TDN Top Triple Crown Contenders


4) MESSIER (c, Empire Maker–Checkered Past, by Smart Strike) 'TDN Rising Star' O-SF Racing LLC, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables LLC, Robert E. Masterson, Jay A. Schoenfarber, Waves Edge Capital LLC, Catherine M. Donovan, Golconda Stable & Siena Farm LLC. B-Sam-Son Farm (ON). T-Tim Yakteen. Sales History: $470,000 ylg '20 FTKSEL. Lifetime Record: GSW & GISP, 6-3-3-0, $435,600. Last Start: 2nd GI Runhappy Santa Anita Derby. KY Derby Points: 40. Post 6, 8-1.

I'm grudgingly respectful of 'TDN Rising Star' Messier, but still not completely sold on him from a pari-mutuel “trust” standpoint. Which colt will show up on Saturday? The one who couldn't seal the deal in a weak, five-horse GII Los Alamitos Futurity as the odds-on favorite? Or the one who unleashed a 103-Beyer when winning besting a (similarly anemic) five-horse crew by 15 lengths in the GIII Robert B. Lewis?

The closer we get to the Derby, the more inclined I am to think that a more polished version of Messier will emerge, and that performance is likely to be based on what he showed us in the GI Santa Anita Derby. This $470,000 FTKSEL colt forced a favored pacemaker through demanding fractions, then had to work hard to try and repulse stablemate and fellow 'Rising Star' Taiba (Gun Runner), who eventually wore down Messier in a length-of-stretch slugfest. But considering that race was the first in eight weeks for this Empire Maker colt, the 99-Beyer try should serve as a very effective tightener. And John Velazquez on a speed-oriented Derby starter? That combo has come up smelling like roses in three of the last five years.


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