They're off, and running on the road to the Kentucky Derby.
The prep race season is in full swing with hundreds of 3-year-olds competing for one of 20 coveted spots in the starting gate at Churchill Downs on May 2.
With just over 10 weeks to go before Derby Day, The Associated Press begins its weekly Run to the Roses list of Top 10 contenders, featuring a pair of colts each from the powerful stables of Bob Baffert and Todd Pletcher.
Baffert's Dortmund gets the nod at No. 1. The chestnut colt is 4-for-4 after a gutsy victory in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita on Feb. 7. The three-time Derby winning trainer also has the No. 3 pick in American Pharoah, the 2-year-old male champion prepping for his next start, likely the Rebel at Oaklawn Park on March 14.
Pletcher checks in at No. 4 with Breeders' Cup Juvenile runner-up Carpe Diem and No. 6 with Withers winner Far From Over. Pletcher leads all trainers with 34 Triple Crown nominations.
Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner Texas Red is No. 2, but an abscess in his right front foot could affect his Derby status.
Baffert last won the Derby in 2002 with War Emblem, and he's 0-for-12 since. Just getting a horse to the race is an accomplishment. He often says it's not safe ''until you put the saddle on them.''
The Derby field is based on a points system of 35 selected races. The field is limited to 20 starters.
This weekend's preps are Saturday's Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park and the Risen Star at the Fair Grounds, along with Sunday's Southwest at Oaklawn Park.
Holy Bull winner Upstart - No. 5 on the list - is set for the Fountain of Youth. Among his challengers are Frosted, Gorgeous Bird and Itsaknockout. Imperia, International Star and War Story are among 10 entered for the Risen Star.
Here's our Top 10:
1. Dortmund (Bob Baffert, Martin Garcia): Unbeaten in four career races after win in Robert B. Lewis on Feb. 7. ... Won Los Alamitos Futurity in three-horse photo on Dec. 20. ... Son of Derby-Preakness winner Big Brown. ... Huge colt reminds Baffert of his Derby-Preakness winner Point Given. ... Next start: Santa Anita Derby, Santa Anita (April 4). ... Derby future odds (Pool 2): 10-1.
2. Texas Red (Keith Desormeaux, Kent Desormeaux): High-ranking based on huge win in BC Juvenile and close second in San Vicente. ... Could drop quickly if recovery from abscess of right front foot doesn't go well. ... Next start: Santa Anita Derby. ... Odds: 9-1.
3. American Pharoah (Baffert, Victor Espinoza): Won Eclipse as top 2-year-old male even after missing BC Juvenile with injury. ... Back in training, working 5 furlongs on 1:00.40 at Santa Anita on Sunday. ... Won Frontrunner and Del Mar Futurity before injury. ... Next start: San Felipe, Santa Anita (March 7) or Rebel, Oaklawn Park (March 14). ... Odds: 10-1.
4. Carpe Diem (Todd Pletcher, John Velazquez): Distant second to Texas Red in BC Juvenile. ... One of Pletcher's trainer-leading 34 Triple Crown nominees. ... Won Breeders' Futurity. ... Next start: Tampa Bay Derby, Tampa Bay Downs (March 7). ... Odds: 12-1.
5. Upstart (Rick Violette, Jr., Jose Ortiz): Loving Florida so far after Holy Bull win. ... New York-bred ran third in BC Juvenile. ... Next Start: Fountain of Youth, Gulfstream Park (Saturday). ... Odds: 12-1.
6. Far From Over (Pletcher, Manuel Franco): After scary stumble at start, made huge last-to-first run to win Withers. ... Plans to stay in chilly New York for prep season. ... Next start: Gotham, Aqueduct (March 7). ... Odds: 5-1 (mutuel field).
7. Ocean Knight (Kiaran McLaughlin, Irad Ortiz Jr.): Won Sam F. Davis, but needs to prove he's Derby worthy in next race. ... Could stay in Florida, but New York likely next stop. ... Next start: Gotham. ... Odds: 18-1.
8. Firing Line (Simon Callaghan, Gary Stevens): Two close losses to Dortmund, in the Robert B. Lewis and Los Alamitos Futurity. ... Next start: Sunland Derby, Sunland Park (March 22) or Santa Anita Derby. ... Odds: 35-1.
9. Ocho Ocho Ocho (James Cassidy, Mike Smith): Looking to improve on 3-for-3 record, which includes win in Delta Jackpot. Next start: San Felipe. ... Odds: 26-1.
10. Prospect Park (Clifford Sise Jr., Desormeaux): Won allowance race impressively. ... Latest workout sharp at 6 furlongs in 1:12.20 at San Luis Rey training center. ... Next start: San Felipe. Odds: 35-1.
Keep an eye on: El Kabeir, Frosted, International Star, Take Charge Brandi, War Story.
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