Banned has scored the most impressive 3-year old turf win year-to-date.

By Nick Hahn

A top ten look at three-year-olds who have started on the North American turf in 2011, perhaps with thoughts of the $600,000 Virginia Derby (Grade 2) at Colonial Downs on July 18th.

Three significant turf races over Memorial Day weekend separate some of the pretenders from the contenders.  Crimson China cruised to an easy score in the short field of the Lamplighter, Willcox Inn impressed in the Arlington Classic and Thirtyfirststreet enters the Turf Ten with a score in the Lone Star Derby.

What’s the next big weekend for three year olds on the turf?  In two weeks (June 18th) when the Jefferson Cup at Churchill Downs and Hill Prince at Belmont Park are gated.

1) BANNED – He has the most impressive outing on the turf so far in the American Turf at Churchill Downs.  Virginia Derby winner Kitten’s Joy (2004) sires this Glen Hill Farm colt that will likely make his next start in the Jefferson Cup before the Virginia Derby.  Glen Hill also another contender in Extensive.
Crimson China in the synthetic Bluegrass post parade
now is solidly back on the turf.

2) AIR SUPPORT –The Smart Strike-sired Transylvania winner rallied for third in the American Turf.  In his recent starts, this is Claude McGaughey-Stuart Janney colt has regularly seen some of the toughest competition such as Pluck, Soldat, Great Mills, Close Ally and Banned. 

3) ANIMAL KINGDOM – It certainly looks like Motion won’t bring this colt to the Virginia Derby or any other turf anytime soon.  However he just missed on the turf at a mile in March, has the turf pedigree and certainly can get the mile and quarter.  If not for Triple Crown aspirations, he would likely be on top of this list.
4) CRIMSON CHINA – This was supposed to be Motion’s Triple Crown colt but fortunately for Animal Kingdom things didn’t work out.  With the simple win in the Lamplighter this weekend, he’s refocused on the Virginia Derby turf.
5) KING CONGIE – Okay….you’ve had your dance in the Triple Crown.  Certainly not a poor outing in the Preakness but can we get back to the grass now?  On the turf Thomas Albertrani’s colt is undefeated at the wire pardoning the disqualification in the Hallandale Beach.
6) BRILLIANT SPEED – Bluegrass winner turned the tables on King Congie in the Bluegrass Stakes after the Hallandale Beach at Gulfstream Park.  Albertrani ‘s “other horse” may be the most consistent colt on this list on the turf (or synthetic).
7) THIRTYFIRSTSTREET – Came out of a California state-bred stakes to surprise in the first running of the Lone Star Derby on turf.  Now can he win when he isn’t 21-1?  As the Close Ally camp will tell you, don’t fall asleep on this colt in the stretch.  He will battle.
8) WILLCOX INN – After running third in the last autumn Breeder’s Cup Juvenile Turf, Willcox Inn found yielding turf at the Fairgrounds and wasn’t himself in the Bluegrass.  Has he rediscovered his stride with the impressive score in the American Classic over the weekend?
9) CLOSE ALLY – Certainly becoming one of the most consistent starters in recently months with his runner up performances in the American Turf and Lone Star Derby.  Both of those starts were at a mile and a sixteenth.  He put his nose in front inside the eighth pole in the Lone Star Derby but can he get a mile and a quarter?
10) QUEEN’SPLATEKITTEN – After an impressive rebounding score in Woodbine’s Marine Stakes after a disappointing Bluegrass, this Kitten’s Joy-bred is shooting for the race that’s part of his namesake, the Queen’s Plate at Woodbine on June 26th again on the synthetic.  Depending on that outing will the stay on the Canadian synthetic or head south for “greener” pastures?
Others on the horizon include Chinglish, Suntracer, Twinspired, Great Mills and Lil Bit O Fun.