As fans begin streaming to Churchill Downs at the start of Kentucky Derby week, we take a look at the top contenders in the Run for the Roses. These are the names you'll want to know when you tune in to NBC on Saturday.
1. Dialed In: The rallying winner of arguably the most competitive prep this season, the Florida Derby (G1), fired a warning shot to his rivals with a terrific half-mile work at Palm Meadows last Thursday. By blazing his final furlong in :11 3/5 and finishing well clear of his workmate, the Nick Zito trainee signaled that he'll enter the Kentucky Derby (G1) in razor-sharp form.
Some might question Zito's light work schedule for the colt, but the Hall of Famer, and two-time Derby winner, knows how to tailor his training regimen to suit a particular horse's needs. And so far, Zito's decision-making has proven spot-on for Dialed In. The colt already has two 1 1/8-mile races under his belt, and plenty of lengthy gallops to build up his stamina.
Dialed In shipped to Churchill Downs on Saturday, and on Sunday, confirmed his well-being with an on-the-muscle jog over the track.
2. Uncle Mo: The champion juvenile colt of 2010 has put himself right back in the game with encouraging works at Churchill in the past week for trainer Todd Pletcher. Apparently over the gastro-intestinal malady that contributed to his shocking loss in the Wood Memorial (G1), Mo is recovering his "big mo" as the Derby approaches. Aside from his smooth five-furlong drills in company, he has been galloping energetically, like a horse who wants to do more.
If Uncle Mo can recapture his scintillating two-year-old form in time, he'll be difficult to beat. The ultra-talented colt was simply in a league of his own last year, and capped his perfect season in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) right here at Churchill. Naturally fast but also tractable, Uncle Mo stalked the pace that day before accelerating brilliantly leaving the far turn, in what might have been a sneak preview of Derby 137.
3. Archarcharch: The Arkansas Derby (G1) winner confirmed his status as a top threat with a smashing work at Churchill Friday, blitzing five furlongs in a bullet :59 2/5 while leaving his workmate struggling in his wake. Despite having a distance-oriented pedigree, Archarcharch has displayed high speed in his prior races as well as during training hours -- a tell-tale sign of a serious runner.
Indeed, Archarcharch broke his maiden in a six-furlong stakes, and was agile enough to engineer a winning trip in a roughly run Southwest Stakes (G3). He's also been fairly consistent, with legitimate excuses for the couple of times he hasn't run up to par. Better when allowed to settle off the pace than chase early, he figures to bide his time no worse than midpack, and unleash a strong bid into contention on the turn, just at the point where most Derbies are won.
Racing after seven years of retirement, Gary Stevens rode Oxbow to a win in the Preakness, justifying his return