TDN Top Triple Crown Contenders


1) ZANDON (c, Upstart–Memories Prevail, by Creative Cause) O-Jeff Drown. B-Brereton C. Jones (KY). T-Chad C. Brown. Sales History: $170,000 ylg '20 KEESEP. Lifetime Record: GISW, 4-2-1-1, $713,000. Last Start: 1st GI Toyota Blue Grass S. KY Derby Points: 114. Post 10, 3-1.

Zandon enters the Derby having rightfully earned kingpin status. A beautifully balanced, nearly black colt by Upstart ($170,000 KEESEP), this Chad Brown trainee is light on experience (just four races), but heavy on the “street smarts” he acquired via adversity-overcoming lessons in a trio of nine-furlong graded stakes. Zandon is capable of torqueing into a “Wow!” gear, and I suspect we haven't yet seen the outer limits of his power reserves. He has blossomed from being a scrappy, stretched-out sprinter who put up a spirited fight when second in the roughly run stretch battle of last December's GII Remsen S., to being a big-run closer who now more assertively shoulders rivals out of the way, like when rallying from last in the GI Blue Grass S. a month ago.

Yet, despite his lofty ranking as the likeliest winner, I still have reservations about backing Zandon in the mutuels at or below his morning-line price of 3-1. That's not so much because of a lack of faith in Zandon. The dicey part of the proposition is the same one that emerges every year: Betting any underlaid sophomore in a chaotic 20-horse race over 10 furlongs is usually not the most sustainable move for your bankroll. Zandon's evolving tactics switch–from being a stalker to closing from farther off the tailgate–also gives cause for pause: The last eight Derbies have been won by speed-centric horses who either set or forced the pace.


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