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Bunny's Derby Darlings: The Honorable Mentions
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Bunny's Derby Darlings is a series on my favorite Kentucky Derby contenders.


Part Nine:  The Honorable Mentions




Eight days out from the Derby and the field has finally taken shape.  Clearly the blanket of roses can be worn by any contender.  There are horses who won’t go off as the favorite, but will be credible competitors to watch on the first Saturday of May.

BRILLIANT SPEED:   This Tom Albertrani trainee displayed his resilient running style in the Blue Grass Stakes, by going five wide around the first turn, rounding the field.  Nearing the final turn, he moved up on the rail, but was abruptly taken to the outside by jockey Joel Rosario when there was no running room in his path.  Even when another horse drifted close to him, Brilliant Speed stayed straight when running at Twinspired, who was first nearing the wire.  I would prefer to see a larger stride, and more head movement, but I was impressed by how he overcame a slow pace.

This colt has no weaknesses in his bloodlines.  He is by champion sire, Dynaformer, most famous for siring the late Barbaro.  The twenty-six year old stallion’s successful progeny includes distance Turf runner, Gozzip Girl.  Brilliant Speed is out of Speed Succeeds, by the pensioned Gone West.  Speed Succeeds is out of Daijin, who is a full-sister to Belmont Stakes winner, Touch Gold, and a ½ sister to Canadian champion With Approval. Daijin was a great broodmare, producing Canadian stars, Handpainted, and Serenading.

MASTER OF HOUNDS:  This colt by Kingmambo, and out of Silk And Scarlet (GB), by Sadler’s Wells, is a force to watch.  In his only start of the year, this colt from the Aiden O’Brien barn placed by a neck in the UAE Derby at one and three sixteenths of a mile.  This leads me to believe he is a fresh horse, possibly offering him an advantage, but shipping from so far may take a toll on Derby Day. Also not having a jockey committed to ride him, at this point, concerns me.  I was expecting to see Calvin Borel aboard this horse until he committed to Twice The Appeal earlier this week.  A possible Mike Smith mount?  Conveniently, he will be riding Joyful Victory in the Oaks the day before, and has no Derby mount at this time….hmmm.

MIDNIGHT INTERLUDE:   Trainer Bob Baffert looks to end his Kentucky Derby drought with longshot Santa Anita Derby winner, Midnight Interlude.  This dark bay or brown colt is by War Chant, whose best success came at eight and one half furlongs.  Midnight Interlude is out of Midnight Kiss (NZ), by Groom Dancer, whose sire is Blushing Groom.  Midnight Interlude’s third dam is by 1973 Triple Crown winner, Secretariat.

His jockey, Victor Espinoza, handled a rank colt in the first moments of the Santa Anita Derby, but settled around the middle of the pack.  Equipped with his blinkers and a shadowroll, he went around the final turn wide, and came up close behind Comma To The Top, and therefore had to cut around.  Midnight Interlude beat Comma To The Top to the wire by a neck.  The second placer is also worthy of a mention as a Derby contender.

PANTS ON FIRE:   Ranking sixth on the Graded Earnings list, Pants On Fire, is this year’s surprise Louisiana Derby winner, holding off the favorite, Mucho Macho Man.  By Jump Start, and out of Cabo de Noche, by Cape Town; he proved that he preferred to be up close to the pace, hanging on the hip of the pacemaker until they ran into the final turn.  I have some skepticism as to whether he can handle running the Classic distance, because when he was running down the homestretch, he drifted out, which is one of the signs that a horse is tiring.  An interesting factoid is that this colt is female-trained (Kelly Breen), and also ridden by a female jockey, Anna Napravnik. Could be history in the making.

SHACKELFORD:  This Dale Romans trainee made his mark on the Derby trail when he came in an impressive, close second to Dialed In in the Florida Derby.  Though he prefers to make the pace, he runs calmly, never expending more energy than what is necessary.  This handsome, chestnut colt with a striking white blaze is by Forestry, and out of Oatsee, by Unbridled, who won the 1990 Kentucky Derby.  If I weren’t listing these horses alphabetically, Shackelford would top this list.

TWINSPIRED:   By Harlan’s Holiday, and out of Historical Drive, by El Prado (IRE), this grey colt was second to Brilliant Speed in the Blue Grass Stakes.  I have noticed that his sire tends to throw progeny who find their greatest success in sprinting.  His broodmare sire’s most popular son is Medaglia d’Oro, who sired the legendary Rachel Alexandra.

From the Mike Maker barn, Twinspired settled third off the pace in the Blue Grass, but I am hesitant to call him a speed horse, because the pace was very slow.  With Robby Alberado aboard, he ran smoothly, with a powerful, efficient stride.  Despite Twinspired placing behind Brilliant Speed in the Blue Grass Stakes, I think he may have greater potential in Kentucky Derby.

The road to the Kentucky Derby could be described as a slippery slope, at the very least.  I find it thrilling that any one of these contenders could be our next Kentucky Derby winner, or possibly a horse I did not acknowledge in my analysis.  Only time will tell.

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