01/10/2013 4:39PM

Byron King: Kentucky Derby top-10 list a fun way to usher in new year

Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography
Frac Daddy ran the fastest two-turn 2-year-old race of the Churchill Downs fall meet.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Isolating the chief contenders for the Kentucky Derby can be difficult even after post positions are drawn, let alone roughly four months before the race.

At this stage in early January, most of the leading 2-year-olds of 2012 have yet to race as 3-year-olds, and those currently in action, with the exception of recent Sham winner Goldencents, typically are inexperienced horses competing in allowances.

As challenging a task as handicapping the Derby this far out is, it remains fun to look at the race. So here goes – my top 10 list of leading Kentucky Derby prospects, along with their current Wynn Las Vegas future book odds, as of Wednesday.

[ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY: Prep races, point standings, replays]

Take note these rankings reflect what I believe to be their Derby potential with maturity and racing experience – which is why some horses that lost to others are rated higher.

1. Frac Daddy (22-1 odds at Wynn Last Vegas)

First or second in all three of his starts since debuting last fall, he seemingly has as much upside as any leading Derby prospect. He ran the fastest time of any 2-year-old going two turns at Churchill Downs last fall when he won a maiden race by 9 3/4 lengths with a 91 Beyer Speed Figure.

Returned three weeks later in the Grade  2 Kentucky Jockey Club, he bounced, regressing to a 76. But even turning in a performance less than his best, he gave a more experienced Uncaptured all he wanted and ran second, beaten a neck.

He has already worked twice this winter at Gulfstream, with another work seemingly on tap this weekend as he prepares for his seasonal bow in a race to be determined.

2. Delhomme (100-1)

Although caught late in the Remsen by Overanalyze and Normandy Invasion, he lost little in defeat by falling just three-quarters of a length short of them in third

Yet somehow he hasn’t generated the buzz of the latter two. But this colt did something few other 2-year-olds did last year – run back-to-back route Beyers in the 90s, posting a 94 in his maiden win at a mile and a 98 in the 1 1/8-mile Remsen.

He’s the value of the Wynn Derby Future Book, and hopefully will return to breezing soon after a winter freshening at WinStar Farm.

3. Shanghai Bobby (18-1)

The soon to be crowned 2-year-old champ, he finished the year unbeaten in five starts, capped by a narrow victory in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile when he waited on horses after surging to the lead on the final turn.

One has to love his class, consistency, and tactical speed. Unfortunately, he doesn’t seem as well suited by the Derby’s 1 1/4-mile distance as other leading prospects, which may explain why the juvenile champ isn’t even favored in the Wynn Future Book.

Although progeny of his sire, Harlan’s Holiday, can often route, Shanghai Bobby is short of stamina influences in the dam’s side of his pedigree, with his first dam, Steelin’, and his second dam, Steel Band, being by the sprinters Orientate and Carson City, respectively.

4. Goldencents (18-1)

Three for four, with his only loss coming in the Grade 1 Champagne behind Shanghai Bobby, his form is difficult to fault. He won the Delta Downs Jackpot to finish his juvenile season and took the Sham in his seasonal bow, showing a new dimension by coming from just off the pace to win.

Although successful in the latter race at Santa Anita, it was not an awe-inspiring effort. He was under pressure to win over Den’s Legacy and Manando – two horses not deemed anywhere near the top of the California 3-year-old class.

5. Revolutionary (35-1)

Prone to slow starts, which contributed to him being 0 for 3 to begin his career, he finally put things all together, or mostly so, in winning a maiden race over the inner track at Aqueduct on Dec. 28. Off in midpack, he gained a three-wide stalking position in third and powered past a loose-on-the-lead runner to draw off to a 8 1/2-length victory.

His performance earned him a 102 Beyer, easily the highest two-turn speed figure posted by a 2-year-old of 2012 or 3-year-old of this year. And he did so despite losing focus in the lane, greenly switching his leads back and forth in the final furlong of the race when on his way to victory.

• The following horses round out my top 10, with fast-closing Remsen runner-up Normandy Invasion (25-1) ranking sixth; unbeaten Violence (12-1), a perfect trip winner of the CashCall Futurity in seventh; Remsen winner Overanalyze (30-1) in eighth; Uncaptured (14-1), reportedly a little behind schedule in his training this year, in ninth; and Fury Kapcori (100-1), who held on bravely to be second in the CashCall after getting pushed into a hot pace, ranking 10th

Of this group, Normandy Invasion and Fury Kapcori have recorded works in 2013 and are seemingly closer to starting than the others.

• Others that fell just out of the top 10 but whom merit watching include Bradester, perfect in two routes despite a sprinter’s pedigree; Itsmyluckyday, a fast winner of the Gulfstream Park Derby; and quick maiden winners Flashback, War Academy, Verrazano, Palace Malice, Code West, and Belvin.