Christmas has finally arrived for thoroughbred horse players everywhere. 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 6:24pm EDT on Saturday as we watch the most exciting 2 minutes in sports, the Kentucky Derby.
The forecast for the Louisville area is for showers from Friday evening through Post Time on Saturday, high in the low 60’s degrees. That really throws a wrench into an already tough task of handicapping this race due to the fact the track will most likely be sealed and sloppy come the Derby, which is the 11th race on the 13 race card.
On Friday the field was reduced by one when #1 – Black Onyx was scratched due to the discovery he had a chip in his ankle. The balance in this 19 horse field is uncanny as far as their running styles. The way I see it there are…
6 – Early Speed
4 – Tactical Speed (Stalker)
5 – Mid-Pack
4 – Closers
There are many schools of thought when it comes to handicapping the Kentucky Derby. The sheer size of the field itself can be overwhelming. Every runner has his positives and negatives. The key is to somehow pull it all together then imagine how the race will be run.
With that being said, and my past performances marked up as if a pre-school class were turned loose on them, here’s HOW I SEE IT (the 139th running of the Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands) playing out, listed in my predicted order of finish. Odds shown are the current betting odds after Friday’s advanced wagering.
Keep in mind I’m picking horses nearly 48 hours BEFORE they walk out on the track. If at all possible, you should not make your wager until you’ve seen the horses in the Post Parade (12 minutes before the start). When horses reach the track, their physical appearance and body language can tip you off on which one(s) to include in your Exacta, Trifecta, Superfecta or simply WIN, PLACE and/or SHOW bet. Good Luck!
1st – #3 – Revolutionary
Trainer / Jockey (Derby Mounts W-P-S): Todd Pletcher / Calvin Borel (10 3-0-1)
Running Style: Closer
Why he COULD win the Derby: He’s a bulldog, a fighter, nothing bothers him. He’s like the super hero who pushes the villains’ henchmen aside, one by one into order to get to Mr. Big, who in this case is the Finish Line. His races are never pretty and often look in doubt, but just like in the movies, the good guy always prevails.If the track is sloppy it will only enhance his chances and they’ll have to alter the above Churchill Downs painting to have Calvin holding up four fingers.
Why he SHOULD NOT be able to win the Derby: Traffic. His running style from well back of the pack means Borel will have to make all the right moves (aka split second decisions) to pass at least a dozen rivals. Add to that difficult task mud and slop hitting your face. Borel will probably go through 10 pairs of goggles during this 1¼ mile trip.
Early Betting Odds : 5-1 compared to Morning Line Odds: 10-1
2nd – #16 – Orb
Trainer / Jockey (Derby Mounts W-P-S): Shug McGaughey / Joel Rosario (3 0-0-0) Best Finish: 4th
Running Style: Mid-Pack
Why he COULD win the Derby: Other than the obvious that he’s improved in every career start, winning his last four, he has turned heads since arriving at Churchill Downs. His only workout over the track was ultra-impressive, and seeing him gallop just days before the Derby hasn’t shown cause to be a detractor.
Why he SHOULD NOT be able to win the Derby: It’s in his nature to get lathered up (sweat with nervous energy) in the Post Parade. So if he is on edge prior to a normal race day, will he have a total meltdown in front of 160,000 fans?
Early Betting Odds: 6-1 compared to Morning Line Odds: 7-2
3rd – #4 – Golden Soul
Trainer / Jockey (Derby Mounts W-P-S): Dallas Stewart / Robby Albarado (12 0-0-2)
Running Style: Closer
Why he COULD win the Derby: He ran 2nd by a head in his career debut (1 mile) race at Churchill Downs. The Derby has been the plan from day one. Even when his Derby points seemed to have fallen short, he was shipped to Churchill Downs to train up to the Derby. He is crying out for more distance and ran his Derby preps over an oval at Fairgrounds (NOLA) that was kind to front-runners for most of the meet. Yet he still displayed a fine closing kick (and speed figure) in his last two races, finishing not far behind other shorter priced Derby runners… Palace Malice (by a nose in the Risen Star), to Revolutionary and Mylute (4+ lengths each in LA Derby) and just 1½ behind Departing who destroyed the IL Derby field and is heading to the Preakness.
Why he SHOULD NOT be able to win the Derby: He only has one win to his credit in 5 lifetime races. His jockey has over 4,500 career wins, but is 0 for 12 in the Derby and this will be the first time riding Golden Soul.
Early Betting Odds : 31-1 compared to Morning Line Odds: 50-1
4th – #2 – Oxbow
Trainer / Jockey (Derby Mounts W-P-S): D. Wayne Lukas / Gary Stevens (18 3-2-1)
Running Style: Speed
Why he COULD win the Derby: On Wednesday A.M. I witness most of the Derby horses gallop the track and this one looked the fittest (i.e. on the muscle). Add the fact his Arkansas Derby is a toss (finished 5th). Jockey Gary Stevens thought he’d “experiment” (in a G1?) and take him back behind the leaders instead of risk being hung out 6-wide into the first turn. Both jock and horse learned a lesson that day and will not make the same mistake again. Especially if the track is sealed sloppy, it could favor the early speed. This Hall of Fame trainer/jock combo teamed up to win the Derby 18 years ago with Thunder Gulch.
Why he SHOULD NOT be able to win the Derby: last Derby winner to have finished worse than 4th in his prior to the Derby came in 1957 (Iron Liege). If he doesn’t break out of the gate quickly and get to the lead, he’ll be toast.
Early Betting Odds : 25-1 compared to Morning Line Odds: 30-1
5th – #5 – Normandy Invasion
Trainer / Jockey (Derby Mounts W-P-S): Chad Brown / Javier Castellano (6 0-0-0)
Running Style: Closer
Why he COULD win the Derby: came closest in last outing to handing Verrazano his first defeat, mounting a furious late run; this will be his 3rd race off a layoff; one of top riders in the country took off Revolutionary to ride him in this race.
Why he SHOULD NOT be able to win the Derby: He’s this years’ “Wise Guy” horse… the one who gets all of the press based on how he looks, trains or ran his last race. I cannot not recall one of these ever winning the Derby.
Early Betting Odds : 8-1 compared to Morning Line Odds: 12-1
6th – #8 – Goldencents
Trainer / Jockey (Derby Mounts W-P-S): Doug O’Neill / Kevin Krigger (1st Derby)
Running Style: Speed
Why he COULD win the Derby: Won the Santa Anita Derby; is the lone West Coast Derby starter; 3rd race off layoff angle; followed same road and training schedule as last year’s Derby winner (I’ll Have Another).
Why he SHOULD NOT be able to win the Derby: bloodlines indicate he’s short on stamina to get the 1¼ miles; history- a jockey “of color” has not won the Derby since 1902.
Early Betting Odds: 5-1 compared to Morning Line Odds: 5-1
Kentucky Derby analysis continued on Page 2