01/29/2014 1:12PM

Dick Jerardi: Three fast 3-year-olds look like Kentucky Derby contenders

Alexander Barkoff/Hodges Photography
Vicar's in Trouble (center) earned a 97 Beyer Speed Figure for his win in the Lecomte at Fair Grounds.

Shared Belief remains the clear Kentucky Derby favorite until one of the contenders starts running triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures or Shared Belief makes his 2014 debut and does not run back to his 2013 form.

Still, I am watching all the horses trying to catch up and have been quite impressed by what I am seeing. From Jan. 18 to Jan. 25, I watched three performances that suggest this class of 3-year-olds may have quality and quantity.

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

Obviously, more horses will emerge, but I really liked Vicar’s in Trouble in the Lecomte, Indianapolis in the San Pedro, and Cairo Prince in the Holy Bull.

Let’s put a line through Vicar’s in Trouble’s Polytrack debut at Keeneland, where he could do no better than third. In his two starts on the dirt at Fair Grounds, the Louisiana-bred Vicar’s in Trouble won his maiden by 13 lengths, getting a 98 Beyer on the lead, and won the Lecomte from just off the lead by 6 3/4 lengths, getting a 97 Beyer.

It was more than how fast the horse ran. It was how he ran fast. It was not perfect, but it was plenty good for a horse making just his first and second dirt starts. I know he has beaten nothing, but when you beat nothing, you should win by a pole. He has won by a pole and then half a pole.

Do I care that Vicar’s in Trouble is a Louisiana-bred? Not any more than I cared that Funny Cide was bred in New York and Smarty Jones in Pennsylvania. If the horse is fast enough, he’s fast enough. And this horse looks like he has a chance.

And who doesn’t want to hang with Ken Ramsey Kentucky Derby week if he has a serious contender? He may never stop talking.

Trainer Mike Maker has won big races. No reason he can’t win the Derby.

Indianapolis made his debut Nov. 24 at Hollywood Park. Indianapolis, a son of Medaglia d’Oro, came from seventh, went very wide, and won like a good thing, getting an 81 Beyer.

Indianapolis came back Jan. 20 at Santa Anita, again at six furlongs. Racing against just three others, he prompted a quick pace and ran away, winning by 4 1/4 lengths, getting a 97 Beyer.

How will Indianapolis run if he is sent longer? Don’t know, but I have not seen anything that suggests he can’t keep going.

You know Bob Baffert is thinking Derby. Does he think of anything else in January?

And there is this to consider. Indianapolis is a straight shot up Interstate 65 from a certain Kentucky city with a famous track and even more famous race. That must mean something.

Bottom line, Indianapolis can run fast. And that is the first prerequisite.

I was kind of prepared not to like Cairo Prince. I am not sure exactly why I thought that, but I did.

Well, I liked him plenty while watching the Holy Bull. The Nashua winner and Remsen runner-up always looked like a winner, even when sitting fifth early. When Luis Saez said go, Cairo Prince went and went hard, winning by nearly six lengths and getting a 95 Beyer.

I love Cairo Prince’s 2-year-old experience, with the sprint and a pair of longer races. Even his loss to the talented Honor Code was a very strong effort.

Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin certainly has a Derby out there with his name on it. This could be the horse. And I am a huge Luis Saez fan, the bigger the moment, the better he rides.

So we have three horses in a week earn Beyers of 97, 97, and 95. That strongly suggests they are contenders because 3-year-olds have those giant forward moves that could come in February, March, April or, preferably, the first Saturday in May.

Shared Belief made two major forward moves as a 2-year-old, getting an 84 in his debut, a 99 in the Hollywood Prevue, and that dazzling 106 in the CashCall Futurity.

I have gone back and watched each of those races multiple times. There were some imperfections, but very little overall concern for me. I really liked what I saw. This colt could be a major star.

Shared Belief still has to do it. And he will have to do it against some fast horses that have already shown Derby-level talent and may have far more to show.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Indianapolis looked like a real star in the making. He should have no trouble getting the distance with that breeding and he has so much talent he reminds me of Bodemiester. Shared Belief will have to prove he matured into monster he looked like at 2. I think one of those 2 will be in the winners circle the first Saturday in May. Shared Belief will only have 2 races before the KD. And might only have one if he gets the 50 points from the first race, since 50 will be enough to get in.
mikey More than 1 year ago
Bode never won any 10f race and what how does Medaglia go 10f....he is on the shorter side of the fence at 10f....
Scott More than 1 year ago
Of the three covered in this article, I prefer Indianapolis. The other two have done nothing wrong yet, but I have a couple of thoughts against them: 1) Shared Belief has looked great on the Cushion, but hasn't shown us that he is the real deal on dirt. More often than not, these horses tend to do better on the Turf. His breeding also suggests that. 2) Cairo Prince really has done nothing wrong, but I really don't think he's built for the distance. Pioneer of the Nile couldn't get the distance and proved to be somewhat fragile in the end. He did show nice patience in the Holy Bull though, so I will watch him more closely. In the end, I like Indianapolis's pedigree and running style. I believe Baffert might have one with this guy. Time will tell and it's going to be fun watching it play out.
Jordan More than 1 year ago
The evidence is that horses that run well on Cushion tend to do better on dirt than turf. Few pure turf horses ran well on the Cushion. Hollywood's Cushion was different from most every other synth surface in that regards. Indianapolis, for example, won his maiden on the Cushion, and had no problem with dirt in the San Pedro. Last weekend, California Chrome cruised in the Cal Cup Derby after being equally impressive in the King Glorious on the Cushion. I'm not sure if you regularly play or watch SoCal racing, but form transference from Cushion to dirt is way down on the list of handicapping concerns. Now, had Shared Belief made all 3 starts on the Golden Gate Tapeta, then I would share your concerns about dirt. I'm more concerned about distance regarding Shared Belief. I am with you in liking Indianapolis.
Walter More than 1 year ago
It's been said that the cushion track at Hol was really more dirt than anything else over the last couple of meets there. I guess the owners of the track were not spending too much money and didn't spend on more synthetic materials, they just added dirt.
Jackson Jackson More than 1 year ago
No Walt . Hollypark Cushion always played like dirt. It always did. It is mostly sand and dirt, but so are all the other synthetics.
Greg More than 1 year ago
Top Billing ran as fast as Cairo Prince last weekend. he did only what was needed to win.
Greg More than 1 year ago
Top Billing trained by Kiran Mc is the one to watch , the way he went from last to first on an off track at gulfstream last wk.was impressive !!
JUDY HAGNER More than 1 year ago
JUDY HAGNER More than 1 year ago
Eric Singer More than 1 year ago
I agree that over-emphasizing Beyer figs for 3 year olds at this time of year is mistake in logic. There is plenty of time to run a big # and how reliable are the #s anyway? I have had a lot of success handicapping by covering the Beyer figs and ignoring them. They are huge, in bold and everybody looks at them. Yes, this technique is best used in cheaper races. I definitely have respect for anyone who makes their own speed figs and I find the track speed figures of interest. Beyer figs can be a decent tool - but not for slavish dependence Jerardi and Watchmaker.
Ian GW More than 1 year ago
iknownothing114 More than 1 year ago
Shared belief, Havana, honor code will not be in the starting gate the first sat. In may.Mark My Word
Ray Sousa More than 1 year ago
really what is this based on reading tea leaves.
Panama Stallion More than 1 year ago
Don't listen to him Ray Ray, he knows nothing.
Ben D'Antonio More than 1 year ago
I'd be more impressed if you could tell us who will be in the starting gate for the Derby. Anybody can make these statements...
Mark D More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What I don't understand is the ridiculous uneven weight assignments given to these horses going for the KD. They are vying for points to get into the Derby where every horse will run with 126lbs. Yet why are they not equal weights when running for say The Holy Bull / Gotham or Lecomte. In the Lecomte they ran with 116 up to 122. The easy winner ran with 116. The weight assignments do not become equal until they reach the last stage before the Derby as in the Wood Memorial, Florida Derby, SA Derby, Louisiana Derby. Oddly enough the Arkansas Derby G1 which is on par points and dollars does not run on equal weights. These races leading up to the Derby are run like Handicap races. When Successful 2 year olds start to race as a 3 yr old they automatically assigned more weight. Not that I am a fan of your Shanghai Bobbies trying to go a Mile 1/4. If I were an owner I would start my potential Derby horse off late in the 2 yr old season. Just enough to get some foundation into him. Then sit him and make a run for the TC chase. Sound familiar? Sure if they are good enough to win the Derby then they would be good enough to win giving away 6lbs in lesser races. But thats not the point here. If you were an owner and you missed the Derby by a few points and the horses you ran against made it in because they ran with 6lbs less than you, Wouldn't you be PO'd?
Forego137 More than 1 year ago
Good observation, it doesn't make any sense why they don't carry equal weight in these prep race's, as you said the one that wins these prep race's caring 116 vs 122 get's into the Derby and the other sit's on the sideline due to lack of sufficient points is a flaw in this new point system that is being used to get into the Derby. This has to be fixed
Vince Lentini More than 1 year ago
why doesn't it make sense??
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
it doesn't make sense because the points system was put into place to make sure that the best horses with the best current form get into the Kentucky Derby. Inferior achieving horses carry less weight. That is a fact. Do you want the best horses that can carry 126 and that are able to go 1-1/4 on dirt on the first Saturday in May? Afterall, how do you think the inferior horse would do when assigned 126 and now has to go 1.5 furlongs further than he ever has. Most likely last place. Or do you want horses in the race that got through because they won narrow decisions based largely in part of carrying 10 less lbs than the more deserving and superior horse. It's all about the main goal of the KD. Get the best horses in there that can carry 126 and that are able to go 1-1/4 on dirt on the first Saturday in May. In the prep races the weights should be equal all through their 3 yr old season. Actually I think all through the 3 yr old season period beginning to end the weights should be equal. Early prep races should start off at 116lbs. 2nd in series then 118. Major Prep races such as the Florida Derby 122 Kentucky Derby 126 They should gradually carry 2 lbs more as the season goes on until the max at 126 for the KD. Handicap races are for older horses and even then those races are disappearing. I also originated the topic of weights... sorry about the anonymous. Thanks JT
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
that is brilliant. don't know why the preps are handicap races. hopefully they will make changes to further update the TC preps. I couldn't agree moe. very keen observation.
Edward More than 1 year ago
Good points but let's not get crazy. Ten pounds is a very rare spread. 6 is more common and that is like you running 200 yds with 3 quarters in your pocket.
Vince Lentini More than 1 year ago
what you miss is that tracks aren't in business to coordinate their racing to lead up to the most unimportant calvary charge in racing..
Edward More than 1 year ago
A lot of us believe that no Grade 1 race should ever be a handicap. Nothing to do with the Derby points race, just common sense. The Major Leagues aren't played with handicaps in any sport. I personally believe that all Grade 1 and Grade 2 races should be run as equal weights(for Grade 2, you could allow set weight for age and sex). Any race that wants to stay a handicap race should be a Grade 3 or listed Stakes.
Walter More than 1 year ago
The races leading up to the KD are individual events of their own, so weights are assigned as they usually would by the racing secretary. There is no consideration of the KD when determining these weights, nor should there be. Bottom line, these "prep races" stand on their own.