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Greatest Honour tops list of Kentucky Derby hopefuls

Updated March 26, 2021 - 1:00 pm

With only five weeks remaining until the Kentucky Derby, it’s past time we took part in the annual rite of contender list-making.

I’m actually glad I waited as long as I did. The entire Derby picture was upended last weekend when the undefeated Bob Baffert-trained Life Is Good suffered what appears to be a minor injury to a hind leg. That’s the good news, but the colt is off the Derby trail and is now expected to be aimed for the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Many handicappers had the brilliant son of Into Mischief atop their list after his runaway victory in the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita.

In his absence, my list is topped by Greatest Honour, who is likely to be the odds-on favorite in Saturday’s Florida Derby, a 1⅛-mile Grade 1 test for sophomores at Gulfstream Park.

The Shug McGaughey-trained son of Tapit has improved steadily over his six-race career, which includes victories in the Grade 3 Holy Bull Stakes and the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream in his last two starts. He has a beautiful long stride when he gets rolling in the stretch, suggesting the 1¼-mile distance of the Kentucky Derby will be right up his alley.

I think he’ll be very tough to beat in the Florida Derby, which will be televised on NBCSN beginning at 3 p.m. PT. But if you want to take a shot, I recommend Known Agenda.

His race in the Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs in his 3-year-old debut was poor. He got away slowly, seemed uninterested in the proceedings in the middle stages and then rallied stoutly to finish 5th, just over 4 lengths behind winner Candy Man Rocket. But trainer Todd Pletcher then brought him to Gulfstream and restored some confidence with an impressive victory in a $75,000 allowance/optional claiming race.

It’s interesting to note that Known Agenda beat Greatest Honour at 1⅛th of a mile in their first meeting at Aqueduct in November, when Greatest Honour held an experience edge.

Dubai World Cup

Since when is a $12 million race an afterthought?

As of this year, apparently, as Saturday’s Dubai World Cup has attracted a relatively unheralded group of four U.S.-based runners to contest what is now the world’s second richest race following the debut last year of the $20 million Saudi Cup.

They are (fanfare please) Mystic Guide, a 4-year-old winner of the Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga and the Razorback Stakes at Oaklawn Park, both Grade 3s; Jesus’ Team, who was won just three of his 14 starts but finished second in his past two vs. Grade 1 competition in the Pegasus World Cup Invitational and the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile; Sleepy Eyes Todd, fourth in the Pegasus World Cup Invitational and fifth in the Saudi Cup; and Title Ready, winner of five of 25 starts for trainer Dallas Stewart, who is coming off his first graded stakes victory in the Grade 3 Louisiana Stakes at the Fair Grounds in his last start.

Historically, bettors have been wise to focus on U.S.-based runners in the World Cup. They have taken down exactly half of the previous 24 runnings, but this group doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence.

I’ll bet lightly on what I consider the top two U.S.-based horses — Mystic Guide and Jesus’ Team — in trifectas, with a couple horses from those other compass points — Magny Cours, making his first start on dirt for the brilliant French trainer Andres Fabre; Military Law, who chased a very hot pace in the Saudi Cup before wilting to sixth; and Thegreatcollection, a 7-year-old Florida-bred who ran on late to finish second in two rounds of the Maktoum Challenge.

You’ll have to rise early if you want to watch the earlier races on the card, which will be shown beginning at 5 a.m. PT from Meydan on FS1 and FS2 as well as TVG.

Mike Brunker’s horse racing column appears Fridays. He can be reached at mbrunker@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4656. Follow @mike_brunker on Twitter.