Forbidden Kingdom and jockey Juan Hernandez win the Grade II, $400,000 San Felipe Stakes, Saturday, March 5, 2022 at Santa Anita Park, Arcadia CA.
© BENOIT PHOTO

by Danny Brewer

Now that it is mid-March it is absolutely time to unfurl the Kentucky Derby flag. Thoughts of spring for the normal sports fan usually encompasses the world’s most famous race. When did  this hillbilly turf writer begin contemplating Derby 148?… The day after Derby 147 !

Let’s take a look at who we view are the top ten three-year-old runners in the fast lane on the road to the first Saturday in May.

1. Forbidden Kingdom- Richard Mandella trained, he’s two for two as a three-year-old. His last start was a jaw-dropping gate-to-wire romp in the San Felipe that would make his pappy (American Pharoah) proud.

2. Simplification-This Florida-bred son of Not This Time has been very impressive with two wins and a second this year. His Fountain of Youth win was an adversity-overcoming run that saw him take command at the top of the stretch and win easily by 3 ½ lengths.

3. Epicenter- This Steve Asmussen trainee was just nipped at the wire in the Lecomte but rebounded with a stellar effort in Risen Star Stakes win. This son of Not This Time has won three of five career starts.

4. Secret Oath- A daughter of Arrogate…wait a minute…we said…DAUGHTER. Yes, this D Wayne Lukas trainee has been so impressive in her two stakes wins the Coach has decided to run her in the Arkansas Derby with eyes on the first Saturday in May. The last filly to win the Kentucky Derby was Winning Colors…trained by D Wayne Lukas.

5. Classic Causeway- Back-to-back wins in Tampa were nice displays of his front-running prowess. Trained by Brian Lynch, this son of Giants Causeway has three wins a second and a third in five career starts.

6. White Abarrio-A handsome son of the aptly named Race Day, this Saffie Joseph trained Kentucky-bred strutted his stuff in Holy Bull Stakes win. Three wins in four career starts and a third place means he has always been right there.

7. Mo Donegal-Todd Pletcher trained son of Uncle Mo had to miss his last start because of a fever. Closed smartly last out in third place finish in the Holy Bull Stakes. Won the Remsen Stakes at Belmont to close his two-year old season.

8. Smile Happy-Trained by Kenny McPeek, this impressive son of Runhappy has two wins and a second in three career starts. A fast closing second in the Risen Star Stakes, his win in the Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill last November got folks excited about his future.

9. Morello- Unbeaten son of Classic Empire looked great in Gotham Stakes win. All three career wins have come at Aqueduct in New York. Trained by Steve Asmussen, the Wood Memorial is the likely next start.

10. Call Me Midnight- Huge late kick allowed him to just get up at the wire in Lecomte Stakes win at the Fair Grounds in late January. Seven career starts means this son of Midnight Lute has some seasoning. Trained by Keith Desormeaux, the Louisiana Derby is on the radar.