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Jeff Siegel's 2021 Triple Crown Power Rankings

by Jeff Siegel

March 23, 2021

Updated regularly, these rankings identify the best 3-year-olds of 2021 in order of preference, with each horse given a theoretical weight assignment starting at 126 lbs. based on past performance and projected development. The horses listed are assumed to be candidates for at least one of the Triple Crown races.

1 - ESSENTIAL QUALITY (B. Cox) – 126 lbs.
Pedigree: Tapit – Delightful Quality, by Elusive Quality
Lifetime record: 4-4-0-0 ($1,335,144). Derby points: 40
Last start: Feb. 27, 2021, Oaklawn Park, 8.5F Southwest S.-G3, finished first.
Next start: April 3, 2021, Keeneland, 9F Blue Grass S.-G2
Latest workout: March 20, Fair Grounds, 5f, :59b

The skinny: Godolphin homebred; dam graded stakes-placed sprinting half-sister to champion 2yo filly Folklore; reappeared in top form in late February with an authoritative victory over sloppy going in the 8F Southwest S.-G3 (by four and one-quarter lengths from Spielberg and Jackie’s Warrior), racing wide throughout but accelerating impressively in the final furlong; had secured a 2020 Eclipse Award in the 2-year-old colt division to complete an unbeaten juvenile campaign in the 8.5F BC Juvenile-G1 at Keeneland in November when rallying from nine lengths back with the help of the fast-early race-flow to win by three-quarters of a length from 90-1 Hot Rod Charlie; previously won his 6F debut at Churchill Downs by four lengths in September (rallying from seven and one-half lengths back) and then registering a three and one-quarter length score in the 8.5F Breeders’ Futurity-G1 at Keeneland after pressing slow fractions; speed figures are strong and have risen with each of his four career victories; proven so far to be genuine and versatile while giving indication that the Derby’s 10F trip will easily be within his range; in top hands and with every expectation that he’ll continue to develop during the spring of his 3-year-old season.

2 - GREATEST HONOUR (C. McGaughey III) – 124 lbs.
Pedigree: Tapit – Tiffany’s Honour, by Street Cry
Lifetime record: 6-3-1-2 ($351,940). Derby Points: 60
Last start: Feb. 27, 2021, Gulfstream Park, 8.5F Fountain of Youth S.-G2, finished first.
Next start: March 26, 2021, Gulfstream Park, 9F Florida Derby S.-G1S
Latest workout: March 21, Payson Park, 4f, :50.2b

The skinny: Was entered but withdrawn from 2019 Keeneland fall sale, second foal, dam unplaced half-sister to four SW’s including Rags to Riches and Jazil (both winners of Belmont S.-G1) and to BC Marathon S.-G1 winner Man of Iron; second dam Broodmare of the Year Better than Honour; notoriously lazy and unremarkable in morning workouts and took four races to break his maiden but has been unbeaten in his last three starts (all at Gulfstream Park) including the 8.5F Holy Bull S.-G3 (by five and three-quarter lengths from Tarantino) in January and then the Fountain of Youth S.-G2 (by one and one-half lengths from Drain the Clock) the following month; not particular fast on speed figures though he’s never taken a backward move through six career starts; has been visually quite impressive rallying wide over a main track that traditionally plays against that style; pedigree suggests he’ll continue to improve as the distances increase; likely to have his final Triple Crown prep race in the Florida Derby-G1 in late March; campaign is reminiscent of Orb, who took the same path when winning the 2013 Kentucky Derby-G1 for this trainer.

3 - CONCERT TOUR (B. Baffert) – 124 lbs.
Pedigree: Street Sense – Purse Strings, by Tapit
Lifetime record: 3-3-0-0 ($756,600). Derby points: 50
Last start: March 13, 2021, Oaklawn Park, 8.5FF Rebel S.-G2, finished first.
Next start: April 10, 2021, Oaklawn Park, 9F Arkansas Derby.-G1
Latest workout: None since raced

The skinny: Gary and Mary West Stables homebred; second foal; dam 6F maiden special weight winner at Churchill Downs in 12th (and final) career start; no black type in first two generations; third dam is the granddam of Stardom Bound (champion, BC Juvenile Fillies-G1); unbeaten in three career starts, most recently a dominating gate-to-wire victory in the 8.5F Rebel S.-G2 at Oaklawn Park (by four and one-quarter lengths from stable mate Hozier), quickly establishing the pace from his outside draw and then, after disposing of favored Caddo River, drawing clear under mild urging to win with plenty left; earned solid but not great 94 Beyer speed figure; previously successful with a pace-pressing trip as the 2/5 favorite in five-runner 7F San Vicente S.-G2 (by one-half length from stable mate Freedom Fighter) after winning his debut three weeks earlier in 6F maiden score in a highly impressive performance at Santa Anita (forced pace, then kicked clear with power and with plenty left); pedigree suggests a classic distance could be within his capabilities; has so far followed the identical pattern/schedule as B. Baffert’s top class colt from last year, Nadal; likely to use the Arkansas Derby-G1 (April 10) as his final springboard to the Kentucky Derby-G1 three weeks later; based purely on speed figures still has plenty to prove but must be taken seriously as a major player for the spring classics.

4 - HOT ROD CHARLIE (D. O’Neill) – 122 lbs.
Pedigree: Oxbow – Indian Miss, by Indian Charlie
Lifetime record: 7-2-1-02 ($1,00,700). Derby points: 110
Last start: March 20, 2021, Fair Grounds, 9.5F Louisiana Derby-G2, finished first
Next start: May 1, 2021, Churchill Downs, 10F Kentucky Derby-G1
Latest workout: None since raced

The skinny: $110,000Y, half-brother to champion sprinter Mtole; non-winning dam a half-sister to Davona Dale S.-G2 winner Live Lively; versatile colt has been successful on the lead or from off the pace and returned to winning form in his second 2021 outing when making all in the 9.5F Louisiana Derby-G2, relaxing without undue pressure to the top of the lane and then fighting off all challenges to register two length score (from Midnight Bourbon) while establishing NTW (1:55.06) and earning a career top 99 Beyer speed figure; had displayed plenty of promise during his juvenile campaign, beating maidens in his fourth start before finishing second (with the help of the race-shape) to champion Essential Quality in BC Juvenile-G1 by three quarters of a length at 91-1 after striking the front in mid-stretch; performed well when third (beaten a neck) behind Medina Spirit and Roman Centurian) in his 3yo debut in late January in the Robert B. Lewis S.-G3 while appearing to have winning momentum inside the furlong pole but then losing his punch close home while likely needing the outing; doesn’t have a great turn of foot and may be most effective as a stalker or pace presser; will be trained up to the Kentucky Derby with six weeks in between starts.

5 - MEDINA SPIRIT (B. Baffert) – 121 lbs.
Pedigree: Protonico – Mongolian Change, by Brilliant Speed
Lifetime record: 4-2-2-0 ($165,200). Derby points: 48
Last start: March 6, 2021, Santa Anita, San Felipe S.-G3, finished second
Next start: April 3, 2021, Santa Anita, Santa Anita Derby-G1
Latest workout: March 22, Santa Anita, 5f, :59h

The skinny: $35,000 OBS 2yo; from first crop of multiple graded SW son of Giant’s Causeway, dam a synthetic maiden special weight winner at Presque Isle Downs; light female family (no SW’s in first three generations); genuine and consistent though no match for stable mate (and top-ranked) Life Is Good in the 8.5F San Felipe S.-G2 in late March, going down by eight lengths though gamely saving second money after stalking the winner throughout; reportedly exited the race with an entrapped epiglottis which has since been rectified; previously had displayed extreme courage when winning 8.5F Robert B. Lewis S.-G3 in late January (by a neck from Roman Centurian and Hot Rod Charlie) despite being under heavy pressure from the far turn to the wire; before that finished second (beaten three-quarters of a length while 13 clear of the rest) to Life Is Good in 8F Sham S.-G3 in January; speed figures are legitimate; pedigree suggests he’ll do better as the distances increase; clearly a much better prospect that originally judged and could easily return to winning form in the Santa Anita Derby-G1 now that Life Is Good will not start and has been removed from Triple Crown consideration.

6 – RISK TAKING (C. Brown) – 120 Lbs.
Pedigree: Medaglia d’Oro – Run a Risk, by Distorted Humor
Lifetime record: 4-2-0-0 ($182,530). Derby points: 10
Last start: Feb. 6, 2021, Aqueduct, Withers S.-G3, finished first
Next start: April 3, 2021, Aqueduct, 9F Wood Memorial-G2
Latest workout: March 21, Belmont Park, 5f, 1:01.4b TT

The skinny: $240,000Y, dam multiple stakes placed on grass; best runners from his female family also preferred turf; unplaced in first two career starts during the fall of his juvenile campaign but has vastly improved since, breaking his maiden over 9F at Aqueduct on dirt in December and then stepping forward again over that same track and distance when winning the Withers S.-G3 in early February (by three and three-quarter lengths from Overtook after producing an extended, grinding late bid); speed figures are headed in the right direction but with some work still to be done; room for further improvement and clearly will be suited by 10F and farther; seems likely to produce another forward move in the 9F Wood Memorial-G2 in early April in a race that he’ll very likely be favored.

7 - COLLABORATE (S. Joseph, Jr) – 118 lbs.
Pedigree: Into Mischief – Quiet Temper, by Quiet American
Lifetime record: 2-1-0-0 ($27,400). Derby points: 0
Last start: Feb. 27, 2021, Gulfstream Park; Maiden special weight, finished first
Next start: March 26, 2021, Gulfstream Park, 9F Florida Derby S.-G1S
Latest workout: March 21, Gulfstream Park, 5f, 1:01b

The skinny: $600,000Y, fourth foal, dam multiple stakes winner including Fair Grounds Oaks-G2; black type winners in second or third dams while the fourth dam is Blue Hen mare Blitey; off slowly when a close fifth as favorite in 6F debut over sloppy track at Gulfstream Park in early February but left that form far behind when graduating three weeks later 8F maiden (by 12 and one-half lengths from Bennyfromthebronx), establishing the pace in hand and then continuing under cruise control to lengthen at will while earning a strong 90 Beyer speed figure; has since recorded a bullet 4F workout (:47b) that was the fastest of 51 for the distance; has an easy, relaxed stride and gives the impression he’ll handle a distance of ground without issue; slated to return in the 9F Florida eerby-G1 March 26 to determine his viability for the classics.

8 - PREVALENCE (B. Walsh) – 118 lbs.
Pedigree: Medaglia d’Oro – Enrichment, by Ghostzapper
Lifetime record: 2-2-0-0 ($52,800). Derby points: 0
Last start: March 11, 2021, Gulfstream Park, 8F allowance, finished first
Next start: TBD
Latest workout: March 21, Palm Meadows, 4f, :49.2b

The skinny: Godolphin homebred; half-brother to New York-bred stakes winner Libreta (by Giralomo); dam winless in eight starts but is a full-sister to top class middle distance turf G1 winner Better Lucky; was forced to miss his intended second career start in the Fountain of Youth S.-G2 Feb. 27 after spiking a fever but reappeared March 11 in an 8F six-runner first-level allowance race at Gulfstream Park and was successful at 10 cents on the dollar (by three lengths from Southern Passage) with a perfect, stalking trip while earning a moderate speed figure in a performance that can best be described as workmanlike; was previously far more impressive winning his debut by eight and one-half lengths in 7F maiden in January when pressing the pace in hand and then kicking clear without ever being asked;; bred to stay at least a middle distance and potentially farther; with no Derby points will need to step forward considerably in what will have to be his final Kentucky Derby-G1 prep in his next yet-to-be-determined start (Bluegrass S.-G2 April 3?); remains an exciting prospect but finds himself behind the 8-ball with still plenty to prove; designing a schedule with the Preakness S,-G1 as the main goal might prove to be a more prudent plan.

9 - ROCK YOUR WORLD (J. Sadler) – 118 lbs.
Pedigree: Candy Ride – Charm the Maker, by Empire Maker
Lifetime record: 2-2-0-0 ($96,600). Derby points: 0
Last start: Feb. 27, 2021, Santa Anita, Pasadena S., finished first
Next start: April 3, 2021, Santa Anita, 9F Santa Anita Derby-G1
Latest workout: March 22, Santa Anita, 6f, 1:14.2h

The skinny: $650,000Y; third foal, lengthy colt with plenty of scope; full-brother to California Gr.3-placed She’s Our Charm; dam multiple stakes winner from a high class staying turf family; unbeaten in two starts, both on grass, most recently when drawing clear with a good display of late speed to win the listed 8F Pasadena S. in visually pleasing style (by two and one-quarter lengths from Cathkin Peak) before being hard to pull up and galloping out full of run; previously had debuted over 6F on grass and registered a one and three-quarter length victory with a good number despite being eased up in the final stages while appearing to toy with his opposition; pedigree suggests he’ll handle any surface and be able to cope with a classic distance though he appears to be a better mover on turf than on the main track according to his workouts; will get his opportunity on dirt in the 9F Santa Anita Derby-G1 in early April; at which time his Triple Crown prospects will become apparent; still has plenty to prove but remains an exciting prospect, at the very least on grass.

10 – HELLIUM (J. Sadler) – 117 lbs.
Pedigree: Ironicus – Thundering Emilla, by Thunder Gulch
Lifetime record: 3-3-0-0 ($287,763). Derby points: 50
Last start: March 6, 2021, Tampa Bay Downs, Tampa Bay Derby-G2, finished first
Next start: May 1, 2021, Churchill Downs, 10F Kentucky Derby-G1
Latest workout: None since raced

The skinny: $55,000Y; fourth foal, half-brother to Peruvian Gr. 1 winner Emilia’s Moon (by Malibu Moon); dam G3 SW in Peru; undefeated in three starts including the 8.5F Tampa Bay Derby-G2 in his 3-year-old debut (by three-quarters of a length from Hidden Stash), producing a steady bid (was 10th early) to secure the win in good style from a moderate field; previously had won both of his starts as a 2-year-old over the Woodbine synthetic surface (both at seven furlongs), a maiden in September (by three and one-quarter lengths from Excellorator) and the listed Display S. the following month (by four and one-quarter lengths from Gospel Way); versatile colt has won pressing the pace and from far off the pace; bred to handle any surface and apparently does; should stay a classic distance; speed figures aren’t yet close to being competitive with the tops in his division and reportedly will now have two months in between races and train up to the Kentucky Derby-G1; obviously is a colt of some quality but the strategy from his connections appears to place a higher emphasis on making the Derby field that actually providing him the proper preparation to have a chance to win it.

Also eligible: Known Agenda (T. Pletcher); Dream Shake (P. Eurton); Spielberg (B. Baffert); Midnight Bourbon (S. Asmussen); Highly Motivated (C. Brown); Weyburn (J. Jerkins); Rombauer (M. McCarthy); Crowded Trade (C. Brown); Keepmeinmind (R. Diodoro); O Besos (G. Foley)