Once again, it looks like the New York and Mid-Atlantic racing circuits have flopped in producing bona fide Triple Crown contenders.
The Kentucky Derby is only two months away and interest in the series is starting to heat up.
But all the best horses -- and key races -- are elsewhere, either in California, Florida, Arkansas or Kentucky.
Steve Feldman, co-author of "Derby Watch" for the Daily Racing Form along with Steve Haskin, said "going the New York route to the Derby hasn't produced a winner since Pleasant Colony in 1981."
This year, he said, should be no exception.
"There is nothing [in the way of horseflesh] in New York," Feldman said. "And there aren't any high-priced 3-year-old races in Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania that would induce a trainer to ship in and run. The only horses in these [upcoming] races will come from local stables."
And none of the local horses seem to be standouts.
Wolf Prince, best of the Maryland 3-year-olds this winter, has gone to the Fair Hill Training Center, where he is being conditioned by Michael Dickinson for a possible turf career.
Prairie Bayou, recent winner of the Whirlaway Stakes at Aqueduct, has been shipped to Arkansas. Instead of pointing for a New York race like the Gotham Stakes on March 27, he is being aimed for the Jim Beam Stakes at Turfway Park on the same day.
"A couple of reasons," Feldman said. "First, the last major New York prep for the Derby is the Wood Memorial on April 17. That's only two weeks before the big race at Churchill Downs. Trainers now like to space out their races more and have their horses in Kentucky earlier to get them used to the track and the surroundings. It's just too short a time span between the Wood Memorial and the Derby.
"Secondly, the weather. Trainers go where it's warm in the winter and now they are staying there longer. This year, the top New York outfits not only went to Florida, but Billy Badgett went to the Fair Grounds in New Orleans and, as usual, the Loblolly Stable went to Hot Springs [Oaklawn Park]."
There are bound to be some Southern-based 3-year-olds heading to New York to grab the big pots. Feldman said the Phipps Stable is sending Strolling Along for the annual New York series of Bay Shore-Gotham-Wood Memorial races and Ben Perkins, Sr., indicated that Maryland-bred Woods of Windsor might also be headed that way from Gulfstream Park.
Starting last year, Feldman and Haskin began listing their "Top 30" Derby horses each week, starting about 90 days before the race.
"We're constanting juggling and shifting around horses depending on the results of stakes each weekend as well as looking at other races where a new horse has popped up and run big in maiden or allowance company," Feldman said.
So far, he has formed these opinions on the current 3-year-old crop:
* Don't expect a 1993 Triple Crown winner. "Based on the 2-year-old form, there isn't a super horse," Feldman said. "But, the best 3-year-olds haven't raced yet."
* Don't expect Gilded Time or Eliza -- the Breeders' Cup Juvenile winners -- to make it to the Derby.
"Gilded Time [top male 2-year-old last year] has had a foot injury," Feldman said. "He's now back in training, sort of, but he's running out of time to make it to Kentucky."
"Alex Hassinger, trainer of Eliza [the female 2-year-old champ], doesn't want to run her in the Derby. The horse's owner, Allen Paulson, has a couple of 3-year-old colts -- Stuka and Corby -- who are looking good in California, so Hassinger shouldn't have much pressure to run Eliza."
* Feldman's Derby pick so far: Loblolly Stable's Dalhart, a son of Forty Niner.
"As a 2-year-old he showed both speed and stamina," Feldman said. "Secondly, he's in good hands. Tom Bohannan, his trainer, won the Preakness last year with Pine Bluff. Thirdly, the horse should come into the Derby virtually unscathed via the Arkansas route [like last year's Derby winner Lil E. Tee]."
For Derby watchers, these are the major races on various circuits leading up to the May 1 Kentucky Derby.
Races: Fountain of Youth Stakes (winners -- Duc d'Sligovil, Storm Tower), Swale Stakes and Florida Derby (March 20)
Best horses: It'sali'knownfact, Living Vicariously, Silver of Silver,
Races: San Rafael Stakes (yesterday), San Felipe Stakes (March 14), Santa Anita Derby (April 3), California Derby (April 10).
PD Best horses: River Special, Stuka, Personal Hope, Art of Living.
Races: Southwest Stakes (Saturday), Rebel Stakes (March 27), Arkansas Derby (April 17).
@4 Best horses: Dalhart, Saw Mill, Truth Of It All.
Races: Jim Beam Stakes (March 27), Blue Grass Stakes (April 10), Lexington Stakes (April 18), Forerunner Stakes (April 21), Derby Trial (April 24)
K? Best horses: Will ship in from Florida and Midwest regions.
Races: Bay Shore Stakes (March 13), Gotham Stakes (March 27), Wood Memorial (April 17)
Best horses: Strolling Along, Woods of Windsor
Of course, look for new names and budding stars to emerge during the march to the Derby.
Kentucky Derby odds
.. .. .. Cur. .. .. ..Open.
Horse odds odds
River Special 4-1 3-1
Dalhart 8-1 15-1
Gilded Time 8-1 5-1
Art Of Living 10-1 30-1
Stuka 10-1 8-1
Eliza-x 12-1 30-1
Personal Hope 12-1 20-1
Prairie Bayou 15-1 35-1
Pricelessly 15-1 40-1
Strolling Along 15-1 20-1
Dry Bean 20-1 40-1
Silver Of Silver 20-1 35-1
Storm Tower 20-1 50-1
Torole 20-1 30-1
Brother Brown 30-1 75-1
Halostrada 30-1 30-1
Hidden Luck 30-1 30-1
Living Vicariously 30-1 40-1
Only Alpha 30-1 100-1
Sea Hero 30-1 10-1
Wild Gale 30-1 30-1
Corby 35-1 35-1
Saw Mill 40-1 60-1
Slews Gold 40-1 40-1
Summer Set 40-1 40-1
Yappy 40-1 40-1
Cezind 50-1 100-1
Crafty 50-1 50-1
Deputy Sheriff 50-1 200-1
Earl Of Barking 50-1 50-1
Fort Chaffee 50-1 100-1
Fort Defiance 50-1 50-1
It'sali'lknownfact 50-1 50-1
Mi Cielo 50-1 50-1
Miner's Mark 50-1 50-1
Williamstown 50-1 50-1
Woods Of Windsor 50-1 50-1
The Glantz-Culver Future Book Odds is a consensus line to win the 1993 Kentucky Derby for horses with current odds of 50-1 or less.
1992 Md.-bred champions
The Maryland Horse Breeders' Association recently named its 1992 champions:
Horse of year: Brilliant Brass
2-year-old colt: Secret Odds
2-year-old filly: Carnirainbow
3-year-old colt: Ameri Valay
3-year-old filly: Star Minister
Older male: Irish Swap
Older female: Brilliant Brass
Turf runner: Calling Collect
Jumper: Circuit Bar
The MHBA and the Sons of Italy, which annually present the Federico Tesio Awards, are joining forces this year and are holding a joint awards banquet on April 21 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. After the awards ceremony, the horse people can watch a ballgame.