Top 10 Derby prospects

Published 12:37 am Wednesday, February 19, 2003

Sky Mesa is training seriously again, Toccet is on his way back, and several new colts have emerged as serious contenders for the Kentucky Derby.
Over a busy weekend for Derby prospects, Badge of Silver may have been the most impressive.
In winning the Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds by 10 lengths Sunday, the 3-year-old bay colt improved to 3-for-3 with a combined margin of victory of 21 1/2 lengths.
Watch out for Lion Tamer, too. The Todd Pletcher-trained colt took the Hutcheson Stakes at Gulfstream Park on Saturday for his third straight win in four career starts. Indy Dancer, another of Pletcher's Derby contenders, was seventh in the Risen Star and dropped off this week's list.
Sky Mesa drilled at Gulfstream on Tuesday, the unbeaten colt's first workout over a real racetrack since wrenching an ankle just before the Breeders' Cup races in October. He's been working out at Palm Beach Downs training track.
Also, Toccet returned to training last week after being sidelined for several weeks with sore ankles. He last raced Dec. 21, but he's been given a clean bill of health.
Trainer John Scanlan said a 3-furlong workout is planned at Laurel in Baltimore by the end of the weekend.
And then there's Trust N Luck, who won Saturday's Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream, the first Grade 1 race for 3-year-olds.
The prospects:
1. Sky Mesa -- (John Ward, trainer; Edgar Prado, jockey) -- Worked 5 furlongs in handy 1:00.40 under Prado, aboard for first time since colt's last race, a win in the Lane's End Breeders Futurity at Keeneland on Oct. 5 … Ward still noncommittal about 3-year-old debut … Possibilities include Swale Stakes (March 15), or Tampa Bay Derby or Gotham Stakes (both March 16). Derby future wager odds: 12-1.
2. Kafwain -- (Bob Baffert, trainer; Victor Espinoza, jockey) -- Worked 5 furlongs Sunday in 59.60, the best time of 109 morning works at that distance at Santa Anita … Baffert says he's leaning toward entering The Thoroughbred Corp.-owned colt in Louisiana Derby on March 9 … Derby future wager odds: 12-1.
3. Badge of Silver (Ronny Werner, trainer; Robby Albarado, jockey): Pulled away in stretch for big win in 1 1-16-mile Risen Star for third straight victory … Jumps into prospects list for first time … Next start, Louisiana Derby … Derby future wager odds: 11-1.
4. Lion Tamer (Todd Pletcher, trainer; John Velazquez, jockey): Winner of three in a row after a second to Zavata in first career start … Pulled away in final eighth to take 7-furlong Hutcheson by six lengths … Seems to be getting stronger … Among next race possibilities are Louisiana Derby, Florida Derby (March 15), Gotham Stakes … Derby future wager odds: 20-1.
5. Toccet (John Scanlan, trainer; Jorge Chavez, jockey) -- Returned to training last week … Scanlan hopes to have colt ready for Private Terms at Laurel (March 29) … Started eight times as 2-year-old, with six wins, including two Grade 1s: Champagne and Hollywood Futurity … Only knock is inactivity -- he last raced Dec. 21 … Derby future wager odds: 12-1.
6. Ministers Wild Cat (Neil Drysdale, trainer; Kent Desormeaux, jockey) -- Won Golden State Mile on Feb. 9 for second win in two career starts … Next start uncertain … Derby future wager odds: 25-1.
7. Empire Maker (Bobby Frankel, trainer; Jerry Bailey, jockey) -- Drilled 5 furlongs in 1:00.80 at Santa Anita on Wednesday, his first work since finishing second to Man Among Men in Sham Stakes on Feb. 7 … Next start, Florida Derby … Derby future wager odds: 13-1.
8. Domestic Dispute -- (Baffert, trainer; David Flores, jockey) -- Breezed 5 furlongs in 1:01 at Santa Anita on Monday … Won Santa Catalina on Jan. 18 in 3-year-old debut … Next start, San Felipe on March 16 … Derby future wager odds: 20-1.
9. Trust N Luck (Ralph Ziadie, trainer; Cornelio Velasquez, jockey) -- Gate-to-wire winner in Fountain of Youth in 3-year-old debut … Loves the lead, pulled away by 5 1/4 lengths for fifth win in nine starts … Ziadie looking at first Derby trip … Next start, Florida Derby … Derby future wager odds: 19-1.
10. Region of Merit (Christophe Clement, trainer; Eibar Coa, jockey) -- Owned by once-dominant Calumet Farm, which produced eight Derby winners but none since Forward Pass in 1968 … Won going away in allowance over 1 mile, 70 yards Saturday at Gulfstream … Winner in three of four starts … Next start uncertain … Derby future wager odds: 2-1 (mutuel field).
Others to keep in mind: Composure, Man Among Men, Midway Cat.