“The Pressbox’s” KY Derby Rankings: Roadster Still #1

(Roadster still holds the top spot in “The Pressbox’s” KY Derby Standings / Photo Courtesy of Santa Anita)

RankPoints / RankHorseTrainerRiderLast RaceComment
1100 / 5RoadsterBob BaffertMike Smith1st in G1 SA DerbyLooking Better & Better As We Approach May
285 / 8Game WinnerBob BaffertJoel Rosario2nd in G1 SA Derby“Game” Is Very Game / Has Win at CD
3150 / 1TacitusBill MottJose Ortiz1st inG2 Wood MemorialMay Be Highly Underestimated
4137.5 / 2Omaha BeachRichard MandellaMike Smith1st in G1 Arkansas DerbyLooked on “Cruise Control” in Arkansas Derby Win / Wow?
560 / 12War of WillMark CasseTyler Gaffalione9th in G2 LA DerbyWorked Out of Gate at Keeneland / Can He Overcome LA Derby?
638 / 23AnothertwistafateBlaine D. WrightJavier Castellano2nd in the G3 Lexington StakesCouldn’t Get the Win in Lexington, but Traffic Issues/Game
752 / 14TaxDanny GarganJunior Alvarado2nd in G2 Wood MemorialFormer Claimer In the Derby? / All Our Dreams Here
870 / 10HaikalKiaran McLaughlinRajiv Maragh3rd in G2 Wood MemorialHas a Solid Late Run / Can He Use It in Lou?
931 / 25Bourbon WarMark HennigIrad Ortiz, Jr.4th in G1 Florida DerbyIf He Has the Points to Get In, Watch Out / Best to Come
1074 / 9Code of HonorShug McGaugheyJohn Velazquez3rd in G1 Florida DerbyBetter-Than-Looked in Florida Derby Against Bias
1165 / 11ImprobableBob BaffertJose Ortiz2nd in G1 Arkansas DerbyLike His Grit, but a Son of City Zip in at 11/4-Miles?
12110 / 3VekomaGeorge WeaverJavier Castellano1st in G2 Blue Grass StakesBlue Grass Was Impressive / Running Motion? Not So Much
1350 / 16Win Win WinMichael TrombettaIrad Ortiz, Jr2nd in G2 Blue Grass StakesLike This One / A Lot / But Running Style Begs Traffic Woes
1438 / 22SignalmanKen McPeekBrian Hernandez3rd in G2 Blue Grass StakesRan Better in 2nd Start Off Layoff / Can He Move Forward?
15100 / 6By My StandardsW. Bret CalhounGabriel Saez1st in G2 LA DerbyWill Have To Make Giant Step Forward in KY Derby
1650 / 15Cutting HumorTodd PletcherJohn Velazquez1st in Sunland DerbyFlattered by Anothertwistafate In Lexington
1732 / 24SuenoJ. Keith DesormeauxCorey Lanerie3rd in G3 Lexington StakesHad Traffic Issues in Lex, Too / Looks Second Tier, Though
1830 / 26InstagrandJerry HollendorferFlavien Pratt3rd in G1 SA DerbyDistance Now Becomes A Concern / 3rd of a Layoff?
1940 / 19SpinoffTodd PletcherJohn Velazquez2nd in G2 LA DerbyCan He Add Distance to His Game?
2053.5 / 13Long Range ToddySteve AsmussenJon Court6th in G1 Arkansas DerbyWon the Rebel, But Arkansas Derby Was Not Impressive
Others
2104 / 4Plus Que ParfaitBrendan WalshJose Ortiz1st in G2 UAE DerbyRan 13th behind War of Will Before Shipping to the Dubai
3100 / 7Maximum SecurityJason ServisLuis Saez1st in G1 Florida DerbyUndefeated in 4 Career Starts / Same Owners as Game Winner
450 / 17Country HouseBill MottJoel Rosario3rd in G1 Arkansas DerbyHas Won Only Once in 6 Starts
541 / 18Gray MagicianPeter MillerJoel Rosario2nd in the UAE DerbyHas Won Only Once in 8 Starts
619 / 20Master FencerK. TsunodaHiroyuki Uchida2nd in Fukurya StakesHas Won Twice in 6 Starts
740 / 21BodexpressGustavo DelgadoNik Juarez2nd in the G1 Florida DerbyStill a Maiden

The preps are now done. The points have been tallied. The field for the 145th Kentucky Derby seems to be set — for the most part.

And, still?

There is so much confusion. There is so much debate. There is so much to be decided.

Still.

Oh, the top horses seem to be pretty much set, although one could debate whether one should be considered better than another.

Is Roadster better than Omaha Beach? I guess Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith will give us his thoughts and a hint in just a few hours when he announces which one of the two he will ride on the “First Saturday in May.”

Is Game Winner, who won over the Churchill Downs’ main track last November to capture the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, better than his last two second place finishes to Omaha Beach, and Roadster?

Is Tacitus, winner of the last two in a row, better than any of the above?

Is War of Will’s rear end better now, and ready to overcome his side-swipe run in the Louisiana Derby? Is Code of Honor better than his third in the Florida Derby? Is Haikal and Tax — and the Wood Memorial — better than people give them credit?

Who is better?

Who is best?

But the thing that makes this year’s field for the Kentucky Derby such a debate — at least in my mind — is that 5 horses that are on our own “Others List” are likely to make their way into the starting gates for the world’s most prestigious race. And, by virtue, 5 horses that we think are much better in their performance levels and are included in our “Top 20” list could be looking from the outside and hoping just to wedge their way into the Top 20 before May 4.

Five.

Wow.

Five.

That’s .25% of the field.

So, in one way, we are sorry that some of “our” main contenders won’t get a chance to show their wares in this year’s Derby, we are now able to concentrate more on the ones that we think are at the top of this year’s pecking order.

Anothertwistafate, second in the G3 Lexington Stakes this past Saturday and #7 on our top KY Derby rankings list, will not get in, unless there are some serious defections. Currently, he sits at #23 on the list.

Bourbon War, fourth in the G1 Florida Derby in his last out, currently is at #25 in the points category, and is seriously doubtful now to make this year’s field. We have loved this son of Tapit all Spring, and we think he would be a tough out in this year’s “Run for the Roses.” We have him #9 in our standings.

Signalman, who has had an up-and-down Spring for trainer Ken McPeek, looked like the old self in running third in the G2 Blue Grass Stakes in the last out, and he ran very well at Churchill Downs in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last November, too. But he is at #22, and currently on the outside — casting a wistful eye.

And, there is both Sueno and Instagrand — neither of whom are likely to make this year’s field.

Sad.

We thought they could add some punch and pizzaz to the party.

But make no mistake. This year’s field certainly has some quality to it.

Is it deep and wide?

Maybe.

Roadster remains at the top, coming off an impressive win in the Santa Anita Derby, when he “woo-shed” past the game Game Winer in the stretch to pull away at the wire. Since coming back from his throat surgery, Roadster — a smaller body type than some of Bob Baffert’s latest racing monsters — is undefeated and starting to fulfill the promise that he showed the barn experts as a 2YO last summer.

Game Winner remains at the top, 1A, coming off his second in the Santa Anita Derby. This guy started the year undefeated and the 2YO champ. Now, after a nostril loss to Omaha Beach and a premature run in the Santa Anita Derby, the glamour seems to be lost. I would not be so dismissive. He has a win over the track where the KY Derby is contested. He has a running style that has performed well in recent Derbies — as a stalker. And, he has a trainer known for pulling off May Magic.

Tacitus looks to be the most improved horse on the year, coming off back to back wins — including a nice rail-skimming win in the Wood Memorial.

And, there is Omaha Beach. He looked to be in absolute cruise control in the Arkansas Derby — dispatching all rivals, including Baffert’s third Derby hopeful in Improbable. What horse will Hall of Famer Mike Smith pick to rider in The Derby? Will it be Roadster? Will it be Omaha Beach.

Another question in this year’s Derby Drama.

No matter who gets into the starting gate on the “First Saturday in May,” it will be thrilling.

And, we will finally get a chance to see who is truly “better.”

The horse broke well today,” Gaffalione said. “I had the horse inside, Dunph, going to the lead and then (Gun It) showed a little bit of speed. When I saw they were intent on going I just tried to get him back and got him to relax. He came back to me nicely and settled well down the backside. Got a little keen going into the far turn and wanted to move a little early. But I didn’t want to take too much away from him so I tried to sit as long as I could. He was waiting on horses down the lane but I kept him at task and there was plenty of horse there.”

“Mark (Casse, the trainer) and his team have done a great job,” Gaffalione said. “They’ve had a ton of confidence in this horse the whole way. It’s just an honor to be able to ride the horse. He’s just so professional, trains great and he’s a pleasure to be around.”

Tyler Gaffalione, Rode of War of Will to victory in the G2 Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds
  • Gene McLean

    Gene McLean

    Gene McLean began his professional career in 1977 as a sportswriter and columnist for the Lexington Herald-Leader in Lexington, Ky., and was recognized as one of the state’s best writers, winning the prestigious “Sportswriter of the Year” honor in 1985. Now the President and Publisher of The Pressbox, McLean sets ...

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