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Terrible 2’s

Feb 11, 2003 8:16 AM

Our trek to track the winner of the Kentucky Derby has officially started.

All the talk is that the curse continues as 2-year old champ Vindication is injured and will not run in the Derby. In a weak moment, I actually thought this might be the year that the champ could follow up his prior success with a Derby win, but not so.

The last 2-year-old champ to win the Derby was Spectacular Bid way back in 1978. Since then, 24 have gone down the tubes, 12 did not run including Vindication, two ran second, two ran third, two ran fifth, two ran eighth and three 10th or worse.

In the 70’s, six horses that won 2-year old Horse of the Year honors went on the win the Kentucky Derby, so what’s up? I don’t think it’s a curse, but a combination of the way the animal is bred today ”” more for speed and less for stamina. Drugs are rampant, with most of these young horses on medication before they even run their first race.

Late bloomers seem to be the way to go, especially when possessing top trainers, who have patience and just don’t rush their horses to the big races. Bob Baffert has been the Derby king of late with the help of a lot of money behind him. Last year, when he didn’t have a contender, he went out and bought one.

Well, the B-man might just do it again this year even without Vindy. He still has several top notch horses led by Kafwain (distance question marks) and top filly Composure, who just won the Las Virgenes Stakes in a rousing performance. After the race Baffert went to Bob and Beverly Lewis and told them this could be your Derby horse.

Composure, by Belmont Stakes winner Touch Gold, would have no problem with the 11/4 mile Derby distance. And believe me Mr. Baffert knows that with Vindication out and question marks concerning Toccet and Sky Mesa, the Derby is wide open. That opens the door for Composure.

As for me, I am totally convinced this is the year that Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel gets off his Kentucky Derby schneid. BF has Empire Maker who just ran second in the Sham Stakes last Friday. After watching the race and discussing his performance with expert Vegas handicapper Mike Furman, we both upgraded his performance as a big step forward.

If Frankel stays to his game plan, Empire Maker will run in the Grade 1 Florida Derby on March 15, head to the Grade 1 Wood Memorial in New York on April 12 and finally to Kentucky. If EM stays on course and wins either of the two stakes he will be my Derby horse.

Frankel has one more bullet in his gun with Peace Rules. This horse is a graded stakes winner on turf and bred to handle the dirt just fine. Keep an open eye on this guy. We will continue to update the latest Derby news.