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 6:28pm on Saturday as we watch the most exciting 2 minutes in sports.
The forecast for the Louisville area is for plenty of rain. That really throws a wrench into an already tough task of handicapping this race due to the fact the track will be sloppy. The forecast calls for up to 3-5” of rain after midnight Friday through mid-day Saturday.
Here’s how I see the 136th 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.
1st - # 14 Mission Impazible (24-1): This is the year and the colt who will get trainer Todd Pletcher into the Kentucky Derby Winners Circle to smell the blanket of roses. This unlikely hero will lift his trainers 0 for 24 Derby monkey off his back. Though the lightest raced runner in the field with 5 races, he’s answered every bell, running an increased distance from one race to the next. He’s versatile…able to run close to the leaders or lay further back in the pack. He’s proved he can handle the sloppy going and the CD oval. 20 years ago his Granddaddy (Unbridled) won the Derby. His jockey (Rajiv Maragh) is one of horse racings rising stars. But the clincher is the way he won his last race, the Louisiana Derby. That day, the Fair Grounds track was “speed favoring”. If you weren’t on or near the lead, you weren’t going to win. Mission Impazible bucked the trend, finding an extra gear in the final furlong, passing 4 rivals in front of him while all of his other foes ran the race as if they were figures on a Merry-Go-Round. His time for that final furlong ranks as the fastest among all other Derby runners 1 1/8 mile races.
2nd – # 16 Awesome Act (14-1): After a fast finishing 4th in the 2009 Breeders Cup Juvenile Turf, he returned to London and trained throughout the winter for this day. He’s performed up to his trainers expectations and remarkably gutted out a 3rd place finish in the Wood Memorial after stumbling out of the gate and losing a shoe. He’ll be primed for a huge effort and appears to have matured enough to allow his jockey (Julien Leparoux, 4 riding titles at CD) to harness his energy and release him for one big run in the stretch.
3rd - # 1 Lookin At Lucky (9-1): Ironically he’s been the most unlucky colt in 2010. After a stellar 2 year old season, he’s encountered more than his fair share of trouble during his only 2 races as a 3 year old and drew the worst possible Post for the Derby. Not since Ferdinand (’87) has a Derby winner started from the #1 post. He’s still the best of this bunch and maybe he’ll get help from Lady Luck, because she owes it to him.
4th - # 4 Super Saver (7-1): His Post is perfect because the 3 to his left want no part of the lead so CD fan favorite, jockey Calvin Borel (aka Bo-Rail), might be able to work his magic for the 3rd Derby in the past 4 years. His career best race came at CD and his widest margin of victory (7 lengths) was run on a sloppy track. He’s learned how to “rate”. That is, relax and not want to be on the lead, which enhances his chances greatly. He’ll be an underlay though, because picking Borel in the Derby has all of a sudden become like betting on Jack Nicklaus at the Masters during the late 60’s and early 70’s.
5th - # 10 Paddy O’Prado (11-1): His career debut was forgettable on a sloppy CD oval on 4th of July, but since then he’s slowly matured into a nice turf runner and ran a winning race on synthetic in the Blue Grass, but met a buzz-saw in Stately Victor that day. He’s been one of the more impressive A.M. workers over a sloppy CD track the past 2 weeks. He could be sitting on a breakout race.
6th - # 18 Backtalk (21-1): Huh?! Hey when you’re staring at these facts…2 for 2 at CD; 2 for 2 over an “off” track; his Dad (Smarty Jones) and maternal Grandfather (Affirmed) won the Derby…why not him?!
7th - # 2 Ice Box (11-1): He’s bred to go the Classic distance and handle an off track, as his eye-popping 46 2/5 bullet 4 furlong drill over a sloppy CD track makes him a Player. But in his FL Derby victory, was he finishing fast or was he just passing tiring horses? What do you think?!
8th - # 3 Noble’s Promise (21-1): He’s lived his racing life in the shadows of 2 year old Champion (Lookin At Lucky), playing bridesmaid in 3 different races, each by the smallest of margins, yet his odds will be double that of “Lucky”. Until today, he’s outrun his pedigree which suggests he’d be best in 1 mile races.
9th - # 20 Sidney’s Candy (11-1): In 4 lifetime victories, he’s had to pass a total of 1 rival. Breaking from the far outside post, he’ll be 7-wide going into the first turn if he tries to be on the lead. If John Sadler (trainer) instructs Joe Talamo (jock) to duck in behind the leaders, it’s a huge risk asking a colt to change his running style in the biggest race of his life.
10th – # 6 Stately Victor (16-1): He won his last race (Blue Grass) very impressively at 40-1 and now all of a sudden is the second coming of Secretariat?! Nah. If you think his final bullet workout indicates he’s sitting on another big race, then you better look at his bullet work from Oct. 26, ’09 on same training track, then proceeded to run dead last by 9 lengths as the 2-5 favorite on a Churchill Downs fast, dirt track.
11th – # 8 Dean’s Kitten (18-1): Carries distinction of having run the most career races (11) of anyone in the Derby field. He’ll have a great career running on the turf and synthetic surfaces, but the Derby is run on dirt.
12th - # 13 Jackson Bend (21-1): He’s a small colt who gives 110% every time he steps onto the track, finishing no worse than 2nd in 9 lifetime races, but he’s just not cut out to win races going 1¼ mile. The biggest feather in his cap… twice finished 2nd to super-colt Eskendereya (injury forced him out of Derby).
13th – # 12 Conveyance (25-1): Guaranteed to be leading the pack into the first turn, but not by much which is the problem here. He’ll keep his backers happy until the field turns for home, then he’ll slowly disappear among the Also-Rans.
14th – # 9 Make Music For Me (25-1): Makes first start on a dirt oval, which has been a formula for success this Spring for other synthetic surface runner (see Derby Post Positions Drawn blog; Apr. 28th), but all bets are off with a sloppy track which he’ll most likely have a hard time handling.
15th – # 7 American Lion (24-1): Won the Illinois Derby in gate-to-wire fashion in his dirt track debut. He has the pedigree to travel the 1¼ mile and like a sloppy track, but he’ll have to use too much energy early on to have enough in the tank for the stretch run.
16th – # 11 Devil May Care (10-1): Sorry ladies. Everyone loves to root for the filly against the boys, but I know Rachel Alexandra, and she’s no Rachel Alexandra. Yeah, her last race was impressive, but the filly she beat by 2 lengths that day finished 6th in the Kentucky Oaks yesterday.
17th – # 17 Dublin (21-1): Bad timing for bad weather. D. Wayne Lukas sends out his 44th Derby starter but this one won’t give him his 5th Derby winner, even though he is trying to convince the media this colt has what it takes to win the Derby. Even on fast tracks he “hung” in the stretch in both of his last two races.
18th – # 19 Homeboykris (17-1): He last raced 9 weeks ago (Feb. 27), hasn’t won a race since last October (going 1 mile) and ran 5th by 9 in his longest race (1 1/8 mile) and none of his foes that day were good enough to get in the Derby. If he wins, trainer Richard Dutrow, Jr. is either a genius or a “juicer”.
19th – # 15 Discreetly Mine (40-1): Has been successful only when he is on the lead from the get-go. There’s too many others who are quicker than he, so he’ll throw in the towel before they hit the first turn.
20th – # 5 Line of David (14-1): Chalk up his 18-1 shocking victory in the Arkansas Derby to the turf-to-dirt angle and being able have the lead uncontested. That won’t happen in this race. Besides, his broodmare sire is Capote (a Sprinter who finished 16th out of a Derby field of 17 in 1987).
Based on my analysis of the Derby, I’ll play…
$10 WIN, PLACE, SHOW on # 14 (Misson Impazible)
$1 EXACTA BOX on # 14 (Misson Impazible), # 16 (Awesome Act), # 1 (Lookin At Lucky), # 4 (Super Saver)
$1 TRIFECTA PART-WHEEL #1, #4, #10, #14, #18 with #16 (Awesome Act) in 2nd spot with #1, #4, #10, #14, #18
Recapping Day 8 (Friday, April 30th) at the Pimlico Spring Meet…
Best Bet Goodness Greatness (# 7; 6th race; 20-1) was scratched after I posted my selections at 10am.
Best Bet pick scorecard from 5 selections at the Pimlico Meet: 1 WIN – 2 PLACE – 1 SHOW.
Longshot Buzzbee (# 10; 9th race on the turf; 9-1) was 20-1 Morning Line, but opened at 5-1, which indicated this first-timer was ready to run…and she did, but reached the wire a head behind the winner (Ugh!), returning $10.00 to PLACE and $5.40 to SHOW.
Longshot pick scorecard from 7 selections at the Pimlico Meet: 1 WIN – 1 PLACE – 0 SHOW
SHOW Parlay Play of the Day, $89 on Even Sweeter (# 10; 7th race on the turf; 1-2) ran well, making a sweeping move entering the stretch but could not catch the winner, which was still good enough to keep the SHOW Parlay alive. Unfortunately, one of my readers must be playing along, because early on someone made a $3,000 SHOW bet on Even Sweeter, causing the mutuels payoffs of $2.60 for the PLACE and $2.10 to SHOW. A small ROI, but at least it’s better than losing. The SHOW Parlay streak has reached 6 and has $93.45 to “Let It Ride” on Day 9.
For the Pimlico Spring Meet, Day 9 (Saturday, May 1st )…
Best Bet: Southwest (# 6; 10th race on the turf; 3-1)
This 5 year old son of Cozzene has made his living on the grass, hitting the board in 8 of 14 turf starts, 3 of 4 at today’s 1 1/16 mile distance. On the downside he has only managed to get to the wire first in 2 of 18 lifetime races, but holds the class edge over this field of 9. A peak at his Past Performances show he’s best on a firm turf course, which is what Pimlico’s will be on this sunny and warm first Saturday in May.
Longshot: Omara Devil (# 2; 6th race; 8-1)
This Christopher Grove trained filly took the winter off after accumulating 2nd, 1st and 3rd place finishes before ending her 2 year old season running 5th of 5, where the winner and runner-up came back to win their next race. Her morning schedule of workouts look like she’ll be ready to fire in her 3 year old debut. The rest of the field is full of early speed which will play right into her off-the-pace running style.
SHOW Parlay available bankroll: $153.80 ($149.35 bankroll – $89 wager + $93.45 return)
SHOW Parlay Play of the Day: $93 on Beach Harbor Man / Happytheman (# 1/1A; 5th race; 9-5) entry for trainer John Salzman, Jr. could both hit the board, which would sweeten the SHOW payoff, as it would be distributed to only 2 betting interests instead of 3. My confidence though is in Happytheman. In his debut he ran a distant second to Twelve Pack Shelly who shattered the 4½ furlong track record then yesterday ran a close 3rd in a stakes race at Churchill Downs. Beach Harbor Man is a first-timer whose A.M. drills aren’t anything special, but Salzman is known for his work with 2 year olds. I’d be distraught if Happytheman were scratched.
Looks like Day 9 will be a beautiful one with sunny skies, so enjoy the exciting chase scenes thoroughbred horse racing has to offer. Good Luck!