This year’s Derby sets up like most of the others. There should be 9 horses looking to be a length or two off the lead. Of course, it is highly unlikely there could be that many bunched together at the half mile post. Hopefully, I’ll identify those that will have trouble getting in front and, in all likelihood, fade at the end. There isn’t a true speed horse in this race, and the closers are few and far between. The two things I think that are key for a 3 year old going a mile and a quarter for the first time are pedigree and workouts on the track. Remember, most of these horses have only been a mile and an eighth once. Post position is also a key factor in a 20 horse field. The following is a synopsis of this year’s field. The horse in () is the sire.
1) American Pharoah (Pioneer of the Nile): Probably the only true speed horse in the race, but flexible enough to come a few lengths off if need be. That will be key, as he drew a poor post at #17. He won the Arkansas Derby by 8 lengths and has looked the best in training. He is a worthy favorite and could be worth a triple-crown future as I believe he is by far the most talented horse in the field. His pedigree suggests the distance shouldn’t be a problem.
2) Carpe Diem (Giant’s Causeway): If you’re looking to fade a contender, this may be the one as he drew a terrible post at #2, and needs to be on the lead. If he gets squeezed out, it could be a long day. He is a nice colt that won the Toyota Bluegrass Stakes. His pedigree suggests that he should get the distance, but he has no recorded workouts at the track.
3) Dortmund (Big Brown): The biggest colt in the field, he has enough speed to get up front and has the perfect draw in the middle at #8. The question is what happens if he is going head to head with Pharoah early one? I don’t like him in that scenario. He won the Santa Anita Derby and has run on the track before as a 2 year old. He is a gutsy colt, but has no recorded workouts. He is a tough one to figure out, and has the pedigree to get the distance, but it would be hard to leave him out of the exotics.
4) Materiality (Afleet Alex): A true wildcard in the field. He is lightly raced, but has won all 3 of his races, including the Florida Derby. The time wasn’t great and he doesn’t have an ideal draw. He should have no problem getting the distance and seems to be getting better each week, as he has had some very good workouts at the track. Consider him in the exotics
5) Itsaknockout (Lemon Drop Kid): If you are a superstitious one, then this is the horse for you. In fact, there is a marketing promo with this horse and the fight. He does have the pedigree to get the distance and has had some good workouts at the track. But he ran poorly in the Florida Derby, finishing 20 lengths back. He isn’t real fast, but wants to be up on the lead. That could be a problem in this race. Look elsewhere.
6) War Story (Northern Afleet): Another horse that looks to be on the lead. He finished 3rd in the Louisiana Derby in an uninspiring effort. He has raced here before and has been training here for 3 weeks. But his pedigree suggests the distance will be a problem. I see this horse fading after battling up front after a mile or so.
7) Mr Z (Malibu Moon): The most experienced horse in the field and also will look to be on the lead. He finished 3rd in the Arkansas Derby, well behind the leader. He has some decent workouts on the track, but his pedigree suggests the distance may be a problem. Look elsewhere.
8) Ocho Ocho Ocho (Street Sense): He has a terrible draw for a horse that looks to be on the lead. I can easily see this colt being shuffled back at the first quarter pole. He finished 3rd in the Toyota Bluegrass, fading down the stretch. He has trained at the track, but the only recorded time is at 3 furlongs, which doesn’t give us much to go on. Even though he does have the pedigree, I think he is going to have a terrible trip
9) Firing Line (Line of David): He is another wildcard in this race that will look to press the pace. It’s hard to tell if his connections have the confidence in this colt, as they took the easy route running in the Sunland Derby against horses that quite frankly will never see the light of day in the Kentucky Derby. He did win by 14 lengths and came within .02 of the track record. The distance could be a problem for this colt which will probably keep him out of the exotics, but he is a nice colt
10) Mubtaahij: Not much to go one with this colt. He ran in Dubai and hasn’t shown much in terms of training at Churchill Downs. It’s hard to tell if he is a contender based on the competition he has faced. As a result, I’ll fade this colt.
11) International Star (Fusiachi Pegasas): A colt worth a look in the exotics. Won the Louisiana Derby by a neck and has run on this track before as a 2 year old. He’ll probably come off the pace and his training has been OK. He does have the pedigree to get the distance.
12) Frosted (Tapit): Tapit colts are hard to figure at this distance. Sometimes they make it, others they fade. Tapit himself faded, so I’ll fade this colt as well. He did win the Wood Memorial, but has no recorded workouts at the track. Look for him behind the lead pack in the early going.
13) El Kabeir (Scatt Daddy): This colt will look to come off the pace. He ran a disappointing 3rd in the Wood memorial. He has run on the track as a 2 year old, but has no recorded workouts on the track this week. He showed some early promise, but has only shown it at a mile and a sixteenth. Plus, his pedigree doesn’t suggest that he can’t get the distance. I’ll pass on this colt.
14) Upstart (Flatter): This is a promising colt that finished a close 2nd in the Florida Derby. But he has a bad outside draw and no recorded workouts on the track. The draw may not be that bad as he will likely come off the pace, but still, it isn’t ideal. Plus, his pedigree doesn’t suggest that he can get the distance. Pass on this colt.
15) Danzig Moon (Malibu Moon): He ran a surprisingly decent 2nd in the Toyota Bluegrass. He ran on the track before and will look to come off the pace. He has had some nice workouts at the track, but his pedigree suggests the distance will be an issue. Look elsewhere.
16) Tencendur (Warriors Reward): Hard to see how this colt can compete in this race. He is here based on his 2nd in the Wood Memorial, but it wasn’t an impressive performance. I guess if you have a chance to race in the Derby, you take it. His pedigree suggests the distance will be an issue, but he has had some great workouts on the track. Look for him to come off the pace.
17) Bolo (Temple City): A lot of people like this colt, but I just don’t see it. He finished a distant 3rd in the Santa Anita Derby, and will look to come off the pace. He has no recorded workouts on the track and could have trouble getting the distance.
18) Far Right (Notional): Finished a distant 2nd in the Arkansas Derby, and will look to come from the back of the pack. He has run on the track before and has had some decent workouts. But I just can’t see this horse being a factor, as the distance is a major question.
19) Keen Ice (Curlin): If you’re looking for a sleeper in the exotics, this could be the colt. He wasn’t impressive in the Louisiana Derby, finishing 4th. But he has run on the track before and has had 3 solid weeks of training at Churchill, not to mention the pedigree. Every year, it seems a closer comes from way back to hit the board. If that happens again, this is the only colt that could do it.
20) Frammento (Midshippman): A replacement for Stanford who defected, he will get the #20 pole. He finished 4th in the Toyota Bluegrass. He has raced on the track before, but has no recorded workouts at the track. It’s hard to see how this colt can be a factor