Run to the Roses: Firing Line hits target, moves to No. 4 in AP's Top 10 Derby contenders



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FILE - In this Feb. 7, 2015, file photo provided by Benoit Photo, Dortmund, right, and jockey Martin Garcia, hold off Firing Line and jockey Gary Stevens to win the Grade III $150,000 Robert B. Lewis Stakes horse race at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif. Firing Line moves up the latest list of the AP's Top 10 Kentucky Derby contenders, and this weekend's Florida Derby promises to shake up the rankings even more. (AP Photo/Benoit Photo, File)


Look out Dortmund, Firing Line may be running head to head with you again on Derby Day.

The 3-year-old colt who twice lost by a head to top-rated Dortmund in California, soared to No. 4 in the AP's latest Run to the Roses' Top 10 Kentucky Derby rankings after a record-setting romp in New Mexico.

While the Land of Enchantment isn't the typical path to the Kentucky Derby, Firing Line's 14 1/4-length victory in Sunday's Sunland Derby is still impressive. He ran 1 1/8 miles in a track record 1:47.39. Plus, he's ridden by three-time Kentucky Derby winner Gary Stevens.

The Hall of Fame jockey says he's in a great spot: "He did it all very professionally. Real easy. He can do well at the next level."

And there's this: In 2009, Mine That Bird ran fourth in the Sunland Derby before pulling a huge upset in the Kentucky Derby at 50-1 odds.

Firing Line earned 50 Derby qualifying points for the win, and now ranks sixth with 58 points. The Derby field is limited to 20 starters based on points awarded for designated races.

Also, Dubai Sky earned 50 points with a win in the Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park last weekend, and was a late nomination for the Triple Crown races at a cost of $6,000.

The race for points really heats up Saturday with the Florida Derby, Louisiana Derby and the UAE Derby. The point totals double to 100 for a win, 40 for second, 20 for third and 10 for fourth.

Upstart and Itsaknockout top the field for the Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park, where Upstart finished nearly 3 lengths ahead of Itsaknockout in the Fountain of Youth but was DQ'd to second for interference. Upstart is No. 5 this week; Itsaknockout is eighth.

International Star gets his chance for a New Orleans prep sweep in the Louisiana Derby after wins in the Lecomte and Risen Star.

In Dubai, the field for the UAE Derby has three horses nominated for Triple Crown races — Mubtaahij, Maftool and My Johnny Be Good.


Here's our Top 10:

1. Dortmund (Bob Baffert, trainer; Martin Garcia, jockey): Unbeaten colt worked 6 furlongs in 1:12 at Santa Anita on March 21. ... Won San Felipe in last start. ... Baffert says colt still filling out his big frame. ... Next start: Santa Anita Derby, Santa Anita (April 4). ... Derby future odds (pool 3): 9-1.

2. Carpe Diem (Todd Pletcher, John Velazquez): Still on course after working 4 furlongs in 48.92 at Palm Beach Down on March 21. ... Won Tampa Bay Derby with authority. ... Next start: Blue Grass, Keeneland (April 4). ... Odds: 10-1.

3. American Pharoah (Baffert, Victor Espinoza): More than a week after Rebel romp, colt is back galloping at Santa Anita. ... Return trip to Oaklawn Park still the plan for final Derby prep. ... Next start: Arkansas Derby, Oaklawn Park (April 11). ... Odds: 8-1.

4. Firing Line (Simon Callaghan, Gary Stevens): Won Sunland Derby by 14 1/4 lengths in record time. ... Huge confidence builder after two close calls against Dortmund. ... Next start: Kentucky Derby, Churchill Downs (May 2) ... Odds: 29-1.

5. Upstart (Rick Violette, Jr., Jose Ortiz): Worked 5 furlongs in 59.55 at Palm Meadows on March 21. ... Game face on, says Violette. ... Holy Bull winner finished first in Fountain of Youth but was DQ'd to second for interference. ... Next start: Florida Derby, Gulfstream Park (Saturday). ... Odds: 15-1.

6. El Kabeir (John Terranova, C.C. Lopez): Winter in New York seems to agree with Gotham winner. ... Worked 5 furlongs in 59.97 seconds at Belmont on Sunday. ... Next start: Wood Memorial, Aqueduct (April 4). ... Odds: 47-1.

7. Far From Over (Pletcher, Manuel Franco): Withers winner worked 5 furlongs in 1:01.76 at Palm Beach Downs on Saturday. ... Next start will be just third of career. ... Next start: Wood Memorial. ... Odds: 13-1.

8. Itsaknockout (Pletcher, Luis Saez): Worked 4 furlongs in 48:79 at Palm Beach Downs on March 21. ... Has 3-0 record after being declared winner of Fountain of Youth via DQ of Upstart. ... Next start: Florida Derby (Saturday). ... Odds: 30-1.

9. Far Right (Ron Moquett, Mike Smith): Latest workout was 5 furlongs in 1:00.80 at Oaklawn Park on March 19. ... Smarty Jones and Southwest winner gearing up for final prep. ... Next start: Arkansas Derby (April 11). ... Odds: 31-1.

10. International Star (Mike Maker, Miguel Mena): Lecomte, Risen Star winner gets big chance to prove he's among the top Derby contenders. ... Next start: Louisiana Derby, Fair Grounds (Saturday). ... Odds: 22-1.


Keep an eye on: Bolo, Classy Class, Dubai Sky, Prospect Park, Mr. Z.


Follow Richard Rosenblatt on Twitter at: http://www.twitter.com/rosenblattap

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