Since today is Kentucky Oaks day, answer this: Which Kentucky Oaks winner became the first female Thoroughbred to top US$1 million in earnings while racing exclusively in North America?
It's hard to separate the top half-dozen entrants or so in this year's Derby. American Pharaoh may be something very special, but if he isn't, he will be vulnerable in a pace scenario likely to see half the field scrambling for choice stalking positions near the lead. Dortmund is unbeaten, versatile and has shown a great will to win but is a big, long-striding colt who may have trouble maneuvering out of a traffic jam even though he seems unusually handy and athletic for his size. It's hard to get a handle on Upstart and Materiality because of the weird way the Gulfstream surface was playing this year, and Materiality is awfully green for a race that can easily become sheer bedlam. Carpe Diem has talent but has also had spells of fractiousness outside the safety of his barn and may become unglued in the saddling enclosure or the post parade, Mubtaahij is this year's X-factor; if he's as good as he looked blowing apart the UAE Derby field, he'll be hard to stop, but is he that good or was his competition that indifferent?
Finally, there's Frosted. I don't know that he's the best horse in this field on raw talent, but he may have the best combination of traits for the cross between a rodeo and a three-ring circus that the Derby often throws at its contenders. He doesn't seem to have any particular vulnerabilities or need a pace scenario to go his way. He can stalk or come from off the pace, and he doesn't need a fast pace up front to close ground. He's sensible, and if his physical problems are indeed out of the way, he may be peaking at just the right time for the toughest test of his young career. So will it be his day? I don't know, but I'm putting him at the top of my list.
A safe trip to all the Derby contenders and their jockeys.
I'm Avalyn Hunter, an author, pedigree researcher and longtime racing fan with a particular interest in Thoroughbred mares and their contributions to the history of the breed.