Keeler Johnson's Kentucky Derby Top 10 -- 3/6/18

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March 7th, 2018

Two months… two months until the 2018 Kentucky Derby.

That’s not a lot of time, and from here on out, the top-ranked Kentucky Derby contenders will have to make the most of it. For the majority, just one or two prep races remain on the agenda, and with Derby qualification points on the line, no one can afford any significant setbacks.

Over the next four days, a staggering five Kentucky Derby prep races will be held in two different countries. Great Britain has the March 7th Road to the Kentucky Derby Condition Stakes and the March 9th Patton Stakes, while the San Felipe Stakes (gr. II), Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby (gr. II), and Gotham Stakes (gr. III) will headline the U.S. action on March 10th.

Suffice to say, I expect my Kentucky Derby Top 10 to undergo some significant changes next week. But until then, here’s how I rank the top contenders….
  1. McKinzie

Assumes the top spot somewhat by default following Good Magic’s disappointment in the Fountain of Youth, though with the way McKinzie is training—breezing seven furlongs in a quick 1:23.80 on March 4th—he could be poised to thoroughly secure his top-ranked position with a strong effort in Saturday’s San Felipe Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita.
  1. Bolt d’Oro

He’s set for quite a showdown against McKinzie in the San Felipe and wrapped up his preparations by breezing four furlongs in :46.40 on March 5th, the fastest of 95 morning workouts at that distance. That may have been a little quicker than expected, but from all appearances Bolt d’Oro is ready to roll in his three-year-old debut.
  1. Good Magic

Much has been made about his disappointing effort in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II), but I’m reluctant to write him off based on one third-place finish, especially since he received a poor pace setup and I felt coming into the race that he might be vulnerable to an upset. He’ll need to step things up a notch in his final prep race, but I still view Good Magic as a key player on the Derby trail.
  1. Justify

Turned in another eye-catching workout on March 5th, breezing a smooth five furlongs in 1:00.80 at Santa Anita while working in company with stablemate Nero. He seems to have bounced out of his maiden win very well and is still on target for the March 25th Sunland Derby (gr. III).
  1. Audible

Breezed another half-mile on March 3rd, going the distance in :49.13 at Palm Beach Downs while working alongside stablemate Magnum Moon. He’ll have the services of jockey John Velazquez when he runs in the Florida Derby (gr. I), as Javier Castellano—who was aboard Audible in the Holy Bull—will be riding in Dubai that day.
  1. Magnum Moon

His much-anticipated stakes debut in the March 17th Rebel Stakes (gr. II) is getting closer, so it was nice to see him back on the work tab, going a half-mile at Palm Beach Downs in the same time as Audible.
  1. Solomini

Continues to look smoother during morning training, and while he didn’t seem quite as sharp as stablemate Restoring Hope when they worked six furlongs together on March 4th (1:11.40 was Solomini’s time), that’s not surprising since Solomini has never made the greatest impression as a workhorse.
  1. Bravazo

He’s bounced back and forth between flashes of brilliance and disappointing efforts, but it can’t be denied that he’s 2-for-2 so far this winter and seems to be putting everything together. He’s also been remarkably versatile in terms of running style, a good trait to have for the Kentucky Derby.
  1. Nero

He’s made a more positive and professional impression in recent workouts, and that—coupled with his much-improved run in the San Vicente Stakes (gr. II)—has me thinking that Nero is maturing mentally and might be ready to step up his game yet again in his two-turn debut.
  1. Promises Fulfilled

While he did receive a great trip in the Fountain of Youth, securing an uncontested lead and carving out a modest pace, he certainly took advantage in a big way and recorded a sharp winning time that translated to an excellent 104 BRIS speed figure. He’s likely to run just twice before the Derby, so he’ll be following a prep pattern that has been very successful over the last ten years.