Our Kentucky Derby Top-10 Rankings (Feb. 24)

1. Dunkirk 2. Pioneerof the Nile 3. OId Fashioned 4. Friesan Fire 5. Desert Party 6. Midshipman 7. The Pamplemouuse 8. Stardom Bound 9. Capt. Candyman Can 10. Patena Our top rated colt is the one with the most upside, and clearly that’s Dunkirk. A $3.7 million yearling by Unbridled’s Song, Dunkirk has made a mockery of his opposition in his first two career starts for trainer Todd Pletcher, most recently winning an allowance race last week at Gulfstream Park despite an extremely wide trip throughout. His 98 Beyer, while strong in its own right, doesn’t really do him justice. Dunkirk will be trying to do something that no horse since Apollo in 1882 has been able to accomplish and that’s win the Derby without the benefit of a start as a 2-year-old. Every year a new Derby “rule” seems to be broken; I think 2009 is the year Apollo gets debunked. Is Dunkirk this year’s Big Brown? Sure looks like it. California’s best hope is the second-rated Pioneerof the Nile. We loved the way he quickened in the final furlong to win the Robert B. Lewis Stakes while displaying a turn of foot that we weren’t sure he had. By Empire Maker out of a mare by Lord at War, the Bob Baffert-trained colt should improve as the distances increase. However, he’s never raced on dirt and likely won’t until the Derby itself. Old Fashioned is undefeated in three starts, two of them graded stakes, and if you think he should be rated higher, I won’t quarrel with you. Right now I have him third because while he did win the Southwest Stakes in game and convincing fashion, he didn’t exactly blast home in the final furlong. And with Meadowlake on the bottom of his pedigree, he’s no cinch to stay 10 furlongs in a pressurized situation. Fourth ranked Friesan Fire doesn’t register very highly on the goose bump scale but he’s a workmanlike colt who has the pedigree to stay a classic distance and his numbers are starting to rise to the respectable range. He’ll be the favorite for next month’s Louisiana Derby. We’ll rank the Dubai-based Desert Party fifth. A son of Street Cry who recently won the UAE 2000 Guineas, Desert Party has won four of five lifetime and his only defeat came when he stumbled badly at the start of the Hopeful Stakes last summer at Saratoga. Checking in sixth is Midshipman – remember him – and like Desert Party he is preparing for a Derby campaign in Dubai. How is last year’s champion 2-year-old progressing? Who knows? Hopefully better than Vineyard Haven. Our seventh rated Derby prospect is The Pamplemousse, the front-running winner of the San Rafael Stakes with a legitimate figure. He looks like a router, but he’s bred to be a sprinter or a miler at best. We’ll see if he can handle 9 furlongs Saturday at Santa Anita in the Sham Stakes. In the eighth spot we have the champion 2-year-old filly Stardom Bound. She makes the list not because of her victory in the La Virgenes Stakes – which earned a very modest 84 Beyer speed figure – but rather because of the likelihood that she will improve with added furlongs. But so far she’s done all of her racing on synthetics and its possible that her late closing style has been promoted by the inherent pro-closers’ bias that accompany these surfaces. Rated at nine is Capt. Candyman Can, who earned a triple digit Beyer figure in his convincing Hutcheson Stakes victory at Gulfsteam Park in his 3-year-old debut. He’s by Candy Ride, so there’s hope he will be able to carry his speed a distance of ground. Rounding out our top-10 is Patena, who will be carrying the same silks as last year’s Kentucky Derby winner, Big Brown when he makes his first start for the IEAH Stable and trainer Rick Dutrow in the Louisiana Derby. A son of Seeking the Gold, Patena most recently finished well to be second in the Le Comte Stakes and has the look of a late developing colt that’ll enjoy the Derby’s 10 furlong trip. ALSO ELIGIBLE: Rachel Alexandra, Mr. Hot Stuff, Flying Pegasus, General Quarters, Papa Clem, Beethoven, Big Drama, Haynesfield, Taqarub, Chocolate Candy, Mr. Fantasy, Hello Broadway, Giant Oak, Notonthesamepage, This Ones For Phil