by Nich Hahn

Nick’s picks for the top ten three year old horses in North America with at least one start on the turf in 2013. With the Virginia Derby now in the books, we look forward to the $400,000 Secretariat Stakes at Arlington Park, headed toward an older horse showdown in the Breeder’s Cup Turf. Last weekend jumbled the standings as the $500,000 Virginia Derby (G2), $200,000 American Derby (G3), $100,000 Solar Splendor, and two divisions of the $100,000 Oceanport were contested in the same week. By the way, how is the Virginia Derby not a Grade 1?

  1. WAR DANCER – In a year that lacks a standout, McPeek’s War Front colt was previously just on the radar at #10 on the last Turf Ten. War Dancer faced some tough foes through the ranks and finally broke through in the Virginia Derby. This should be not surprise. He’s a credible Virginia Derby winner. His options now? Plenty.
  2. CHARMING KITTEN –Joel Rosario gave him a solid trip in the Virginia Derby and if not on the rail, might have prevailed. In March, he won the Kitten’s Joy at Gulfstream, named after his sire, and appears to be headed to the Secretariat Stakes at Arlington next. He was actually rolling past War Dancer after the wire…
  3. JACK MILTON – …but Jack Milton rolled past Charming Kitten after the wire. It could be the Transylvania Stakes winner’s turn next when this group gets back together in the Secretariat. This Pletcher player may be a real contender for the mile-and-a-half Breeders’ Cup Turf.
  4. UP WITH THE BIRDS – Not sure of the next start for the runner up in the Queen’s Plate but it could be back at Woodbine in the $500,000 Breeders’ Stakes. Only Javier Castellano’s nifty ride aboard Noble Tune kept this Canadian-bred from winning the Transylvania.
  5. RYDILLUC – Trainer Gary Contessa’s Medaglia d’Oro colt deserves a “line-through” race in the Virginia Derby after the soft going. No word on where Rydilluc may make his next start. Rydilluc has won at a mile-and-an-eighth prior winning the Penn Mile. The Virginia Derby mile-and-a-quarter distance was a question before he came to New Kent and with the soft turf conditions at Colonial last week, it still is.
  6. ADMIRAL KITTEN – This is one hard luck colt for Ken Ramsey, now with four consecutive 2nds, two to Infinite Magic — by a head and by a nose — most recently in the G3 American Derby. Only one career win on the turf for Michael Maker’s pupil, but he’s been running well in tough company. One day soon, it is all going to come together.
  7. NOTACATBUTALLAMA – Pletcher with yet another emerging three-year old on the turf who separated himself from well-regarded Noble Tune and North Slope in the $100,000 Solar Splendor at Belmont. Mike Repole wins the best name award in this edition of the Turf Ten for his Hill Prince winner, named after an incident that occurred in a word game he was playing.
  8. FREE WORLD – How far behind can the last cost to beat #1 War Dancer be? His frontrunning two-length score as the favorite in the $200,000 Centaur Stakes at Indiana Downs was his fourth consecutive win. Can Tom Amoss’ colt go farther than a mile?
  9. INFINITE MAGIC – It’s fair to say he’s proven over #6 Admiral Kitten, but is he proven over anyone else? It appears trainer Richard Mettee should find the highest, driest piece of turf around and keep his More Than Ready colt on it. Two of Team Valor’s wins with this colt were in England.
  10. RISING LEGEND – The three year old turf horses in California have been tangling with each other all spring and summer, but an emerging group is starting to rise on the west coast. The edge goes Rising Legend despite Gervinho’s faster clocking at Del Mar on the same day and a charging run by Gabriel Charles in the same division of the Oceanport.

And in this bonus video, Ken Ramsey — who checks in with the second and sixth-ranked horses in this edition of the Turf Ten — meets trainer Gennadi Dorochenko for the first time.  Bet you never thought you’d read that sentence.