Don't discount Haynesfield in Derby prognostications.
Run a quick check of most Kentucky Derby rankings this week and you're likely to find Old Fashioned or Pioneerof the Nile atop most of those lists.
Well, last time I checked many of the Derby prognosticators didn't even list the son of Speightstown among their top 10.
They may be dismissing him because he's a New York-bred, and only one New York-bred - Funny Cide in 2003 - has ever won the Kentucky Derby.
Haynesfield also is the son of an Eclipse Award-winning sprinter, and there are major concerns whether he can successfully negotiate the Derby distance of 11/4 miles on May 2.
And he's yet to prove his class, winning three ungraded stakes races - the Damon Runyon, Count Fleet and Whirlaway - over Aqueduct's inner track while racing against suspect competition.
But Haynesfield remains No. 1 in the second installment of our Kentucky Derby rankings because he's winning each of his races by daylight, and he has every right to improve.
Counting his maiden victory at Belmont Park on Sept. 25, he's won four consecutive races by a combined margin of 191/2 lengths.
Purchased for only $20,000 at Keeneland last April, he'll be truly tested for the first time March 7 when he steps up in class and runs in the $250,000 GradeIII Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct against, among others, the Jeff Mullins-trained I Want Revenge.
Until then, even those at the Steve Asmussen barn admit they don't really know what they've got.
"I think he's pretty nice; I don't know exactly how good he is," Asmussen assistant Toby Sheets told the Daily Racing Form. "We haven't run against anything major yet."
If he runs well in the Gotham, he'll likely race in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 4. If he continues to impress and remains sound, he'll then head to Churchill Downs and try to prove most of the experts wrong.
1. Haynesfield: Ramon Dominguez has ridden the colt in each of his three Aqueduct wins and was impressed by his 61/4-length victory in the $100,000 Whirlaway on Feb. 7.
"He doesn't need to be in front, he's very versatile," Dominguez said. "He's a very talented horse. Once he felt the others coming on, he went on. I didn't know how much pressure they were going to put on him. But he's got a lot of stamina. I think he's up to the test (of facing tougher horses)."
Dominguez also rides our No. 2 Derby pick, Old Fashioned, but he didn't want to compare the two colts.
"I'm just very excited and fortunate to be able to be on both of them at this point," he said.
2. Old Fashioned: The son of Unbridled's Song was the No. 2 colt in our inaugural Derby rankings on Jan.16, and his 2009 debut did nothing to diminish his stock.
Trained by Larry Jones, Old Fashioned routed the field in the $250,000 GradeIII Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park by 31/4 lengths on Feb. 16 to remain unbeaten in four starts.
He's scheduled to go in the $300,000 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn on March 14, most likely setting up a run in the $1 million Arkansas Derby on April 11 before it's on to Louisville.
3. Pioneerof the Nile: Trainer Bob Baffert has not had a Derby starter since 2006, when he saddled three horses - Point Determined (ninth), Sinister Minister (16th) and Bob and John (17th).
The three-time Derby winner thinks this is the year he returns with a viable contender.
Pioneerof the Nile's sophomore debut in the $200,000 Robert B. Lewis Stakes produced a half-length victory and a swift clocking of 1:41.90 for the 1 1/16 miles over Santa Anita's synthetic Pro-Ride surface.
He's never raced on dirt in six tries, but Baffert doesn't foresee a problem.
"I think he's going to like it, the way he moves over it and the way he ran at Hollywood (Park)," Baffert said. "That's more of a dirt course anyway. A really good horse can run on both."
4. Dunkirk: No horse has won the Derby without racing at 2 since Apollo in 1882. This son of Unbridled's Song, a $3.7 million purchase at the 2007 Keeneland sale, just might be talented enough to end that drought.
Dunkirk has raced only twice, winning a maiden special weight at Gulfstream Park by 53/4 lengths on Jan.24 and then coming back to score by 43/4 lengths against a strong allowance group on Feb. 19 after racing extremely wide into the first turn of the 11/8-mile race. He earned a solid 98 Beyer speed figure in the latter effort.
Next up? Trainer Todd Pletcher says the colt most likely will run in the $750,000 Florida Derby on March 28.
5. Papa Clem: The Smart Strike colt ran too well to lose in the Robert B. Lewis, leading most of the way down the stretch until Pioneerof the Nile's powerful closing kick proved too much.
Trained by Gary Stute, Papa Clem will attempt to remain on the Derby trail when he races in the $600,000 Louisiana Derby at the Fair Grounds on March14. If all goes well, that would set him up for a start at Churchill Downs seven weeks later.
OUT OF THE GATE
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Feb 27, 2009|
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