Commentary

Ranking the Derby contenders

Updated: November 26, 2012, 12:19 PM ET
By Bill Finley | Special to ESPN.com

Picking the Derby 5 1/2 minutes before post time is often an exercise in futility, so trying to figure out the outcome 5 1/2 months out is sheer insanity. Nonetheless, here goes:

1. Normandy Invasion: Chad Brown is more than the flavor of the month. He has emerged this year as one of the sport's most talented trainers. The one thing he has yet to do is campaign a serious Kentucky Derby contender, but that should change next year thanks to Normandy Invasion. In the Remsen, a race that is a great barometer for future success because it is at a mile-and-an-eighth around two turns, the son of Tapit sat next to last behind a slow pace before unleashing an eye-catching move that just fell short. He didn't seem to want to go by winner Overanalyze in deep stretch, which may be due to immaturity, which can be corrected.

2. He's Had Enough: The team of Doug O'Neill, J. Paul Reddam and Mario Guiterriez will try to do it again after the 2012 win with I'll Have Another. Another Tapit colt, he showed very little coming into the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, where he ran a winning race. He had all sorts of traffic problems in the Juvenile, where he was second behind Shanghai Bobby. Has the breeding and the connections to excel next year.

3. Bern Identity: Another who may have lost a big race because of a troubled trip. Was the favorite in the $1 million Delta Jackpot but had to settle for second behind Goldencents. He was bottled up with nowhere to go most of the way down the backstretch, was fanned seven wide on the turn and came with a huge late rally that just fell short.

4. Shanghai Bobby: He's No. 1 this year, but what will he be in 2013? A horse that broke his maiden at 4 1/2 furlongs in April, is he a very precocious horse that the others will catch up to? Or is he just better than everyone else … period? Could be the next Favorite Trick. Could be better than that? We'll see.

5. Power Broker: You know Bob Baffert is going to be a major player on the road to the Kentucky Derby and in the Derby itself. Last week, he sent out the first four finishers in the Hollywood Prevue and will bring a similarly strong hand into the Hollywood Futurity. His best colt, though, may be Power Broker. Like all of Baffert's horses, he simply didn't show up in the Breeders' Cup. But there's every reason to believe he'll run back to his explosive win in the Grade 1 Frontrunner.

6. Overanalyze: He seems to run well every other race and when he shows up he's good. After a stinker in the Iroquois at Churchill he came back to win the Remsen in a gutsy effort. That he didn't run well at Churchill has to be a concern.

7. Goldencents: Doug O'Neill … Delta Jackpot win … second in the Champagne … what's not to like?

8. Beholder: Trainer Richard Mandella is old school and not likely to take chances, which means Beholder is likely Oaks, and not Derby, bound. But she's a serious race horse and arguably the best 2-year-old (of either sex) in the country.

9. Uncaptured: The winner of Saturday's Kentucky Jockey Club, he is 2-for-2 on the dirt and 2-for-2 at Churchill. Was exceptionally game in the Kentucky Jockey Club, battling back to beat Frac Daddy after that one headed him in the lane.

10. Frac Daddy: Almost as good as Uncaptured. In the Ken McPeek barn, he's in good hands.

11. Little Distorted: Has run only once, and at that in a six-furlong maiden. But he won in 1:09 3/5 and earned a 101 Beyer figure. That's the second best number for any 2-year-old this year behind only Beholder.

12. Gulfport: A $775,000 yearling purchase, the son of Unbridled's Song-Dream Supreme has come to life after showing little in his first three starts. He broke his maiden by 7 1/4 lengths and then won an allowance Saturday at Churchill for sharp trainer Dale Romans.

Bill Finley is an award-winning racing writer whose work has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today and Sports Illustrated. Contact him at wnfinley@aol.com.

• Bill Finley is an award-winning horse racing writer whose work has also appeared in The New York Times, USA Today and Sports Illustrated.
• To contact Bill, email him at wnfinley@aol.com