What are my colleagues here at ESPN.com's horse racing section thinking? In our latest Top 10 Kentucky Derby poll American Pharoah, maybe the best 3-year-old that has come around in years, is tied for No. 1 with Dortmund. At least we have him tied for the top spot. In the NTRA poll he is No. 2 behind Dortmund. In the Louisville Courier-Journal poll he's third.
Did other voters see something in last Saturday's Rebel at Oaklawn Park that I didn't because what I saw was a scintillating performance from arguably one of the most brilliant 3 year olds to come along in a long time. Not that what he did should have come as any sort of surprise.
It was clear last year that American Pharoah was far more than just another good 2-year-old. After a disappointing debut in a maiden race when wearing blinkers, the blinkers came off and he promptly won the Del Mar Futurity and then the Front Runner, both Grade 1 races. His triumphs amounted to just two races last year as he was hurt prior to the Breeders' Cup, but he had been so impressive that he was voted 2-year-old champion over Breeders' Cup winner Texas Red.
Trainer Bob Baffert waited until the Rebel to bring his horse back to the races this year and had him primed. Though the list of opponents was not the strongest around, he destroyed the field. He won by 6-1/4 and it looked like he was out for a morning jog. Never pushed by jockey Victor Espinoza, he earned a 100 Beyer figure. He did all this despite losing a shoe.
For several voters, it was not enough to surpass Dortmund in their rankings. Also trained by Baffert, Dortmund is a very good horse, which you have to be to go 5 for 5 and win three stakes. American Pharoah is a brilliant horse. Dortmund is a grinder. He's tough and game and somehow he always has his nose in front at the wire, but nothing he does takes your breath away. I'd be shocked if he proves to be the better of the two Baffert-trained stars.
None of this means that American Pharaoh is a cinch to win the Kentucky Derby. An awful lot can go wrong between now and May 2 and in the race itself. But right now he's clearly the best 3-year-old, whether voters realize it or not.
This and That: By the way, how is it that owner Ahmed Zayat doesn't know how to spell "Pharaoh?" The inappropriately named horse Hay Oats And Water raced first-time Lasix Sunday at Gulfstream. With the Lasix, he bled and finished last That's not a mistake in the entries for Parx on Saturday. Only three jockeys are listed to ride on the entire card, all of them having one mount each. They are Ronald Hisby, Christian Olmo and Noberto Pagan. For all other horses on the card no rider has been named. The jockeys are refusing to ride over a dispute concerning insurance. To win, they'll have to stick together. If enough jockeys show up to ride, no matter how inept or inexperienced they may be, Parx will have no incentive to give the jockeys the coverage they are seeking Honor Code is going to have a huge year.
Glad to see that Woodbine, unlike other tracks, is sticking with a synthetic surface. Track officials announced last week that they are taking out the Polytrack track but are replacing it with Tapeta, which is also a synthetic track. Synthetic surface critics conveniently ignore the fact that these tracks are far safer than dirt tracks and have likely saved the lives of hundreds of horses who might have otherwise broken down.
It's great to see the Stronach team, led by Tim Ritvo, working so hard to revitalize Maryland racing. They announced earlier this week they would be investing $7 million to improve the facility at Laurel. Let's hope they pull off in the Mid-Atlantic the same sort of merger they did in Florida when taking over the Calder dates and rebranding that track Gulfstream Park West. It makes all the sense in the world for them to take over the racing operations at Delaware Park (Pimlico South?) and create a Pimlico-Delaware-Laurel circuit.