Keeler Johnson's Kentucky Derby Top 10 - 12/19/17

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December 19th, 2017

“He’s like a young Gun Runner.”

That’s the thought that crosses my mind when I think about the exciting two-year-old Principe Guilherme, who brought his record to a perfect 2-for-2 with an eye-catching allowance win at Fair Grounds on December 16th.

Some of the similarities are obvious. Principe Guilherme, like Gun Runner, is from the barn of Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen. Both colts opened their careers with eye-catching maiden wins at Churchill Downs, finishing strongly while hinting that they could be above-average runners, and followed up their debut wins with impressive allowance victories.

Gun Runner, of course, has gone on to record five Grade 1 wins and is a shoo-in to be voted Horse of the Year at the upcoming Eclipse Awards. Only time will tell how high Principe Guilherme will rise, but his performance on Saturday certainly hints that he could be something special.

To put it simply, he was tons the best. After racing to the lead and setting fractions of :24.38, :48.79, and 1:13.48, Principe Guilherme drew off with complete authority in the long Fair Grounds homestretch, pulling away under a hand ride to win by 11 ¾ lengths in the quick time of 1:42.94. That Principe Guilherme thrived in his two-turn debut is no surprise; his sire, Tapit, has sired three winners of the 1 ½-mile Belmont Stakes, while Principe Guilherme’s dam sire is the 2007 Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense.

You can make a case that Principe Guilherme hasn’t faced much adversity so far; he’s gone gate-to-wire in both of his victories while setting slow fractions, and it’s hard to know how he’ll respond when facing a faster pace or rating off the lead. But in terms of raw talent, Principe Guilherme looks like a very exciting prospect on the road to the Kentucky Derby, and I’m excited to see what the future holds.

Needless to say, Principe Guilherme now occupies a prominent position on my Kentucky Derby Top 10. Here’s how I rank the contenders this week….
  1. Good Magic
Did you know that a son of Curlin has hit the board in at least one Triple Crown race every year since 2013? That streak includes Palace Malice (1st 2013 Belmont), Ride On Curlin (2nd 2014 Preakness), Keen Ice (3rd 2015 Belmont), Exaggerator (1st 2016 Preakness and 2nd 2016 Kentucky Derby), and Irish War Cry (2nd 2017 Belmont Stakes). Will Good Magic extend this remarkable run of success?
  1. Bolt d’Oro
Current plans call for him to run three times before the Derby and start his season in the  February 10th San Vicente Stakes (gr. II) sprinting seven furlongs at Santa Anita, which would give him a prep schedule similar to that of the 2016 Derby runner-up Exaggerator.
  1. McKinzie
It’s not hard to believe that McKinzie will take a big step forward off his two-turn debut in the Los Alamitos Futurity, but with the Sham Stakes (gr. III) coming up quick on January 6th, it’s unlikely we’ll see McKinzie return to action before February.
  1. Le Vent Se Leve
Considering that his sire is the two-time Arima Kinen (Jpn-I) winner Symboli Kris S and his dam sire is the Japanese Derby (Jpn-I) winner Neo Universe, you would think that Le Vent Se Leve would be at his best on turf. Then again, his dam—Maestrale—was a four-time winner on dirt, and the U.S. classic winners Seattle Slew, Sunday Silence, and Timber Country are among the other names in Le Vent Se Leve’s pedigree.
  1. Principe Guilherme
We’ll get a chance to learn more about Principe Guilherme when he faces stakes company for the first time in the January 13th Lecomte Stakes (gr. III) at Fair Grounds.
  1. Solomini
After facing off in the Los Alamitos Futurity, McKinzie and Solomini are scheduled to take different paths to the Derby this winter, though which route each colt takes—Santa Anita, Oaklawn Park, a combination of both, or a different route entirely—will likely remain up in the air for a couple of months yet.
  1. Catholic Boy
Following a short post-Remsen break, Catholic Boy is back in light training and gearing up for a February return. Per the Daily Racing Form, the February 10th Sam F. Davis Stakes (gr. III) could mark his seasonal debut.
  1. Shivermetimbers
He worked five furlongs in 1:01.60 on December 14th as he continues to prepare for an as-of-yet unannounced first start against winners.
  1. Enticed
Enticed’s sire (Medaglia d’Oro), dam (It’s Tricky), and dam sire (Mineshaft) all improved with maturity, so the fact that Enticed is already a graded stakes winner says something about his talent and potential.
  1. Nero
He returned to the work tab with five furlongs in 1:01 from the starting gate on December 14th. There’s a seven-furlong maiden race listed in the Santa Anita conditions book for opening day, and it would come as no surprise to see Nero turn up in this spot.

Just missing the cut this week are Greyvitos, winner of the Remington Springboard Mile at Remington Park, and Tricks to Doo, unbeaten winner of the Inaugural Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs.