Derby picture only getting murkier

`Express', AP Valentine latest to join throng of potential winners

Horse Racing

March 31, 2001|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

Identifying top contenders for the Derby Dozen a month ago was a chore. Now there's not space to cram them all in.

With five weeks remaining before the Kentucky Derby, a couple of dozen 3-year-olds rank as contenders for America's great race. Monarchos in the East and Point Given in the West share the top spot, but below them the road to the Derby is jammed with potential.

Last weekend, the less-heralded Godolphin 3-year-old Express Tour outfought the highly touted Street Cry to claim the $2 million UAE Derby on the undercard of the Dubai World Cup.

The sheiks of Godolphin bought the Florida-bred Express Tour (Tour d'Or-Express Fashion, by Private Express) after he won three straight races last year at Calder. The question now is: Can Express Tour win the Kentucky Derby with only one prep race halfway around the world?

AP Valentine, one of last year's top 2-year-olds, surged back into the Derby picture with a sensational performance against older horses at Hialeah Park. The Nick Zito-trained colt blazed 1 1/16 miles in a record-breaking 1 minute 40 1/5 seconds. And he looked as if he were merely loping.

The little-known Balto Star earned the top Beyer Speed Figure of any 3-year-old this year with his 12 3/4 -length blowout in the Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park. Balto Who? He's a son of Glitterman trained by Todd Pletcher, who has won his past two races by a combined 25 lengths.

And now, the fun really begins with the Santa Anita Derby next Saturday (Point Given, Crafty C.T., Palmerio, Early Flyer and I Love Silver), and then in two weeks the Blue Grass Stakes (Dollar Bill, Millennium Wind, AP Valentine, Hero's Tribute and Invisible Ink) and the Wood Memorial Stakes (Monarchos, Congaree, Ommadon and Richly Blended).

Tom Keyser's Derby Dozen

Horse....Trainer.... Jockey....Last race.....Next start ....Comment....Odds*

Monarchos.. John Ward Jr.....Jorge Chavez....1st Florida Derby... Wood Mem., April 14.... His Florida Derby was so powerful; can he repeat it?.... 5-1

Point Given...Bob Baffert...Gary Stevens...1st San Felipe Stakes...Santa Anita, April 7.... S.A. Derby next weekend will be final prep for Ky. Derby... 9-2

Dollar Bill...Dallas Stewart... Pat Day.... 4th Louisiana Derby.... Blue Grass, April 14.... Solid, consistent competitor should be a factor all year... 8-1

Millennium Wind...David Hofmans... undecided... 2nd Louisiana Derby Blue Grass, April 14... Trainer chose Blue Grass instead of Point Given at home 10-1

Street Cry...Saeed bin Suroor...Frankie Dettori... 2nd UAE Derby Kentucky Derby, May 5...One of two Godolphin hopefuls sniffing for American roses 12-1

Hero's Tribute... John Ward Jr....Jerry Bailey...3rd Louisiana Derby...Blue Grass, April 14...Trainer's second string could rise to top in Blue Grass... 15-1

AP Valentine...Nick Zito...Corey Nakatani 1st Hialeah allowance...Blue Grass, April 14...Record-breaking run at Hialeah puts him back in hunt...12-1

Express Tour Saeed bin Suroor David Flores 1st UAE Derby Kentucky Derby, May 5 Out-gamed better-known Godolphin stablemate in Dubai 25-1

Invisible Ink...Todd Pletcher... John Velazquez... 3rd Florida Derby Blue Grass, April 14...Pedigree, closing kick will help as distances get longer... 30-1

Outofthebox... Bernie Flint... Corey Nakatani... 2nd Florida Derby Flamingo Stakes, April 7... He'll get another try in Florida before heading to Kentucky 30-1

Crafty C.T.... Howard Zucker... Eddie Delahoussaye...1st San Rafael Stakes Santa Anita, April 7...Look forward to seeing speedster tackle Point Given 25-1

Congaree...Bob Baffert Victor Espinoza...1st Santa Anita allow.... Wood Mem., April 14....Taking on Monarchos is huge step up for promising colt ...20-1

*-Daily Racing Form odds

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