First Saturday in May, Greatest 2 minutes in Sports & the Run for the Roses. So many great sayings regarding the Kentucky Derby and the only race in America with 20 horses. Despite a long run, there is a tremendous amount of traffic in the first turn. You either want to be up front in the first 6-7 horses or you want to be far back. Mid-pack horses take a beating and/or lose a lot of ground. The pace this year will NOT be fast. Only 4 horses (if that) have any desire to be on the lead and those are Medina Spirit, Midnight Bourbon, Rock Your World and Soup & Sandwich. None of these are run off speed horses. My strategy is trying to pick a winner from the group that will be up front and try to find some long-shot closers that can come in underneath for the trifecta. I will provide detailed analysis for each horse and where I think they will be into that first turn. Another thing to look for is number of preps. Ideally you want a horse with only 2 preps and ready to run a big race. A few horses qualify on this front.
1. Known Agenda - The best jocky & trainer combination in the race. The rail is NOT an issue and actually might be an advantage. With a 15 foot shorter gate, there is plenty of room for this horse to find safe running ground. Plus you have a superb jockey. Horse improved dramatically when adding the blinkers. In the Sam F Davis this horse was 11th and 11 lengths back and closed to be 5th, 4 lengths back. That is impressive. Then with blinkers on and the jockey switch to Irad he has won 2 straight including a Grade 1. Only negatives are the lugging out in the stretch in Florida likely due to strong left handed whip. 2nd negative could be traffic for a mid-pack horse. If this horse saves ground in both turns, it's hard to see it not hitting the trifecta.
2. Like the King - The Jeff Ruby stakes was a weak prep. This horse beat Sainthood to a spot on the race track or may not have won. Wesley Ward is not a 10F trainer and is probably better on turf/synthetic. Sometimes horses will pop a big figure first time dirt and this one is making 3rd start of year which is a positive. Figures to be far back early and make a wide run to the lead and finish out of the Super.
3. Brooklyn Strong - This horse got sick and made first start of year in Wood Memorial. Horse was very eager to run, got checked early in the race and then had no racing room late in the race. This is a mid-pack horse. Started in Maiden Claiming after selling for only $5K at the sale. Won Remsen on a sloppy track. Feel this horse will have similar troubles in the Kentucky Derby (traffic early/late) and will finish out of the Super.
4. Keepmeinmind - This horse doesn't belong in the Derby. Has been crushed twice this year. Lone win was at CD and just fired a blistering 4F work-out. Takes off the blinkers which is a horrible angle for this trainer. Deep closer that is not fast enough will not hit the Super.
5. Sainthood - Had every chance to win Jeff Ruby but got outrun to a spot in the second turn, got bumped & had to check (jockey over reacted). Got set down again and came running for 2nd. Rest of the trip was smooth sailing. Like this one better than Like the King. You get Pletcher & Lanerie (who saves ground for major jockey upgrade). Broke maiden on dirt and might fire a big one. Possible to hit the trifecta at huge odds with a clean trip. Likely mid-pack.
6. O Besos - Kind of a wise guy horse. Almost took 2nd in Louisiana Derby without threatening for the win. This is a deep closer who could pass some tired horses late. Needs to save ground in both turns and would be threat to hit the Trifecta. Louisiana Derby this year was 9.5F and horse ran it in 1:55.4 which is solid. Well rested but heavily raced and not likely to improve.
7. Mandaloun - This horse stopped badly in LA Derby with no excuses. Working well at CD but he always works well. Going to get shuffled back further than he normally is and is a toss for me. Kind of a wise guy horse. I've never been high on him.
8. Medina Spirit - Strong contender to set the pace. Think he had instructions to not give horse a hard race in Santa Anita. With that said, the jockey still tried to win the race but he let Rock Your World take the lead early. Pace in that race was legit and this horse never stops trying. Don't think Velazquez gets too aggressive but if he's given the lead he could be tough to beat. Definitely a speed horse that can hold on for a big piece. Note this horse is heavily raced and very unlikely to improve.
9. Hot Rod Charlie - I have been high on this horse all year (even before his first race). He almost won the BC Juvenile at 94-1 making a very bold move to take the lead and lose by less than a length to the favorite today. This horse started sprinting & on turf. When stretched out on dirt with blinkers on, broke his maiden. Come back this year, horse may have been a tad short and was between horses in the stretch but battled all the way to the wire. In second start of year, Rosario gave him a great ride and put him on the lead where he just cruised to a solid win. Pedigree is weak for 10F but he won a 9.5F race in solid time, so going to give him the pass there. Great ownership group. I have him at 53-1 in one of the Future Wagers. He won't be on the lead today but might be in the first flight of 6-7 horses. I'm not a big fan of the Rosario to Plat jockey switch. Figures to improve in Derby in 3rd start of year and with plenty of rest. Use this one on top and in the trifecta.
10. Midnight Bourbon - This is a damn good horse that is also huge physically. He will need more time to be at his best. I had him to win the Lecomte at 3.7-1 where he went wire 2 wire. This horse has never passed another horse in the stretch but can run all day. Major jockey upgrade from Talamo to Smith. If he wants to win, he needs to be on the lead or at most a head back of Medina Spirit. I expect those 2 horses to run 1-2 down the backstretch. He wanted the lead in LA Derby but Talamo had a strangle hold on him with feet on the brakes and tight hold on the reigns. He wasted energy there and lost ground in both turns to the winner. You could make a case that if he was allowed to run on the back stretch he goes on to victory. Very solid bet to win and another that could hold on for a big piece. He has been full of himself in the mornings and training quickly for an Asmussen colt.
11. Dynamic One - Heavily raced and Thorograph is high on this colt's chances. He was definitely the best horse in the Wood. But took this horse 4 times to break his maiden and he hasn't had any break in training. A mid-pack horse that is going to have a lot of trouble. I also don't know what to do with horses coming out of the Wood. The prep looked awful and fell apart late. My gut says toss the Wood horses.
12. Helium - Don't know how this horse is 50-1. Not getting any buzz either because the 8 week rest is a LONG time. With all that said, his Tampa Bay Derby effort was very impressive. He broke slow without excuse but was then rushed up and travelled 6 wide into first turn passing 5 horses and getting within 3 lengths of the lead. He continued to charge down the backstretch to 2nd a length out of it at the 2nd call. He was 5 wide in the second turn. Then he had to withstand the stretch drive of Hidden Stash (who is not that good). This was his first route race and first time on dirt. Now he gets a jockey switch to patient Leparoux. I don't know where this horse will be early. Could be close up or very far back. But this horse is undefeated and we don't know where his ceiling is yet. An absolute must use for the trifecta and a decent long-shot pick to win
13. Hidden Stash - This horse couldn't run by Helium (when he should have) and got crushed by Essential Quality and Highly Motivated in the Bluegrass. No thank you. Easy toss.
14. Essential Quality - The only negative about this horse is his odds which will be hurt by Mattress Mack $4M win wager. The horse has a high cruising speed. He let Highly Motivated take the lead in Bluegrass where there was zero pace in the race. They went slow. Highly Motivated was just in cruise control and jockey was very relaxed. Saez had a strangle hold on Essential Quality with feet on the brakes. I think Saez will have this horse in that first group of 6-7 horses and in cruise control. In his 3rd start of year, he has every right to blow by them all in the stretch. Definitely the FASTEST horse in the race.
15. Rock Your World - Lots of people love this horse or hate this horse. People that make figures think his Santa Anita Derby win was not that fast and that he's eligible to bounce 2nd time dirt. Maybe they are right. At first when I watched the race, I thought he was getting tired in the stretch. But now I think he was just green and switched leads. He blew away Medina Spirit who is a good horse and has been working out like a champ. In his last work, he stalked another horse and then had a tremendous gallop out. He will get a similar trip today. Probably laying 3rd or 4th early. Turf horses run well at CD (don't know why but they do). This is probably the biggest threat to Essential Quality and unless he bounces should hit the trifecta.
16. King Fury - This horse is getting a lot of buzz and is going to take way too much money. He won a weak prep race in the slop. Yes he looked tremendous but beat nothing. He is a very deep closer and his jockey does save ground. He might get a clean trip and hit the board but no shot at winning.
17. Highly Motivated - The draw is an issue. This horse doesn't want the lead and honestly doesn't really have early speed. He's more of a mid-pack horse that could lose a lot of ground in the first turn. His pedigree is also very questionable for 10F and he has only raced 2-turns once in his career. Now that was a spectacular effort and he gave Essential Quality everything he could handle but he wasn't restrained and saved ground. If he can secure a good spot in the first 6-7 horses early, he has a shot to make an impact. If he gets shuffled back in that first turn, he's a toss. He is making his 3rd start of year which is a big positive.
18. Super Stock - This is a feel good story horse but this horse is not a Derby horse. Very weak pedigree he needed the Arkansas Derby race to fall apart. He saved ground on both turns and won in a slow time. Derby horses don't win the Texas Thoroughbred Futurity with the trainer's son on board. This horse would need to save a tremendous amount of ground to have any shot and that is now impossible with the 18 post. I love the Asmussen family but I have to toss this one.
19. Soup & Sandwich - This horse ran a super race in the FL Derby. On the wrong lead in the stretch, only lost by 2 lengths. Now he gets the 19 post. If he wants lead, he has to go very fast. And if doesn't go fast, he will lose ground in the first turn to very good horses. Lose-Lose proposition. He also could bounce off that FL Derby effort. I think this horse will not hit the Super.
20. Bourbonic - Won the Wood Memorial by a nostril. Love the name and may have to play a Bourbon Exacta just for fun. The Wood fell apart and he barely got up. This horse was not living up to his pedigree at all and went off at 72-1. He is a deep closer so the post is not an issue. His pedigree suggests he will pass many tired horses. This horse did improve with blinkers added but he's too slow and heavily raced to win this race. The Trifecta is the ceiling.
Bottom Line -
Here are the numbers of the horses that "could win" the race. 1,8,9,10,12,14,15,17. That's a big group but I want to be realistic before I start narrowing it down.
Horses that are tosses from the Trifecta are 2,3,4,7,11,13,18,19. That's a good group of tosses. That leaves 4 horses that are useable underneath only 5,6,16,20. Of the trifecta only horses, you must use the #5 who will be gigantic odds that nobody uses. The 6,16,20 all could hit the board but they are going to take some money. I'm going to stick to my gut and toss Bourbonic who I don't think is as good a horse as the 11 that I tossed.
Now back to the top group, the 12 will not be in the top 6-7 horses. So let's move that one to the trifecta only category. At 50-1, he is a must-use. The 1 & 17 are the biggest question marks with respect to the pace. But the 1 could fall a bit behind early and pick up many lengths in that first turn on horses that are wide. The 17 is likely going to be outrun early and get caught wide. That makes me believe the first 6 horses coming out of the first turn are the 1,8,9,10,14,15. One of them is going to win! Another knock on the 17, he lost to the 15 despite all the advantages of setting a slow pace and saving ground. Now he's drawn worse and has less natural speed relative to the 15. The 17 is not that great of a closer and his pedigree is soft for 10F. Me personally, I'm going to toss the 17 from the trifecta.
So I'm left with 10 horses for the trifecta. 1,5,6,8,9,10,12,14,15,16. There are several bombs in there and I will use all of them in 3rd. Sorry this is sort of a random blog, but the Derby is hard!
There is enough quality in the top group of early speed & pressers to think they will make up the exacta. So if you can afford it you could play 1,8,9,10,14,15 with 1,8,9,10,14,15 with 1,5,6,7,8,10,12,14,15,16. That's 240 combinations. And you can hit some combinations a lot harder than others.
For win bet, I'm sticking with my future wager on the #9. Good luck folks! Let me know if you have any specific questions below, on twitter, e-mail, whatever!