By Gary West for JockeyTalk360

Bob Baffert nailed it.

“There are a lot of good horses out there,” Baffert said about the 3-year-olds that, with varying degrees of commitment, might be on the long road that leads to the Triple Crown. “But there’s not one that really stands out.”

No, there isn’t. Having just seen one that stood out like a sequoia in a grove of crepe myrtles, the sport isn’t likely to tag any of these 3-year-olds with the superstar label just yet. On the other hand, at this point anyway, a trio stands out as most accomplished — Mor Spirit, Nyquist and Mohaymen. But even they have something to prove.

Because even the division’s leaders have raised as many questions as they’ve answered, because nobody has sparkled or dazzled — except perhaps for Unified, who’s probably too late to the party to think of him in roseate terms — and because everybody seems to be struggling just to find a way there, this would be an ideal year for a foreign invader or a filly to take a swing at the Kentucky Derby. But please don’t suggest the qualifying point system that focuses on the traditional prep races discriminates against fillies: Regret, Genuine Risk and Winning Colors all ran against males before again taking them on again in the Derby. Even trainer Todd Pletcher, who usually has an armada aimed at Kentucky this time of year, seems to be waiting on his best youngsters to assert themselves.

The intention here, however, isn’t to rush headlong in the general direction of the annually leaped upon conclusion that this season’s 3-year-olds are a preternaturally ordinary group. It’s far too early for any conclusion. No, the intention here is to identify 100 of those good horses Baffert referred to.

Mor Spirit sits atop the list in part because he won’t have to take on either Nyquist or Mohaymen before he goes to Kentucky, but also because among the leading trio he looks like the one most likely to appreciate the 1 1/4 miles of the Derby. As a Baffert said, Mor Spirit has some natural speed, but of most importance he keeps running and is capable of delivering a knockout punch. He also keeps improving. At this point, Nyquist, who, of course, was the juvenile champion of 2015, and Mohaymen, who has won both the Holy Bull and Fountain of Youth, are more accomplished. But in a rare pre-Derby showdown of such prominent contenders, Nyquist and Mohaymen are to meet in the Florida Derby — at least it’s rare these days, with so many options available.

The list, of course, is highly subjective. What Mark Twain once wrote about races generally is also true of lists: They result from a difference of opinion. I’ve included some sprinters and turf specialists that almost certainly won’t make their way to the Derby, simply because they could affect the road to Kentucky or because they could develop into prominent players later. I included no foreign horses just because I’m unclear about their intentions. And I’ve tried not to include on the list horses that are injured or not in training, Airoforce being the only exception I know of simply because he could resume training soon, not in time to make the Derby perhaps but in time to influence the trek. If I haven’t included your horse or your favorite, don’t take it personally; just make your own list.

I’ve been making such a list for many years now, usually coming out with it in late January or early February, going back to 1987, winnowing down to 100 a bulky compilation of names and notes that began growing over the summer and into the fall until it took up a few notebooks. I’ve found that making the list clarifies my own thinking on the subject. In all but a few of those years, the Derby winner has been in the top 20. And only once can I recall the Derby winner not being in the top 100. That winner, as you might guess, was Mine That Bird.

Could there be another Mine That Bird lurking? Yes, of course. What’s so exciting about this time of year and this run-up to the Triple Crown is that these rapidly maturing 3-year-olds can take huge leaps forward and improve several lengths from one race to the next. Nobody on this list of 100 has given a performance that will suffice to win the Kentucky Derby. In other words, development is essential to Triple Crown success. And so in putting together such a list, potential becomes more important than accomplishment. The question isn’t who’s best; the essential question is who will be best in May and June.

Of most importance, though, as Nick Zito once pointed out years ago, is hitting the moment just right. A peak effort in March or April won’t win the Derby. No, the Derby winner generally has to rise to his best at precisely the right time. That usually means he’s trained by somebody who knows how to hit the moment squarely on that special afternoon in May.

The Derby represents a unique confluence of circumstances — the size of the field, the charged atmosphere, the frenetic run to the first turn through a tunnel of thunderous chaos. It’s the most turbulent moment in sports, and it can destroy some horses’ composure. But it can also elicit greatness. Nobody knew Alysheba was a great horse until he won the Kentucky Derby. And I’d like to think the Derby itself brought out his greatness.

Could this year’s Derby force some horse to discover the greatness within? Yes, of course. In fact, that’s always the hope and very much part of the dream that all these horses are chasing. And so here are a hundred horses on the road to the Triple Crown:

  1. Mor Spirit

Trainer: Bob Baffert

Sire: Eskendereya

Starts—wins-2nds-3rds: 5—3-2-0

Comment: Mor Spirit won the Bob Lewis Stakes with a powerful rally and looks like he’ll continue to improve as the distances stretch out. He has tactical speed and a long, relentless stride. He, of course, also has Hall of Fame connections, with jockey Gary Stevens and trainer Bob Baffert. Mor Spirit worked five-eighths of a mile in 59.40 seconds Sunday and is aimed at the San Felipe on March 12.

  1. Nyquist

Trainer: Doug O’Neill

Sire: Uncle Mo

Starts—wins-2nds-3rds: 6—6-0-0

Comment: The champion juvenile of 2015 returned to competition with an impressive victory in the San Vicente. His record’s spotless and his talent unimpeachable; but his ability to excel at the classic distance remains a huge question, even larger for him than for most since his dam only won sprinting. Nyquist, by the way, has a 7.00 dosage index. And so it’s reasonable to wonder if he’ll be like his sire, a juvenile champion who never progressed as a 3-year-old? Nyquist could begin to answer that question and dispel any lingering doubts on April 2 in the Florida Derby. With jockey Mario Guiterrez, this is the same team that won the 2012 Kentucky Derby with I’ll Have Another.

  1. Mohaymen

Trainer: Kiaran McLaughlin

Sire: Tapit

Starts—wins-2nds-3rds: 5—5-0-0

Comment: Mohaymen is a $2.3 million yearling purchase, and he looks like he’s worth every cent. This is the horse most breeders would love to see win the Derby since a victory would go far in justifying those seven-figure yearling purchases. Mohaymen won Saturday’s Fountain of Youth with a another professional performance, beating Zulu by more than two lengths. Still, Mohaymen has yet to turn in a truly fast effort or run in a large field, and the quality of the horses finishing behind him is uncertain. But he’s a relatively late foal, born on May 2, and should continue to improve. Junior Alvarado has ridden Mohaymen in all five of his races.

  1. Danzing Candy

Trainer: Clifford Sise

Sire: Twirling Candy

Starts—wins-2nds-3rds: 3—2-0-0

Comment: He just cruised in his most recent victory, winning by nearly six lengths without feeling Mike Smith’s whip. Danzing Candy is ready to take on the division’s leaders in the San Felipe. His pedigree, however, somewhat dampens enthusiasm for potential. His dam, Talkin and Singing, was winless in nine races, and she was bred for speed. With Smith riding, Danzing Candy worked three-quarters of a mile Saturday at Santa Anita in 1:13.

  1. Exaggerator

Trainer: Keith Desormeaux

Sire: Curlin

Starts—wins-2nds-3rds: 7—3-2-0

Comment: He couldn’t get to Nyquist in the San Vicente or in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, but his pedigree suggests he could improve with more maturity and distance. He finally could catch his rival in Kentucky. But first things first: In preparation for the San Felipe, with Kent Desormeaux riding, Exaggerator worked five-eighths of a mile Saturday at Santa in 1:00.40.

  1. Brody’s Cause

Trainer: Dale Romans

Sire: Giant’s Causeway

Starts—wins-2nds-3rds: 4—2-0-1

Comment: He rallied to finish third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, where he actually had a much better trip than the winner. He’s a hard-trying reliable sort with considerable talent, but his style could compromise his chances in Kentucky. He does most of his serious running in the stretch, and that approach seldom succeeds in the Derby, where the winning move usually takes place in the second turn. Brody’s Cause appears to be training sharply for his seasonal debut March 12 in the Tampa Bay Derby. Corey Lanerie, who has won four consecutive riding titles at Churchill Downs, could have a very “live” mount for the Derby.  He rides Brody’s Cause, as well as two more in the top 20.

  1. Greenpointcrusader

Trainer: Dominick Schettino

Sire: Bernardini

Starts—wins-2nds-3rds: 5—2-2-0

Comment: He rallied to win the Champagne last year, but in his seasonal debut, in the Holy Bull, he found himself in an unfamiliar position, on the early lead. But he ran well for jockey John Velazquez to finish second.

A full brother to Algorithms, Greenpointcrusader has the potential to put himself among the division’s leaders, but that might not happen in time for the start of the Triple Crown. He might need some time. A late foal (May 14), he’ll actually still be, according to the calendar, a 2-year-old on Derby Day.

  1. Destin

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Sire: Giant’s Causeway

Starts—wins-2nds-3rds: 4—2-1-0

Comment: He improved in the LeComte when blinkers were added and took a big step forward when he won the Sam F. Davis after another equipment adjustment and with Velazquez riding for the first time. Always highly regarded, Destin appears to be getting good at the right time and could become one of the Derby favorites if he’s again impressive at Tampa Bay.

  1. Suddenbreakingnews

Trainer: Donnie Von Hemel

Sire: Mineshaft

Starts—wins-2nds-3rds: 6—3-3-0

Comment: He lost two races by a neck after troubled trips and another by disqualification; so he’s close to having a perfect record. And yet he’s still somewhat underrated, largely because he began his career in mid-America, specifically at Remington Park, rather than Saratoga, Del Mar or Churchill. But don’t underestimate him. Suddenbreakingnews has a solid punch down the lane and is admirably consistent. He’ll get more respect if he’s successful March 19 in the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park. Luis Quinonez has ridden the gelding in all his races.

  1. Gun Runner

Trainer: Steve Asmussen

Sire: Candy Ride

Starts—wins-2nds-3rds: 4—3-0-0

Comment: His only loss came in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes, which is starting to look like one of the strongest 2YO races of 2015, and he won the recent Risen Star, defeating two of the horses that had beaten him at Churchill. His effort in the Risen Star certainly represented a step forward, but he must continue to move forward if he’s to join the leaders of the division. At Fair Grounds in New Orleans, jockey Florent Geroux got a perfect trip for Gun Runner, keeping the colt on what appeared to be the faster part of the surface for much of the race. Gun Runner will get a major test in the Louisiana Derby on March 26.

  1. Zulu

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Sire: Bernardini

Starts—wins-2nds-3rds: 3—2-1-0

Comment: The Fountain of Youth was only his third start, his first around two turns, and with his runner-up finish he ran well enough to argue he belongs on the road to Kentucky especially since he can reasonably be expected to improve. But will he improve enough to threaten in the Florida Derby? His trainer, Todd Pletcher, has not ruled out any options. Velazquez has ridden the colt in all his races and, like Lanerie, has three mounts in the top 20.

  1. Mo Tom

Trainer: Tom Amoss

Sire: Uncle Mo

Starts—wins-2nds-3rds: 6—3-0-3

Comment: Mo Tom is admirably reliable in that he always delivers his run. Although he finished third in the Risen Star, he had a rough trip, having to alter course in the stretch, and then he galloped out beyond the winner. His style will always leave him vulnerable, of course, because he’s so dependent on the pace and the trip, but if the circumstances align in his favor he could be hard to beat in the Louisiana Derby. Lanerie has ridden Mo Tom in five of his six races.

  1. Smokey Image

Trainer: Carla Gaines

Sire: Southern Image

Starts—wins-2nds-3rds: 6—6-0-0

Comment: How good is this Cal-bred? Is he good enough to compete with the best of his generation? Is he the next California Chrome? Those are the questions. With Victor Espinoza riding, Smokey Image dominated in the Cal Cup Derby, winning by more than eight lengths while in hand. He never has run a head-turning fast race. But the handsome chestnut looks capable of taking a big step forward when he moves into open company, and he’ll soon have the opportunity to do just that. Saturday, Smokey Image worked three-quarters of a mile in 1:12.20 at Santa Anita in preparation for the San Felipe.

  1. Cherry Wine

Trainer: Dale Romans

Sire: Paddy O’Prado

Starts—wins-2nds-3rds: 6—2-1-1

Comment: He skipped the Fountain of Youth because of a fever and a cough, but he should still be able to put in two preparatory races before the Derby. Cherry Wine has won two of his three races on the main track, with a January win at Gulfstream announcing his Triple Crown potential. He rallied from last, circled the field and drew clear by six lengths. He’s one of the more intriguing candidates, and it’ll be interesting see where he turns up. Lanerie is unbeaten on him in two races.

  1. Shagaf

Trainer: Chad Brown

Sire: Bernardini

Starts—wins-2nds-3rds: 2—2-0-0

Comment: He first flashed his potential in November, when he romped in his debut at Aqueduct. He wasn’t quite as impressive when he won at Gulfstream in January, but that effort should have set him up perfectly for his stakes debut in Saturday’s Gotham at Aqueduct. He’s talented and tractable, but still has much to prove. Irad Ortiz, Jr., has ridden Shagaf in both of the colt’s races.

  1. Gift Box

Trainer: Chad Brown

Sire: Twirlling Candy

Starts—wins-2nds-3rds: 3—1-0-2

Comment: He could be one of the more talented horses on this list and would be rated much more highly if not for a setback that knocked him out of the Risen Star and cost him some training. The problem was described as a cough, but Gift Box hasn’t been on a worktab since late January. His foundation is solid, however, for he ran third in the Remsen, and he could still get in two preparatory races before the Kentucky Derby. But the clock is ticking and the time running out for Gift Box if he’s going participate in the  Triple Crown. Javier Castellano has ridden the colt in all his races.

  1. Matt King Coal

Trainer: Linda Rice

Sire: Cool Coal Man

Starts—wins-2nds-3rds: 3—1-1-1

Comment: Second to Gift Box in a maiden race while putting 18 lengths between himself and the third horse, Matt King Coal scored his maiden win by nearly six lengths in October. He has had a couple of bullet workouts preparing for his return, which is expected to come Sunday at Aqueduct. J. L. Ortiz has ridden Matt King Coal in all his races.

  1. Sunny Ridge

Trainer: Jason Servis

Sire: Holy Bull

Starts—wins-2nds-3rds: 6—3-2-0

Comment: Sunny Ridge could be rated more highly, but his connections haven’t succumbed to Derby fever. As a gelding, Sunny Ridge would have nothing to gain just by participating in a race, even the Derby, if he has little chance of winning. So they’re taking a prudent approach, which is more likely to put Sunny Ridge in the Preakness than in the maelstrom of madness that is the Derby. But by winning the Withers and finishing second in the Delta Jackpot to Exaggerator, Sunny Ridge has shown he can compete at a high level. He’ll be among the favorites in the Gotham. He has had five different riders in six races, but Manuel Franco rode him in the Withers.

  1. Conquest Big E

Trainer: Mark Casse

Sire: Tapit

Starts—wins-2nds-3rds: 5—2-1-1

Comment: A handsome colt who sold for $700,000 as a yearling, he has considerable potential; but he disappointed in the Holy Bull, finishing nine lengths back. He apparently became overheated that day, and so he could improve significantly in the cooler surroundings of Aqueduct, where he’ll try to upset in the Gotham.

  1. Adventist

Trainer: Leah Gyarmati

Sire: Any Given Saturday

Starts—wins-2nds-3rds: 2—1-0-1

Comment: Adventist is one of the more intriguing horses in the top 20 simply because he appears to have so much room for improvement. He romped in his debut. And then, in the Withers, making his first start around two turns and his first in stakes company, he was rank early, veering five-wide in the first turn. He raced four-wide in the second turn and then ducked in from a right-handed stick in the lane. After all that, he was beaten less than two lengths. He’ll return in Saturday’s Gotham.

Also eligible:

  1. Outwork

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Sire: Uncle Mo

Comment: A debut winner at Keeneland in April, he won his seasonal debut last month at Tampa Bay in handy fashion. So he’s unbeaten in two races, and he looks like he possesses considerable potential to raise a ruckus when he jumps into stakes competition. He’s aimed at the Tampa Bay Derby.

  1. Forevamo

Trainer: Al Stall, Jr.

Sire: Uncle Mo

Comment: A long-striding colt who looks like he can handle more distance despite a pedigree that emphasizes speed, Forevamo closed well to be second in the Risen Star Stakes and then galloped out beyond the winner. He’s moving in the right direction and could be dangerous in the Louisiana Derby.

  1. Unified

Trainer: Jimmy Jerkens

Sire: Candy Ride

Comment: Unified might be the fastest 3-year-old in the country. When he won his debut at Gulfstream, he completed the three-quarters of a mile in 1:08.95 while racing a few paths off the rail and changing leads late, and then he galloped out powerfully beyond the wire. But, of course, that was in late February, which means he can’t be ready for the Derby’s classic distance in May. Certainly Jerkens won’t rush such potential. But Unified still could be there at Churchill Downs on Derby Day for the Pat Day Mile, formerly the Trial, and then aim at the Preakness. In any case, this is a horse to keep an eye on: He could be a major talent.

  1. Flexibility

Trainer: Chad Brown

Sire: Bluegrass Cat

Comment: After winning the Jerome with a powerful effort, he disappointed as the odds-on favorite in the Withers, where a slow pace could have compromised his chances. He has had a couple workouts since, the latest a half-mile move on Feb. 28, and so he’ll probably return to the Triple Crown trail in March.

  1. Swipe

Trainer: Keith Desormeaux

Sire: Birdstone

Comment: He finished second to Nyquist four times last year, including their meeting in the Breeders’ Cup, so he would be rated much more highly if an injury hadn’t compromised his Triple Crown chances. Returning from surgery that removed an ankle chip, he worked an easy half-mile February 27 at Santa Anita. He’s probably too far behind to make the Derby, but he could ready for the Preakness.

  1. Uncle Lino

Trainer: Gary Sherlock

Sire: Uncle Mo

Comment: Second to Mor Spirit in the Bob Lewis Stakes, Uncle Lino’s obviously a talented colt, and if spotted prudently he’ll fill a steamer trunk with earnings. But his pedigree emphasizes speed — he has a dosage index of 7.00 — and at this point he probably can’t handle the division’s leaders around two turns.

  1. Riker

Trainer: Mark Casse

Sire: Include

Comment: His only loss came in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, which he led into the stretch before faltering late. Winner of the Grey Stakes at Woodbine, he’s a finalist for the Sovereign Award as Canada’s outstanding 2-year-old of 2015. Having recently joined the Casse stable, Riker has posted a couple of bullet workouts in Florida while preparing for his return.

  1. Battery

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Sire: Bernardini

Comment: Saying he was happy with the colt’s two-length victory at Gulfstream Park, Pletcher indicated he would look for a place where Batter could make his stakes debut, possibly in the Rebel at Oaklawn Park.

  1. Cupid

Trainer: Bob Baffert

Sire: Tapit

Comment: When he stretched out at Santa Anita, he drew clear to win by more than five lengths. A half-brother to three stakes winners, he’s a very late foal (May 19). According to the calendar, he’s still a 2-year-old, and so he should improve dramatically over the next few months. He could be a candidate for the Rebel Stakes, according to his Hall of Fame trainer.

  1. Synchrony

Trainer: Donnie Von Hemel

Sire: Tapit

Comment: He gave an inexplicably dull performance in the Southwest Stakes. His trainer, Donnie Von Hemel, could only conclude that the colt didn’t like the Oaklawn Park surface. Synchrony might go on the road for his next outing.

  1. Amis Gizmo

Trainer: Josie Carroll

Sire: Giant Gizmo

Comment: The unbeaten colt is another finalist for the Sovereign Award as Canada’s outstanding juvenile of 2015. But all of his victories were over Woodbine’s synthetic surface. Can he be as successful on dirt? Maybe. His sire could run over anything and was a graded stakes winner on dirt, and Amis Gizmo has strung together some solid works in Florida in preparation for his seasonal debut.

  1. Whitmore

Trainer: Ron Moquett

Sire: Pleasantly Perfect

Comment: For a moment in the Oaklawn Park stretch, he looked like a winner in the Southwest Stakes. He had to settle for second, but it was an encouraging performance for the lightly raced gelding. He’ll attempt to take another step forward in the Rebel.

  1. Azar

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Sire: Scat Daddy

Comment: A $300,000 yearling, Azar won the With Anticipation Stakes on the turf at Saratoga, and on the final day of February he won his dirt debut at Gulfstream. He gives Pletcher plenty of options.

  1. Tale of S’avall

Trainer: Barclay Tagg

Sire: Tale of Ekati

Comment: He made a very promising debut at Saratoga last summer and then finished fifth in the Champagne after leading into the stretch. He’s obviously quite talented, and if he improves might be expected in his 3-year-old season, he could become a prominent player. He has been training steadily in Florida for his return.

  1. Malibu Sunset

Trainer: Bob Baffert

Sire: Bernardini

Comment: Not presently nominated to the Triple Crown, Malibu Sunset recently won his two-turn debut. He could be a late Triple Crown nominee, of course. But his trainer, Bob Baffert, indicated the connections are in no rush with the unbeaten and talented colt.

  1. Frank Conversation

Trainer: Doug O’Neill

Sire: Quality Road

Comment: Winner of the Camino Real Derby and the Cal Derby, Frank Conversation sits in a throne at the top of a rather small hill in Northern California, but his best races have all been on a synthetic surface. He looks destined for Turfway’s Spiral Stakes.

  1. Denman’s Call

Trainer: Doug O’Neill

Sire: Northern Afleet

Comment: In only his third start, he finished third, four lengths behind the champion, in the San Vicente. Denman’s Call obviously has some quality and considerable talent, but he’ll probably be at his best sprinting.

  1. Rafting

Trainer: Graham Motion

Sire: Tapit

Comment: Another who’s not currently nominated to the Triple Crown, Rafting won the Smooth Air Stakes to conclude his juvenile campaign and finished second in the Sam F. Davis stakes for his seasonal debut. He could return in the Tampa Bay Derby.

  1. Discreetness

Trainer: William Fires

Sire: Discreet Cat

Comment: Winner of the Springboard Mile and the Smarty Jones Stakes, he raced extremely wide in the Southwest, where he finished seventh. Although he’s certainly a notch or two beneath the division leaders, he’s better than that Southwest finish suggests and could make amends in the Rebel.

  1. Rally Cry

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Sire: Uncle Mo

Comment: An impressive maiden winner, he was a troubled third behind Shagaf at Gulfstream. He’ll make his stakes debut Saturday in the Gotham.

  1. Boalt Hall

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Sire: Scat Daddy

Comment: A $360,000 yearling, Boalt Hall won his debut in style at Gulfstream Park. He’s probably too far behind to make his way to Kentucky, but he appears to have potential and could make some noise down the road.

  1. Cocked And Loaded

Trainer: Larry Rivelli

Sire: Colonel John

Comment: He appears to be a notch below the best of the group, having finished fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. But he’s a hart-trying type and won last year’s Iroquois Stakes at Churchill. He has been training at Tampa Bay.

  1. Vorticity

Trainer: J. L. Lawrence

Sire: Distorted Humor

Comment: Second in both the Jerome and Withers, he’s a hard-trying sort who’ll soon return to the winner’s circle when he finds the right company. He has been training at the Fair Hill Center in Maryland.

  1. Catapult

Trainer: Chad Brown

Sire: Kitten’s Joy

Comment: He’ll probably stay on the turf, where he won his debut in October at Belmont, but Turfway’s Spiral is always a possibility for such horses. He’s training steadily in Florida.

  1. Charmed Victory

Trainer: Rodney Jenkins

Sire: Flatter

Comment: After two impressive victories, he finished second as the favorite in the Miracle Wood Stakes, where he might have been compromised by a dawdling pace. Based in Maryland, he could return in the Private Terms Stakes at Laurel and then aim for the Tesio and Preakness.

  1. Dazzling Gem

Trainer: Brad Cox

Sire: Misremembered

Comment: The unbeaten colt has looked sharp in winning his two races at Oaklawn Park. He should jump into the stakes-company end of the pool soon.

  1. Conquest Windycity

Trainer: Mark Casse

Sire: Tiznow

Comment: A winner of consecutive races, including an allowance event at Oaklawn, he needs distance, according to his trainer, and the more distance the better. And so he’ll pass the Rebel and wait for the nine-furlong Arkansas Derby.

  1. Annals of Time

Trainer: Chad Brown

Sire: Temple City

Comment: His future will probably be on the turf, where he won his debut. But of his sire’s four wins, three were on dirt, and Annals of Time’s workouts suggest he might be able to make the transition.

  1. American Dubai

Trainer: Rodney Richards

Sire: E Dubai

Comment: In the third start of his career, he led the Southwest until midstretch and then finished third; so he could make some noise in the Rebel. But he probably doesn’t want to go much farther than a mile.

  1. Jensen

Trainer: Larry Jones

Sire: Haynesfield

Comment: Not currently nominated to the Triple Crown, he recently won by nearly seven lengths at Fair Grounds while in hand. He could join the parade to Kentucky in the Louisiana Derby.

  1. Shakhimat

Trainer: Roger Attfield

Sire: Lonhro

Comment: A nine-length winner of the Coronation Futurity at Woodbine, he’s training regularly in Florida for his return to competition. But rather than aiming at the Triple Crown, shooting at the Queen’s Plate would seem more likely. Unbeaten on the synthetic surface at Woodbine, he would seem an ideal candidate for the Spiral Stakes. But there might be a problem. He’s training at Payson Park, which is presently quarantined until at least March 21, which means Shakhimat probably wouldn’t be able to have a prep before the Spiral, on April 2.

  1. Seymourdini

Trainer: Linda Rice

Sire: Bernardini

Comment: Second to Mohaymen in his debut, he scored by nine lengths when he stretched out to a mile at Aqueduct last November. He returned to the worktab last month and looks like a colt with considerable potential.

  1. Star Hill

Trainer: “Rusty” Arnold

Sire: Elusive Quality

Comment: He took a big step forward last month when he romped at Gulfstream, winning by almost eight lengths. He could be ready to step into stakes company.

  1. Ralis

Trainer: Doug O’Neill

Sire: Square Eddie

Comment: Winner of the Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga, he hasn’t done anything since then. In fact, he finished last in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. But he should benefit from the time off, and he’s a proven talent. He’s training in California for his return.

  1. Awesome Gent

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Sire: Awesome Again

Comment: Having won his last two by a total of nearly 15 lengths against New York-breds, he’s entered in Sunday’s Jimmy Winkfield Stakes at Aqueduct.

  1. Cadeyrn

Trainer: Jeremiah

Sire: Malibu Moon

Comment: He made a positive impression last month when he won a maiden race by 11 lengths in New York. He’s obviously moving in the right direction, and his pedigree says more improvement is likely with more distance. He could step up to stakes company soon.

  1. Collected

Trainer: Bob Baffert

Sire: City Zip

Comment: Winner of the Sham Stakes at Santa Anita, he finished fourth in the Southwest. But that effort suggested he probably doesn’t want to run much farther than a mile.

  1. Conquest Daddyo

Trainer: Mark Casse

Sire: Scat Daddy

Comment: He has run all his races on turf or synthetic surfaces, but, again, such horses are always a possibility for Turfway’s Spiral. In his seasonal debut, he broke slowly and finished sixth as the favorite in the Kitten’s Joy Stakes.

  1. Mo Power

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Sire: Uncle Mo

Comment: An impressive maiden winner at Gulfstream, he could make his stakes debut in Saturday’s Gotham. But he’s also entered in an Aqueduct allowance race on Sunday.

  1. Fellowship

Trainer: Stanley Gold

Sire: Awesome of Course

Comment: A distant third in the Holy Bull, he also finished third in the Fountain of Youth, but without threatening in either race. He’s a hard-trying and reliable sort who probably deserves some softer company.

  1. I Will Score

Trainer: Jerry Hollendorfer

Sire: Roman Ruler

Comment: Third in the Bob Lewis Stakes, I Will Score is a speedy type whose ability probably won’t ever stretch to the classic distance of 1 1/4 miles. But the Bob Lewis was his first try around two turns, and this talented colt could have a stakes victory or two in his future.

  1. Harlan Punch

Trainer: Tom Amoss

Sire: Harlan’s Holiday

Comment: Third in the Delta Jackpot to conclude his juvenile campaign, he has been slow to find his best form this year, most recently finishing fourth in an allowance event in New Orleans. But he has talent and he’s in capable hands.

  1. Gettysburg

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Sire: Pioneerof The Nile

Comment: He disappointed as the favorite in the Sam F. Davis Stakes. He returned to the worktab Saturday and deserves another chance in stakes company.

  1. Vincento

Trainer: Rudy Rodriguez

Comment: Another who’s not currently nominated to the Triple Crown, he was an impressive winner at Aqueduct and then might have returned too quickly when fourth a week later in the Gander Stakes. He could make amends in the Gotham.

  1. Siding Spring

Trainer: Mark Casse

Sire: Warrior’s Reward

Comment: Perhaps too fresh and eager, he led the Southwest Stakes into the stretch before giving way and fading to fifth. That was seasonal debut and his first start with blinkers; he could improve significantly in his second start of the year.

  1. Unbridled Outlaw

Trainer: Dale Romans

Sire: Unbridled’s Song

Comment: He never had an opportunity last year to show his talent, which could be considerable, because he habitually got into trouble in his races. And then he was sidelined. But he has had four workouts at Gulfstream Park while preparing for his return; so he’s behind, but not so far behind that can’t make some noise down the road.

  1. Tom’s Ready

Trainer: Dallas Stewart

Sire: More Than Ready

Comment: Second in both the LeComte and Street Sense Stakes, he ran poorly in the Risen Star, finishing seventh after racing much too close to the lively pace. He could return to form with a return to his late-running style.

  1. Ziconic

Trainer: John Shirreffs

Sire: Tapit

Comment: A son of the great Zenyatta, Ziconic rallied from last to finish third in his debut at seven-eighths of a mile. It was an encouraging effort, suggesting Ziconic could soon step into the winner’s circle.

  1. Rated R Superstar

Trainer: Kenny McPeek

Sire: Kodiak Kowboy

Comment: Third in the Breeders Futurity, he finished second behind Conquest Windycity in his return to competition. He could step forward in the Rebel.

  1. Hoffenheim

Trainer: Bob Baffert

Sire: Midnight Lute

Comment: Mor Spirit’s workmate is still a maiden, but he never has been worse than third in five starts and he always finishes powerfully.

  1. That Makes Sense

Trainer: D. Wayne Lukas

Sire: Street Sense

Comment: A $550,000 purchase, That Makes Sense rallied five-wide from absolute last to win at Oaklawn Park last month. It was a slow race, but this colt is improving and could continue moving forward with more distance.

  1. Justin Squared

Trainer: Bob Baffert

Sire: Zensational

Comment: He made an auspicious debut at Del Mar in September, winning by more than five lengths while in hand. He has been training steadily for his return, most recently working five-eighths of a mile Wednesday at Los Alamitos.

  1. Marengo Road

Trainer: Michael Trombetta

Sire: Quality Road

Comment: Winner of the Miracle Wood Stakes, where he upset Charmed Victory, Marengo Road seems to be improving. Based in Maryland, he could continue to move forward in the general direction of the Preakness, with the Private Terms on March 12 his next likely start.

  1. Knights Key

Trainer: Steve Hobby

Sire: Giant’s Causeway

Comment: A $300,000 purchase, he made an auspicious debut in November at Churchill, rallying wide and overcoming trouble to get up and win in a photo. He was sidelined in January while preparing for his return, but he’s in capable hands and could yet make some noise.

  1. Drefong

Trainer: Bob Baffert

Sire: Gio Ponti

Comment: A $450,000 yearling, he flashed potential with a fast maiden win. But illness has slowed his progress. He’s another candidate for the Pat Day Mile.

  1. Airoforce

Trainer: Mark Casse

Sire: Colonel John

Comment: After he finished 10th as the favorite in the Risen Star, his trainer, Mark Casse, decided the colt needed some R & R. But Airoforce could return in time to make some noise.

  1. Quijote

Trainer: Tom Amoss

Sire: Pomeroy

Comment: He has won two sprints impressively in New Orleans and turned heads with his workouts. Entered in Sunday’s Jimmy Winkfield Stakes, he could develop into a formidable sprinter.

  1. Let’s Meet In Rio

Trainer: Bob Baffert

Sire: Flatter

Comment: Second in the Sham and fifth in the Bob Lewis, he probably needs to find an easier spot if he’s to find the winner’s circle.

  1. Laoban

Trainer: Eric Guillot

Sire: Uncle Mo

Comment: He had some trouble while third in what was actually a slow Sham Stakes. He’ll try stakes company again in Saturday’s Gotham.

  1. Mac Daddy Mac

Trainer: Kathy Ritvo

Sire: Put It Back

Comment: Second in the Bob Hope Stakes in his second start, he’s training in Florida for his return to competition.

  1. Little Mo

Trainer: Carlo Vaccarezza

Sire: Uncle Mo

Comment: After getting bumped around, he finished fourth in the Kitten’s Joy Stakes. All his races have been on turf, but he has worked well on the main track and, of course, his pedigree encourages a try there.

  1. Mo For The Money

Trainer: Tony Dutrow

Sire: Uncle Mo

Comment: An impressive allowance winner at Oaklawn Park, he has considerable potential. But he’ll probably turn out to be a sprinter.

  1. Dolphus

Trainer: Joe Sharp

Sire: Lookin At Lucky

Comment: The half-brother to the great Rachel Alexandra was scratched out of the Risen Star Stakes, and he hasn’t shown up on a worktab since then. His connections have indicated they’re in no rush, which probably means the Triple Crown is off the table.

  1. Mt Veeder

Trainer: Bob Baffert

Sire: Ghostzapper

Comment: A late foal, he won the Contender Stakes at Los Alamitos and then finished sixth in the FrontRunner Stakes. But he appears to be training sharply for his return and could make an impact down the road.

  1. Cutacorner

Trainer: Jack Van Berg

Sire: Even The Score

Comment: Fourth in the Springboard Mile, he had a nightmarish trip in the Southwest Stakes and probably deserves another chance in stakes company.

  1. Richie The Bull

Trainer: Joan Scott

Sire: Benny The Bull

Comment: Third in the Swale Stakes, he won a minor two-turn stakes last year by more than nine lengths. He appears to be training sharply at Tampa Bay for his return.

  1. Turulu

Trainer: Victor Garcia

Sire: Eskendereya

Comment: He won his debut last summer in auspicious fashion, but then left the stage. He has been training steadily at Santa Anita for his return.

  1. Never Gone South

Trainer: C.A. Lynch

Sire: Munnings

Comment: A two-time stakes winner, he appears to be a sprinter. But even sprinters can make some noise on the road to the Triple Crown.

  1. Sail Ahoy

Trainer: “Shug” Mc Gaughey

Sire: Bernardini

Comment: Fourth in the Remsen and third in the Champagne, he obviously has talent. But he hasn’t been on a worktab this year. His connections are being patient with this late foal, but Sail Ahoy is one to watch. He could have an impact down the road.

  1. Name Changer

Trainer: Alan Goldberg

Sire: Uncle Mo

Comment: After a slow start, he rallied to win his debut back in November. He has been training in Florida for his return.

  1. Mr. Coker

Trainer: Jerry Hollendorfer

Sire: Candy Ride

Comment: An impressive maiden winner in January, he hasn’t been on a worktab since February 10. But this $300,000 yearling deserves watching.

  1. Moonlight Drive

Trainer: Bob Baffert

Sire: Red Rocks

Comment: He won his American debut as the 9-5 favorite and has continued to train steadily at Santa Anita. He strictly looks like a turf horse. Or maybe a Spiral possibility.

  1. Sea Wizard

Trainer: John Mazza

Sire: Uncle Mo

Comment: He was favored over Destin when finishing second in his debut at Belmont. Now in Florida, he returned to the worktab last month with a half-mile in 47.35 seconds. So he’s far behind, but he looks as if he might have sufficient talent to make some noise down the road.

  1. Stradivari

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Sire: Madaglia d’Oro

Comment: He won by 11 lengths at 1 1/16 miles to complete his juvenile campaign. He appears to be behind at this point, having just returned to the worktab, but he has sufficient talent to move into stakes company soon.

  1. Saratoga Mischief

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Sire: Into Mischief

Comment: He defeated Greenpointcrusader in his debut and finished second to Exaggerator in the Saratoga Special; so there’s talent here. But as the 1-9 favorite he finished second at Parx in his seasonal debut, and everything about him indicates he’s a sprinter.

  1. Seeking The Soul

Trainer: Dallas Stewart

Sire: Perfect Soul

Comment: Despite getting bumped and racing wide, he rallied to finish second in a fast maiden race in New Orleans. He should find the winner’s circle when he stretches out. Seeking The Soul looks a lot like some others Dallas Stewart has taken to Kentucky with much success.

  1. Z Royal

Trainer: D. Wayne Lukas

Sire: Eskendereya

Comment: He had a nightmarish trip on his way to finishing eighth in the Southwest Stakes and probably deserves another opportunity.

  1. Toews On Ice

Trainer: Bob Baffert

Sire: Archarcharch

Comment: A two-time stakes winner, he faltered in his two tries around two turns. When he returns to sprinting he could return to the winner’s circle.

  1. Wild About Deb

Trainer: Philip D’Amato

Sire: Eskendereya

Comment: Second to Uncle Lino in his debut at Del Mar, Wild About Deb should move into the winner’s circle when he stretches out. He’s training for his return in Southern California.

The son of a jockey who then became a trainer, Gary West grew up around racing and horses, and his earliest jobs were all at the racetrack. While going to school, he worked as a hot walker, groom, assistant, agent and valet, and then he set out on a very different career path. But after teaching writing and American literature at the University of Tennessee and publishing scholarly articles in such magazines as The Yeats Eliot Review and The Mark Twain Journal, he returned to the racetrack — as a turf writer. He has worked for the Dallas Times Herald, Dallas Morning News and Fort Worth Star-Telegram; his work also has appeared in many magazines and journals. Most recently, West and fellow turf writer Bob Fortus collaborated to write Ride to Win: An Inside Look at the Jockey’s Craft.