J.N. Campbell’s NTRA Thoroughbred Poll Submissions: Derby Week 11

Week 11 of J.N. Campbell's NTRA submission to the Top Thoroughbred Polls is here...
Week 11 of J.N. Campbell's NTRA submission to the Top Thoroughbred Polls is here...

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The National Thoroughbred Racing Association’s Top Thoroughbred and Top 3-Year-Old Categories are determined by weekly polls of the nation’s leading writers and broadcasters that regularly cover the sport. Eligible media cast our votes for their top 10 horses, with points awarded on a 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis.

The NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll is conducted weekly from February through the Monday following the Breeders’ Cup World Championships. The NTRA Top 3-Year-Old Poll is conducted weekly from February through the Monday following the Belmont Stakes, which concludes the Triple Crown Trail.

As a member of the turfwriting media, I will be posting my weekly contributions, and offering editorials about horses that rise or fall in the polls. You can look for a full list of the Polls at the following NTRA website. It should make for another exciting season of Thoroughbred racing in North America!

Here is my 11th submission for this week’s Polls…

3-Year-Old Poll

1. ESSENTIAL QUALITY: In the Blue Grass Stakes (G2), this Tapit colt was faced with a challenging situation… a long speed coupled with an uncontested pace… Jockey Saez solved it when he found one more gear for the win; that effort cemented “EQ’s” place as the Kentucky Derby favorite… Now, it is time to go win!

2. HOT ROD CHARLIE: Doug O’Neill-trainee, who was exceptional in the LA Derby (G2); his ability to ship, run longer, and putting a target out there, are all part of a Derby recipe; O’Neill is heading back to CD, again…

3. KNOWN AGENDA: St. Elias Stable has won some G1 races, but nothing compares to homebred Known Agenda’s score in the FLA Derby (G1); Todd Pletcher is going back to Churchill, along with some other T. Pletch surprises, after that signature win; list climber based on that effort…

4. HIGHLY MOTIVATED: Chad Brown’s colt was well-backed against Essential Quality in the Blue Grass Stakes (G2) over the weekend; he didn’t disappoint for Klaravich Stables going around 2-turns for the first time; now, the question is will Brown send him to the Derby or instead send Crowded Trade in his place? More to come, after some works . . .

5. ROCK YOUR WORLD: This turf-only colt converted to the dirt well for trainer John Sadler, and won the SA Derby (G1) in amazing fashion with Umberto Rispoli; comes to the Top Ten with much promise, but little experience; can he get the KYD distance of 1¼, will be the question…

6. TRAVEL COLUMN: this filly is the lone female on my list; she exhibited strong acceleration in the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) putting away a rival; she is well-bred out of Frosted, and trainer Brad Cox has brought her along to be ready to handle the KY Oaks (G1); could Cox have a Derby-Oaks double? Hmm… 

7. SUPER STOCK: At 12/1, this colt who is co-owned by Steve Asmussen’s father, Keith, ended up being very game in the stretch in the Arkansas Derby (G1) against the heavily favored Baffert runner, Concert Tour; this colt rebuffed the critics, and looks like an interesting hopeful for the Starting Gate in less than an week…

8. MIDNIGHT BOURBON: Winchell Thoroughbreds and Asmussen have a consistent entry for the KYD, who will make the gate after his performance in the LA Derby (G2), running 2nd to Hot Rod Charlie. He has power and stability for a HOF trainer and accomplished barn…

9. MEDINA SPIRIT: What an absolute failure in the Santa Anita Derby (G1) on Saturday… Baffert’s colt was supposed offer a punctuating stamp on his Derby March; coronation cancelled, and even though he was 2nd to Rock Your World, one has to question his ability going into the KYD147; begrudgingly remains on the list…

10. MANDALOUN: Cox runner who won the Risen Star (G2), but failed as favorite in the LA Derby (G2); that last race was back in March, so it will be interesting to see just how fit he will be coming into 147; such an able-bodied trainer, that you have to think he will be sharp as can be.

Summary: The annual renewal of Kentucky Derby Week is on! As we shift from the Road to the Derby to Triple Crown Trail, major shifts are ahead. The above list will once again be in flux, as we try to sort out who has the best opportunity to strong together 3 wins in a row—the Derby, the Preakness, and the Belmont. Brad Cox and his runner Essential Quality have the inside track, after he posted an undefeated record that started last year. A clear Derby “favorite,” if I have ever seen one. Whatever happens, we know that opportunity comes to those that are ready.

Kentucky Derby Odds

Top Thoroughbred Poll

1. MYSTIC GUIDE: stellar performance in the Razorback (G3) @OP led to shipping into Meydan for the Dubai World Cup (G1), which he won convincingly for Mike Stidham; awfully good performance, but I would like to see him against an even better field, then he could take the top spot in the Rankings…

2. LETRUSKA: Fausto Gutierrez’s ace looked like she was going to run out of her horseshoes at Oaklawn in the Apple Blossom (G1); she did not disappoint, besting Monomoy Girl down the stretch; she springboards into this spot based on that gutsy performance . . . more to come, as she takes this division by story . . .

3. COLONEL LIAM: lived up to the hype in the Muniz Mem. (G2) @FG by rolling down the turf and just obliterating a nice field; Pletcher has what might be his greatest turf horse since English Channel with 2 major wins in 2021

4. SHEDARESTHEDEVIL: she was super sharp coming off the bench @OP in the Azeri (G2) against a small, but strong field that included rival Letruska; Brad Cox’s tactics to go to the lead made the difference; Grade 1, $500,000 La Troienne @CD on Oaks undercard, April 30 is next…

5. CHARLATAN: Bob Baffert’s newly-minted 4-yr-old was the Saudi Cup (G1) favorite, and he failed to secure the win against John Gosden’s Mishriff. At such a short price, HOF jockey Mike Smith fouled out, and used most of gas too early. Still, Charlatan remains a top BC Classic contender… 

6. MONOMOY GIRL: Cox runner solidified her spot at the top of the heap with a strong performance in the Bayakoa S. (G3) @OP to kick off her Spendthrift/MyRacehorse career; however, she failed to win the OP Apple Blossom (G1), even if it was by less than a head to Letruska; falling to this point on the list seems logical, though she will be back on top at some point . . .

7. C Z ROCKET: This Peter Miller dirt sprinter is an old school runner, whose class just continues to rise after going hoof-to-hoof with rival Whitmore @OP; major potential to keep going, and become the leader in what has become a pretty weak division; the days of American dirt burners is on the wane.

8. KNICKS GO: The front-running speedster was challenged by Charlatan early in the Saudi Cup (G1) and he folded. No doubt we will see him down the road, as the season develops. Maybe getting back to Keeneland for the April Meet will be a smart plan?

9. EXTRAVAGENT KID: Brendan Walsh’s turf sprinter finally broke into the Poll with a magnificent win in the AL Quoz Sprint in Dubai over a week ago. After running in States-side contests, and missing on several occasions, this son of Kiss The Kid bested Charlie Appleby’s prize burner—Space Blues; will be interesting to see where he appears next…

10. RAGING BULL: What a nice win in the Maker’s Mark Mile (G1) this past week at Keeneland after 2 previous misses; the Chad Brown veteran came off the bench, and exhibited a strong turn-of-foot down the lane to win a race his connections have chased for some time; nice way to start 2021, to say the least…

Summary: This portion of the list changed little, since we are in a holding pattern till some major races go off this week during the Oaks and Derby undercards. We will see the supposed return of runners like Maxfield, Aunt Pearl, Digital Age, and Dayoutoftheoffice . . . also, current listers like Shedaresthedevil and Colonel Liam will return to the track. Things are going to shake up for sure, as we move on to the next stage of the Thoroughbred racing season! Stay tuned . . .  

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