/5, a tick under four seconds off the track record. The son of Empire Maker, runner-up in the ‘05 Kentucky Derby and winner of the Belmont Stakes, has tactical speed and turns it on in the stretch.

The Pamplemousse goes for his fourth in row after taking the Sham by eight lengths ridden out, running the 1 1/8 miles in 1:47 4/5, a tick over two seconds off the track record. The son of Kafwain likes to go straight to the front and say, “catch me if you can.”

Both race horses must repeat their synthetic surface form when they try conventional dirt for the first time at Churchill Downs.

Quality Road and Dunkirk: May the better thoroughbred win the Florida Derby 2009. Both posted impressive victories in that last appearance at Gulfstream Park. Quality Road, who likes to run near the front or on the lead, won the Fountain of Youth by 4 1/4 lengths, covering the mile in a respectable 1:35, His speed figured tied I Want Revenge.

Dunkirk: He’s the buzz horse after winning a 1 1/8-mile Gulfstream allowance race by 4 3/4 lengths on Feb. 19. Unbeaten in 2 career starts, both this year, the son of Unbridled’s Song must win or run second to meet the graded stakes earnings criterion.

Old Fashioned: The once top-rated 3-year-old Kentucky Derby hopeful, another son of Unbridled’s Song, pressed a fast pace and led by 2 1/2 lengths in the stretch before weakening to run second beaten 2 1/4 lengths on a good Oaklawn Park surface. The winner: Win Willy, son of ‘01 Kentucky Derby winner Monarchos, returned $115.60. What Old Fashioned does in the Arkansas Derby will have an impact on the 2009 Kentucky Derby.

Imperial Council: Another son of Empire Maker whose granddad Thunder Gulch captured the ‘95 Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes winner, must also finish first or second in the Wood Memorial to make the Kentucky Derby and finishing second to I Want Revenge in the Gotham.

Theregoesjojo: The runner-up to Quality Road in the Fountain of Youth also must finish first or second in the 2009 Florida Derby to earn a starting berth on May 2. The son of Brahms did beat Quality Road by 2 3/4 lengths in a non-winners-of-two contest on Jan. 10 at Gulfstream, but that was at seven furlongs.

Take the Points: Runner-up in the Sham after scoring twice on the dirt must finish first or second in either the Santa Anita or Blue Grass to make the 135th Kentucky Derby.

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