I’m making this list a bit later than I originally anticipated, but a constant flow of races, injuries, and other shortcomings have altered the January list quite a bit since I first edited that top 10.
10) Samraat - A game horse who dug in all the way last out to win a stubborn edition of the Withers Stakes (III) like a champ. I’m interested to see if he stretches out from here and if his undefeated class will hold up.
9) Dance With Fate - He narrowly lost the El Camino Real (III) to a poly specialist and should get better from here on out. I’ll be daft if he falls short somehow in the Blue Grass (I) and doesn’t make the Derby gate.
8) Candy Boy - The Candy Ride [ARG] colt often makes a stirring move too late, and it appeared to be too little too late in the Robert B. Lewis (II), but he got up just in time to take that race despite a bit of a messy trip getting stuck behind horses. Keen to see how he does going forward, he looks like a happy little horse.
7) Conquest Titan - The Birdstone colt made up very substantial ground late in the Holy Bull (II), and had just too much to do by the time he caught up with Cairo Prince to be 2nd. He’s made a lot of progress since turning 3 and shouldn’t shy away from getting more ground next out in the Florida Derby (I).
6) Cairo Prince - Brilliant in the Holy Bull (II), the Pioneerofthenile colt looked the part of a nearly undefeated Derby contender when romping home by 5 lengths, practically unopposed. Trainer Kieran McLaughlin is pushing for his Derby start to feel more like a “2nd off the layoff” than trying to build him up anymore than he currently is. I have to disagree with Prince not needing to improve in order to win, because this is a very good group of three-year-olds.
5) Tonalist - On my radar because of my great love for his trainer Christophe Clement— who is usually armed to the teeth with grass horses— the bay Tapit colt made an impression closing in to win a dirt allowance race at Gulfstream going 9 furlongs. His family looks awesome too: his dam is out of Toll Fee, a half sister to Havre de Grace’s dam Easter Bunnette. There’s too much to like and not enough room to list it all.
4) Top Billing - It’s tough to avoid mentioning such a good-looking colt by Curlin, who is on the precipice of proving himself worthy of a starting spot in May. Stacked with Northern Dancer and Nashua references, Top Billing is a half to the dam of Bodemeister and on paper, looks the part of a Derby winner even more so than his trainer’s call to fame from last year in Orb. Can he keep winning, starting with Saturday’s loaded Fountain of Youth (II)?
3) Strong Mandate - I hoped and prayed we would see a similarly talented colt when the Tiznow trainee of D. Wayne Lukas made his sophomore debut, and I doubt anyone was disappointed by his run in the Southwest Stakes (III). Had he had a shorter trip, he would have made a case for the win first off the layoff, and was phenomenally better than the rest of the field. Everything about this horse STILL looks very solid, and he’s keen to improve next out.
2) Bayern - Now, I don’t like horses who only have a couple of starts and aren’t battle-tested And Kaleem Shah horses have already burned me in the past (Fed Biz!). But 2-for-2 so far and armed with an effortless, powerful turn of foot and early speed, the son of Offlee Wild grabbed my attention in his most recent allowance win, reminding me of Big Brown. He demolished allowance company at a mile, and should keep on progressing from there despite being a May foal (a May 3 one at that, Derby day is his birthday).
1) Honor Code - It’s tough to topple what I perceive to be the perfect package in A.P. Indy colt Honor Code, who has flashed speed, stamina, heart, and an easygoing mentality with no real preference for positioning or surface condition. All signs point to a really promising colt come his three-year-old debut, which ought to be coming sooner than later. However, if he’s delayed any later than he is, he’s almost as good as out.
Mexikoma has been training very well at Palm Meadows, being brought along slowly prepping for his first start of the year.
Loved Tapiture's defining move to win the Southwest Stakes (III), but I'm waiting on him to not have such an easy trip.
I want Commissioner to show me something else before I decide how much I like him. Constitution, too, as much as I enjoyed his last race.
Matterhorn keeps his mention, and will run in a tough allowance race on Saturday.
Mosler looks ready for a race and keeps a mention.
Shared Belief's gone missing from the track and from this list.
Tourist drops off the top 10 but keeps his mention. He finally broke his maiden at Aqueduct and will hopefully pursue a stake soon.
Wicked Strong's stocks drop after a messy Holy Bull (II), where his stretch drive suddenly went missing despite two horses making a very strong case coming from way back.
Casiguapo: A wrong equipment change and hopefully a better trip can leverage the Sightseeing colt.
Hartford looked splendid gearing down to win his first race at competitive Gulfstream. I’m very interested to see if he wants any part of two turns, and that is going to be the question of the day for him.
I have to include No Nay Never after the turf colt has been producing great workout reports on the dirt. Plus I got to talk to one of his part-owners at Sequel Stallions, and it’s inevitable he’ll at least try dirt.