Christmas has finally arrived for thoroughbred horse players everywhere. On the first Saturday in May, Christmas is the Kentucky Derby and the tree is Churchill Downs. Churchill Downs is to horse racing as Augusta National is to golf, as Daytona Speedway is to NASCAR, and as the Rose Bowl is to College Football. Rain or shine, nothing will dampen our enthusiasm come 6:04pm on Saturday as we watch the most exciting 2 minutes in sports.
Here’s how I see the 134th running of the Kentucky Derby playing out, listed in my predicted order of finish…
1st - # 9 Pyro (6-1): I’ve watched every one of his 2008 races. He’s a “push-button” horse who if not for the egg he laid in the Bluegrass Stakes, would be the odds on favorite. I’m buying into the fact he didn’t handle the synthetic surface and I feel there is just too much early speed among the 20 for Big Brown to have it all his way on the lead. Rain or shine, I see Pyro passing the leg-weary speed in the stretch like they’re standing still.
2nd – # 4 Court Vision (20-1): He’s a deep closer who won’t get a call until mid-way down the home stretch… I hope. There’s a few reasons why I like him… in every one of his six career races he has never lost ground in the stretch. That is, he consistently proves he has the stamina necessary to get a piece of the purse. He’s never been off the board and Garrett Gomez has been way too quiet during the Derby Prep races. His time may have come.
3rd - # 20 Big Brown (2-1): There is no denying it. He is special, but so was Curlin last year (finished 3rd) and many others in the past who have entered the Derby with only 3 races under their belt. Kent Desormeaux has compared him to Fusaichi Pegasus (2000 Derby winner), but I think his immaturity will get exposed in this large field with plenty of early speed to take the wind out of his sails leaving him on empty in deep stretch.
4th - # 16 Denis Of Cork (20-1): He’s been handled with kit gloves throughout his 3 year old campaign. His undefeated record took a hit in the Illinois Derby what seems to be a dull 5th place finish. The fact this was a “Merry-Go-Round” race (one where all horses finish in same order as they were positioned early in the race), on a speed favoring track provides him an very good excuse. If anyone is eligible to bounce back, it’s him.
5th - # 10 Colonel John (4-1): With all of his races on synthetic ovals, I find it difficult to jump on his bandwagon. Yes, his only workout on the CD surface this week was an eye-popping one, but races are won in the afternoon, not the morning. What if that workout indicates that he is actually a better horse on dirt than synthetic? If that is true, then he should win by 4 and shame on me.
6th - # 15 Adriano (30-1): His worst race by far to date was his only race on natural dirt. But when Edgar Prado commits to ride him over two other horses he guided to Grade I victories just a few weeks ago (Monba in Blue Grass and Tale Of Ekati in Wood Memorial) that says something.
7th - # 2 Tale Of Ekati (15-1): The Wood Memorial winner showed a lot of heart but not much speed when beating War Pass. Trainer Barclay Tagg didn’t give up hope when his 2008 debut in the Louisiana Derby was forgettable.
8th - # 8 Visionaire (20-1): Yes, he was the only horse to have closed ground on the Keeneland synthetic surface in the Bluegrass, but my opinion on him rests on his Gotham win. The race was set up perfectly for him. He was one of only two “Closers” in the field of 10 and the final fractions were not impressive. Michael Matz is one of the better trainers in the game though.
9th - # 19 Gayego (15-1): Proved in his last race he CAN run on natural dirt, but the final 1/8th in that race was so slow, I doubt he’ll be able to stalk the pace for more than a mile. Also, his Dosage Index is 4.33; remember when Dosage (of 4.00 or less) meant everything in a Derby contender?!
10th – # 11 Z Humor (30-1): He’s a classic “Plodder”; he’ll probably travel mid-pack the entire race; the PP Comment will be “No Factor”. The Illinois Derby flattered him… and the winner.
11th – # 6 Z Fortune (15-1): I cannot recall any past Derby winner having such pedestrian workouts the week of the Derby. If you like him, he might be a good one to put in the 2nd hole of your exotics.
12th – # 13 Bob Black Jack (20-1): A matter of too much speed, too early, for too long, without the pedigree to go 10 furlongs.
13th – # 3 Anak Nakal (30-1): The “Blinkers Off” move often results in a dramatic change in form… which this one desperately needs. His 2008 races have all been cluckers. Trainer Zito called him, “This years Giacomo”. NOT.
14th – # 5 Eight Belles (20-1): I do not understand why the owner made this decision to run this nice filly against 19 “boys”. #1 – It’s not like she’s been mowing down her competition and # 2 – it cannot be Derby Fever because the owner and trainer placed 2nd last year with Hard Spun (behind Street Sense).
15th – # 14 Monba (15-1): Will the real Monba step forward? Are you the one who won the Bluegrass by a neck or got trounced in the Fountain of Youth by 40?!
16th – # 12 Smooth Air (20-1): Chances were compromised by a low-grade fever last week, causing him to miss important training time on the CD oval in the A.M.
17th – # 7 Big Truck (50-1): If he had a shot, then Eibar Coa would have stuck with him instead of picking Tagg’s other entry (Tale Of Ekati).
18th – # 1 Cool Coal Man (20-1): Post Position eliminates his chances from the start.
19th – # 17 Cowboy Cal (20-1): Will be back running on the turf in his next start. Sorry, Todd. You’re still 0-for-the-Derby.
20th – # 18 Recapturetheglory (20-1): Not a snowballs chance in hell.
Based on my analysis of the Derby, I’ll play…
$10 WIN, PLACE, SHOW on # 9 (Pyro)
$1 EXACTA BOX on # 9 (Pyro), # 4 (Court Vision), # 20 (Big Brown) # 16 (Denis Of Cork)
$1 TRIFECTA keying # 20 (Big Brown) in the 3rd spot with # 4, # 9, # 10, # 15, # 16
Recapping Day 10 (May 2nd) of the Pimlico Spring Meet …
Best Bet, Smart Bluff (# 5; 1st race; 2-1) was sent to the lead but faded in the stretch, holding onto the Show spot as the even money favorite, paying $ 2.10 to Show.
Longshot, Miss Matty C (# 8; 4th race; 6-1) turned out to be the 3-1 2nd choice but the worst case scenario occurred. Nancy’s Grace (bet to 4-5) broke alertly and denied Miss Matty C the lead. Unable to get the lead, she held the second position gamely but stopped in the stretch, finishing dead last.
SHOW Parlay Play of the Day $20 on Setonwinn (# 9; 7th race; 4-1); Game over! Setonwinn’s initial try in the afternoon went belly up. Unfortunately, before the race was run, when I saw his odds were higher than his M/L ones, I pretty much knew it wasn’t going to be too promising. So, we lost our first try in Sudden Death as our bankroll has been completely depleted. It was fun (?) while it lasted.
Here’s what I like for the Day 11 (May 3rd) of the Pimlico Spring Meet…
Best Bet: Marine Charm (# 3; 6th race; 4-1)
Feliciano has this one nicely placed here. He should be able to get a comfortable lead and hold it together in the stretch. Appears he’s regaining his old form, so this jump in class is simply a normal progression.
Longshot: Nanicoke (# 3; 3rd race; 12-1)
Even though she’s never been in the money in two lifetime turf outings, she is the only one who possesses early speed. The one mile distance should be ideal considering her two turf tries were at 1 1/16 miles where she led turning for home.
Good Luck with your selections today!