by Nick Hahn
It’s that time of year, time for the first Turf 10 of 2014 — Nick’s picks for the top ten three year old horses with at least one North American start on the turf in 2014.
In previous years, the roster of the leading three year-old turf runners and the list of probables for the Virginia Derby have been one and the same. However, with the summer meet at Colonial Downs, along with its Virginia Derby, at least in question, and with the introduction of the $1.25 million Belmont Derby in New York this July, the arena for the top turf three year old performers changes, providing more options for a division whose universe was once anchored in central Virginia.
- GALA AWARD – Traditionally, the Palm Beach winner has claimed this top spot early in the three year old turf season. Although lightly raced, the performance of this son of Bernardini this spring pleases many, including Pletcher.
- MR. SPEAKER – The dirt transition in the Holy Bull really didn’t pan out but the Dania Beach winner on turf recovered well in the Palm Beach as the runner up. Nominated for the Bluegrass, is there another transition in the future?
- ENTERPRISING – Gary Stevens has two stakes wins aboard the first West Coast colt represented in the Turf Ten. Tom Proctor’s colt appears to have the capability to go more than a mile, something he’ll would likely have to do for larger Eastern purse money.
- BOBBY’S KITTEN – One of the better North American performers on the juvenile turf last year storms on the scene with a debut 2014 allowance win at Tampa Bay Downs earlier this month. Last fall Ken Ramsey’s Kitten finished 3rd in the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile Turf.
- STORMING INTI – For whatever reason, frontrunners have been doing better on the turf in recent years. It may be harsh to evaluate the Transylvania pulled off the turf but Keeneland’s synthetic has transferred to the turf well for many others over the years. If this Pennsylvania-bred ran today versus the top two, I’m not sure the result would be different than his show effort in the Palm Beach, especially at over a mile.
- RING WEEKEND – The turf option always seems to be available for trainer Graham Motion’s horses, including the Tampa Bay Derby winner that has a January turf near miss at Gulfstream. A turf start may not be this Tapit gelding’s immediate future, but may be more attractive this summer.
- DIVINE OATH – Pletcher’s colt has perfection at 7 & ½ furlongs in two Gulstream starts including a win over Ring Weekend. With his last start in late February, eyes are watching for his next start.
- WE MISS ARTIE – In his many starts, the turf and synthetic outings seem to stand out for Ramsey’s Spiral Winner stakes winner who was 2nd in Kitten’s Joy. Who did Ramsey’s super stud, Kitten’s Joy, beat in the 2004 Virginia Derby? Artie Schiller.
- MEDAL COUNT – What a nice bounce back in the Transylvania over Keeneland’s synthetic after a dismal Fountain of Youth outing. With the horse’s two wins on the turf and a graded stakes win on synthetic, Dale Romans has a contender in his barn.
- QUOTIENT – Only nosed out by Enterprising in the Pasadena Stakes at Santa Anita, a little more distance could have changed that result for trainer John Sadler. As a May foal, this Stormy Atlantic gelding may have a little catching up to do developmentally, just a little.
(Featured image, of last summer’s Virginia Derby, by Laurie Asseo.)