Jerry Hollendorfer Might Train the Best Three-Year Old in the Nation

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D.S. Williamson

January 22nd, 2018

Some of the better three-year-olds in the nation just recently had their first Kentucky Derby prep races of the year. The Jerry Hollendorfer trained Instilled Regard won the LeComte Stakes, Firenze Fire won the Jerome, and Bob Baffert's much discussed McKinzie won the Grade 3 Sham.

Below, I analyze all three races.

Instilled Regard - 2018 LeComte Stakes

This was the most impressive win in a three-year-old Derby prep race, so far, this year. That's my opinion. Instilled Regard did everything asked of him when blowing by the front runners at the top of the stretch. The horse he held off in the LeComte was 6/5 Principe Guillherme. In the futures, Principe Guillherme is at 12 to 1 while Instilled Regard is at 25 to 1. The Hollendorfer trainee's odds should be much shorter than that.

He should definitely keep improving.

Firenze Fire - 2018 Jerome Stakes

In the 2018 Jerome Stakes, it appeared this three-year-old sired by Poseidon's Warrior had no shot to catch a loose leader who carved out ridiculously slow fractions for a one-turn mile. Firenze Fire did catch the lose leader, talented Seven Trumpets.

There's already been some discussion about his breeding. No doubt, his ceiling might be mile races. Heck, his ceiling might be 1-turn mile races. But, he made an incredibly explosive move in the stretch before leveling off and recharging again. To me, that's a sign that he might have what it takes to be a Derby contender.

McKinzie - 2018 Sham Stakes

The way this guy runs really reminds me of his sire, the brilliant Street Sense. Street Sense won the 2007 Kentucky Derby in a field that also included the incomparable Curlin and underrated Hard Spun. Both of those horses towered over last year's three-year-olds.

How good is McKinzie? He's the one horse on this list that might be as good as he wants to be. The one thing that bothers me about McKinzie in comparison to Instilled Regard is that he moves his legs awfully fast. He doesn't seem to cover as much ground with each stride as Instilled Regard does. It's not really a knock. Just an observation.

What about Mourinho? Also trained by Bob Baffert, Mourinho took the lead out of the gate and buried his so-so competition in the Smarty Jones. I liked the way he won. However, he got away with a :48 half. The fractions helped the visual. I'm waiting to see more.

So far, it appears that this year's three-year-old class might rival the best from past years.  Make no mistake, Derby Fever is here!