Who Is Rising To Top of Good Crop?
Typically, this is a time of year when there are more questions than answers, but that wasn’t necessarily the case eight years ago, when one of the best crops in recent history, with top performers as Curlin, Street Sense, Rags to Riches, Hard Spun, Nobiz Like Showbiz, and Scat Daddy all began their seasons with dominating performances that separated themselves from the pack.
Based on the last couple of weeks, this year’s crop is looking very similar.
Over the past couple of weeks, early prep winners International Star, Dortmund, and Carpe Diem have stuck to their winning ways, displaying complete dominance in their final preps.
Others, such as El Kabier and Upstart also have remained consistent. They didn’t need to win their final preps, just get conditioning and that is exactly what they did, while also staying consistent. Materiality and Frosted also came onto the scene with impressive wins. The question, now, is who is the best of them all?
Last week Materiality really impressed me. He took a huge step up in class while catching the more experience Upstart. He set a strong pace for a track that was completely dead and held off the hard charging Upstart, while earning an impressive 105 Brisnet.com Speed Rating. The con for him is that he will be facing the dreaded Apollo’s curse. This a curse that neither Curlin (third in the 2007 Derby before going on to win the Preakness & Breeders’ Cup Classic) nor Bodemeister (who finished second to I’ll Have Another in 2012 after [like Curlin] winning the Arkansas Derby) could not overcome.
International Star also looked good, winning his third consecutive race. The little horse doesn’t get a ton of respect, and that likely won’t change in the Kentucky Derby. He did improve his Brisnet.com Speed Rating from 94 in the Risen Star to 99 for the Louisiana Derby. However, even if he continues progressing, it might not be enough for him to run with the other more highly touted horses of his class.
This weekend we saw Carpe Diem, Frosted, and Dortmund distinguish themselves. Carpe Diem displayed top form as a juvenile and has progressed nicely from two to three. He began with a sharp win in the Tampa Bay Derby, earning a 96 Bris figure. In the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes, this past weekend, he improved that number by six points, to a 102. He stalked a solid pace while racing five wide, before widening away in the stretch, looking like he had plenty left in the tank.
Frosted took a while getting to his best. He added blinkers for the Fountain of Youth and looked set to dominate that race before abruptly stopping coming into the stretch. He came out of that race with some breathing issues that were corrected with a minor throat surgery. After his minor procedure he came back with to earn his first graded stakes win, in the grade one Wood Memorial. What impressed me most was how he ran down the leaders after sitting back off of tepid fractions. With all the pieces finally falling into place, this new and improved version of Frosted earned a robust 107 Brisnet.com Speed Rating for his effort.
Last but most certainly not least, Dortmund stretched his unbeaten streak one race further when dismantling five Santa Anita Derby foes. He set a good pace while facing pressure from his stablemate, One Lucky Dane, before accelerating and leaving his rivals reeling in his wake. A big 106 figure is what the big red son of Big Brown earned, with the extremely visually impressive performance.
As of now, the horse that impressed me the most was Dortmund, but if asked who had the best prep overall, I’d say Carpe Diem. He needed to work in this race to get the needed conditioning and while he won drawing away, jockey Johnny Velasquez kept him to his task. Coupled with the fact that he has improved from the Tampa Bay Derby and is eligible to keep improving, I believe he has had the best, final, Kentucky Derby prep thus far.