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TRIPLE CROWN RATINGS

Chaos Muddies Kentucky Derby Chase

March 22, 2004|Paul Moran | Newsday

Trainer Nick Zito's expression of disbelief as he faced television cameras moments after having watched Birdstone flounder in the mud at Turfway Park as the odds-on favorite in Saturday's Lane's End captured the chaos into which the chase toward Churchill Downs has lapsed. Zito's incredulity is widely shared.

The pile of dented armor grows and the emerging possibilities previously unforeseen multiply with each weekend. Thirty different horses have won 38 stakes races for 3-year-olds run since Jan. 1.

In fact, the horses that did well in this week's edition of the Triple Crown Ratings were those that didn't run. Only two horses received top 10 votes from all five panelists -- Eurosilver, rated first, and Florida Derby winner Friends Lake, third.

Smarty Jones, winner of the Rebel at Oaklawn Park on Saturday, has risen to the occasion in all three of his races but is only now being considered a serious prospect. He remains unranked.

Eddington, an imposing physical specimen whose talent was sufficient to overcome his erratic immaturity in two impressive wins in Florida, failed to overcome the additional complication of a disastrous start in the Gotham at Aqueduct and joined a growing list of potential stars who have raised more questions than they have answered. As Eddington faltered, Gotham winner Saratoga County moved into the densely populated frame.

The coming weekend's ebb in the schedule of Derby preps is an almost welcome respite for those in regroup mode with only the most recent addition to the expansive menu of alternatives for Triple Crown prospects on the schedule.

The first Winstar Derby failed to produce a Kentucky Derby starter, but a $500,000 purse and a list of high-profile nominees bode well for the future of the race, to be run Sunday at Sunland Park, in Arizona, with none of the high-profile nominees in attendance. West Coast stables with 3-year-olds not quite ready for prime time or testing apparent distance limitations will run.

Trainer Bob Baffert is expected to send Consecrate and Teton Forest to Sunland as he prepares the more accomplished Louisiana Derby winner, Wimbledon, for the Santa Anita Derby and San Felipe Stakes winner Preachinatthebar for the Blue Grass Stakes.

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Triple Crown Ratings

Tribune Co. ratings for 3-year-olds leading up to the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes:

*--* Horse Train Jockey St W P S Last Race Next Race er 1. Nick Javier 4 3 1 0 Swale Stakes Bluegrass Eurosilver Zito Castell (2nd) Stakes ano 2. Wimbledon Bob Javier 6 2 3 0 Louisana Santa Anita Baffe Santiag Derby (1st) Derby rt o 3. Friends John Richard 5 3 0 1 Florida Derby Kentucky Lake Kimme Miglior (1st) Derby l e 4. The Nick Shane 7 3 2 1 Florida Derby Arkansas Cliff's Zito Sellers (3rd) Derby Edge 5. St Averil Rafae Tyler 4 2 2 0 San Felipe Santa Anita l Baze (2nd) Derby Becer ra 6. Master Bobby Edgar 6 2 3 1 Sham Stakes Wood Memorial David Frank Prado (1st) el 7. Eddington Mark Edgar 5 2 2 1 Gotham Stakes Wood Memorial Henni Prado (3rd) g 8. Read the Rick Jerry 6 5 0 0 Florida Derby Wood or Footnotes Viole Bailey (4th) Kentucky tte Derby 9. Krist Victor 14 5 3 1 San Rafael Santa Anita Imperialism in Espinoz Stakes (1st) Derby Mulha a ll 10. Todd Pat Day 8 5 0 2 Tampa Bay Bluegrass Limehouse Pletc Derby (1st) Stakes her

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Triple Crown panel: Bill Christine, Los Angeles Times; Dave Joseph, South Florida Sun-Sentinel; Tom Keyser, Baltimore Sun; Neil Milbert, Chicago Tribune; and Paul Moran, Newsday.

Paul Moran covers horse racing for Newsday, a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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