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 on Saturday as we watch the most exciting 2 minutes in sports.
The forecast for the Louisville area is for rain all day Saturday. That really throws a wrench into an already tough task of handicapping this race. If the skies were clear and the track fast, I would have gone with Poineerof The Nile, Friesan Fire and Mr. Hot Stuff. But considering the track will be sloppy, here’s how I see the 135th running of the Kentucky Derby playing out, listed in my predicted order of finish…
1st - # 6 Friesan Fire (5-1): Trainer Larry Jones has followed the same game plan as he did with Hard Spun in 2007, who ran a big race finishing second to Street Sense. He also saddled last year’s runner-up, filly Eight Belles. The 1¼ mile Derby distance is a test of speed and stamina. This colt has is at the top of his class in both categories, and a sloppy track with enhance his chances. Skeptics point to the fact that it’s been 58 years since a horse has won the Derby coming off 6 weeks of rest or not having run a race further than 1 1/16th mile.
3rd - # 11 Chocolate Candy (20-1): Has never run a race on natural dirt surface but showed a liking to the Churchill Downs oval during A.M. workouts. Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith scored big Derby upset on Giacomo in 2005 with a perfect ride. A sloppy track will greatly enhance his chances.
4th - # 12 General Quarters (20-1): 75 year old Owner/Trainer/Hotwalker Tom McCarthy, former Louisville school district Principal is this year’s sentimental pick. Will be biggest underlay (i.e. odds will be lower than 20-1 M/L) with the locals backing him along with Kentucky’s favorite jockey, Julien Leparoux in the irons.
5th - # 3 Mr. Hot Stuff (30-1): Was my personal “Live Longshot” but have no confidence in whether he’ll handle a sloppy surface. John Velazquez lost potential Derby win when Quality Road was sidelined this week with quarter crack issues. This colt is sitting on a big race as long as he can handle the sloppy going.
6th - # 17 Summer Bird (15-1): Loved him at 26-1 when he ran a game 3rd in the Arkansas Derby, but he faces a tall task in Derby as he adds 7 lbs. which is “enough to stop a train” when your talking about a younger thoroughbred running in his fourth career race.
7th - # 7 Papa Clem (20-1): Arkansas Derby winner looked pathetic in the morning at Churchill this week during his workouts, but turned heads on Thursday when he blew out a much needed 3 furlong workout in 34 flat.
8th - # 13 I Want Revenge (3-1): Young 19 year old jockey Joe Talamo is fearless and will be undaunted by the moment, but his mount will be. IWR is high-strung and might get too excited in the Post Parade to have anything left for the race.
9th - # 1 West Side Bernie (30-1): He doesn’t have enough gas in the tank to go the Derby distance and doesn’t have the best bloodlines to be successful on a sloppy track. Breaking from the #1 hole is another reason to look elsewhere.
10th – # 11 Regal Ransom (30-1): Will have something to say about race has he’ll help quicken the pace. No Derby winner has ever prepped in Dubai for the Run For The Roses and I doubt if this is the year, despite his brilliant workouts at Churchill Downs.
11th – # 4 Advice (30-1): His Granddaddy (Montbrook) excelled when the track was OFF, but was not of stakes quality. Having to carry 9 more lbs. then he did when winning last start (Lexington) will show when he hits that invisible wall entering the long Churchill Downs stretch.
12th - # 18 Nowhere To Hide (50-1): Has only beaten non-winners, but never worse than 4th in eight career races… until in the Derby. Puts Blinkers back on, but even that won’t help him from slowing down the final few furlongs.
13th – # 2 Musket Man (20-1): To others, he is a viable selection who has won his last two graded stakes races, but going 1¼ miles today might be a tall task.
14th – # 8 Mine That Bird (50-1): His best race came in the Sunland Derby (in New Mexico), not exactly facing the level of competition he face in the Derby. He earned his Graded Stakes money as a 2 year winning the Grey Stakes at Woodbine in Canada. Again, no Derby winners from Canada, eh!
15th – # 19 Desert Party (15-1): Never been a fan of horses that prep in Dubai. He and stablemate (Regal Ransom) took turns destroying their foes. But what was the quality of those foes by North American standards?
16th – # 16 Pioneerof The Nile (4-1): Bad timing for bad weather. If the track was not OFF (aka sloppy or muddy) he’d in the Top 3. I believe he can run on natural dirt, not just synthetic or turf surfaces. Hopefully, trainer Bob Baffert will make the journey to Pimlico for Preakness regardless of POTN’s showing here.
17th – # 20 Flying Private (50-1): D. Wayne Lukas sends out his 43rd Derby starter but this one won’t give him his 5th Derby winner, even though he is trying to convince the media this colt is as good as his past Derby winners.
18th – # 5 Hold Me Back (15-1): No back-to-back Derby wins for Desormeaux. It’ll be back to the Polytrack circuit after Saturday.
19th – # 14 Atomic Rain (50-1): Mother Nature’s rain spells doom for this eleventh hour entry. He will need to expend too much energy early to be a factor beyond the backstretch.
20th – # 9 Join In The Dance (50-1): Not a snowballs chance in hell, but will be on the lead the first time under the wire… 2 furlongs into the race… too bad the race is 10 furlongs.
Based on my analysis of the Derby, I’ll play…
$10 WIN, PLACE, SHOW on # 6 (Friesan Fire)
$1 EXACTA BOX on # 6 (Friesan Fire), # 15 (Dunkirk), # 11 (Chocolate Candy), # 3 (Mr. Hot Stuff)
$1 TRIFECTA PART-WHEEL #3, #6, #7, #11, #17 with #15 (Dunkirk) in 2nd spot with #3, #6, #7, #11, #17
Recapping Day 8 (May 1st) of the Pimlico Spring Meet …
Longshot, Fine Shine (# 3; 9th race on the turf; 20-1) didn’t get up a gallop and was eased. Next!
SHOW Parlay Play of the Day $36 on Safety Valve (# 5; 4th race 9-5) got support at the windows in his career debut. He raced smartly off the 2 early leaders, wore down both in the final furlong but was surprised at the wire and settled for second place, paying $3.60 to PLACE and $2.80 to SHOW. That adds an $18 profit to the SHOW Parlay play.
Here’s what I like for the Day 9 (May 2nd) of the Pimlico Spring Meet…
Best Bet: The Prince (# 5; 10th race; 3-1)
Longshot: Dats Da Bull (# 2; 7th race on the turf; 12-1)
ONLY if this race remains on the turf, this 6 year old has the best turf ability, but has raced on the grass recently due to bad weather on race day forcing the race to be run on the main track. Malcolm Franklin is one of the best kept secrets when it comes to turf riders.
SHOW Parlay available bankroll: $115.00 ($96.60 bankroll – $36 wager + $50.40 return)
SHOW Parlay Play of the Day: $50 on Henry’s Posse (# 6; 2nd race 2-1) is a 2 year old filly who starts her career today versus 6 other unraced “babies”. Her workouts indicate talent and trainer Michael Trombetta does well (27%) with his first timers. Maiden races often produce nice SHOW payoffs on runners who are heavily bet to WIN because the money is coming from the connections who have no interest in SHOW betting on a “hot” horse.
Hope you enjoy the most exciting two minutes in sport, and it happens in horse racing.