With less than three months to go, horses are starting to shape up to see who will run in the 141st Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 2. Contenders this year will include Dortmund, American Pharoah and Upstart. Could one of these 3-year-olds finally break the 37-year drought of a Triple Crown? California Chrome was close but didn’t have enough to beat Tonalist in the mile-and-a-half Belmont Stakes in New York. The chase to the Triple Crown begins now.

 

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1. Dortmund (trained by Bob Baffert) Shah,Kaleem

Son of the 2008 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Champion, Dortmund is our early top choice for the 141st run for the roses. He is unbeaten in his four starts, including two graded stakes that he won by a nose. His performance in the Robert B. Lewis at Santa Anita on Feb. 7 is something you don’t see in a 3-year-old. He was passed up late by another Derby hopeful, Firing Line, then rallied to earn 10 points toward the Derby. Not only has the chestnut colt performed maturely but also looks like a beast. His muscle definition is outrageous for youngster. Next race is San Felipe or Santa Anita Derby.

2. Upstart (trained by Rick Violette Jr.) silk-comingsoon_101

With two months to until he’s a 3-year-old, Upstart is our second choice of Derby futures after dominating the Holy Bull Stakes on Jan. 24 at Gulfstream Park. Trained by Richard A. Violette Jr., the 2-year-old has three graded stakes races, finishing all in the top three. He seems to get better as the distance increases. Next race is Fountain of Youth.

3. Firing Line (trained by Simon Callaghan)zetcher_contender

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It could be a matter of time until Firing Line finally beats Dortmund. His racing experience is getting better with the help of Dortmund. In his past two races, he’s lost by a nose to the top-ranked Derby prospect. This horse knows how to compete, grind and not give up. It may be time to give him some competition other than Dortmund before the Kentucky Derby. Trainer Simon Callaghan could aim for the Sunland Derby in New Mexico, which is worth 50 points. If he does run the Sunland Derby, he needs to finish at least second to lock up a spot for the Kentucky Derby.

4. American Pharoah (trained by Bob Baffert) zayat_sm

According to Bovada and many gambling sites, American Pharoah is the favorite at 10-1 to win the Derby. However, CBSLA ranks the 2014 Eclipse Award winner at No. 4 because he has yet to race after a slight foot injury he sustained just before the Breeders Cup. Yes, he’s dominated both his grade 1 races but still needs to prove he can run fast after a long layover. “I’ve watched this horse, and it’s like a 4-year-old against 2-year-olds,” said Gary Stevens, the Hall of Fame jockey to the Daily news. “Or maybe it’s like a pro basketball player against high school kids. He has beautiful action but also the intelligence to go with that athleticism.” Remember, Shared Belief missed the Kentucky Derby last year due to foot problems. The last thing Bob Baffert wants is to have his best 3-year-old miss the Derby after missing the Juvenile Breeders Cup. It is likely Baffert will enter American Pharoah in San Felipe Stakes on March 7.

 

5. Mr. Z (trained by D. Wayne Lukas) zayat_sm

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If Mr. Z could get it together, he could be the sleeper of the race. With 12 points, he doesn’t need much to qualify for the Derby. What he does need is some maturity. In his last race, he looked like a wild horse the way he finished the race. It seemed he was going to blow out the field in the Smarty Jones Stakes, but instead he went way right and finished third. If there’s one trainer who could get him ready for the Derby in short time, it’s Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas. “That’s about as good as I can get him,” Lukas said. “It was a pretty work, really pretty — without incident, straight as a string. Everything’s good.” He has a lot of potential. He gave both Dortmund and Firing Line a run for their money in the Los Alamitos Futurity grade 1 race on Dec 20. At 45/1, laying down $20 wouldn’t be a bad bet. If he wins the Southwest with Corey Nakatani, Mr. Z could book his ticket to Louisville.