Different opinions make for a horse race, Mark Twain once pointed out, and this time of year they also make an intriguing Kentucky Derby poll. The ESPN.com Top 10 Derby Contenders makes its debut this week with a blend of sparkle and accomplishment and possibility.
The poll, of course, will track the leading contenders along the various roads that converge on May 4 at Churchill Downs with the $2 million Kentucky Derby. Sitting atop the poll this first week is Verrazano, who has yet to make his stakes debut but who has been nothing less than dazzling in his two races. He has a narrow advantage in the first poll over another lightly raced colt, Flashback, who won the recent Robert Lewis Stakes in California.
Todd Pletcher trains Verrazano, Bob Baffert trains Flashback and those two trainers indeed dominate the first poll. Seven of the top 10 contenders hail from the Pletcher and Baffert barns. But the order can change quickly: Two of the top 10, Violence and Normandy Invasion, race Saturday.
Having won his two races by a total of 24 lengths, he'll make his stakes debut March 9 in the Tampa Bay Derby.
A stakes winner in his second start, he could face his first serious challenge March 9 in the San Felipe at Santa Anita.
He has won consecutive stakes races at Gulfstream Park, but has he peaked too early? He could provide an answer March 30 in the Florida Derby.
Perhaps his performances didn't quite sparkle as some have, but he improved steadily as a 2-year-old, displaying tractable speed, endurance and poise. He'll make his seasonal debut Saturday at Gulfstream Park in the Fountain of Youth.
5. Normandy Invasion
He gave what was arguably the best performance by a 2-year-old in 2012 when he rallied from far back on a speed-friendly surface to finish second by a nose in the Remsen Stakes. He'll also make his seasonal debut Saturday, at Fair Grounds in the Risen Star.
He looked like he was weaving through traffic on 42nd Street when he won the recent Withers in New York. Before traveling to Kentucky, he's to have one more race, probably on March 30, in either the Florida or Louisiana Derby.
7. Shanghai Bobby
The champion juvenile of 2012 lost for the first time when he ran second to Itsmyluckyday in the Holy Bull Stakes. But the champ ran gamely, and he'll return in the Florida Derby.
8. Super Ninety Nine
The handsome chestnut romped in Monday's Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park, and so he's unbeaten in races around two turns.
A winner in three of his four races, he began his march to Kentucky by taking the Sham Stakes, but the road could soon rise with a steep challenge, the San Felipe.
The winner of the Remsen Stakes is aimed at a March 2 return to competition in the Gotham Stakes.
Also receiving votes: Oxbow (17), Uncaptured (17), Orb (10), Mac The Man (6), Delhomme (6), Bradster (5), Palace Malice (5), Tiz the Truth (5), Code West (4), Mylute (4), Power Broker (4), Capo Bastone (2), Titletown Five (2), Vyjack (1), Forty Tales (1), Proud Strike (1).
To see how our experts voted, please click here.