While the Kentucky Derby is months away, many trainers and owners already have Derby in mind for some of their horses. Many of these horses have already proven themselves worthy candidates for the Run for the Roses already and there is a good chance that you might be seeing them on the first Saturday in May. While there are still plenty of races on the trail that have yet to be run, we can see the Kentucky Derby field taking shape. Here are some horses to that you might want to watch out for:
1. Honor Code-Most racing fans would say that he is definitely one of the top Derby candidates so far, and rightfully so. Just watch his last race and you'll understand why. On Thanksgiving Day weekend, Honor Code won the Grade 2 $400,000 Remsen Stakes at Aqueduct Racetrack in an impressive fashion, fighting off runner-up Cairo Prince who looked like a winner at the top of the stretch, but was out gunned by Honor Code. He is currently in second place on the leader board for the Road to the Kentucky Derby with 14 points. A victory in the Remsen Stakes earned him ten points and a runner-up effort in the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes which earned him four points. His sire is prestigious stallion A.P. Indy who has sired many champions including the likes of 2007 Kentucky Oaks winner Rags to Riches, 2003 Horse of the Year Mineshaft and 2006 Preakness winner Bernardini to name a few, however he has yet to sire a Derby winner. Honor Code is part of the last crop of foals that A.P. Indy has produced. He is trained by Shug McGaughey who trained last year's Kentucky Derby winner Orb and could give him his second, consecutive Derby victory. He is pointing toward the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Florida on February 22th.
2. Shared Belief- If Honor Code isn't the hottest three-year-old on the Derby trail, this colt definitely is. He is a flawless 3 for 3 lifetime and put his competitors away last time out in the Grade 1 CashCall Futurity at Betfair Hollywood Park by 5 3/4 lengths, which put him high up on many people's list of hot ones on the Derby trail. He is trained by Jerry Hollendorfer who has yet to win a Derby, but has won the Kentucky Oaks on three different occasions with Lite Light (1991), Pike Place Dancer (1996), and Blind Luck (2010). Still without points for the Road to the Kentucky Derby since the CashCall Futurity doesn't hold a point value, he will have the opportunity to put numbers on the leaderboard February 8th when he competes in the Grade 2 Robert B. Lewis at Santa Anita Park, which is where he is scheduled to make his next start.
3. Cairo Prince- Any horse that can come as close as he did to beating Honor Code last time out deserves to be high up on the list. Although he could do no better than second to Honor Code last time out, he gave him a run for his money only losing by a nose. He is currently number 12 on the leader board earning 4 points in this second place effort. Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin says that his next start will take place in the Grade 2 Holy Bull Stakes, which will be run on January 25th at Gulfstream Park.
4. Tapiture- The great thing about this one is that he has already scored a stakes victory at Churchill Downs, when he won the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes on closing day this last fall meet. He's had more experience running under the Twin Spires than most contenders have, as he has run two other races around the Louisville oval, both were third-place efforts. His next start has yet to be determined, but he worked 5 furlongs in 1:00.80 for trainer Steve Asmussen earlier this week at the Fair Grounds.
5. Constitution- This horse made his first start this last Saturday in a maiden special weight at Gulfstream Park, and won it in an impressive fashion. He hesitated coming out of the gate but still managed to pull off a pretty easy victory. He is trained by Todd Pletcher and owned by WinStar Farm who both teamed up to win the 2010 Derby with Super Saver. While he has yet to step into graded stakes company, don't be surprised if he shows up in a stake at some point in the future. He looks like he could be the real deal. Next start still to be determined.
6. Tamarando- While Shared Belief is his stablemate (both horses are trained by Jerry Hollendorfer), don't overlook him. He ran a distant third to his stablemate last time out in the CashCall Futurity, but still has what it takes to get the classic distance. He ran a late closing third a few starts back in the FrontRunner Stakes at Santa Anita despite a slow start coming out of the gate. If ever up against his stablemate again, don't expect him to finish too far behind. Next start still to be determined.
7. Almost Famous- He has plenty of experience at the Downs, having won 2 of 3 starts over the main track. His trainer, Pat Byrne saddled Take Charge Indy (a half brother to 2013 Eclipse Award finalist Will Take Charge) in the 2012 Kentucky Derby It is undetermined where he will go next, but he worked 5 furlongs in 1:00.60 the other day at Palm Meadows Training Center.
8. Noble Moon- His win in the Grade 2 Jerome Stakes at Aqueduct a couple of weeks ago has allowed him to be one to watch out for this year. Trainer Leah Gyarmati last said that his next start would more than likely take place in the Grade 3 Withers Stakes February 1, 2014 before pointing to the Grade 1 Wood Memorial on April 5th, both races also being run at Aqueduct.
9. Strong Mandate- This horse is the best three-year-old in D. Wayne Lukas's barn right now, which he proved in his third-place effort last time out in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile last November. He is regally bred by two-time Breeders' Cup Classic winner Tiznow out of Grade 1 winning mare Clear Mandate. His next start will more than likely take place in the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park on February 17.
10. Midnight Hawk- Bob Baffert is always loaded with three-year-olds this time of the year, and Midnight Hawk is his biggest one. This colt showed his talent last Saturday in the Grade 3 Sham Stakes which earned him ten points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby. He is owned by Mike Pegram (who teamed up with Baffert in 1998 to win the Derby with Real Quiet), Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Mike Tice, and Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Queeneville. Midnight Hawk's next start is yet to be determined.
*Note the next scheduled race for each horse in italics.
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