By Richard Rosenblatt
AP Racing Writer
Slowly but surely, Todd Pletcher’s talented 3-year-olds are beginning to emerge from the pack less than eight weeks before the Kentucky Derby.
The trainer’s latest triumph came in the Tampa Bay Derby, with Destin outdueling stablemate Outwork by one length. The win on Saturday moves the gray colt onto the AP’s latest Run to the Roses Top 10 list of Kentucky Derby contenders at No. 5.
“The way he’s been doing, he could be” a Derby horse, winning rider Javier Castellano said. “He could be destined to win it — who knows?”
Destin’s final prep will be either the Wood Memorial or the Blue Grass on April 9, or the Arkansas Derby on April 16. Pletcher has a second colt in the Top 10 in No. 8 Zulu, runner-up in the Fountain of Youth on March 5.
Unbeatens Nyquist and Mohaymen remain 1-2 as they train toward their showdown in the Florida Derby on April 2.
A shakeup took place beneath the leaders, thanks mostly to the results of the San Felipe on Saturday.
Danzing Candy led just about the entire race under Mike Smith and upset 8-5 favorite Mor Spirit and Exaggerator in winning his stakes debut. The colt trained by Cliff Sise Jr., soars onto the list at No. 3 with his two-length win in stakes and track record time. Next up is the Santa Anita Derby on April 2.
Triple Crown-winning trainer Bob Baffert’s Mor Spirit finished with a rush for second, and dips to No. 4. Third-place finisher Exaggerator falls off the list.
Both are expected to take on Danzing Candy in the Santa Anita Derby.
“Bob usually doesn’t come down (to the winner’s circle) unless it’s for a picture,” Mor Spirit’s jockey Gary Stevens said, “but he came down and had a smile on his face and I said, ‘I think we’re in a real good spot right now,’ and he was pretty happy in defeat.”
The $900,000 Rebel at Oaklawn Park is the lone Derby prep on Saturday, and a huge field is expected. It’s the race that launched American Pharoah’s 3-year-old campaign that resulted in the colt becoming the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years.
Likely heading the field is Suddenbreakingnews, winner of the Southwest Stakes in his last start. The gelding is No. 7 this week. Also expected to be entered on Wednesday are Whitmore, American Dubai, Discreetness, Cutacorner, Creator, Cherry Wine, Siding Spring, Spikes Shirl, Z Royal, Ralis and Cupid. Ralis won the Hopeful last year for Nyquist’s trainer Doug O’Neill. Baffert trains Cupid.
After last weekend’s preps, Mohaymen still leads with 71 Derby qualifying points. Destin moves into second place with Gun Runner at 51, and Danzing Candy and Shagaf are next with 50 points apiece,
The latest Derby future wager odds were set Sunday night, and Mohaymen is now the 7-2 favorite, with the mutuel field at 5-1.
Here’s our Top 10:
1. Nyquist (Doug O’Neill, trainer; Mario Gutierrez, jockey): Unbeaten colt warming up well in Santa Anita for showdown with Mohaymen. … Worked 5 furlongs in 1:01.40 at Santa Anita last week. … Next start: Florida Derby, Gulfstream Park, April 2. … Derby odds (pool 3): 7-1.
2. Mohaymen (Kiaran McLaughlin, Junior Alvarado): Unbeaten Fountain of Youth winner worked 4 furlongs in 49.40 at Palm Beach Downs last week. … Leader in Derby qualifying points with 70. … Next start: Florida Derby. … Odds: 7-2.
3. Danzing Candy (Cliff Sise Jr., Mike Smith): Made quite a stakes debut in winning San Felipe. … Colt has won three in a row after eighth-place finish in first race. … Next start: Santa Anita Derby, Santa Anita, April 9. … Odds: 17-1.
4. Mor Spirit (Bob Baffert, Gary Stevens): Strong finish for second in San Felipe. … Longer races could work to his advantage. … Next start: Santa Anita Derby. … Odds: 12-1.
5. Destin (Todd Pletcher, Javier Castellano): Tampa Bay Derby winner handled first real test without issue. … Gray colt has three wins in five races. … Next start: Undecided. … Odds: 15-1.
6. Shagaf (Chad Brown, Irad Ortiz Jr.): Gotham winner remains in New York for final prep next month. … Has 3-0 record for owner Shadwell Stable, which also owns Mohaymen. … Next start: Wood Memorial, Aqueduct, April 9. … Odds: 14-1.
7. Suddenbreakingnews (Donnie Von Hemel, Luis Quinonez): Southwest winner worked 5 furlongs in 1:00.20 at Oaklawn on Saturday. … Gelding has won two of past three starts. … Next start: Rebel, Oaklawn Park, Saturday. … Odds: 14-1.
8. Zulu (Pletcher, John Velazquez): Fountain of Youth runner-up is one to watch in next race. … Next start: Florida Derby. … Odds: 28-1.
9. Mo Tom (Tom Amoss, Lanerie): Lecomte winner worked 4 furlongs in 48.60 at the Fair Grounds on Sunday. … Ran third in Risen Star despite being bothered in stretch. … Next start: Louisiana Derby, Fair Grounds, March 26. … Odds: 15-1.
10. Gun Runner (Steve Asmussen, Florent Geroux): Risen Star winner worked 5 furlongs in 1:00.60 at the Fair Grounds on Monday. … Has three wins in four starts. … Next start: Louisiana Derby. … Odds: 25-1.
Keep an eye on: Brody’s Cause, Cupid, Exaggerator, Greenpointcrusader, Whitmore.