Unbeaten but untested Gemologist is the favorite in a field of eight for Saturday's Wood Memorial.
Gemologist has yet to compete against some of the top Derby hopefuls, and his only start this year was a seven-length victory in an allowance race at Gulfstream Park.
Trainer Todd Pletcher is looking for a big effort from Gemologist because the colt needs to earn enough money to qualify for the Derby if more than the maximum of 20 horses are entered.
Gemologist ranks 30th on the Derby list of graded stakes earnings with $103,855.
Nonetheless, Pletcher rates Gemologist with the best 3-year-olds in the country. Earlier this week, when asked which horses would make his Final Four of Derby contenders, he chose Gemologist as a No. 1 seed, along with early favorites Union Rags, Hansen, and Creative Cause.
Pletcher, as usual, has a large contingent of 3-year-olds still on the Derby trail. On Saturday, he'll send out Our Entourage in the Illinois Derby.
The Illinois Derby drew a full 14 entrants with another three on the also-eligible list. The favorite is Curency Swap, who won the Hopeful at Saratoga, then returned in an allowance at Gulfstream Park on March 16, finishing second.
Several of the others in the Hawthorne starting gate have shown flashes of ability and the winner will earn enough in the Grade III event to secure a Kentucky Derby spot.
The Santa Anita Derby drew a field of 10, with two of the favorites stuck in the inside post positions.
Creative Cause, never worse than third in seven lifetime starts, was drawn No. 1 for the nine-furlong race. He was third behind Hansen and Union Rags in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, then third in the San Vicente in February before winning the San Felipe last month.
Right to his outside will be Liaison, who has something to prove. With plenty of earnings after winning the Cash Call Futurity at Del Mar, the Indian Charlie colt finished eighth in the Robert Lewis and then fourth in the San Felipe in his only two starts this year for trainer Bob Baffert. Baffert also saddles Blueskiesnrainbows, an English Channel colt making a big jump in class, and Paynter, who won his only previous start six weeks ago.